Question: I would like to ask you about Brexit. Well before the vote, it was alleged that Russia would be happy if Britain decided to leave the EU. After the vote, there were also comments to the effect that this plays into Russia’s hands and, in this context, that this can have a positive impact on the issue of lifting sanctions on Russia. How do you assess the results of the vote? Whose side were you on? How will Russia’s relations with the EU and Britain now be built? What implications will this decision have for our economy?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: We are in Tashkent, where the SCO summit has just ended. Therefore, I would like to begin by thanking President Islam Karimov and all our Uzbek friends for what they have accomplished during their presidency of the SCO.
As you have seen, we are about to admit two large countries, India and Pakistan. Pure formalities remain to be completed; there is good reason to believe that as of next year, they will be full members of this organisation. With their admission, the organisation naturally acquires a different ring to it and a different weight.
It accounts for almost half the world’s population – 45 percent, and for now less than 20 percent of global production, but even this is a high indicator, and it is sure to grow because all of these economies are developing rapidly. In this connection, there is every reason to say that the summit has been a success.
Now I’d like to say a few words about statements made before the voting in Britain and after it. Naturally, we closely followed the voting but never interfered or sought to influence it. Therefore, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statements on Russia’s position before the referendum had no grounds whatsoever.
I think it was an inappropriate attempt to influence public opinion at home. As we can see, it did not work. In my opinion, it is all the more inappropriate to speak about Russia’s supposed position after the voting. This is truly a low level of political discourse.
Now, to address the core issue. Of course, this will have consequences for both Britain and Europe as a whole. The referendum campaign and subsequent results point to the British Government’s self-assuredness and supercilious attitude to life-changing decisions in their own country and Europe in general. It will have global effects. Again, they are inevitable – both positive and negative. Needless to say, everything will settle back to normal in the mid-term. Time will tell whether there will be more pluses or minuses.
It seems to me that ordinary British citizens understand why this happened. First, nobody wants to feed and subsidise weaker economies and pay support other states and entire nations. This is an obvious fact. Apparently, people are displeased about security, which is being eroded by powerful migration waves. People want to be more independent.
One of the EU leaders – a former leader—told me that the ratio of binding decisions adopted by the European Parliament is higher than made by the USSR Supreme Soviet in relation to Soviet republics.
This means that the concentration of power at the top there is very high. Some like it and want to continue down this road of erasing national borders, whereas others do not like it. Judging by everything, by the results of the voting, the overwhelming majority of British subjects do not like it. It does not suit them.
However, I would like to reiterate what I said recently at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. This is the choice made by British subjects. We did not interfere, are not interfering and will not interfere in this in any way. From all indications, certain formal procedures will follow, related to the British people’s decision to leave the EU.
We will closely watch and analyse this, seeking to minimise whatever negative fallout this decision might have for our economy, because considering the blow it dealt to markets and currencies, it is bound to impact and is already impacting stock exchange indices and therefore the prices of our traditional goods, but I am sure that everything will fall into place in the very near future.
We do not expect a global upheaval as a result. Of course, as I said, we will be closely monitoring things, adjusting our economic policy and adjusting our relations with our European partners.
Regarding the sanctions policy, I do not think that this will in any way impact our relations with the EU in this regard. We were not the ones who initiated these sanctioned restrictions on both sides. We only responded to the restrictions that were imposed on our country.
I would like to reiterate that if our partners are ever ready for constructive dialogue on these issue, we are also ready. We are not only ready – we seek it and will respond positively to positive initiatives, but we cannot be expected to do certain things that are beyond the scope of our powers.
We all know that these restrictions are supposedly tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreements but the key aspects of the implementation of the Minsk agreements today are in the hands of our Kiev partners, in the hands of the Kiev authorities. Without them, we can do nothing. We cannot amend the Ukrainian Constitution; we cannot implement and enforce the law on special forms of governance in the well-known territories, the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics; we cannot sign an amnesty law for the Ukrainian president.
These are key issues in the settlement of the Donbass situation. And it is simply absurd to expect us to make these decisions. I cannot think of any other word for it. Nevertheless, we have worked patiently and are willing to continue working just as patiently both with our Ukrainian partners and with our EU partners. However, there is no other way to fully resolve the situation in Donbass other than by implementing the Minsk agreements.
As for what will happen in the economic and political sphere following Britain’s exit [from the EU], we will see this in the very near future. We will see.