The conversation between Putin and Clinton took place on September 6 in New York, less than a month after Kursk’s death. The U.S. president expressed condolences to his Russian colleague, Putin said he feared a repeat of the tragedy.
The website of the Bill Clinton Digital Library contains transcripts of telephone and personal conversations between the U.S. President and his administration with Vladimir Putin from 1999 to 2001. Vulture “secret” was removed from the documents back in July 2019, in August of the same year they were published on the site of the digital library. In total, 225 pages of reports on negotiations with the Russian leadership were published. The first to pay attention to the publication of documents was Meduza.
Among them is a transcript of Bill Clinton talks with Vladimir Putin September 6, 2000 in New York in the presidential suite of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. In this conversation, the leaders discussed the situation around the death of the submarine K-141 “Kursk” (August 12, 2000). The meeting was also attended by Sergei Prikhodko, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration, and Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State.
Clinton expressed his condolences to the Russian president in connection with the tragedy. “I am sorry for everything that you have gone through because of the death of Kursk. When something like this happens, people around the world imagine themselves in the place of the victims and their loved ones, but I imagined myself in your place too. You must have faced a lot of criticism. It always happens. After Oklahoma City, many people asked if the building was well protected and if we did not let terrorists into the country. So my heart was with the people at the bottom of the sea and everyone else,” the U.S. president said.
Vladimir Putin responded by saying he didn’t have a good choice. “I was trapped between bad and bad choices. I was told that if I let a small submarine down there immediately and at least tried to save the guys, my ratings would increase. You should not let something like that be done for publicity. You have to give priority to the real rescue of people. I appreciate your sincere support. Strange as it may seem, the following surveys showed that this incident did not affect my situation. But I am very afraid that something like this may happen again,” the Russian president said.
Putin said that during this disaster he and the country’s leadership ‘felt powerless’. “Now it looks like the whole crew died within 60 or 90 seconds. We could not tell our relatives, but there was a hole about two meters in the hull, through which the first three compartments of the submarine were flooded. I don’t even know how we can get the bodies out. There is a lot of cod in these waters; the flesh on the bones may not remain. We tried to release all this noise on the brakes, but some people are strange and they just kept feeding it,” he said.
After that, Clinton suggested the Russian leader move on to discussing the situation in the Balkans and issues related to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.