In the interview with the newspaper, Mr Putin recalled that the previous generations of Finland’s and Russia’s politicians had built a good foundation for bilateral relations, and this should be valued.
Touching on prospects for the development of trade and economic cooperation, the President noted that an estimated 50% of Finnish enterprises were connected with the Russian economy in some fashion, and over the past year their turnover had increased by 49%. President Putin said Finnish businessmen were reliable partners.
The President said that relations with Europe were one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. All Russia’s actions were and would be directed in the future at removing all dividing lines in Europe. Mr Putin expressed his support for Finland’s Northern Dimension initiative.
The President said the aim of Russian foreign policy was to create a situation around Russia that would help solve its domestic economic and political problems. He stressed that Russia at least would not do anything that could complicate the international situation. This was both because Russia itself had changed a lot and because this would not benefit it.
Concerning relations with the United States, Mr Putin said that when the US sorted out some of its priorities and offered Russia alternative ways of solving strategic stability problems, the dialogue would turn to practical matters. The President also said Russia did not agree that the 1972 ABM Treaty was outdated, but was ready to renegotiate the document.
The head of state also replied to the newspaper’s questions about Russia’s relations with the Baltic countries, the situation of Russian speakers there, and some of Russia’s domestic political problems, including free mass media and the situation in Chechnya.
In the interview with Yleisradio, Mr Putin said Russia did not view NATO as a hostile organisation, but it also saw no sense in its enlargement. At the same time the President noted that Europe faced common threats: the spread of terrorism, fundamentalism, drugs and organised crime. But these problems are not soluble within the framework of NATO. In the Russian leader’s view, they can be solved only by the combined efforts of all European countries.
The President said he considered Finland’s cooperation with the Russian regions adjacent to it very important. He also gave high marks to the efforts of Finland and other Nordic countries to solve the problems of ethnic minorities, drawing attention to the fact that northern Europe and Russia had never had any ethnic conflicts.
In replying to a question about the Kursk lifting operation, the head of state noted that preparations for the raising were going well and called attention to the active role played in this operation by Russia’s European partners, including those from Holland. The President said that the primary concern during the raising would, of course, be nuclear and environmental safety.