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Interview with Vladimir Putin's Spokesman; World Bank President Wants to Fight Poverty

Aired February 5, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNNI: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, a rare glimpse into the policies and into the mindset of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, from one of the people who knows him best, his long-time spokesman and adviser, Dmitry Peskov.

For the past 13 years, Vladimir Putin, as president, prime minister and president again, has been in charge of Russia, whether playing a key role in international diplomacy or posing shirtless with wild animals, Putin's powerful presence has made its mark.

But how effective has he been in Russia and on the world stage? After President Obama's must vaunted reset with Russia, the relationship now appears to be going off the rails. The two countries sometimes seem to act like petulant teenagers, snubbing each other, passing tit-for-tat legislation that simply seems to raise the temperature.

The United States says that President Putin has harshly squelched political unrest, has squelched human rights and most recently has passed this controversial law that banned American families from adopting Russian children.

For Putin's part, he sees the U.S. as unacceptably interfering in Russia's affairs.

In a moment, my interview with Dmitry Peskov, the man who is always at Putin's side.

But first, a look at the other stories we're covering tonight.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Dr. Jim Yong Kim has a lot of fun dancing to a different drummer.

But with nearly $60 billion in his checkbook, he's serious about fighting poverty as head of the World Bank.

And Russian winters are cold and long. So why aren't Russians making more babies? President Putin has the answer.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that aspect of President Putin in a bit. But first, to the politics and my conversation with his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. He joined me earlier from Sochi, which is the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.


AMANPOUR: So Dmitry Peskov, welcome to the program. Thanks for being with me.


AMANPOUR: Let me start -- I'm sitting in the United States of America. You're there in Sochi, Russia.

I can't help but thinking that the relationship between both countries has really taken a turn for the worse. I mean, some people sort of like to say it's a little bit like dysfunctional teenagers, tit-for-tatting each other.

And the latest is that Russia last week canceled a 10-year-old agreement on cooperation with the United States on law enforcement.

What is going on?

"The New York Times" is basically saying that the U.S. is deliberately kind of downgrading, disengaging with Russia.

Do you see it that way?

Does that concern the president?

Does that concern Russia?

PESKOV: Well, definitely -- definitely, there are concerns, because we do value our relationship with the United States. The United States is a very important partner for us, and there are certain disagreements that we have in our bilateral agenda.

But at the same time, there is a mutual understanding, especially between the White House and Kremlin, that our two countries are indispensable in terms of playing a crucial role on the global arena in terms of ensuring the global stability and, also, in terms of our volatile relationships.

Sometimes we hear voices like you mentioned, "The New York Times;" sometimes we hear voices coming from our emotional parliamentarians.

And then most frequently, those voices do not correspond with official atmosphere and official attitude of Moscow and Washington toward importance of our bilateral relationship.

So I repeat again, there are issues that we disagree upon but we agree - - we do agree that our relationship is very much important and we have to work in order to change the negative trend towards uptrend in our -- in our -- in our volatile dialogue.

AMANPOUR: So, in that regard, does it concern you, does it upset you that, apparently, President Obama is going to publicly decline an invitation for a visit to Russia, you know, a unilateral U.S. state visit to Russia?

PESKOV: Well, we don't know whether President Obama is going to say yes or no. We do hope to see him on a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. Russia is presiding in this G-20 this year. And we are doing our best in order to contribute to global economic processes, especially in a turbulent economic environment that we are all living through these days.

So -- and we hope to see President Obama in there.

AMANPOUR: If he does decline that invitation to visit Russia as the U.S. president and not as part of a multilateral visit, how will you react?

PESKOV: Well, actually, it's a long-standing invitation. It's a permanent invitation. We haven't gotten any signals from our American partners that such a visit can be declined in general.

And, frankly speaking, we don't have this visit on our closed agenda. So -- but we do hope that, sooner or later, such a visit will be on the agenda and we'll be happy enough to receive President Obama in the Russian Federation.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, there have been issues that have created what looks to be friction. You've got, you know, the adoption ban that just went through. And that's creating a lot of controversy and, really, people think it's a very cruel move by the Russian Parliament, by the Duma, and certainly the U.S. government is very upset about it.

You've got what we see constantly, the quashing of protests in Russia and what the United States says is a violation of human rights. There are issues that are really at stake.

Does this worry President Putin?

PESKOV: There are issues of a domestic nature, Russian domestic issues, that cannot be issues for our bilateral discussion. And that definitely should not be taken as a reason for having or not having the visit of the President of the United States to Russia.

You mentioned -- you mentioned some protests here in Russia. Yes, we have quite an active public life and political life here in this country. And like elsewhere in the world, once in a while, there are parties and individuals who are protesting against something.

It's quite natural that Russia, as a state, is taking measures, is taking legislative steps in order to put things in order, in order to establish rules that should be obeyed.

We know that you have very strict rules in that sphere in the United States and you expect your citizens to obey these rules. And if they are not doing this, you enforce these rules to those citizens of the United States.

So we are doing relatively the same.

Now the ban for adoption by American families, during recent years, a number of very unfortunate tragedies with Russian kids there in the United States, and we do feel concerned and we do want to have an understanding, what happens to Russian children in the United States after the adoption?

And in this sense, unfortunately, American side was not quite cooperative with us.

AMANPOUR: It is obviously true; we have seen some high profile, sad cases of Russian children not being treated as anybody would wish any child to be treated. But, obviously, most people see this ban by the Duma as a tit-for-tat because of the American Congress that passed the law punishing Russian human rights violators.

My question to you on this is, does President Putin approve of this law?

Did he approve of it before the Duma passed it?

And is there any chance of this adoption law being reversed?

PESKOV: President Putin gave his support to initiative for Russian parliamentarians. So he signed the -- this law. That means that he supported their initiative. Currently, I don't see any chance that this law is revised.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's a clear answer.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about world affairs, where Russia is an incredibly important player.

What's the readout from your side, from the Russian side, the reaction to the leader of the Syrian opposition agreeing now to sit down and talk with leaders of President Assad's government?

Have you reached out to the Assad government to make sure that they do have these conversations in order to try to find a solution?

PESKOV: Well, actually, we will definitely -- we'll definitely appreciate that readiness. We appreciate the readiness of the opposition. And now, we think that this dialogue should be reestablished in Damascus between Assad and the opposition.

We do hope -- we do hope that this readiness will be shown.

AMANPOUR: One opposition member just wrote in the "Financial Times" that she doesn't really understand why Russia, quote, "needs to rely on a criminal clique when the majority of our population and political elites could be supportive of a close, cooperative relationship with Moscow."

In other words, she's asking, why have you sided with the Assad regime and against the Syrian people, who she says would want a close relationship, in any event, with Russia?

PESKOV: Well, traditionally, we have quite good relationship with Syria. We used to have a very good relationship with Syria and with the Syrian people, that's a traditionally good relationship. But let's not over-exaggerate it, because during the last decade, actually, if we take trade and economic cooperation, it wasn't so intensive.

And then you would probably recall that President Assad was not a frequent visitor to Moscow. And we haven't had any frequent contact on the high or highest level between our two countries.

AMANPOUR: Your foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, said at the security conference in Munich, that global powers and Iran should, quote, "Stop behaving like children and get together and actually diffuse this nuclear crisis."

So do you believe that this next round of talks that is scheduled for later this month in Kazakhstan will actually produce a breakthrough?

And what is the element that's required for a breakthrough?

PESKOV: Well, actually, over-expectations, our expectations are very -- is very dangerous in diplomacy. So let's be very modest in our expectations.

But the fact that the negotiations will resume is positive by itself, because we still think that there is a space and there is no alternative for political and diplomatic instruments in solving -- in solving this problem.

Actually, we have -- we have to mobilize diplomatic capacity till the last -- the last possible opportunity, in order to ensure that it -- we are only using diplomatic means.

So this will be a good opportunity, but in terms of potential outcome of such a meeting, I suggest that we are not over-expecting.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Mr. Peskov, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

PESKOV: Thank you very much, Christiane.

Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And Russia is also wrestling with economic issues. Growth has slowed over the last year. And the world these days is less dependent on Russia's chief export, oil.

In a moment, we'll turn our attention to the poorest nations of the world. They must rely on aid from the World Bank, among other things, and we'll speak to the president of that organization, Dr. Jim Yung Kim, when we return.




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Welcome back to the program.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim has what may be the best job in the world, but also the hardest. As head of the World Bank, he has almost $60 billion to spend to fight poverty and raise up the middle class. But poverty isn't giving up without a fight.

About 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day, a number that hasn't changed much in more than 30 years. And successful growth of the global middle class comes at a cost, a massive income disparity as the poorest are left behind.

Raising the standard of living across the world is crucial to keeping the world safe and secure. But Jim Yong Kim is not your typical banker. He is a doctor; he's also an anthropologist, with an extraordinary track record fighting disease in the poorest corners of the world.

Dr. Kim, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: We were lucky enough to have you on your very first day, when you were named to be the leader of the World Bank. I want to know, in that time, what have you seen that's given you the most hope?

KIM: Well, all over the world, you know, during the last five years, during the economic crisis, the places that kept up global growth were the developing countries. So for example, in the next year, whereas we're looking at only about a 2.4 percent rate of growth and about a 1.4 percent rate of growth in the high-income countries, in Africa, we think it's going to grow over 5.5 percent.

So they have done so many things right over the last decades that now they're in a position to actually make it through the crisis and return to growth very quickly. So those countries are growing. And it's not just commodity prices. Commodity prices helped, but they did a lot of things in health, education, social protection, that set them up for growth in the future. That's very exciting.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's really great news, because all we usually hear is bad news about Africa, particularly governance and corruption, which leads me to ask you about a few of the countries that we focused on on this program.

We've interviewed, for instance, the president of Equatorial Guinea, a very resource-rich country, lots of oil and natural gas. And yet the people seem to be being left behind.

Can the World Bank play a role in leveling the playing field?

KIM: It's precisely what we need to do. You know, I was just in Tunisia. This is where the Arab Spring started -- excuse me. And what they're struggling with is how do they grow their economy in a way that's inclusive? Fundamentally, the Arab Spring was about countries that were growing economically but weren't inclusive, including young people.

So for example, unemployment rates among young people are still very high. The highest rates of unemployment are among college-educated young people. So there's a --


AMANPOUR: Which sounds really counterintuitive.

KIM: It's counterintuitive, but what this means is there have been problems with their educational system. Most of the college-educated people went into the public sector, because they didn't trust what was happening in the private sector.

What we need to do in every country in the world is help them be more competitive, find ways of providing health, education, social protection, education for employment so that the workers are able to participate in economic growth.

AMANPOUR: So meaningful, practical jobs?

KIM: Absolutely. That's what everyone wants. You know, in a recent report, the World Development Report for 2013, showed that 90 percent of all jobs in developing countries are created by the private sector. So this is what we need to do. We need to help governments to provide those basic inputs -- health, education, social protection -- but we also need to help them grow their private sector.

AMANPOUR: So when you see the running battles on the streets of Egypt right now, is that the same prescription, do you think?

KIM: Well, this is fundamentally about participation, you know, what these young people wanted from the beginning was to participate in the process. You know, I think there's a lot of challenges. We are already involved in Egypt. We're helping them with projects at the village level. But there's a lot of work to do there.

These are governments that are new. There are people who are running these governments now have not been governing. And so the challenge of setting up functioning systems is a real one. We, as well as our colleagues at the IMF, stand ready to help. And we're just -- we're waiting for the signal to get in there.

AMANPOUR: Is there any role for aid to be leveraged? In other words, the World Bank or any of the individual countries that are giving aid, should they make that conditional on certain reforms?

KIM: Well, we are very careful about conditionality. The countries have to lead the process. What we do instead is to come in and say, well, you know, we work in 187 member countries, and we've been in so many different places that we have real experiences that could help you.

For example, one of the big issues today is fuel subsidies. We know that they're not progressive; we know that they benefit the rich. We know that they contribute to the pollution of the air. And governments want that money back. But what we can do is come in and say, you know what, this is politically difficult.

But we've done this. We've worked with other countries who've successfully removed fuel subsidies. We can do that for you. It's the kind of knowledge, bringing knowledge to these development problems that we think is our sweet spot.

AMANPOUR: And obviously Egypt is going to have to do that. It's a tough choice for them to do.

KIM: Absolutely.



AMANPOUR: -- one of the big issues that's facing them, to reform their economy.

Corruption: one of your predecessors, James Wolfensohn, said it was the big cancer. You have said there's a zero tolerance -- a zero tolerance policy.

But what do you do about it when also the World Bank and you say that between $20 billion and $40 billion is stolen from developing countries every year? How do you correct that?

KIM: It's really a two-pronged approach. First of all, we're not going to get anywhere unless we're absolutely clear, zero tolerance for corruption. In fact, on my first day on the job, I had to make the decision about canceling a project in Bangladesh. And we found evidence of corruption.

Now it's not all through the government, because we have other projects that are going just fine in Bangladesh. But in that case, we had to be very clear and we canceled the project. And just recently, the Bangladeshi government removed their request for funding and said that they're going to go on their own. We hope they build the bridge. It's a critically important bridge.

But you start with that zero tolerance and then you ask the country, so what can we do to help you build the kinds of safeguards and systems in your government so that you can actively prevent corruption? I think going down both of those two paths is where we're going to go.

AMANPOUR: What do you do, because the whole raison d'etre is not just to fight poverty, but to raise the middle class so there's an enduring system. With this massive income disparity, how do you get governments to deal with that?

KIM: Well, there's -- there are a lot of great stories. For example, in Brazil, they've made very focused efforts at reducing the disparities. Now, you know, what they need to show us now is that by reducing those disparities, what they've done is recruited more people into the economy and then spurred growth that way. We think that's what's going to happen in Brazil.

So what we know is that there are very good examples of governments saying we need to reduce disparities; we're going to go forward and do it. And I think a lot of the middle income countries are facing this issue. And each one of them have their own plans of how to build that middle class and reduce disparities.

AMANPOUR: You're on your way to Russia. We just spoke to President Putin's right-hand man. We've seen growth there has slowed somewhat in the last year after a lot of progress. What do they need to do economically to make it work for all the people there? Because again, a lot of disparity, virtually no middle class.

KIM: Well, President Putin has done something very interesting. You know, we have something called the Doing Business Rating, and it's a report where we just report on things like, well, how difficult is it to register a business? How long does it take to get licenses? And so President Putin has said, you know, we don't like the position that we're in right now. There are over 100.

And we're going to get down into the 20s in a very short period of time. So what he's saying is we've got to improve the business climate. We've got to be an attractive place for investment. So they've got their plan. They know that so much of their economy's based on oil. They really want to diversify; they want to attract capital. We think that's the right thing to do.

AMANPOUR: You have a very, very serious job. But you also are somebody who likes to have fun. I don't know whether you're sick to death of these videos that are shown about you, but let us play one of you dancing.


AMANPOUR: You just said, "How's anybody going to take me seriously?" But of course, that makes you very human. What was that all about, "Thriller"?

KIM: Well, so what it was was we had a Dartmouth Idol competition when I was president of Dartmouth College. And they were -- they were students who sang in a competition. And they asked me to do a cameo. I had no idea they were going to dress me up like that. But that's what happened.

AMANPOUR: Well, you're a good sport and you have your work cut out for you. And we'll be following and watching and thank you so much for joining me again.

KIM: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And see you after your next trip, I hope.

KIM: Yes.

AMANPOUR: And we'll return in a moment with a final thought.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as we said earlier, Russia has slammed the door on adoptions to the United States and President Putin's spokesman told me that it doesn't look like that law is going to be reversed any time soon. There's a lot of harshness that some people say comes at the hands of President Putin, but also a lot of whimsical solutions to some of the issues they face.

For instance, at the same time as this ban on adoptions, Russia's national birth rate continues to fall. It's fallen to the lowest it's been in 20 years. And it is amongst the lowest birth rates in the world.

Russia ranks 178th, well below the United States, which is at 125th, and far below embattled Mali, which stands at number 2 and its neighbor, Niger, at number 1 in terms of world birth rates.

But the ever-resourceful President Putin is determined to raise his country's ranking. And according to reports, his solution is to put Russians in the mood for romance, with some solid gold soul. Boys 2 Men, the '90s R&B group, is performing in Moscow this week, some say at the invitation of President Putin himself.

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, presumably the hope is that an infusion of love songs could raise the temperature in this Russian winter and inspire Russian couples to say, "Da." If romance doesn't work, President Putin has a more practical plan, to reimburse Russian mothers as much as $10,000 for giving birth to another child.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website at, where you will also see more of my interview with Dmitry Peskov. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from New York.