This year’s forum is the sixth Russian Energy Week. The event’s central theme is The New Reality of Global Energy: Building the Future. Al Ghad pan-Arabic channel host Amro Abdelhamid moderated the panel discussion.
Russian Energy Week attendees (over 4,000 from more than 60 countries) include representatives of governments, CEOs of major energy companies and organisations, scientists and experts.
Russian Energy Week’s main programme runs October 11–13 in Moscow.
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Amro Abdelhamid: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to Russian Energy Week.
I also want to welcome the speakers of this plenary session, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani.
My name is Amro Abdelhamid. I am a TV journalist with Al Ghad pan-Arab television network broadcasting from Cairo. I am also the General Manager of the Centre for Arab Eurasian Studies.
Before I invite President Vladimir Putin to deliver his speech, I would like to note that this is the first time a leader of an Arab country has participated in this forum. Russian Energy Week has become a large international platform for discussing topical issues related to the fuel and energy industry.
During last year’s forum, President Putin only offered his remarks while today he is a full speaker at the main event. This is very good luck for me because many years ago I had the honour of interviewing him, and now I can ask him questions once again and not just about energy.
Mr President, the floor is yours.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq,
Ladies and gentlemen, friends.
I would like to greet the participants and guests of Russian Energy Week.
For the sixth time, here in Moscow, this forum has brought together the heads of the leading energy companies and research institutes, politicians, experts from Russia and abroad so they can assess the trends of and prospects for global energy, exchange opinions on the challenges the global fuel and energy sector faces and discuss how to ensure the long-term stability of the planet’s energy markets.
This is especially important today when the global economy is transitioning to the multipolar model with several growth centres, and the place, role and importance of each country is defined by how it responds to these deep, irreversible processes and how efficiently it can defend its economic, industrial, technological and energy sovereignty, readjust investment, trade and cooperation ties.
The Russian economy is also undergoing this stage of structural transformation. The geography of foreign trade, as well as employment and the situation in the sector are changing. New market prospects for small and medium-sized businesses are emerging.
The Russian fuel and energy sector is also seeing core changes. They relate to all areas of the industry, including the production and processing of energy commodities, service and logistics, as well as interaction with our foreign partners.
Today, I would like to delve into four key elements of this transformation, which consider external factors but are, in my opinion, of a fundamental nature and are part of our country’s sovereign, long-term strategy.
First, our basic priority is to ensure supplies to the national market, to ensure sufficient supply of fuel and energy resources within the country. I would like to emphasise that this not only concerns the current needs of our businesses and citizens. We will be working consistently on the quality development of our market and on expanding its capacity. We have huge potential for this.
A positive example in this sense is our gas industry. I would like to remind you that we launched a nationwide gas supply social programme in 2021. Its goal is to connect every house in the villages and cities that have gas mainlines to the gas grid.
In the first few years of the programme, we have created the technical infrastructure for connecting over a million households to the gas grid and have already connected 375,000.
Last year, we agreed the programme would continue indefinitely. Moreover, we have expanded it to include outpatient clinics, hospitals and schools where the heating system can be converted to gas.
During Russian Energy Week held a year ago, I proposed giving targeted assistance to people who wanted their private houses to be connected to the gas grid. The government will subsidise spending to purchase equipment and lay pipes on their land plots for up to 100,000 roubles per household.
About 52,000 citizens entitled to benefits have taken advantage of this opportunity, including large families and low-income people, who could connect their houses to the gas grid quickly and relatively cheaply, which made their lives easier and more comfortable.
I propose expanding the list of citizens with access to subsidies for purchasing and installing gas equipment by adding to the list participants in the special military operation and their families, people with the most severe disabilities, and families with disabled children.
I would like to add that we have launched a number of strategic projects to develop the country’s gas pipeline system. They are aimed at increasing the availability of natural gas for companies, industrial facilities, cities and towns.
There is a plan to connect the gas pipeline systems in western and eastern Russia. During the first phase of this project, we will connect the Power of Siberia and Sakhalin – Khabarovsk – Vladivostok gas pipelines, and then we will connect them to the country’s unified gas supply system. Along with building the Power of Siberia-2 pipeline, this will make it possible to supply gas to many regions in Siberia and in the Russian Far East.
We regularly discuss the progress on these plans with the Government and with companies, including at meetings on developing Far Eastern cities. The so-called master plans have been drawn up for the development of cities in Yakutia, Buryatia, the Khabarovsk, Primorye and Trans-Baikal territories, the Amur Region and the Jewish Autonomous Region, as well as for Krasnoyarsk.
A project has been launched to install an LNG-based public gas supply system in the Kamchatka Territory. The Murmansk Region and Karelia will be connected to an offshoot of the Volkhov – Murmansk – Belokamenka gas pipeline. The pipeline will be laid for an LNG project on the Kola Peninsula. But part of its capacity, namely up to 10 billion cubic metres per year, will be used to supply gas to industrial and social facilities, and residential buildings in Karelia and the Murmansk Region, and to develop environmentally friendly power generation.
I would like to note that last year, Russia had record-high energy consumption, and there is reason to believe that it will be broken this year. One does not have to be an expert to know that, if energy consumption grows, it means the economy is growing. In fact, this conclusion has been confirmed by other data as well.
I would like to stress that this is a qualitative, integrated indicator that reflects positive trends in the Russian economy and social sphere. The number of consumers is growing; new production facilities and infrastructure facilities are opening, providing new jobs, and this propels demand for electricity.
In this regard, we will consistently improve the reliability of energy supply to the regions. Power grids and power lines must operate smoothly and sustainably and allow a reserve for the further development of territories. At the same time, we will pay special attention to improving the energy efficiency of industry, utilities and transport.
Let me remind you that we have drawn up plans to upgrade the power grids in the regions where it is most badly needed. I will not list them now, but there are about ten such regions.
I would like to remind the Government that all regional programmes to this effect must be funded in full. Federal budget funds have been earmarked to support such programmes.
Additionally, stability and affordable prices for electricity, raw materials and fuel are a critical condition for ensuring confident, long-term development of the energy market.
As you may be aware, we have run into a surge in gasoline and diesel fuel prices in recent months. To address this issue, the Government has taken a series of measures to bring the situation back to normal.
I once again draw the attention of our leading energy companies to the importance of prioritising fuel supplies to our domestic consumers. I urge the Government to act proactively and implement preventive measures before the situation escalates.
Maximising added value and advancing the deep processing of oil and gas is the second strategic and systemic objective of the Russian fuel and energy sector.
We have made substantial progress in this area. Ambitious oil and gas-to-chemicals projects, including projects with state participation and state support, are in the planning and implementation stages.
A petrochemical plant has been launched in Tobolsk. The Amur Gas Processing Plant is expanding its capacity. The LNG production and gas processing complex in Ust-Luga and the Amur Gas Chemical Complex are both under construction.
It is crucial to continue to support such projects and further bolster the potential of economic sectors such as large-tonnage polymers, medium- and low-tonnage chemistry, and oil refining where considerable modernisation efforts are underway.
Let me stress: Russian fuel and energy complex projects are increasingly based on domestic technology, equipment, machinery and software.
This leads us to the third dimension of the structural transformation in the fuel and energy complex. It is about achieving complete sovereignty within the industry, including technological, personnel and financial sovereignty. We will need to drastically increase the volume and share of Russian-made equipment, especially critical equipment, to raise the level of training of qualified personnel to a new level and, of course, to form our own mechanisms for financing investment projects.
Notably, we are continuously working to create and introduce domestic machinery and equipment for the oil and gas sector and power transmission.
Since 2014, we have been successfully producing over 140 types of equipment, including drilling and hydrocarbon production equipment, heat-transfer equipment, catalysts and agents, high-voltage cables and switches, and much more.
Let me remind you that we, along with our colleagues from the Government and the oil and gas companies, agreed to form major integrated orders for Russian-made machinery and equipment. We need to consolidate the efforts and resources of the state, private business and development institutes in every innovative area that is needed by the fuel and energy sector, first of all.
For instance, VEB, along with Skoltech and service companies, are working on investment in projects related to the manufacturing of oil and gas production equipment, including equipment for the development of difficult-to-recover deposits.
I know that this is a complex, difficult task. It is necessary to understand the interests and needs of the sector, both current and long-term. Nevertheless, I ask the Government to expedite this work and create a long-term order package for the developers and manufacturers of equipment for the fuel and energy sector.
I also would like to ask you to expedite the transition from foreign to Russian-made standardisation and certification systems for the oil and gas, and the petrochemical sectors. This will help give an additional boost to import substitution in the energy sector.
I want to mention software as well. Our fuel and energy companies are already working on introducing Russian software and solutions.
I want to point out that when deploying Russian software, it is very important to ensure operational continuity at production facilities, consider all the risks and, of course, to adopt the most successful and advanced practices.
We already have examples to follow. I am talking about the nuclear sector, which has been increasing its role in Russia’s energy balance. It accounts for some 20 percent of all electric energy in the country, and a new production record was set by our nuclear power plants last year.
The Russian engineering school is not just strong in terms of construction and maintenance of nuclear power facilities, but it has very little competition at the global level. Rosatom is building 22 power units abroad simultaneously, I want to reiterate, simultaneously. This is almost 80 percent of the global market. And this includes the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Turkiye, which is the first foreign project that our experts will help to implement and maintain during the entire life cycle from design to decommissioning.
Last week, fuel was loaded into the Rooppur power plant in Bangladesh. The fourth power unit at the El Dabaa NPP in Egypt is being built ahead of schedule. This is our flagship project on the African continent, but it is not limited to the construction of the facility. In fact, we are cooperating with Egyptian specialists and our friends from Egypt to develop the nuclear energy industry in that country from scratch, which includes training personnel, providing maintenance support and so on. In other words, we are helping Egypt embark on the path to sovereign energy development.
This integrated and systemic approach is one of Rosatom's main competitive advantages, not to mention its traditionally high safety and reliability standards.
To reiterate, Russia is fully independent in terms of technology, both at the construction stage and during the maintenance of nuclear power plants. At the same time, we are not against the participation of companies from third countries in the construction of nuclear power plants that we have designed.
Importantly, Russia is expanding to new areas of nuclear generation such as low-capacity onshore and floating nuclear power plants. The first floating facility, the Akademik Lomonosov, began operating in Chukotka in 2020. Four more such power units will be deployed there in the near future. Russia’s first low-capacity land-based nuclear power plant is under construction in Yakutia.
The hydroelectric power industry is another example of the successful development of domestic competencies. The accumulated experience, own technological solutions, as well as the unique potential of Russia’s water resources open up great opportunities for the construction of hydroelectric power plants, which will supply inexpensive and fully green energy to cities and towns, industrial and agricultural facilities, and homes.
By developing hydropower, we will be able to make progress in addressing the issue of seasonal floods. Runoff regulation and accumulation of flood water in HPP reservoirs will not only reduce losses from natural disasters, but it also creates high volume reserves of clean water, one of the most sought-after resources in the world.
I would like to add that Russia’s RusHydro has been involved in designing and building more than 350 facilities in 54 countries. Today, the company supplies its technological solutions to 17 countries, including countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Latin America, boosting technology transfer and providing engineering support for the entire service life of its plants, which is 50–70 years. That is, the company enters into long-term contracts, which help to establish strong ties not only between companies, but also between countries.
I urge the relevant ministries and agencies to provide extensive support to our companies engaged in building energy projects abroad, exporting engineering and related services in this sector, and venturing into new markets.
This leads us to the fourth dimension of transforming our fuel and energy sector, which is directly tied to new export prospects and destinations.
As you may be aware, the European countries have effectively turned down our energy. Not yet entirely, but they have been trying to. For many years, these resources have played a significant role in ensuring the economic and social prosperity of the European Union. Perhaps, not entirely, but our energy accounted for much of their well-being. Recent restrictive measures have been imposed on banking services, freight, insurance, and price caps have been established on our oil and gas.
I will leave the impact of these decisions on the European countries themselves off the table for now, although I may come back to it later. They are now paying more for oil, refined products and natural gas. As a result, the EU's economy is hovering near the zero-growth mark, and industrial production has been in the negative since March.
According to our experts, there is only 0.5 percent growth in the Eurozone, which can primarily be attributed to Italy and Spain. It remains to be seen why these economies are seeing some growth; it may be related to real estate sales and the post- pandemic recovery of the tourism sector. Overall, the industrial sector is experiencing a decline which impacts the entire economy. Industrial output dynamics in the EU for July showed a decline of 2.4 percent; energy output dropped by 4.7 percent and for the first half of this year there was a 5 percent drop.
These developments have impacted household incomes. Real disposable incomes in the Eurozone for the first quarter of this year (quarter to quarter, from 2023 to 2022) fell by 1.2 percent. I would like to remind you that, in the Russian Federation, there was a 4.4 percent increase during the same period, and in the second quarter, there was a 5.3 percent increase. These are the actual disposable income growth rates in Russia.
Clearly, the baselines are different, but the trend is what matters. It reflects the quality of economic policies. Sometimes I look at them and wonder what they are doing there. Well, it’s their choice.
Notably, the Russian fuel and energy complex is operating steadily. Production and financial indicators are strong. Thanks to corporate and public efforts, the tanker fleet has expanded, and new payment, insurance and reinsurance mechanisms for our cargo have been put in place.
As a result, within a short period of time, we have successfully redirected our oil supplies to rapidly growing and promising markets in other regions of the world, namely, the south and the east.
According to experts, the combined contribution to the global economy by the five largest Asian economies – China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam – has surpassed the aggregate share of the United States and all EU countries together. This gap is expected to widen in the coming decades, there is no doubt about it. In the case of China and the United States, projections indicate that by 2028 China's share in the global economy will increase to 19.7 percent, while that of the United States will decrease to 14.5 percent based on purchasing power parity, of course.
To expand our exports to the Asia-Pacific region, Africa, and Latin America, the Government has a plan for developing the Russian oil export infrastructure. I strongly encourage our colleagues to approach the execution of this plan with the utmost sense of responsibility.
The logistics are of critical importance for our coal industry as well. Alongside the expansion of the Eastern Operating Domain, that is, the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway, a range of new transport projects is being developed. These projects will enable us to flexibly manage coal shipments through the ports of the Russian Far East and the ports in northwestern and southern Russia.
Furthermore, I would like to say that some actions by our colleagues, particularly the Western elite, have, of course, wreaked havoc on the global energy market, including the oil market. The negative consequences of such politicised moves affect the entire global economy.
Now, we have to redress the balance, and it falls upon responsible market participants to do so. To ensure stability in the oil market, major suppliers must act in concert on open and transparent terms. This is how Russia is working with its partners within OPEC Plus.
We primarily rely on the objective market-driven dynamics of oil supply and demand and the industry's investment programmes. This is why the OPEC Plus countries fully act on their commitments and are effectively addressing all challenges.
I am confident that our OPEC Plus partners will continue to coordinate their actions. This is crucial for oil market predictability and, ultimately, for the well-being of all of humanity, since economic growth and therefore, people's prosperity is dependent on the global energy sector.
Furthermore, Russian gas and coal companies are also rerouting supplies from the Atlantic market to the Asian market. This is a natural process, rather than some opportunistic decisions. This process is also determined by long-term market trends, rather than geopolitical intrigues. I have just noted economic growth trends in various regions, and this is what we are guided by. Of course, we are forced to respond to geopolitical challenges, but we are guided by these objective trends, first and foremost.
I would like to note once again that, according to experts, natural gas demand will soar in all regions, except North America and Europe, until 2050. The share of Europe in global demand will more than halve to five percent. Incidentally, the share of Asia will increase by 50 percent, from 21 percent to 30 percent.
Russia continues to export more gas to the People’s Republic of China. In 2025, the Power of Siberia gas pipeline will reach its design capacity of 38 billion cubic metres of gas annually. However, it already transports substantial gas volumes exceeding contract obligations.
Last year, we signed a contract for the Far Eastern route to China. It will supply ten billion cubic metres of gas annually. We are discussing other promising projects, including gas transportation via Mongolian territory.
I would like to add that, last week, our colleagues joined us in launching Russian gas deliveries to Uzbekistan via the Central Asia–Centre gas pipeline that passes through Kazakhstan.
This joint project of Eurasian magnitude will allow clients in Uzbekistan to obtain inexpensive and environmentally friendly fuel via a reliable route. Kazakhstan will be able to pump gas to its northern and eastern regions, and Russia will expand its presence on dynamic Central Asian markets.
I believe that this is a good example of energy and infrastructure cooperation that benefits all participants. Consequently, our colleagues from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have agreed to work with us to examine further energy supply projects for these countries.
Liquefied natural gas plays an important role in the global energy market. LNG supplies are not tied to specific consumers, and the market is able to respond more flexibly to changes.
Next year, LNG terminals will operate in 55 countries. According to estimates, by the end of the decade, the demand for LNG in the world could grow by about 50 percent, up to 600 million tonnes per year.
On the other hand, competition in this segment will certainly increase. Projects have already been announced that will double total LNG production capacity in the coming years.
Russia also has ambitious plans for LNG. In the next decade, LNG production should triple to 100 million tonnes per year. The investment in LNG will be over six trillion rubles.
It is very important for the Russian projects to realise their competitive advantages on the market, including efficient logistics, and this includes the potential of the Northern Sea Route, as we all know, and those new ports and transport hubs that are being developed in the Arctic.
Today, we are dealing with restrictions on the supply of technology and equipment, as well as LNG ships. However, I would like to repeat that, in order to mitigate these risks, we need not only to cooperate with friendly countries, but also to expedite the development of our own solutions and the opening of new production facilities. And this is what we are doing.
For example, the new Offshore Superfacility Construction Centre has launched in Murmansk. The first floating platform for gas liquefaction – the first line of the Arctic LNG-2 project – is already in the production area; it is in the start-up and shakedown phase now. The Murmansk plant has secured a solid portfolio of orders, which means that the company and its staff will be reliably provided with work.
Despite the challenges and difficulties facing the Russian fuel and energy sector, our companies are growing. They are confidently ensuring national energy security, laying the foundations for our long-term plans for the development of the economy, industry, agriculture, territory, transport and infrastructure, and for improving the quality of life for the people of the Russian Federation.
As before, Russia will make a significant contribution to balancing the global energy market, developing partnerships and cooperation ties with those countries that want it and are interested in this.
I am confident that this effort will benefit all participants and guarantee the prosperity of our nations for many, many years to come, but this certainly cannot be achieved without your active and energetic participation.
Thank you for your attention.
Amro Abdelhamid: Thank you very much, Mr President.
After hearing your detailed remarks, I thought that the impact of Western sanctions on Russia is not as bad as it may seem. This situation has allowed your country to adapt to these negative effects, overcome them, and most importantly, find alternative energy markets. Most importantly, I believe, these effects have made it possible for the countries that are interested in cooperating with Russia to reach out independently and free from external dictate.
Thank you very much.
Before inviting Mr Sudani to speak, I would like to note that the people in charge of this forum asked me to moderate the session in Arabic in honour of our Iraqi guest. Since I belong to both Arab and Russian cultures, I will be happy to do so.
Mr Prime Minister, the floor is yours.
Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful!
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin,
Ladies and gentlemen, participants of the Russian Energy Week forum,
Here is what I would like to say before I begin my remarks. I listened to what the President had to say, and I would like to emphasise that he is a wise leader and responds very accurately to the emerging challenges which are leading to new opportunities for development. I wish you luck, progress and success in your work.
Today, on behalf of Iraq, I will share with you during this forum, the 6th Russian Energy Week, that cooperation in energy and countering energy challenges in the oil and gas sector – these steps ensure progress and prosperity, and promote our reliance on rapidly advancing technology, while technology, in turn, promotes the development of the energy sector.
We would like the world and all our partners on the global market know that Iraq, whose name is affixed to the map of oil exports and production, is a source of energy and oil. Our Government is doing its part in terms of the energy transition, improving energy efficiency and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
By 2024, we aim to contribute to improving the place of oil and gas which are the backbone of our economy as primary sources of energy and to use energy in an environmentally safe manner. We have launched low-carbon projects. We underscore the fact that oil-producing countries can play an important role in this area by improving energy efficiency, since climate constraints and consequences are not directly related to fossil fuels themselves. Oil creates opportunities for rivalry and competition.
Iraq has achieved major breakthroughs in the renewable energy sector. We are developing solar power, and its capacity now stands at 3 GW covering one-third of our energy needs. We aim to use renewable energy sources to achieve this goal by 2030.
We strive to improve fossil fuel production technology, but more importantly, our financing and investing in the oil and oil-and-gas sector will ensure Iraq maintains a position on the global market that is in line with its capabilities.
Our government’s vision is to meet the national economy’s needs. Since the time we discovered oil, we have not invested in the gas sector. This has led to increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and we were losing the opportunity to make progress in this sector and had to import gas. This has had a negative impact on our economy and the needs of our people. This is why it is important to invest in the gas sector. We plan to issue licenses for the development of gas fields.
We believe Iraq is capable of achieving these goals, since we have all the necessary resources that provide the foundation for cooperation and mutual success in the interest of peace and the convergence of our positions. We have chosen convergence to address challenges and are interested in diversifying energy sources in order to expand economic cooperation, strengthen security and mitigate challenges, including in energy, which affect national security.
Without a doubt, infrastructure projects are of great importance in trade and transport which fact will attract donors willing to invest in that region’s projects.
Our region abounds in natural resources. We have gone through a certain period of insecurity and had some political challenges. Nevertheless, we are striving for economic integration to enhance prosperity and cooperation. Building on that vision, we have adopted an unparalleled project, the Development Path project, and begun implementing it. The project has a number of economic objectives which will have a positive impact in the mid and long term.
We confirm our readiness for serious work with the countries of the region and the world to implement the project within the framework of our philosophy on attracting investors and capitals in order to turn our region into a platform for converging interests and creating new jobs that would contribute to stability and security. Iraq has made huge strides in advancing cooperation.
As for energy markets, we need joint coordination since competition has a negative impact. The coordination mechanisms adopted by OPEC Plus must continue operating for the sake of maintaining equilibrium, balance between supply and demand, so as to help mitigate the political challenges caused by the situation in energy markets.
This mechanism contributes to market stabilisation, price stabilisation on markets, and the work of this mechanism aims at stabilising not only prices but also the global market to meet the interests of consumers, investors and producers to an equal degree.
Our government named among its economic reform priorities transitioning to renewable energy sources rather than relying on oil alone. We are undertaking comprehensive development projects in energy, oil and gas. We have endorsed plans that cover the exploration of 11 deposits.
We call on specialised international companies to invest in these projects, whereas for our part as the government we are ready to create all the conditions the private sector, both Iraqi and international, might need.
We are interested in increasing investment in cutting-edge technologies, infrastructure development and oil processing infrastructure, and we thank the leadership of the Russian Federation for the invitation to take part in this forum.
We view it as a major opportunity for opening new doors of possibilities, for developing cooperation in the search for renewable energy sources and for promoting prosperity in the region and the world.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Thank you very much, Prime Minister of Iraq Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani.
Probably, few people around the world know, even in Russia, that the first contact between Slavic and Arab civilisations occurred in the 10th or 11th century, when Caliph Abbas from Baghdad sent Ahmad ibn Fadlan, his envoy, to Volga Bulgaria. During this trip ibn Fadlan got acquainted with Slavic culture and recorded it all in his work “Ibn Fadlan's Journey along the Volga.” This is the first evidence of contact between the civilisations.
I should note that this traveller described the lifestyle and lives of the peoples who lived in these lands at that time – Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians – and called them all by one name “Russians.” Ibn Fadlan, as I said, came from Baghdad – it is a beautiful city from which our dear guest Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani arrived.
Gentlemen, as you can see, the world is going through fundamental changes, geopolitical, economic and military conflicts. One of the most important reasons for all this is energy. It is no longer possible to understand the cause of various conflicts without considering the role of energy.
Russia is working responsibly in this area, and as Russian President Vladimir Putin said: Russian Energy Week is exactly the forum where we are exploring the future of this sphere.
Thank you very much for your words, Mr President and Mr Prime Minister.
Now we will talk about what is happening in the Middle East, a region that for many decades has forgotten the concept of ”calm“. We see that another round of violence is now unfolding in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, which has led to many casualties. I would like to hear your positions – Russia’s position and Iraq's position.
If I may, Mr President, I would like to start by asking you a question. A few days ago, the US National Security Advisor spoke proudly of the fact that the Middle East is going through a phase of calm and pacification thanks to US policy. But now in the Middle East we are seeing an escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone.
My question to you, Mr President is: who bears responsibility for the ongoing fighting that has lasted 75 years, and the world's only, in fact, ongoing occupation there that we see now?
Vladimir Putin: Yesterday, my colleague and I discussed this issue; it is simply impossible not to. Iraq is a country in the Middle East, and the Palestinian problem touches the heart of every person in this region, and I think, every Muslim’s heart. This is where life has led; these are obvious things. And people view all this – not only what is taking place now but what has occurred for decades – as a manifestation of the injustice that has ramped up dramatically. Why? Because initially, when a decision was adopted on creating the state of Israel, a parallel decision was made on creating a second state.
So initially, it was about establishing two independent sovereign states: Israel and Palestine. As we know, Israel was established, while Palestine as an independent sovereign state was never created; it did not happen for a variety of reasons. I will not go into details now.
Furthermore, part of the land that Palestinians have always considered as originally belonging to them has been occupied by Israel at different times and in different ways, but for the most part, obviously, through military force.
But what is the current problem? Resolution mechanisms exist, but the United States has neglected them over the past few years, choosing to regulate everything on its own. It did not use these mechanisms, instead relying on its efforts to meet the material needs of those living in the Palestinian territories. The United States basically tried to replace solutions to fundamental political issues with handouts of one kind or another. Obviously, this is very important for people with a low standard of living, important to address socioeconomic issues. But we have always argued that this will never be enough: you cannot solve the problem in its entirety without addressing fundamental political issues, the main one being the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. However, this is exactly the bet that was made.
Also, the settlement policy and certain other aspects have ultimately led to this explosion of violence. What is happening now is horrible. We understand that the bitterness is immense on both sides, but regardless of its levels, every effort should be made to minimise or reduce to zero the losses among civilians – among women, children and the elderly. If men have chosen to fight, let them fight among themselves, but leave children and women alone. This applies to both sides.
We do not know whether the situation will calm down anytime soon, but every effort must be made to this end because expansion of the conflict zone could have drastic effects, including for the energy sector.
I will not delve into details now; I will give the floor to a person who has a better understanding of these issues as head of government of one of the states in the region.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Thank you very much.
We have a question for the Prime Minister of Iraq.
What does your country think about the current developments in the Palestinian territories? Yesterday, Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, called for immediate action to stop the aggression there. What is Iraq’s stand on this matter? You mentioned what the international community should do. What should Arab countries do?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Thank you, Mr President.
Our stand on the Palestinian issue is more than just a political position. It is, above all, a reflection of our humanitarian considerations. It is a legally justified position. The world disregarded that problem, and now everybody looks surprised at what has happened and wonders why Hamas has launched this intifada, this act of resistance after years and decades of persecution, oppression and infringements of all the internationally approved resolutions.
Over 70 decisions and resolutions have been adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council on the Palestinian issue. But none of them have been effectively implemented, including by the Israeli authorities. So, what did you expect from a nation which has a doctrine and an idea but whose rights are not implemented?
The Palestinians are a free people and part of the Muslim ummah, which comprises over 2 billion people. So, when we look at the results and consequences of that stand, we see that Israelis insist on using the methods they are using now when they are delivering sporadic strikes at Gaza and there is large-scale destruction. Moreover, Israelis are using everything at their disposal and have openly accepted responsibility for these developments. They say that they have decided to cut off the water and electricity supply [to Gaza] not only to humiliate the people who live there. They are using words to describe these people I would not like to repeat, for they are an offence to all humankind.
Today, the international community must say openly if there are any agreements and international principles for regulating the situation there and in the world as a whole, or whether there is nothing of the kind and any country is free to act at its own discretion. This is not right. We live in a world where all the forces of good must unite.
Therefore, Mr President, I am appealing to you as president of a country that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council to put forward an initiative on a ceasefire, an effective ceasefire, and on looking for a realistic solution to the Palestinian issue, because the consequences of these challenges for the region as a whole are difficult to envision. We are talking about the Arab and Islamic streets, where [people] are seething with rage at the developments in Palestine, at the murders and attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to add that Russia’s position, which you have mentioned and I have just outlined, took shape over decades. It has not emerged today or in connection with these tragic events, and both Israel and our friends in Palestine are well aware of this position. We have always advocated the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions, bearing in mind primarily the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. This is the root of all problems. And, naturally, the [Israeli] settlement activities are what has accompanied and exacerbated this problem in recent years.
Incidentally, this does not mean that Israel’s position is that everything should be done as it is being done now. The US position, as I said, is to address only issues of a material nature, whereas Russia’s position is different: Russia supports the creation of an independent [Palestinian] state. In fact, the problem is much more complicated. There are many politicians and experts in the United States, who believe that it is necessary to listen to [the opposite party] and advance towards creating an independent [Palestinian] state. Israel also has this category of people. But prevailing over them for decades are those attempting to solve this problem by force, and this, regrettably, leads to tragic incidents, such as those we are witnessing today.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Allow me to return to Mr Prime Minister of Iraq once again.
Might this escalation proliferate and go beyond the Palestinian territories and Israel? Don’t you fear that an Iranian-Israeli confrontation may begin?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): The continued bombardment of Gaza, as we see it today, and the signs of a land operation being prepared – all of this is leading to madness in the region. As I have mentioned, the Islamic Arab “street” is in hot blood, they see all these crimes. Ignoring or dismissing the opinion of ordinary people is fraught with a grave threat to the world at large.
Amro Abdelhamid(retranslated): Mr President Vladimir Putin, what is now happening in the Middle East is very sad from the humanitarian and moral point of view.
What impact are these developments having on the energy markets, specifically oil markets? How might this affect the energy markets?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, this could have an impact on logistics, and everything else connected with this, like insurance and freight. Of course, this will not affect production, but it could affect all the other components that influence the situation on the global energy markets. This is obvious. In my opinion, if the conflict continues to grow – perish the thought – such an influence will become unavoidable.
I do not understand why the United States is sending aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean. It has sent one group and has announced the intention of sending another one. I do not see any sense in it. What are they planning to bomb there? Lebanon? What are they planning to do there? Or are they doing this for intimidation? But there are people there who are no longer afraid of anything. The problem should not be addressed in this way. Instead, we should look for compromise solutions. This is what we should do.
These actions are certainly whipping up tension. If the conflict spreads beyond the Palestinian territories, as you have said, it will affect the situation. Iran has been accused of all mortal sins, as usual, without any substantiation. There is no proof of this.
Time will tell. I hope common sense will prevail.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Mr Prime Minister [of Iraq], you have said that the Arab street is seething with anger at what is happening now. Could this hatred lead to acts of violence, like attacks at the facilities of the United States or other Western countries that support Israel? Do you think something like this is possible in Iraq?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): When I said that discontent is growing on the Arab street, I meant that there will be increasing pressure on Arab governments to take a clear stand. The spread of the crisis and conflict throughout the region is definitely a destabilising factor. The Iraqi government is trying to promote de-escalation. It does not matter whether we work with friendly or unfriendly countries. It is important for us to respond to arising challenges.
As for the question you addressed to Mr President, I would like to say that there is a risk that energy supplies will be stopped. The region that supplies resources to energy markets is very sensitive and very important. The tasks of OPEC and OPEC Plus include responding to political challenges to maintain market stability.
There must be no playing with security and stability in the Middle East, because otherwise, it would be very difficult to resume control of the situation and deal with its influence on the energy market.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister. From the conflict in the Middle East and escalation there to the Ukraine crisis and latest developments in view of their impact on energy issues.
My question is for President Vladimir Putin: how has the special military operation, which was launched at your instruction in February 2022, affected Russia’s energy strategy?
Vladimir Putin: I talked about this indirectly in my remarks but I can repeat or specify certain things. Some of our former partners, in the United States and Europe, mainly in Europe, started to turn down our energy sources and introduce restrictions with respect to price, volumes, insurance and freight charges. They have imposed many different restrictions.
I told you about the outcome.
Firstly, yes, our energy industry could have shown better results over the past 18 months but the outcome is still good. This is the first point.
Secondly, we fulfil all our obligations, inside the country and to our partners who wish to work with us. Those who have imposed these restrictions are facing difficulties they cannot overcome so far. So, they no longer buy our natural gas. As a result, the prices have skyrocketed, to say nothing about the prices that were obviously speculative, 2,000 euros per 1,000 cubic metres. Right now, the price is around 350–400 euros. Well, it is not important, this is the approximate rate that goes back and forth. It is, however, high for the European market.
The Nord Stream pipelines were blown up – but nobody investigates the incident. I am surprised about the position of many European countries. It was obviously an act of international terrorism and, from all appearances, committed at a state level. Because no random group of people who somehow decided to blow up gas pipelines would have been able to commit such an act without state support. It would have been impossible. You need technology and people trained to do this sort of thing. So, nobody investigates the incident. Our repeated offers to take part in the investigation have been ignored.
As a result, as I have noted in my address and said at the Valdai forum recently, all the leading industrialised countries in Europe, that is, their industries and GDP are in the red. Germany’s real GDP is minus 0.1 percent, as far as I know, and the Netherlands and all the other leading industrialised countries in Europe are in the red as well. Living standards have declined by 1.2 percent, and the people’s real disposable incomes have decreased too.
We have reported growth of 4.4 percent and 5.3 percent in the second quarter. No information regarding this is available yet in Euro zone. It might be slightly better than the 1.2 percent slump, but that is an indicator of the situation in the economy, anyway.
They have stopped buying our gas. Why? Look, we have two pipeline systems running across Ukraine. One of them is operating; we are using it to transport gas to Europe. But Ukraine has shut down the other pipeline. It receives money from Europe, between $4 and $5 billion every month, some of it from the United States, but the bulk comes from Europe. Europe could order Kiev to resume gas transportation because Europe needs gas for its industries. But they have not done this. Why can gas be transported to Europe via one pipeline but not via the other? I do not understand this.
Or take Poland, which has shut down the Yamal-Europe pipeline, a major high-capacity route. They did it on their own account. Germany could have reminded Poland that it is the largest donor of European funds. Poland is, or has been until recently, the largest recipient of money from these funds. Germany could have told it: Do not bite the hand that feeds you; reopen the route, let the gas flow. But they have not done this.
I do not really understand what is going on there. It is clear that the current political system sometimes gives prominence to incompetent people. But at least there should be public and parliamentary control mechanisms to monitor their decisions, at least in the economy. There should be, but they are ineffective as well.
And what is it that we are doing? These markets are shrinking anyway. I have given examples and shown (this is not our data, it comes from international organisations) how the trend towards market growth will vary, for example, in Asia and Latin America, and how markets will shrink in Europe. We are leaving for promising markets anyway. We did that even before all these crises. But this trend is not so much a disappointment as a surprise to us. After all, we are not reducing anything, we are not reducing the supply – it is they who are rejecting it. But the effect is the opposite to what was expected. We in Russia have a saying: “He who digs a pit for others falls in himself.” And so they did fall into that pit.
As for oil, we and our OPEC Plus colleagues… This has no direct relation and is only indirectly linked to the attempts to restrict our energy capabilities, including with regard to oil. You know, the problem is not whether they like us or not. The thing is that there is objective data. Mr Prime Minister is himself a specialist in this area, because he heads the government of an oil-producing country. There is a certain volume of production in the world and there is a certain volume of consumption in the world. If a region decides to cut what they purchase from us, while the overall volume of consumption remains the same, this means they have to buy elsewhere. It cannot be avoided. One has to be absolutely dumb not to understand this. But since the volume of consumption is the same, they cannot do without our volumes. They have refused to deal with us and so they have to buy elsewhere, which they do, while we fill in for the volume intended for other markets. It is a normal process of life, as you understand, and the world economy cannot develop in any other way. As for them, they just have to pay a higher price.
I am not even mentioning the gas: the US LNG is 30 percent more expensive than the LNG Mr Miller supplies to Europe. Thirty percent! What has this led to? Chemical, glass-making and some other plants are in the process of moving to the United States. They are going to operate over there and shut up shop here. What is this? Is it normal? Don’t they understand what this will lead to? There was no such need. They got what they fought for.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr President, you spoke on this subject. You said that the West is shooting itself in the foot. Perhaps we will come back to this issue again.
But let me ask Mr Prime Minister Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani. Iraq, like other members of the international system, is being affected by the Ukraine crisis. Has this impact had any effect on your cooperation with Russia in the energy sector?
We all heard your speech and you talked about Russian companies working in Iraq, a number of companies, that investments by Russian companies in this sector have reached $13 billion. Does this cooperation continue and is it in line with your ambitions in Iraq?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: First, Iraq has a clear position regarding this crisis and Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. This position comes from the political vision, the political system that we have in Iraq, the Constitution that the people voted for and the principles that it provides and guarantees.
Iraq is one of those countries that have suffered a great deal from wars and from blockades. We are well aware of the price that has to be paid for those wars and those problems. We are seeking dialogue and pushing everyone toward dialogue, because dialogue is the way to end the crisis, to reach an understanding that would ensure and guarantee mutual respect.
We have great faith in the Russian leadership, in Vladimir Putin personally, that they will try to find ways, even in the current circumstances, to seek peace. Since this crisis is associated with great economic and humanitarian problems, Iraq continues to fulfill its obligations and agreements with Russian companies, especially in oil.
Yes, there are certain difficulties that are related to bank transfers, we are trying to find a solution to these problems on a bilateral basis. But Iraq is sticking to its commitments with regard to the development licences already issued and is discussing with Russian companies new opportunities for cooperation, including in oil. We are looking for new ways to cooperate and bypass sanctions.
Amro Abdelhamid: You mean that these sanctions do not affect Russian companies that operate in Iraq?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: Russian companies continue their work. As I said, there are certain difficulties related to bank transfers. We are trying to solve them within the limits of our understanding and our authority.
Vladimir Putin: Overall, Russian companies have invested over $10 billion in Iraq’s economy. They have been successfully operating there for a long time; Lukoil since the 1990s.
Indeed, the Prime Minister pointed out some current challenges related to settlements and other technical matters. However, all of them are solvable. All that can be resolved, and the key thing our companies do in the countries of the region, including Iraq, is conclude mutually beneficial contracts.
That is why the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Government certainly support these joint efforts as they are focused on national interests. Unlike those who, despite possessing a kind of outward respectability, do not have full sovereignty.
By the way, you mentioned again our special military operation. I spoke at the Valdai International Discussion Club recently, but this is a different audience, the people here are business people, they are engaged in concrete actions, not verbiage. So what do I want to say? I am just going to repeat for this audience. The war started in Ukraine in 2014, when after the coup d’état supported by the United States and Europe (they supported the coup), the new Kiev regime started fighting in the south-east of Ukraine. For eight years they fought, killed women, children, old people, and nobody paid attention to it. Everyone started paying attention only when we took actions to stop this war. That is what this is about. And this is a very significant addition to what I have been saying.
Amro Abdelhamid: Your comment prompts the next question.
There are a number of forecasts, there are some observers who believe that the developments unfolding in Ukraine represent a conflict that had been on hold for at least 30 years, a conflict between Russia and the West. Do you agree?
Vladimir Putin: Yes and no, in a way.
Why? Because after all, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had been taking a number of active steps over a long period of time, over decades, aimed at improving the situation in the historical perspective, at creating a security system in Europe that would not disadvantage anyone, that would be equal for all – an equal security system.
I repeatedly said that, and there were all sorts of ideas in Western Europe as well to create something new, a new security system that would embrace the United States, Canada, the Central European states, and Russia. But unfortunately, they did not take this path, they took a different path: they promised that they would not expand NATO but they did – there were five NATO expansions to the East.
They grabbed hold of Ukraine, started dragging Ukraine into NATO, and in addition, they orchestrated a coup d’état there. It became clear to us that no civilised way of ensuring our security was possible. Plus, as I have already said, they stirred a war there that started in 2014 and is ongoing. And then they abandoned the plan for a peaceful settlement based on the documents signed in Minsk. Moreover, they even frankly said, publicly, that they had no intention of implementing the agreements and were simply pulling our leg.
These are the kind of people we have to deal with. And we have to respond to them the way we do, because there are no other means left.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Regarding what Vladimir Putin said about the confrontation between Russia and the West and how it evolved, it has a long history, as we know and everybody knows.
Mr Prime Minister of Iraq, some people say that what we are going through now and what the world is going through now is a new phase of the Cold War. The ensuing challenges and threats, probably, are having an impact on the decision-making strategy in Arab countries.
My special question to you is about Iraq: is Iraq trying to work along various axes?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Yes, of course, the process of developing policy for each country has its specifics.
As for Iraq, we are trying to pursue a balanced policy without joining any axis, to use your word. We are seeking to help resolve conflicts. Most importantly, we need to make sure that Iraq is not turned into an arena for crises and conflicts the way it has been for many years.
We are trying to implement this principle in our policy and believe that Iraq, thanks to its resources, influence, cultural and historical heritage and its strategic geographical position can become a venue for meeting and ironing out all disagreements, as well as for pursuing mutual interests and mutual respect. This is the principle behind our policy, which we are implementing.
Today, we can say with utter confidence that the national decisions we are taking in Iraq help move toward peace in the region and peace in the world.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): This is your first visit to Russia as Prime Minister and it takes place at the time when the collective West is trying to exert pressure on governments and national leaders to discourage them from cooperating with Russia.
Are you not worried that your visit might sour relations with, say, the United States or other Western countries?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Of course not.
Iraq has the ability to take independent and sovereign decisions, and build relations in the way that we believe fits with our interests. We will not allow anyone to impose on Iraq its view of who its friends are and who its partners are.
The Russian Federation is a country we are bound to by historic relations. Soon we will mark 80 years of diplomatic relations. Iraq cannot forget the role Russia played in supporting Iraq during its war against terrorism, as well as weapons supplies. This played a decisive role in our fight against ISIS militants.
So, this visit at this time is a message that reaffirms the Iraqi Government’s commitment to the policy it is pursuing in the context of the country’s relations with Russia. This concerns the development of relations in all areas, including security, politics and the economy.
Vladimir Putin: This answer deserves applause.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Let us go from politics back to the economy. Let’s talk about gas.
Mr President, I listened to what you said about Germany at the Valdai Forum. You said that Russia was ready to resume gas delivery to Germany via the one Nord Stream pipeline that was not damaged in the act of sabotage.
Have you received any signals regarding this from Germany?
Vladimir Putin: No.
I would like to point out that we are supplying gas to Germany via Ukraine. It is transported to the Baumgarten hub in Austria from where it is sent to customers throughout Europe. I believe some of it reaches Germany as well.
But Nord Stream 2 goes directly to Germany. One of the pipes has not been damaged and has the capacity of 27.5 billion cubic metres a year. We only need to press the button, but we need a decision from the German Government to do this. But they prefer to pay 30 percent more for other gas rather than use our energy resources. It is their choice. They pay 30 percent more for gas they receive from the United States, which is happy about this. As I said, some enterprises are moving to the United States.
You know, I would like to be civil, but I have to say that this economic behaviour is unwise, as if they are deliberately harming the German economy. I do not understand why they are doing this. Why can we deliver gas to Germany via Ukraine but not via Nord Stream 2? Why do they not tell Poland to reopen the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline? This is what I do not understand.
I would understand if they decided to shut down all routes and not to buy anything at all. Well and good, we would survive. But why can one route be used while the other cannot? I do not understand it, and I think nobody does. I believe that people in Germany do not understand very many decisions adopted in the German economy either. The volumes are huge. Why push it so far? As I said, why can one supply route be used while the other cannot? This is nonsense. Once again, when I talk with my colleagues in Germany, where I maintain contacts to this day, they shrug their shoulders. The reasoning of the [German] Government is a mystery.
The only thing I can say is that when our gas enters the territory of Ukraine – this is how the network was designed back in the Soviet era – it is spread through the pipelines in Ukraine. It is only on paper that all of it is delivered to Western consumers via Ukraine. They fill out the paperwork in this way, and then a certain amount of gas is dispatched from the western border of Ukraine, from Ukraine’s storage facilities and its own production sites. Yet it is essentially our gas. Ukraine is very likely using part of our gas too because it would have been unable to operate without the volumes of gas we supply. This also concerns reverse gas flows and other methods. Why are some countries allowed to do this, when Germany is not? There is no reasonable explanation. So, you should ask them. They have the economics minister, who is an “expert” on children’s literature, and there are also “experts” in the area of international relations. There are people you should talk with there.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): You ask questions. Perhaps you have an explanation for this sort of behaviour? Especially since the pipeline via Ukraine continues to operate while the other pipelines are turned off.
Vladimir Putin: Honestly, I am not making this up. It is just irrational behaviour, as if they were put in their positions on purpose, to harm the German economy. Why are they doing this? One thing is allowed and another is not.
(Addressing Alexei Miller.) Mr Miller, can you explain this?
Mr Miller cannot explain it either. His job has been to supply gas. Now Gazprom supplies less and earns less. But it is okay: Gazprom feels secure and can manage. We are expanding the domestic gas network, supplying more to other markets and building new pipelines. Why do the European economies, including the German economy, have to act this way? There is no reasonable explanation. If you ask them, I believe they will not be able to say anything reasonable. They will probably start saying something on the relevant topic but will not be able to formulate anything in particular.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): You have presented the picture and quoted the data, saying that some European countries buy LNG from the United States at exorbitant rates instead of buying cheap Russian gas.
What are your expectations in view of what is happening in the world, in Ukraine and the Middle East right now? Do you expect the situation to continue, and will European countries continue to buy LNG at high prices from the United States?
Vladimir Putin: I think they will continue to buy it. They are not signing any contracts with us, which means they will have to buy under the contracts they have. Speaking of which, supplies from the Middle East have increased but the biggest supplier is the United States. I do not remember exactly, I think the supplies have increased by about 40 percent.
(Addressing Alexander Novak.) Mr Novak, do you remember?
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak: They have doubled.
Vladimir Putin: See, the US supplies have doubled. Their gas is 30 percent more expensive than ours. The outcome is easy to calculate: cost-effectiveness and competitiveness immediately drop. It becomes simply unprofitable to produce fertiliser. The budgets of fertiliser producers do not add up. With these high gas prices, it is impossible to calculate the budgets of fertiliser producers. Their budgets go into the red and the companies have to shut down. Glass manufacturers, which also require a lot of energy, shut down. Metal processing facilities are in a poor state. Chemical facilities are obviously facing problems.
Why do they create problems for themselves in the hope that we will collapse? But we are past the time of collapse, as is already clear to them and everyone. But no, they have jumped into a rut and forge ahead along that rut without analysing both the current developments and what is going to happen in the short term.
To be sure, we may also have problems in the economy as a whole and in the gas sector, but we see the prospects and we know what to do. We will promote the LNG industry, too. Mr Mikhelson works very well and achieves concrete results. Gazprom also produces liquefied gas. We will continue to do that. The [LNG] market is very flexible compared to the pipeline. But pipeline gas is cheaper. You have to produce LNG and deliver it, whereas with a gas pipeline you just push the button and off it goes.
Our partners, who use this, are getting huge competitive advantages. Here they renounce these of their own free will in the hope of harming us. This reminds me of a joke: I’ll buy a ticket and not travel to spite the bus conductor. To spite themselves? What’s the big idea?
Most importantly, it is unclear why they can receive [gas] by one route – after all, they do receive it via the route [passing] through Ukraine – and cannot by this one? They get it through the TurkStream, which goes to Europe. Yes, I concede, it heads for Southern Europe, to some countries there, but eventually all of this reaches the European economy as a whole.
Why is it possible over there and impossible via Nord Stream 2, which some rascals have not blown up leaving the job unfinished? One pipeline is in working condition. Why isn’t it possible to just push the button and turn it on? I don’t understand it. No matter.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): We have failed to find a political or an economic explanation for what is happening. But possibly there is a psychological and moral explanation. Do you agree with me, Mr President?
Vladimir Putin: No, I don’t agree with you. If morality were somehow involved, they should have said: we will not take gas via the TurkStream pipeline, nor the gas supplied through Ukraine. In such a case, we could assume that it was final: they have cut the cord and won’t take anything from Russia; they will munch grass but will not let Russia earn a single euro. But they do take [gas] arriving via other routes. Why don’t they take it here? It’s just madness and rubbish. I suppose, they once dropped a brick and soon realised that they were wrong, but it was already too late to back off. But why? It’s unclear.
You should ask them. I don’t know. Ask the [German] Chancellor, the minister of the economy, the foreign minister… All these are contemporary political “grandees.” They must find an answer.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): In their speeches, the President of Russia and the Prime Minister of Iraq touched upon issues related to OPEC and work within OPEC Plus and other issues. Baghdad announced last June that it would extend a voluntary cut in oil production of 211,000 barrels per day until December 2023 as part of the OPEC Plus commitment to reduce oil production. Will you stick to this decision?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Yes, absolutely. Using the coordination mechanism approved to address the entire range of these challenges, we were able to stabilise the market, prevent its failure, and maintain stability and balance between producers and consumers. And these agreements, which are in effect, preserve supply and demand, help stabilise prices and serve the interests of consumers and producers, as well as investors. This is an example of policy and cooperation to respond to such challenges.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Mr President Putin, you also mentioned in your speech the chaos that the West spread in the energy sector by politicising it. Is there a threat of the market being blocked in order for Americans to gain a larger share of it?
And here is my question to you, which was answered by the Prime Minister of Iraq: are you interested in extending the OPEC Plus agreement beyond 2023, to 2024?
Vladimir Putin: I think that, most likely, we need to consult with our colleagues, but here decisions are made practically by consensus, we always come to an agreement. Even if there are differences in positions, we always look for consensus. And in this sense, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia plays a very important role; he works very actively and very professionally in this regard. But today the situation seems to be such that we will, of course, continue cooperation.
However, I would like to note that this does not only mean reducing oil production (we have just cut it by 2.5 billion barrels per day), but also cooperating in the sphere of technology, personnel training, equipment and other things. This is essential, and this is what unites us.
Will we have to do something together to stabilise markets next year? I cannot rule that out. Most likely yes. But we will have to look at how the global economy develops and what the needs will be. Now the needs and production, thanks to our solutions, are balanced. If these decisions had not been made, the price would most likely have fallen below US$50 per barrel, and this would have resulted in (experts know) a lack of resources for investment. Before the COVID, and later during the pandemic, the amount of investment decreased by more than half compared to the previous period. This is the reason behind all the problems in global energy.
People for whom I have great respect, the so-called Greens, their party, all over the world, they are doing a noble thing as they seek to preserve the climate and the viability of Earth and avoid doing harm [to life on the planet] and the like. It is the right thing to do; however, everything should be done gradually step by step. Look what happened in some European countries which shut down their nuclear power plants and refused to use coal and our [natural] gas supplies.
What has it led to? The share of coal in their energy sector has increased manyfold – twice the share we have in Russia. This is the result of an unbalanced and rash policy. As a matter of fact, this cannot be called a policy, rather this is work in the field of domestic policy in order to frighten people with partly real and partly invented problems, and promise them to resolve all of these problems, and then based, essentially, on lies, they make their way into the higher echelons of power. What next? Whatever they say, people still feel what it is all about.
Look now at the outcome of elections in the [federal] states in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Greens have lost the elections because people see what is happening and see the results of their policy, and hence the political implications. But we need to ensure that earnings in the sector can guarantee the necessary level of investment to be made without delay in the production of oil, natural gas and other mineral resources.
Incidentally, the Russian Federation’s energy sector has the greenest structure of all. Nuclear power engineering accounts for about 20 percent [of all electricity produced in the country] and the figure for hydropower engineering is about the same or slightly lower – 19.7 percent. The renewable resources account for a small amount but still it seems to be about 0.8 percent or maybe one. No, it is already two percent, as the Deputy Prime Minister [Alexander Novak] has just told me. As for natural gas, the most environmentally-friendly fuel among hydrocarbons, it accounts for 43 percent. Our energy sector has one of the greenest structures in the world.
However, we will continue to move further and increase the share of nuclear energy from 20 percent to 25 percent in the next few years and we will follow this way. Everything must be done in stages and be well considered, and then we will all succeed, including as we move towards green energy.
We have plans in place of how to achieve zero emissions and we will certainly move along this path.
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Daily oil consumption in 2022 was 99.9 million barrels, in 2023 it topped 101 million barrels and next year it is expected to exceed 104 million barrels. This is given irregular funding by economic organisations investing in gas and oil projects. This situation will soon send fuel prices higher.
Hopefully, these projects will continue to be funded and receive investment to maintain the fuel supplies level and price stability.
Amro Abdelhamid: Before we leave [the topic of] oil prices and OPEC Plus coordination, I have a question for Mr President Putin.
It is common knowledge that you have very good personal relations with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. Does this relationship help maintain oil market stability?
Vladimir Putin: You know, it is easier to answer in the negative: we are just businessmen – this is really the way it is, and, of course, the Crown Prince is primarily guided by Saudi Arabia’s interests; this is clear and it would be strange if it were otherwise.
However, it does make a difference if a personal, trust-based relationship of this kind takes hold, because mutual trust is highly important in decision-making of the sort we are talking about. Our Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Novak, who is involved in negotiations on a practically permanent basis, shall be my witness that there were several occasions when it was hard to even forecast the rate of development of the global economy, let alone the needs of Asia and other markets, logistics and so on. There were several times when he said: it is hard to forecast, but the Saudis believe that this or that solution will be optimal. I said: Ok, let’s agree to that, because there was no intention [on their part] to cheat or deceive. On the contrary, they were seeking to arrive at a common decision that would a) benefit everyone and b) do good to the global energy markets. I trust that this really is the case, and this level of trust is very important. Hopefully, our counterparts share this sentiment as well.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Thank you.
Mr Prime Minister, it is nearly six months since the work on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline was stopped. Turkiye announced that the pipeline was ready to resume the pumping of Iraqi oil. Are you prepared for this step?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Yes, certainly, the Iraqi Government is ready to resume oil supplies via this pipeline. The export deliveries were suspended by a ruling of the International Court of Arbitration after an earthquake that hit Turkiye. The relevant technical examinations were carried out, which showed that the pipeline was in working condition, and Turkiye notified us about this.
You know that this pipeline delivers oil from Kirkuk to the Kurdistan Region, and there are companies operating in this region. We have reached an understanding with those companies under the 2023 balance law. Iraq’s Oil Ministry continues consultations with the companies to reach an understanding, as it does with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Kurdistan. We hope to come to an agreement with them shortly in order to resume transit via this pipeline. Therefore, this fits in with Iraq’s commitments under the OPEC Plus agreements.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Mr President, by the way, speaking of Turkiye, there is a project linked with Russia, specifically a gas hub in Turkiye. How is work proceeding in this direction? Does Russia’s vision correlate with Turkiye’s understanding of how this project should be implemented?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, this has to do with creating an e-commerce platform for selling gas on the European continent. Consequently, everyone, including our Turkish friends and partners, Russia and all those wishing to purchase our resources on the European continent, are interested in this. There are such customers, and we currently deliver gas there via Turkiye.
We have two operational routes, namely, the Turk-Stream and the Blue Stream. They are functioning effectively and are filled to capacity. In principle, we are thinking of expanding them.
I repeat, it is necessary to establish an online e-commerce platform during the first stage. We do not see any major problems in establishing this platform. Turkiye and Russia are interested in this. We have spoken with Azerbaijan, and they are also interested. We hope that other concerned countries could join in after we organise this work, and I hope that this will take place.
Amro Abdelhamid (retranslated): Mr Prime Minister, speaking of the gas issue, Iraq has been having trouble importing Iranian gas over the past few years, for obvious reasons, specifically, US sanctions against Iran. We perceive a challenge in this context, and it has to do with energy deliveries to Iraq. You get 40 percent of your gas from Iran.
Do you have any plan for diversifying gas supply sources, apart from Iran?
Muhammad Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Of course, I would like to note that the Islamic Republic of Iran aims to retain gas and electricity supplies to Iraq.
As of late, although payments worth 11 billion euros have not been received, we faced a real problem and had trouble maintaining electricity supply levels for our citizens, especially in summer when it is very hot. This is why we started working to expedite associated petroleum gas projects.
As I said, we did not develop the associated petroleum gas sector very actively in the past few years, when we expanded oil production. Today, we produce 4.6 million barrels daily. This is why we contacted Iran, which has substantial reserves. Of course, we are also interested in expanding natural gas supplies. Consequently, the government’s plan is to gradually sign agreements with a number of companies, with Total, to work with UAE and Chinese companies. This will facilitate the required gas supply volumes in the next three to five years, so that we will not have to import gas in the future.
Regarding plans for developing gas deposits, our Ministry of Oil is preparing these processes. We have some promising oilfields with about 10–12 sections that can contribute to gas production, and we can meet the demand of power plants. In the future, Iraq may become a major player on the gas market.
Amro Abdelhamid: You mentioned the French company Total. The Iraqi government signed a US$17 billion contract with this company.
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: Yes, the deal includes four agreements concerning the development of the Artawi oil field, investment in the gas industry, drilling new wells and generating thousands of megawatts of electricity.
Amro Abdelhamid: How does Iraq maintain balance between the West and Russia in the context of energy relations?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: As I have already said, balance is something we strive for in our policy, with our national interests remaining a priority. If a project is in Iraq’s national interests, we will certainly proceed with it.
Amro Abdelhamid: I would like to return to President Putin.
Last Saturday, Russia launched gas supplies to Uzbekistan. It is a very important step, as experts say, and you said it in your address – creating this coalition, this consortium between Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Would it be right to say that eventually, it will reach the point where Russia finds an alternative or multiple options to replace the European market in its entirety?
Vladimir Putin: Well, essentially, we have already found them. The volumes are still smaller than what we used to supply to the European continent, but they will grow as these economies grow. I do not see a problem here. For now, European countries simply cannot fully cope without our gas and have no way of replacing it. They could, I suppose, but it is difficult and the available volumes are not sufficient.
We all talk about buying American gas. But their production volumes are also limited, and it is not that easy to quickly boost production. This is a long-cycle production process. As concerns Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, we are making use of an old Soviet gas pipeline, Central Asia – Centre. The gas pipeline used to transport approximately 80 billion cubic metres to eight Soviet republics. But it has never been used in the reverse mode, to transport gas to these republics from Russia.
Therefore, a certain amount of work had to be done. Gazprom took about three months, and our colleagues and friends in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan restored this route to launch it in the reverse mode. While currently being small, these volumes are significant for these republics. As their economies grow, they will need more gas, so we are already thinking about expanding supplies and how to achieve that, be it by building new routes or fixing up existing ones.
Speaking about Iran, our Iranian partners have also been discussing with us the possibility of supplying Russian gas to the Iranian market. There are many options, and they all are feasible.
Amro Abdelhamid: Let’s continue on this subject. Is Russia facing any difficulties in importing technologies and necessary equipment for the industrial sector related to energy?
Vladimir Putin: You know, you have touched upon a very sensitive area. We had serious concerns about whether we would be able to meet the oil and gas equipment-related challenge. Of course, we have not addressed every challenge yet and have not met all our needs, some know-how is still lacking, but the situation is changing – and it is changing in our favour quite quickly.
I was just talking about a plant built by NOVATEK in Murmansk. It is a plant that manufactures plants, manufactures gas liquefaction platforms. Almost all the equipment there is made in Russia.
There are things in exploration, in gas production, in oil production (I will not go into details now, we have specialists here who know better than I) where we still find it difficult to reach the level of our partners, especially the United States and Europe. But we find alternative solutions in other countries and acquire competences ourselves. This work is ongoing and it’s moving fairly fast.
I was recently in the Far Eastern Federal District, where I visited two of our major enterprises. One works in the gas sector and the other in natural gas conversion, and the technological equipment was supplied by a German company – I will share its name with you, it is not a secret, the company’s name is Linde. It is a clear technological leader in this field.
I asked the head of the company – the company’s name is Sibur, it is not a secret, either – “How are you doing?” He said that since they refused to provide us with equipment, we had to defer the launch of the facility to a later date, but there is no doubt that we will launch it. And he gave me specific deadlines: in the very near future.
I said, “What about the technology?” I will share what he said to me next. It may be wishful thinking on his part, but I think he is very close to the truth in what he told me. He said, “You know, we received equipment from Linde. We had very good relations with our partners, never had any problems, but due to political pressure they had to leave us. What happened? They have an office, a multi-story building in Germany. It is almost half-empty in the evenings, the lights are off, they have laid off a large number of employees. We were forced – forced – to develop our own engineering competences, and since we have everything, including the initial product, which is gas, we have markets for our products such as China and the entire Asia-Pacific next to the Russian Far East, engineering orders started coming in. We are becoming a global centre for engineering competences.
This is the result. And it is a positive result of the ill-considered actions in the economy that the West is taking with regard to the Russian Federation. It does us only good. That is not the case everywhere, and there are still problems, but that is the overall trend. I am confident that we will preserve it.
Amro Abdelhamid: Thank you.
Mr Prime Minister of Iraq, last May you announced an ambitious plan seeking to expand infrastructure in the railway sector with the aim of making Iraq a logistics centre that would connect the Gulf region to Europe. You have high hopes for this project and have initiated the Development Road project.
I will put it bluntly: are there any obstacles, and does this project compete with the North-South project?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: I will say a few words about the Development Road project. It is related to the Grand Faw Port. This project dates back to the 1980s, but in light of the events we have experienced in the past 40 years, it has not really been developed. Certain steps were taken at the Grand Faw Port, but a number of economic reforms were also required, which we are implementing now.
We are trying to diversify the economy, invest and leverage Iraq's geographical location. So, we are determined to complete the work on the Grand Faw project and to launch the Development Road corridor, which will connect the Grand Faw Port to Turkiye. This route might separate Iraq from other countries in the region, but as for the North-South project, I believe one complements the other. Thus, even with the Belt and Road project, these economic corridors can be integrated and will provide flexibility and stability, reduce transport costs and increase the speed of delivery, which will benefit the entire region.
There are preliminary discussions between Russia and Iraq regarding integration of these two projects. We hope that this dialogue at the level of experts will soon lead to identifying appropriate frameworks for cooperation in these areas.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr President, do you have any comments in this connection?
Vladimir Putin: I share the opinion of my colleague, the Prime Minister. We also believe that the more routes, the better, as they will make it easier for economic participants to choose the best one. North-South is a very good solution, and many of our partners are interested in it. Azerbaijan's interest is still there; part of the route goes through its territory. It goes on one side of the Caspian Sea and on the other side of the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are there, with access to Iran as well – one side of the Caspian to Iran, and then on the other side to the Persian Gulf.
What you just asked the Prime Minister, what he was talking about, is not a problem for us at all; the cargo flow will only increase. If we continue to develop the Northern Sea Route, and we will, all of this fits together. If there is an exit to the Arab Emirates, well that is good, to Turkiye – we are all for it. We are aware of all these routes, they are all being discussed, we know all about it and we are all for it.
Amro Abdelhamid: Returning to the North-South project, this project or rather its idea has been around for quite a while; it was agreed with Iran at the time. Is there any progress, and will there be progress any time soon? This project is designed to connect the port of St Petersburg via Iran and reach Mumbai, India.
According to experts, this project aligns with Russia's interest in reaching warm seas. Has practical implementation of this project begun? This is a major project. How easy is it to accomplish this given the current situation in the Middle East?
Vladimir Putin: There are no easy tasks today and in general, but everything is achievable. We have agreements with all the participants in this process, and documents with Iran and Azerbaijan are in place. I will be meeting with President Aliyev as part of the CIS summit in Kyrgyzstan and we will definitely discuss this matter. Azerbaijan has many current issues to deal with, but no one is backing out of this project.
Interest is also expressed from the other side of the Caspian Sea, namely, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. So, when practical work begins… You know, we are now creating a consortium led by, I think, VTB, the Vneshtorgbank of Russia. The preparatory work is nearing completion. I hope actual work will begin very soon.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr Prime Minister of Iraq, the ambitious development projects that you mentioned and that President Putin talked about need security and stability from the security standpoint as a factor that will determine their success.
I would like to ask you, Mr Prime Minister, are there any ISIS-related terrorist risks in Iraq? Is the coordination still on? You mentioned there was coordination with Russia in fighting ISIS; so, is this coordination ongoing?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: Thank Allah, Iraq has defeated terrorism. Today, ISIS does not pose a threat to Iraqi statehood. Our security forces and their various formations ensure security and track any possible movements of remaining ISIS cells, which are still active in mountainous and desert areas. They have no control on the ground in Iraq.
This is even unusual considering how the situation evolved in recent years. This is, of course, the result of the sacrifices made by the Iraqi people and the assistance provided by our friends. Coordination in counteracting terrorism with our friends and partners continues as part of the international coalition and individually with the Russian Federation.
There remains, of course, a threat in Syria. Terrorist organisations are still operating there, and they attempt to undermine security. They may, of course, infiltrate through the borders into Iraqi territory. But undoubtedly, Iraq's position regarding Syria is clear and honest. Syria is part of Iraq's national security. We support and work towards ensuring the stability, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. The Iraqi government facilitates and supports all international efforts to establish security and to combat terrorism in Syria. So, Iraq has created favourable conditions for all companies. This is indeed so. Currently, companies from different countries operate in different provinces, and the Iraqi government provides them with the proper conditions for the success of their enterprises.
The government has also established strategic partnerships with countries of the region and internationally in order to help maintain this stability for the economic interests to prevail and the security situation to contribute to the economic growth in this region.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr President, you said in your address that the Russian engineering school is not just strong but is second to none when it comes to building power plants. We can see proof of that. I am from Egypt, and so I have been following the construction of the El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant there. Last Thursday, Bangladesh received the first batch of nuclear fuel supplied by the Russian Government.
I would like to ask you about the distinguishing competitive feature or features that allow Russia to speak about itself in this way.
Vladimir Putin: This above all has to do with traditions. These are very good traditions when we speak about nuclear energy. And we focused on safety a great deal after the Fukushima accident.
Essentially, nuclear power plants designed in Russia are the safest in the world, because our experts have invented a safety system that can be upgraded endlessly, on an increasingly large level, reducing risks to zero. It depends only on funding and how many safety elements are installed and used. It is a fact recognised by international experts, including the IAEA. The IAEA is monitoring everything, all aspects of the Russian nuclear sector’s operation.
What is the difference between what we are doing and what other countries or rivals, such as US companies or Japan’s Toshiba, are doing? As a rule, we do not just build a power plant, making the host country dependent on us as the supplier of fuel and professionals, but we also create the nuclear sector. This is our main competitive advantage. We create a nuclear sector in the host country. We start with training professionals, who eventually become self-sufficient high-end professionals of world class. This is what we are doing in Egypt, Turkiye and Bangladesh. All the professionals there receive training in our country and some of them have already started working. This is the first point.
Second, we assign a large part of work to local companies, first of all, at the initial stage, the general construction work, which is done at a high level. Also, we are fully financing construction in Turkiye, just as in Egypt, the level is approximately the same: US$25 billion. Up to 20 percent of these funds are invested in construction.
Remark: More than 20 percent.
Vladimir Putin: More? The construction stage costs more than 20 percent – 25 percent. All of these funds are invested in the market of the host country, in this case Egypt. Local companies are involved, people get jobs and receive wages. It is the second point.
Third, we offer full-cycle projects, that is, we not only build but also provide technology, train personnel, supply nuclear fuel and remove spent nuclear fuel. Do you see what I mean? Moreover, we also create engineering centres and research institutions and work with our partner on the design of next-generation fast neutron power plants. Taken together, this is our competitiveness.
And last but not least, we offer competitive pricing. Our competitive prices for the entire package of our services, including construction and research, ensure this result. Rosatom builds 80 percent of nuclear power plants around the world.
Amro Abdelhamid: Back to what President Putin said. In Egypt, we have a new school for students interested in nuclear energy programmes. This school is extremely popular.
Before we move on, we mentioned Bangladesh, Turkiye, Egypt and some other countries – but Saudi Arabia was also among the countries seeking to develop its nuclear power industry and peaceful atom programmes.
We know that Saudi Arabia and the United States are discussing this matter although the situation is unclear. It has been reported that the United States put forth difficult conditions for Riyadh. My question is: would Russia be ready to cooperate with Riyadh under the IAEA rules?
Vladimir Putin: Certainly. First of all, we always cooperate in full accordance with the IAEA rules. The rest are commercial aspects of the deal. We need to discuss commercial terms with our potential partners, such as the cost of future electric energy, sales markets, investment on our side, investment on the partner’s side, whether the partner is ready to invest, the amount of money to be spent in the local market, the scope of Russia’s supplied equipment, whether it is necessary to engage professionals from third countries. All these are technical issues. We are not familiar with Saudi Arabia-United States negotiations. It is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign decision.
Amro Abdelhamid: As concerns Iraq, Mr Prime Minister, does Iraq have any ambitions for entering the club of the countries that use or wish to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: We already made attempts back in 1980. There are still government bodies in the country that monitor the development and prospects of nuclear energy. The Ministry of Education recently outlined plans for developing this peaceful atom programme and discussing it with the IAEA. Of course, the government pays attention to this project.
Amro Abdelhamid: What countries would you like to cooperate with in this industry?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: We are still in the early stages and maintain contacts with the IAEA. We have not reached the stage of discussing the specifics with any country.
Amro Abdelhamid: Perhaps after this forum…
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: Yes, if there is an opportunity, we will certainly respond positively.
Amro Abdelhamid: Following up on Mr Putin’s remarks, green energy and Russia’s readiness to convert to green energy. Mr President, as you know, the [United Arab] Emirates will host the 28th UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai next month. The UAE strives to play a major role in developing the green energy project. According to experts, a number of Western countries are trying to hamper the implementation of UAE projects because the UAE ranks among the largest oil producers. I have a question: is Russia ready to support the Emirates at the upcoming conference?
Vladimir Putin: We support the UAE, and we believe that this is a highly noble aspect of our UAE friends’ activities. Yes, of course, they are a major hydrocarbons producer. Is it bad if an oil-producing country also addresses the green agenda? I do not even understand who can hamper this process. If this is so, it is unclear why they would be doing this at all. We will certainly support all of this, and we will, undoubtedly, take part, even at a high level. In turn, Russia has its own green conversion plan, we have assumed the relevant obligations, we fulfil everything, and we will continue to do this in the future.
Amro Abdelhamid: I have two last questions.
I have a question for the Prime Minister of Iraq.
As we have noted, and as everyone knows, this is your first visit to the Russian Federation in this capacity. What did you like here in Russia, and what are you taking home with you?
Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani: Of course, I would like to thank Mr President for the invitation to make this visit. As you said, this visit is part of the Iraqi Government’s policy to strengthen cooperation with Russia.
We have discussed multiple issues in various spheres and interacted at the level of agencies, ministries and companies. There are plans to hold the tenth meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission in Baghdad. This meeting will serve as an umbrella for implementing various agreements and accords reached at our conferences, and this will make it possible to start implementing them.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr President, you said at the Valdai forum several days ago – incidentally, this is the last question – that the West targets any country that does not support its policy.
But we see the leaders of Arab and African countries here; they come to Russia and see that it is a friend, a partner and an ally. Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov is working very energetically, and he receives a warm welcome in various countries, including Arab, African and Latin American countries. Do you think that the Western attempts to isolate Russia have failed?
Vladimir Putin: It goes without saying, but that is not the main point. Why do many countries share Russia’s views? Because Russia is actively working towards a fairer multipolar world order.
Why do they support Russia? Because Russia is at the forefront. And why do they refuse to support something else? Because nobody, for example, in Africa, has forgotten the colonial era.
I said recently that only a short time ago, in 1957, people from Africa, including children, were put up for display in cages in Europe, as far as I remember, in Belgium. It was an ugly sight. Can you forget this? Nobody will forget it.
As for practical politics, many elements of the colonial era, or at least colonial thinking, are still with us, and that is the problem. People no longer want to tolerate this; they want to change this situation.
Russia is fighting to change that world order, to create a fairer world order, which is why it is supported. Nobody is fighting the West; people simply want international relations to be more equitable. This is the first point.
Second, based on this logic, the overwhelming majority of participants in international dialogue act in their own national interests, try to coordinate these interests with other countries and categorically reject any forms of pressure.
Regrettably, the so-called collective West… Everything they are doing, like the sanctions, is a form of pressure. It is. They keep telling everyone: You cannot do this, this is not allowed, be warned that, and so on. Who would like this? Nobody.
Everyone sees this as an atavism, a remnant of colonial thinking and the Cold War era. This is the reason. Not because Russia is so good – no, we have many problems too – but because everybody is fighting for a fairer world order. This is the essence of the current processes ongoing in the world. And we are confident that we are on the right path.
Amro Abdelhamid: Mr President, thank you very much.
We are also grateful to our guest, the Prime Minister of Iraq.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are grateful to all forum participants.
We began it with a discussion on the situation in the Middle East and the current escalation there. We hope that in the next few days we will see the implementation of development scenarios and economic projects, and that security will be restored in the region.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
I would like to thank our moderator for his energetic and interesting presentation of all the issues we discussed today.
Thank you very much.