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Western Talk of Russian ‘Expansionism is Complete Rubbish’, Putin Tells Bloomberg

Sept. 12, 2016 (EIRNS)—Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a wide-ranging interview to Bloomberg’s John Micklewaithe in Vladivostok on Sept. 6. It was a very confident Putin who fielded all of Micklewaithe’s often snide questions. When asked about the danger of a Russian invasion of the Baltic States a la Crimea. Putin replied, "Complete rubbish!" "Do you think we really want to start a war with NATO?" Putin asked.

"NATO has a population of 600 million people and Russia has only 146 million people. Oh, of course, we are a big nuclear power. But do you really think we are about to start a nuclear war to conquer the Baltic countries? It’s total rubbish!"

he reiterated.

"But the main point is somewhat different," he continued.

"You can’t do anything against the will of the people. In Crimea you had a population that was 70% Russian and the rest of the population were fluent Russian speakers. And they voted for independence. This is all a political game,"

Putin said. "If you want assurances, I can say that we intend to pursue an absolutely peaceful foreign policy." When asked about the presence of Russian troops in Crimea during the referendum, he replied,

"I have already spoken about this. Russian soldiers preserved peace during the referendum. People would not come under the threat of a machine gun. The Crimean parliament voted for independence, a parliament which had been elected earlier. So we acted in accordance with international law and with the UN Charter, and on the basis of democratic principles."

When asked whether he wants to create a zone of influence, Putin just smiled and said,

"It took me nine hours to fly from Moscow to Vladivostok, just a little less time than to New York. You think we need to expand something?,"

he asked."But this is not at all about territory," he went on.

"We would like Russia’s influence to be more noticeable, more significant, but we are putting an entirely peaceful content into this. It is a matter of economic influence, humanitarian influence, influence in developing equal cooperation with our neighbors."

Micklewaithe tried to bait him to say something about the elections and Donald Trump, who praises Putin on the election trail, but he wasn’t going for that. "We are ready to work with any president, whatever that person’s name might be," he reiterated several times to Miclklewaithe, who tried to get something else out of him.

"But it, of course, it depends on the attitude of the next administration toward Russia. If someone wants to work with Russia, we would welcome it. But if anyone wants to get rid of us, it will be a completely different approach,"

he said. "But we will survive. And its not at all clear who has more to lose with that approach," he warned. He said that all too often in U.S. election campaigns, candidates like to play the "anti-Russia card." "I think it’s a very short-sighted approach. It’s used as a tool in the domestic political struggle and that’s bad, I think.

On Syria, Putin said that the difficult issue was being able to separate the terrorists from the other opposition groups. But on that point both Russia and the United STates were in agreement that it had to be done. [The interview took place before the Syria agreement was reached]. Putin had high praise for Secretary Kerry. "Kerry has done a colossal job," Putin said. "I was surprised by his patience and his determination. And I believe we are heading in the right direction."