President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Question: Mr President, have you managed to speak with Donald Trump? Is there any progress in your talks?
Vladimir Putin: I have not so far; we only greeted each other. The ceremony is taking place in such a way that we have no opportunity to communicate, we were just observing events. But we will have a working dinner now, we may have an opportunity then.
In any case, we agreed that we will not deviate from the schedule of the host side. At their request, we are not to organise any meetings here, but perhaps on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Anyway, we are ready for dialogue. We are not the ones withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This is what the Americans are planning to do. Both we and they are committed to restoring dialogue.
But it is more important to hold a dialogue not even at such high or a higher level, but at the level of experts. I hope that this comprehensive negotiating process will be resumed.
Question: Mr President, NATO is currently conducting the most large-scale exercises since the Cold War. Russia, in its turn, is conducting its own exercises as well. How necessary is this balance of power? What do you think about the idea of establishing a European military force alternative to the North Atlantic Alliance?
Vladimir Putin: As for an alternative all-European military force, this idea is not a new one. President Macron simply brought it back to life, but it was one of the former presidents, Jacques Chirac, who had talked to me about it before. These ideas preceded him as well.
Europe is, essentially, a powerful economic entity, a powerful economic union. And in general, it is rather natural for Europe to want to be independent, self-sufficient, sovereign in terms of its defence and security. I think that this process is, in general, positive, from the standpoint of strengthening the multipolarity of the world. In this sense, our position overlaps with the French one, too.
As for exercises, we too conduct them; to be fair, we are trying not to conduct any large-scale exercises close to the borders of NATO member states. The most recent large-scale exercises we had were held in the East, thousands of kilometres away from the borders of NATO member states. But in general, we are reacting to this calmly. I hope that dialogue, which is always in demand, will also have a positive impact on this situation.
Question: France continues to refuse accreditation to our television channel. Work is underway to develop a law that would allow banning us just for the fact that we are connected with Russia. How can you describe relations between Russia and France in this context, and what other issues have to be overcome?
Vladimir Putin: What is important here is not Russia-France relations in information exchange, but rather our overall approaches to information and its exchange and its free distribution – these are the things that are important.
We are aware of and have always heard our western colleagues say that the main principle of democracy is freedom of information. But creating various sorts of lists and councils that should decide on which media are good and which are bad – this, I believe, is totally unacceptable and has nothing to do with democracy.
Because, if we want to implement the principle of free information and its access to users, that is, to citizens of our countries, we should not make administrative efforts to ban anything or restrict anything using political and administrative structures. If you disagree with anything, you can counter it by offering your own point of view and give the viewers, listeners and internet users the opportunity to figure it out and make a decision on their own on whether this is true or it is distorted. I think this is the direction to take.
Question: Will you come to visit us the next time? I know that your schedule has not allowed you to do this. But you promised…
Vladimir Putin: You know, I wanted to and I will pay you a visit, but today there are 90 heads of state and government in Paris, making it rather difficult to move about the city. In order not to make additional problems for the receiving side, I will have to miss out on this one. But I will take pleasure in visiting you next time.
I would like to wish you success and thank you for your work and professionalism. Good-bye!