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Putin vs. Putin

11:54 AM, Jun 9, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
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Russian President Vladimir Putin, on why Russia can invade Georgia at will and doesn’t need an advanced amphibious assault ship like the French Mistral to do so:

“[Mistral] is an offensive weapon. Has France such helicopter carriers [Mistrals] in its armament? Yes, it has. Whom is France going to attack? No one. Why do people automatically assume that Russia will of course have to use this to attack someone? If you mean – and let’s put it bluntly – for example, our Georgian neighbors… Georgia has a huge land border with Russia. As a result of a criminal action, which was launched by President Saakashvili two years ago, people have died. And Russia had to defend the lives of its peacekeepers and citizens of South Ossetia. And, as it is known, Russia had, I want to stress it, to use its armed forces for defensive purposes,” the Russian PM said.  

Now, compare that Putin to this Putin -- on why Russia can and will use the Mistral wherever it pleases:

…in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Putin responded to a question about the procurement of the ship and its possible threat to Georgia by invoking a much more complex competitive process and declaring Russian sovereignty: “We have not decided anything about the acquisition of the Mistral. You are the sellers, and we are the buyers; there are other competitive proposals. And anyway, we still have not decided for ourselves if we will buy anything in this sense, of imports, although that is not excluded. Regarding the use of our arms, I can tell you that if we acquire something, we will use the weapon where we choose” (Rossiya, December 3).

Bonus quotation -- Putin versus one of his senior military leaders:

In September of last year, the Russian Admiral Valdimir Vysotskiy triumphantly declared that "a ship like this would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission [invading Georgia] in 40 minutes, not 26 hours, which is how long it took us."

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