As reported last week on our Daily news blast, a peculiar question came up from a live caller (which was totally not arranged and screened by the government censors) during President Putin’s unique Q&A session alluding to comments made by Madeline Albright. Now with the full translations of the transcripts posted, we can see what we’re dealing with here:
A. SIBERT (Novosibirsk): Mr President, I want to ask a question that is no doubt of interest to many Russians. In an interview not so long ago, former U.S. Secretary of State Albright said that it is not fair that Russia alone should have control over Siberia’s colossal natural wealth. My question is: what consequences can such statements have, and what is your view of such statements? Thank you. VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is an unexpected question, but I understand that it is an issue of concern, especially for everyone actually living in Siberia. I am not acquainted with this particular statement by Mrs Albright, but I know that some politicians do share these ideas. I think such ideas are a sort of political erotic fantasy: they procure a certain pleasure, perhaps, but are unlikely to ever produce positive results. The events in Iraq provide the best illustration. There we have a small country with little ability to defend itself but with enormous oil reserves. And what is happening there now? We can all see with our own eyes that they have learned how to shoot there but have not had such success in bringing order to the country. And it is unlikely that they will be very successful because fighting the local population is always a losing prospect. It is possible to overthrow tyrannical regimes, such as that of Saddam Hussein, for example, but there is no future in waging war against the people. Russia, fortunately, is not Iraq. Russia has enough means and strength of its own to be able to defend itself and protect its interests both at home and in other parts of the world. These kinds of statements by Western politicians only serve to confirm that the work we are undertaking to improve our defence capability and strengthen our armed forces is the right choice, and we will continue this work.
My question to my readers: can anyone find this Madeline Albright quote in question? The closest I have come to is a speech from October 1998, in the midst of Russia’s financial crisis, when Albright lamented that Russia was not more open to foreign investment in its oil and gas sector: “By welcoming long-term, committed capital, Russia is not giving away its national patrimony; it is gaining jobs, growth, and tax revenues.” That’s really not the same as saying the control of natural resources is “unfair”, and it is certainly far short of saying the United States would ever actually consider invading Russia over oil. Such leaps in logic are irresponsible, provocative and exceedingly effective in frightening the voting population. Not only has the Russian president borrowed Hugo Chavez’s television format, but also his paranoid delusions of invasion. For the record, I don’t actually believe that the president nor anybody else in the Kremlin actually believes they face a threat of invasion. It’s the political season, and if you don’t shoot that fish in the barrel that is Iraq, what good are you? It has however caught my attention that this oddly “improvised” question comes from Novosibirsk, the same place where Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested four years ago this week.