Vladimir Putin: During my official visit to Finland we had a chance to visit the summer residence of the President in the city of Turku. Now we have the pleasure of entertaining our distinguished Finnish guests – the President of the Finnish Republic and her spouse – here in St Petersburg.
To us, Finland is an especially privileged partner, I would say, a model partner, in a way.
Over the previous years, over the previous decades our two countries have forged good-neighbourly and effective partnership relations. We cherish the quality of these relations.
Finland has taken its deserved place in the European Union. Contacts with Finland help us to build our relations with the united Europe.
Bilateral ties are important for Russia in their own right. In spite of the difference in size between our countries, trade between them is impressive – 6 billion euros. We have discussed the problems that prevent us from increasing our interaction, making it still more extensive; we discussed the prospects for economic and political interaction and the problems of security in Europe and the world. I briefed the President, of course, on the results of the recent Russian-American summit.
Finally, I would like to thank our Finnish friends for accepting our invitation so that we have been able to hold this meeting in St Petersburg at such short notice.
Question: The Finnish audience had expected that a treaty on protection of investors would be signed during your meeting. But it has not happened because the Russian side has refused to sign it. What is the reason, and are you going to revisit the issue?
Vladimir Putin: I have said that in our estimation the level of our trade and economic ties is fairly high: 6 billion euros. But we cannot be happy with the structure of trade. More than 80% of Russian exports are commodities and about 75% of Finnish imports into Russia are finished products. The treaty, the agreement on mutual protection of investments you have mentioned, is needed if the situation is to change. We hope that the document will provide a good basis for mutual investment and for changing the situation in the trade and economic sphere. And then high quality equipment and hi-tech goods will be produced on Russian territory with the participation of our Finnish partners. But if it is really to be so, if we are to achieve the goal we set ourselves, the document must be of a corresponding quality.
Russia is not yet a member of the World Trade Organization and it is not protected by the WTO rules. The signing of this kind of treaty in accordance with standard WTO rules without the qualifications aimed at protecting our economic interests may be counter-productive.
Today we devoted much time and attention to the issue and the President spelled out her considerations and her vision of this problem, and I could not but agree with some of her arguments.
We must do some further analysis and arrive at a balanced decision that meets the interests of both the Finnish Republic and the Russian Federation. I am sure we will eventually sign such a document. I merely would like to note that this is not a sporting contest and there is no need for undue haste, or indeed, unjustified delays.
Question: Your negotiations with the US President have just ended, and you immediately go into negotiations with your European colleagues. What is the angle of Russian policy? What is the priority?
Vladimir Putin: The priority is our national interests. We have had a long discussion on that topic. I have said that among the countries our biggest trade and economic partner is the US. But if you look at the European Union as a single actor in international economic activities then, of course, the volume of our economic links with the European Union is larger.
The issues of disarmament, international stability and the building of an international security structure are areas in which, of course, the United States is our priority partner.
But we remember that we are part of Europe. This accounts not only for my meeting today with the Finnish head of state. Very shortly we will have a Russian-EU summit. And also very shortly St Petersburg will host a meeting of the Baltic Sea countries’ heads of government. Today we discussed ways to develop our interaction with Europe in the security sphere and we spoke about interaction in the economic sphere.
But let us not forget that Russia has huge interests in the East where we have thousands of kilometers of common border with our great neighbour, the People’s Republic of China, and where our relations with Japan are making good headway in spite of any problems that might arise. We know that there are a host of problems over Afghanistan and in Central Asia. That is why a meeting of the heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will soon be held in St Petersburg. So we will pay attention not only to the American or the European aspects of our foreign policy, but also to the Eastern one.
Our policy will be weighed and balanced and in any case our foreign policy has only one goal: to create favourable conditions for the development of the Russian Federation, to contribute as much as we can to stabilising the situation in the world, to building a new architecture of international security together with our partners, including Finland.