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>> There's this grievance that's
eating away at Vladimir Putin.
>> The FBI detected more
>> Russian hackers are behind
those attacks.
>> NARRATOR: America in the
>> This is the first time they
have gone out and weaponized
that information.
>> He's going to employ whatever
means he can to undermine the
United States.
>> NARRATOR: Tonight on
"Frontline," in a special
two-part investigation, the epic
inside story of "Putin's
>> We are now only a few days
away from electing the next
president of the United
>> ...turning its attention
back to the election...
>> ...with the election just
days away...
>> NARRATOR: Election Day 2016.
As Americans headed to the
polls, U.S. intelligence
agencies were on high alert.
>> ...making the urgent push to
get out the vote.
>> Well, in the days before the
election, there was constant
interaction between the experts
at C.I.A., FBI, and NSA.
We were monitoring and using our
collection capabilities to
understand what the Russians
might have up their sleeve at
the 11th hour.
>> Breaking news here: Wikileaks
is about to release
"significant material tied to
Hillary Clinton."
>> The campaign is doing damage
control tonight after Wikileaks
>> NARRATOR: The intelligence
agencies had been tracking a
multi-pronged effort to
influence voters: leaks of
hacked emails; ads on Facebook
and Google; on social media,
trolls and bots spreading fake
news-- all, they believed,
connected to Russian President
Vladimir Putin.
>> This was the most aggressive
and most direct and most
assertive campaign that the
Russians ever mounted in the
history of our elections.
And what characterized this
were the variety and intensity
of the techniques that they
>> NARRATOR: Now they detected
what they call O.P.E.--
operational preparation of the
>> The Russians will map the
architecture and the
environment of their targets.
>> NARRATOR: The target: state
electoral systems, registration
databases, voter information.
>> I'll never forget one day,
John Brennan said to me, "I'm
going to come brief you."
Now, it was not often that the
C.I.A. director, by himself,
came to DHS to meet with me, by
myself, to share intelligence.
>> NARRATOR: Brennan had told
Johnson the cyber-intrusions,
traced to Russia, could be the
first step in a plan to directly
interfere with voting.
>> The thing that immediately
has to come to you is, "Hey,
somebody might be trying to
eliminate from the rolls voters
in key states, in key precincts
through a very targeted, careful
You could really do a lot of
>> ...Going to the polls,
casting their ballots...
>> History will be made today...
>> NARRATOR: Inside the
administration, the question:
Just how far would Putin go?
>> I didn't know if the Russians
were going to do anything at
And I thought if they did, it
clearly would be a sign that
Putin had authorized an
aggressive assault against this
country that to me would have
been tantamount to, to war.
♪ ♪
>> NARRATOR: It would be
Vladimir Putin's revenge for a
lifetime of grievances.
>> Mr. Gorbachev, tear down
this wall.
>> NARRATOR: Reviving the old
Cold War with new weapons.
>> We have the responsibility to
advance freedom and democracy.
>> NARRATOR: An epic struggle.
>> Everywhere that freedom
stirs, let tyrants fear.
>> NARRATOR: Between the leader
of Russia and American
>> The United States will
continue to stand up for
democracy and the universal
rights that all human beings
(man speaking Russian)
>> NARRATOR: The story begins on
New Year's Eve 1999.
In Moscow, the future of Russia
was about to change.
With his country in turmoil,
President Boris Yeltsin had an
announcement to make.
>> President Yeltsin rose on
immense popularity, his sense of
love and admiration, was
progressively losing that.
>> NARRATOR: Across Russia they
tuned in.
>> (translated): I have made a
I've been thinking about it
painfully for a long time.
Today, at the last day of the
departing century, I am
>> I watched it on December 31.
I remember I was crying my eyes
He just said, "Forgive me for
what I haven't managed to
>> (translated): I want to ask
your forgiveness, for many of
our dreams have not come true.
(Yeltsin speaking Russian)
And for the things that seemed
easy, but turned out to be
excruciatingly difficult.
>> He gave this absolutely
heartbreaking speech.
He said that he wished that he
had done a better job by the
Russian people.
And he said, "I'm tired, and I'm
It was... It was impossible not
to cry.
>> NARRATOR: Yeltsin's final act
as president: the father of
Russian democracy turned over
the country to his little-known
prime minister, a former KGB
(Yeltsin speaking Russian)
>> (translated): I have signed a
decree giving the
responsibilities of the
president of Russia to Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin.
(man speaking Russian)
>> NARRATOR: The new president
escorted Yeltsin out of the
(speaking Russian)
>> (translated): Next to him, a
young Putin was standing.
And Yeltsin shook his hand.
And this famous footage,
actually, the whole world saw.
And Yeltsin said, "Take care of
Just those words.
"Take care of Russia."
>> Yeltsin's resignation came as
a complete surprise to almost
Even Yeltsin's top ministers
didn't know about...
>> NARRATOR: From his first days
as president, Vladimir Putin was
obsessed with creating the
appearance of a 21st-century
>> ...decision to step down
could not have come at a better
time for Prime Minister Putin,
Yeltsin's choice...
>> NARRATOR: He commissioned
film and photo shoots.
>> He is a man who is obsessed
with TV.
He watches tapes of the evening
news over and over and over
again to see how he's portrayed,
to see how he looks.
(conversation in Russian)
>> He wears very good suits like
any other Western leader.
He speaks fluent German and he
understands English.
>> NARRATOR: Putin cultivated
the image of a reformer and a
>> Russian narrative was the
victory of democracy, the
triumph of popular will, that
sort of thing.
So a young guy who speaks a
foreign language fits into that
narrative as long as you ignore
everything else about him.
>> NARRATOR: Putin quickly
learned how to sell himself with
the help of his public relations
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): He began to
think that everything can be
Any kind of press, any TV
program is all about
It was decided what TV channels
would show what news.
>> NARRATOR: They made sure a
dynamic, vital and charismatic
Putin was on display for all
Russians to see.
>> He's healthy.
He's young.
He's virile.
He casts himself as a savior.
Temperamentally and in style, he
is the anti-Yeltsin.
He's bringing back a kind of
dignity and strength to the
Russian presidency that had been
missing under Boris Yeltsin.
>> President Clinton arrived in
Moscow carrying a message of
>> NARRATOR: Putin's first test
with the United States-- a visit
from the American president.
Bill Clinton had come to the
Kremlin to evaluate Putin for
>> President Clinton wanted to
get a little bit of a feel.
He wanted to meet him in the...
in the Kremlin as president.
>> Two presidents, one near the
end of his term, the other...
>> NARRATOR: Putin seemed
indifferent to the American
president, who had championed
Yeltsin and liberalization and
expanded NATO.
>> Putin conveys a huge amount
through body language.
He tries to show you that he's
the alpha male in the room
through the way he spreads his
legs, through the way he
slouches a bit in his chair,
through the way that he will
look at people and kind of give
them a dismissive hand wave.
>> Putin doesn't have much time
for him.
And this is not what Clinton was
used to when it came to Russia.
He was used to having somebody
he could relate to.
And Putin is a cold fish and
Clinton didn't respond well to
>> If Mr. Clinton was hoping
for a foreign policy triumph,
he won't get it here.
>> NARRATOR: Later that day,
Clinton received a warmer
reception from Boris Yeltsin,
and issued a warning about
>> Bill Clinton looked hard into
Yeltsin's eyes and said, "I'm a
little bit concerned about this
young man that you have turned
over the presidency to.
He doesn't have democracy in his
And he reached over and poked
him in his heart.
And I will never forget the
expression that came over
>> NARRATOR: Yeltsin's
confidants say by the end of
his life, he would come to agree
with Clinton.
>> Before Boris Yeltsin died, he
told intimates that it was a
great mistake for him to have
selected Putin as his successor.
>> NARRATOR: At the Kremlin, in
those first months, Clinton's
fears were realized.
Putin began to centralize his
>> He more or less laid out the
path that he was going to be
taking, which was to reduce
democracy, to consolidate
authority back into the Kremlin.
And he took steps, some of which
were small and symbolic, like
going back to the Soviet-era
(anthem begins)
>> ♪ Rossia svyashchennaya
nasha derzhava ♪
>> NARRATOR: It was Joseph
Stalin's national anthem with
the words rewritten by one of
the original authors.
>> What Putin did when he came
in was, said, "Okay, I've got a
different project.
We're going to make"-- if you
will, to coin a phrase-- "I'm
going to make Russia great
>> NARRATOR: Behind Putin's
vision for Russia-- a
resentment, built up over a
lifetime of believing his
country had been humiliated by
the United States.
>> There's this resentment,
there's this grievance that's
eating away at him and it's
fundamental to his tenure, this
sense of grievance.
>> NARRATOR: Putin's project to
make Russia great again would
lead to conflict with the West
and interference in an American
But the seeds had been planted
long before, when Vladimir Putin
was a young man.
He was trained in the Soviet
secret police, the KGB, to see
the United States as the enemy.
It was drilled into all the
>> The KGB was a monopoly that
produced violence.
It was a monopoly that was
responsible for political
surveillance on everyday basis
of Soviet citizens.
Nothing could go without the
>> NARRATOR: Putin's first
assignment wasn't undercover
espionage; they thought he was
better suited to
>> And a counterintelligence
officer, right, is somebody for
whom conspiracy theories and the
enemy within are the job, and
rooting those out and carrying
that kind of paranoid "everyone
might actually always be out to
get us."
>> NARRATOR: The job was a
>> He's an unhappy man.
He has wanted to be a secret
agent all of his life, as long
as he can remember.
And then he gets posted to East
Germany, and not even to
Berlin-- to Dresden, which is
just such a backwater.
>> NARRATOR: It was in East
Germany that Putin first came
face to face with the conflict
between the USSR and the United
>> Mr. Gorbachev, tear down
this wall.
>> This protest movement may now
be reaching a critical moment.
>> ...will be a year remembered
for Communism's loss of
influence in the world.
>> Here the feeling is the end
of the Cold War is at hand...
>> For many people, there is a
defining moment in their history
when all things after that
moment refer back to it in some
>> From ABC, this is...
>> NARRATOR: Lieutenant Colonel
Vladimir Putin saw such a moment
when the Berlin Wall came
>> They are here in the
thousands, they are here in the
tens of thousands.
>> NARRATOR: ...marking the
waning power of the Soviet
(man speaking Russian)
>> Putin sees that this thing
that had always seemed to be
glued together well, seemed to
be impervious, that had gone
from generation to generation of
change in the top party
officials, seemed to be a
>> ...only one battle in a...
>> It was starting to crumble
before his eyes.
>> 1989 will be a year
remembered for Communism's loss
of influence in the world.
>> Mr. Putin joined Russian
intelligence during their
waning days, in the latter years
of the Cold War, when they
really felt aggrieved and the
much lesser power than the
United States.
So I think that just reinforced
some of his feelings of
>> ...say they will never return
to Communism and promise free
democratic elections...
>> NARRATOR: The protests spread
to Dresden.
The angry crowds marched on the
German secret police, the Stasi
headquarters, then Putin's KGB
It would be the first time Putin
confronted a group of
>> He calls Moscow, trying to
understand what he is to do,
trying to get orders.
And Moscow doesn't respond.
>> NARRATOR: A Soviet military
officer told him, "Moscow is
>> And this is a massive,
massive trauma for him, that
this massive historical event is
Soviet influence is collapsing
before his eyes.
And he calls home.
He radios home, and home isn't
>> Freedom and democracy are
coming to parts of Eastern
Europe and a rusty Iron Curtain
is beginning to come down.
(cheering and whistling)
>> NARRATOR: By the time Putin
returned to Russia, the USSR was
falling apart.
Even in front of the KGB
headquarters, the statues were
coming down.
>> For many people, this was in
a time of great excitement and
enablement and experimentation
with democracy, and Vladimir
Putin missed this.
>> NARRATOR: The American
president, George H.W.
Bush, declared it a triumph.
>> This is a victory for
democracy and freedom.
It's a victory for the moral
force of our values.
>> NARRATOR: But to Putin, the
end of the Soviet Union was a
>> The quote that he said once
that really was so revealing,
that the collapse of the Soviet
Union was the greatest
geopolitical catastrophe of the
That's how he saw it.
>> NARRATOR: In the new Russia,
Putin had to reinvent himself.
The former KGB officer became a
political operative and a
bureaucratic fixer.
>> He's a master bureaucrat.
Russia has always been a
bureaucratic autocracy.
This is how, for example, Stalin
became the general secretary.
He was an amazing bureaucrat.
He out-bureaucrated all the
other bureaucrats.
And Putin does, too.
He is very good at the
bureaucracy of all of it.
>> NARRATOR: By the late '90s,
he even earned the confidence of
Boris Yeltsin.
They were an odd couple-- the
former spy and a progressive
politician who was trying to
bring democracy to Russia.
>> Boris Yeltsin decided to
break totalitarianism, to crush
what was left of Communism with
a simple idea, which is maximum
freedom first.
>> NARRATOR: Before long,
Yeltsin promoted him to lead the
KGB's successor, the FSB.
>> He undertakes this remarkable
rise, basically having nothing
to do with the center of power
in Moscow, to running its most
important security agency,
working in the Kremlin.
>> NARRATOR: Putin had convinced
Yeltsin that he shared the
president's democratic goals.
>> He's a professional liar.
To lie is what he was taught in
the intelligence school.
He was pretending that he was
going to pursue the same
development of Russia as Yeltsin
But that's all is just one big
>> Another major shakeup in the
Kremlin-- Yeltsin fires his
entire cabinet again.
Who's in charge?
(man speaking Russian)
>> NARRATOR: Putin rose to
become Yeltsin's prime minister,
the second-most powerful man in
>> A new prime minister,
Vladimir Putin, a man of little
political experience but a...
>> The biggest and the initial
reaction when people heard his
name being announced as acting
prime minister on the ninth of
August 1999, by President
Yeltsin, the first reaction
was, "Who is that?"
Most people had never heard of
this guy.
>> NARRATOR: But the perception
of Putin would begin to change
less than a month later.
>> Just a few weeks, really,
after he became prime minister,
we had a very suspicious slate
of apartment bombings across
>> A bomb destroyed an apartment
building in Moscow and it does
>> NARRATOR: There were
suspicions about who set off the
The government claimed it was
the work of separatists from the
Russian republic Chechnya.
>> Everybody's home asleep in
their beds.
And these large apartment blocks
just folded in on themselves,
burying these people alive or
dead, but burying everybody in
the building.
>> NARRATOR: For Putin, it was a
moment to show the Russian
people just who he was.
>> This prime minister that most
people don't even remember his
name, and suddenly he comes on
He says, "We're going to hunt
down the terrorists.
And we're going to wipe them out
in the outhouse."
>> (translated): We'll be
chasing the terrorists
At the airports or in the
We'll waste them in an outhouse.
End of story.
>> When the apartment bombings
happen, it gives him the excuse
he needs to finally go after
what has become a morass in
Chechnya and neighboring
>> NARRATOR: Putin struck
Chechnya with incredible force.
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): This was his
He was angry.
And he wanted to punish the
>> He is seen on TV as a doer, a
man of action.
He goes down there.
He's talking to the troops.
He is in command.
>> NARRATOR: As Putin suited up
for the cameras, his political
fortunes were on the rise.
And just a few months later,
he was inaugurated as Russia's
new president.
Putin's first promise to the
Russian people: strength.
>> (translated): The powers of
the head of state have been
turned over to me today.
>> NARRATOR: Putin's first
promise to the Russian people:
>> (translated): I assure you
that there will be no vacuum of
power, not for a minute.
>> NARRATOR: He moved quickly to
consolidate power.
One of his first targets:
>> One of the first things he
did was to take control of
television, because more than
90% of Russians got all their
news from television.
>> NARRATOR: During the Yeltsin
years, independent television
channels like NTV flourished...
(characters speaking Russian)
Even as they ridiculed political
>> NTV also has a comic show
called "Kukly," "Puppets," and
when Putin comes to rise in
public life, it features a Putin
puppet, as well.
And he's never portrayed very
Putin apparently was driven to
madness by the show and by the
way he was portrayed on it, the
way he was mocked on it.
>> NARRATOR: NTV and its owner,
Vladimir Gusinsky, were among
the first to fall in the
crosshairs of Putin's
>> He sent armed operatives from
the prosecutor general's service
and the tax police to raid the
offices of Media Most, the
parent company of NTV, which was
at that time the largest
independent media holding in
>> Gusinsky is imprisoned.
And while he's in jail, one of
Putin's lieutenants comes to
visit him in jail and says, "You
know, you could get out this
mess if you sign over NTV."
Gusinsky eventually does that,
hands over NTV to a Kremlin-
friendly oligarch.
>> In doing that, Putin made
clear the broadcast media, which
is how most Russians get their
news, was no longer going to be
This was going to be a state-run
operation and it's remained that
way throughout Putin's term.
>> NARRATOR: He had seized
control of the media.
Now Putin turned his attention
to making Russia powerful again.
>> When Putin became president,
I think he did begin with the
notion that he could help
engineer the restoration of
Russia as a major power, as a
kind of partner of the United
>> NARRATOR: Putin had had a
difficult relationship with
President Clinton, but now he
plotted a fresh strategy to win
over a new American president: a
>> There was an attitude about
Republicans, rather than
Democrats, were better for
Because they're not going to
lecture us about our internal
And they're not going to meddle
as much as those pesky Democrats
who are always talking about
democracy and human rights and
things like that.
And so they're going to be
realists and that's good.
(man speaking Russian)
>> President George Bush has
called for a new approach...
>> NARRATOR: His first chance
came in Slovenia, as President
George W. Bush arrived for a
>> What does Putin do?
He studies George W. Bush.
He spends time thinking about
who this guy is, what motivates
him, what works him.
This is the old KGB officer
whose job it is to basically
turn people toward his
interests, and he plays it that
>> NARRATOR: Putin decided to
focus on the president's strong
Christian beliefs.
>> President Putin told
President Bush about the time
his dacha burned down and a
religious medallion, which had
belonged to his mother, which
had gotten lost, and he thought
this was irretrievably gone, and
then a fireman brought him this
kind of almost like a holy
It was a very affecting,
emotional story and had some
effect on President Bush.
>> And he tells the story with
some relish and connects with
Bush, who's a very religious
Now, whether Putin himself is
Christian or religious is, I
think, up to debate.
But he recognized as a political
actor that it was a way to make
a connection to a guy for whom
this would be very important.
>> NARRATOR: After their private
meeting, Bush and Putin faced
the press.
>> Question to President Bush,
is this a man that Americans can
>> NARRATOR: Putin's story about
his mother's cross seemed to
have had its desired effect.
>> I looked the man in the eye,
I found him to be very
I was able to get a sense of his
He's a man deeply committed to
his country and the best
interests of his country.
>> And Bush gives that line,
right, that "I looked into his
eyes and got a sense of his
And we go, "Uh-oh."
And Condi does her version of
not comfortable.
She just reacts, just for a
>> I wouldn't have invited him
to my ranch if I didn't trust
>> I asked Rice about it
She claims it was not so much a
gasp as an inward-looking,
These are smart people and they
understood this was a comment
that would be wrapped around
Bush's neck, as it was for as
long as he was president.
>> NARRATOR: It looked like
Putin had won over the American
president and gained his
But then...
>> That looks like a second
>> That just exploded.
>> We just saw another plane...
>> This is a live picture we are
>> NARRATOR: Bush's presidency
was transformed on September
11, 2001.
>> I can hear you, the rest of
the world hears you, and the
people who knocked these
buildings down will hear all of
us soon.
(cheers and applause)
>> NARRATOR: To Putin, at first
it seemed like an opportunity.
>> He is the very first foreign
leader to reach George W. Bush
on September 11 and to
empathize with him-- not
commiserate, but empathize with
him, that, "You are finally
feeling the scourge of terrorism
that we've been feeling forever.
Let's work together on this."
>> NARRATOR: But Bush would go
his own way, countering the
terrorist threat with an effort
to spread democracy.
>> It is both our responsibility
and our privilege to fight
freedom's fight.
>> NARRATOR: The test case:
>> Vladimir Putin watched as an
American president with whom he
had some sort of fragile rapport
embarked on a foreign policy
adventure that the United States
had not done in decades.
And we turned it against a
single man, Saddam Hussein.
>> Tomahawk missiles targeting
senior Iraqi leaders and
possibly Saddam Hussein himself.
>> "Shock and awe" is the phrase
of the moment, a reference to
the Pentagon's much-debated
>> ..."shock and awe" to
describe the sweeping assault on
>> Putin resents the kind of
promiscuous use of American
military force abroad.
As a Russian leader, and
particularly a Cold Warrior and
former K.G.B. man, you just
inherently don't like seeing the
U.S. military in action.
>> NARRATOR: Regime change at
the hands of the Americans.
As statues fell, echoes of the
final days of the Soviet Union.
>> The tyrant has fallen and
Iraq is free.
Everywhere that freedom arrives,
humanity rejoices.
And everywhere that freedom
stirs, let tyrants fear.
>> And Putin knows what this
means for him.
It means that at some point,
it's going to be his turn.
That regime change is going to
come for him, too.
And this becomes the driving
fear of the Putin regime.
>> Vladimir Putin concluded that
the United States, when
possible, would use its power
and leverage to depose leaders
that it did not agree with.
And from Vladimir Putin's
perspective, that was an
existential threat.
(man speaking Russian)
>> NARRATOR: Back in Russia,
Vladimir Putin tried to use the
perceived threat from America to
his political advantage.
>> For Putin, the sense of
America as an enemy or an
adversary was not only, I think,
the way he views the world, but
he uses it as a very potent tool
at home, where he can say, "I'm
the only person willing to stand
up to the United States."
And that's a very powerful
message for Russians.
>> NARRATOR: It was a message
Putin used during a tragedy that
began in the small town of
>> Men and women wearing
explosive belts attacked a
school in Beslan.
>> This is definitely the worst
hostage tragedy that Russia has
ever seen.
>> NARRATOR: It was the first
day of school.
>> If you could imagine an even
more shocking terrorist attack
than the several large apartment
bombings that killed people in
their sleep, that was Beslan.
>> NARRATOR: As the students
entered their school, the
terrorists took them hostage,
rigging the school with
>> The school that's normally
meant to only hold a few hundred
people is holding hundreds and
hundreds of people.
It's children-- and it's little
children, too.
And their moms and dads and
their older brothers.
>> NARRATOR: Putin was in a
The rebels demanded he withdraw
his troops from Chechnya or the
children would die.
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): And the plan
was that Putin would either
capitulate or he would lose his
image, his reputation.
This was a serious crisis.
This was a really serious
>> NARRATOR: Putin acted and
ordered his army in.
Tanks and troops encircled the
school, and then on the third
day, an explosion...
(loud explosion)
(sirens blaring)
...and chaos.
>> The army shelled the school
at point-blank range.
They fired at it from tanks.
>> NARRATOR: Putin's troops were
armed with rockets, grenade
launchers, and flame throwers.
>> A lot of the children who
burned alive, burned alive
because of a fire that raged.
>> It turns into this debacle,
and the end result is corpses of
little children stacked like
>> More than 320 people were
killed, half of them children,
in the tragedy in the town of
Beslan in North Ossetia.
(man speaking Russian)
>> NARRATOR: Outrage at Putin
over the tragedy was growing
inside of Russia.
But when he finally spoke about
it, he blamed the United States,
who he had long accused of
supporting the Chechen
>> (translated): We demonstrated
weakness, and weak people are
(speaking Russian)
>> (translated): He said there
are forces in the world which
want to destroy Russia.
He believes that the West played
its role in two Chechen wars,
and that the West played its
role in supporting terrorism.
(speaking Russian)
>> (translated): Some want to
tear off a juicy piece of our
Others help them to do it.
>> Well, the only country that
he could have had in mind,
although he didn't say it
directly, was the United States.
>> ...even a week after the
bloody ending of the Beslan...
>> NARRATOR: Putin used that
threat to justify forcefully
expanding his own power and
>> ...he's demanded a radical
shakeup of security and greater
powers for the Kremlin...
>> NARRATOR: He cancelled
elections throughout the
>> ...a stark message to
governors and leaders of
>> NARRATOR: And new rules
forced out the most outspoken
members of the parliament.
>> And it was a cynical move,
but at the same time it also
expresses, the way to respond to
extreme violence and to extreme
disorder is to create more
dictatorial powers.
>> He's demanded a radical
shakeup of security and greater
>> NARRATOR: Now it was clear.
Putin had taken Russia on a very
different course.
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): After Beslan,
the Kremlin had full power.
The government did not matter
much any longer.
(speaking Russian)
This Kremlin, the power these
days is always in singular.
It doesn't matter where it is.
It belongs to the president.
It comes from the president,
flows out of the president.
>> NARRATOR: And in his own
backyard, Putin was seeing a
growing threat-- popular
revolutions in three former
Soviet republics...
(people chanting, reporter
speaking Russian)
...challenging Moscow's
(reporter speaking Russian)
>> People in the streets is a
really frightening sight to
People in the streets can make
all sorts of things happen.
>> NARRATOR: They were called
the color revolutions, and again
Putin feared America was trying
to export democracy.
>> Putin concluded that these
were efforts by the United
States and our intelligence
services to, in fact, install in
these neighboring countries
regimes that would be
>> Because you acted, Georgia is
today both sovereign and free,
and a beacon of liberty for this
region and the world.
>> Putin is convinced that
people don't just come out into
the streets.
They have to be driven by
There has to be a puppet master.
Somebody's funding them, and
it's probably the United States.
>> Americans respect your
courageous choice for liberty.
The American people will stand
with you.
>> NARRATOR: Georgia, Ukraine,
and Kyrgyzstan-- Putin feared
Russia was next.
>> I think this makes him sit up
and pay attention.
Could that happen to me?
And if it does, not only do I
lose a job that I like, what
else do I lose?
Do I lose my freedom?
Do I lose my life?
>> He freaks out.
He's terrified.
It's one thing to go after the
leader of Iraq, which is in the
Middle East.
But it's another to go into the
former Soviet republics.
(crowd cheering)
>> Putin thought we were the
puppet masters.
Like, man, we are not that good.
I even told Russian television
once, when they were accusing me
personally of being the grey
cardinal, "Are you kidding me?"
But they really thought we were
doing it.
>> NARRATOR: The fall of the
Soviet Union, Iraq, the color
revolutions, NATO expansion,
what the Bush administration was
calling “the freedom agenda"--
Vladimir Putin had seen enough.
>> Russian President Vladimir
Putin is speaking at an
international conference...
>> NARRATOR: In February 2007,
Putin decided it was time to
make a stand.
He traveled to Munich, Germany,
to speak directly to Western
(reporter speaking German)
>> And so he comes to the
security conference in Munich
and says, basically, "I don't
have to mince words, do I?
I can say what's on my mind."
And then he, he just lashes out,
and he lists all these
(speaking Russian)
>> (translated): First and
foremost, the United States has
overstepped its national borders
in the economic, political, and
humanitarian spheres it imposes
on other nations.
Well, who would like this?
Who would like this?
>> My head snapped.
It was so searing and blunt, and
I, I felt, this was the real
(speaking Russian)
>> (translated): This is, of
course, extremely dangerous.
It results in the fact that no
one feels safe.
I want to emphasize this-- no
one feels safe.
>> Americans were pissed,
frantic, angry.
>> I was four rows back, and you
could almost feel the humidity
from the spittle that was
Yeah, it was, it was pretty
shocking because it was pretty
>> Putin echoed Cold War
rhetoric by accusing the U.S. of
making the world unsafe.
>> Premier Vladimir Putin left
no doubt who he sees is
responsible for the current
world crisis.
>> NARRATOR: The speech was a
turning point.
>> Putin clearly in this speech
was drawing a line and saying,
"We're not going to try anymore.
We're just giving up on you.
And we're going to make our own
world in which we are the
>> It's one of Putin's harshest
attacks on Americans...
>> NARRATOR: By the end of
George W. Bush's presidency, the
relationship with Putin seemed
>> I remember the president
saying, "You know, I don't know
how, but we've lost him."
Putin was going in a different
direction. and there was little
that the administration, in
President Bush's mind, could do
to put Putin back on that
>> President Putin's comments
today were quite provocative.
>> NARRATOR: Soon Putin would
have a new American president to
deal with.
(man speaking Russian)
>> Mr. Obama's first full day as
president was a busy one...
>> NARRATOR: In 2009, Barack
Obama arrived in Washington.
>> President Obama meets with
his national security staff.
>> NARRATOR: He came with the
hope he could change relations
with Russia.
>> Barack Obama won't have much
time to savor victory.
>> Obama came in and thought,
"Well, this is another
relationship that was probably a
victim of, of, you know, the
neoconservative foreign policy.
So let's take a look at it, and
let's repair it."
>> Each American administration
has come to office thinking that
it had to, and it could build a
constructive relationship with
the Russians.
>> This is, as Obama famously
said, "Pressing the reset
>> And the Obama administration
comes in and does that.
>> Now Mr. Obama wants to make
Clinton the face of his foreign
>> NARRATOR: Obama entrusted the
job of building the reset to his
secretary of state, Hillary
>> ...meeting between Hillary
Clinton and the Russian foreign
minister, Lavrov.
>> Secretary Clinton met with
Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov of
Russia in Geneva.
And the goal of that meeting was
actually to establish this thing
called "the reset."
>> I wanted to present you with
a little gift, which represents
what President Obama, and Vice
President Biden and I have been
And that is, we want to reset
our relationship, and...
>> Let's do it, let's do it
>> So we will do it together.
>> One of her staff members had
the idea to actually memorialize
the reset with a physical
handing-over of a reset button.
>> Yeah, it's this, it's this
plastic button that says,
"Reset," and it was just, it was
kind of a gag gift, but it was
also symbolic of what Hillary
Clinton's trying to do.
>> We worked hard to get the
right Russian word...
>> Foreign Minister Lavrov
looked at it and said, "That
doesn't say, 'Reset,' that says,
>> You think we got it?
>> You got it wrong.
>> I got it wrong.
>> So, misspelled...
That might have been prophetic.
My Russian's a little rusty,
and I trusted somebody else-- I
won't say who.
>> It should be "perezagruzka,"
and this says, "Peregruzka,"
which means overcharged.
>> Well, we won't let you do
that to us, I promise.
>> Okay, thank you very much.
>> Thank you so much.
>> Very kind of you.
It'll be on my desk.
>> Well, we mean it...
>> Headed to Russia, President
Obama has a big meeting ahead.
>> Shadows of the Cold War will
loom over his summit meeting in
>> NARRATOR: Just a few months
later, Barack Obama himself
traveled to Moscow to meet with
Vladimir Putin.
(cameras clicking)
>> I remember their first
meeting in July of 2009 at
Putin's dacha, you know, just
outside Moscow.
They're much different
President Obama's initial
question, about ten seconds, led
to a 45-minute, you know,
monologue by Putin.
>> (speaking Russian)
>> You end up having to endure a
bit of a history lecture.
Deal with the-- what we used to
call "the airing of grievances"
at the beginning of every
>> That tells Obama everything
he needs to know about Putin.
That this is somebody who is, in
his mind, locked in the past,
who is-- who is nursing
resentment, and who is going to
never be a full partner of the
United States.
>> NARRATOR: In the years that
followed, Vladimir Putin would
come to believe that Barack
Obama was a threat just like the
other American presidents.
>> We've been tracking this very
serious development in the Arab
world for the United States.
>> Demonstrations broke out in
the cities of...
(crowd chanting)
>> NARRATOR: Putin saw proof in
the Middle East: Tunisia, Syria,
Egypt, the Arab Spring.
>> Vladimir Putin looks at
what's happening in the Arab
world, and he sees it as Dresden
all over again.
He sees it as the American
meddling in other countries'
affairs to the detriment of
Mother Russia.
>> The sound of freedom.
>> President Hosni Mubarak has
stepped down.
>> NARRATOR: One of the first to
fall: Egyptian President Hosni
>> I think that particularly for
Putin, what happened in Egypt
was something that really went
right to his heart.
>> NARRATOR: Especially after
the president of the United
States weighed in.
>> The United States will
continue to stand up for
democracy in Egypt and around
the world.
>> They'd like to spread
"American-style democracy,"
supported with the help of money
from abroad, with the help of
intelligence service, with the
help of diplomatic service.
And even in some cases, with the
help of Pentagon.
>> Putin was personalizing the
Arab Spring.
That he was seeing it through
the prism of what could possibly
happen to him in Russia.
This had a distorting effect on
Putin's perception about what
the United States was up to.
>> ...the political mutiny that
began in Tunisia, spread to
Egypt and beyond, and has
reached Libya.
>> NARRATOR: The Arab Spring
conflict came to a head in
It was there that Secretary of
State Clinton took the lead.
She built an international
coalition to take on Putin's
ally, the Libyan dictator,
Muammar Gaddafi.
>> Gaddafi must go, and the
Libyan people deserve to
determine their own future.
(shouting in foreign language)
>> NARRATOR: Rebel forces
captured Gaddafi and dragged him
from his hiding place.
(shouting in foreign language)
As Gaddafi was being captured,
Clinton happened to be in front
of the cameras.
>> Wow.
Yeah, unconfirmed.
>> What happened?
>> Unconfirmed reports about
Gaddafi being captured.
>> She found out about this as
she was doing a television
>> NARRATOR: The moments around
Gaddafi's death were also caught
on camera.
(shouting in foreign language)
>> Her response was...
>> We came, we saw, he died.
>> Did it have anything to do
with your visit?
>> No.
Oh, I'm sure it didn't.
>> It was a moment of success
and gratification for her.
It tells you just how invested
she was in the Libya mission and
what she believed was going to
be a great success for herself
and for the United States.
>> Vladimir Putin talked about
the fall of Libya over and over
He would talk about the scene of
Muammar Gaddafi, the Great Lion
of Libya, reduced to a man
hiding in a drainage pipe,
cowering with his own gun in his
hand, where he was dragged out
by his people and was killed.
>> Putin watches that tape over
and over and over again.
It's all he can talk about for
quite some time.
>> NARRATOR: Vladimir Putin was
determined Gaddafi's fate would
not be his own.
(man speaking Russian)
(crowd cheering)
>> Tens of thousands came out on
the streets to tell Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin they'd
had enough.
>> NARRATOR: By late 2011,
protests were breaking out in
Moscow, just outside the
>> More than 100,000 people came
out to say, "No, enough.
We are fed up with this."
This was the largest
demonstration held in Russia, in
Moscow, since the democratic
revolution of August 1991.
>> NARRATOR: The protests had
been sparked by claims that
Putin's party had rigged the
parliamentary election.
Allegations of fraud captured
for the first time on cell phone
>> (translated): They took their
smart phones.
And they recorded everything.
And they immediately uploaded
that on the internet.
And the whole country could see
So the social networks have
played a huge role in those
>> NARRATOR: They saw ballot
boxes being stuffed even before
the polls opened.
>> Ballot-stuffing-- suddenly
people saw this evidence with
their own eyes.
And there was no explaining it
>> NARRATOR: Ballots hidden in
the bathroom.
Campaign officials fillings out
The pens at one polling place
filled with erasable ink.
>> The Russian people reacted to
that by going out into the
streets with signs that said
literally, "President Putin must
(crowd chanting in Russian)
>> NARRATOR: Once again, Putin
saw something else.
>> What Putin sees is, here is
American regime change coming
for him, finally.
He knew that the Americans would
eventually come for him.
That they would try to oust him.
>> He was thrown by the
protests, he was taken aback by
the passion of the opposition,
and had to look for a place to
point the finger.
He pointed it at us.
>> NARRATOR: In particular,
Putin singled out Hillary
>> And we do have serious
concerns about the conduct of
the election.
>> NARRATOR: Clinton's
statements on the election were
spreading on the internet.
>> You know, the Russian people
deserve the right to have their
voices heard and their votes
>> He finds it incredibly
provocative that Hillary Clinton
feels the need to chime in at
this moment of weakness, that
it's a kind of kick in the gut
when he's weak.
For which he may never have
forgiven her.
>> NARRATOR: And in the Kremlin,
they believed it was a message
directed to the protesters.
>> It was the first signal from
the State Department that
they're really very serious in
their attempts to interfere in
our internal political life.
>> NARRATOR: Putin claimed that
behind the scenes, Clinton was
going even further.
>> He said it was Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, who
provided funds and means to the
Russian opposition, and made
them to get out of the-- on the
>> NARRATOR: The State
Department said they were simply
promoting democracy, not trying
to steer the outcome.
But to Putin, Clinton had
crossed the line, threatening
his hold on power.
>> There's no question he's
looking at revenge at Hillary
There's no question that he sees
Hillary Clinton as an adversary.
And he wanted to like, you know,
he wanted to get her back.
>> NARRATOR: But first, Putin
decided to settle some scores
inside Russia.
He ordered a crackdown on
protesters and dissidents.
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): They started
enacting searches, arrests,
detentions, actions against
opposition leaders, persecution
in the mass media.
And they launched individual
persecution that applied to tens
of hundreds, maybe thousands of
people in the country.
(man shouting in Russian)
>> This was a clear message that
it's over.
You've had your fun.
It's done.
It's over.
The election's over.
I'm the president.
You are not toppling me.
I am the law.
>> Bad things often happen to
>> He was forced into exile in
England after...
>> NARRATOR: Many of Putin's
opponents inside Russia fled the
Others had died mysterious
>> Vladimir Putin's top opponent
saying, "I am scared that Putin
will kill me."
>> Death of a former Vladimir
Putin aide...
>> NARRATOR: One, who nearly
died twice from poisoning, was
Vladimir Kara-Murza.
>> ...Kremlin, so very close to
Vladimir Putin's office...
>> There's been a very high
mortality rate in the last
several years among the people
who have crossed the path of
Vladimir Putin's Kremlin--
independent journalists,
anti-corruption campaigners,
opposition activists, opposition
Many people have died.
Some in strange and unexplained
deaths, others in just straight-
out assassinations.
>> NARRATOR: He had secured his
power at home, and now would
deal with the threat from
>> For the Russians and for
Putin now, they're engaged in
an existential struggle with the
United States.
This is, to the Russians' mind,
and to Putin's mind, about
defending the survival, not
simply of Putin, but of the
Russian state and the Russian
(men cheering)
(anthem starts)
>> ♪ Rossia svyashchennaya ♪
>> NARRATOR: Soon, Putin's
Russia would have the capacity
to strike at the heart of
American democracy.
>> (speaking Russian)
(cheers and applause)
>> ♪ Slavsya, strana ♪
♪ My gordimsya toboi! ♪
♪ ♪
>> Go to pbs.org/frontline to
explore the "Putin Files," part
of "Frontline's" transparency
Our extensive interviews with
>> Engineer the restoration of
Russia as a major power.
>> Intelligence officials...
>> Been tantamount to-to war.
>> And others.
Then visit our watch page,
where you can stream more than
200 "Frontline" documentaries.
Connect to the "Frontline"
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Putin's Revenge: Part One (full film) | FRONTLINE

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