Question: Mr Putin, could you speak in more detail about what you have touched upon: that Russia is ready to fight terror, and that to do this stable legislation is necessary and it should be done within the UN framework? Could you say whether you will directly back the US in its actions?
Vladimir Putin: The answer is very simple. It lies on the surface. As for direct support for the United States, I think I should not repeat it once again. We have declared our direct support for the United States. We have already done that. If you want to know whether we are going to change our position I can tell you that we are not. The framework of our interaction has been laid down and we are ready to continue cooperation in that framework.
As for my mentioning the UN instruments and international law, I have this to say: odd though it may seem, many national legislations and national legal systems do not have a clear-cut definition of terrorism. The threats today are so massive and so global that they call for a quick and adequate response. Unfortunately, the political toolkit at our disposal prevents us from responding to these threats adequately and quickly. Such a toolkit must exist. Therefore I believe that we should create this system in a clear-cut way, with insight into the problem and through joint efforts.
In fact, what I am saying is shared by many of my colleagues in the European Community with whom I met recently. Such work is already underway in many parliaments. Moreover, if we fail to do it, or to do it quickly, it will create a legal vacuum which the terrorists will take advantage of: they will mislead the international public using the human rights thesis as a cover and civilians as a shield. They are a very resourceful lot and they can quickly adapt to changing conditions. We should develop precise and clear-cut criteria of what exactly terrorism is. And I repeat, we should have an instrument to enable us to react to these threats promptly.
Question: My question is about what the new generation of Russians think about globalisation. How do they see themselves in this context, including in the APEC region? How do they see their own country in communication with other countries? In other words, what do the young people, the new generation of Russians think about?
Vladimir Putin: Your question gives me pleasure on two grounds. First, you have a great interest in Russia, for which I would like to thank you. And second, by asking me what young people in Russia think you thereby include me in that group. That is also very good to hear.
Now for the substance of the question. In my statement I talked about it in general terms, but what I said is probably not enough. I would like to elaborate. I don’t think we need to be afraid of globalisation. That is an objective process. I am saying it as a citizen of a country which has suffered from isolation more than any other. Nothing can be worse than isolation. It is disastrous for any country, for any economy. But we should not overlook the negative consequences of globalisation. We should approach this matter very carefully. We should foresee the dangers and respond to them together. And the countries which enjoy certain advantages – above all highly developed industrialised countries – should understand that it is not in their own strategic interests to take advantage of the fact. Because unless we put in place an effective system of international economic relations we will create more and more crises. We will create a basis for more and more dangers and threats. To take the main issue, if for example, we fail to conquer poverty, then poverty will provide the basis for corruption which erodes the economies of various regions, the basis for terrorism which will strike us in various regions of the world and destabilise the economy. In principle, the leaders of the big powers understand this. The problem is to find a consensus for a decision. I think it is possible.
Question: I would like to ask you about the special relationship between Russia and North Korea and the chances of that country becoming integrated into the international economic and political system, notably in Asia.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t want to go into details, but one thing is important for us: Russia has traditional – and I want to stress that – traditional relations of cooperation with North Korea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is our neighbour. A lot of people of Korean extraction live in Russia. All these factors lead us to pay special attention to what is happening on the Korean Peninsula. We very much hope to be able to make our contribution to inter-Korean settlement. It is in the interests both of North Korea and the Republic of Korea. The leaders of both states have repeatedly said it to me.
We have a whole range of proposals on how to develop ties between the North and South Korea and expand multilateral cooperation on the Korean Peninsula, including three-way cooperation between the Republic of Korea, the DPRK and Russia. We are aware that China, Japan, the US and many other countries have reacted favourably to that proposal. I am absolutely convinced that the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is committed to developing its country, and with due account of historical and political features, is thinking in terms of integrating it gradually, and not only in the framework of the inter-Korean dialogue, but integrating it into the international economic and political system.
I don’t want to go into detail, but we all understand that this is not easy. But I think it is possible and, secondly, I have no doubt that the DPRK leadership has a genuine wish to promote its relations with its neighbours.
Question: Mr Putin, I hope you won’t take it as an impertinent question, but I hear some commentators say that economic reform must prevail over political reform. But Russia, on the contrary, puts political reform first. For example, China gets $50 billion in direct foreign investment a year, while Russia is experiencing some economic difficulties. Do you think that is a valid observation?
Vladimir Putin: Your statement of the problem is correct. It is true that over the past decades Russia has witnessed a renewal of its political sphere. It was often done on an impulse. It was often done according to abstract schemes that did not take into account the historical features or the real state of the Russian economy, but invariably there was the commitment to bringing Russia into the international community. It was a sincere commitment, a consistent commitment and it absolutely reflects the trend of Russia’s development. At the same time, certain problems arose that led to a measure of political instability – and you know all about that. Who would care to invest resources in an unstable region? Today, as you know, we have achieved some sort of consensus in Russia. This is not only because I have forged a good relationship with the country’s parliament, it is because the main social forces in Russia have realised that political stability is vital for our economic development as well. There is an awareness that political stability can and must provide the natural basis for the economic development and upsurge of the Russian Federation.
This is not a passing trend. It is just the next natural stage in the evolution of Russia into a normal, civilised, modern democratic society whose economy is market-based and whose politics are democratic.
All this has increased the flow of investments. You may find it strange, but the biggest amount of investments last year came from Cyprus and the Netherlands.
For those who are not aware of it I can explain that this is really the return of Russian capital which had fled the country through various channels. But we know very well that it is the first step or the first sign that a favourable investment climate is emerging in the country. The return of national capital taken out of the country is always the first sign. This is world practice. It is a good signal. The next biggest investor in Russia recently has been Germany and then the US.
All this shows that Russia is gradually forming a stable, reliable and investment-friendly climate. We hope that those present will feel it and draw the right conclusions.