Part II: Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin Talks To <B>Mike Wallace</B> In An Exclusive Interview

Wallace asks Putin about the events in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

WALLACE: In the spotlight of the world, the spotlight of the world at this moment -- 50, 60 world leaders, including George W. Bush, commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. With all of the heads of state here, what do you hope to accomplish, Mr. President?

TRANSLATOR: What you are talking about in particular? Would you specify?

WALLACE: I can specify. This was your idea to begin with. This particular victory celebration. Parade – 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Why did you want to do that?

TRANSLATOR: I think what I'm going to say is common knowledge, but I think this helps us to understand better where we are at the moment and to identify the prospects for the development.

WALLACE: The development of what?

TRANSLATOR: The development of a country, of the world community in general. Relations between states in the international arena, for instance. Identification of principles or relations between peoples and countries.

WALLACE: OK.

TRANSLATOR: The war against Nazism, this absolute evil, brought together most of the countries and people of the world, and it was a very good example of cooperation.

WALLACE: Do you--

TRANSLATOR: We should not forget the atrocities of war, and we should not forget the things that brought us together, that united us, and that we need to unite our efforts again to counter contemporary threats and challenges. And we can't ever forget the victims of the Second World War. We have to look into the future and fight for the future of human kind. I am absolutely convinced that we have to reach historical reconciliation.

WALLACE: The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the liberation of Eastern Europe. Yes? But last week you called the collapse of the Soviet Union, "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century." What does that mean?

TRANSLATOR: The United States carefully guards and protects the interests of its people. The United States protects the interests of its citizens. Just imagine that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 25 million Russians living in the now-independent states found themselves beyond the Russian territory. Twenty five million turned out to be foreigners of Russia. Isn't that a tragedy? They just woke up one morning and learned that they had nothing to do with Russia anymore. They lived in other states, and so they have to become accustom to life in those countries as ethnic minorities. I can assure you they face significant problems in many of those countries.

Take for instance the Baltic states. Do you know that there are some IDs there in which on the line for "nationality," it says, "Non-citizen." Modern citizenship laws operate with such notions as citizen, foreigner, a person with double citizenship, an expatriate. For someone who lost his or her citizenship, who are those people? This is an absolute breach of the modern humanitarian law. Also, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people lost all of their life savings. So definitely, in the light of the collapse of the social system, this was a great tragedy for millions of people.
Putin and Wallace discuss life in Russia today.

WALLACE:
They're pressing us to end the interview, so-- just a few more.

TRANSLATOR: Well, nobody can be pressing us because I'm the president.

WALLACE: What's happening to the Russian people? Marriages are down. Divorces are up. Three out of four marriages now end in divorce in your country. Alcoholism is up. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 to 65. What goes on in Russia?

TRANSLATOR: Well, definitely we will speak about that.

WALLACE: Go ahead. We're talking about Russia. Life in Russia seems to have changed. Why? Is it something about permissiveness? Is it something about corruption? What is it?

TRANSLATOR: Well, since the social security system of the previous years has collapsed, the support of families has become inadequate. Medical care is inefficient, ineffective.

WALLACE: Health care is a shambles in Russia?

TRANSLATOR: Well, I wouldn't say a shambles, but we do have certain problems. In order to change the system, we need, first of all, to change the mindset. This also demands certain changes in the legislation. All this must be done in a careful, step-by-step way so that additional problems aren't caused. The issues you have raised really do exist, and in my view it is worse then it was during the Soviet period.

But compared to the early or mid-'90s, it isn't any worse now. The collapse of the healthcare system and of social security system happened in the late 1980s and in the mid-1990s. The Soviet system worked in a more steady way. In the shift to a market economy; with the increasing responsibility of the regions for their healthcare, social services and education; and with the lack of sources of financing in the regions, the old system has turned out to be absolutely unacceptable.

The new system has not yet been established. So all those issues -- education, social security issues, and healthcare -- are very sensitive problems that we have to solve.
  • Rebecca Leung

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