Question: Sad tidings arrived from Germany: Helmut Kohl has passed away. Did you know him personally? What impressions of him do you have? What is his contribution, do you think, to world and European politics?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I knew him since the early 1990s. I was present during his conversation with St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. He invited Mr Sobchak to his residence; the Federal Government of Germany was still based in Bonn back then. A few more meetings followed, we met a number of times in different capacities.
Our first conversation left a deep, a very deep impression on me. I saw an insightful, thoughtful person who was not living from one election to another, even though it was also important for him, but he was thinking about long-standing perspectives, and he was thinking very thoroughly, deeply, on the basis of his knowledge and his experience as a statesperson of one of Europe’s largest nations.
I should say even more. His ideas on future relations between Russia and Germany, Russia and the rest of Europe not only impressed me a great deal, I should say without exaggeration that they considerably changed my own perception of those processes. I before me a person who was highly insightful and very thorough in his judgments.
Unfortunately, not all of the things he dreamed and spoke of are being realised now, but I am absolutely certain that his analysis was correct, and the European, or should we say, Eurasian continent will witness those positive processes without which nobody is going to have a future – neither Europe, nor Russia. He said that if we wanted to preserve our civilisation in this tumultuous and ever-changing world with emerging centres of power, and not only military power but also economic and cultural power, then Europe and Russia should definitely stick together. And I completely agree with him.
You are aware of our position. In essence, we are ready for that. What is missing is that our partners should also be ready, should shed their phobias of the past. Mr Kohl was the one who called for dropping all those phobias so as to look forward, into the future.
I am very sorry he is gone. He came to Sochi and Moscow to visit me, when he was no longer Chancellor, and we had long one-on-one conversations. I have always been amazed by his sincerity and the scope of his views, the depth of his understanding of international relations in general and the Russia-EU and Russia-Europe relations, in particular.
I offer my condolences to Helmut Kohl’s family and to the German people. And I would like to stress again that I very much hope that the ideas he spoke about, he worded, will be materialised in future.
Question: Helmut Kohl thought that the Cold War was over and that he and Mr Gorbachev managed to do it. Was he wrong about it?
Vladimir Putin: No, he was not. All processes follow a pendulum trajectory, moving in one direction and then in the other. Now the pendulum has moved slightly towards cooling, but I am sure that everything will regain balance, and we will join efforts to fight today’s challenges. This is the only way to overcome them.
Question: My last question, if I may, is about Saturday, this evening, and football. What are your impressions, how well is Russia prepared for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup in view of what we have heard before – that we will not cope, that we should be stripped of this right? Mr Infantino has said in a conversation with us that he is very impressed with the atmosphere and everything else. What are your impressions? Has Russia done it?
Vladimir Putin: I do not doubt that Russia can manage it, there is no doubt about it, we have coped with even tougher challenges.
We face the task, organisation-wise, of ensuring a very open, clear and friendly attitude to everyone who comes to Russia on this occasion and of creating a wonderful celebration for all football enthusiasts. I am sure that we will be able to do it.
We will see very soon how our national team performs. Let us have faith in our boys, in the athletes, in their courage, commitment, professionalism, in the coaches and the whole of our large, expanded team of experts.