Vladimir Putin: The question of whether or not the United States will be hindered by the joint position of Canada and Russia on the problem of NMD expressed in our joint statement should be directed to our American partners. The US is in the process of forming a new Administration, and early appointments show that a professional team is being formed of people whom we know quite well. We believe that the dialogue with our American colleagues will continue to be positive. Canada believes it can play the role of a political mediator between Russia and the United States on that problem. I think Canada can and has every right to be such a mediator because it lies between two parts of the United States. So, dialogue with Canada and with Western Europe and other active international agents is extremely important for us. Our position on NMD is well known, it hasn’t changed recently. We believe that the deployment of a national anti-missile defence undoubtedly will cause great damage to the existing national security system and undermine all that has been achieved in this area in the world over the past decade. I repeat, we look forward to a positive dialogue with our American partners.
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The biggest danger is a position whereby if one member of the nuclear club feels totally secure, that will cardinally change the balance of forces in this sphere in the international arena. Therefore our approach is different. We don’t want one side to unilaterally build up its strength, but we want to preserve the current level of interaction in this sphere and jointly counter all the possible threats that may arise in the near future. I must remind you that a document between the US and Russia aimed at improving information exchange on missile launches has just been signed in Brussels. I welcome that statement and the activities of the outgoing US Administration today. One has to give due to the Democrats: like the National Hockey League professionals, they play to the last minute.
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Russia has recently exerted serious efforts to secure the interests not only of foreign but also of Russian investors. The main thing here is to create favourable macro-economic conditions. It has to be said that for the first time in recent years these conditions are being maintained: inflation targets have been met, a new Tax Code, perhaps the most liberal ever, comes into force on January 1 next year. From the beginning of the year new rules of customs taxation will come into force. They too are very liberal. For example, the customs duty on technological equipment is 5%. I don’t know if any other countries have such low rates. Steps are being taken to strengthen the judiciary, including the arbitration courts. All these are necessary actions aimed at creating conditions that secure the interests of investors. That is one thing. At the same time I wanted to note that not everything is Russia’s responsibility. Speaking about the losses suffered by Canadian businessmen, you probably had in mind the unfortunate developments in 1998. I think I should remind you that they did not originate in Russia, but in South East Asia, and the leaders and the public in those countries put the blame not on local or Russian business, but on some international financial circles. To meet the obvious interest of potential investors we must keep a close watch on the events in the economy and financial markets. All these efforts should be concerted and coordinated. These were the problems we discussed – quite successfully I think – yesterday evening and this morning.