Putin’s Revenge: Part One (full film) | FRONTLINE
>>There’s this grievance that’s eating away at Vladimir Putin.>>The FBI detected more attempts…>>Russian hackers are behind those attacks.>>NARRATOR: America in the crosshairs.>>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 Revenge.”>>We are now only a few days away from electing the next president of the United States…>>…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 released…>>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 employed.>>NARRATOR: Now they detected what they call O.P.E.– operational preparation of the environment.>>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 effort.” You could really do a lot of damage.>>…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 all. 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 democracy.>>The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve. (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 decision. I’ve been thinking about it painfully for a long time. Today, at the last day of the departing century, I am resigning.>>I watched it on December 31. I remember I was crying my eyes out. He just said, “Forgive me for what I haven’t managed to achieve.”>>(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 leaving.” 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 officer. (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 Kremlin. (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 Russia.” Just those words. “Take care of Russia.”>>Yeltsin’s resignation came as a complete surprise to almost everyone. 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 leader.>>…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 democrat.>>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 guru. (man speaking Russian)>>(translated): He began to think that everything can be manipulated. Any kind of press, any TV program is all about manipulation. 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 cooperation…>>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 himself.>>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 him.>>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 Putin.>>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 heart.” And he reached over and poked him in his heart. And I will never forget the expression that came over Yeltsin.>>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 authority.>>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. (cheering) (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 again.”>>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 election. 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 officers.>>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 KGB.>>NARRATOR: Putin’s first assignment wasn’t undercover espionage; they thought he was better suited to counterintelligence.>>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 disappointment.>>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. (cheering)>>NARRATOR: It was in East Germany that Putin first came face to face with the conflict between the USSR and the United States.>>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 way.>>From ABC, this is…>>NARRATOR: Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Putin saw such a moment when the Berlin Wall came down…>>They are here in the thousands, they are here in the tens of thousands.>>NARRATOR: …marking the waning power of the Soviet Union. (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 rock….>>…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 insecurity.>>…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 building. It would be the first time Putin confronted a group of protesters.>>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 silent.”>>And this is a massive, massive trauma for him, that this massive historical event is happening. Soviet influence is collapsing before his eyes. And he calls home. He radios home, and home isn’t there.>>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 humiliation.>>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 century. 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 did. But that’s all is just one big lie.>>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 Russia.>>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 Russia.>>A bomb destroyed an apartment building in Moscow and it does appear…>>NARRATOR: There were suspicions about who set off the bombs. 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 television. 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 everywhere. At the airports or in the toilet. 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 Dagestan.>>NARRATOR: Putin struck Chechnya with incredible force. (man speaking Russian)>>(translated): This was his decision. He was angry. And he wanted to punish the separatists.>>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: strength.>>(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: television.>>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 figures.>>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 flatteringly. 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 government.>>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 Russia.>>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 outsourced. 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 States.>>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 Republican.>>There was an attitude about Republicans, rather than Democrats, were better for Russia. Because they’re not going to lecture us about our internal affairs. 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 summit.>>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 way.>>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 relic. 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 Christian. 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 trust?>>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 straightforward. I was able to get a sense of his soul. 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 soul.” And we go, “Uh-oh.” And Condi does her version of not comfortable. She just reacts, just for a second.>>I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.>>I asked Rice about it recently. She claims it was not so much a gasp as an inward-looking, “Ugh.” 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 respect. But then…>>That looks like a second plane.>>That just exploded.>>We just saw another plane…>>This is a live picture we are seeing.>>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. (applause)>>NARRATOR: The test case: Iraq.>>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 attempt…>>…”shock and awe” to describe the sweeping assault on Iraq.>>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 Beslan.>>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 explosives.>>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 trap. 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 crisis.>>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. (explosions) (shouting)>>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 firewood.>>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 rebellion.>>(translated): We demonstrated weakness, and weak people are beaten. (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 country. 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 control.>>…he’s demanded a radical shakeup of security and greater powers for the Kremlin…>>NARRATOR: He cancelled elections throughout the country.>>…a stark message to governors and leaders of Russia’s…>>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 powers.>>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 influence. (reporter speaking Russian)>>People in the streets is a really frightening sight to Putin. 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 anti-Russian.>>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 somebody. 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? (cheering)>>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 leaders. (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 resentments. (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 guy. (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 spewing. Yeah, it was, it was pretty shocking because it was pretty aggressive.>>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 master.”>>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 broken.>>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 course.>>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 button.”>>And the Obama administration comes in and does that.>>Now Mr. Obama wants to make Clinton the face of his foreign policy.>>NARRATOR: Obama entrusted the job of building the reset to his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.>>…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 saying. And that is, we want to reset our relationship, and…>>Let’s do it, let’s do it together…>>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, ‘Overcharge’.”>>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. (laughter)>>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 Moscow…>>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 personalities. 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 meeting.>>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 Mubarak.>>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 Libya. 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. Huh. Unconfirmed. Yeah, unconfirmed. No.>>What happened?>>Unconfirmed reports about Gaddafi being captured.>>She found out about this as she was doing a television interview.>>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. (laughter)>>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 again. 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 Kremlin.>>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 videos.>>(translated): They took their smart phones. And they recorded everything. And they immediately uploaded that on the internet. And the whole country could see it. So the social networks have played a huge role in those protests.>>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 away.>>NARRATOR: Ballots hidden in the bathroom. Campaign officials fillings out ballots. 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 go.” (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 Clinton.>>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 counted.>>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 streets.>>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 Clinton. 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 opponents…>>He was forced into exile in England after…>>NARRATOR: Many of Putin’s opponents inside Russia fled the country. Others had died mysterious deaths.>>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 leaders. 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 America.>>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 people. (men cheering) (applause) (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 project. Our extensive interviews with diplomats…>>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” community on Facebook and Twitter, then sign up for our newsletter at pbs.org/frontline. Frontline’s “Putin’s Revenge” is available on DVD. To order, visit shopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS. “Frontline” is also available for download on iTunes.