Nightly News   |  February 11, 2014

What the World Needs to Know About Putin

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Remnick, one of America’s leading experts on Russia, speaks with Brian Williams about how Americans should view Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back here in sochi. for the first few days of these games, we had the luxury of being able to travel around here with one of the leading american experts in russia. tonight with his help, we have a look at this bold move, what really is a $50 billion bet by vladimir putin , that he could mull off this event and welcome the world to this place. like a lot of past olympics, this is really two olympics at different altitudes. there's the stadium events beneath the flame, down along the black sea in what's called the coastal cluster of venues. then about 25 miles away, there are the skiing events in the mountain cluster. none of it up top or down below existed seven years ago. to get between the two, the most expensive stretch of road in the world an estimated $7 billion worth of new highway with a new rail line running alongside. and everywhere you look, there are hotels and restaurants and stores. a riverside promenade and it's all brand new. these days david remnick is the editor of the new yorker magazine, but he lived here nor years. he speaks the language. and his book on russia won the pulitzer. we travelled up to the mountain venues with him to assess vladimir pulten's olympic games .

>> what does the world need to know about vladimir putin and how should americans view this russian leader who's going to be around it appears, a good long time.

>> he's been around a long time already. he's an authoritarian leader, no question. but at the same time that we criticize and rightly so, human rights issues, matters having to do with gay rights and all the re rest. we should understand the context historically of what's going on. this place collapsed as an ideology, an empire. and its self-confidence was shot. that lasted for years, there were democratic movements . vladimir putin is a man of an iron hand . and he's all about stability and development. that's it's appeal to russians. and it's very popular even to this day.

>> a guy like this can spend $50 million openly and get away with this in this country?

>> not only get away with it, it's the way of doing business . there is his great display to his people, his grand construction. and it may be criticized enormously by the west and younger critics in russia today about but it's of great appeal.

>> when the games are gone, putin wants this to remain as an international ski resort . he said recently he's hoping for tourists from the europe and the u.s., even china. just like holding the games here, it's something of a gamble, given the threat of terrorism across the mountains from here.

>> i think vladimir putin has enormous confidence in his ability to keep the peace. let's put it that way. it looks like a ski resort , and it is for the moment.

>> reporter: he knows the media coverage of toilets and hotel rooms and sochi glitches is not going overwell with the russians. if these games go well, putin will get what he wants and label them a success, knowing the whole world is watching.

>> putin wants respect more than anything else. he sees us being hypocritical and mocking, it makes his angry. remember how down this country was a generation ago. how humiliated it was by the end of the cold war ? putin is the reaction to that.

>> our thanks to david remnick .

>>> soechically has other big events coming up after this, a g-8 summit, soccer and a formula one grand prix .