Vladimir Putin Opens Up to Oliver Stone About America, al-Qaida, and More
'I'm not a woman, so I don't have bad days ... I'm not trying to insult anyone,' said the Russian leader
“A lot of Western people don’t know much about you,” director Oliver Stone said to Russian President Vladimir Putin while sitting with him for the documentary miniseries, “The Putin Interviews,” the first of four segments, which aired Monday night.
Stone has never been easily defined by political labels or predictability — so it came as little surprise when he revealed he had interviewed Putin over the course of two years for a documentary series that would air on Showtime. The conversations between the two men occurred between July 2015 and February of this year.
Having praised figures as varied as former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Stone likely knew it would be anyone's guess what his treatment of Putin would be like. Many felt Stone would be too nice and accepting of the controversial Putin — though those fears went out the window when Megyn Kelly recently fumbled her interview with the world leader and set the bar incredibly low.
Let there be no doubt: Stone's interview put Kelly's to shame. While he had the benefit of more time, Stone was clearly more knowledgeable of Russia's economics and had an interest in creating more history and context around Putin, one of the most powerful and mysterious figures in the world today.
Stone's interview puts Kelly's to shame.
The "Platoon" director dug into Putin's past in the military all the way back to when he became acting prime minister of Russia in 1999. Putin revealed that becoming Russia's leader was not something in which he was immediately interested.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to do that," he said, noting he had first turned down then-President Boris Yeltsin when offered the chance to be prime minister and then to run for president. Putin added that "to assume responsibility for Russia back then was a very difficult thing to do."
Stone's curiosity about Putin's past and his personal life as well made for far more valuable and interesting viewing than Kelly's attempt at creating clever soundbites. No matter one's opinion of Putin, he's someone worth knowing a thing or two about today — which viewers are guaranteed to do after this. The more controversial conversations about the potential of Russian hacking of the presidential election are being held for later episodes, but Putin still said plenty of fiery things about the U.S. that are sure to upset people.
He was very critical of the foreign policy of the United States, even blaming the U.S. for the creation of al-Qaida. "Al-Qaida is not the result of our activities. It's the result of the activities of our American friends," said Putin.
He continued, "It all started during the Soviet War in Afghanistan when the American intelligence officers provided support to different forms of Islamic fundamentalism, helping them to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. So the Americans themselves nurtured both al-Qaida and [Osama] bin Laden. But it all spun out of control."
He had proof, Putin added, that the CIA provided major support to the Chechens during the Second Chechen War in an effort "to destabilize the internal political situation in Russia."
Yet Stone missed an opportunity to press the leader harder. Putin has always been a critic of America — but Stone was still representing his country and could have pushed Putin more on these subjects. Stone even later said, in a segment filmed in February 2016, that he believed the U.S. was working to destroy the Russian economy and collapse the nation — and Putin did not entirely disagree.
"I'm not a woman, so I don't have bad days."
"The presidents of your country change, but the policy doesn't change on matters of principle," said Putin later when the 2016 presidential election came up (taped before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were chosen as nominees).
In another piece of the interview, Putin made eyebrow-raising comments about women. Stone asked him if he ever had "bad days" and lost control — and Putin responded, "I'm not a woman, so I don't have bad days."
He added, "I'm not trying to insult anyone. That's just the nature of things ... There are certain natural cycles, which men probably have as well, just less manifested. We are all human beings. It's normal."
While Stone is not nearly critical enough of Putin, he does get far more out of the man than most other interviewers have — perhaps all of them.
Future episodes will be must-views, as the two men will discuss the 2016 presidential election as well as Putin's feelings about specific United States politicians. Don't expect Stone to be a friend to the Left — he has dismissed the notion of any Russian collusion with Donald Trump, and he even called Hillary Clinton in the premiere episode a "hawk."
"The Putin Interviews" will air its next three parts all this week — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, each night on Showtime.