Good afternoon, ladies
My name is Timothy Colton. I know quite a few of the people in
the room, and I am very happy to have been asked to moderate
this final session of our 2016 "Big Valdai" as we call it.
I'd like to start with a special welcome to our lead-off
speaker, our main speaker this afternoon, that is, of course,
the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, who has
taken the time to come here and participate. We know how busy he
is. We also appreciate as always his willingness to entertain
At some point, Mr Putin, when you're retired and
writing your memoirs, you may want to sit down and calculate how
many hours you've spent answering people's questions. Just for
this group alone, it's already high, and I know you do it in
other fora as well. We deeply appreciate that. So thank you for
Let me also, at this point, introduce the other participants in
this afternoon's panel.
I'll say them in the order in which they
will be speaking, beginning with Tarja Halonen, sitting over
there to the President's right. She's had a long a varied
career. And for a dozen years, 2000 to 2012, she was the
president of Russia's neighbour, the Republic of Finland.
She will be followed by Mr Heinz Fischer who is seated to
President Putin's left. Also a long and diverse career, and he
just recently finished his term as president of the Republic of
Austria, which he was from 2000 to July 2016. Austria today,
unfortunately, does not have a president, but that's another
And thirdly, I would like to introduce Thabo Mbeki, another long
and very diverse career, and he served from 1999 to 2008 as the
president of South Africa.
I would like to, at this point - I don't think I need to
introduce Andrei Bystritsky, who has been very active in our
meeting. But he's going to say just a few words about the Valdai
Discussion Club's meeting here. He is the chairman of the board
of the foundation that oversees all of this.
So, Andrei, please.
Board Chairman of the Foundation for
Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club Andrei
Thank you very much.
Mr President, moderator, ladies and gentlemen,
We have come together for the final plenary session of the
annual Valdai meeting. I think we have done a great deal during
our three-day meeting. In my opinion, it was an exceptionally
interesting conference. We discussed current issues that will
determine our future. Generally, we focused on some five areas
where developments determine our future.
They are international relations, the economy, demographics and
migration, technology and the social fabric. These areas are
important for obvious reasons. The issues of war and peace
depend on international relations, and humankind's development
depends on the economy. Demographic and migration issues can
disrupt stability in many countries. And technology can change
our views on what is possible in this world.
And lastly, the social structure has always influenced foreign
policy, but this influence has become especially pronounced now.
In general, the conference shed light on many issues and raised
many new questions.
On the one hand, we seem to have agreed that
the modern world is unthinkable without international
institutions and international law, but the current state of
these is not ideal. The world needs to develop and improve the
existing institutions and possibly create new or additional
It is interesting that when discussing the natural
contradictions between large global players, the majority of our
experts agreed that these contradictions are not insurmountable,
and that there is a chance, however small, to overcome them and
come to an agreement.
It is curious that many experts pointed
out that while the United States continues to play an important
role, the influence of many countries, primarily China, India
and Russia, has been growing, which is not the case of Western
Europe, whose capability and activity have been insufficient,
despite its economic might. Moreover, they seem to be decreasing
compared to Asia and Russia, which are rising.
We also discussed areas that do not directly depend on politics
and the authorities, namely technologies and migration. At a
session on migration entitled The World after Migration, the
idea was raised that the session should have been called The
World before Migration, because the biggest waves of migration
and the greatest threats may be still ahead.
Much has been said about technology. Although we are aware of
the growing power of technology, and even see some serious
consequences, we still cannot fully perceive its scale,
influence or long-term consequences.
This is partly why, as we
have said today, the Valdai Club and the VTSIOM Public Opinion
Research Centre are creating a new index to gauge the readiness
level of the world's countries for the future.
Furthermore, we had two other very interesting sessions: on the
Middle East and Europe. The participants expressed widely
different and sometimes even opposite opinions.
I also think that our meetings with Igor Shuvalov, Vyacheslav
Volodin, Sergei Lavrov and Alexei Kudrin were very interesting.
These discussions were attended by Ella Pamfilova and many other
prominent Russian and foreign experts.
In short, it is impossible to tell you in just three minutes
about what happened over the past three days. As usual, we will
submit a report on this Valdai Club conference to your exacting
So let's get right down to business. We have an absolutely grand
topic, as you can see by looking at the program: A Philosophy
of International Development for the New World. And this brings
to mind some very large issues which lead off, I think,
potentially in many different directions.
I think we'll see a fair amount of diversity in the comments
that we'll hear today.
Philosophy is a rather demanding word,
but I think when it comes to international development, it's not
misplaced. I did a Google search yesterday using the words
philosophy, international and development and I got 13 million
So there's no shortage of words expended on the topic but
is so complex and multidimensional, I think there are many
pieces of this that deserve exploration at a time when the
headlines in our newspapers and what we see on the internet are
dominated by and large by a different range of questions - those
having to do, of course, with security, conflict and all the
rest. So it's easy to lose sight of the development agenda,
which is truly a massive one, and it is changing like the rest
of our world.
It is striking to see particular pieces of it, for example our
joint understanding of the appropriate paradigm for development,
which for a decade or 15 years was the so-called Washington
consensus - it's now under attack from every conceivable
direction. It's also intriguing to see what's happened with
development assistance, which is a specialized piece of this.
There was a time not so long ago when development aid was
dominated by a relatively small number of very wealthy
countries, with developed capitalist economies, the OECD rich
This has really started to change with the arrival of
the so-called emerging donors, which are countries that used to
be aid recipients and are now increasingly aid donors, countries
the BRICS five - all five, including South Africa by the
way - South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States,
Venezuela, Chile, Thailand.
Just to make things even more
complicated, a number of these emerging donors are still
recipients, so the categories themselves are becoming
increasingly soft and porous.
So, with this by way of prelude, I would now like to invite
President Putin to take the podium to deliver his remarks. Mr
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
Tarja, Heinz, Thabo,
colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to see you again. I want to start by
thanking all of the participants in the Valdai International
Discussion Club, from Russia and abroad, for your constructive
part in this work, and I want to thank our distinguished guests
for their readiness to take part in this open discussion.
Our esteemed moderator just wished me a good departure into
retirement, and I wish myself the same when the time comes. This
is the right approach and the thing to do. But I am not retired
yet and am for now the leader of this big country. As such, it
is fitting to show restraint and avoid displays of excessive
I do not think that this is my style in any
But I do think that we should be frank with each other,
particularly here in this gathering. I think we should hold
candid, open discussions, otherwise our dialogue makes no sense
and would be insipid and without the slightest interest.
I think that this style of discussion is extremely needed today
given the great changes taking place in the world. The theme for
our meeting this year, The Future in Progress: Shaping the World
of Tomorrow, is very topical.
Last year, the Valdai forum participants discussed the problems
with the current world order. Unfortunately, little has changed
for the better over these last months. Indeed, it would be more
honest to say that nothing has changed.
The tensions engendered by shifts in distribution of economic
and political influence continue to grow.
creates a burden that narrows our possibilities for finding
effective responses to the real threats and challenges facing
the world today. Essentially, the entire globalization project
is in crisis today and in Europe, as we know well, we hear
voices now saying that multiculturalism has failed.
I think this situation is in many respects the result of
mistaken, hasty and to some extent over-confident choices made
by some countries' elites a quarter-of-a-century ago. Back then,
in the late 1980s-early 1990s, there was a chance not just to
accelerate the globalization process but also to give it a
different quality and make it more harmonious and sustainable in
But some countries that saw themselves as victors in the Cold
War, not just saw themselves this way but said it openly, took
the course of simply reshaping the global political and economic
order to fit their own interests.
In their euphoria, they essentially abandoned substantive and
equal dialogue with other actors in international life, chose
not to improve or create universal institutions, and attempted
instead to bring the entire world under the spread of their own
organizations, norms and rules.
They chose the road of
globalization and security for their own beloved selves, for the
select few, and not for all. But far from everyone was ready to
agree with this.
We may as well be frank here, as we know full well that many did
not agree with what was happening, but some were unable by then
to respond, and others were not yet ready to respond. The result
though is that the system of international relations is in a
feverish state and the global economy cannot extricate itself
from systemic crisis.
At the same time, rules and principles, in
the economy and in politics, are constantly being distorted and
we often see what only yesterday was taken as a truth and raised
to dogma status reversed completely.
If the powers that be today find some standard or norm to their
advantage, they force everyone else to comply. But if tomorrow
these same standards get in their way, they are swift to throw
them in the bin, declare them obsolete, and set or try to set
Thus, we saw the decisions to launch airstrikes in the centre of
Europe, against Belgrade, and then came Iraq, and then Libya.
The operations in Afghanistan also started without the
corresponding decision from the United Nations Security Council.
In their desire to shift the strategic balance in their
these countries broke apart the international legal framework
that prohibited deployment of new missile defence systems. They
created and armed terrorist groups, whose cruel actions have
sent millions of civilians into flight, made millions of
displaced persons and immigrants, and plunged entire regions
We see how free trade is being sacrificed and countries use
sanctions as a means of political pressure, bypass the World
Trade Organization and attempt to establish closed economic
alliances with strict rules and barriers, in which the main
beneficiaries are their own transnational corporations. And we
know this is happening.
They see that they cannot resolve all of
the problems within the WTO framework and so think, why not
throw the rules and the organization itself aside and build a
new one instead. This illustrates what I just said.
At the same time, some of our partners demonstrate no desire to
resolve the real international problems in the world today. In
organizations such as NATO, for example, established during the
Cold War and clearly out of date today, despite all the talk
about the need to adapt to the new reality, no real adaptation
We see constant attempts to turn the OSCE, a
crucial mechanism for ensuring common European and also
trans-Atlantic security, into an instrument in the service of
someone's foreign policy interests. The result is that this very
important organization has been hollowed out.
But they continue to churn out threats, imaginary and mythical
threats such as the ‘Russian military threat'. This is a
profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defence budgets at home, get allies to bend to a single
superpower's interests, expand NATO and bring its
infrastructure, military units and arms closer to our borders.
Of course, it can be a pleasing and even profitable task to
portray oneself as the defender of civilization against the new
barbarians. The only thing is that Russia has no intention of
attacking anyone. This is all quite absurd. I also read
analytical materials, those written by you here today, and by
your colleagues in the USA and Europe.
It is unthinkable, foolish and completely unrealistic. Europe
alone has 300 million people. All of the NATO members together
with the USA have a total population of 600 million, probably.
But Russia has only 146 million. It is simply absurd to even
conceive such thoughts.
And yet they use these ideas in pursuit
of their political aims.
Another mythical and imaginary problem is what I can only call
the hysteria the USA has whipped up over supposed Russian
meddling in the American presidential election. The United
States has plenty of genuinely urgent problems, it would seem,
from the colossal public debt to the increase in firearms
violence and cases of arbitrary action by the police.
You would think that the election debates would concentrate on
these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing
with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt
to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed
Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.
I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously
imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people's
choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic', after
all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong.
The question is, if things continue in this vein, what awaits
the world? What kind of world will we have tomorrow? Do we have
answers to the questions of how to ensure stability, security
and sustainable economic growth? Do we know how we will make a
more prosperous world?
Sad as it is to say, there is no consensus on these issues in
the world today. Maybe you have come to some common conclusions
through your discussions, and I would, of course, be interested
to hear them. But it is very clear that there is a lack of
strategy and ideas for the future. This creates a climate of
uncertainty that has a direct impact on the public mood.
Sociological studies conducted around the world show that people
in different countries and on different continents tend to see
the future as murky and bleak. This is sad. The future does not
entice them, but frightens them. At the same time, people see no
real opportunities or means for changing anything, influencing
events and shaping policy.
Yes, formally speaking, modern countries have all the attributes
of democracy: Elections, freedom of speech, access to
information, freedom of expression. But even in the most
advanced democracies the majority of citizens have no real
influence on the political process and no direct and real
influence on power.
People sense an ever-growing gap between their interests and the
elite's vision of the only correct course, a course the elite
The result is that referendums and elections
increasingly often create surprises for the authorities. People
do not at all vote as the official and respectable media outlets
advised them to, nor as the mainstream parties advised them to.
Public movements that only recently were too far left or too far
right are taking centre stage and pushing the political
At first, these inconvenient results were hastily declared
anomaly or chance. But when they became more frequent, people
started saying that society does not understand those at the
summit of power and has not yet matured sufficiently to be able
to assess the authorities' labour for the public good. Or they
sink into hysteria and declare it the result of foreign, usually
Friends and colleagues, I would like to have such a propaganda
machine here in Russia, but regrettably, this is not the case.
We have not even global mass media outlets of the likes of CNN,
BBC and others. We simply do not have this kind of capability
As for the claim that the fringe and populists have defeated the
sensible, sober and responsible minority - we are not talking
about populists or anything like that but about ordinary people,
ordinary citizens who are losing trust in the ruling class. That
is the problem.
By the way, with the political agenda already eviscerated as it
is, and with elections ceasing to be an instrument for change
but consisting instead of nothing but scandals and digging up
dirt - who gave someone a pinch, who sleeps with whom, if you'll
excuse me. This just goes beyond all boundaries.
And honestly, a
look at various candidates' platforms gives the impression that
they were made from the same mould - the difference is slight,
if there is any.
It seems as if the elites do not see the deepening
stratification in society and the erosion of the middle class,
while at the same time, they implant ideological ideas that, in
my opinion, are destructive to cultural and national identity.
And in certain cases, in some countries they subvert national
interests and renounce sovereignty in exchange for the favour of
This begs the question: who is actually the fringe?
expanding class of the supranational oligarchy and bureaucracy,
which is in fact often not elected and not controlled by
society, or the majority of citizens, who want simple and plain
things - stability, free development of their countries,
prospects for their lives and the lives of their children,
preserving their cultural identity, and, finally, basic security
for themselves and their loved ones.
People are clearly scared to see how terrorism is evolving from
a distant threat to an everyday one, how a terrorist attack
could occur right near them, on the next street, if not on their
own street, while any makeshift item - from a home-made
explosive to an ordinary truck - can be used to carry out a mass
Moreover, the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the
past few years in Boston and other US cities, Paris, Brussels,
Nice and German cities, as well as, sadly, in our own country,
show that terrorists do not need units or organised structures - they can act independently, on their own, they just need the
ideological motivation against their enemies, that is, against
you and us.
The terrorist threat is a clear example of how people fail to
adequately evaluate the nature and causes of the growing
threats. We see this in the way events in Syria are developing.
No one has succeeded in stopping the bloodshed and launching a
political settlement process.
One would think that we would have
begun to put together a common front against terrorism now,
after such lengthy negotiations, enormous effort and difficult
But this has not happened and this common front has not emerged.
My personal agreements with the President of the United States
have not produced results either. There were people in
Washington ready to do everything possible to prevent these
agreements from being implemented in practice.
demonstrates an unexplainable and I would say irrational desire
on the part of the Western countries to keep making the same
mistakes or, as we say here in Russia, keep stepping on the same
We all see what is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and a
number of other countries. I have to ask, where are the results
of the fight against terrorism and extremism? Overall, looking
at the world as a whole, there are some results in particular
regions and locations, but there is no global result and the
terrorist threat continues to grow.
We all remember the euphoria in some capitals over the Arab
Spring. Where are these fanfares today? Russia's calls for a
joint fight against terrorism go ignored. What's more, they
continue to arm, supply and train terrorist groups in the hope
of using them to achieve their own political aims.
This is a
very dangerous game and I address the players once again: The
extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger
than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always
Colleagues, it is clear that the international community should
concentrate on the real problems facing humanity today, the
resolution of which will make our world a safer and more stable
place and make the system of international relations fairer and
As I said, it is essential to transform
globalization from something for a select few into something for
all. It is my firm belief that we can overcome these threats and
challenges only by working together on the solid foundation of
international law and the United Nations Charter.
Today it is the United Nations that continues to remain an
agency that is unparalleled in representativeness and
universality, a unique venue for equitable dialogue. Its
universal rules are necessary for including as many countries as
possible in economic and humanitarian integration, guaranteeing
their political responsibility and working to coordinate their
actions while also preserving their sovereignty and development
We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the
entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its
consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at
the national and international levels.
There are many countries
that can rely on a history stretching back a thousand years,
like Russia, and we have come to appreciate our identity,
freedom and independence. But we do not seek global domination,
expansion or confrontation with anyone.
In our mind, real leadership lies in seeing real problems rather
than attempting to invent mythical threats and use them to
steamroll others. This is exactly how Russia understands its
role in global affairs today.
There are priorities without which a prosperous future for our
shared planet is unthinkable and they are absolutely obvious. I
won't be saying anything new here.
First of all, there is equal
and indivisible security for all states. Only after ending armed
conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries
will we be able to talk about economic progress and the
resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems.
important to fight terrorism and extremism in actuality. It has
been said more than once that this evil can only be overcome by
a concerted effort of all states of the world. Russia continues
to offer this to all interested partners.
It is necessary to add to the international agenda the issue of
restoring the Middle Eastern countries' lasting statehood,
economy and social sphere. The mammoth scale of destruction
demands drawing up a long-term comprehensive program, a kind
of Marshall Plan, to revive the war- and conflict-ridden area.
Russia is certainly willing to join actively in these team
We cannot achieve global stability unless we guarantee global
economic progress. It is essential to provide conditions for
creative labour and economic growth at a pace that would put an
end to the division of the world into permanent winners and
The rules of the game should give the
developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we
know as developed economies. We should work to level out the
pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries
and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and
technological progress accessible to all.
would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst
It is also absolutely evident that economic cooperation should
be mutually lucrative and rest on universal principles to enable
every country to become an equal partner in global economic
True, the regionalizing trend in the world economy
is likely to persist in the medium term. However, regional trade
agreements should complement and expand not replace the
universal norms and regulations.
Russia advocates the harmonization of regional economic formats
based on the principles of transparency and respect for each
other's interests. That is how we arrange the work of the
Eurasian Economic Union and conduct negotiations with our
partners, particularly on coordination with the Silk Road
Economic Belt project, which China is implementing.
We expect it
to promote an extensive Eurasian partnership, which promises to
evolve into one of the formative centers of a vast Eurasian
integration area. To implement this idea, 5+1 talks have begun
already for an agreement on trade and economic cooperation
between all participants in the process.
An important task of ours is to develop human potential. Only a
world with ample opportunities for all, with highly skilled
workers, access to knowledge and a great variety of ways to
realize their potential can be considered truly free. Only a
world where people from different countries do not struggle to
survive but lead full lives can be stable.
A decent future is impossible without environment protection and
addressing climate problems. That is why the conservation of the
natural world and its diversity and reducing the human impact on
the environment will be a priority for the coming decades.
Another priority is global healthcare. Of course, there are many
problems, such as large-scale epidemics, decreasing the
mortality rate in some regions and the like. So there is
enormous room for advancement. All people in the world, not only
the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full
This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the
foundation for the future world today by investing in all
priority areas of human development. And of course, it is
necessary to continue a broad-based discussion of our common
future so that all sensible and promising initiatives are heard.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that you, as
members of the Valdai Club, will actively take part in this
Your expertise enables you to understand all angles of the
processes underway both in Russia and in the world, forecast and
evaluate long-term trends, and put forward new initiatives and
recommendations that will help us find the way to the more
prosperous and sustainable future that we all badly need.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Thank you very much, Mr Putin. I will now ask Ms
Halonen to speak, and she will be going to the tribune as well,
as I understand. Right, there we go.
Tarja Halonen: Mr President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the organization of the Valdai Club for having
invited me to participate in this panel. The theme is very
relevant and timely, as we have noticed.
And as the world has
seen the new dynamics that affect us all, from the global order
to the local activist, to every single human being.
I'm also very glad that my colleagues and good friends, former
presidents Thabo Mbeki and Heinz Fischer, and of course Mr
Putin, are also here sharing this podium. We have worked
together many times during the past decades, and I think we
share many ideas about the world and how we would like it to
develop in the future. So I think the discussion will be very
open and frank.
The phrase "philosophy of international development for the new
world," as in the title of this panel, rings a bell and takes me
back to the years of George Bush Sr. and Mikhail Gorbachev and
other before them who spoke about the "new world order." The new
order has happened partially and partially not.
So it's always
this "both ends." And I'm not sure if we can talk about "order."
The optimism is welcome, and we have achieved a lot.
has changed. However, I think not everyone understood that the
world would consist of many powerful players, multipolarity.
also what does it mean when we have so many actors at the same
time? Collective global action has faced many challenges,
particularly in the field of global security policy, which has
also been the theme of this seminar for quite a long time.
People say that change is always an opportunity. But things can
go right or wrong. Today, despite efforts to stabilize
international relations, the global economy and human well-being
are on a good sustainable path.
So we still have, as was
mentioned already also during President Putin's speech, wars,
disasters, economic turbulence and a slowly advancing crisis,
climate change, I would add some others, desertification, and
We really have a lot of challenges. And what I have
seen this in different forums I've been to during the last
years, especially after being free from being the president of
the Republic of Finland.
People always say that this world is a world of uncertainty, and
that's true. People feel everywhere that they have doubts in the
future. And it is sometimes very paradoxical, as we have still
advanced so much.
So now, anyway, this is the world in which we
now live, in which we have to build the foundations for a
It doesn't become better if we wait. We need
to be able to work on different fronts and with complex dynamics
at the same time. So even as violent conflicts unfortunately
continue, and they are more and more hybrid, at least the global
understanding, I believe, of what sustainable development it has
involved, maybe we could refer to as the "order" part.
we know already what could be "order" in the future.
Of course, the media is always more interested - and for a
reason - in present conflicts. But I would like to take you
further into the future. The Agenda 2030 adopted at the United
Nations in September 2015 provides a very strong framework
within which to work.
And this was the UN which we all have said
have these old structures, the Big Five and so on. But still we
succeeded in making these decisions.
I'm very happy that the fight against inequality is at the core,
and particularly the fight against gender inequality.
the Rio +20 summit, I think we have said that we have overused
our natural resources, and that's true. But another way around,
we have underused human potential, especially some groups, like
women, poor, and the youth. And if I, with all my sympathy,
looking around here, I think this conclusion is true.
Much political commitment was shown in New York in 2015, but now
promises have to be kept and leaders will have to deliver. We
know what to do. We have the resources and the science. It is a
matter of political will that we can do it. It is not only
morally right and absolutely necessary but also preventive work
and good investment and it's smart economics.
The payback, I
guarantee, will be great.
The United Nations has traditionally had three pillars:
security, human rights and development. On the development and
rights sides, I think the things have progressed very well
historically. Of course, for the contradiction, conflicts,
however, seem to continue to be harsh and violent and much
stronger and multiple than we would hope.
But, as I said,
unfortunately the time of catastrophe and extreme armed conflict
is not over. Traditional wars are more and more rare but armed
conflicts are deeply affecting the whole society, especially
civilian life. In armed conflicts, women and children are
targeted, even purposely, what I consider to be really tragic.
have worked in recent years with different UN bodies and working
groups to advance the rights and health and well-being,
especially of women and children. And therefore, it is horrible
and very sad to see what is going on, for instance, in Syria and
in Yemen and in other places.
But the picture also takes another side. Sad enough, sometimes
we even see that military power has been so violent so I thing
that I am also ready to say that sometimes we have to use the
military power to stop violence, but not in the way we see. We
know peace with the arms is not easy for the future.
accept the sufferings of children and civilians more generally.
And we know also that, with globalization, everyone knows what
it happening in real time all over the world. So also people
will react worldwide. People sense and understand what is right
and needs to be respected and supported by us and by the
politicians. This is the base.
I take only one example, to finalize my speech. I come from
Finland, from Helsinki, from the workers' area of Kallio.
home church, they tolled the bells for many weeks up until
United Nations day on October 24, to commemorate the Syrian
victims in Aleppo. This voluntary movement then spread to over a
hundred churches across Finland and also now abroad.
Finland have also kept their doors opened for the asylum seekers
who have not been granted refugee status. So the public opinion
sees what is right and what is wrong in many, many countries.
They all say that the violence has to stop in Syria, in Yemen,
in other places. They say that we have to be more human beings
for each other.
So, Mr President, my dear Vladimir, I was already worried about
you, because your picture for the future was so gloomy. But then
I noticed that you still have a glimpse of hope and also the
will for cooperation.
And I will say that when even people from
the rank and file level who have very bad situations; they also
want to have hope in the future. And we have to work together in
order to make it happen.
So I'm very happy to continue the
discussion. Thank you.
Thank you. Please now, Mr Fischer.
Mr President, distinguished audience,
excellences, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, I want to thank
the organizers of this meeting for the invitation to the Valdai
conference dedicated to an exchange of views about the problems
and chances in international relations, including the question
of the future of international relations.
I think everyone wants
to know as much as possible about the future.
political, economic future, etc. But there is never a satisfying
answer because the future is neither only a product of human
will and human personalities nor is it only or mainly a product
of objective factors, but it is a complicated mixture of these
two elements. And there are many philosophies to explain this
And I read with great interest books expressing
different approach at how we should look at the future. There
are two main streams insofar. Something at the beginning of
civilization was a golden age, a paradise and then human beings
with their sins and with their failures went deeper and deeper
and further down in history.
Another approach says at the
beginning there was the chaos, everyone against everyone. The
rule of the stronger, the rule of violence continuing to a
society of slavery, feudalism, capitalism and final, the last
stage where reasons for antagonism and for using violence are
I think it is neither nor.
I myself was born before WWII and I have memories on the last
phase of this war and, in particular, memories on the difficult
but promising time of reconstruction after the war. A very
positive highlight of the post-war era in our area was the
signing of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, which
re-established Austria as a sovereign state and arranged the
withdrawal of foreign troops.
And we have the feeling that from
that point that started a very, very positive successful period
not only in Austria but in all Western Europe.
But there was one shadow cast over this positive development,
which was the division of Europe, the so-called Cold War and the
imminent threat of war. At the turn of the 90s, when the
division of Europe and, therefore, one of the most prominent
reasons for tensions had been overcome, the perspective for the
future, for the continued development in international relations
seemed bright and promising.
However, again, the development was
not a straight one. These expectations could not be fulfilled.
One could also say the existing opportunities from this time
were not used to their full extent.
And once again, it was
demonstrated that history doesn't, as I just said, work in a
linear fashion much rather develops in waves.
between progress and setbacks, between positive and negative
developments. Of course, these developments vary from continent
to continent regardless of globalization. And I would mainly
focus on Europe and its neighborhood.
And I remain convinced
that the project of European cooperation enshrined in the ideas
of the European Union or vice versa is and was necessary and an
outstanding undertaking, and it will also remain an important
goal and an important strategic element for a reasonable future.
This is partly due mainly to the fact that the European Union,
as we have heard in many discussions, has lost some of its
cohesion and of its attractiveness. This is due to a sufficient
amount of economic and financial coordination, since different
interests between member states become increasingly visible with
increased challenges, and because European solidarity does not
work in the way it would be necessary.
I just have to mention
the problem of refugees where the European Union demonstrated a
lot of incapacities and a lack of solidarity.
The relationship between Russia and the European Union also did
not develop in a way we had hoped it would 25 years ago. I know
the arguments on both sides, who or what is responsible for this
Yet, when we now speak not about the past but about
the future, both sides should demonstrate that they are aware of
the importance of their relationship. The European Union, in
particular, should not lose sight of how the relations between
Russia and the West have developed in the past, in the last
century, for instance.
And that the evolution of NATO is seen
differently by Moscow, from the perspective of Moscow than it is
by Washington or Brussels. And Russia, in my opinion, should
increasingly consider that certain actions, which are connected
to military force and incompatible with international law,
irritate and worry the European public and the European policy.
A recent example goes by the name of Crimea. And Aleppo is
differently a symbol for how difficult it is to distinguish
between a fight against terrorists and bombing innocent people.
There's obviously, and I listened carefully this morning, a lot
of problems included in this necessity.
The war in Syria, by the
way, has lasted already longer than WWI and longer than from the
invasion of Hitler into the Soviet Union till the end of the
And this damned, confusing and horrible war costs hundreds
and thousands of human lives, produces millions of refugees and
damages the trust between states that do not even share common
borders with Syria.
And connected with the rise of terrorism, I must say, terrorism
produces fear, fear produces aggression, aggression produces
inter alia fanatism and strict nationalism who in turn, are
enemies of freedom and peace.
This is also on a smaller scale
but still depicted in the conflict between Israel and Palestine,
which to me seems to be further away from resolution than ever.
I recently assisted at the funeral of Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
And even the eulogies referenced that
Shimon Peres was convinced
of the necessity of peace with the Palestinians, since without
the courage for peace, so Shimon often said Israel cannot safely
The current Israeli government focuses on security and
they say, without security there can be no peace. However,
security cannot take precedence over peace, both are needed
simultaneous and full.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this point, one can ask whether there
are also some positive aspects and opportunities ahead. And the
answer is yes.
The negotiated agreement between the 5+1 and Iran
regarding the production of nuclear weapons is one very
important example. Another one is the successful conclusion of
the Paris Agreement on climate change as the first positive step
even though a lot remains to be done to address this challenge
as a whole.
And European integration as such, even if there are
several negative developments I just have touched and decisions
or non-decisions to be criticized, is altogether a success
I also give great expectations in the work of the United
Nations that are so often faced with criticism pertaining to
their powerlessness and yet remain an essential player in
international relations as well as a moral authority.
Millennium Development Goals of the year 2000, for instance,
were instrumental in reducing extreme poverty by almost 50
percent. Since then, in addition, maternal and infant mortality
rates have dropped by 45 and almost 50 percent, respectively.
And a new agenda, 2030, aims at continuing this
have formulated reasonable and very important goals.
Ladies and gentlemen, even though it is not possible to measure
and quantify the development of democracy, I'm convinced that
democracy is a political system limiting the power of those who
rule, monitoring abidance by the laws and enable peaceful
transition of power will increasingly assert itself.
rights and respect for human dignity are increasingly recognized
as an important benchmark for good government.
And I think that
democracy has to play a big role in our deliberations about the
future, including the fact - that's my opinion - that the
democratic system and readiness to peace or to avoid war has
somehow a connection and interaction.
Distinguished guests, in soccer the next match is always the
most important one. In domestic politics, the next elections are
always the most important ones. And in international relations,
the next ten years are the most important ones and the most
difficult ones at the same time.
But one is for sure. History,
as I said at the beginning, is not a linear development.
since history is made by mankind, mankind, you are responsible
for how history will change in those ten years ahead of us,
which is why it is our collective responsibility to maintain
peace, seize opportunities that present themselves, learn from
past mistakes and work towards positive developments in the
period ahead of us.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you, Mr Fischer. Mr Mbeki, please.
Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki:
Thank you very
much, moderator. Like my colleagues I have to say thank you very
much to the Valdai Discussion Club for inviting me.
Your Excellency President Putin, fellow members of our panel,
I would like to believe that you will understand why I address
you today to present an unauthorised African perspective on the
matter at issue, even as I refer also to the United Nations.
I am certain that all of us will recall that the UN Millennium
Declaration adopted in 2000, which accompanied the approval of
the Millennium Goals, contain the specific global commitments, I
quote, "to meet the special needs of Africa."
In the following year, in September 2002, the UN General
Assembly adopted the Declaration on the New Partnership for
Africa's Development, which, among others, affirmed, and I quote
again, that "international support for the implementation of the
New Partnership for Africa's Development is essential."
In October 2014, the UN Secretary-General convened a high-level
panel charged with the task to make recommendations about UN
peace operations today and tomorrow. The report of the panel was
tabled at the UN General Assembly in June last year.
things, the report said, and I quote, "whether in preventing
conflict or responding to it, regional partnerships of the
United Nations in Africa must be intensified."
I think fully to understand the importance of this
recommendation, the conference must bear in mind that in 2015,
80 percent - eight zero - of UN peacekeepers were deployed in
The distinguished delegates will have noticed that I have so far
cited UN documents relating to two African challenges of
socioeconomic development and peace and security. I've done this
to make the statement that one, these are two of the major
challenges that Africa confronts and is waiting to address.
secondly, that this reality is recognized by the world community
of nations. And thirdly, that this international community has
accepted its own solemn responsibility to enter into a conscious
partnership with Africa to successfully address these
Given the theme which has been prescribed for our panel, I will
proceed to make a few remarks about how the African challenges
I've mentioned and the extent to which the UN responses I've
cited relate to the larger matter of a philosophy for the
development of a new world.
The first categorical assertion I would like to make in this
regard is that for Africa to achieve the objectives I've
mentioned, Africa needs the new world visualized in the theme of
The second categorical assertion I must make is that
this demands a strategic break with a view that globally Africa
is a mere peripheral dependency. The third categorical assertion
I will make is that genuinely shared global prosperity and world
peace cannot be achieved while Africa is excluded as a forlorn
exception to such an admirable outcome.
And the fourth and last
assertion I'll make is that the sustained success of the
developed north cannot be achieved in a situation of a relative
autarchy as this relates to the African continent.
To revert back to the matter of the continuing African struggle
to eradicate poverty and so on, I would like to confirm that our
continent enthusiastically accepted the unanimous global
adoption of the very ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, as
was mentioned by Presidents Tarja Halonen and Heinz Fischer.
This was because the global commitment to ensure that during the
effort to achieve those Sustainable Development Goals, I quote,
"nobody is left behind."
For us as Africans this means that the system of global
governance must be constituted in a manner, which makes the
achievement of the STGs and the Peace Objectives I have
The whole millennium to date, has during
various periods entrenched systems of generally unequal
all-round global governance among nations, which since the end
of the Cold War resulted in what has been correctly
characterized as a unipolar hegemony with the United States as
Relating to Africa, the millennium I've mentioned has included
even the Roman destruction of Carthage in African Tunisia,
slavery, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
all human history confirms that the existence of a hegemonic
power resulting in the emergence of the phenomenon of a centre,
which thrives on the existence of the periphery, can only result
in inequality, conflict and instability.
It is exactly because of this arrangement in terms of the global
distribution and exercise of power that today we have a world
situation which, to borrow the words of Shakespeare, is clearly
out of joint. I think the comments made by President Putin this
afternoon point very much to how much this world is out of
It is not possible for Africa and humanity as a whole to
extricate themselves from the situation outside the context of a
multipolar exercise of power, which respects the equality of all
nations with regard to the determination of the world order.
For this reason, as Africans, precisely because we are globally
relatively weak in all respects - politically, economically,
militarily, technologically and otherwise - we are in desperate
need of a freely and universally agreed and fully respected
system of international law, which all states, big and small,
Accordingly, in our view, whatever legitimate proposal is
advanced about a better and new world, it must be based on such
extant international law as has already been agreed, especially
during the period since the end of the Second World War.
This emphasizes the absolute imperative for all nations
practically and seriously to return to the spirit and the letter
as amended to take into account material developments since 1945
as reflected in the UN Charter and other related strategic
decisions and documents adopted since then through the United
The existence of agreed international law and reliance on the
established but reformed UN institutions to ensure the
observance of such law must constitute the very core of the
philosophy of international development for the new world.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Thank you, sir.
So we have now heard from all four of our panelists and we're
going to start some discussion here at the front, rather
briefly, I think, because there are so many people here who want
to ask questions.
So maybe I'll lead off with just one very
short question to any members of the panel who would like to
I was struck in President Putin's comments by the emphasis on
security and, well, insecurity, the security dilemmas that we
Then he moved on to the development issues later on
and I think in fact, this was a natural way to do it because, I
think, one thing we have learned from history is that without
security and the predictability that goes with it there is not
going to be development.
So we are in a very painful moment now
when we had a lot of development, each of the four countries
that are represented here, people who live there live much
better than their parents and their grandparents did.
happened all over the world but there's something about the
current moment that makes so many of us uneasy and I think the
word insecurity captures it very well.
The great 17th century English philosopher Hobbes formulized
this into the notion of the state of nature in which there is no
authority, the lack of authority breeds insecurity and
instability, and inability by individuals to plan and make their
lives better. His solution to this dilemma was to advocate the
creation of a strong state.
And that started to happen in the
world around that time and the state-building process continues.
But of course, states need to be controlled. And they also need
to learn to live with one another in a peaceful fashion.
way I would put this very general question to our panelists
would be something along the lines of the following: in the
comments, the presentations of each of you there was reference
to the Hobbesian solution, generally speaking, which was to do
something about building institutions, building or perhaps
So if I were to ask you naively, what
should be our top priority right now?
towards the end the importance of the United Nations and making
it more effective and somehow using it, I gather, in concert
with other forces to develop a Marshall Plan to the Middle East.
Some of the other speakers referred to the need to reform
established institutions, that was in President Mbeki's
From our European colleagues, we heard reference to
success stories. Institutions, including the EU, which is a
relatively recent invention, so it was new, it was invented
relatively recently. So what is the most important thing here?
Should we be thinking collectively about creating new
institutions to deal with security development questions?
we be talking about returning to institutions that have been
neglected like the UN? Or should we be concentrating first and
foremost on reforming the institutions that already exist?
when I say institutions I guess I'm thinking primarily about
international institutions. So I would invite members of the
panel, perhaps starting with President Putin, to share a few
thoughts with us on this floor if they wish to do so.
I fully agree with President Thabo Mbeki, who
said - I even wrote it down - that we need a system of
international law that all countries would respect. We should
resume gauging our actions based on the UN Charter.
absolutely correct. Had he not said this, I would have had to
bring it up myself. I fully share this view. We are losing
respect for the UN Charter, disregarding it when taking
important decisions and pretending that its provisions have
become obsolete and lost their relevance.
And then, when the world comes up against big problems, those
who violated the UN Charter demand respect for its basic
provisions. Everyone should always remember and respect the UN
We need a reliable system of international law that
will provide protection against any abuse of force.
So I think it's the basics, the biggest unit of
what we have organized now, I mean at the local level, is the
nation state. But we also know the weaknesses of the nation
But still I think that we should try to build it strong
in a way that I, coming from the north, of course I speak about
the wealth first.
So not only the politics rights, the
democratic and human rights, rule of law and good governance but
also the welfare, the source of economic and cultural rights of
the people, all people, also minorities.
But then when we think
now that there is a difference between the millennium goals and SDGs, I remember the feeling when I was co-chairing the
Millennium Summit, the real feeling I had about the people that
they wanted to make a better future. And I think this is very
important through the years.
Because some people said to us that
we are just innocent or naïve or have blue eyes or that we hope
that we can make a better world. It is succeeding as we all have
said, not in all points but much better than without.
if we compare these MDGs and SDGs, the MDGs were mainly made for
the governments - especially for those who are richer, better
doing, to show the solidarity, global solidarity for the south.
But now the SDG contains still these elements but we know that
the world is something else than the nation states. It's also
NGOs and business community.
And I say very openly that this is
Without the monitor that sees that you have more
actors than just the governments. And that's why I welcome all
those ideas. Fischer is coming, Heinz is coming from Austria
which has a very good researcher institute IIASA, which is
specialized in systemic analysis.
There are also others. And I
think, in this group, Valdai, you could have a good possibility
to try and connect the experts who are specialized in system
analysis. I think this is one part of the answer to your
question. And then very simple words, confidence building.
Because I think this is even in the base of the nation state
that all the things that we can do for confidence building,
whether it's the Baltic Sea, our common sea, or whether it's
some bigger area.
And then I would be also very interested to
know that, when we are now in Russia, how you see Mr Putin,
Vladimir, how do you see what is the goal of Russia in the
I understand that the others will answer first but then
I have a glimpse of hope for your interest concerning the UN.
Would you like to respond now, Mr Putin? Or
we'll get to the others.
Let's hear what Heinz and Thabo have to say.
Okay, very good. Sure.
Mr Fischer, sir.
Former President of Austria Heinz Fischer:
We all know that
institutions and wrongly constructed institutions may be a part
of the problem. But in most cases they are not the whole
And the same institution that functions very well in a
certain situation may in a different environment or in a
different economic situation seem much weaker or even wrongly
As far as the European Union is concerned the last years, the
present situation, if we look at the trade agreement with
Canada, for instance, it is obvious that part of the answer at
least would be a stronger possibility for the central
institutions in the European Union, more power for the
Parliament, more power for the Commission, and a common economic
and fiscal policy.
On the other hand, it is obvious that exactly that is a
sensitive point and many people have the feeling that our
autonomy, our possibilities as a state are more and more
transferred to Brussels, to a central institution, and we do not
So if somebody says, let's start the process of modernizing and
changing institutions of the European Union, at this moment I
would say, wait a little bit, not too much hurry, because at the
moment it would create a very bitter fight in most or in several
As far as the United Nations are concerned, I listened with
great interest to the arguments saying the Security Council,
which is the most powerful institution, was shaped more than 70
years ago. It would be helpful and it would be necessary to give
the Security Council a structure, which takes care of the
present situation and the present distribution of inhabitants
and power and economic power, etc.
But here again we can see how
difficult it is and how, if I ask the Austrian representatives
in the United Nations, they say, no chance, there is too much
antagonism, too many different opinions.
So, solving problems
through changing institutions may only be a part of what can and
what should be done.
Thank you. Mr Mbeki.
But must be done. You see, President Halonen, when
she spoke she aid the UN had to focus on three matters, if I
heard correctly: security, human rights and development.
am really convinced that globally, talking about security
globally, the human rights issue globally, development globally,
it is not possible to address any of those three big issues
successfully - I am talking about globally - unless we look at
the United Nations again in the context of the UN Charter, in
the context of agreed policies, agreed by everybody.
I think the
conference recognizes this point that we have a multipolar
world, and you need the exercise of that multipolarity in order
to address all of these challenges successfully globally.
Now, what multipolar institution exists? It should be the UN.
The matter of the reform of the Security Council becomes
important in that respect. Because, as Heinz Fischer said, it is
old, it was established a long time ago. Does it reflect that
It needs changing. It's
difficult. Russia is a permanent member that might be one of the
obstacles to changing it, I don't know. But you see, it needs
transformation, the Security Council.
We need to look at the
relationship between the Security Council and the General
Assembly, which means looking at all of the structures of the UN
to express that multipolarity so that we can globally succeed in
addressing matters of security, human rights and development.
You can't avoid it. I am not saying it's the only thing that
needs to be done but you need those structures strengthened, you
need them more representative, you need them transformed.
you need them activised in a manner that indeed truly respects
what would be international law as amended and addresses the
matter that President Putin mentioned of respect for the right
to… I am not saying that because you have the UN, therefore
nation states and the right of people's identity and so on
ceases to exist.
You've got to
recognize that and respect that.
But equality of nations recognizes the existence of nations.
I think the reform of the UN structures so that they effectively
can be a home of that multipolarity and the exercise of that
multipolar power is really translated into something real.
Otherwise we would not have Iraq, we would not have Iran, we
would not have the disaster in Libya if this thing was
As a continent, just to finalize, we are talking about the STGs,
which are very important for the African continent, as I was
saying, and I am sure for all developing countries. But one of
the problems we face on the continent is very difficult
negotiations with the EU about the economic partnership
I am sure that the economic partnership agreements,
on which the EU is insisting are contrary to what the STGs seek
to achieve. But the Europeans are insisting that this must be
done because it is consistent with the agreements, etc. But look
at it at the global level. You'd have to say: let's look at
those EPAs to see if they are consistent with the objectives
stated in the STGs.
That brings back into focus the importance
of the UN structures, even on these development issues.
I was a bit nervous that my general question
would not elicit interesting responses but I was quite wrong.
Thank you very much. Mr Putin, if you care to respond briefly to
any of these things, please, go right ahead.
I would just like to make a quick response to
what Mr Fischer has just said. He mentioned discussions in the
EU on the trade agreement with Canada. This is an internal EU
matter, but if you permit, I would just like to make one small
I know that some in Europe find Wallonia's position irritating,
after all, the region is home to only 3.5 million people, but
these 3.5 million people are blocking a decision on an issue of
global importance, namely, this trade agreement with Canada.
when Belgium took part in the EU's creation, it did so on the
basis of particular principles, including that Belgium overall,
and Wallonia, would have certain rights.
The EU has grown greatly since then and has a much different
membership now, but the rules have not changed.
rules need to be changed, but in this case, you would first have
to give the people who created this organization a chance to
change it through a democratic process and then obtain their
As for the dispute itself, I am not as familiar with all the
details as the Europeans are, of course, but whatever the
prerogatives of the EU supranational bodies (note that I have
already spoken publicly on this point), the European Parliament
adopts a far greater number of binding decisions with regard to
the member states than did the USSR Supreme Soviet with regard
to the Soviet Union's constituent republics during the Soviet
It is not for us to say whether this is good or bad. We
want to see a strong and centralized Europe. This is our
position. But in Europe itself there are many different views,
and I hope that this whole issue will be resolved in positive
On the matter of the UN, I have said before but will say again
now that we must return to what is written in the UN Charter,
because there is no other such universal organization in the
world. If we renounce the UN, this is a sure road to chaos.
There is no other universal alternative in the world. Yes, the
world has changed, and yes, the UN and the Security Council do
need reform and reconstruction. But as they say in our Foreign
Ministry, we can do this in such a way as to preserve the
We can do this on the basis of
broad consensus. We need to ensure that the vast majority of
international actors give their support to these reforms.
Today, we must return to a common understanding of the
principles of international law as enshrined in the UN Charter.
This is because when the UN was established after World War II,
there was a particular balance of power in the world.
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States
decided that there was no one to coordinate things with and they
did not really need to get anyone's approval on fundamental
matters. This was the start of everything.
First, in the 1990s, we had the airstrikes against Belgrade. I
will not go into the humanitarian aspect that preceded these
decisions, but just seeing airstrikes carried out in the heart
of Europe at the end of the twentieth century seemed to me
This was all the more so as it was done in
violation of the UN Charter and without approval. When this
happened, people immediately started saying that the old rules
were outdated and something had to change.
Things got worse from there with the events in Iraq. Did the UN
sanction the operations in Iraq? No. Before this there were
operations in Afghanistan in 2001.
Yes, we all know the tragedy
of September 11, 2001, but even so, under existing international
law, a relevant UN Security Council resolution should have been
sought first, which was not done.
Then came Iraq, and then came the resolution on Libya. You are
all experts here, you have read the resolution on Libya, and
know that it was about establishing a no-fly zone there.
what kind of no-fly zone can we speak of if airstrikes began
against Libyan territory? This was a flagrant violation of the
UN Charter. And then came Syria.
It was either Tarja or Heinz who said that the operations in
Aleppo are only increasing the number of terrorists. But did the
terrorist ranks start swelling only with Aleppo? Were there
terrorists in Iraq? There were no terrorists there until the
country's state structures were destroyed.
The same was true of
Libya, where there were no terrorists at all. But as soon as
this country's statehood was destroyed, who came along to fill
the vacuum? Terrorists. The same is happening in Syria.
I understand the insinuations made about our action in Aleppo or
elsewhere. But let's remember that as soon as the conflict began
in Syria, and it began long before we became involved,
terrorists appeared there and began receiving arms supplies. I
mentioned this in my opening remarks.
Attempts were made to
train these terrorists and set them against al-Assad, because
there were no other options and these groups were the most
This continues today because these are the most
effective fighting units and some think that it is possible to
make use of them and then sort them out later.
But this is an
illusion. It won't work, and this is the problem.
I would also like to respond to the absolutely proper
developments in Finland, for instance. Bells are tolling for
those who have been killed in Aleppo. Bells should also be
tolling for those now losing their lives in Mosul and its
vicinity. The operation in Mosul is getting underway now.
as I know, the terrorists have already shot more than 200 people
in the hope of stopping the offensive on the town. Let's not
forget this. And in Afghanistan? Whole wedding parties of 120
people were wiped out with a single airstrike. A single strike!
Have we forgotten this? And what about what's happening in
Yemen? Let the bells toll for all of these innocent victims. I
agree with you here.
We keep hearing Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. But what is the issue
here? Do we leave the nest of terrorists in place there, or do
we squeeze them out, doing our best to minimize and avoid
If it is better to not go in at all, then
the offensive against Mosul shouldn't go ahead at all either.
Let's just leave everything as it is.
Let's leave Raqqa alone
too. Our partners keep saying,
"We need to take back Raqqa and
eliminate the nest of terrorists there".
But there are civilians
in Raqqa too.
So, should we not fight the terrorists at all? And
when they take hostages in towns, should we just leave them be?
Look at Israel's example. Israel never steps back but always
fights to the end, and this is how it survives. There is no
alternative. We need to fight. If we keep retreating, we will
Regarding what Tarja said on the subject of security in the
Baltic Sea area, I remind you that this matter came up not on
our initiative but during my visit to Naantali in Finland, and
on the initiative of Mr Niinisto, the president of Finland.
Quite out of the blue, he requested that Russian aircraft do not
fly with their transponders off.
For those not familiar with
military matters, I note that transponders are instruments that
signal an aircraft's location in the air. Of course, if aircraft
fly with their transponders on, this increases security in the
Baltic Sea region.
This is the truth of the matter. I responded
immediately then, noting firstly that there are far more flights
by NATO aircraft in the region than by our aircraft.
Secondly, I promised the Finnish President that we would
definitely raise this issue with our partners at the next
Russia-NATO Council meeting. I can tell you that we did this.
The result was that our NATO partners rejected Putin's proposal,
as they said. But this has nothing to do with Putin.
rejected the proposal made by Mr Niinisto, the president of
This was not such a straightforward matter for us either, I
would say, because there is a technical dimension involved, a
purely military dimension. But I did give the Defence Ministry
instructions to find a way to do this without detriment to our
The Defence Ministry found a solution, but our NATO
colleagues rejected it. So please, direct your questions to the
NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Tarja, you wanted to reply briefly.
If I can answer, it's good that we still have
this good dialogue between us, Mr Putin.
So, speaking openly and frankly, normally in a little bit
smaller group… But I think this proposal by President Minister,
was, I think a very good example. It's really I mean necessary
for the security in our area, but also, like Mr Putin said, also
that it has also a lot of technicalities, trainings, and other
issues in both sides.
It also tells us that even if it's a very
short issue, or limited issue, it takes time and experts and so
on, but I think we could still agree that it should be because
of the safety in the area that should be organized.
So I hope
good luck further, and patience to do the good work.
If I could very briefly also… I'll say two other aspects that
you, Vladimir, approached me. One is, of course, that when I
mention Aleppo and Yemen. These are two examples that have been
very much in the media and publicity, especially in the Western
countries, I think might be also on the Russian side.
also it's not black and white. It is difficult. But what I said
was that we have to respect these feelings of the people, that
they quite correctly say that this is not right. And UNICEF said
the same from the UN side.
But now again, it's good to
it's difficult to give the good responses, but that's why we
have the experts to say it further.
And coming back to the UN, I am very happy that we have spoken
so much about the United Nations, I am a UN animal, that's why I
have worked for years and years with UN, and I still will work,
and I have promises to Ban Ki-moon and the next
But all that happens in the United Nations,
there's also that doing nothing can be also very expensive. We
are lucky that we noticed this with the climate change but, for
instance, concerning the Security Council, I also follow Mr
Lavrov with great interest. So I think that if we cannot
succeed, or as Mr Putin said, with the Security Council issue…
So the other things we have, for instance, the General Assembly,
the Ecosoc and many others, because the security is a broad
And that way the difficult tasks don't become easier if
we push them forward, and so thank you that you promised that
you would take it again on all sides.
Ok, so now what I would like to do, thank you
all, is field some questions from the audience.
We have a rather large set of people here today; almost everyone
wants to ask a question, so when you're the one who is
responsible for recognizing questions.
My popularity ratings, Mr
Putin, were higher than yours yesterday, in this building. But
there's only so much time and I'm sure by the end of the evening
my popularity will have plummeted towards zero. So I'm going to
do my very best.
I have been talking with a lot of people about
the questions they might ask, and I have a few at the very
beginning that I've settled on and once those have been asked
and responded to we're just going to open it up, and I'll try to
recognize hands as I see them, so I want to start.
Many will be addressed to Mr Putin if history is
any guide, but we'll have people on panel who will want to
comment even if it's not addressed directly to them, so we'll
really play that by ear.
So I'm going to start with Clifford Kupchan, please.
you? Here he is. Microphone…
Mr Putin, President Putin, Cliff Kupchan with
Eurasia Group. As you know there is increasing concern in the
international community about cyberspace and about
The key issue, of course, is the worry of
cyber-attacks to achieve political goals, especially at a time
where cyber is a very young problem, not like traditional war.
And the norms and dynamics of cyberspace are very largely
There is a UN report, a group of governmental experts,
which Russia endorsed, and it stated that nations should not use
cyber to attack the critical infrastructure of other nations.
So my question to you, first, should, in theory, and I heard
what you said before, so in theory, should national electoral
systems, in your view, be considered critical national
Secondly, what specific rules would you propose, as the
international community thinks through cyber, to reduce the risk
of future cyber war?
I think that intervention by any country in
another country's internal political process is unacceptable, no
matter how these attempts are made, with the help of cyberattacks or through other instruments or
controlled from the outside within the country.
You know what happened in Turkey, for example, and the position
taken by President of Turkey Recep Erdogan. He believes that the
coup attempt in Turkey was undertaken by groups inspired by and
with the direct help of an organization run by a certain Gulen,
who has lived in the United States for the last 9 years.
unacceptable, and cyberattacks are unacceptable.
But we probably cannot avoid having an impact on each other,
including in cyberspace. Your question was about the very
specific matter of the electoral system though. I think this is
How can we avoid this sort of thing, if
it does happen?
I think the only way is to reach agreement and
come up with some rules on which we will have a common
understanding and which will be recognized at the government and
state level and can be verified.
Of course, the issue of internet freedom and everything related
to it arises, but we know that many countries, including those
that support internet freedom, take practical steps to restrict
access out of concern for people's interests.
cybercrime, for example, attacks against banking systems and
illegal money transfers. It concerns suicides too, crimes
against children and so forth. These are measures taken at the
We can take appropriate measures both at the
national level and at the intergovernmental level.
I'd like to recognize Andrey Sushentsov now, and
then we'll do Mr Bystritskiy.
Andrei Sushentsov, MGIMO University, member
of the Valdai Club.
Foreign media takes the view that Russia has a distinct
favorite in the US presidential elections - Donald Trump.
role will the next American president really play for Russia and
for bilateral relations? What conditions would US foreign policy
need to meet for a normalization of relations with Russia?
On the question of
favorites in the US
presidential campaign, you said that the media have created this
Yes, this is the case, and this is not by chance. In my
observation, it is a rare occasion that the mass media forms a
view purely by chance.
I think that this idea, inserted into the
public consciousness in the middle of the US presidential
campaign, pursues the sole aim of supporting those defending the
interests of Ms Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, in her
fight against the Republican Party candidate, in this case,
How is this done?
First, they create an enemy in the form of
Russia, and then they say that Trump is our preferred candidate.
This is complete nonsense and totally absurd.
It's only a tactic
in the domestic political struggle, a way of manipulating public
opinion before the elections take place. As I have said many
times before, we do not know exactly what to expect from either
of the candidates once they win.
We do not know what Mr. Trump would do if he wins, and we do not
know what Ms Clinton would do, what would go ahead or not go
ahead. Overall then, it does not really matter to us who wins.
Of course, we can only welcome public words about a willingness
to normalize relations between our two countries. In this sense,
yes, we welcome such statements, no matter who makes them. That
is all I can say, really.
As for Mr Trump, he has chosen his method of reaching voters'
hearts. Yes, he behaves extravagantly, of course, we all see
But I think there is some sense in his actions. I say this
because in my view, he represents the interests of the sizeable
part of American society that is tired of the elites that have
been in power for decades now. He is simply representing these
ordinary people's interests.
He portrays himself as an ordinary guy who criticizes those who
have been in power for decades and does not like to see power
handed down by inheritance, for example.
We read the analysis
too, including American analysis. Some of the experts there have
written openly about this. He operates in this niche. The
elections will soon show whether this is an effective strategy
As for me, I cannot but repeat what I have said already:
we will work with whichever president the American people choose
and who wants to work with us.
Mr President, my question follows on the subject of
security addressed just before. Obviously, cooperation is an
essential part of this, and we realize that cooperation is not
always easy. We saw an example just before with the case of the
The planes can still fly at least.
But there are areas of vital importance, areas where innocent
people's lives are at stake. You mentioned recently the case of
the Tsarnayev brothers.
As far as I know, Russia passed on
information but no action was taken.
Does this mean that
practical cooperation in security is now in a critical
I spoke about this matter at a meeting with
French journalists, if I recall correctly.
Yes, we passed
information on the Tsarnayev brothers on to our American
partners. We wrote to them but received no response. After we
wrote a second time we got a reply that they are US citizens and
so it was none of our business and they would take care of
everything themselves. I told the director of the FSB to archive
The response we received is still there, in the
Sadly, a few months later, the Boston marathon terrorist attack
took place and people were killed. It is a great shame that this
tragedy took place. If contacts and trust between us and our
partners had been better this could have been avoided.
Americans came here immediately following the attack and we gave
them the information in our possession. But it was too late.
People had already lost their lives. This partly answers the
last question too.
We do not know if those who say they want to
work with us really will or not, but they do say quite rightly
that this is essential for all of us, especially in the fight
against terrorism. In this sense, we welcome all who declare
As I have also said in the past, the Americans have provided us
with real help, during the preparations for the Olympic Games in
Sochi, for example, and we are grateful to them for this. Our
cooperation was very efficient here, on site and at the level of
our intelligence service heads.
There have been other good
examples of cooperation too. Overall, we have quite a good
situation in this area with our European partners.
We have open
and professional contacts with the French intelligence services,
for example, and exchange information. In general, the situation
is not bad, but it could be a lot better.
Alright, I would like to ask now Sabine Fischer
from Berlin. Here she is.
I have a question for President Putin on Ukraine.
Mr Putin, after quite a long hiatus, there was a Normandy format
meeting in Berlin just recently. The different parties diverged
somewhat in their interpretation of the talks' results. I would
like to hear your assessment of these results and of the
atmosphere at the talks.
Also, do you think the Normandy format is effective in its
present form, and do you think it might be more productive if,
for example, the United States were to take part?
Could you clarify something? What do you mean by
different interpretations of the meeting's results? What are you
talking about? Oddly enough, I have not heard of any different
interpretations. What are they?
There was discussion about sending a policing
mission to Donbass, and also emphasis on the roadmap that we saw
in Russia, for example, in the media and in political debate. I
think this was really a case of diverging interpretations of the
This is no secret. I can tell you how it was. I
might leave something out, so as not to put anyone in a
difficult position or interfere with the process itself.
As you know, the Minsk agreements, which I think the experts
have all read, say in black and white:
"Thirty days after the
signing of the Minsk agreements Ukraine's Rada must adopt a
resolution outlining the geographical boundaries of areas where
the law on the special status of these unrecognized republics
would become effective immediately."
Because the only thing
needed for it to work was the description of those geographical
That had to be established, not by law, but by a parliamentary
resolution, and the resolution was finally adopted, even if past
the deadline. So one would think that this law was to take
It was passed, I would like to remind you,
by the Parliament of Ukraine. The lawmakers voted for it, and it
was coordinated with the unrecognized republics, which is very
important, and in this sense, in my view, makes it viable
legislation and a key element of a political settlement.
But after passing this resolution, Ukraine and its Parliament
adopted an amendment, a paragraph to Article 9 or 10, which said
the law would take effect only after municipal elections in
That once again postponed the law's enforcement. I
repeat, in our opinion, that law is absolutely key to a
political resolution to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine.
Moreover, that was done without even consulting anyone, least of
all the unrecognized republics.
We discussed this very actively a year ago in Paris. I insisted
that this be done then and done immediately, as it was part of
the Minsk Agreements and is, in our view, a key component.
the Ukrainian president said that this was not possible and
everything ended up in a dead end. In this situation, everything
could have ended then and there a year ago in Paris, but Mr
Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, suddenly proposed a
He suggested that we agree to have the law come into force on
the day of the local elections in these regions, temporarily,
and have it come into force permanently after the OSCE Office
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights recognizes the
elections as having taken place in accordance with OSCE rules.
This was not at all what was set out in the Minsk Agreements,
but in order to get us out of the deadlock we were in, I
expressed my agreement and said we would settle the matter with
Donetsk and Lugansk, which we did.
But then in Berlin, the Ukrainian president suddenly also
attempted to change this proposal, already the result of a
compromise. He went even further, essentially renouncing the
law's implementation whatever the case.
We thus found ourselves
back in the same crisis we had in Paris a year before. But I
want to note the Federal Chancellor's role here. She found
arguments to persuade everyone present that we could and should
keep to the agreement we reached and said that it was not
possible to change what we'd already agreed on a year later, or
we would never reach an agreement.
But we agreed to bundle the
nuances and details of how it would be implemented together with
the concept you spoke about, and which still has to be worked
That is it, really. But in principle, a lot was accomplished in
terms of ensuring security. We reached agreement on nearly every
point. We made very little progress on humanitarian matters.
These regions remain tightly blockaded and are in a very
difficult situation. But the so-called civilized world prefers
not to notice this. I do not want to get into debate on this
matter now. As far as the [Normandy] format goes and whether it
is useful or not, we simply have no alternative.
Yes, the discussions proceed with difficulty, and this is not
very effective, I agree, but we have no other option, and if we
want to make progress, we have to continue working in this
As for the question of getting any other actors
involved, our position is that we are not opposed to the idea of
others taking part, including our American partners.
But we have
reached an agreement with all participants in the process that
we will work in parallel with our American colleagues. My aide
and Ms Nuland have regular meetings, discuss these issues and
look for compromise. This is not being done in secret though, of
All participants in the Normandy format meetings are
informed and we take into account our American partners'
position too, of course.
Please now, Angela Stent
This question is for President Putin. I'm Angela
Stent; I'm a professor at Georgetown University in Washington.
Mr President, Russia recently withdrew from an agreement with
the United States to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, but at
the same time, the Russian Government said that it would
consider re-joining the agreement if three conditions were met:
firstly, that NATO troops should withdraw to the level that they
were before 2000 in Europe
secondly, the Magnitsky Act should
thirdly, that the sanctions imposed on Russia
after the beginning of the Ukraine crisis should be lifted, and
Russia should be paid compensation for them.
So my question is:
we will have a new President on January 20, I'm optimistic about
Are we to understand, in the United States, that these
three conditions would form the basis of an initial negotiating
position on the Russian part with the American president, when
she re-establishes high-level relations with the Kremlin?
One can tell straight away that you are an
academic and not a diplomat. If you ask the diplomats, they will
tell you about the concept of ‘starting position'.
As for our
decision on the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement,
we did not withdraw from it. The United States withdrew from the
missile defence treaty, but we did not withdraw from the
plutonium agreement, we suspended it. Why did we do this? What
were this agreement's provisions?
Under its terms, both
countries were to build facilities for disposing of the surplus
weapons-grade plutonium that had accumulated in both Russia and
Not only did the USA not meet its obligations under the
agreement, but said that it would not do so because of financial
As if Russia does not have financial difficulties
of its own, but we built our facility and are disposing of this
plutonium using industrial methods. Without any prior
coordination with us, the United States made a unilateral
announcement that they would not dilute this weapons-grade
plutonium but would store it in some beds and so forth.
This means that they retain what the experts call return
potential, in other words, the plutonium could be returned and
re-enriched at any moment. But we are eliminating our plutonium
using industrial methods. We built our facility and spent money
on it. Are we wealthier than the United States?
There are many
issues it has become difficult to discuss with the current
administration because practically no obligations are met and no
agreements are respected, including those on Syria. Perhaps we
will be able to come back to this.
We are ready, in any case, to
talk with the new president and look for solutions to any, even
the most difficult, issues.
Mr President, my question is on Russian policy towards
The emphasis today in Russian foreign policy is on the
construction of a multipolar world. But do you also give some
thought to the importance of a multipolar Asia?
Both in your
speech today, and the general construction of the Russian
foreign policy, points, I think, to the growing, deepening
contradictions between the US and the West on the one hand, and
the Eurasian situation.
But it's also a fact that there are
internal contradictions within Eurasia. The rise of new powers
is creating a lot of fears; the breakdown of the old order in
some parts is releasing primordial forces.
These are internal to
But is there a danger that Russia, by its emphasis on a multipolar world, is underestimating the dangers of a unipolar
Asia, and the need for great powers to work together to
construct a genuinely democratic multipolar Asia?
We are actively developing relations with Asian
countries not because of tension in relations with Europe or the
United States, but simply because life itself dictates this
choice. Why do I say that life itself dictates that we expand
The Asian countries' development and influence is growing and
will continue to do so, and, what's more, they are growing fast.
With a sizeable part of its territory in Asia, Russia would be
foolish not to make use of its geographical advantages and
develop ties with its neighbors.
China is our neighbor and I mentioned this in my opening
We have longstanding good relations with India and it
would be a mistake not to make use of this and develop solid
long-term relations with India today. We have many common
interests. We can naturally complement each other in politics
and the economy.
As for the question of a multipolar or unipolar Asia, we see
that Asia is not unipolar and this is very evident.
Life is very diverse and complex in general and is full of
contradictions. It is important to resolve these contradictions
in a civilized fashion. I think that the Asian countries'
leaders today have sufficient common sense to work in just this
way with each other, and we are ready to work the same way with
I visited India just recently and our Defence Minister has just
returned from India. We have cooperation between our defence
ministries and also between industry in the defence sector, as
well as in the civilian sector, where we have many common
interests with India, China, Vietnam and other countries in the
These ties are extensive and promising.
In September 2014, at the Valdai Club, you
described the relations between Ukraine and Russia with the
following sentence: "Two countries, one people".
would you describe the relations between the two countries?
Thank you very much.
I will not go into who is to blame for what now.
I have always considered, and still do today, that Russians and
Ukrainians are really one people. There are people who hold
radical nationalist views both in Russia and in Ukraine.
overall, for the majority, we are one people, a people who share
a common history and culture and are ethnically close. First we
were divided, then we were set against each other, but we are
not to blame for this.
We must find our own way out of this
situation. I am sure that common sense will prevail and that we
will find a solution.
Mr President, before putting my question, I would like
to pass on my young students' words.
Two years ago, you came to
Shanghai on other important business and our students missed the
chance to meet at the university with you and ask their
question, but they asked me to tell you that they would be happy
to see you any time, regardless of whether you have retired or
My question is as follows:
We have discussed the philosophical
matter of international relations today. Humanity has already
gone through different types of international systems. In your
view, to what extent will future systems resemble past ones?
What are the positive components we should
Should we seek more universality or more diversity
as far as principles go? What kind of combination of components
would you prefer to see?
And I have a specific question too. We have been actively
discussing here the relations between Russia, the West, and
Heinz said that this is a very philosophical
question and that we could spend a long time discussing it.
Will tomorrow's world resemble the past? No, of course not. How
is this possible? Does today's China resemble the China of the
1960s-70s? They are two completely different countries, and the
Soviet Union is gone today too.
Mr Mbeki spoke about Africa before. I share his arguments. But
Africa cannot be some kind of peripheral place.
If anyone thinks
this way, they are deeply mistaken. If we follow this kind of
thinking, we can expect very serious trials ahead. We already
hear the talk about refugees and Syria.
I saw today the news
about the latest incident in the Mediterranean, where the
Italian coastguard rescued refugees from Africa. What has Syria
got to do with this? Africa's future and the world's future are
very serious issues.
The same goes for relations in Asia, where
there are also many conflicts or potential conflict situations.
I want to repeat what I have just said. The question is whether
we have the wisdom and the courage to find acceptable solutions
to these various problems and complicated conflicts.
hope that this will be the case, that the world really will
become more multipolar, and that the views of all actors in the
international community will be taken into account. No matter
whether a country is big or small, there should be universally
accepted common rules that guarantee sovereignty and peoples'
As for our relations with our partners in Europe, the United
States, America in general, and the Asian countries, we have a
multi-vector policy. This is not just in virtue of our
Our policy with regard to our partners is
built on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Mr President, I also have a philosophical
question. I imagine that you have reflected on this subject too,
and so I would like to get an answer from you in your
We all know that you are good at using
I will come back to your speech, since no one has done so yet.
There is one point you made on which I disagree with you. You
described the world and did so correctly, but I do not think it
is quite right to put everything down to the will of the elite
or of particular leaders.
A large number of objective factors
influence countries' behavior.
You said yourself, speaking of
Eurasian cooperation just now, that life itself dictates this
course. I remember when the events in Crimea took place you said
that you could not act otherwise, even if the entire world
failed to see this as the greatest act of goodwill.
My question is related to this. I think that countries act under
the influence of their national interests and the way they view
the world. These national interests frequently lead to
contradictions between countries.
In one of your interviews for a Western news agency, you said
that your job is to promote Russia's national interests.
therefore have a suspicion that you know what constitutes
Russia's national interests, and not only today's interests,
tactical interests, but the fundamental interests that existed
before and will exist in the future. I think it is still early
for you to retire, but this will happen sooner or later, while
the national interests will remain.
Do you have a good succinct
formula at hand to explain these interests to the world? One of
the problems, after all, is that Russia is perceived as an
Perhaps you can explain in one simple and
lasting formula just what Russia's national interests are?
What is good for Russians and for all of
Russia's peoples makes up Russia's national interest. The
question is not one of promoting these national interests at any
price, but of how to go about this.
Let me take you back to the
key question here: we believe that we need to pursue our
national interests in dialogue with all players in international
life, respecting their interests and following the common,
universally accepted rules that we call international law.
When Tarja spoke earlier, she said that my view of the situation
was a bit gloomy. If you understood my words as suggesting that
the elites are solely to blame for the mistakes that have been
made, this is not what I was trying to say.
The divergence of
interests between the general public and the ruling classes is
one of the most serious problems today, though it is not the
only problem, of course.
Interests are at the root of this
problem, but what is important is how we pursue and achieve our
Alexei Mukhin, Centre for Political Technology.
Mr President, Ukraine is constantly trying to prohibit things
Russian. We get the impression that everything Russian is being
squeezed out of Ukrainian life. In this respect, I have a
philosophical question too.
Petro Poroshenko said that he plans
to sell his Russian business interests. Does this business
actually exist? What is your view on this?
We seek to respect ownership rights.
is a staunch advocate of property rights, seeing it as one of
the pillars of economic policy, and I fully agree with him. We
have not always been entirely successful in this area and we
still have improvements to make and much legislative work to do,
but we will always keep working in this direction.
The same concerns our foreign investors, including from Ukraine.
Mr Poroshenko is one of our investors in the sense that he is
the owner of a sizeable business in Lipetsk Region, the Roshen
Actually, there are two businesses there.
The second is
engaged in selling the products, as far as I know. There are a
few problems there concerning non-return of VAT, and the courts
have imposed some restrictions, but the factories are operating,
paying wages and earning profits, and there are no restrictions
on using these profits, including transferring them abroad.
not recall the figures now and do not get into such detail, but
I know the business is turning a profit and is working with
Pyotr Dutkevich, Canada
Mr President, I already put this question yesterday to the
Deputy Foreign Minister, but I realise my mistake, because you
are the only person this question should really be addressed to.
My question is as follows:
We have heard reports, I do not know
how accurate they are, that you discussed a ceasefire in Syria
at your meeting with Mr Obama in September. I do not know how
accurate this information is, but it seems a 7-day ceasefire was
You expressed doubts and said that it would not be
possible to separate the radicals from the moderates in such a
short time and that this task would likely prove impossible. You
were given the answer then that if we failed in this task, you
would have a free hand.
Can you recall this conversation?
very important for the history of what is taking place in Syria
Yes, I do not need to recall it because I never
It was a very important conversation. There was
indeed talk on the lines that Russian and Syrian aircraft would
cease their airstrikes against terrorist targets in Aleppo until
the healthy opposition forces could be separated from the forces
of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization recognized as such
by the United Nations and included on the list of international
In this respect, I note that it is no secret that our American
partners promised to do this.
recognized the need to
do this, and second, they recognized that part of Aleppo is
occupied by terrorist organizations - ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
We can see this for ourselves from the news reports, where you
see the banners of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in some parts of the
They recognized that this needs to be done and assured us
that they would do this.
After this, we agreed that we would decide right there on the
battlefield who the moderates were, and we would not touch them,
and who the terrorists were, and we and our American partners
would target the terrorists. They made repeated promises.
promises were made at the level of our defence ministers,
foreign ministers, intelligence services, but unfortunately,
this fell through each time and they did not keep their
The question was raised again during our meeting in China. Yes,
my American partner, President Obama, did indeed propose
separating these different forces once again.
But he insisted
that we must first declare a D-day, cease hostilities, stop the
airstrikes, and then, within 7 days, they would take on the
responsibility of separating the moderates from Jabhat al-Nusra.
I will not go into detail her because I do not think I have the
right to make these details public. After all, when we have
talks like these, there are always some things we say in
confidence. But the fact remains.
Instead of separating the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists from the
healthy opposition, our American partners broke the ceasefire
I had originally insisted that they first separate
the terrorists from the moderates and we would then end the
airstrikes, but in the end, I decided to agree with the American
proposal at the talks. They were persistent and I decided to
accept a compromise, said that we would go with their proposal,
declare a ceasefire first and stop the airstrikes, giving them
the seven days they asked for.
The ceasefire was declared on September 12, I think, and on the
17th, American aircraft carried out a strike against Syrian
troops, and this was followed by an ISIS offensive.
We were told
that the strike was a mistake and that the ISIS offensive was
only a coincidence. Perhaps this is so, but the ceasefire was
broken and we are not to blame for this.
As for what the US President promised or didn't promise, you
should ask him. I imagine that he will speak with our European
partners about this when he goes to Europe.
I think this should
be done openly and honestly and not simply in an attempt to use
this to influence our position on Syria.
By the way, do you realize that Russian and Syrian aircraft have
not been carrying out any operations around Aleppo for 9 days
now. We gave them not 7 days, but already 9, soon to be 10 days.
But where is the effort to separate the terrorists from the
You have to realize that if we do not meet our
obligations we will never succeed in this fight against
I realize that this is not an easy task and we are not looking
to make any accusations, but we do have to try to keep our
promises. In any case, it should not be we who end up accused of
every possible sin.
This is simply indecent.
We have been
showing restraint and do not respond to our partners with
insolence, but there is a limit to everything and we might have
to reply at some point.
Mr Čarnogurský from Slovakia. Please.
This will sound like a follow-up to Angela Stent's question, but
we did not coordinate our questions. Mr President, the
conditions you have placed on the plutonium disposition
agreement actually sound aggressive.
Meeting these conditions
would mean essentially erasing all Russia's retreats since
Mikhail Gorbachev's time.
I am asking about the timeframe. When can these conditions be
met, or, to put it differently, do you think you will still be
President of Russia when these conditions are met?
The conditions you referred to as aggressive have been
set to paper in the form of a presidential executive order. It's
a piece of paper.
But the plutonium disposition conditions, which the United
States has violated, are a crucial issue pertaining to
international security and the management of nuclear materials.
These are two different types of conditions. We have withdrawn
from this agreement because the United States did not meet its
As for conditions for negotiations on a wide range
of issues, we can reach an agreement.
Mikhail Pogrebinsky, from Kiev, please.
Mr President, I would like to return to the
question our German colleague asked. I do not think you gave a
complete answer, but it seems important to get one.
The thing is that Kiev and Moscow have different interpretations
of the results of the Berlin meeting. Here is a brief summary of
Kiev's interpretation: Poroshenko's main achievement at these
talks is that he convinced the UN, and the other parties at the
talks have convinced you to accept a policing mission.
Moreover, Kiev understands policing as a group of armed people
who will ensure security before the elections and for some time
after them. According to official information from Moscow,
that's not exactly how it is.
Can you clarify this for us?
I can turn to Tarja and Heinz who know very well
how the OSCE works. But I will give my opinion.
President Poroshenko has advanced the initiative of a so-called
policing mission for the duration of the possible future
elections in Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk.
I was the only one
there who supported him. It is another matter that I do not
describe this as a policing mission because the other parties in
the process have objected to it.
They objected not because they
do not want to help Mr Poroshenko, but because the OSCE has
never done anything like this before. It does not have the
experience, the people or any practice in implementing policing
At this point, the other parties in the process have not
supported the idea Mr Poroshenko advanced, while I did. However,
we do not describe this initiative as "a policing mission" but
as an opportunity for those responsible for the elections and
security during the campaign to carry weapons.
objected to this initiative pointed out that it could provoke
others to use weapons against the armed people.
They believe that the power of OSCE observers is not in weapons
but in the fact that they represent a respectable international
organization, and the use of weapons against them when they are
not armed is absolutely unacceptable and will be seen as the
least acceptable behavior.
This is their power, not their guns.
On the other hand, if Mr Poroshenko believes that this would
help the cause, I agree with him. However, I was the only one to
do so. The situation is strange; it is the only issue on which I
agree with Mr Poroshenko.
I have spoken about this more than
once; there is nothing new here. Ultimately, all parties have
agreed that it can be done, but only after careful
consideration, including at the OSCE. I think this has never
happened before in OSCE history.
If I am wrong, Tarja can
correct me. What do you think, Tarja?
No, I cannot remember anything like this before.
We probably should ask someone who has the latest information. I
will look into it.
Representative from Beijing, please.
Just now, former President of Austria Mr
Fischer said that the relationship between the EU and Russia is
not as expected 25 years ago. It's unfortunate, and it's hard to
So I want to ask you, Mr President, from your
point of view, why is this so? And were the expectations or the
assumptions 25 years ago wrong, or did something go wrong along
And from a philosophical point of view, what do you
think is the lesson to be learned for the next 25 years?
What was done correctly and what was not?
Expectations were high after the Soviet Union switched to a
policy of openness, since ideological differences, which were
considered the main cause of division between the Soviet Union
and then Russia, and the Western world, have disappeared.
Frankly, we, in the Soviet Union, under Gorbachev, and then in
Russia, believed that a new life would begin for us. One of our
experts rightly said that there are things that, as we found
out, run even deeper than ideological differences, namely,
national and geopolitical interests.
Could we have done things differently? Yes, indeed.
previous meeting in this room, I said that there was a German
politician, Mr Rau, a well-known figure from the Social
Democratic Party of Germany, he is no longer with us, but he
used to engage in lively discussions with Soviet leaders.
then, he said (we have these conversations on record, but cannot
get around to publishing them, which we need to do), that a new
international security system should be built in Europe.
In addition to NATO, he said, it is imperative to create another
entity, which would include the Soviet Union and former Warsaw
Pact countries, but with the participation of the United States
in order to balance the system out.
He went on to say that if we
fail to do so, ultimately this entire system created during the
Cold War would work against the Soviet Union. He said that it
bothers him only because it would unbalance the entire system of
international relations, and security in Europe would be
jeopardized in a big way.
What we have now is what this old gentleman warned us about in
his own time.
The people who worked on transforming the world,
some of them did not want to change anything, as they believed
that they already were riding high, while others did not have
the political will to act on these absolutely correct ideas of
this wise and experienced German politician.
However, I hope that as the global alignment of forces in the
world changes, political, diplomatic and regulatory support for
these changes will follow.
The world will be a more balanced and multipolar place.
I can also add that 25 years ago was the early
‘90s. And in the early ‘90s, the European Union had 12 members:
Sweden, Finland and Austria joined only in ‘94 or ‘95.
It was a
sort of honeymoon time between Russia and Europe, in particular
Russia and Germany, and Russia and other important European
countries. It was the time before the economic crisis; growth
rates were bigger.
It was even the time before the introduction
of the Euro; the Euro is very important, but the Euro is also
accompanied with some problems, if you look at Greece or at
So these factors also have to be taken into
I will also add that 25 years ago, Russia was
different, and the European Union was different. Russia joined
the Council of Europe after quite a long process, and I was
myself also involved in that.
So I think that one lesson that we
could perhaps learn, also on the EU side, and from the Council
of Europe side, is that this was a very good time to make an
But perhaps we should, to be fair, invest more in
the enlargement process, not only before the enlargement, but
also afterwards, and perhaps then the process could be easier
But you know, sometimes things have to be hurried up, and
you have not quite enough time. But we cannot take back the
past, we have to try to build further on how it is now.
Gabor Stier, please.
My question to President Putin is about Ukraine.
In the past few years we have often talked about Ukraine and the
safety of Russian gas exports. Will Ukrainian flats be warm?
Will Kiev pay for the gas?
Are talks on gas exports to Ukraine
underway? Was this discussed with Ukrainian President in Berlin?
We are concerned about what is happening now
with this very important energy component in Ukraine because in
our opinion, in the opinion of our specialists - and they are no
worse than Ukrainian experts because in Soviet times this was a
single complex - we do realize what is going on there.
guarantee uninterrupted supplies to Europe, it is necessary to
pump the required amount of gas into underground gas storage
This gas is for transit, not for domestic
consumption. This is the technological gist of what was done in
The amount of gas in these facilities is too low. It's not
enough. It is necessary to load from 17 to 21 billion and I
think now only 14 billion have been loaded. Moreover, they have
already started to siphon it off.
These are grounds for concern.
I discussed gas shipments to Ukraine with the Ukrainian
President at his initiative. He wanted to know whether Russia
could resume deliveries. Of course, it can do so anytime.
Nothing is required for this.
We have a contract with an annex. Only one thing is necessary
and this is advance payment. We will provide timely and
guaranteed energy supplies for Ukrainian consumers for the
amount of this advance payment.
But today the price for Ukraine
- and we had agreed on this before and said so last year - will
not be higher than the price for its neighbors, for instance,
I do not know the current prices but when we had this
conversation Poland was buying gas from us for $185 or $184 per
thousand cubic meters in accordance with the contractual
commitments that are still valid. We could sell gas to Ukraine
I mentioned this price - $180 per thousand cubic
meters of gas.
But we were told that they prefer reverse
supplies, so be it. By the way, this is a violation of Gazprom's
contracts with its partners in Western Europe but we are turning
a blind eye to this and showing understanding.
If they prefer reverse supplies, okay, let them get that, but as
far as I know the cost of gas for end users - industrial
enterprises - has already topped $300 per thousand cubic meters.
We sell gas for $180 but they do not want to buy it from us yet.
I have reason to believe that the middlemen in these reverse
deals are close to certain executives in Ukraine's fuel and
energy complex. Good luck to them; let them do this but, most
importantly, they must guarantee transit to European countries.
Fyodor Lukyanov, the Valdai Club.
Mr President, as a follow-up to the issue that you raised in
your remarks and that was picked up later. We all read
newspapers, leading international magazines, and we see their
front covers, which can also be very nice, and maybe you also
see some of them.
Are you pleased to feel as the most dangerous
and the most powerful man in the world?
After all, this is a
very high compliment.
You know, I am pleased of course to be talking
to you today.
I like this - I will not deny it. However, I
consider it far more important that the Russian parliament
passes the Russian budget in order to ensure its impact on the
resolution of the most important issues facing the country.
Namely, ensuring sustained growth rates, which is crucial for
our economy, and resolving social problems.
We have lots of
them. Fortunately, we manage to control inflation, which as I
hope and as experts say, will be under six percent this year. I
hope that our budget deficit will not exceed the set targets:
about three percent.
As you know, capital flight has fallen significantly,
drastically. There are various reasons for that, but this
outflow has declined. We have a lot of unresolved problems in
the country. The resolution of these problems, above all in the
economic and social spheres, is crucial for internal political
stability and Russia's weight in the world.
This is what is on
my mind - not some mythical might.
We have been working for two and a half hours
now. As the moderator, I need to ask you a question. How much
time and patience do you still have? Your decision.
I have come here to talk with the audience. You
are in charge here…
I am the local president, so to speak.
I am willing to follow the rules that you set
Timothy Colton: I have somewhat of a list here, and I'm going to
try to renew it. I'll recognise another speaker, Yuri Slezkine
from Berkeley, California. And please keep your hands up for a
minute so I can try to repopulate…
Oh my goodness. Well, we may
be here all night.
Yuri Slezkine, a professor of Russian history at
What do you think about the issues that will be covered in
future Russian history textbooks in the chapter about the Putin
era? These textbooks are being written now, and some people are
already composing these chapters.
Some describe you as the
builder of the Russian state, a reformer and consolidator, and
compare you to Catherine, Peter the Great and other historical
Others see you as a conservative and guardian. Some divide your
leadership into two periods, the period of building and
strengthening the Russian state, and the period of reaction.
These people compare you to Stalin and Ivan the Terrible. How do
you see this chapter in a future history textbook?
And I would also like to ask one more question that is connected
with my first question. What and who will be the main subjects
in the chapter that will come after the one on the Putin era?
Two days ago, Vyasheslav Volodin repeated a statement he made
two years ago, that there is no Russia without Putin.
this highlights the importance of a key aspect for any political
system - the mechanism of succession of power, which seldom
worked predictably and without a hitch in Russian history.
should be done so that the next chapter is not titled The Time
I certainly do not resemble Catherine the Great,
at least for reasons of gender.
As for the main thing that future students of Russian history
would like to know, the main thing is how we managed to bring
Russian society and the Russian nation together, to unite
everyone towards achieving the national goal.
I would like to
remind everyone that Soviet historical science said that despite
the importance of the individual, it is the people, the citizens
who are the real creators of the country.
As for your question on who or what will be the main subject of
the next chapter, the people themselves will answer that when
they elect the next leader and work together with the new
Good afternoon, I represent the Washington office of
the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I have three
concrete, non-philosophical questions.
Are you a spy?
Then who are you?
There is nothing wrong with that.
Fine, later I
will tell you a story about a prominent and well-known US
political figure whom I greatly respect and love. We once had an
interesting conversation on this subject.
Please excuse me.
I have a question about the INF Treaty, which is under
a lot of pressure today as I am sure you are aware; there are
lots of bitter mutual recriminations, and so on. In this regard,
it is important to understand Russia's general approach to this
Does Russia see any value in this treaty, and if yes,
then what exactly? Is it even worthwhile to be part of this
It would be of great value to us, if other
countries followed Russia and the United States. Here's what we
have: the naive former Russian leadership went ahead and
eliminated intermediate-range land-based missiles.
eliminated their Pershing missiles, while we scrapped the SS-20
There was a tragic event associated with this when the
chief designer of these systems committed suicide believing that
it was a betrayal of national interests and unilateral
Why unilateral? Because under that treaty we eliminated our
ground complex, but the treaty did not include medium-range sea-
and air-based missiles. Air- and sea-based missiles were not
affected by it.
The Soviet Union simply did not have them, while
the United States kept them in service.
What we ultimately got was a clear imbalance: the United States
has kept its medium-range missiles. It does not matter whether
they are based at sea, in the air, or on land; however, the
Soviet Union was simply left without this type of weapons.
Almost all of our
neighbors make such weapons, including the
countries to the east of our borders, and Middle Eastern
countries as well, whereas none of the countries sharing borders
with the United States, neither Canada nor Mexico, manufacture
So, for us it is a special test, but nevertheless
we believe it is necessary to honour this treaty. All the more
so since, as you may be aware, we now also have medium-range
sea- and air-based missiles.
Mr Taisuke, Tokyo, has the floor.
Tokyo Foundation, Japan.
At last, in September, the
date of your visit to Japan was announced: December 15.
Intensive talks are under way on preparations for it. I am sure
that your visit will provide a major impetus to furthering
relations between Japan and Russia.
In this connection, I have the following question. Ahead of your
meeting with Prime Minister Abe in Vladivostok, you said in an
interview that the present atmosphere between Japan and Russia
is insufficient for a peace treaty to be signed.
Here is my
Is this still your view now? If so, how realistic is
it to expect that an atmosphere will be created that will make
it possible for Japan and Russia to sign a peace treaty in the
near future - I mean within the next two, three or four years?
You know, this is a case where, in my opinion,
it is impossible, wrong and even detrimental to set any
timeframe. For example, we negotiated with the People's Republic
of China on territorial border issues for 40 years.
reached a final agreement and signed a relevant treaty, among
other things and maybe primarily because we achieved an
unprecedented level of cooperation with China, which we describe
as something more than strategic partnership: privileged
This is precisely what it is - a very
high level of trust. And of course, unfortunately, our relations
with Japan have yet to achieve this quality. However, this is
not to say that we cannot do that. What is more, in my opinion,
both Japan and Russia are interested in the final settlement of
all issues, because this is in our mutual national interests.
This is what we want and what we are striving for.
When this will be done, how it will be done or whether it will
be done at all - I cannot say right now. This is a matter that
we should decide together, based on what was achieved
previously, and for the most part, of course, looking into the
I very much hope that our foreign ministries, our
experts will make a significant contribution to this and that we
will be able to rely on this.
Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov has said
that if Libya or Iraq asked for Russian assistance against
terrorism, you would consider their requests seriously.
Is a new
Russian military intervention in the Middle East really
possible? Do you think this will help settle problems in the
region or only aggravate them?
What do you mean by intervention? Is it illegal
or legitimate assistance?
Assistance against terrorism means carrying
out strikes… I do not know what you think about it, but if you
are willing consider this seriously, then an intervention is
possible. If intervention is not the correct word, a military
I see now. No, we are not planning anything of
Konstantin Zatulin, State Duma.
Mr President, I asked Clifford Kupchan a question during our
discussions on Syria here, a question he did not answer. I said
that we have come to the Middle East, including Syria, to help
deal with the issue of terrorism, which is a delicate matter for
However, now we can see double standards regarding the
operations in Aleppo and Mosul.
My question is, would we have won WWII if our allies said about
our actions on the Soviet-German front that we were not fighting
correctly, and we accused them of not fighting correctly in the
This is a question about double standards, and it
concerns not only Aleppo and Mosul. They are telling us that we
must always take the opinion of the opposition into account in
Syria, that the opposition is respected and invited to attend
talks in Lausanne and Geneva.
Regarding the talks on Ukraine, we are negotiating within the
Normandy format, which implies four parties, but officially, the
Donetsk and Lugansk republics are not represented at these
They are self-proclaimed republics, but they are parties
to the conflict. Why are they not recognised as such? This is
happening with regard to Transnistria, and this also happened in
Abkhazia, Ossetia and so forth.
Can and should we work to change
This is not a question but a statement of grim
fact, which is evidence of the violation of accepted principles
of conflict resolution, according to which the parties to the
conflict must directly participate in formulating solutions.
And second, this is a violation of the Minsk Agreements, which
provide for a direct dialogue. Representatives of the Donetsk
and Lugansk People's Republics signed the Minsk Agreements. They
did this at the request of our Ukrainian partners. They have
signed the document, and now nobody wants to talk to them. This
is illogical and counterproductive. This is all I wanted to say.
Let us give the floor to our foreign friends. I hope our Russian
colleagues won't mind, as our guests have come from far away.
So, we should let them speak.
Thank you, President Putin.
I have had the great
honor to be invited here six years in a row. And I have a very
simple question. We are all from different countries in the
You also know that quite a few of us have different
opinions on what you're doing, and we may have a different
opinion about the foreign policies of Russia under your
But still, every year you come here to have these
profound and substantial exchanges with us, and to spend an
extreme amount of time with us. We know that you have a hectic
schedule - you are one of the busiest people on Earth.
question is, why do you come here, why do you talk to us? I know
you are the only leader on Earth that has this kind of exchange
with intellectuals from all over the world. What do you have to
gain from this? From your point of view, how can this promote
Russia's national interests, and beyond?
Thank you very much.
I have two goals.
The first is to listen to what
clever people have to say. I am really interested in your views;
this is good for me and my colleagues. And the second goal is to
make our opinion heard through you. That is it. I believe it is
Thank you, Mr President. I don't really care why
you're here, but I'm very grateful that you are. I think we are
all very honored by having you here.
My question is about
relations with the United States. The criticism of the United
States in your speech was much less harsh than it was several
years ago. But I don't think anybody who knows the words you use
would be surprised that most of the criticism was aimed at the
So, when I listen to what you said about our
elections, and about some of our behaviour, I couldn't help
thinking what the headline would be in the United States, when
the transcript of this came out. And since you like to have
feedback, let me give you some, as an analyst, and I hope you
won't kill the messenger, as we say.
I think people in America will probably say, does the Russian
President really believe the description of the American
political process that he presented?
Is it being put forward in
order to deflect criticism in America of the Russian political
process? Or is it a throwback to something that maybe you
thought was our system, but really wasn't? That's my first
question. Because, honestly, your description of our elections
sounds exactly like our description of your elections.
My second is, this description of the violation of international
law, for example, in Belgrade, sounds exactly like our
description of what happened in Crimea. So I would like to ask
you a question. Is our dialogue, on both sides, helped by such
descriptions - here, on Russian television, and in the United
States, on our television?
And, we have an expression, that if
you're in a hole, the only way to get out of it is to stop
digging. And so my question to you is, are there steps - unilateral steps, steps with other countries
- that could be
taken that would break this cycle of descriptions of each other,
which are really not helpful?
Because I think without this, the
prospects for our relations probably are not very bright.
Yes, of course. I fully agree that we should at
least try to break this vicious circle. But we were not the
first to start drawing it. Quite to the contrary, we opened up
completely in the mid-1990s.
We expected to have an equal dialogue, that our interests would
be respected, that we would discuss issues and meet each other
halfway. It is impossible to offer only unilateral solutions and
press towards your goal at all costs.
You mentioned the bombing of former Yugoslavia and Crimea. Thank
you for this example; it is wonderful that you have said this.
The bombing of Belgrade is intervention carried out in violation
of international law. Did the UN Security Council pass a
resolution on military intervention in Yugoslavia? No. It was a
unilateral decision of the United States.
Now tell me what you meant when you mentioned Crimea. What was
it you did in Yugoslavia, when you split it into several
republics, including Kosovo, and then separated states from
Serbia? In Kosovo, parliament voted on secession after the end
of hostilities, intervention and thousands of casualties.
they made their decision, and you accepted it.
There were no hostilities in Crimea, no bombing raids and no
casualties. No one died there. The only thing we did was to
ensure the free expression of will by the people, by the way, in
strict compliance with the UN Charter. We did almost the same
you did in Kosovo, only more.
In Kosovo, parliament approved a secession resolution, while
people in Crimea expressed their opinion at a referendum. After
that, parliament ratified the decision, and Crimea as an
independent state asked to be reintegrated with Russia.
Of course, we can keep exchanging caustic remarks, but I think
this vicious circle must be broken. I have said this more than
once, and I am prepared to say it again. Yugoslavia, Iraq,
Libya, Afghanistan and NATO's expansion - what is this?
promises are forgotten, and we are again provoked into
protecting our interests, after which "aggressive" Russia is
accused of doing this or that. Why are you provoking us into
taking action to protect our interests? Let us negotiate
solutions instead. But it is impossible to agree on anything.
And even when we agree on something, these agreements are not
I would like to have different relations with the next US
administration, a partnership based on mutual respect for each
I am from the European Bank for Reconstruction
Mr President, if I may, I would like to make a
brief remark and then ask a question. Here is my remark. In
response to Fyodor Lukyanov's question you said that what
happens in Russia - the adoption of the budget and reforms - is
more important to you than foreign policy.
So my remark concerns
precisely this: What is happening in Russia.
Together with the World Bank, every five years, we conduct
surveys in all transition economies - countries of the former
Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and now also in Turkey and the
Middle East. The latest survey has just been completed, and it
included, among others, a question about people's perception of
There are some very interesting data on Russia. Thirty percent
of people in the lowest income brackets in Russia: their
attitude to things that affect their lives over the past five
years has not deteriorated - on the contrary, it has somewhat
This despite inflation, falling living standards and
everything that has happened over the past three years. On the
other hand, 30 percent of people with the highest incomes have
shown a decline of almost 30 percent.
This is the highest among
all transition economies. Interesting data.
You have not yet said whether you are going to run in 2018, but
if you are, how are you going to prove to this category of
people that you meet their interests?
And is it not your
impression that they need, first, what Alexei Kudrin has
described as a reduction in geopolitical tension; second, the
implementation of reforms; and third, fight against corruption.
We all need a reduction in geopolitical tensions
but not by burying ourselves alive.
If the cost of reducing
geopolitical tension is our funeral, then that is not an option
to anyone here, including those who doubt the effectiveness of
the present authorities or who would like to see serious change.
There are plenty of such people in the country.
As for what you said about the majority still being satisfied
with their situation, I believe this has to do with the fact
that unemployment is minimal: less than six percent. Whereas in
some EU countries it is over 25 percent or more, we have on
average less than six.
We have our own problems, especially in
the Caucasus: there is an employment problem there. This is my
Secondly, we are committed to meeting our social obligations and
people see this. On the one hand, they see that there are
problems and on the other hand, the state is doing all it can to
protect their interests. We follow a very balanced social policy
and at the same time ensure macroeconomic stability.
This is the
basis for such an active stratum, active class, especially the
entrepreneurial community, to hope that the situation will
We were talking, and you spoke about geopolitical tensions. But
are we interested in them? On cannot to make us do what they
want us to do exclusively - and I'd like to emphasize this - exclusively at the expense of our national interests. This is
the bottom line. There is no dialogue, this is the problem.
formulate a position, announce that it is correct and all
discussion boils down to how quickly we accept this position.
That's it. But is it possible to work like that? This is the
case almost on any issue.
And if they promise something and do
not do it, they pretend they did not notice and keep going.
You represent a very respectable financial institution and we
have a good record of relations. Why did you follow in the wake
of politicians and curtail your projects in Russia? This is a
question to you.
After all, the institute was established not to
escalate geopolitical tension but, on the contrary, to alleviate
it. But even such institutes are being used for other purposes.
This is sad but it was not our idea.
As for restrictions, nobody likes them and, naturally, they are
causing us concern and impeding our development. But I think, as
I have already said, that even if these problems linked with
Ukraine, its south-east, Crimea and Syria had not existed,
something else would have been found to deter Russia.
is that they dislike our independent position on a number of
issues, so it is necessary to pressure us, to compel us to obey
and mobilize resources.
Our American partners did not do
something on the Syrian issue (they even feel embarrassed for
not doing it, for not using the agreements), and they send the
Europeans to exert pressure on us on the other side. This is not
the way to go.
Take these restrictions. Some Western experts believe we have
sustained heavy losses in something. I think this is an
Yes, you agree with me, I understand. They think
we lost 0.5 percent of GDP. I believe this is not so.
European countries themselves have lost almost 60 billion
Dollars or Euros - I don't remember exactly - about over 58
billion worth of exports to Russia. This is lost profit from
Our losses are mostly linked with a drop in
oil prices and then gas prices, and these prices affect prices
of chemical products, fertilizer, petrochemical products and so
on. A real chain is emerging as a result and this is primarily
what is affecting us.
I must say the financial restrictions are also harmful because
they are making investors nervous. This is what the 30 percent
you mentioned do not like. I do not like it, either.
could like it? We will work to get rid of them but this should
be a two-way street.
Thank you. Arkady Ostrovsky, The Economist.
Mr President, over the past 15 years, Russia has made strides in
its economy, growing it from 1 trillion rubles to 3.5 trillion
roubles, and making Russia a country with an above average
Russia now has an economically strong middle class and
the first post-Soviet generation. Those who are now 25 were born
We saw some of them during the protests in Moscow in
2011–2012. Do you believe the political and economic model in
this country needs to change in order to keep successfully
growing the Russian economy? This is my first question.
My second question has to do with the fact that everything that
concerns nuclear weapons causes great concern in the West.
the Russian state channels say that America can be reduced to
nuclear ashes (which they did not say even in Soviet times), do
you think that the use of this very rhetoric concerning nuclear
weapons is even acceptable?
First, with regard to change: change is always
Without change stagnation sets in. The question is how
do we go about such change. By way of a revolution, it usually
causes nothing but harm. I think that some of the people you
just mentioned - even if some of them are no longer with us
- even if we assume that they aimed for the best, the way of
achieving these goals was wrong and harmful.
We need an
evolutionary process. And I strongly hope that we will move
along the path of evolution.
I will not go into details there simply is not enough time for
that, but we are thinking about it. We have our Centre for
Strategic Research working on it as well, and we enlist the
services of a variety of experts. We think about what we are
going to do before and after the presidential elections of 2018.
With regard to nuclear weapons, brandishing nuclear weapons is
the last thing to do.
This is harmful rhetoric, and I do not
welcome it. But we must proceed from reality and from the fact
that nuclear weapons are a deterrent and a factor of ensuring
peace and security worldwide.
It is impossible to consider them
as a factor in any potential aggression, because it is
impossible, and it would probably mean the end of our
However, it is abundantly clear that nuclear weapons are a
deterrent and many experts believe that the possession of
nuclear arms by leading countries was one of the reasons why the
world has not experienced a major armed conflict in the more
than 70 years since the end of World War II.
But it is important
to observe non-proliferation of both nuclear arms and their
Also, all nuclear powers must assume a highly
responsible attitude toward their nuclear status. This is
exactly what Russia intends to do despite any statements that
are likely to be made in the heat of the debate. Let me repeat
that at the government level Russia will approach its nuclear
status very responsibly.
Incidentally, you have given me an excuse to say this: when our
US partners unilaterally walked out of the ABM Treaty (what I
will now say is very important), we said that since we are not
ready to develop such systems - we do not know how they will
work and how effective they will be - we are compelled to
upgrade the complex of our assault systems.
Our American friends
"Do what you like, because the missile defence system
we are going to build is not directed against you and we will
assume that your work on your assault systems complex will not
be aimed against us."
I said "fine."
And we are working, but
whether we like it or not, in this way we both escalated the
arms race even in this area. Let me repeat, the main thing is to
be very responsible in this regard.
Russia will do this.
We've just crossed the three-hour mark, and I
think we will agree that, of our four panelists, Mr Mbeki came
the furthest, but Mr Putin certainly worked the hardest.
would like to thank all of them, and thank you for your many
questions. And I'm sure there are dozens more, if we only had
more time. But this was a very, very excellent panel, thank you.
I'd also like to thank all of you and all my
colleagues. I am grateful for your patience and participation.