Question: Mr President, this was the second time that the Americans hosted the APEC Leaders' Meeting. The first time was in Seattle in 1993. This time in Hawaii they have tried to organise things in such a way that the state will make a profit from the event. According to the figures, they have made $120 million, and the expenses come to around the same amount.
Russia will host the APEC Leaders' Meeting in 2012. What kind of profits and expenses will we be looking at, and what stage are the preparations at on Russky Island?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I was not at the 1993 Leaders' Meeting and did not see how it was organised. I liked what I saw here, and I must say that it was all arranged very sensibly. The investment that went into the event was reasonable, but at the same time, let’s not forget that the necessary infrastructure was already long since in place.
As for our plans, they pursue a dual purpose. On the one hand, the objective is to hold the Leaders' Meeting, and in this respect I think that the work is proceeding without problem and everything will be ready in time. I hope that the technically more complex facilities will be ready too. This is the task for 2012.
At the same time, the task is to transform Vladivostok and give it facilities that it either did not yet have, or that had fallen into disrepair over the last decades.
Looking at the costs then, a lot more money is being invested in developing Vladivostok in general than is being spent simply on organising the Leaders' Meeting. The costs of organising the Leaders' Meeting are more or less clear already and come to around 5 billion rubles [approximately $165 million]. This is a fixed total. But much bigger investment is going into rebuilding and developing Vladivostok. Our idea from the start was that we should make this investment in raising living standards in Vladivostok and improving the overall situation in Primorye Territory. Holding events such as the APEC Leaders' Meeting, G8 or G20 Summits, always gives the host country a chance to develop and give a boost to depressed regions. Many countries have made use of these opportunities. We decided to seize this chance too, and I think we were right in doing so because this Leaders' Meeting will leave Vladivostok with a new university, new roads, new communications systems and infrastructure that it did not have and that will now serve it for long decades to come, I hope. This is a very useful undertaking that is not just about hosting this one event but concerns the city’s future.
Question: Mr President, what priorities will Russia set for the 2012 APEC Leaders' Meeting? On a broader note, how do you see Russia’s role in Asia in general? Should we put the emphasis on innovation and high technology in the Far East, or on improving our raw materials exports in the region? It’s no secret that Russia often gets criticised for not having sufficient energy transport capacity in the region, with the result that China buys gas from Turkmenistan and coal from Australia, rather than from us.
Dmitry Medvedev: Our priorities are quite clear. I outlined them just before for the Leaders' Meeting participants. We will promote infrastructure projects, work on energy issues, food security, and intellectual property issues, in short, address everything that we think fitting and proper to examine, based on Russia’s geopolitical significance. These will be the guiding priorities for our work next year.
The choice of venue for the Leaders' Meeting was also a conscious choice intended to show that Russia has two poles – a European pole and an Asian pole. This in itself already says a lot.
Question: I want to ask about your talks with Barack Obama. Are you happy, personally, with the results of your four years of contacts with him? Do you agree with him that the ‘reset’ really has been a success? And what about the missile defence issue? Can we say that the talks on this subject have failed, given that no compromise seems to have been reached?
“Our priorities are quite clear. I outlined them just before for the Leaders' Meeting participants. We will promote infrastructure projects, work on energy issues, food security, and intellectual property issues, in short, address everything that we think fitting and proper to examine, based on Russia’s geopolitical significance.”
Dmitry Medvedev: I am happy with my talks with Barack Obama, the talks this year, and last year, and over the whole three years of our relations. We both mentioned this yesterday. We have some results we can be proud of, I think. They include the New START Treaty, our agreements on the WTO, and agreements on many other issues too. Overall, we have developed decent relations that have produced some useful results for us and for the whole world. .
As for missile defence, this is indeed a much more complicated issue, and we spoke on the subject yesterday as well. Unfortunately, we have not reached any agreements in this area yet, and we are not very clear about our partners’ proposals here. I think we will soon finalise a clear line of reaction our country will take with respect to the various issues related to European missile defence. I already set out my views on this issue, yesterday too, but I think I will soon take the time to give a more detailed outline of what response Russia will take to developments on European missile defence, both now and after 2015.
Question: Mr President, on Russia’s accession to the WTO, when can Russian citizens really hope to feel the benefits of this accession, and will they feel the benefits? We realise that this will not happen overnight, but when can we expect results?
Dmitry Medvedev: There are various possibilities if we look at things in terms of the purely utilitarian aspect of joining the WTO. For ordinary people, it simply means that Russia is becoming more closely integrated into the club of modern and effective economies, and this will make our companies more competitive and better equipped to resolve a broad range of tasks. It is not serious, however, to expect that each individual citizen is going to get some kind of concrete dividend from our accession, because the WTO is an economic club and not a means of satisfying particular needs and demands.
What joining the WTO will do is to make our economy more modern and developed, so that it measures up to all of the principles underpinning the growth of any sound economy in our world today.
Question: I have a question concerning both domestic and foreign policy. One of the things in the headlines last week in Russia was the situation with the sentence passed on the two pilots (one Russian citizen and one Estonian citizen) in Tajikistan. Many consider this sentence unjust, harsh, not based on the actual facts of the case, but motivated by other considerations. You were also quite firm in your condemnation of this situation. This was followed by declarations and actions on both sides. In particular, Russia’s Federal Migration Service also carried out some actions that some people link to this situation. What is the situation now, can we expect any positive development of events, and how will all of this affect our relations with Tajikistan?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is difficult for me to comment on foreign countries’ actions. I said already that I have my doubts about the sentence. At the same time, I understand that we are talking about our neighbour here, a sovereign state, and our ally. I therefore hope that they will act in accordance with their own legal system and constitutional and court norms to give the case its proper legal appraisal. I said too, that such events inevitably affect relations between countries if we stop listening to each other. It is my big hope that our Tajikistani friends will hear us and will take their final decision based not just on abstract considerations, but take into account too the general level of relations between our two countries. I stress once again that how to dispense justice in its territory is Tajikistan’s own internal affair, but we cannot ignore these events because this case concerns a Russian citizen and the situation looks rather disturbing indeed.
Question: Mr President, continuing on from this matter, this whole affair with Tajikistan has brought the issue of illegal migrants in Russia into the public gaze. This issue is the source of some tension in society. Will there be efforts to address this problem in some kind of systemic fashion, or will we just see another campaign to deport a few hundred migrants and stop at that, as has been the case often enough in the past?
Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t see any ‘campaign’ here. It is the migration service’s job to keep track of the general migration situation in the country, and if they deport people it is because they have reason to believe these people are in Russia without the proper authorisation. Deportation in this sense is an ongoing process, and not some sporadic measure. If the migration officials find people here without the necessary permission, they either have to deport them or have them bring their legal status into line with the rules governing the presence of foreign citizens on Russian territory.
This is work that must continue on a constant basis, not just from time to time, and I think it is just coincidence that these particular deportations are taking place at this particular time. I instructed our migration service to monitor the situation with foreign citizens in Russia, because the illegal migration issue is a problem of concern to many people and, sadly, often fuels tensions and triggers the interethnic disputes that sometimes arise. These are things we cannot ignore. But of course deportations of foreign citizens from Russia must be carried out in full accordance with our laws.
Question: Mr President, regarding the election campaign, as you know, many parties – both in the parliament and not represented in parliament – are concluding agreements on fair elections so as to guarantee against fraud in the upcoming election. As the leader of United Russia’s party list, will you demand from United Russia that it play fair and keep to the rules in the election? After all, it is United Russia that comes in for the most criticism from other parties in this respect.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think you can pretty much guess what my answer will be. Every party has to abide by the election laws, and that includes United Russia. There can be no exceptions made for any party, not for the party that has the majority in parliament and is the country’s biggest political force, and not for any other party either. I see nothing bad in parties agreeing amongst themselves to hold fair and honest elections, but such agreements should cover all parties, get all involved, so as to avoid any kind of selective approach. They should not be agreements directed against any one particular party, no matter which one. But as for the need to guarantee fair and honest elections and respect the election laws, this applies to every political party, United Russia included.