Part one of a four-part series of pre-taped interviews between Oliver Stone and Vladimir Putin aired Monday night on Showtime. Stone's approach is less interview than praise for Putin followed by pauses to allow the Russian president to speak, but Putin had plenty to say about his rise to power and his relationship with "our American friends."
On the "trap" the U.S. has fallen into since the end of the Cold War:
"I believe that if you think you are the only world power, trying to impose on the whole nation the idea of their exclusiveness, this creates an imperialistic mentality in society, which in turn requires an adequate foreign policy expected by society. And the country's leaders are forced to follow this logic. And in practice this might go contrary to the interest of the Americans.... It demonstrates it's impossible to control everything."
On his career choice: "By job distribution I was obliged to go" into the KGB, "but I wanted to go there."
On his rise to power: Declined P.M. role when Yeltsin first offered it. "I told him that it was a great responsibility and that meant I would have to change my life, and I wasn't sure I wanted to do that." When he accepted, first thought was, "where to hide my children."
Life and death
On bad days: "I'm not a woman so I don't have bad days.... I'm not trying insult anyone, that's just the nature of things.... There are certain natural cycles, which men probably have as well, just less manifested...but you should never lose control."
On sleep: Putin says he always slept 6-7 hours a night, even in times of crisis, and doesn't have nightmares.
On death: "One day this will happen to each and every one of us. The question is, what we will have accomplished by then in this transient world, and whether we'll have enjoyed our life."
His interactions with the U.S.
On calling Bush after 9/11: "I certainly understood that heads of state need moral support at such times."On blaming the U.S. for the rise of al Qaeda: "It always happens. Our partners in the United States should have realized that. So they're to blame."
On anti-Russia rhetoric in U.S. presidential campaigns: After the election they tell Russia "don't pay too much attention to that," just posturing.
Russia before Putin
On Mikhail Gorbachev: He "didn't understand what changes were necessary and how to achieve them."
On Boris Yeltsin: "Just like any of us he had his problems, but he also had his strengths," including the ability to accept responsibility.
On the end of World War II: The Soviets gave the U.S. the excuse to create NATO and start the Cold War by acting "primitively."
On the collapse of the Soviet Union: "25 million Russians found themselves abroad in one night, and that was one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century."