Vladimir Putin’s 21 Most Provocative Quotes
Policy + Politics

Vladimir Putin’s 21 Most Provocative Quotes

REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool

Never mind Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s diabolical dictator: Consider this combustible quote on Wednesday from Syria’s staunchest ally, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, writing in The New York Times, about why he believes the U.S. must renounce the threat of striking Syria if a diplomatic solution on the chemical weapons crisis is going to work:

“A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism."


Syria has said it would give up chemical weapons, as suggested by the Russians and after Secretary of State John Kerry floated the idea earlier this week – while President Obama remains cautious about whether such an initiative will succeed and vows to keep U.S. military forces ready.


While the world waits and wonders, here’s a roundup of other classic Putinisms as spoken by the inimitable Russian leader, 60, the former KGB agent who in May 2012 was elected to a new six-year term as president after previously serving as president and prime minister. While these comments may sound strange, provocative and downright hostile to the West, make no mistake: Blustery statements like these have made Putin a folk hero in Mother Russia: 

  • “Russia doesn't negotiate with terrorists. It destroys them."

  • “Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage him in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?” (spoken in 2004)

  • “There is no such thing as a former KGB man.”

  • “Their [the U.S.’s] defense budget in absolute figures is almost 25 times bigger than Russia’s. This is what in defense is referred to as ‘their home — their fortress.’ And good for them, I say. Well done!” (spoken in 2006)

  • “A country in which the people are not healthy physically and psychologically, are poorly educated and illiterate, will never rise to the peaks of world civilization.”

  • “The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

  • “Opposition can be useful. Every opposition movement is good and useful if it acts within the law… If there are people who act outside the law, then the state must use legal means to impose law in the interests of the majority. That’s the way it’s done in the U.S. and that’s the way it’s done in Russia.”

  • “America’s development began with a large-scale ethnic cleansing, unprecedented in human history.” 

  • “Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.”

  • “We shall fight against them, throw them in prisons and destroy them.” (referring to Chechen separatists in 1994)

  • “No one should pin their hopes on a miracle.” (spoken in 2000, during his election as president)

  • “You must obey the law, always, not only when they grab you by your special place.” (spoken in 2003)

  • “If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow… I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you’ll have nothing growing back afterward.” (spoken in 2009)

  • “Mr. McCain fought in Vietnam. I think that he has enough blood of peaceful citizens on his hands. It must be impossible for him to live without these disgusting scenes anymore. Mr. McCain was captured and they kept him not just in prison, but in a pit for several years. Anyone would go nuts.” (spoken in 2011)

  • “I’d rather not deal with such questions, because anyway it’s like shearing a pig – lots of screams but little wool.” (spoken on June 25, 2013, about not wanting to deal with the U.S. over the Edward Snowden NSA surveillance leaks)

  • “History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government, are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.”

  • “Russia will not soon become, if it ever becomes, a second copy of the United States or England – where liberal values have deep historic roots.” 

  • “Our aims are absolutely clear: They are a high living standard in the country and a secure, free and comfortable life.”

  • “The democratic choice Russian people made in the early 90s is final.”