President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
The election campaign is over, and I wanted to meet with you. I hope that today we will talk, first of all, about the campaign, and most importantly, about what needs to be done to ensure that all the positive elements (and there were a lot of them during the election campaign) are taken into account in the future practical work of the executive and legislative branches of government.
Of course, an election campaign is always a special period, it is associated with special emotions, and often they are quite overwhelming. It happens almost everywhere, and we are no exception here. The main thing is that we have the opportunity to join efforts in the future for constructive work for the benefit of the country.
I met today with the heads of the central headquarters, the co-chairs of my campaign, and I want to repeat once again, the main emphasis in the future work of the executive branch will be on solving the country’s domestic problems. First of all, this means ensuring economic growth rates, making innovation part of the character of our economy, resolving specific issues in healthcare, education and science as well as ensuring the prosperity of our people on the basis of these elements.
This is the final goal of any government in Russia; it is nothing original, and, moreover – by the way, almost all of you noted this in your campaigns – we have the problem of a gap between those who earn a lot, have large incomes and those who live humbly, to put it mildly. The state must close this gap and, as I have said many times, reduce the number of people living below the poverty line, especially those with jobs. The kind of situation where someone works but receives contemptible pay should not be allowed in Russia.
Of course, we must and will pay the necessary attention to further bolstering the country’s defence capability. But let me tell you outright that no one is going to start some arms race. On the contrary, we are going to pursue constructive relations with all countries of the world. We will aim for constructive dialogue, without question, and encourage this among our partners.
But, of course, not everything depends on us. There must be interest on both sides, like in love, or there will be no love. However, we, on our side, will do everything possible to resolve all disputes with our partners through political and diplomatic means. In addition to this, of course, our position has always been and will always be that we will fight to uphold our national interests. Our operating assumption is that we will do all this work with our partners on a mutually acceptable basis, showing respect for each other and for our national interests.
Regarding military expenditures. There are planned reductions in defence spending both this year and next year. This will not bring about any problems in our defence capability because the major expenditures on creating cutting-edge weapon systems were made in previous years. We have to bring some matters to their logical conclusion, and continue with current designs, which I have not yet spoken about. We have run all the calculations. The money we are going to put to these ends will suffice, there will be no increases, and we will not allow a new arms race. We have everything, in this sense we are securely provided for. Yet we will pursue our aims steadily and according to plan.
This is what I would like to focus on at the end of my monologue. I spoke about it at the rally yesterday, if you had time to watch and if you took notice. I think it is crucial for us to unite the efforts of all political parties, civic organisations, the public in the broadest sense of the word, to unite our efforts around a positive agenda, to solve the tasks the country is facing, and to overcome the challenges Russia is up against. There may be no simple solutions; they may require additional explanation.
I strongly hope that we will always be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, with group or party preferences coming second.
I understand that this is not easy, there is always a temptation to exploit certain decisions made by the government that require additional public explanation. But I urge you to engage in an open and honest dialogue that advances long-term national interests.
This is what I wanted to begin with. Let us discuss our ideas about what we need to do together to solve the problems facing the country.