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Russia Denies U.S. Findings That It Tried To Influence U.S. Election

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump says he has new information about Russia's efforts to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, and he intends to share that information in the next couple of days. Late last week, President Obama responded to the Russian hacking with an order to expel 3,500 diplomats, close two Russian compounds in the U.S. and sanction several government operations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin countered by doing nothing. He didn't expel any American diplomats. In fact, he invited them and their families over to the Kremlin for New Years celebrations. We're going to check in now with longtime Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner. Mr. Pozner usually talks to us from Moscow, but this morning, he's interrupting his vacation in Argentina to join us. Mr. Pozner, happy new year.

VLADIMIR POZNER: Happy new year right back to you. I'm in Patagonia surrounded by half a million penguins.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

POZNER: I'm trying to interview them, but they don't talk to me. I don't know why.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Don't know a lot about U.S.-Russian relations probably either. So let's talk about the end of 2016 when it comes to the U.S.-Russian dynamic. It went out with a bang, not a whimper. How is all of this being perceived in Moscow?

POZNER: Well, you know, the general feeling I get is that, first of all, the reaction to President Obama's sanctions was first one of almost disbelief and then people started to laugh. And the comment was very sarcastic (ph) that, you know, here's a man who was on his way out who is a loser now vindictively is trying to punish Russia for something that he says has been going on for 10 years. And if it had, why did he wait until now to act on it? Really, I would say even though people - and there are some in Russia, believe me, who liked Obama. Even among them, there's this feeling that, well, why did we do this? It really makes no sense whatsoever.

And, of course, Mr. Putin now can play the very clever game doing the tit-for-tat, which is something that's always been done over the years. One country expels diplomats. The other countries followed suit. He comes out and says we're not going to do this, clearly indicating that he hopes for better relations with the United States thanks to the election of Donald Trump as president and maybe even thinks that Donald Trump, once he becomes president, will say forget about these sanctions. We're going to negate them. So that's pretty much, I think, the general feeling.

MARTIN: So back to the hacking. U.S. intelligence agencies say they have concluded that Russia is responsible for this interference in the U.S. election. Russia, though, continues at every turn to deny any role in this. Have they been able to show any evidence that bolsters their claim?

POZNER: I've heard this now - I'm different from Donald Trump. I'm no expert in internet things and I can't say that I know this or I know that. But I have spoken with people who work for Mr. Kaspersky. I don't know if you're familiar with that name, but he runs an outfit (ph) which is one of the three top antivirus, anti-hacking agencies in the world. And I asked him is it really possible - it is possible to identify where hacking is coming from? Can you actually pinpoint it? Have you got the real possibility to do that?

And the answer I got was that, no, nobody does. What we can pinpoint is the language it's coming in from, say, Russian or English or Chinese. And, of course, anyone can use any language, but we cannot - as yet we do not yet have the technical ability to really say here's where it's coming from. So with that in mind, I don't think that the U.S. intelligence agencies can furnish that definite proof. And certainly the Russians cannot furnish proof that they didn't do it.

MARTIN: Just very briefly, these two men, Trump and Putin, seem to be in a honeymoon. Can it last?

POZNER: Frankly, I would hope it will, but I don't think so. First of all, it's not really a honeymoon 'cause you can't have a honeymoon when you're at a distance with each other. You've got to be a bit closer to a honeymoon, I believe. They haven't yet met face to face. They haven't got a real feeling for each other whether there's any chemistry involved there, and that's very important, you know. When Gorbachev met with Reagan, they really took to each other. And that led to some of the great things that they did achieve.

MARTIN: Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner, Mr. Pozner mentioned Kaspersky in our conversation. We should note NPR runs Kaspersky anti-virus programs on its computers and Kaspersky is a cooperate sponsor of NPR News. Thanks again, Mr. Pozner.

POZNER: Thank you. Happy new year to you. Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.