Putin Makes a Splash at the G20 Summit

Putin Makes a Splash at the G20 Summit

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin, already a well established geopolitical star, had a splashy day on the global stage at the Group of 20 summit meeting on Friday, even by his own standards.

First, Mr. Putin stirred things up in Europe by proclaiming, in an interview with the Financial Times, that the world’s liberal political order had “outlived its purpose.”

Within hours, he listened cheerily through an apparent joke by President Trump about rubbing out journalists in Russia.

Later, a video of Mr. Putin shaking hands with an extraordinarily glum-looking Theresa May, the British prime minister, touched off another media storm.

And over the course of the summit, a gathering of officials from the world’s wealthiest economies, he conducted a dozen or so meetings and found time to broker a deal with China claiming to cut out the use of dollars in bilateral trade, a longtime goal for Russia.

In the interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Putin said that the “liberal idea,” by which he meant the postwar dominance of democracy, human rights, multiculturalism and tolerance, had become “obsolete.”

“Liberals cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” Mr. Putin said, according to a transcript.

Mr. Putin said that Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s leader, had erred in allowing a million refugees, mostly Syrians, to settle in her country, and that Mr. Trump was correct in trying to halt immigrants and drugs from Mexico.

“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done,” Mr. Putin said. “The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

But “every crime must have its punishment,” he told the newspaper. “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

In the interview, Mr. Putin also criticized what he cast as excessive tolerance for people of diverse sexual orientation and identity. “We have no problem with L.G.B.T. persons,” he said. “But some things appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.”

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, responded on Twitter. saying: “I strongly disagree with President Putin that liberalism is obsolete. What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults and the rule of oligarchs.”

Mr. Putin, a 66-year-old former K.G.B. agent who has been Russia’s de facto ruler for nearly 20 years, has long shown an understanding of the power of a provocative phrase, and at times flashed a sense of humor as black as coal.

He rose to power in Russia after promising to “whack in the outhouse” his terrorist enemies in Chechnya, a turn of phrase that proved wildly popular in Russia.

Mr. Putin, who from time to time underscores in his speech that he is not a prudish man, once joked that communist labor had the same flaw as group sex, as it’s impossible to tell who is working and who is slacking off.

Faced with criticism over human rights abuses in the war in Chechnya early in his tenure, he once threatened at a news conference to castrate a reporter who asked a question about land mine victims.

In opening remarks before a bilateral meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Mr. Trump, speaking with Mr. Putin in a spirit of bonhomie, had commented about reporters, “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”

Mr. Putin responded that “it’s the same” in Russia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the untimely deaths of 58 journalists in Russia in the post-Soviet period, many of them by murder or unexplained accidents.

In a conference call with Russian-based reporters Friday, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry S. Peskov, clarified that Mr. Putin was not criticizing the liberal political order per se but what he saw as efforts by Western leaders to impose it to the exclusion of other political systems.

“Vladimir Putin, in my understanding, remains very close to the ideas of liberalism,” Mr. Peskov said.

“At the same time, if authoritarianism exists somewhere, this is a question of the people of these countries,” Mr. Peskov said. “We should not judge them and change the regime and government in these countries.”

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