On Monday NBC released its full sit-down interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was initially previewed Friday, just days before Wednesday's much anticipated bilateral summit with President Joe Biden. It was the first interview Putin has given to a US network in nearly three years.
During the full interview Putin dismissed the latest major accusations of mounting cyberattacks on US infrastructure as "farcical". "Where is the proof? It's becoming farcical," Putin questioned, adding, "We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth, and not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof." Biden is expected to press his Russian counterpart during Wednesday's summit.
This emphasis on lack of definitive proof was a constant theme throughout the discussion. "Look, why are we talking about problems that don’t exist? There is no subject for a discussion. Somebody has — invented something, has made something up," he asserted generally of the latest charges, which include claims that Moscow is preparing to transfer advanced satellite targeting technology to Iran.
Specifically on this point, which originated with a Washington Post story last week, Putin said, "I will say once again — this is just — some fake information that I have no knowledge about. For the first time I'm hearing about this information from you. I — we don't have — this kind of — intentions. And I'm not even sure that Iran is even able to accommodate this kind of technology," according to the NBC transcript.
Throughout the interview Putin demanded evidence when Keir Simmons brought up cyberattacks...
You are conveying information to me as to who said that. But where is evidence that this was indeed done? I will tell you that this person has said that, that person has said this. But where is the evidence? Where is proof? With— when there is— when there are charges— without— evidence, I can tell you, you can take your complaint to the International League of Sexual Reform.
This is a conversation that has no subject. Put something on the table so that we can look and respond. But there isn't anything like that. The la— latest thing— one of the latest attacks as far as I know, was against the pipeline system in the U.S. Right, yes. So what?
Putin followed with a zinger about imagined attacks on Americans' ability to get Easter eggs:
Then— there's the cyber attack against a meat processing plant. Next time they will say there was an attack against some Easter eggs. It's becoming farcical, like an ongoing farcical thing, never-ending farcical thing. You said "plenty of evidence," but you haven't cited any proof. But th— again, this is— this— this is an empty conversation, a pointless conversation. What exactly are we talking about? There's no proof.
At a moment Biden is meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels on Monday, Putin had a blunt assessment of the Western military alliance as essentially outdated and without a real purpose.
Putin explained, "There may be — differences in assessments of international events on the international arena and among them. And — very well then — let get together and discuss it. As far as NATO, I have said on many occasions, 'This is a Cold War relic.' It's something that was born in the Cold War area— . I'm not sure why it still continues to exist."
"There was a time and there was some talk that this organization would be transformed. Now it has been kind of forgotten," Putin followed with. "We presume that it is a military organization. It is an ally of the United States."
“I will make it clear that the United States’ commitment to our NATO alliance and Article 5 is rock solid." https://t.co/ENJUPoS2XR— HuffPost (@HuffPost) June 14, 2021
The Russian leader acknowledged in the interview that US-Russia relations are at their "lowest point" in recent years. For this reason, as well as growing domestic pressure for Biden to 'get tough' on Russia and Putin, neither side expects any level of breakthrough during the June 16 summit.