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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin; Italian PM Matteo Renzi Discusses Brexit; Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev on America's Potential First Woman President. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired June 19, 2016 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:11] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria. This is a special edition of GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE, coming to you today from St. Petersburg, Russia.

I traveled here to have a conversation with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, and some other world leaders.

He is one of the world's most talked about figures. Seen as a foe by many in the West, but admired by many others in his homeland. And there was lots to talk to him about. From the chilly state of U.S.- Russian relations, to what he can do to put an end to the Syrian crisis. I'll also get his take on the 2016 presidential race in America. His answers to allegations of widespread doping by Russian athletes. And much more.

We'll get to St. Petersburg and Vladimir Putin in a moment. First here's my take about the United States.

Once Donald Trump locked up the nomination, Republicans were confident about his next moves. He would tone down his rhetoric and pivot to the center. RNC chairman Reince Priebus said Donald Trump understands that this is not a primary season anymore. Trump himself promised only last month, "I'm going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored."

So much for getting bored.

On June 12th, 2016, the United States suffered its worst terrorist attack since 9/11. A particularly sickening blow because the killer targeted a minority group long subject to discrimination.

Trump's reaction was to congratulate himself in a tweet. Over the next two days he called on Obama to resign and Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, insinuated that the president actually wanted the jihadis to win, repeated his proposed ban on all Muslims entering the country, and warned American Muslims that they had better cooperate with the authorities.

One of Trump's leading surrogates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, suggested reviving the House un-American activities committee. Infamous for punishing Americans loosely accused of being communists or communist sympathizers in the 1950s and '60s.

Trump's longtime friend and Republican consultant Roger Stone outlined a new McCarthy-style witch-hunt, telling Breitbart, "There's going to be a new focus on whether this administration, the administration of Hillary Clinton and the State Department, was permeated at the highest levels by Saudi intelligence, and others who are not loyal Americans." He pointed a finger specifically at Huma Abedin, one of Clinton's closest and most long-standing aides, and a Muslim American, saying, "We have to ask, do we have a Saudi spy in our midst? Do we have a terrorist agent?"

There is, of course, zero evidence for this charge.

We now know who Donald Trump is. But what is the Republican Party? Most Republican leaders still hold out hope that despite the fact that Trump is, in George Will's accurate description, the most anti- conservative presidential aspirant in their party's history, he will suddenly get religion and embrace their agenda. They believe that a 70-year-old megalomaniac, whose entire life has been devoted to ceaselessly promoting himself and using any means to tear down others, would suddenly develop deep empathy for the party, though so far he has used it solely as a vehicle for his own personal advancement.

Watching honorable Republican elected officials like Paul Ryan contort themselves, deploring Trump's rhetoric, distancing themselves from his policies, while still promising to vote for the man, is painful. But what of unelected officials who do not even have the excuse that they must be attentive to Republican voters?

Several Republican former national security officials and experts have put together a letter announcing that they cannot support Trump. Only three who were Cabinet level officials, Michael Mukasey, Robert Zoellick and Robert Chertoff, have signed it. Not one former secretary of state, defense, or treasury has signed on or publicly announced that he or she will not vote for the man.

Where are George Shultz, James Baker, Condoleezza Rice, and Hank Paulson?

[10:05:05] Can their reputations survive their silence?

And where is Senator John McCain who has declared that he supports a man who seems to stand for everything McCain is against, and who callously belittled his war record?

McCain has lived a life of service, with acts of courage that are beyond my comprehension. When the North Vietnamese offered to release him in advance of other prisoners of war because his father was an admiral, he refused, preferring more captivity and torture to losing his honor. Years later, when he learned that Henry Kissinger had also refused to allow any special treatment for him, he thanked Kissinger, "For saving my reputation, my honor, my life, really."

Today, all John McCain needs to do to preserve his honor is to say two words. Never Trump.

For more go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

St. Petersburg is almost as far north as Anchorage, Alaska. Combine that with the fact that it's just before the summer solstice, and you get days that almost never end. Today we'll have about 19 hours of daylight and just five hours of night. Perhaps that's why Russia sets its big annual economic conference here now.

It's called the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and the star of the show is Vladimir Putin. I was invited to moderate the plenary session of the conference.

We'll begin the conversation with President Putin on U.S.-Russian relations at a time when many believe the two are in a new Cold War.

Also joining me and President Putin on stage were Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.


ZAKARIA: President Putin, let me ask you a very simple question. Since 2014, you have had European Union sanctions and U.S. sanctions against Russia. NATO has announced just this week that it is going to build up forces in states that border Russia. Russia has announced its own buildup.

Are we settling in to a low-grade, lower-level Cold War between the West and Russia?

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (Through Translator): I wouldn't want to think that we are going down to some sort of a Cold War. And I'm sure no one is interested in that. For sure we are not the ones who would want that. There is no need in that. And most importantly the logic behind the development of international relations, no matter how dramatic it may seem, it is not the logic of global confrontation.

I'm not going to put a blame on anyone. What I want to say is that if this policy of unilateral sanctions is to continue without sensitivity to the international communities, steps on the international arena to be agreed upon, these consequences would be inevitable. And other countries should be listening to each other, seeking to maintain a balance.

These consequences would be averted. Yes, indeed, the process of negotiations is very difficult, but that is the only way towards mutually acceptable solutions. I believe that if we manage to come to that level of cooperation, what would even think and talk about the Cold War times.

After the Arab spring, they're approaching our borders. Why should they have supported the coup d'etat in Ukraine? I mentioned that on many occasions. The internal political situation is quite difficult there and the opposition that is in power right now could have come to power as a result of democratic reforms and elections. And that's it. And we will have to work with them in the same way as we worked with the power that they thought is going in the power at the time of Yanukovych.

[10:10:02] Instead they took the way of civil war, victims, scaring the Russian-speaking population in the southeast of Ukraine and Crimea. So what's the -- and after we were forced to make measures to protect certain groups of the population, the scare-mongering and war- mongering continued. Probably all of it was aimed to gain grounds behind the existence of NATO.

What they need is an external enemy, otherwise no one would think why this organization is needed. There is no more Warsaw pact, neither the USSR, why would they need it? If we stick to this very logic, the scare-mongering, that's probably the way to a Cold War. Our logic is of a different aim at finding compromises and negotiations and cooperation.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, much more with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.


ZAKARIA: You've made some comments about the American Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.



[10:15:52] ZAKARIA: Welcome back to a special edition of GPS from St. Petersburg, Russia, where I sat down with President Putin. One of the big topics of discussion, the 2016 American presidential race.


ZAKARIA: You've made some comments about the American Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. You called him brilliant, outstanding, talented. These comments were reported around the world. I was wondering what in him led you to that judgment and do you still hold that judgment?


PUTIN (Through Translator): You personally are very famous in our country. You're not only famous as a journalist in one of the biggest TV stations, but as an intellectual.

Why do you always change the meaning of what I said?


PUTIN (Through Translator): Because at the moment you speak as a journalist, not as an analyst. Why are you juggling with what I said? I only said that he was a bright person. Isn't he bright? He is.


PUTIN (Through Translator): I did not say anything else about him, but there's one thing that I paid attention to and that I definitely welcome is that Mr. Trump said he is ready to restore full pledged Russian-American relations. What can be bad about it? Don't you welcome it? We all welcome it.


PUTIN (Through Translator): But we never interfere into the internal political processes of other countries. Especially those in the United States. We are ready to work with any president that the American people will vote for. Actually, they always teach others how to live. But do you think that the elections are democratic in the United States? Do you think that they are organized democratically?


PUTIN (Through Translator): Because you know twice in U.S. history, the American people, the majority of the people, elected persons who had not been supported by the majority of the people because they were chosen by people who had the right to vote.

My colleagues and I never blamed anyone, but when we discussed, they just said, don't meddle into this. We're doing it the way they are used to. But then what I feel like saying is then, why are you meddling with our affairs? But I'd like to say again that, of course, it's none of our business, but you know, I heard that American prosecutors were trying to get rid of the international observers at the voting stations. But they're used to it. They like it. They like it the way it is.

The U.S. is a great power. At the moment, it is probably the only superpower, and we accept this fact. We want to work with the U.S., and we are ready to do that. And no matter how these elections are held eventually they will be held, there will be a new head of state elected. They will have broad authority.

I know that there are complex economic and political processes in the United States. At the moment, the world needs a country as strong as the U.S. is. And we do need the U.S., too. But what we do not need of them is to interfere with our affairs all the time, to instruct us how to live. To prevent Europe from building relations with us.

[10:20:08] You know the sanctions that you mentioned are the -- is the U.S. touched by the sanctions? No. They have not suffered. They have not suffered for the sanctions in any way. It is Europe that has been affected by the sanctions. And Russia has been affected, as well. But for the U.S., no, there's been no effect. But the Americans persuade their partners to continue the sanctions. Why?

Maybe Matteo can explain to us why they have to continue suffering from the sanctions. And the Americans try to persuade them to endure the sanctions for some more time. Why?


PUTIN (Through Translator): Matteo is a wonderful speaker. He spoke so persuasively and sincerely. Italy can be proud of such a prime minister. He spoke so beautifully today. You know, they're not praising anyone. It's none of our business. You know as the German say, it's not our beer to meddle with it, because, you know, when the U.S. elects a president we are going to work with anyone, whoever that is, because the American people trust this person. But we hope that that will -- this will be a person who will strive for developing relations with our country and creating a better, a securer world, a more secure world.

ZAKARIA: Just to be clear, Mr. President, I -- the world brilliant was in the Interfax translation. I realize that other translations might say it's bright. But I used the official Interfax translation. But let me ask you about another person you have dealt with a great deal, Mr. Trump you've never met. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

In your very long question and answers with the Russian people, you made a joke about when somebody asks you about her, you said I think that the Russian idiom is, the husband and wife is the same devil. And what it means in the English version is, it's two sides of the same coin. What did you mean by that? And what do you think -- how did she do as secretary of state? You dealt with her extensively.

PUTIN (Through Translator): Well, you know, probably -- I probably just said that hot-headedly. Probably I was just impulsive when I said that about her, you know. I did not work with Hillary that much. You know, Mr. Lavrov was our foreign minister back then. That was him who worked with her.

I'd like to say that I worked a lot with the American president back then. And I can say that we shared very good relations. And I'm even grateful to him for the signs of attention and respect to me personally. And to Russia when I started my term as the president of the Russian federation. And speaking about Madame Clinton, she probably has her own view regarding the development of the Russian- American relations.

But there's one thing that I'd like to draw your attention to. It is not relevant to Russian-American relations or to any other big political issue. It is more relevant to human resources policy because, you know, based on my own experience I can say the following. I've seen many people change after they were appointed at some office. Because, you know, when they have different responsibilities they start to think differently, to speak differently, and even their appearances change.

Because, you know, we believe, in this regard I can say that we believe that the sense of responsibility of the head of the state of the United States, and the United States is a country that a lot depends on in the world, we hope that the sense of responsibility will encourage the future American president to work together for a more secure world, to work constructively.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, stay with us here in St. Petersburg. When we come back, President Putin holds more sway in Syria than any other outside leader. What does he think it will take to end the crisis?


[10:28:31] ZAKARIA: This is St. Petersburg, Russia, and you are watching a special edition of GPS from here. While I was here I had the opportunity to moderate a panel starring President Vladimir, the Russian leader. He has a huge sway over Syria's leader Bashar al- Assad, who recently announced his intent to retake every inch of his country. What does that mean?


ZAKARIA: There are so many areas to cover with you, Mr. President, so let me go to the Middle East where Russia has had a forceful intervention to bolster the Assad regime. President Assad now says that his goal is to take back every square inch of his territory. Do you believe that the solution in Syria is that the Assad regime should take back and govern every square inch of Syria?

PUTIN (Through Translator): I believe that today the problem in Syria boils down to the fight against terrorism. But it's not all of it. At the core of this conflict there are contradictions inside the Syrian society. And President Assad is aware of that. And the question is not about gaining control over various territories, although it is very important. The question is to ensure trust on sides of all the society, confidence on the side of various parts of the society to each other.

[10:30:01] And based on this confidence and trust, to shape inefficient management, an administration that would be trusted by the whole population of the country.

And there is no other way but the way of political negotiations. We have been calling upon that on many occasions. President Assad keeps mentioning it as well. He is committed to this process. What is to be done?

We need to be actively involved in the process for development of the new constitution, and based on -- reach new elections; provincial elections and parliamentary elections ought to be organized.

When President Assad visited Moscow, we talked about that. And he agreed to that. And I would agree to the proposal put forth by our partners, including the American partners, according to which -- maybe I'm saying something I'm not supposed to say -- but I believe it is a well-known fact in the region; it is a well-known fact for the negotiators representing the opposition and the government -- I'm referring to this American proposal, which is quite acceptable. We should think about the ways to incorporate the representative of the opposition into the existing power models, including the government. We should think about the authorities of this government. But again, we don't need to outreach ourselves. We should be guided by the current reality. We shouldn't be striving to set forth goals that cannot be achieved. When partners say that Assad should go tomorrow, and after that they say it's not going to be tomorrow, but at the same time, they insist on restructuring of the authorities, which would actually imply his going, it's not the way to go. We need to go step by step with the participation of all the sides.


ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Vladimir Putin's response to charges that Russia's athletes have been engaged in doping on a massive scale.


ZAKARIA: And we are back. This is a special edition of FAREED ZAKARIA GPS coming to you today from the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, Russia, where I had the opportunity this week to sit down on stage with President Putin. Now, more of our conversation.


ZAKARIA: President Putin, let me finally ask you one question about news reports about Russian athletes. There are now two major investigations that have shown that Russian athletes have engaged in doping on a massive scale and that there has been a systematic evasion and doctoring of testing and lab samples. And I was just wondering what your reaction to these -- these reports is?

PUTIN (via translator): I'm not sure I understood what it meant. The problem had a change in the samples that were taken for the doping test. I saw that, if samples are taken, they are always removed for storage to the international organizations. If the samples are taken, they're always moved to the international organizations. And we cannot affect them in any way, as they are never stored in the territory of the Russian Federation. They are going to Lausanne or to some other city. I don't know. They can be reopened and rechecked. And I believe the experts are doing that at the moment.

The doping problem is not only related to Russia. It is the problem that is relevant for the whole sports world. And if someone is trying to politicize this area, it is a big mistake.

And I can tell you with full responsibility that we're against any doping, we in Russia, because, you know, I have been an amateur athlete, and I believe that many people will agree with me when I say that, even if the doping is used, it is much less interesting to watch that competition. The sport becomes less interesting for millions of spectators.

And the second aspect that is very important is the health of athletes. Because nothing can justify harm that is brought to the human body.

So at the state level we have been fighting doping in sport, and we will continue doing that. As I note, the prosecutor general of the Russian Federation and the investigate committee of the Russian federation were investigating all the facts that most media pointed out.

And there's another aspect I'd like to mention. You know, there is such a concept in law -- there's only a concept of only individual responsibility. There is no concept of collective responsibility for athletes. There can be no collective responsibility for all athletes, for all athletes of a country, for example, because there are certain physical bodies that used performance-enhancing drugs. Maybe there are some -- even if there are some physical bodies who committed violations, it cannot be -- it cannot jeopardize all other athletes.

The law enforcement agencies have to treat all the violators in the same way. This is our position. We are going to work in this way in our fighting against stimulants and dopings, and we are going to work with the fans associations. And I believe there are many sensible people among the fans who realize that any violations cannot express their support for the team they love. Any violations only jeopardize the teams they -- the teams they support. But I realize that we still have a lot to do in this area.

But let me emphasize that we have never supported any violations in sports. We have never supported that at the state level. And we will never support this. We will never support any dopings or any other violations in this area, and we are going to cooperate with all of the international organizations in this regard.



ZAKARIA: Coming up next from here in St. Petersburg, I will ask Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi about the very real risk of a Brexit. How bad would it be for Europe? Is there a way back?


ZAKARIA: Welcome back to a special edition of GPS, coming to you today from St. Petersburg, Russia, where I sat down on Friday with not only President Putin but also the prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, and the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Listen in.


ZAKARIA: Prime Minister Renzi, there is a view that, if Britain were to leave Europe, the European Union, that it would be possible to renegotiate terms and maybe, over two to three years, come up with a new way in which Britain can be part of the -- of the European Union. Do you believe that's possible?

Or do you believe that, if Brexit happens, Britain is once and for all out of Europe?

MATTEO RENZI, PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY (via translator): Well, to be brief -- to be brief, if U.K. should exit Europe, it's forever. It would be forever. It's not that there is a home match and then a match when you're -- it's a guest match. No, if it should happen -- in the short-term prospect, it will be a problem that will affect everybody in Europe, but in midterm, that it would be first and foremost a major problem for the Brits, not for the Europeans.

The ones who take the most risk are the British citizens, British consumers, British pensioners; it's not citizens of united Europe, although probably, at initial stages, I suppose it would be, that we shall see a very serious financial tension.

Secondly, I still think that victory will stay with those who want to stay with Europe and stay in Europe. For this reason, I believe that the Brits are much wiser than what is presented to us through surveys and polls.

Thirdly, no matter what is the outcome of the referendum, on the 25th of March of 2017, Europe will be 70. She's a young girl -- a young lady at 70 -- at 60. But what it needs, or what she needs, is to fully change her outlook upon herself.

Even if, at the Brexit referendum -- even if those who champion for Britain staying in Europe should stay there -- and it's not that, if you're a skeptic, that will bring an end to Europe, no. On the 25th of March of 2017, when we shall celebrate 60 years of those documents that started the E.U., that will take place in Rome, that saw the first signing of those accords, we should imagine a view of Europe, that Europe that is based on a (inaudible) it no longer works, a Europe that should put as a focus for attention human capital, values, technological innovation -- this is the only Europe that can exist. Otherwise it will be doomed to an end.

I'm a European that holds an Italian passport, and I think it's fundamentally important that Europe should find the energy, let's say, and not only chase the current events and trends, whatever it be. In 2017 Europe should start again. Otherwise it will see its end.


ZAKARIA: President Nazarbayev, if I may ask you a question, the United States is getting ready to ask itself, is it -- is it right -- is it ready -- is America ready for a woman president?

And I noticed that you have appointed a deputy prime minister who is a woman, and I'm wondering, at some point, do you think Kazakhstan will be ready for a female president?

NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN (via translator): I thought that President Putin has already answered all the questions.


And he's now -- please, why do you think that Kazakhstan cannot have a woman president?

It may well be. Kazakhstan also, 51 percent of our population in Kazakhstan are women. Gender policy is developing normally; 30 percent of deputies of national parliament are women. Our government has ministers, several ministers -- female ministers. So it is quite possible, especially given that such --there are some ladies who are well-prepared for that.


I also know some of them, don't I?



Given that I have three daughters...


... I have very special attitude and relations towards ladies.


ZAKARIA: When we come back from St. Petersburg, I'll tell you the amazing story of a beautiful piece of music and how it was performed here amidst the most hellishly unimaginable circumstances, the worst siege in human history.


ZAKARIA: I'm coming to you from St. Petersburg this week during "belyye nochi," or "white nights," a stretch of time during the summer months when the sun never quite dips far enough below the horizon for the sky to be truly dark. The city comes alive during this period, with nonstop festivals and night life, if one could call it that at a time when the sun never actually sets.

But it brings me to my question of the week. What famous resident of St. Petersburg published a work titled "White Nights"? Peter the Great, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Pushkin or Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.

My book of the week is something I've just started, the most famous novel ever set in St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment." I decided to pick it up again after having read it for a class over 30 years ago. The new translation I'm reading is superb, by Oliver Ready, for Penguin Classics.

And now for the last look. St. Petersburg is famous for its beauty, art and culture. But it is also famous for its grit. During World War ii, the German army encircled and bombarded the city, called Leningrad at the time, from September 1941 to January 1944. And in nearly 900 days, more than 1 million people died, according to some estimates, many from starvation and the cold. That is nearly four times as many people as died in the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The people of Leningrad resisted the Nazi attack in many ways, even

showing their defiance in a manner that embodied the city's rich cultural traditions, using music.

Dmitri Shostakovich is in the pantheon of the world's greatest composers. And when the siege began, he was living in Leningrad. Everybody, even the world's finest artists, had to play a part in the war effort.


ALEX ROSS, THE NEW YORKER: Shostakovich himself volunteered to be in the fire brigade at the Leningrad conservatory.

ZAKARIA (voice over): The New Yorker's Alex Ross.

ROSS: So he wanted to throw himself into the war effort, as everyone else did.

ZAKARIA: But fighting fires wasn't enough for him. He set out to write an ode to the people of Leningrad and their struggle against the Germans in the form of a symphony.


ROSS: He actually composed a good part of it during the siege, with bombs falling, with, sort of, the endless noise of -- of cannon and gunfire.

ZAKARIA: Shostakovich's 7th Symphony was dedicated to the city of Leningrad. Once completed, it was performed to great acclaim all over the West. But what Shostakovich really wanted to do was hear it performed in Leningrad during the siege, the ultimate symbol of defiance.

But the Nazis had other ideas.

ROSS: The opposing German general heard about this plan to perform it and was going to disrupt it with a bombardment. There was a pre- emptive Soviet attack on German positions to shut down the, you know, German artillery just before the performance began...

ZAKARIA (on camera): In order to...

ROSS: In order to have the silence that the music needed. But then, even more extraordinary, loudspeakers were set up on the edge of no- man's-land, and the sound of the performance was broadcast over to the other side, as a deliberate effort at demoralizing the German troops.


ZAKARIA (voice over): There's evidence that it did actually demoralize the Nazis. And despite the staggering human cost, while the siege lasted for another 500 days, Leningrad never fell.

ROSS: The symphony will forever be a symbol of the struggle of the Second World War, of the defiance of the city, and of the power of an artist to speak for the entire people, and to speak to them in a way that is absolutely direct in impact, that has this emotion that can never be shook off, that remains as strong today as it was in 1941, '42.



ZAKARIA: The correct answer to the "GPS Challenge" question is B. Dostoevsky's short story entitled "White Nights" was set in St. Petersburg and published in 1848. This was two decades before "Crime and Punishment." It is only fitting that the term "white nights" is associated with one of St. Petersburg's greatest cultural icons.

Spasibo to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week, back in New York City.