Interview with the winner of three American Academy awards Oliver stone — he is a veteran of the Vietnam war awarded the medal “Purple heart” (Purple Heart), and Creator of some of the greatest Hollywood anti-war films — was held in his office located in Santa Monica, in celebration of the landing of allied troops in Europe. The hallmark of the cinema of Oliver stone is creating his art alternative narratives that set up it is not only against government forces but also the mainstream media.
In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan ran a covert operation Iran-contra, stone showed the opposite side of the story in Central America in the adventure film “Salvador.” Later in the same year, and in 1989 with the help of his films on the Vietnam war — the “Oscar” for best film “Platoon” (Platoon) and nomination for best film of the tape “Born of the 4th of July” (Born on the Fourth of July) stone undertook militarism with the help of his now classic works, telling us that war is hell.
While Reagan touted loud unbridled capitalism, the stone in his released in 1987 on the screens the film “wall Street” (Wall Street) questioned the moral ideal expressed in the phrase “greed is good.” Perhaps the most memorable work of stone was released in 1991, his film “John F. Kennedy. Shots in Dallas”. It has been heavily criticised the report of the Warren Commission about the assassination of President John Kennedy, and also talked about the involvement of us intelligence agents to this murder. And its released in 2012, a whopping 796-minute “the Untold history of the United States” (Untold History of the United States) stone presented, among other things, his detailed look at the cold war.
Now stone is back with his documentary film “Interview with Putin”. While the intelligence community, Congress and the press investigate on possible Russian interference in presidential elections in the United States, as well as about a possible conspiracy during the election campaign and presidency, trump, stone, using his unique access to the Russian President, dare to imagine, the side of Vladimir Putin in this story.
In the course of affecting the deep themes of the interview with the correspondent of the Nation magazine stone says that, from his point of view, is Putin’s position. We talked about Edward Snowden, pomacanthidae, Syria, Donald trump, Ukraine, the mainstream media, Hillary Clinton, Julian Assange, Bernie Sanders, on the return of the cold war, Megyn Kelly, war and peace, but also about Putin. This interview was edited and shortened for clarity.
Nation: Let’s talk about the schedule of work on a documentary film “Interview with Putin”.
Oliver stone: the documentary film “Interview with Putin” began in June of 2015. We just finished shooting the film about Snowden — we went to Moscow in order to remove the last scene with ed Snowden. We stayed for a few days and visited the Kremlin, where we met with Mr. Putin for our first interview. Then we stayed another two days and we had several interviews. We returned to Russia early next year, and then in the middle of 2016 — and each time there were several interviews, in Sochi… in the country — we used every opportunity that arose. His work schedule was very tight; he’s working late. Often he left in the morning and said, “I Have another meeting.”
Putin adheres to a strict discipline, and at night slept. In the morning he looked fresh — it never gets tired, unlike me. He’s very, very disciplined, perhaps it comes from judo… He was always in a suit and tie and looked very well maintained, regardless of the time of day. He never had to visit the toilet… He lives in this style for 16 years. I mentioned about how Reagan dealt with — nothing shifts on the other, he delves into the essence of each question. This impressed me… Putin is a very consistent, conservative leader.
Fourth trip — we had hoped that all was now finished… It was not planned — it was already after the elections in the United States, there was a whole set of new pressing issues. So we agreed about the trip in February 2017 and removed the final part, after the arrival of the trump to power. There is a lot of time given to the Trump, but there it is not only about today, there is present a look back in time covering the period in 17 years, there we are talking about the visit of Putin as President, which is very important for understanding the current situation.
Americans tend to judge on the basis of the moment — the headlines news. But it doesn’t work — politics, relations between countries require a certain temporal perspective… unfortunately, we have no such opportunity, because our world news requires an immediate response, Bush was forced to respond quickly: “I looked into his soul and realized that this is a person I can trust”… This kind of attitude line up for the camera.
He could stop this job at any time. If the interview was boring, and my questions are pointless, then I think we could have finished faster. I think I kept his interest by “dancing”, that is, by making the film with the actors, trying to maintain interest and make them want to shoot this episode. This is the skill that I have acquired over the years, working with the actors. I did it with heads of state, Castro, Netanyahu, Arafat…
In total we received 19 hours of footage. We reduced it to four hours is a good proportion of 20%…. We spent 22 hours… No Russian money financing “Interview with Putin” was not…
— What is the value of your documentary, which will be released at the time of deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations amid all these accusations of hacking during elections?
— So it was not planned. There is another crisis in the long chain of crises. The United States has always dominated in the field of media and represent worldwide their side of events using headers. It should be borne in mind that the Russian point of view is never included, and she never properly submitted for the American people. And when that happens, it seems that it is presented sarcastically, mocking is not a good way to do business. So we definitely tried to step back in time and move to the present day. And it coincides with Putin’s presidency, which began in 2000.
He saw that Russia is in a state of chaos — remember, the Americans directed the economic team to Russia, they gave advice to Yeltsin. Yeltsin was a good friend to Mr. Clinton — he was pretty much “our guy”. In 1996, when Yeltsin’s rating was on a catastrophic level, he was re-elected President. It still remains a big question in Russia — elections, perceived as rigged, and in confirmation of this point of view, there is a lot of evidence. In addition, he unexpectedly received a loan from the IMF, is large enough; this happened at the last second and helped to support the economy.
Our experiment does not work in Russia — privatization, the transfer of all state enterprises. All this has led to large-scale corruption, which we are now complaining about. Much of this corruption come from that period. Because those people who have enough sense, got all for free. And those people who acted according to the rules, as it should be, people who had pension plans, plans in the field of insurance, it was really screwed (Laughs).
Let’s say, Russia’s GDP fell by approximately 40%. For them, this collapse was worse than the Second world war, which caused enormous damage to Russia. As Kennedy said, “one third of the United States, from Chicago to new York, was destroyed.” Russia’s economy has fallen to the level of the economy of the Netherlands.
After Putin came to power, everything really has changed. The level of income increased. There is also the issue of poverty and income disparities — all of this is rooted in the 1990-ies. The situation with privatization has been modified — modified. Putin believes in the capitalist, market economy — more in the European than in the American version. He launched the reform process. He made a lot of enemies — as you know, the number of people who benefited from the situation in 1990-ies. Not all, but many of them emigrated, took the money and left.
— Well, Yes, they were called the oligarchs. But many of them stayed and worked with the government.
— Should Russia be a partner of America in the field of national security instead of treating it as an enemy of the state number one?
— Absolutely. America and Russia have many common interests, including the fight against terrorism. In space they will be key allies. We should not militarize space, and it’s one of their claims. Of course, the control of climate… There is a hope that in all of these areas can be established cooperation and security in the world…
You were a major critic of mainstream media. What do you think about how they represent Putin?
It’s a shame for the West. First published some positive things when he brought order into the existing chaos. But when he was, so to speak, the son of Russia and began to act in Russia’s own interest, as States are expected to do it, in my opinion, caught off guard of American leaders, the elite its firmness and consistency. Media war against him started in February 2007 (when Putin in his speech at the Munich security conference criticized American unilateralism for “almost unrestrained use of force in international relations”).
— In your fiction and in documentaries from the “John F. Kennedy. Shots in Dallas” to “Untold history,” strikes me that in the cinematic sense, you represent the narrative, opposing the dominant views, you offer version regarding events and people, which is contrary to the official. What is your opinion on Putin is different from what offers us the commonplace view presented in the mainstream media?
In our documentary, it delves into the details that are important to understanding the history and origins; he speaks of the three shocks he encountered in the result initiated by the Americans, of NATO’s expansion that began in 1999 was added to 13 States. NATO is perceived differently by the Russians than by the inhabitants of the countries of the West…
NATO, according to him, is almost a national state, which puts control of your military arrangements of those countries that are members of the Alliance. They become NATO member States. Planning within NATO use their territory for operations, war games, and perhaps even, ultimately, themselves as a military hostage on the front line. NATO is a serious commitment… NATO is presented as an anti-Russian Alliance…It is very important for the United States, but I don’t think that in the interests of Europe to be held hostage on the front lines in a tense situation.
However, the approach of NATO to Russia’s borders is already on the verge — if (Russia) placed their troops in Mexico and Canada, right on our borders, and say that we don’t trust you and can attack you at any time. This is a huge tension. This is called the “strategy of tension”, and it is of fundamental importance for the Western interests… But the Russian did not affect us any pressure, they do not move troops — the United States moved its troops. What is the number of forward operating bases — 800? Plus special operations troops in 130 countries — we feel threatened, we feel that we are surrounded by…
Here is what Mr. Putin: “Who brings chaos into the world?” If you look at the map and ask “Where are the troops, where the database located, where is the weapon?”
— Putin actually says in the film that in the last period of the Soviet Union, its leaders promised that NATO would not expand to accept as its members the countries of Eastern Europe.
But it was not recorded on paper, as he says, and accuses Gorbachev…
Number two (the second shock) he experienced in the moment when George Bush withdrew from the ABM Treaty with Russia (in 2001) — it was a real shock. A very dangerous step for the world — people didn’t pay attention to it, but the whole concept of nuclear parity, built up over so many years was broken. After that, America has placed missile defense in Poland and Romania, right on the border with Russia.
I can’t say to what extent this has upset the balance. The Russians were shocked by this — it is impossible to cancel such important treaties. The ABM Treaty was the cornerstone of nuclear parity was signed in 1972 by Nixon and Brezhnev. It was a very important Treaty, but the American people are not aware of this, because the media did not explain it to the world. This means that Russia is now forced to spend money and a huge amount of effort to rebuild some of their nuclear systems. Because now it is difficult to see the interceptor missiles are very fast can be turned into an offensive weapon.
If, for example, not to inform the Russian, they will not be able to understand what they have on the radar with what they face. If the interceptor missile suddenly starts to behave as an offensive weapon, then it becomes a real problem. You should immediately rebuild their defensive system and try to eliminate this threat. America has placed along the border of Russia submarines, Intercontinental missiles, NATO planes — from both sides. We develop all kinds of new weapons, including new nuclear “superusuario” (super-fuses) — they are very dangerous.
In other words, the United States does not intend to introduce any restrictions in the area of nuclear weapons — they demonstrate the intention to achieve excellence and have the potential first strike against Russia. This is a serious, very serious question. More serious than you think. This brings us to the edge. There are also many opportunities to make mistakes as shown in the movie “Dr. Strangelove” (stone shows Putin fragment of the nuclear satire of Kubrick, 1964 in his documentary) that fails; someone reacts too sharply — so it happened many times, since the 1970-ies, and we were close to it, if you look at the details. During the reign of the Reagan administration there were several incidents of this kind. Therefore, all currently concerned. The poles involved — they hate the Russian, Eastern European countries, in the minds of their thoughts of revenge. This is a very dangerous situation, and there might be an accident.
Number three (the third shock), he in detail tells about United States ‘ support of terrorism in Central Asia and in Russia. Putin speaks about it, is a very important issue. They helped us after the September 11 attacks (2001), they agreed with Bush about how to help us in Afghanistan — the right of transit, weapons, intelligence; they are, in fact, helped us. In fact, they saved many of our lives in Afghanistan. At that point, they began to intercept the signals from the Chechen terrorists in Georgia… attempts were made to separate them from Mother Russia, whose population in 1991 was reduced by 25 million people. Georgia became independent during that period. That is, there were a variety of problems at the border. Ukraine has become a problem in 2004… and now in Ukraine, terrorism engaged in extreme right-wing thugs.
Bush and Putin had a meeting — he talks about it. Bush agreed that we should not support those people who are out to destroy Russia — at the same time, he can not do anything, because the CIA continues to do it. The question arises — who runs the country, who makes the decisions. Bush makes the decisions? Trump makes the decisions? Or, actually, there is a secret government, the CIA, the intelligence services, which do what you want? It has also become one of the issues.
When the Soviet state collapsed in 1991… the relationship continued in the normal mode, the only superpower, Mr. Bush sent to the middle East 500 thousand soldiers. This is an extremely important decision, remember that in Vietnam it was gradual… And suddenly 500 thousand soldiers signals a new presence in the world. This Mrs Superpower hangs his sign and said, “OK, we’ll solve everything…”
However, these three things have struck Putin during the first years, and this was a major change in the relationship. He speaks of “our American partners” throughout the documentary, he and anybody says anything bad about any President. He respects Obama, he respects Bush, he, in a sense, obviously like Bush. In my opinion, if we take the system of American values, that Putin should be considered conservative American brand with traditional values. He fits this category. And if he was us President, he would have loved our media, because he is a good, consistent leader.
— Do you think that the mainstream media demonize Putin?
Well, none of mentioned issues in the period from 2000 to 2007 is not reported (note the magazine Nation: actually, they very little coverage in the mainstream media). I didn’t read. I thought we had a good relationship — but I was wrong. And I haven’t been following the Ukrainian “Orange revolution” in 2004 — it seemed that Russia has nothing against Ukraine moved towards the West. It wasn’t a question. They had trade agreements that were beneficial, powerful and good for both parties. They had military agreements on the supply of arms. But they were all broken in the coup of 2014. There were problems during the war in Georgia, what little was said. Second Chechen war — finally, Chechnya was pacified (the war ended in 2009).
Relations soured over Ukraine and Syria, which was the first in the list. Because in 2011, the United States began to actively intervene in Syria, and she was an ally of Russia since the 1970’s, they have there was a military base. Syria was one of their most important allies of Russia in the middle East. United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, England, France — they all became involved in this proxy war in Syria, and that the goal was to destabilize the country, to get rid of Assad and bring to power representatives of some of the moderate opposition, even though no evidence of its existence at that time was not.
The situation in the country deteriorated. Obama bombed Syria for four years, and any results of the fight against “Islamic state” (banned in Russia organization — approx. ed.) was not achieved. Putin interfered in 2015 — and it was at this point the shit hit the fan. Because, in fact, began an active bombing, thousands of sorties and hundreds of sorties a day, whereas the United States had taken one or two. He really caused damage to the “Islamic state”, and that has significantly changed the situation. If you notice the development of the Syrian crisis changed color, after the Russian came and started to do what they intended to do that is to fight terrorism.
Putin insists that this is the main goal. He stressed that Damascus is at a distance of 2500 kilometers from Moscow is not so far. We need to understand the fear felt by Russians over the resurgence of terrorism because they have experienced it in Beslan (the seizure of the school, 1-3 September 2004), in Moscow (at the Moscow center on Dubrovka, four kilometers from the Kremlin, 23 — 26 October), in the auditorium of the Dubrovka in 2002, many Russians died as a result of these attacks.
Putin is very serious about Syria — I don’t think Americans are as serious about this as we had other targets. We are not fighting terrorism. We fought for our geopolitical advantage in Syria, and this is largely due to oil and geography — control of the Eurasian subcontinent, Turkey.
However, Syria and Ukraine together have destroyed all the remaining relations. Add to it huge number of insults by Western media and governments. When we have people like John McCain, who says that “Putin is a thug, a murderer, a dictator” —
— “big threat than the “Islamic state”.
— “Big threat than the “Islamic state”.
— What do you think?
— I do not think that Russia poses a threat. I think that’s how could say Noam Chomsky (Noam Chomsky), the fabricated crisis. It helps to support American hostility, to support the military-industrial state, maintain budgets — this allows you to spend on defense is 10 times more than Russian. And, of course, the biggest mistake Obama made in 2009 when he said that we are going to completely rebuild our nuclear infrastructure and spend a trillion dollars. This is a very dangerous idea, if you think about the possibility of an arms race, about how Russia will respond, how China will respond? Think about it — to send billions of dollars in preparation for war. What is the result?
This could be a great moment as it was the end of Gorbachev, and Bush could say: “Let’s live in the world.” Reagan at some point wanted to completely disarm — remember, Gorbachev said, “Let’s get rid of all weapons”, and Reagan liked the idea.
— It was at a meeting in Reykjavik in 1986?
— It was a great idea, it was a great moment in history… If the world explodes, people should know that there was such a moment…
(Obama) in 2009 (planned to spend $ 1 trillion to upgrade nuclear infrastructure), and it is very dangerous. This decision, as well as the threat posed by the interceptors, put the world on the brink… Based on all my work on this documentary and my story instinct, I can say that Russians are cool guys, and they will not concede. Their victory in the Second world war was astonishing — the Nazis caused them great damage, the best military machine of all time. They suffered huge losses, but they were able to recover and to resist — in fact, they turned the whole tide of war in Stalingrad… And they fought, they continued to do so in Eastern Europe, it was incredible. Their military and civilian losses were enormous — according to some estimates, 27 million…
Russia won the Second world war — but the Russians don’t get no recompense for this. Right after that Churchill and Truman started the cold war. Soviet films about the Second world war was very good… They remember. If you’re going to make a film about the Second world war, unless it is something like Tarantino, this one is not particularly affected in our country. And in Russia it can happen, if it comes to their hearts, it’s their DNA. All Russia, all have relatives who have been affected by the war who were wounded or killed. Killed a lot of people. The whole country was fighting for survival.
You have to understand it — they are ready for war, and they fear that. I felt during my travels… I felt that they were very surprised that America is such a tough stance against Russia. They like Putin because he defends the interests of Russia. He’s not too aggressive, he never intrudes, except for the fact that say…
— And you consider everything that’s happening today, all these accusations about Russian interference in the American elections — in the context of the cold war?
— Absolutely. The memory of the cold war has not disappeared. All the representatives of the older generations, the neo-conservatives, all they remember about it, and also that Russia is the main enemy. It’s in their blood, their DNA to hate Russian… I don’t think it’s necessary, in my opinion, there is a huge amount of distrust, especially from the elite of the Republican party. They made it the issue in the election, panicked when Truman (in 1948), they adopted the Act of loyalty (Loyalty Act) and created the CIA. So many of these evils we have inherited from that time.
I wonder this: if Roosevelt had lived a few months longer, then obviously we would have inherited a different world. Very sorry that he died in April (1945) — if he had lived until July or August to… Roosevelt believed in a great Alliance involving the United States, Soviet Union, England and China… Churchill said, “if you criticized Stalin, he did what he promised to us.”
— If we do not sow the seeds of a new McCarthyism with all these accusations of hacking?
— It’s very strange — but it happens. These old shapes that don’t trust Russia and I hate everything connected with it. I do not understand, because Russian people are similar in many ways to the American people…
— All 17 intelligence agencies of the United States came to the same conclusion as hacker attacks from the Russian side, and all occupying the left position, forced to say: “They should know what they are talking about.” But you don’t believe that all of the 17 intelligence agencies telling the truth?
I don’t believe, because they had deviated from its original position… It was three agencies — the CIA, the NSA and the FBI. They concocted these reconnaissance data. These are my words, (not Putin)… these are very serious allegations — that trump was a Manchurian candidate. I think the talk about the Russian influence on the election is absurd, and it is visible to the naked eye.
Israel has a much greater influence on American elections via the American Israel public Affairs Committee. Saudi Arabia has influence with money… Sheldon Adelson (Sheldon Adelson) and the Koch brothers (Koch brothers) have a greater impact on American elections… And the Prime Minister of Israel coming to our country and, speaking at the Congress, criticize the President’s policy toward Iran is quite outrageous.
Our country is to a large extent is under the authority of the dictator, this dictator is money, the military industrial complex… Beyond the point of absurdity — every year for the military spending…
— Although your documentaries are not as well known as your picture, you took quite a lot of documentaries. Can you put “Interview with Putin” in the context of your previous documentaries on Fidel, Arafat, “South of the border”, etc.?
— This was a special interview like this. The idea of Putin arose spontaneously, it grew out of the history of Snowden. I’m meeting with Putin, and as a result we’re making a movie. At the moment we have not defined any boundaries. We were forced to do so, he was interested. In my opinion, most of the interviews cause him boredom. Of course, if you remember people like Megyn Kelly (Megyn Kelly) who jump on you and you are forced to defend themselves — I do not quite fit…
In the end he said to me: “Thank you for what you were so thorough and asked good questions.” I was challenging him, but he did it gently — it will not work if you use a sharp approach in the style of Megyn Kelly… She was not well enough informed, she said about the 17 intelligence agencies, and she didn’t know anything about those digital traces, which Putin said.
— Putin referred to you, when in conversation with Megyn Kelly he mentioned existing in the United States the theory that President Kennedy was killed by us intelligence?
I don’t know. He never never spoke about it… It was completely unexpected. But he took it as a possible option, isn’t it? I certainly believe in it, and you probably do too… Only the state apparatus could make it happen, not lovers.
— From the point of view of history documentaries, you can compare “Interview with Putin” with these ribbons, which are reviewed and remeasured already established narratives, as in the Michael Moore documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), like in the movie “Thin blue line” Errol Morris (1988), or in his movie “Fog of war” (2003), as in “the Madmen of Titicaca” Waisman Frederick (1967), “Hasty condemnation of” Emile de Antonio and Mark lane (1967)? These films have been presented alternative points of view, and they helped change public opinion. Can you put the movie “Interview with Putin” in this context?
— It cannot yet be said. Let’s hope that it will contribute to peace, harmony and better understanding. Yes, I deliberately favour another world for an alternative. I don’t understand why we are in war…
What do you call it: stone/Putin? Some say: frost/Nixon. It was all in the past and now is now. This is a chance for a crazy film Director to come out and ask: “What are you there to actually say? We can hear it?”