President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon. First of all I want to take this opportunity to thank France, Deauville and the President of France for the excellent organisation of the G8 summit and for creating excellent conditions for us to exchange views, adopt a number of important decision and discuss the most significant issues on the agenda. Perhaps not everyone was happy about the weather but Normandy looks good in this weather too, so on the whole I think everybody was satisfied.
That should be enough to start our conversation. Now I am at your disposal.
Question: Are you satisfied with the discussion of your initiatives on nuclear safety? How radical will the change in the rules be, to what extent will it guarantee safety and, at the same time, won’t the tightening of the rules diminish some countries’ interest in developing their own nuclear industry?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I am quite pleased with the discussion on nuclear safety. Some time ago I sent my proposals on this subject to a large number of states, including all the G8 leaders. I set out our proposals once again during a session on nuclear safety yesterday. They have to do with introducing a better early warning system to alert each other of emergencies at nuclear facilities, a higher degree of responsibility of all countries that use nuclear energy, our cooperation in this sphere, more demanding stress tests and more stringent requirements for the countries first starting to use nuclear power. I hope that in June this issue will be considered at the respective summits on the issue.
“We are interested in the preservation of Libya as an independent, free, sovereign state, a state that will secure the interests of all citizens of Libya.”
Now, as to whether it might diminish interest in nuclear energy. You know, all my colleagues said that the events in Japan were a great trial and a huge calamity, but at the same time, no one was actually able to name an alternative energy source that could replace nuclear power today. Hydrocarbons are already used a great deal as an energy source and they are also harshly criticised because oil and gas are expensive. Green technology – yes, it’s wonderful, but at present it is able to meet the demand in full of only a small number of states, although, of course, we support its widest possible use.
Therefore, there is no real alternative in view, and even the countries that are greatly concerned about nuclear energy realise that we must take a sober stance on this issue. It is essential to choose the right location for the construction of nuclear power plants, that is absolutely obvious, and put a more effective safety system in place, protecting the station from accidents and from various natural causes, such as tsunamis and earthquakes, and then everything will be fine.
We also discussed this issue in great detail with Prime Minister of Japan Naoto Kan, and considering that both our countries use nuclear energy and in view of the dramatic accident that has occurred in Japan, which is our neighbour, we have agreed to develop full-scale cooperation in this area.
Question: In the course of negotiations with its G8 partners, Russia has repeatedly received the proposal to act as a mediator in Libyan conflict. As far as I understand, Russia has accepted this proposal. Could you please tell us why this decision was made, what opportunities does Russia see in this regard and how the process will be organised, whether a delegation will be sent to Tripoli or, conversely, Russia will host a meeting? And the main question is this: does Russia believe that Gaddafi’s resignation is a necessary precondition for the peace process?
Dmitry Medvedev: We have always advocated a peaceful solution to this problem: through negotiations, through consultations with the widest possible scope of participants, involving as those who are dissatisfied with the situation and advocated change in the political system from the start as well as adherents of the existing system and Gaddafi’s supporters.
We have contacts with both sides. As you know, Russia has not severed diplomatic relations with Libya and we remain in close contact. Representatives of the opposition forces stationed in Benghazi have visited Russia. Naturally, we have also held consultations with representatives of political forces in Tripoli, the political team which supports the current leader.
I believe that in any case this is useful because we are trying to combine our approaches and remove the causes for the escalation of violence, which, unfortunately, continues to this day. The sooner the armed conflict ends, the sooner the military operation ends, the better it will be for everyone who lives in Libya. We are interested in the preservation of Libya as an independent, free, sovereign state, a state that does not fall apart or become lifeless, but one that is able to defend its interests in the international arena and, most importantly, a state that will secure the interests of all citizens of Libya, all those who live on this earth.
We discussed Russia’s capabilities. In the course of my consultations with my counterparts in the Group of Eight, I suggested that Russia could act as a mediator. In general, everyone agrees that it would be helpful, especially since we are already involved in consultations.
And answering your last question. If you have seen the Declaration [Deauville G8 Declaration “Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy”], it says that Gaddafi's regime has lost legitimacy and he must leave – we were unanimous on that.
Question: Mr President, after your meeting with Barack Obama, you said – and, indeed, have repeatedly emphasised – that your relations with the current President are very friendly. You have succeeded in adopting the challenging New START Treaty and you have a good record of counterterrorism cooperation, but you also said that nevertheless, each party will continue to defend and promote its own national interests. Does this mean that we can’t talk about reaching an agreement on missile defence in the near future, that the United States has not accepted your proposals, or has there been some progress on this issue?
Dmitry Medvedev: I have no secrets from you, especially on such a straightforward issue as missile defence.
“So far I am not entirely satisfied with the way the United States and NATO countries have responded to my proposals. Why? If we do not reach agreement by 2020, a new arms race will begin.”
So far I am not entirely satisfied with the way the United States and NATO countries have responded to my proposals. Why? Because we're wasting time. And although yesterday I mentioned the year 2020 as a deadline, what does 2020 mean? It is the year when the four-step system of the so-called phased adaptive approach is completed. If we do not reach agreement by 2020, a new arms race will begin. And if we do agree the situation will be entirely different. I would like my partners to bear this in mind constantly, also during their consultation with each other. That is why I talked about it with all of them, and not just with Barack Obama.
I would like to make our concerns heard. What are they? We must receive guarantees that it is not directed against us. So far no such guarantees have been given. They say: there are some bad countries that can pose a threat. When we ask which countries those are, they say nothing. Then we ask: ”What kind of threats can they pose? Do they have missiles that must be destroyed?“ – ”No, there are no such missiles.“ – ”Does anyone have such missiles?“ – ”You do.“ So, the conclusion is obvious: it is directed against us.
I spoke about this not so long ago and unfortunately, we have not moved forward. But we have agreed that we will certainly continue wide-ranging consultations in order to try to find a basis for agreement.
I understand the difficulties that President Obama faces because he needs to defend his position in the Senate and the situation is not easy for him. I understand that a number of countries in Western Europe, the new NATO members, are ready to welcome the anti-missile defence system with open arms, but I still encourage everyone to think about the kind of world we want to have in the end. Do we want a world with a greater number of nuclear installations? We have been there before. Once again, I would like to say that I do not want that for Europe.
Question: Mr President, the intrigue over the new IMF head continues. While the G8 leaders did not discuss this issue, it was most probably raised at the bilateral meetings. Who, in your opinion, may become the head of the IMF and will Russia nominate its own candidate?
Dmitry Medvedev: That is an urgent issue. I admit it was discussed with virtually all the G8 leaders during bilateral consultations, because the IMF is an important organisation.
There is a shortlist of candidates who, in my opinion, could very well qualify for the position: there is a French candidate and a German candidate. But in general, the consensus has been nearly achieved in this regard. Traditionally, this position is reserved for European Union representatives, which met the demands of the time when the IMF and World Bank system was established.
Now I believe other states should have the right to nominate their own candidates for positions in the IMF management, if not for the Managing Director position, then certainly for the positions of deputy directors.
I believe that, for example, that the BRICS countries could well propose their own candidates. However, in order for that to be possible it is necessary to change the management structure, and I have made proposals on this matter. I hope that the states that participated with me in these negotiations have heard the position of the Russian Federation. This would make the decision-making mechanism in the IMF more legitimate, more balanced and able to reflect more accurately the positions of the major economic players.
Question: Yesterday, after a meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy, you stated that in two weeks a contract will be signed for the acquisition of French Mistral helicopter carriers. Does this mean that Russia will gain access to Western military technology, and could it interfere with the development of Russian military technology in the construction of new ships?
“Russia will purchase two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, and two more such carriers will be built in our country in cooperation with French shipyards. All it means is that Russia will have modern new ships we are interested in.”
Dmitry Medvedev: We have reached final agreement, which President Sarkozy and I announced yesterday: Russia will purchase two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, and two more such carriers will be built in our country in cooperation with French shipyards. All it means is that Russia will have modern new ships we are interested in. It does not mean that our ships are bad, but we have to tackle all-round development of technology, including military technology, while we have no helicopter carriers in our country and we are interested in purchasing them. We held a tender, looked at who is building what and eventually settled on the French technology. It is modern and interesting, and we are ready to use it. In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy rightly said yesterday that it reflects the new approaches in communication between Russia and NATO countries. I am very pleased because this is a new reality.
However, we must certainly work on improving our own shipyards and our shipbuilding technology. I believe such orders can only have a positive effect on them because our shipbuilders should not work in sterile conditions. They must have an understanding of how such projects evolve today in other countries. That is particularly true since half of this order will be fulfilled at Russian shipyards. So that is a positive step.
Question: I would like to ask a question about the Russian business climate. Recently you have devoted quite a lot of attention to this. Analysts have described the Yandex IPO as the best in recent years, and experts attribute this to the investors’ general interest in Internet companies. In your opinion, can Yandex's success affect investor interest in Russia's high-tech resources, and if so by how much?
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to congratulate Yandex on its very successful, for a high-tech Internet company, IPO. It is one of the few examples in which a company's initial public offering was substantially oversubscribed. This is a good indicator for Yandex and for the economy as a whole.
As to the investment climate, my opinion has not changed. Moreover, I will soon make more detailed observations on this issue. In any case, it obviously cannot be avoided at our event in St Petersburg, the St Petersburg Economic Forum. But the fact that a high-tech company, an Internet company, was ranked so well is good. This means that breakthroughs are possible in this regard. It represents a good example for other companies trying to undertake this kind of public offering. In general I think it's good for our country.
Question: Mr President, we know that you discussed the situation in Syria with your partners. What is Russia's position on this issue? Is it true that Russia is the only G8 country to oppose new sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad?
Dmitry Medvedev: We discussed Syria, although it was not the dominant or most important topic. It was part of our consultations, especially since Russia really does have relations with Syria. Just two days ago I spoke over the phone with President Bashar al-Assad.
”We are not advocates of sanctions; we believe that President al-Assad must change from words to action and introduce truly democratic reforms in his country.”
Regarding sanctions: it is important to remember that there are currently sanctions against Syria, which have been imposed by the United States and the European Union. As a rule the outcome of sanctions is not directly linked to their number and so for that reason, to speak frankly, no one has eagerly suggested imposing sanctions overseen by the Security Council. But I already formulated our position during the press conference in Moscow when I talked about this. We are not advocates of sanctions; we believe that President al-Assad must change from words to action and introduce truly democratic reforms in his country, ensure the opposition's right to vote, change the electoral law, and prevent violence during the opposition's speeches. I spoke about all these things with President al-Assad during our telephone conversation. But sanctions are far from being the most effective method especially as, say, the events in Libya have recently shown.
Incidentally, if we are talking about Libya, I would like to say that I decided to send my special representative to Africa, Mr Margelov, there in order to better use our opportunities and existing contacts between Russia and Benghazi, on the one hand, and Tripoli, on the other. He is literally taking off for Benghazi as we speak.
Question: In addition to the position of the IMF head, we are interested in yet another one to be filled. It is difficult to imagine that you did not discuss potential candidates for the future head of the Federation Council. Who do you see in this post?
Dmitry Medvedev: If we are talking about the Federation Council, then according to our laws the Federation Council chooses its own head. And this is good because it is a collective body, the upper chamber of our parliament. But I will not hide the fact that, naturally, I am not indifferent to this choice, and I do think about who should head the upper house of our parliament. In my opinion, it should be a modern, effective person, well-versed in the details of Russian life. And in general we have many such people.
Question: I have a question about the Internet.
Dmitry Medvedev: Fine.
Question: How would you evaluate the outcome of yesterday's meeting? It was particularly important since it was the first one on this topic. And which of your initiatives – those which, as far as I know, you talked about there – might be accepted by the international community in the near future?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yesterday we had a really interesting meeting about the Internet both because it was the first such meeting on this subject and, secondly, was attended by both major French and international players, including Mr Zuckerberg and our Mr Milner, who represents the Russian Internet.
”We discussed various topics ranging from controlling the Internet to the problem of intellectual property rights. We all agree that the Internet should be free and develop as an independent field.“
We discussed various topics ranging from controlling the Internet – and here we all agree that the Internet should be free and develop as an independent field – to the problem of intellectual property rights. And on this issue we may hold a slightly different position from that contained in our Declaration. The Declaration adopts a fully conservative stance, consisting in the position that intellectual property rights must be protected in accordance with existing conventions on the Internet too. While no one disputes this, I must say that, unfortunately, such conventions were written 50 or even 100 years ago, and they cannot cover the totality of relationships between copyright holders and users.
We must honestly admit that today's Internet users effectively ignore those rights, and not just because they are malicious law-breakers, but rather because it is not possible to record them, you cannot find out who uses what and how, and there is no way to pay for it. For these reasons we must move towards a new framework for property and other authors' rights on the Internet, a more modern one which will take into account not only the absolute rights of copyright holders, but also the desire of those interested in proprietary rights to access them quietly, quickly and, of course, without any infringement. And for this you need to create a new framework. Unfortunately, the Declaration does not foresee this because, in my opinion, my colleagues adopted a slightly more conservative approach than is necessary today, or maybe they just do not use Internet, or do not know what it is. After the conference, I would have liked to point my finger at some of them, but I will not do it.
Question: Will Russia recognise a Palestinian state in September if there is no progress in negotiations on a Middle East settlement?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Palestinian state was recognised long ago, we have long recognised it, and that state has an embassy in Russia. So for us this issue is not on the agenda, though we agree that we need new, up-to-date approaches to solving this problem.
“Both parties, both Israel and Palestine, are responsible for the current state of affairs. The Palestinian state must be created within the 1967 borders. In all likelihood this remains the only basis on which to build a state.“
Just yesterday I said to my colleague Barack Obama that I think the position he declared is absolutely correct. It consists in acknowledging that both parties, both Israel and Palestine, are responsible for the current state of affairs. That is the first thing.
And the second: the country must be created within the 1967 borders. Yes, we must take subsequent realities into account, but nevertheless and in all likelihood this remains the only basis on which to build a state. And as to recognition, we did this a long time ago.
Question: After meeting yesterday with Barack Obama, the American administration made quite a sensational statement that they are willing to pay $5 million, not for the head (so to speak) but merely for information on the whereabouts of Doku Umarov. In general, can you please explain what is at stake? Was this a request by the Russian party? Did America come forward with this initiative? In general, what are we talking about here, what kind of reward? Who will look where and for whom?
Dmitry Medvedev: And who will get it in the end?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, in reality, the situation is quite simple. After a certain period when we were not very good at talking with each other about this topic and the Americans did not always listen to us (this was ten to twelve years ago during the fight against terrorism in the Caucasus), now we have absolutely identical approaches. Americans understand that global terrorism has no borders, and representatives of the very terrorist network that Americans are fighting also operate in Russia, in the Caucasus. That is why we welcomed the death of Osama bin Laden and that is why this kind of agreement is now possible. But it only means that Americans are ready to become involved in our work. We welcome that, because they have their own possibilities and skills. Ultimately, if this helps us to capture or kill Umarov, then so be it. We would welcome such a result.
Question: During private or bilateral meetings, were your G8 colleagues interested in your potential involvement in the presidential elections of 2012 and, if so, did you answer them?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I will not hide that they were interested, and I told them the absolute truth about what I will do and what some of my colleagues will do.
Response: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: You're welcome. So I can give you a few addresses, and you can find out from them.
Question: What do you think, is it possible for Russia and Japan to find common ground and mutually acceptable choices?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I think that in life there are situations that bring you closer together. A terrible tragedy occurred in Japan. Today I told Prime Minister Kan that we are ready to help on all matters ranging from technology and supplying hydrocarbons in lieu of using Japan's nuclear capabilities, to collaboration on all other issues, including humanitarian ones. The most complex questions can be resolved by expending more efforts. In my opinion, the only thing we must not do is overdramatise the situation. Today we took the same approach as Prime Minister Kan to discussing all issues, including the well-known difficult one, without any excessive drama and, as we said, in a peaceful manner. I am ready to support this approach. And along with this of course we shall proceed from our national priorities and Japan, naturally, will do the same. We will remain neighbours and, hopefully, good friends.
Question: A question about Mr Margelov. You said that you did not send him to Tripoli but to Benghazi. And the second question: you said that Gaddafi must go, but where should he go?
Dmitry Medvedev: Let him go wherever he wants to.
With respect to Mr Margelov, I believe that he should go to Benghazi.
With regards to Tripoli, the situation is more complicated. In any case, I hope he will have the opportunity to communicate with both sides, namely the rebels, the new political forces, and the representatives of the former leadership.
As for the retreat of the current leader of the Libyan revolution, I mean al-Gaddafi, I don't think it is particularly significant. If he takes this responsible decision for himself, which would be good for his country and the Libyan people, it would be possible to discuss how this could be carried out, what country might take him in and on what terms, what he could save and what he should lose. But in any case, today the international community no longer sees him as Libya's leader, and this position is not only that of the G8 but of all African countries as well, who attended the afternoon sessions today.
Question: Will Russia take in Gaddafi?
Dmitry Medvedev: No, we will not, but such countries can be found.
All the best.