Putin’s responses get favorable public opinion in the West
RT:Did anything stand out for you in President’s Putin news conference in particular?
Brian Becker: Well the event itself struck me. I mean here is the head of state in Russia allowing 1300 journalists to ask questions freely, in contrast to what goes on in the US where the president, despite the fact that it the US proclaims to be freest country and has a great free press, the president only has the scripted kinds of press conferences with softball questions. I think the event itself is interesting. I think many people in the West, particularly the US, would certainly like many more sessions where political leaders are challenged by tough questions.
RT:Despite what Putin said about the success of deals on Syria and Iran... Critics say Russia's relations with the West today are at a new low. Are they?
BB: Well you have to look at what does it mean to have a lifetime low type of relationship with the West. During the period of Boris Yeltsin, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, perhaps the approval rating of Yeltsin were very high, but what conditions were the Russian people in, what condition was Russia as a major power? It was seen as a weakened power. Some see it as almost as a play thing of Western powers. In the recent period the Russian government has reasserted itself as a major player. In the case of Syria, it stuck as its ally and demanded a political settlement, that is what the people in Syria wanted, that is what the people in the region wanted. Ultimately President Obama grabbed a hold of that that as a lifeline, because he was so severely politically isolated. And in the case of Iran, the Russian government has recommended what the people of the world want, which is a diplomatic settlement for a crisis which is largely created as a pretext by Western powers who want to undo another independent government. So maybe the governments in the West are revering Putin’s position, but generally the positions he has taken on these issues have favorable response in the Western public opinion at least.
RT:Vladimir Putin seemed to go out of his way to offer olive branches - hinting at the chance of reconciliation with many less-than-friendly nations. Why now?
BB: Well I think the Russian government is well aware that the US is not content with the fact that there may be a multi-polar world that the US thought. Maybe it was a fantasy, I believe but they thought that there would sort of be a unipolar world, where the US would be the giant and sole superpower. Russia has reasserted its authority, both diplomatically, militarily, economically. And so the Russian government now is trying to be prudent in terms of establishing or minimizing some of the hostility that has been generated, perhaps mostly by Western countries, other by other regional players too. But this was the occasion for diplomacy on the part of Putin. Whether it's sincere, whether it’s just diplomatic, we’ll see.
RT:Were you surprised President Putin was not more critical of America's surveillance tactics?
BB: Putin made a point that the Russian government and all governments engage in statecraft, including espionage. I think that that is true. I think what’s going on really is Snowden opened the door for public opinion in the West which did not know about the spying, did not know about the massive data collection, and would rise up against it. I think that’s what’s going on. Because the Russian government gave temporary asylum to Snowden, perhaps Putin is taken a prudent position, not wanting to go out of his way to appear to be a friend of Snowden’s or a supporter of that enterprise. Of course he is in the hot seat because in US, especially in the United States, by President Obama and by Congress, the act of Russia giving temporary asylum to Snowden is considered to be extreme hostility towards the US.