Question: Mr Putin, what is your general impression of the summit? Which questions on the agenda of today’s first meeting do you consider the most important to Russia?
Vladimir Putin: My general impression is very favourable. I think this summit is even better than the previous, in which I also took part. True, we worked according to a plan—but I find it not so over-organised. There is not so much red tape now. So we often digressed to related matters. We had a very interesting and positive discussion, which concerned my country’s interests in many fields, which was of great importance to me. We discussed bilateral contacts with many countries, and international affairs. Everything we discussed was of tremendous interest to Russia. We had the opportunity not merely to speak up and learn our partners’ stances but also to co-ordinate team efforts for the development of international relations as a whole and of bilateral contacts and certain topical issues—some of them critical. I think it all deserves approval.
Question: Mr Putin, you had four bilateral meetings during the summit—with the German federal chancellor, and the British, Japanese and Italian prime ministers. What is your impression of those meetings, and what do you expect of tomorrow’s meeting with President George Bush?
Vladimir Putin: Bilateral meetings are part of the routine of G8 summits as they provide a very convenient form of contact and of exploring bilateral problems. That is why we took advantage of this opportunity here. I met with the federal chancellor last night, and with the British and Italian prime ministers today. Though bilateral meetings usually concern bilateral relations, other issues also come under discussion when international coordination of efforts is of special interest.
I discussed mainly economic matters with the German chancellor and the Italian prime minister. There was ample room for discussion here as Germany and Italy are Russia’s principal trading and economic partners, Germany leading for Europe, and Italy a close second. The pre-crisis level of Russian-Italian trade turnover has now been exceeded —over $9 billion last year, as against $6 billion in 1998. There are ambitious bilateral projects—not only in the long-established energy sphere but also in aircraft building and some other fields.
That was why Mr Berlusconi and I discussed those topics. As for Mr Tony Blair, we also took up certain international issues, in particular, the Middle East, Iraq and the Balkans. All summit participants also discussed the Balkan problem at lunch today, to my great satisfaction. Though opinions clashed outside the field of our interaction, the lunch proceeded in an informal and businesslike atmosphere of openness. It was of great help in our work, so we agreed on many things, and coordinated many questions between ourselves.
I discussed the entire range of Russian-Japanese issues, including frontier delineation, with Mr Koizumi. That was our first meeting—we had only had telephone conversations before. Of greatest importance, was that both parties agreed to stick to all previous agreements, including those which Mr Mori, his predecessor, and I made in Irkutsk. Future bilateral relations will proceed from that.
I shall meet with the US President tomorrow, so I think it would be wiser to discuss that meeting tomorrow or after I come back to Moscow. The United States is Russia’s key partner, so we shall have many things to discuss, especially our economic links. As you know, the US Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of the Treasury are coming to Moscow quite soon according to our Ljubljana agreement. American businessmen will also visit Russia. We shall talk about the prospects of our next meeting in the United States, most probably, this autumn. We shall surely also discuss international stability and security—the entire range of the complicated issues, including those connected with the 1972 ABM Treaty. I certainly cannot inform you about the achievements of this meeting before it finishes.
Question: What aspects of the Balkan, in particular, Macedonian, situation did you discuss? What do you think of its prospects?
Vladimir Putin: I liked today’s discussion of the Balkans and Macedonia. I liked our partners’ attitudes and their principled approach to the settlement of this extremely involved problem. However complicated the problems we encounter might be, there is one criterion on which all agree. That is the inviolability of frontiers in the region, and the preservation of sovereignty. Macedonia is no exception here. That is what matters most, and that is the only basis on which all other issues can be settled, including language, culture, and so on. I fully agree with this. We support such an approach, and we shall co-operate with our partners in finding a settlement in Macedonia and the entire Balkans.