MOSCOW, November 8. /TASS/. Russia will respect any choice of the American people, and it will be prepared to cooperate with any leader the US voters will point at on November 8. This is the gist of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invariable answer to the questions which of the two candidates - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton - would be a better partner in the capacity of US leader.
The Russian leader’s firm belief is the person striving for stronger relations with Russia would be the best choice for Moscow. As far as specific personalities are concerned, Putin has preferred to keep quiet about his likes and dislikes. Although he surely has an opinion of both US presidential hopefuls.
Over the past few years Putin could not but answer at least some of the questions on that score. TASS has pieced together most of the Russian president’s remarks about the US election race finalists.
"An undoubtedly bright man"
Over the past eighteen months Putin has said a lot about US presidential candidates. On most occasions he was asked for his opinion about the new-comer to big politics - Donald Trump. It is noteworthy that Putin has never had a chance to meet the Republican presidential candidate in person.
And still, when speaking about Trump Putin made positive remarks about his plans for constructive cooperation with Russia.
"He says he would like to move on to a different level of relations, to tighter relations. How can we be against this? Of course, we welcome this," Putin said in an interview.
He pointed to the fact that Trump in his election campaign put the emphasis on the traditional Republican electorate, the man in the street of average means, the working class, a certain group of business people, and the advocates of traditional values. Putin described Trump’s style in politics as extravagant, but at the same time remarked that "it is not at all senseless."
He believes that Trump represents the interest of a considerable share of US society tired of the elites that have remained at the helm of power for decades.
"He says he represents the interests of such ordinary people and he positions himself as a regular guy who never dares to speak his mind to criticize those who have been in power for many years. He speaks on behalf of those who do not like hereditary transition of power," Putin explained the way he sees Trump.
At the same time the Russian leader pointed out again and again that everything that concerned the United States’ internal affairs Trump was talking about was not Russia’s business at all and he was not in the position to make any comments.
As for Putin’s main description of Trump, it has proved a real jaw-cracker for both interpreters and journalists.
"He is a bright man, and a talented one, beyond doubt," Putin said. Some English language mass media also used the adjective "brilliant", which, if rendered back into Russian is pretty close to "of genius." A short while later Putin had to translate his own statement "from Russian into Russian" at a full-scale meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. "Look, what did I say in reality? I just dropped an off-the-cuff remark Trump was a bright personality," Putin recalled. "But who’d say he is not bright? Surely, he is. But I’ve never offered any other descriptions."
Good-natured remarks concerning Trump fell on some attentive ears in the Democrats’ election team, who were quick to blame the Republican rival for something very close to friendship with Putin. Even though Trump disagrees with the Russian president on many issues. Moreover, some members of the Trump family charged Russia with sponsoring some Clinton family-related funds.
Putin dismissed both speculations as nonsense.
"All this (speculations about Russian connections) are being used by both parties as a weapon in internal political struggle, and I believe this is very bad," he said.
"Not an refined rhetorician, but a common language can be found"
The chronicle of Putin’s statements about Hillary Clinton is a long one. They had contacts many a time long before the start of the presidential race in the US. In fairness, one must admit that even then there existed the basis for both constructive relations and for criticism.
In December 2011 Putin strongly dismissed Hillary Clinton’s statement on the Russian election.
"First thing the Secretary of State made a comment on the (State Duma) elections. She claims they were dishonest and unfair, although she has not received reports from the ODIHR monitors yet," Putin said. He remarked that in this way Clinton "set the tune for some figureheads" inside Russia, that she "made a signal."
"They have heard that signal and got down to work with support from the US Department of State," he said.
In 2014, while commenting on another series of Clinton’s harsh allegations Putin said that "Mrs. Clinton has never been a refined rhetorician."
"When people go beyond certain bonds of decency, this testifies not to their strength, but to their weakness," he said. "But weakness is not the worst of all qualities for a lady."
Putin believes that Hillary Clinton is certainly free "to have her own vision of US-Russian relations."
"I know from experience what happened to many people when they began to perform a certain function. What they looked like before and what they began to look like after that. Quite often you don’t recognize them, because when they have a different level of responsibility, they start to talk differently, they think differently and they even begin to look differently," Putin said about the Democratic presidential candidate.
In reply to another question about Hillary’s statements Putin once dropped with a smile: "It’s far better not to object to women and never to quarrel with them." Seriously speaking, he went on to say, there had opportunities to have discussions with Clinton before. "It was OK. Our paths crossed after that and we had nice chats at all sorts of international events. I believe that we might be able to find a common language in this case, too."
One such meeting between Putin and Clinton took place on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vladivostok on 2012, where the then Secretary of State represented the United States. The Russian leader then said there had been a very constructive and business-like dialog.
"No special decisions or agreements were made them, but it was a useful conversation," he stated. "Such meetings are useful, because they help understand each other better. This means that we may achieve some joint solutions in the future."
As for the role of women in big politics, Putin has a firm opinion. At the annual news conference back in 2007, when asked by TASS about the outlook for Hillary Clinton’s presidency Putin said that the presence of women in politics was a sure sign of society’s maturity.
"Women’s participation in social and political affairs is a clear indication of society’s maturity," he said then. "Women in power make the state more balanced and more capable."
Without mentioning any specific names Putin has often reviewed the key qualities Russia would like a future US leader to possess.
Putin hopes that it will be a person eager to develop Russian-US relations and address this issue in earnest. Also, he would like a new leader to maintain an equitable type of relationship.
"Certainly, we disagree with the approach of that part of the US establishment which thinks it is free to decide where we deserve cooperation, and where pressures on us, including the regime of sanctions, should be stepped up," Putin said. "We are for equitable partnership in conformity with each other’s interests. This is the sole basis we should and will be working on."
The Russian leader said Moscow would like to do business with a leader who enjoys support from a majority of the American people and who will be prepared to take a responsible attitude to agreements with partners.
"I would like to have contacts with someone who can make responsible decisions and act on the achieved agreements," he said. "Names do not matter."
Putin often used the ending of the phrase to answer additional questions, who suited these criteria best.
"Come on, we like all," Putin said, when asked which of the presidential candidates in the US was preferable to Moscow. "We will be working with the one who is elected," he said. "Of course, it would be better to work with those who wish to work with us. Provided this work is honest, mutual and fair."
US is not a "banana republic"
During the current election campaign Putin had to point out again and again that Russia had no intention to exert influences on the US voters.
"Is there someone who may think in earnest that Russia can influence the choice of the American people somehow? America is not a banana republic, is it? America is a great power. You will correct me, if I am wrong," Putin said.
Speculations about interventions by "Moscow’s hand" in the election campaign in the United States, Putin said, are manifestations of hysteria and attempts to divert the electorate’s attention to far-fetched matters, such as enemy image, or just a means of struggle for the electorate’s votes.
"I seldom see cases in which the leading mass media create something by accident," he said. "The very idea (Trump is Putin’s favorite) was offered to the public mind for one purpose. Those campaigning for the Democratic Party’s candidate, Mrs. Clinton, in her struggle with the Republican Party’s candidate, Mr. Trump."
Putin has repeatedly dismissed all charges Russia was behind hacker attacks against the servers keeping all correspondence of Clinton’s election team, just as the wish to see either candidate gain the upper hand. He acknowledged, though, that the Kremlin was keeping close watch on election processes in the US.