President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening,
I think you have managed to listen to at least a part of today’s Address [to the Federal Assembly]. Therefore, this is a good opportunity to discuss or explain some things in more detail. It covered a lot of different material, so let us use this chance to talk. I also invite you to have some lunch, so bon appetit. I am listening.
Alexei Abakumov: Mr President, the first question, if I may. I am Alexei Abakumov, RBK, television.
The question is as follows: everyone noted that today’s Address, this year’s Address, was very different from last year's. If last year’s Address was accompanied by the noise and even roar of missiles and artillery, this one was mostly accompanied by the whisper of banknotes – the money allocated to the social sphere, for pensioners above all, for disabled persons, to address social problems, for children and so forth.
Two questions. One is a bit simpler. First, why was there such a difference? And the second one: isn’t it time to define where our country is going, what are we moving towards and what should we expect in the medium term? Thank you.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: First, I do not think that the previous address was accompanied by cannonades, as you said. We had to explain to the country where we had spent a lot of the resources and to calm people, because we had already announced that we were going to decrease defence spending. We are decreasing it now, and many people are worried that it may result in decreasing our defence capability. We have completed a range of projects, and it would be quite natural to speak of what we have done.
And last but not least, everything we did and continue to do is, to a degree, as I have already said, a response to the withdrawal of our American partners from the ABM Treaty. We needed to tell the nation that everyone can live calmly and feel secure, that we are responding to these events, and that we are doing this in the manner I have described.
As for today’s Address, it indeed focused on domestic matters and socioeconomic development. This is logical. The reason is that we are launching national projects and have earmarked huge funds for this, a total of 26.5 trillion rubles. We never allocated this much money in a targeted manner for nationwide goals before. Over the past nine or ten months, we were preparing to launch these mechanisms, defining goals and identifying sources of funding. I hope the initial results will be visible by the end of this year and that more will be achieved in 2020 and 2021.
However, we need to settle some obvious problems to be able to start these projects effectively. I have mentioned these problems today. It is vitally important to allocate 1 trillion rubles for fighting cancer, but our primary healthcare system needs additional funding and special attention from the state.
Take the demographic situation. It is very serious and, as I have said dozens of times before, there are objective reasons for this. We can say confidently that we have been doing our utmost to resolve the problem. But all our efforts were not enough because of the two demographic setbacks, one in 1942–1943 and the other in the early 1990s. We must deal with these setbacks by investing more funds. We can use a set of instruments, such as direct support, support to families to allow mothers to resume their careers as soon as possible, mortgages and the like. This set has taken a definite shape and can be applied now, which is why we are paying so much attention to this. Most importantly, these efforts must be made before we launch the national projects on a large scale. I believe that this is clear, logical and timely.
I would like to remind you that this address carried on from last year in terms of military and strategic aspects.
Alexei Abakumov: Mr President, about the path Russia is following.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, sorry, the path, the second part of your question. I would very much like people to hear about this development path today, the path towards accomplishing high-priority economic tasks, in the first place. You have probably noted, since you specialize in these matters, that, as I have already said, our economic success must become the key to resolving all these matters. This includes greater labour productivity, in the first place, as well as efforts to attract private investment, first and foremost. There is an entire range of matters linked with state-of-the-art technologies, and so on. These are the main tasks we intend to accomplish by implementing national projects. At the same time, we have never forgotten, and we will never forget the fact that, in order to feel confident, we must ensure our own security. We are doing this. I have said a few words about this today, but, to my mind, enough has been said.
Alexei Abakumov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your question.
Komsomolskaya Pravda Editor in Chief Vladimir Sungorkin: Mr President, you have compared the Avangard system with the first near-Earth satellite today. Does this not seem to be an overstatement because the first satellite is a far cry from the Avangard system? What happened? Why did you use such a powerful comparison?
Vladimir Putin: I see, thank you for your question.
As you can see, I have made a reservation. This system absolutely compares with the first near-Earth satellite in terms of maintaining our security. I will explain. The launch of the first space satellite implied, in terms of ensuring security, that the Soviet Union had received systems, or ballistic missiles, for delivering nuclear warheads to the territory of the potential enemy. In effect, that launch ushered in an entire missile programme. Of course, that programme had been developing before that event, but, in effect, it began with that launch. This implies ballistic missiles. But our American friends invented the anti-ballistic missile defence system to safeguard against these ballistic missiles. Therefore, we had to provide an adequate, asymmetrical but serious response. What kind of a response is this? The Avangard system is our response. A winged glider vehicle moves at Mach 20-plus inside dense atmospheric layers; it was difficult to imagine this in the past. In terms of of our defence capability, this amounts to the same landmark achievement as the launch of the first space satellite. This is because that launch implied ballistic missiles, and we are now talking about a new strategic weapons system that moves along a flat trajectory inside dense atmospheric layers.
Remark: This is another delivery vehicle.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, this amounts toanother delivery vehicle. But this is an absolute breakthrough in terms of modern technologies and materials. This winged glider vehicle’s nose section heats up to almost 3,000 degrees Celsius. Can you imagine this? What does 3,000 degrees feel like? The Sun’s surface heats up to 6,000 degrees, and here we are talking about 3,000 degrees. I have already mentioned the chocolate-coated ice cream effect, when the vehicle flies along and melts away as it goes. It is coated with a plasma layer, and its sides heat up to 1,900–2,000 degrees. At the same time, the vehicle is controlled accordingly.
You know, when I attended the latest tests and when I watched them, the operator said “Acknowledge message” which means that the vehicle had hit the bull’s eye, the target. The Russian science, engineering school and defence sector have scored an amazing success. Indeed, this is absolutely tremendous. Therefore, a comparison with the first near-Earth satellite is quite adequate and appropriate.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta Editor in Chief Konstantin Remchukov: Mr President, regarding the targeting of decision-making centres. I have two clarification questions. First, does this mean that Brussels and Washington can be such targets if we believe that the decisions are made there? It is my first question.
The second, does this mean that today you have declared the right to deliver a pre-emptive strike if we believe that the missiles deployed near us pose a real threat?
Vladimir Putin: We have a nuclear weapon strategy or concept that does not stipulate pre-emptive strikes. We are talking here about commensurate matters related to threats facing us, commensurate primarily in terms of time periods. If we have more time, we may not have to make pre-emptive strikes. It is in this connection and for this reason that I have asked our partners if they can count. Yes, they can, so let them calculate the speed and range of our future arms systems.
Here is another example. Professionals will understand this. I have not said this, but I can tell you now, not once again, but for the first time: they should look where these weapons will be deployed. I have said they will be sea-launched either from submarines or surface ships. We can do this, and given their speed and range we do not need to deploy them in territorial waters or even in the exclusive economic waters of a certain state. We can deploy them in neutral waters, in the world’s ocean. Nobody can prohibit warships and submarines from navigating in neutral waters. Plus, they will not be stationary, they will be on the go, making it more difficult to detect them. It cannot be very difficult to detect them, but it will not be very easy either. So, make your calculations. At a speed of Mach 9, these missiles can strike a target more than 1,000 km away. Under the Law of the Sea, the exclusive economic zone is defined at some 400 km or 200 miles. Do the maths. The distance of 1,000 at Mach 9. How soon, in how many minutes can these weapons reach their targets? This is it.
Just compare, the flight time to Moscow is between 10 and 12 minutes. How long would it take to reach the decision-making centres that are creating threats to us? The calculation is not in their favour, at least, not today. This is obvious. This is what I meant. Let them do their maths. It is not a threat. If they create threats to us, they should be aware of the potential consequences, so that they will not accuse us of unnecessary aggressiveness or whatever later. They have announced their decision; we know what can follow it. We tell them, “Do the maths. Can you count? So, do it before making any decisions that would create additional threats to you.” This is it. By the way, we have openly told them so behind closed doors long ago.
Remark: Did they get it?
Vladimir Putin: I do not know; ask them. They are grown-up people who can count, as I have already said. So, let them do the maths before making any decisions. I can say this again. We will see what happens.
Overall, we maintain good contacts between our militaries. There are things we can do together, and that professionals are doing together. We maintain regular contacts and hold meetings at the level of general staffs. They are working on Syria. Yes, there are problems. But they are creating more and more problems. There are joint mechanisms and instruments for dealing with these problems. I hope they will be used to prevent a new global crises such as the Cuban missile crisis. There are no reasons for this, no reasons for aggravating the international situation to this level.
Is there any harsh confrontation between two world systems, as it happened during the Cold War? Absolutely not. Yes, we do have mutual complaints and different approaches to problems, and the complaints are mutual. But this is no reason for aggravating this to the level of the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s. Anyway, I think we do not want this. If somebody else wants this, they can do it. I have said today what will follow. Let them make their calculations.
Sergei Agafonov, Editor in Chief of Ogonyok magazine: Mr President, following this logic, trying to project a move from the other side – it could be a clue to Ukraine, or to Georgia. That is, if it happens there, then it is not a 12-minute flight, but six? What would our response be then?
Vladimir Putin: Well, make your calculations, I told you, you know how to count: the speed is Mach 9 and so many kilometres. How many minutes will it take? There you go…
Sergei Agafonov: No, I am talking about Georgia and Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin: So am I. It is as simple as ABC. Count how many minutes. Neither Georgia nor Ukraine will give the West any great advantage. All this will depend on the threat level that they create for us.
Vladimir Todorov, Editor in Chief of Lenta.ru: Mr President, you have devoted a lot of time and attention to the development of the digital economy and, in particular, the availability of high-speed internet. There has been much talk lately of a bill on the sustainable operation of Runet, and in this regard, I am interested in your opinion: is there really a threat that Russia will be cut off from the global net, as they say? In fact, it would be the first such precedent in history.
Vladimir Putin: You know, I cannot say for our partners what they have in mind. I think that it will cause them enormous damage, politically, let alone economically. But not only that; there are also the interests of their special services. It is their invention. They can see, hear, and read all that you say, and accumulate defence information. And that would no longer be possible. I think they will think a hundred times before doing this. But theoretically, anything is possible. Therefore, we must certainly create such segments that do not depend on anyone. This much is absolutely obvious. And technologically, of course, this can be done.
Vladimir Todorov: But would this not affect the functioning of the Russian internet, in particular, in terms of speed, something you spoke about today?
Vladimir Putin: You know, that is possible, too. Therefore, we need to develop our systems, we need to invest more in them, not cut any corners, keeping in mind that this is one of the key fields of development in the world in general, and for our country as well – that is what I already said in my Address today. Therefore, we must bear this in mind, but we are not going to cut ourselves off – we are simply not going to do this. But if they do this, I repeat, the damage for them will be great, if not enormous. In all spheres –their special services, the economy, and politics. But it must be borne in mind that theoretically, this is possible, and one needs to be ready for this anyway. Well, in general, the more sovereignty we have, including in the digital field, the better. And this is a very important area.