Putin, Russia and the West, a four-part BBC Current Affairs commission from Brook Lapping Productions, will delve into the West’s fraught relationship with Russia since the turn of the millennium.
After eight years as President and four as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin looks likely to be re-elected President of Russia in March. Putin began as a top Russian spy. But as President he made himself a valued ally of the West. How did he do it? And what made Washington and London turn against him? For the first time Putin’s top colleagues - and the Western statesmen who eventually clashed with him - tell the inside story.
The series is produced by acclaimed documentary maker Norma Percy and the Brook Lapping team that made the multi-award winning documentaries The Death of Yugoslavia, The Second Russian Revolution and Iran & the West. For the BBC is it executive produced by Fiona Campbell.
Norma Percy is known for her insightful way of telling the behind the scenes stories of significant political moments through interviews with prominent people. It was her BBC Two series, Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace (2005) that revealed that President George W Bush had told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, attracting headlines around the world.
In Putin, Russia and the West, Putin’s top colleagues and Western statesmen tell the inside story of the past decade, from the grip that Russia has tried to keep on the former Soviet countries to the clamp down on human rights and the diplomatic efforts to cut nuclear arms.
Key interviews include Putin’s first Prime Minister, his Foreign, Defence and Economy ministers, as well as Presidents of Georgia, Ukraine and Poland. The West’s side of events is told by, amongst others, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, David Miliband and Gerhard Schröder.
Norma Percy, Series Producer of Putin, Russia and the West, said:
"This is the 10th big series that Brian Lapping and I have made for BBC Two. Our first charted the rise of Gorbachev and the fall of communism. Returning to Russia now 20 years later we found it was even harder to get inside Kremlin decision-making. Series director Paul Mitchell and I spent more than two years researching and filming in Moscow and Washington, Kiev, Warsaw, Berlin and Paris. It’s wonderful that the BBC can still put the necessary resources into a project of this scale."
Clive Edwards, Commissioning Editor of BBC TV Current Affairs, said:
"This series is exactly the kind of distinctive current affairs that the BBC is committed to doing, bringing a complex foreign affairs story alive through compelling interviews and fantastic story-telling. The time, effort and expertise involved have led to a timely exploration of Russia's relationship with the West during the past decade ahead of the presidential election in March."
The first film, Taking Control, starts with George W Bush meeting Putin in June 2001 and declaring how he ‘got a sense of his soul’ by looking him in the eye. It explores the effect of September 11th on the relationship between Russia and the West, and how Putin established control over the country’s leading business men, the oligarchs.
The second film, Democracy Threatens, includes an extraordinary interview with the retiring Ukrainian president admitting to being Putin’s ally in swinging the country’s 2004 election to Russia’s advantage and shows a newly discovered interview with the former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko, a fierce critic of Russia's government, who in 2006 died in a London hospital after apparently being poisoned.
The third film, War, explores how the tensions between Russia and Georgia escalated into an armed conflict. It also shows how Putin reacted to US plans to station an anti-ballistic missile system in Russia’s neighbours.
The final film, New Start, examines how Barak Obama, on his election in America, immediately launched a campaign to build a friendship with President Medvedev. It brings to life the tense renegotiations that took place to ensure the renewal of the Nuclear Treaty, START. It also looks at the complex double act of Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
Notes to editors
Putin, Russia and the West production credits: Series Producer: Norma Percy, Series Director: Paul Mitchell, Executive Producer: Brian Lapping, BBC Executive Producer: Fiona Campbell.
The Death of Yugoslavia was a six-part series first shown on BBC Two in 1995. Slobodan Milosevic, the other Yugoslav presidents and 60 of their generals, ministers, and rivals each told their part in how he rose to power and gave the world the term ‘ethnic cleansing’. The series won 16 major awards including a BAFTA, the Royal Television Society’s Judges' Award, the duPont Gold Baton, the Broadcasting Press Guild best documentary series and the top award of the International Federation of Television Archives.
The Second Russian Revolution was an 8-hour series first shown on BBC Two in 1991 and broadcast in 40 countries, including the Soviet Union. The leading figures, including Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, told the inside story of the revolution that destroyed Communism. The Royal Television Society’s award citation called it “one of the most dazzling journalistic enterprises of this year, or any other.”
Iran & The West, broadcast on BBC Two in 2009, dissected the key moments in the thirty years of this turbulent relationship as told by President Jimmy Carter, Iran’s Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami, eight foreign ministers, their generals and top advisers. The series won ten major awards, including the Orwell Prize and the Grierson Award for best documentary series.
In Elusive Peace: Israel & the Arabs (2005), President Clinton, Israeli Prime Ministers Sharon and Barak and Yasser Arafat all describe what happened behind closed doors as peace talks gave way to the violence of the intifada. The Royal Television Society named it “Programme of the Year.”
This series is exactly the kind of distinctive current affairs that the BBC is committed to doing, bringing a complex foreign affairs story alive through compelling interviews and fantastic story telling."