Vladimir Putin said last week that he wants to normalize relations with the United States, and that the two countries should join efforts to fight international terrorism.
During the campaign, Donald Trump praised Putin as a leader, which raised some alarms among those who see Putin as an authoritarian ruler who poses a serious threat to the United States and its Western allies.
Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63), chairman of the pro-democracy Human Rights Foundation and a Putin critic, talks with Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson about Putin, Trump and the relationship between Russia and the United States. Kasparov is also author of the book “Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.”
On Trump’s presidency
“It’ll take time to judge Donald Trump as a president, but from what we heard during the campaign and from what we can learn from his biography, I mean it didn’t give me much comfort because he acted more like an oligarch — somebody who just believed that he would be above the law, and he could break all the rules. And he showed very little respect to the existing democratic institutions. And I think also psychologically Putin probably also felt the same way, because Trump showed no respect for institutions that secured European peace and prosperity over the last six decades.”
On Trump’s transition and potential foreign policy
“It will be a disaster if Trump doesn’t change his rhetorics, and he tries to stick with his promises to continue the retreat that started under Obama. During the last eight years, the reputation of the U.S. presidency, and the U.S. as a global power, has dwindled. And America needs now just to recover its place in the world. And I don’t want to sort of pre-judge the American future foreign policy, because Donald Trump has yet to pick his secretary of state. I would be very happy if Mitt Romney is appointed, because he definitely has a balanced view of the world. And four years ago he was correct stating that Russia under Vladimir Putin was America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe.”
“All of Trump’s statements about NATO and about traditional American alliances, it was like music for Putin’s ears.”
On Putin’s public admiration of Trump
“There are three possibilities: one is that he might have something tangible on Trump. I think it’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t exclude it completely. And he believes that Trump will be… restricted in his actions. Second I think is most likely — Putin liked what he saw in Trump. He’s a KGB guy, and he proved to be a very good, savvy operator while negotiating with the foreign leaders. He totally outplayed George W. Bush, who also admired Putin at the beginning of their relations. So I think Putin believed — whether he believes it or not now I don’t know — that Trump could help him create more chaos globally. All of Trump’s statements about NATO and about traditional American alliances, it was like music for Putin’s ears. Because Putin needs a weaker Europe, divided Europe, and if America decides to withdraw completely, that will help Putin to continue his aggressive foreign policy.”
On how Russia may have influenced the U.S. presidential election
“Anything that happens in Russia, it cannot happen without Putin’s direct approval. Anti-American propaganda for years is a core of Putin’s domestic agenda. And attacking Hillary Clinton, I mean that for Putin was a compensation for what he believed what was a betrayal of Obama’s administration. Putin thought that policy of reset meant that he could do whatever he wanted in post-Soviet territories, and also globally. And the fact America eventually showed some teeth made Putin quite upset. And there’s no doubt that the operation to discredit Hillary Clinton, and to hack the DNC server and to go off to some of Hillary Clinton’s closest advisers, like John Podesta, it was all sanctioned by Putin, and was a part of the KGB operation to influence American elections, because it also helped Putin to boost his image as a strong man, who could even meddle with U.S. elections.”