President Putin backs NSA surveillance as 'necessary' to fight terrorism
But government needs to 'limit appetite' of agency with clear ground rules
President Vladimir Putin has spoken in defence of the National Security Agency, arguing surveillance is necessary to deter terrorism, but said the government needs to "limit the appetite" of the agency by establishing clear ground rules.
The comments he made at a major news conference suggested a surprising show of support for President Barack Obama's administration, after executives from the world's biggest technology firms such as Google, Apple and Twitter called on the US for aggressive reforms of their electronic surveillance operations.
In November, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he would work with US President Barack Obama to ensure there would be no further "inappropriate" work carried out by the NSA following worldwide criticism and allegations German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was spied on.
Putin, a 16-year KGB veteran and the former chief of Russia's main espionage agency, said that while the NSA program "isn't a cause for joy, it's not a cause for repentance either" because it is needed to fight terrorism.
He argued that it is necessary to monitor large numbers of people in order to expose terrorist contacts.
But he added: "On political level, it's necessary to limit the appetite of special services with certain rules."
Putin said the efficiency of the effort — and its damage to privacy — is limited by the sheer inability to process such a huge amount of data.
Asked about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whom Russia has granted asylum, Putin insisted that Moscow is not controlling him.
He argued that any revelations published by Mr Snowden must have come from materials he provided before landing in Russia, stressing again that Moscow made providing refuge to Snowden conditional on him not carrying out any further "anti-American" activities.
Putin said he has not met with Mr Snowden and insists that Russian security agencies have not worked with him or asked him for any information relating to NSA activities against Russia. Mr Snowden found IT-related work in October in Russia.
Putin dismissed a report claiming that Moscow stationed its state-of-the art Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave region that borders Nato and EU members Poland and Lithuania, but added that he considers such a move a possible way of countering the US led missile defense system in Europe.
Both Poland and Lithuania have expressed concern about such a possibility, and Washington warned Moscow against making destabilizing moves.
Putin said Russia has long considered it, but added that "we haven't made the decision yet" on deploying them.
Turning to Ukraine, Putin insisted that Russia's bailout of the economically struggling country was driven by a desire to help a partner in dire straits and wasn't linked to its talks with the European Union.
Putin said that Russia decided to buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian securities and slash the price for Russian natural gas shipments to Ukraine to help a "brotherly" nation.
He added that the move is driven in part by pragmatic considerations, as Ukraine has been an important customer for Russian gas and a key partner in industrial cooperation since Soviet times.
The Kremlin's move comes as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych faces massive street protests over his decision to spike a pact with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.Additional reporting by Associated Press
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...