Transcript: Russian President Putin on 'FNS'

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): As regards the statement of President Bush, yes, there is logic in it. This is indeed so. On our part, we proceed from the assumption that sooner or later foreign troops will anyway have to leave Iraq.

But we also agree with those partners of ours, including Americans, who believe that this should happen and will continue according to the possibilities presented by their own security forces of Iraq to ensure security of their own country.

WALLACE: Mr. President, as you know, you are criticized in the U.S. for rolling back democratic reforms for state control of the broadcast media, for the appointment of regional governors instead of direct elections.

You've said that the U.S. should not preach to Russia about democracy. Do you have any doubts which country is more truly democratic?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I wouldn't like to give any assessments here. But I'm convinced that democracy cannot be exported from one country to another, like you cannot expert revolutions, ideology.

Democracy is an internal subject of the developing society. There are fundamentals of democracy, and they should be understood universally in different countries. Then there are many related things to democracy.

There is a number of components which are dependent on the history of any given country, its traditions, and a large number of similar components. This was my idea when I talked about the development of democracy in Russia and its specific features.

WALLACE: Do you see flaws in American democracy?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, I wouldn't like to talk about failures or flaws. I will say that democracy is not possible without effectively working legal system. And I think you will concur with me that there are quite a few gaps in the legal system of America, like in the electorate legislation.

Has America not been confronted with difficulties electoral process? Don't you see that there are problems having to do with the need to improve this legislation?

WALLACE: Such as?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): It was difficult to compute number of votes during the pre-electorate campaign. It was difficult to make final assessments, so on and so forth. Well, you must remember these things. Should I recall these (inaudible)? And many countries are faced with it. There is nothing new about it.

Now, as regards Russia, as regards Russia, our legal system, in fact, is still in its dynamic process of development and we will be pleased to listen to good advice of our partners. We are not prepared to listen to teaching, of course, or tutoring. I don't think that is admissible.

WALLACE: Under your constitution, you are barred from running again for president in 2008. Are there any circumstances — political instability, a new wave of terrorism — under which you would consider seeking another term as president?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, you know, I believe that what really matters in reinforcement of the Russian democracy today — that's stability, stability in the country, in society, which cannot be ensured otherwise, but only through improvement of legislation and through the existing constitution.

Under no circumstances am I prepared to change the constitution.

WALLACE: Are you familiar with an American Civil War president named General Sherman? In 1884, some people wanted him to run for president, and he made a famous statement, "If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve."

Are you prepared here today to make the same statement, a Sherman statement about not running for president in 2008?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You want me to swear on blood, and for 100th time I state publicly which I already said 99 times. I think I have quite clearly formulated my answer to your previous question. That should be enough.

WALLACE: So you will not run.

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I have answered your question. I will not.

WALLACE: Finally, I know that you have studied English for years. I'd like to invite you in these days after Hurricane Katrina to deliver a final message to the American people in English, if you will, sir.

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Unfortunately, my English is in such a status that to state such serious things in English — I would not probably attempt to do that now. But you should not doubt my feelings personally and the feelings of the Russian people.

We are sincere in our compassion to the American people in general, because this is about shock, a catastrophe of such a scale, which I don't even remember whoever was subjugated to anything like that in the world. And we're really feeling grief and compassion to any American family who have got these casualties. And that's very sincere.

WALLACE: A single sentence to the American people in English?

PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you for your hospitality.

WALLACE: Mr. President, thank you. Spasibo. Thank you very much for talking with us, sir.