Question: The time has come to sum up the results of the visit. Are there issues on which you still have differences?
Vladimir Putin: We have conducted negotiations in several areas. They include international problems and the interaction between Russia and Poland in the world, humanitarian issues, cultural cooperation and, of course, economics.
I want to stress that an extremely friendly atmosphere has been created around this visit. I would like to thank the press for its coverage of the arrival in Poland of a fairly high-powered delegation from Russia. One could see the friendliness in the streets and in contacts with ordinary people. One could feel it on the part of the politicians, and not only members of the executive branch but also the members of Parliament.
I was greatly impressed by yesterday’s visit to the Polish Parliament. Even the people who had suffered in the past, victims of Stalin’s reprisals, spoke about these problems as the problems of the past which should not prevent us from looking to the future.
One of the oldest deputies of the Sejm told me: “We count on you and on President Alexander Kwasniewski. Please, build the relations between Poland and Russia in the best way and as quickly as possible so that people like myself could live to see it.” That was very moving and it appealed to our sense of responsibility. To give a straightforward answer to your question, I do not see a single problem that could be described as a “bone of contention”.
Question: Everything seems to indicate that your visit ushers in a new chapter in Russian-Polish relations, that we will agree on economic issues and will work together. But in his toast to you yesterday President Alexander Kwasniewski said that history could not be side-stepped. Is it possible that you will follow the example of German politicians who apologized to Poland several years ago?
Vladimir Putin: It is rightly said that a people that does not remember its past has no future. I think that under certain circumstances repentance would not come amiss.
Only I am afraid that it would put us on a different track. We may come to expect repentance on each other’s part over various issues and problems of our joint history and then count how many times each side has apologized and strike a balance.
I think it would be much more positive and reasonable to say that we have immense respect for the Polish people, we are aware of the problems of our past, we will definitely draw lessons for the future and we will look to the future with optimism.
From what we have seen today we can look at these problems with optimism.