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>> There's this grievance that's
eating away at Vladimir Putin.
>> The FBI detected more
>> Russian hackers are behind
those attacks.
>> NARRATOR: America in the
>> 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
>> We are now only a few days
away from electing the next
president of the United
>> ...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
>> 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
>> NARRATOR: Now they detected
what they call O.P.E.--
operational preparation of the
>> 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
You could really do a lot of
>> ...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
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
>> The United States will
continue to stand up for
democracy and the universal
rights that all human beings
(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
I've been thinking about it
painfully for a long time.
Today, at the last day of the
departing century, I am
>> I watched it on December 31.
I remember I was crying my eyes
He just said, "Forgive me for
what I haven't managed to
>> (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
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
(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
(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
Just those words.
"Take care of Russia."
>> Yeltsin's resignation came as
a complete surprise to almost
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
>> ...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
>> 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
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): He began to
think that everything can be
Any kind of press, any TV
program is all about
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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
And he reached over and poked
him in his heart.
And I will never forget the
expression that came over
>> 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
>> 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 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
>> 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
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
>> 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
>> NARRATOR: Putin's first
assignment wasn't undercover
espionage; they thought he was
better suited to
>> 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
>> 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.
>> NARRATOR: It was in East
Germany that Putin first came
face to face with the conflict
between the USSR and the United
>> 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
>> From ABC, this is...
>> NARRATOR: Lieutenant Colonel
Vladimir Putin saw such a moment
when the Berlin Wall came
>> They are here in the
thousands, they are here in the
tens of thousands.
>> NARRATOR: ...marking the
waning power of the Soviet
(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
>> ...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
>> ...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
It would be the first time Putin
confronted a group of
>> 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
>> And this is a massive,
massive trauma for him, that
this massive historical event is
Soviet influence is collapsing
before his eyes.
And he calls home.
He radios home, and home isn't
>> 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
>> 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
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
But that's all is just one big
>> 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
>> 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
>> A bomb destroyed an apartment
building in Moscow and it does
>> NARRATOR: There were
suspicions about who set off the
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
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
At the airports or in the
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
>> NARRATOR: Putin struck
Chechnya with incredible force.
(man speaking Russian)
>> (translated): This was his
He was angry.
And he wanted to punish the
>> 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:
>> (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:
>> 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
>> 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
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
>> 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
>> 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
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
>> 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
>> There was an attitude about
Republicans, rather than
Democrats, were better for
Because they're not going to
lecture us about our internal
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
>> 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
>> 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
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
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
>> 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
I was able to get a sense of his
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
And we go, "Uh-oh."
And Condi does her version of
not comfortable.
She just reacts, just for a
>> I wouldn't have invited him
to my ranch if I didn't trust
>> I asked Rice about it
She claims it was not so much a
gasp as an inward-looking,
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
But then...
>> That looks like a second
>> That just exploded.
>> We just saw another plane...
>> This is a live picture we are
>> 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.