Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
Before discussing the substance of the problems that have brought us here, I would like to congratulate my colleague, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of Japan, on the brilliant results of the work. I would like to thank him also for the excellent organisation of our meeting. Because not only the quality of organisation and of the documents passed, and the spirit that has prevailed here, but also the active participation of Japan in organising all these events, have undoubtedly contributed to further strengthening its positions. It makes Japan a more influential country in tackling the enormous challenges facing humankind.
And I would like to say special words of thanks for the people of Okinawa, because the friendliness, the sincerity and warmth of our reception here created a unique atmosphere and contributed to the good results of our meeting. So, I offer my sincere gratitude to the people of Okinawa.
The discussions of key international issues over these past few days have confirmed that we can only find an answer to the global problems that we are facing today and will face tomorrow if we join forces. Only together can we come to decisions which, though not always ideal, will unite us. I think the final document of the meeting is an example of just such a result.
It is a kind of common denominator of the positions of the G8 member countries. We are sure that the results of our joint efforts will have a real positive impact on international affairs. It is particularly important in the spheres of maintaining strategic stability, the fight against terror, organised crime, drug trafficking and in preventing regional conflicts.
We have confirmed the position of the Russian Federation on the problem of preserving the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And I would like to repeat that today non-strategic anti-missile defence systems are enough to effectively meet the missile threats today and in the near historical future. We are ready to cooperate with all countries. And that is very important. In my opinion, the fundamental thing is that these issues should be tackled together.
I note with satisfaction the bilateral contacts which began with a meeting with the President of the Untied States. As you know, we have signed a joint statement in which we have reaffirmed our interest in an early ratification of START II by the United States and expressed our joint commitment to broadening our contacts on preparing START III. That amounts to an indirect approval of our proposals aimed at ensuring international security and lowering the threshold of nuclear confrontation while intensifying joint actions to neutralise possible threats.
The new global challenges facing mankind loomed large on the summit agenda. They include international terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking, aggressive ethnic separatism, nationalism and religious extremism. Today these common problems call for a united and consolidated approach. We are ready to work on possible joint steps in these areas.
We note with satisfaction that as a result of a dialogue at various levels we have achieved progress in developing a coordinated strategy of averting conflicts. It is an important sphere of our cooperation. Today we should work out a culture of preventing conflicts and – I would like to emphasise this – with mandatory intellectual and legal analysis of all the components of these complicated problems.
It is a matter of fundamental importance that the G8 has unequivocally reaffirmed the leading role of the United Nations and its Security Council in peacemaking, as well as its prerogatives as regards the sanctioning of the use of military force. I want to stress this point.
International terrorism is a special topic. It still poses a challenge to peace and stability of all states, threatens the security and well-being of citizens and the safety of individuals. During the course of the discussion we drew the attention of our colleagues to the emergence, as we have repeatedly pointed out, of an arc of instability, which, in our opinion, stretches from the Philippines to Kosovo. This is highlighted by the current hostage-taking tragedy in the Philippines.
In my opinion, the centre of that arc is gradually shifting towards Afghanistan, which is felt not only by Russia and Central Asian countries, but by other countries as well. The only solution is to broaden the international system of combating terrorism and to make it more effective. It is important not to bury our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, and not to pretend that the threat does not exist. The worst thing we can do is to pretend that it does not exist and keep paying money to terrorists, paying them a ransom. No amount of money will be enough because their aggressive appetites will continue to grow.
As before, we attach great importance to economic issues. As you know, Russia has managed to overcome the most acute consequences of the 1998 financial crisis. A programme of actions has been approved for 2001. Policy guidelines up to the year 2010 have been approved. We set the target of the growth of the Gross Domestic Product by at least 5% a year, which should double Russia’s GDP over 10 years.
The important thing is the extent to which Russia manages to fit into the world trade, economic and financial system. The important question is just how much of an equal partner to industrialised countries can Russia be. Russian entrepreneurs and industrialists should be mindful of the globalisation of the world economy, and Russia as a whole should not be left out of this process.
We had detailed discussions of what I believe to be equally important topics, such as the development of democracy, sustainable development, the environment, information security and the creation of an information community.
We had a fruitful discussion of the problems of health (as you are aware, they are reflected in the final documents), education, cultural diversity and a whole range of regional topics. Our goal is socially responsible globalisation. It means active contribution to the bridging of the economic and social development gaps among all the members of the international community, narrowing the widening gulf between rich and poor countries, and preventing the emergence of new barriers. I am not referring to ideological barriers – thank God, we have left those behind in the 20th century – but to economic barriers.
The same can be said about the need to use the results of the information and scientific and technological revolution for the good of everyone and exclusively for peaceful, creative purposes. The development of the market economy in the 21st century, free movement of capital and ideas should neither lead to a speculative free-for-all nor to excessive supranational regulation.
All countries and nations must have access to the fruits of regional and global integration. As you know, much of that discussion focused on the problem of the human genome.
Reasonable and effective government, democratic development of the diverse social forms of human civilisation in the 21st century should increase and not diminish individual security.
The latest fruits of the collective human reason, be it the human genome, which I have mentioned, the International Space Station or the Internet, will serve all, and not selected members of the international community. That should be our goal.
As we have seen, all our G8 partners agree with Russia’s main thesis: strengthening strategic stability and broader international cooperation as a means to achieve a high standard of living for all in the context of a socially oriented globalisation. This is particularly heartening on the eve of the international milestone event, the Millennium Summit the United Nations will hold this autumn. Russia is preparing for this event and will of course take a very active part in it.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions.
Question: Mr Putin, on the eve of the meeting many suggested that the topic of the national anti-missile defence might become an irritant for G8 members. Now that the event is over, was this topic a subject of discussion or not?
Putin: I can confirm that it was discussed in bilateral meetings, both in official bilateral meetings and in the many talks on the fringes of the official meetings. I’ll tell you what my approach is. I think that if we want to achieve a positive result in discussing and solving global problems we must not follow blind alleys, we must invariably choose a route that leads to some common positions. I think we are succeeding in following such a route with our American partners, above all with President Clinton, despite some differences between us on issues of principle.
Our joint statement confirms what I have just said. Yes, we have disagreements and different views on the problems at hand. But there are some issues we agree on. We have agreed on the need to have more intensive contacts regarding START III. And this is in fact one of our proposals. As I’ve said, it is necessary to bring down the level of nuclear confrontation and build up multi-national efforts in the field of arms control, to create a global control system. We should create a missile launch control centre, on which we have agreed. That centre should involve not only us, as America’s partners, but other interested parties, for example, Europe. We should think together about other options to enable us to jointly oppose the possible threats that our partners have mentioned while preserving the overall balance of forces.
I think we will always be able to find a solution if we do not paint ourselves into a corner every time, but look for a common route.
Question: You have become the star of the forum. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that Russia must become a full-fledged member of the G8. How do you see Russia’s role in the G8 in the future?
Putin: Thank you for your characteristic. Developing a star syndrome is the last thing I would like to see happen to me. I don’t think I am in any danger of that. As for the role of the G8 as a whole, and Russia’s place in the G8, I would like to say the following. We have a high opinion of the efforts of this forum. We believe it has found a niche in the system of international ties. This forum does not supplant any of the permanent international organisations, it deals with global issues, preparing solutions, as it were, at the international legal level. It can also give impulses to their solution and promote cooperation.
That is extremely important for everyone, including Russia. Russia does not want and cannot afford to be excluded from the process of making these decisions. We should be integrated in all the structures that work out decisions affecting Russia. In that sense Russia is of course interested and will work in the framework of the G8. Indeed, we are ready to expand our participation.
As you know, Russia is considering the possibility and will seek to become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organisation. We hope to be able to join the WTO on standard terms. The whole package of documents has already been submitted. As Russia becomes more and more integrated in the international economic community it will play a growing role in the G8. We do not want to run ahead of the events, everything should run its course. We are not interested in rushing progress in our relations.
Russia wants and is ready for cooperation with the G8. But I think that all the G8 countries are also interested in having Russia by their side and taking part in hammering out these decisions. The quality of decisions and their effective implementation depend on it.
Question: The political leaders with whom you had talks have approved the results of your visit to North Korea. Do you feel that the leaders of developed countries are really ready to share the full risk and responsibility, for example, involved in the process of integration of North Korea in the world community? Or will it remain a Russian “speciality”?
Putin: I don’t feel that this is some kind of burden for Russia. We all know that North Korea is a neighbour of the Russian Federation, we have a common border. We are aware that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is still explosive. And Russia does not want to have any explosive situations close to its borders. This is in our national interests. My visit to Korea was connected with this problem and with our immediate national interests.
The G8 leaders have welcomed my trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. I had preliminary telephone conversations with some parties to the settlement process, including with the President of the Republic of Korea, that is, with the southern part of the peninsula. And earlier still, we had discussions with several G8 leaders. And of course, I briefed them in a general way on the results of my talks with the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
I have to say that the trip itself and its results have met with a positive reaction. I for one believe that the fewer “blank spots” there are the better. In order to understand what is happening one must have contacts, links and information. If we hear of certain fears about the missile programmes pursued by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we should know exactly what these programmes are, their scale and the extent of the threat they pose.
Strategic stability issues are mainly discussed between the United States and Russia, but the destinies of other countries also depend on our accurate perception of the situation and how thoroughly we can prepare. In order to solve problems effectively we must first have accurate information. Such information cannot be obtained without working with the subjects under international law involved in this process. North Korea, the DPRK, has become involved in this process.
I repeat, the information I provided met with a positive reaction. In fact, it seemed to me that the arguments I advanced have led some of our colleagues to consider the possibility of revising the level and quality of their relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. I think that is only right.
Question: Mr Putin, what impact will your participation in this meeting have on life in Russia? All this, including your meetings with the leaders who are here, is the external side. But what implications does it have for the social and political life in Russia, for your image as the head of state inside Russia?
Putin: If I said that I am not particularly concerned about my image, you would probably not believe me. But under the circumstances, that is true. I have not come here to improve my image, but to perform my official duties. I was elected President in order to deal with the problems of domestic and foreign policy. Here we are dealing with foreign policy issues.
That undoubtedly has an impact on the internal political and economic situation in the country. I would just like to repeat what I said a little earlier. The meetings of the G8 leaders adopt or prepare decisions that go a long way to determine the overall international security architecture, the economic and financial architecture. These meetings deal with global issues.
Today we said that the work of the G8 should be more forward-looking. We should foresee the processes developing in the world and be proactive. Of course it is highly important for Russia to take part in making these decisions.
What is the alternative? To leave global problems unattended to and then either resist or fit into the process which we may or may not like. That, of course, would hinder the international community as a whole and Russia. If decisions are worked out jointly with Russia, they take our interests into account. This is extremely important.
But in addition to these broad, general things there are applied topics that cannot but be of interest. Take one of the topics we discussed, the problem of the human genome. You know that Russia has been working on this for more than 10 years. The Soviet Union used to allocate considerable resources for research into this subject. At the time scientists agreed that all the information in this sphere would be accessible to everyone who wished to use it. That openness was instrumental in achieving results that are exceedingly important for the destinies of humankind. Today everyone has access to these results.
But approaches to using them differ. Some say that from this moment on part of the information should be closed, other leaders say that the open regime should be preserved. The life and health of millions of Russians, without exaggeration, hinge on how this issue is resolved. Because it determines the quality and amount of medicines, their prices and effectiveness.
Or take another problem that we have discussed, the problem of the quality of food connected with bio-technologies, genetic engineering and so on. The handling of that problem also affects practically every Russian citizen. We buy huge quantities of food abroad. And the quality of that food is important for us. These issues have practical relevance even today.
We have agreed that it would be practicable to set up an international organisation or an international panel of experts to, first, study these problems and, second, some leaders have expressed thoughts about the procedure of informing the population on these issues, the procedure of bringing to the consumer everything we know about these products, including the opinions of experts.
Such issues are of direct practical relevance for every Russian citizen. It cannot but be a matter of interest to us. So, I think our work here has been extremely important from that point of view too. This forum has done a lot of important work.
Question: Mr Putin, where will you be heading after Okinawa and what are you going to do there?
Putin: You know the saying, “There is no place like home”. So, I am going home. Because since I became the country’s President, my home is not a city or a street, but the whole of the Russian Federation, I am going to the Russian Federation, to Kamchatka, to be precise. The area is very far from Moscow and visiting it takes extra time, and one is always short of time. And now that I am here, next door, I think it is my duty to devote some attention to the problems of the Russian Far East.
I flew here from another region in the Far East, from the city of Blagoveshchensk. On my way back I want to make a stop-over in Kamchatka to meet with the local leaders, with the governor of the region, as we have already agreed, and discuss with him the problems of the region’s development.
Question: What was your impression from your meeting with Mr Jacques Chirac?
Putin: Jacques Chirac is a recognised leader in world politics, he is a very experienced man, I would even say an expert on some matters. Frankly, I was amazed at his encyclopaedic knowledge in some areas, especially in the field of oriental martial arts. He is very keen on sumo wrestling, he was telling me about it with enthusiasm and with profound knowledge of the subject. We had a very good discussion. He presented me with a book and I too gave him a book – about the Kremlin. France must never forget where the Kremlin is. There is such a place in the world.
We talked a lot about the influence of Russian culture on French and, vice versa, the impact of French culture on Russia. You know that the Russian people have always had a special feeling for France precisely because of powerful reciprocal cultural influence.
I expect to visit France in October because France is the current president of the European Community. I hope that the dialogue will continue and that it will be to the benefit both of France and of Russia.
Question: Mr Putin, not only Russia, but also many US allies, including France and Germany, are critical of the US plans to deploy an anti-missile defence system. Do you think that after your visit to North Korea and after the meetings that you held there, that attitude will change further? Will US allies become even more vigorously opposed to the plans of an anti-missile defence?
Putin: You know, when we gather at such forums (at least I can speak for myself) we do not try to outwit each other and put all the rest in an impasse, a difficult position. We have our position, we promote it and advance additional arguments. I had a feeling that the arguments voiced this time made a positive impression on all the participants in our meeting. And I certainly hope that they will be heeded in the course of our further negotiations on a topic that is vital for all of humankind.
Question: Your opinion of Kim Jong Il is widely known. Can it be said that your visit to the DPRK indicates a dramatic change of policy? Is it really a change of course? What are the motives behind it?
Putin: As for motives, I have already said and I can repeat that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is our neighbour. A peace dialogue is underway on the Korean Peninsula. Russia has a vital stake in this dialogue being settled by peaceful means and it will do everything to contribute to that dialogue on the understanding that it is ultimately up to the Korean nation itself to decide.
Secondly, during the discussion of global security issues we were presented with an argument about various military and missile threats, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea being mentioned more and more often in this context. Naturally, I wanted to take a closer look at this problem on the spot.
These were the arguments behind my decision to go to the People’s Republic of Korea. I am satisfied with the results. Needless to say, two days of negotiations and meetings are not enough to draw sweeping and final conclusions. But without getting in touch, without getting additional information it is impossible to draw any conclusions at all. And still less is it possible to make any decisions, especially of a global character.
As for my impressions of the leadership of North Korea, I have already made them known and I can merely repeat them. The Juche idea is well known to you. But leaving aside the adherence to certain ideas on the basis of which the edifice of the North Korean state is built, I got a strong impression that the Korean leader can listen and hear what he is told. He responds to arguments in the course of discussion. He can be a partner in communication and negotiations. One can talk with him.
But of course we should heed the national interests of North Korea itself, they should not be discounted. Otherwise we won’t achieve any positive results in anything, including the solution of such a complicated problem as the settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
We very much hope that the result of my trip will be used by all the interested parties. We do not want to monopolise these results. We offer them to all the participants in this process.
Thank you very much. I wish you all the best.