President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, everyone,
The main reason for this meeting is to congratulate you on the upcoming holiday. As one would write in official documents, I want to congratulate you and in your person all of Russia’s students. I wish you the very best in your studies and your future careers.
I must say that it is really interesting to have this chance to be here at MEPhI. This university is a legendary place, and that is no exaggeration.
No matter how one may criticise the Soviet-era leaders, and there are certainly reasons to do so, but one can’t deny their ability to identify priorities and focus financial and administrative resources on the main development goals. That this university was established here in Moscow in 1942, before the Battle of Stalingrad had even taken place yet, is really quite amazing. This university built up its strength so well that it became a real centre for forging the personnel for our nuclear industry, for both the military and civilian components what’s more. And there’s no question that the university produces brilliant specialists.
I looked through the international ratings. Their results are partly based on the number of publications and how often they are cited of course. But for a long time in the nuclear industry it was simply not possible to get any citations because some work was totally confidential in nature, and this is still the case in this sector even today. But the achievements of your predecessors and today’s specialists make it possible to say without any doubt at all that this university’s specialists are absolute leaders, world leaders in a whole number of areas of research on fundamental particles, the atom and all related fields. You know better than I exactly what all the terms are here, since this is your area of work.
But what I can see clearer are the results of your present and future colleagues, in other words, you yourselves. It is already clear that in many areas we are ahead of others working in this field in other countries. It was no coincidence that MEPhI was one of the first universities to be given the status of research university. Our own ratings make it one of the country’s top universities, after Moscow State University and St Petersburg State University.
This shows that much was accomplished over past years, and it also shows that the level of teaching, research, and skills and knowledge gained has not dropped but on the contrary, continues to increase and reach ever-greater heights.
”The country is following very closely the nuclear industry’s successes, whether in the civilian or military sectors. You will unquestionably have a big part to play in helping to ensure our country’s energy security and defence capability.“
This is cause for me to once more wish you success and hope that you will make full use of the immense potential that was built up over the past years. I want to assure you that the country is following very closely – those who know what is involved at any rate – the nuclear industry’s successes, whether in the civilian or military sectors. You will unquestionably have a big part to play in helping to ensure our country’s energy security and defence capability.
I congratulate you on the holiday and wish you success.
I understand that we have student representatives from other Moscow universities. We do not meet often — just once a year on this matter. So if there are any questions or suggestions, I’m listening. Let’s discuss any point of view, any position. If I can, I will answer your questions.
Question: Hello, Mr President! My name is Gennady Baryshev. I am a graduate student at the physical engineering department and the coordinator of the Rosatom student club.
I want to ask you a question. On the one hand, Rosatom is currently seeing a trend toward the development of engineering; a large-scale engineering project Proryv is being implemented. On the other hand, there is the task of long-term research and technology forecasting and predictions.
Please tell us, do you see some kind of opportunity for using our leading universities, such as MEPhI, as a springboard for the implementation of such directions – the forecasting or foresight of major, cutting-edge engineering projects in the future? Their forecasting, organisation, the organisation of research and, more specifically, the management of such projects.
Vladimir Putin: I just spoke about this, and you yourself are well aware that your sector and your university are linked to civil manufacturing and research, as well as defence research and manufacturing.
Just two days ago (maybe somebody saw it, I think it was shown in the media), I visited the so-called Advanced Research Fund platform. But it is mostly related to the defence industry, so everything there has a half-closed status. Still, even there, we talked about how we need to focus intellectual resources in breakthrough areas, to understand what constitutes a breakthrough area. But since it mainly deals directly with defence, we created it as a separate platform; most of the people there are very young people; they are basically yesterday’s graduate students and postgraduates. As for civilian issues, naturally, the nation’s leading universities can and should serve as such basic platforms. MEPhI is certainly one of them. And we will proceed in that direction.
I’m sure you know about the creation of the Russian Research Fund, whose work is intended to provide additional grant-based support for the most promising areas of work by young researchers and graduate students – both for individual and group research projects. In this respect, we will try to create some fundamental platforms. MEPhI can certainly be one of them.
I see that there are people in military uniforms here. Do you have a question?
Question: My name is Artem Bekerev. I am a third-year cybernetics student. I am also studying in the military department.
I want to ask (a lot of funding is being currently allocated toward the defence industry), what are the most promising areas of development – which industries?
Vladimir Putin: In military science or military industry?
I will try to answer.
I will talk about the main directions that pertain to ensuring the nation’s defence capacity. As it applies to this audience, today’s location, I must first and foremost name the nuclear triad. As you know, Russia and the United States are the only two nations in the world that possess the so-called nuclear triad – in other words, nuclear arms, located in three environments: on land, under water, and in the air. The other nuclear powers do not have such triads.
My personal position is that at some point, humanity must renounce nuclear arms. But for now, we are far from this, in the sense that other nations aside from Russia have nuclear arms as well – and many of them – and they are not going to renounce this means of armed combat. Such a step by the Russian Federation would be very strange in these conditions, and could lead to some fairly serious, grave consequences for our nation and our people. So one key area is the development of the armed weapons complex of our nuclear industry.
The second thing we must do is develop our communication and reconnaissance system (not agent reconnaissance but, first and foremost, technological). This has to do with the development of space technology. Without modern space technology, it is impossible to ensure the nation’s defence capacity.
One key direction is the development of precision weapons. You have probably heard, we talk a lot about GLONASS (the Americans have GPS and we have created GLONASS). There are no other systems like it in the world – global positioning systems. This has to do with national economic potential, but I suppose you know this as well: without the precise signal provided by GPS or GLONASS, it is practically impossible to use and develop modern precision weapons systems. So this is another key area of development in the field of defence.
”We need to focus intellectual resources in breakthrough areas. As for civilian issues, naturally, the nation’s leading universities can and should serve as such basic platforms. MEPhI is certainly one of them.“
And, of course, we cannot forget the Air Force (aviation), we cannot forget submarines and surface vessels.
In this respect, practical and fundamental research in areas that initially appear unrelated to defence is exceedingly important. For example, materials science. Without modern materials, it is simply impossible to imagine the development of modern combat equipment. That same high-precision weaponry I spoke about or, for example, hypersound. Modern hypersound missile systems are impossible to imagine without modern materials. This is absolutely impossible to do without first resolving fundamental challenges, such as those related to how this material reacts when heated as missile systems move through the atmosphere or when they enter the atmosphere. So I want to tell you that there is much for you to do.
Reply: So we do not need to fear anything?
Vladimir Putin: You should never fear anything in general. As soon as you begin to fear something, your hands start shaking, your aim will be off, and for nuclear specialists, that can have truly dire consequences. So we should not be afraid, but we should always assess the situation we find ourselves in judiciously.
If you are interested in the nation’s finance and banking system, we currently have 970 banks – just under a thousand. And for our economy, of course, this is a very large number of financial institutions. The German economy is comparable to ours in size – not in income per capita, but overall volume (and we have achieved fifth place globally in terms of economic volume) – but they have, I believe, 251 banks. What does this mean? It means that some of the financial institutions must increase their capital and their resources, their assets, in order to feel confident, stable, and must fight for the quality of their loan portfolio. And the Central Bank, in turn, must react swiftly to financial institutions’ problems and make corresponding decisions. This is not related to any sort of mythical interests in the financial sector or Russia’s economy, but first and foremost, depositors’ interests, so that depositors do not ultimately end up with nothing.
There is a well-known rule that lets the investors determine the quality of a financial institution. There is an average interest rate in the financial system that banks provide to their clients, for example, for deposits. If the rate is very different from other financial institutions, you must look into it carefully. What does it mean? It usually means that the bank wants to attract depositors’ money at any cost, and usually, this is because of some sort of difficulties faced by the institution. So the Central Bank of the Russian Federation must fulfil its function as an auditor and regulator professionally.
As for the national currency rate, as of today, the Central Bank steps in in terms of regulation only when the floating rate goes beyond the set ceiling or bottom-line levels. And the freer the Russian currency is, the better, ultimately. Why? Because this will force the economy itself to react more effectively and swiftly to the processes occurring within it. Up until today, the Central Bank has been handling this function quite successfully. I think it will continue to do so in the future.
Concerning the consequences for our economy if the exchange rate is undervalued or overvalued, the export-oriented sectors of Russia’s economy want the ruble to be weaker, because they sell at higher prices and then receive proceeds in another currency, change that currency into rubles to pay their staff here, and buy equipment, materials and raw commodities in Russia using rubles. And this is advantageous for them.
Non-export-oriented production is not very interested in the currency value decreases. So we always need to have a healthy balance. I repeat again, up until now, the Central Bank and the Government of the Russian Federation, the economic bloc, have been successful in finding and maintaining this balance using budgetary tools. I hope that this will continue.
Question: Hello, Mr President.
I am Nikita Danchenko, a second-year student of the management and economics of high technology department.
Last summer I was at Alabino [a military test ground in the Moscow Region], where I practically took a course at the local army club and had a chance to see tank biathlon. It was all very interesting and exciting. But I have a question: why do they show this so often on TV? I watched it four times. Now I know that there will be many such military games; new projects are appearing for biathlon on larger military machines. My question is what is the purpose of all this? Is it to demonstrate our military might, or, after that scare that there will be a war in 2030, this is designed to show we are strong enough? That is my question. What for?
Vladimir Putin: Who told you there would be a war?
Remark: Mr Zhirinovsky [Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia] often said that war is imminent. (Laughter)
Vladimir Putin: You should take this up with Mr Zhirinovsky in detail, he is very communicative.
Remark: All right.
Vladimir Putin: I have no such information, but I will ask him too, because he might know something we don’t. However, to prevent war we have to develop our Armed Forces. This is exactly why, I presume, they are demonstrating our capability on TV. Besides, this is done primarily to attract talented young people, full of energy, like you and your colleagues here, to the Armed Forces, to show that the Armed Forces are developing and are fitted out with new equipment and that this kind of work is honourable and interesting. This is