President Obama announces expanded sanctions on Russia in UkThe differences are striking. Putin is a calm, extraordinarily rational and pragmatic professional who doesn't really contribute anything to the escalation of the emotions and who seems aware of the major principles that underlie the Western values and the Western understanding of justice, too.
Vladimir Putin on US Sanctions and Ukraine – English Subs
That's very different from Obama who only offers emotional, hypocritical, not reality reflecting, sometimes one-sided and sometimes downright untrue accusations of Russia and the Russian people and who is boasting about his desire to hurt that nation. Nothing that Obama says indicates that he is balanced, merciful, that he has some sensible or realistic plans in what direction he wants to push the world in the future, or that he understands anything nontrivial about the world of politics or the human society in general, for that matter.
Obama's speech is so superficial, cheap, and hateful that a positive person like myself just doesn't want to spend much time with discussing that rant. The speech is clearly addressed to low-brow voters for whom an announced threat and some clichés about the collective guilt and the need to fight against some "dragons" are enough. If there are really hundreds of millions of people in America who endorse this stuff, the American nation has deteriorated rather dramatically.
Putin's answers are much more interesting and, I would say, wise.
They ask him about the sanctions and his planned revenge. He makes it clear that he will still evaluate these things totally calmly – how many people in his role could do that? – and he doesn't seem to plan any direct revenge. He says exactly what I did some days ago: there is no need for additional sanctions because the sanctions that were already announced by Obama et al. hurt both sides, will damage American companies that would like to do business with Russia (that can lose their competitive edge etc.), and so on. So even if the sanctions are announced by one side, they hurt both sides more or less symmetrically, in the absolute sense, because of the "boomerang effect", as Putin puts it.
Putin makes it clear that he thinks that this is a development that he doesn't want and Russia doesn't want to see which is why he is not eager to escalate the situation. I find this attitude both "nicer" and much more "mature" than what we can hear from the White House and others these days. He also claims that more than anyone else, Russia is highly interested in the end to the conflict in Ukraine, something I have certain doubts about, but at least, it is plausible and it makes Putin a peacemaker that he tries to describe his wishes in this way.
A few sentences talk about the IMF or other money that are being lost or used for unplanned purposes (repression) in Ukraine.
Putin is also explaining that for a decade or a bit more (the period sort of agrees with Putin's tenure in top Russian politics), the American foreign policies have been very unprofessional. Every country that was touched by American interventions has sort of turned into mess, except for the countries where the sides opposing the American proteges won, like a general in Egypt – where it's OK, he thinks.
The unprofessionality is also reflected by the fact that they never learn from their previous mistakes. Instead, they prefer to mask them and pile up new mistakes on top of the older ones. So the top U.S. officials have messed up the situation in Libya, Syria, and recently Ukraine, and instead of noticing that and deducing consequences, they are adding new mistakes apparently to justify the previous mistakes, like the sanctions against Russia.
He also said that those who caused the conflicts etc. will always have blood on their hands. There is some slightly emotional part about the orphans and widows in Eastern Ukraine – but you know, these touching words really describe the sad reality in Eastern Ukraine that was partially forced upon them from abroad.
When it comes to some particular accidents (it's not MH17: they ask about a big public transportation accident in Moscow), he insists on the personal responsibility for the tragedies, quoting some examples that the law students are probably often told. (Two hunters shoot someone by accident. If you can't prove that one of them did it, you must make both of them free!) This is spectacularly refreshing because everything that Putin says would normally be viewed as the Western attitude to justice and guilt. Meanwhile, the politicians in the (geographically) Western countries make speeches that are all about collective guilt and "punishment" of the people according to their nationality.
As a Westerner, I am ashamed of the low-quality, unprofessional, superficial, hypocritical, non-analytical stuff that has gotten to the White House and the tips of the governments of many other (so far perhaps only geographically) Western countries. I am ashamed and I apologize to those Russians who are fed up with – or directly affected by – the unfair attitude of some powerful forces in the (geographically) Western countries. For example, I've heard about some Russian students in the U.S. who are just experiencing problems with their visas etc.
It is not really my fault that we have such low-quality leaders but I am still ashamed for that.