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Q Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment. He said recently that next year when he has to step down, according to the constitution, as President, he may become Prime Minister, in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there. Senator McCain --
THE PRESIDENT: I've been planning that myself. (Laughter.)
Q Senator McCain said yesterday, when he looks into Putin's eyes, he sees a K, a G and a B, and he would never have invited --
THE PRESIDENT: Pretty good line.
Q And he would never have invited him to Kennebunkport. And he said it's time we got a little tough with Vladimir Putin. I'm wondering if you think -- is Senator McCain right? And what would it mean for Russian democracy if, when you leave power, assuming you do, in January 2009 -- (laughter) -- if Vladimir Putin is still in power?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, one of the interesting -- well, my leadership style has been to try to be in a position where I actually can influence people. And one way to do that is to have personal relationships that enable me to sit down and tell people what's on my mind without fear of rupturing relations. And that's how I've tried to conduct my business with Vladimir Putin. We don't agree on a lot of issues; we do agree on some. Iran is one; nuclear proliferation is another. Reducing our nuclear warheads was an issue that we agreed on early.
But I believe that diplomacy requires good relations at the leadership level. That's why, in Slovakia, I was in a position to tell him that we didn't understand why he was altering the relationship between the Russian government and a free press -- in other words, why the fress press was becoming less free. And I was able to do -- he didn't like it. Nobody likes to be talked to in a way that may point up different flaws in their strategy. But I was able to do so in a way that didn't rupture relations. He was able to tell me going into Iraq wasn't the right thing. And to me that's good diplomacy. And so I'm -- and I'll continue to practice that diplomacy.
Now, in terms of whether or not it's possible to reprogram the kind of basic Russian DNA, which is a centralized authority, that's hard to do. We've worked hard to make it appear in their interests -- we made it clear to them that it is in their interests to have good relations with the West. And the best way to have good long-term relations with the West is to recognize that checks and balances in government are important, or recognize there are certain freedoms that are inviolate. So Russia a complex relationship, but it's an important relationship to maintain.
Q Will you be disappointed if he stays in power after you're gone?
THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea what he's going to do. He -- I asked him when I saw him in Australia, I tried to get it out of him, who's going to be his successor, what he intends to do, and he was wily. He wouldn't tip his hand. I'll tip mine: I'm going to finish -- I'm going to work hard to the finish. I'm going to sprint to the finish line, and then you'll find me in Crawford.