MOSCOW — Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was a “strategic decision,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published Sunday, brushing aside a suggestion that tough retaliatory sanctions may have come as a surprise.
Putin said that sanctions, lower oil prices and a plummeting currency would not have “catastrophic consequences” for his nation’s faltering economy. In a lengthy interview with the state-run Tass news agency, he said he had never made any reckless decisions in his nearly 15 years running Russia.
“When a Russian feels he is right, he is invincible,” Putin said. “I never take arbitrary decisions, decisions that may entail consequences I don’t foresee. And if I cannot see the consequences, I prefer to wait.”
Putin appeared to be trying to strike a note of confidence while Western sanctions against Russia’s financial and energy sectors were increasingly biting the economy. Many Russian economic experts predict stagnant growth or a recession next year. Food prices are rising, and the tough economy is increasingly hitting ordinary Russians’ pocketbooks.
Russia is becoming more isolated on the world stage, although Putin said any Western attempts to impose a new Iron Curtain would fail. The interview came a week after the Russian president took an early exit from a summit of world leaders in Australia after coming under repeated attacks for his country’s actions in Ukraine. A burning conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost at least 4,300 lives since April.
The Interfax news agency said the interview had been conducted in Vladivostok before the summit; Tass gave no explanation for the delay in publishing it.
Putin said he did not intend to rule Russia for the rest of his life and that he would obey the Russian constitution, which mandates that he step down as president in 2024 if he wins another six-year term in 2018.
Staying in office throughout his life would be “detrimental for the country, and I don’t need it either,” Putin said.
He also said that he saw Western media as captured by political interests. Even when American publications criticize the Obama administration, he said, they most likely are doing so at the behest of the president’s opponents. He made the remarks when asked how he felt about being named the most powerful person in the world by Forbes, ahead of President Obama.
“This could be a method of internal political struggle in the United States, especially on the eve of the elections,” Putin said.