Question: Speaking in Tambov you said that for a number of political and economic reasons Russia is interested not in a political and moral defeat of the US, but in bringing the problem of Iraq settlement back to the UN. Could you elaborate on these reasons?
Vladimir Putin: As for the Russian approach to the crisis in Iraq, I set it forth in the Statement two weeks ago. Since then, nothing has changed in our position on Iraq. Moreover, the recent developments confirm the validity of the position we have taken on the issue. We come out for strengthening the foundations and principles of international law and for solving such kind of situations through the United Nations.
As for emotions, I understand the people who are unable to contain them. I understand and to some extent share the opinion of these people, especially after you watch television reports from the combat area.
But I don't think that emotions are a good counsel in preparing and passing any decisions.
In recent times Russia — and there have been many crises recently — has not once permitted itself the luxury of being drawn directly in any of these crises. And this time around, I will do everything within my power to prevent Russia being dragged into the Iraq crisis in any form.
As regards political considerations, in approaching any problems, including those of a global character, we of course have always cooperated and will cooperate with the United States.
Politically, the United States and Russia are the biggest nuclear powers in the world and we bear a special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace. We have signed a strategic offensive reductions treaty. The US Senate recently ratified it and we in Russia intend to do the same, we will work together with the deputies of the Federal Assembly.
This is the first thing.
Secondly — and I am absolutely convinced of this — we must jointly tackle the problem of non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons and means of their delivery. This is one of the most acute problems of the 21st century and, undoubtedly, that problem cannot be solved without positive cooperation and interaction between the United States and Russia.
Finally, the fight against terrorism. It remains highly relevant. Russia knows about it not by hearsay. To give you an example: in spite of the new stage of settlement in Chechnya terrorist acts in the Caucasus continue. This is an international problem. Here, within the anti-terrorist coalition, a stable partnership has been established with the United States and we intend to develop it in the future.
We constantly speak about the need to strengthen the institutions of the United Nations. We often speak of the need to create new world security architecture in the 21st century. That problem, obviously, cannot be effectively solved without a positive cooperation between the United States and Russia.
As for the economic sphere, everything is fairly simple and, in my view, is understandable even for ordinary Russian citizens.
First, the US is our major trade and economic partner. Our trade reached 9.2 billion dollars in 2002 and this year it is moving steadily toward the 10 billion dollar mark.
The American economy and the American national currency are an economy and a currency of a global character and the state of the European and Russian economies depends to a large extent on how they develop. If we imagine that the rate of the US dollar starts falling relative to other key national currencies in the world, this would directly affect Russia because today the gold and currency reserves of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have reached a record 55.5 billion US dollars (as of the beginning of April). The Central Bank keeps three-quarters of its currency reserves in US dollars. If we imagine that the rate will change in a way that is unfavorable for the dollar then the Central Bank of the Russian Federation will suffer direct losses. The same would apply to the savings of Russian citizens who, as we know, keep part of their savings in US dollars.
Finally, we are interested in cooperation in international organizations. We face the challenge of integrating the Russian economy into the world economy. And on this we actively cooperate with our American colleagues.
A highly relevant task for us is to change the proportions between different sectors of the Russian economy. We are interested in developing high technology sectors and that would be difficult to accomplish without bringing in modern American technologies and investments. This whole range of issues takes our interaction to a substantially higher level. At the same time — and I would like to make a note of it — in our bilateral relations we will proceed from the general principles of building the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, proceeding from the need to strengthen the foundations of international law, and the system of international security with the UN at its center.
If, in respect of the Iraq crisis, the first and the second considerations appear to contradict each other, I am sure that in the final analysis principled work in this direction — on a bilateral and multilateral basis — has a good prospect. Because not only Russia but an overwhelming majority of countries are interested in such a structure of foreign policy. In the final analysis it would benefit the United States.