×

Russia should've been stronger post-Cold War: Putin

The world would be a better place if Russia had asserted its national interests in the wake of the Cold War, President Vladimir Putin said in a German newspaper interview released Sunday.

Speaking to Bild in Sochi last week, Putin blamed an uninhibited push by NATO into the eastern Europe, as well as his own country's loss of power, for sparking recent wars and crises.


Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 25, 2015.
MAXIM SHIPENKOV | AFP | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 25, 2015.

"We did everything wrong from the outset," Putin said, according to an interview transcript on the Kremlin's website.

"We did not overcome Europe's division: 25 years ago the Berlin Wall fell, but Europe's division was not overcome, invisible walls simply moved to the East. This created the foundation for mutual reproaches, misunderstanding, and crises in the future."

Russia found itself increasingly isolated at the end of 2015, as spats with Turkey over a downed Russian fighter jet exacerbated tensions already simmering over Russia's new-found involvement in the Syrian civil war on the side of state forces led by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

That's on top of Western sanctions on Moscow over the annexation of Crimea, and its involvement with pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

When asked whether Russia itself made any mistakes, Putin turned to Russia's waning influence.

"We have failed to assert our national interests, while (sic) we should have done that from the outset. Then the whole world could have been more balanced," he said.


A swipe at NATO

In the interview, Putin also took a clear swipe at NATO, insisting the military alliance's expansion into eastern Europe was forewarned by western and Russian leaders alike.

Surfacing records of talks between German and Soviet leaders in 1990, Putin said Egon Bahr — a German politician credited with laying the groundwork for the country's reunification — had warned that NATO shouldn't include Central Europe.

Daragh McDowell, the principal analyst for Verisk Maplecroft's Europe and Central Asia division, said Putin has plugged this message since 2007, when he accused the U.S. of crafting a "uni-polar" world, centered around American power.


"Some of this rhetoric is simply for internal propaganda and political management, but it does seem to reflect a set of genuinely held beliefs by Putin," McDowell told CNBC via email.

"Namely that the collapse of the Soviet Union was largely due to (Mikhail) Gorbachev's failures to exercise assertive leadership at key points, that this was highly detrimental to Russia's strategic interests,. and that NATO's actions since then have been aimed at encircling and punishing Russia."

Tim Stanley, the Russia director for Control Risks said Putin's concerns are echoed by a number of western commentators, who have also questioned the legality of NATO's military activities.

Russia meanwhile, is trying to work its way back to a position of authority, Stanley believes, as can be seen in Moscow's involvement in Syria, and offers to mediate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"As a former superpower, Russia believes that it has a lot to contribute in resolving long-running conflicts in parts of the world where it has knowledge, expertise and experience," Stanley said.