Vladimir Putin: I would like to start by thanking Mongolian President Natsagiyn Bagabandi for an invitation to his country. Russia and Mongolia have close and long-established friendly ties. My gratitude spreads to the entire Mongolian nation. We had an extremely warm welcome in Ulan Bator streets today. Russian-Mongolian relations need a new impetus. The two countries are successful allies on the international scene, and we can only regret a certain depression in trade and economic contacts. We share many interests. All these issues dominated the agenda of today’s talks, both with restricted and extended attendance. We are deeply satisfied with the level, content and spirit of our relations, past talks and joint achievements. I thank the Mongolian leadership for that once again.
Question: Your landmark visit to Mongolia raised bilateral relations to a thoroughly new level. Practically all political commentators agree on that. What, in your opinion, does that level imply?
Vladimir Putin: Everything new is the well-forgotten old, as the saying goes. Mr Bagabandi says Mongolia has not seen visitors from Russia at such a high level for 26 years. Our mutual trade turnover has shrunk by a factor of five within the last 10 years. Russia can, and must, make progress in relations with all countries of the world—but it is inadmissible to squander at the same time the achievements made in the past. So our top priority is to regain the previous scope of bilateral relations. The changes in Russia and Mongolia present us with new opportunities to develop bilateral contacts. Economic partnership is based on energy, metal production, agriculture, and the food and processing industries. We attach tremendous importance to regional partnerships. That is why our delegation includes governors of all major Russian regions bordering on Mongolia. Inter-regional contacts account for 70% of Russian-Mongolian economic links. We are determined to coordinate our efforts on the international arena, and step up bilateral contacts in the social and cultural field, with an emphasis on science and education. We see all that, taken together, as sufficiently effective progress to benefit both nations.
Question: What answer do you expect to your strategic arms reduction proposal?
Vladimir Putin: I want to call your attention to the following. I made my statement expressly to stress that, whatever domestic political developments might be underway in the United States, Russia never stops contacts with its US partners in this sphere, which is crucial to the whole world. The Russian Foreign Ministry is in contact with the State Department, and I expect this range of problems to come up on the agenda as President Bill Clinton and I meet in Brunei. Russia is familiar with the foreign political aspect of both principal US presidential candidates’ programmes. We have every reason to expect that, whoever is our future partner, there will be some elements of succession in the US foreign policy. As we see it, the essence of our proposals leaves no room for the slightest doubt that Russia and its leadership are doing everything in their power to reduce the confrontation threshold and the danger of major military or environmental conflicts. We do hope we will have a positive response.
Question: What importance do the new Russian-Mongolian agreements have to regional relations and to Mongolia’s geo-strategic situation?
Vladimir Putin: As for bilateral relations, I have mentioned here our trade turnover shrinking by a factor of five. This alone gives sufficient grounds to reappraise all that is going on in our economic contacts. A progressive economic partnership is able to benefit the entire range of inter-state relations and ordinary people in Russia and Mongolia. Take agriculture and processing industries. Asia has an acute shortage of energy. At present, Russia and its partners in Asia and Europe are assessing a number of ambitious projects. Mongolia lies on the route of Russian cooperation with other Asian countries, and so can join many of such projects. Last but not least comes a pure geo-political aspect that concerns security. Russia supports Mongolia’s non-nuclear status and all that pertains to related matters. We think it is all of great importance and deserves the utmost attention and promotion.