By Paul Craig Roberts
In an interview with John Micklethwait of BloombergBusinessweek, Putin was asked about Russia’s desire to expand its influence geographically. Putin answered as follows:
“I think all sober-minded people who really are involved in politics understand that the idea of a Russian threat to, for example, the Baltics is complete madness. Are we really about to fight NATO? How many people live in NATO? About 600 million, correct? There are 146 million in Russia. Yes, we’re the biggest nuclear power. But do you really think that we’re about to conquer the Baltics using nuclear weapons? What is this madness? That’s the first point, but by no means the main point.
“The main point is something completely different. We have a very rich political experience, which consists of our being deeply convinced that you cannot do anything against the will of the people. Nothing against the will of the people can be done. And some of our partners don’t appear to understand this. When they remember Crimea, they try not to notice that the will of the people living in Crimea—where 70 percent of them are ethnic Russians and the rest speak Russian as if it’s their native language—was to join Russia. Those in the West simply try not to see this.
“In one place, Kosovo, the West invoked the will of the people, but not in Crimea. This is all a political game. So, to give reassurances, I can say that Russia has pursued and plans to pursue an absolutely peaceful foreign policy directed toward cooperation.
“As far as expanding our zone of influence is concerned, it took me nine hours to fly to Vladivostok from Moscow. This is about the same from Moscow to New York, through all of Eastern and Western Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. Do you think we need to expand something?”