Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Allow me to share my impressions of the meeting and its results.
But first of all I would like to thank our hosts. We are happy to note the excellent organisation and professionalism of our hosts. We are all impressed with this place and the scenic beauty that surrounds us. We have favourable impressions of the friendly attitude of all those who have worked with us.
The hardest part during these two days fell to the Canadian Prime Minister, our distinguished host, Mr Chretien, because not only did he have to take part in discussions on the summit agenda along with everyone else, but to play the role of host. He had to make sure that all the documents were passed in an acceptable form, to make sure that everything was done on time and effectively, and he succeeded. I repeat that although he had more things to attend to than all the others, he rose to the occasion. I would like to thank him once again.
It was truly a meeting of like-thinking people who gathered to discuss the key problems that alarm and worry our countries. The problems affect not only the G8 countries but all of mankind, because as you know we discussed the fight against terrorism and the problems of economic development and passed some important documents. That part of the discussion was very useful and informative, and enabled us to set some benchmarks for development. As you know, we discussed poverty, with a particular focus on Africa, but not only Africa, although I repeat, that continent was the centre of attention.
Our accomplishments suggest that the Kananaskis meeting was very well organised and successful. I would like to end my introductory remarks here and I would be happy to answer your questions.
Question: Mr Putin, summing up the results of the summit, which provisions in the statements on global partnership do you consider to be the most important, especially for Russia? Three statements have been issued. What are their most important elements, in your opinion?
Vladimir Putin: The global fight against terrorism has been discussed for a long time. It is connected with Russia and other countries where there are stockpiles of weapons, especially those of mass destruction. It is a highly relevant issue for Russia because we have inherited several difficult problems from the Soviet Union, the principal of which are the debts of the former Soviet Union. We are coping with them in spite of some problems, and the huge quantities of weapons which have long been out of use are in storehouses and need to be disposed of. Above all, I mean the nuclear weapons.
I have looked through the press and watched some international television channels which speak about the threat of such weapons spreading from Russian territory. There is no such threat. There is no threat of proliferation because all the weapons are strictly under control. But, I repeat, they are in storage and are not used. But they do pose a certain danger, above all from an environmental standpoint. That is a fact. Our biggest interest is cooperating in the disposal of the stockpiles of chemical weapons and discarded nuclear submarines. Many of them were to be destroyed back in the Soviet times. First of all, I would like to say that the responsibility for destroying these weapons rests with Russia alone. We have been disposing of these weapons and we will continue to do so. If our partners are ready to help us with this, we would be grateful.
We have agreed this time to cooperate on a global scale, as you have mentioned, and we have worked out certain approaches and rules of joint work. As I have said, Russia is committed to complying with all its obligations in this sphere, but that cooperation will come from other countries, especially those of the former Soviet Union. It is an important and relevant topic and we are very pleased that our colleagues have paid attention to it.
Question: Did the summit discuss holding an extraordinary G8 summit in St Petersburg in 2003? If so, what is the outcome?
Vladimir Putin: Next year will mark the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg, Russia’s northern capital. Festive events are being prepared there and we are planning to have an enlarged-format Russia-EU summit. Not the usual format of the Russian leadership and the European Union “troika,” but Russian leadership and the European heads of state and government. The initiative was put forward by the Prime Minister of Luxemburg at a meeting in Stockholm. We have gratefully and actively supported it and we are engaged in intensive consultations with our European partners most of whom have agreed to come to St Petersburg.
As for the G8, you know that it has been decided that Russia will now work as a full-scale member of the G8. We will hold the full-scale session in Russia in 2006.
But we are not going to crowd 2003 with one event after another. We have agreed with President Chirac that we will coordinate the events in France (France will host the G8 in 2003) with the Russia-EU summit in St Petersburg to be able to invite not only the leaders of Europe, but also the Prime Minister of Japan, the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States to attend the festivities. All this has been done to spare them the need to fly across continents and oceans to Europe several times. I have invited all my colleagues to come to St Petersburg in 2003. As far as I understand the invitation has been accepted and we will await the guests and hope that these plans will work out.
Question: What are the results of your bilateral meeting with George W. Bush today?
Vladimir Putin: It was a working meeting, we have simply exchanged opinions on the progress in implementing the accords reached during the US President’s visit to Russia.
We have exchanged opinions on the situation in the Middle East and had some more discussion on the problems of disarmament and the situation between India and Pakistan.
It was a highly informative and extremely businesslike meeting. We are in constant contact with the President of the United States and correspond with each other. Before leaving for Canada, I received another letter from him on a current issue and during our personal meeting we had a chance to discuss the ideas set out in that letter. We agreed to stay in contact on topics of mutual interest, including the development of foreign trade. We discussed the issues connected with the FATF because Russia has complied with all the 25 conditions and yet for some reason it has not been taken off the “blacklist”. We also discussed what may appear to be minor topics, but I think that there are no minor topics in these matters and every issue should be followed through. So, that topic was also touched upon.
Question: Could you comment on the decisions taken today on the issue of terrorism, and were there any differences between the G8 countries during the discussion of that issue?
Vladimir Putin: No, there were no differences. The decisions were very specific and very sound. As you know a document on transport security has been signed. Russia has long been paying particular attention to that issue. Our planes, unlike those of other countries, have long been provided with doors that prevent criminals from entering the cockpit. But we too have some financial problems connected with work in seaports and on sea-going vessels. But these are not essential issues, and all our colleagues have agreed to carry out corresponding activities before 2004. Even if we fail to meet that deadline by a year or a year and a half, or longer, the important thing is that we understand what needs to be done and in what direction we should move. We will do it jointly and there were no differences or doubts on that score.
Question: Could you spell out what the most important result of the summit is for Russia? And the second question: you have praised the way this summit has been organised. Russia will host the summit in 2006. Have you decided on the venue?
Vladimir Putin: Let me begin with the last question. When we discussed the next summit in France in 2003, our distinguished colleague and a great friend of Russia, the French President, was not yet ready to say where in France the summit would take place. And you want me to name the venue of the 2006 summit? I think it is premature to speak about it, but there are places to see in Russia. There are places where our guests would come with pleasure. And it is not only Moscow, although Moscow of course is among the main contenders to host the meeting.
As for determining the issues in terms of priority, I think in spite of everything, issues of economic development have been at the top of the agenda. Exchange of information in that sphere is, I think, extremely important, very useful and it is always in demand. It gives the participants a better insight into what is happening in the world economy, enables them to pick their bearings and to adjust their own economic policies. The conversations on that subject have been very useful. At the suggestion of our host, Mr Chretien, practically everyone among those present spoke about the economic situation in his own country, assessed the trends in the world economy, and spoke about his plans, which in itself is very interesting.
As far as we are concerned, it was very important for us to brief our colleagues about what is happening in the Russian Federation, to discuss the problems of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation and the very sensitive issue of the fight against terrorism. What was important was that we continue the interaction that took shape in the world after September 11. We have not only maintained contacts but we have maintained the spirit of cooperation in this sphere. I believe it to be a fundamental issue and I would include it among the main results of our work here in Kananaskis.
Question: You have spent two days in this wonderful place. What feelings have you experienced? What did you like most of all and with what impressions will you come away with from here?
Vladimir Putin: The first and most natural experience has been jet lag. (Laughter). Because when it is day here, it is night back home in Russia. It is difficult to get used to it quickly.
Speaking about the discussions and the meetings that we had, I would like to stress the positive mood of all the G8 leaders. I would say that they exhibited a feeling of partnership towards one another and great understanding for their countries and peoples. It is a very unusual atmosphere that puts one in the mood for partnership and cooperation. This is the main positive feeling I would mention.
Question: At a recent meeting with journalists you said that Yasser Arafat could not be excluded from the Middle East peace process. But President Bush said the opposite. Does it indicate that differences have arisen between Moscow and Washington over the situation in the Middle East? Have you managed to find a common language on this topic?
Vladimir Putin: It is one of the trickiest questions we discussed. At the same time, I would like to stress that President Bush did not say either in his statement or here in Kananaskis that Chairman Arafat should be removed from the political scene. I am not aware of such remarks on his part.
We know that the US Administration is critical of the Palestinian leadership over the fight against terrorism. I must say that our side is also often critical in the sense that we believe more should be done to combat the manifestations of terrorism. At the same time our position regarding Chairman Arafat is well known and I articulated it just recently. Basically, it is that Arafat is a recognised leader, a legitimate leader of the Palestinian Authority and it would be counterproductive to solve any issues without taking into account his opinion.
As for the overall situation, we believe that it is necessary, on the one hand, to do everything to put an end to terrorist actions, to allow the Palestinian state to develop on a democratic basis and to ensure the security of the Jewish state of Israel and its citizens.
Question: Regarding Africa. The G8 approached the plan submitted by African countries in a creative way. What can be Russia’s role and place in addressing the global problem of combating poverty?
Vladimir Putin: As regards Russia, it has traditionally had very good relations with the African continent. We are very perceptive of the problems on the African continent.
I must say that Russia has been making a very tangible contribution to solving Africa’s problems. Suffice it to say that Russia is making a big contribution to the initiative adopted here, a multi-lateral initiative, including the writing off of part of African debts. Of all the African debts that are to be written off, 20% are debts to the Russian Federation. That is $26 billion. The year before last we forgave about half a billion in debts, and last year more than 900 million, almost a billion. We are ready to take part in humanitarian programmes, in particular the programmes combating the spread of AIDS.
We consider the programmes connected with public health and environmental protection to be very important. We believe the programme of access to drinking water is very important, and we have some useful experience to share. We are ready to join that work on a full scale. We offer African countries many scholarships to study at the higher and secondary education institutions in Russia, and we intend to continue that programme.
In general, Russia’s assistance to African countries is diverse and we are convinced that these activities, at the end of the day, meet the national interests of the Russian Federation and we intend to continue that work jointly with the other G8 countries.
Question: What is your attitude towards anti-globalists? Don’t you think there is something incongruous about the fact that while the G8 is trying harder and harder to address global problems, the number of people objecting to it is growing. What are the ways towards dialogue between the two sides?
Vladimir Putin: The people who call themselves anti-globalists are probably not a homogeneous lot. There are different people and on the whole one cannot say that they hold similar views on all problems. Some people are genuinely concerned about the problems connected with globalisation. Such problems exist. For example, the issue of opening the markets to the goods of developing countries is one thing, and the demand that they open up their markets may suppress, perhaps, parts of their economies. Russia, and indeed other G8 countries, is to a large extent opening its markets for the traditional goods of the poorest countries.
Judging from the way that movement is developing, there are some extremist individuals in the movement who are not, in my opinion, overly concerned with real problems. They are only concerned with gaining publicity. All those who break the law in the process must be held accountable and punished.
Question: What part of the 20 billion earmarked for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction will go to Russia and what part to other CIS countries? And could you name these countries? Have the facilities for which money will be allocated been identified?
Vladimir Putin: As for countries, there are several options. The decision must rest with the countries that will allocate the resources. Russia, by the way, is also ready to take part in the disposal of weapons not only at home, but in other countries where there are such weapons. That is a subject of a separate analysis.
As for our interests, there are two topics of particular interest to us. And they are the most urgent topics, in my opinion. First, disposal of the stockpiles of chemical weapons and second (as I have mentioned) the destruction of the nuclear submarines discarded by the Navy.