President Vladimir Putin:
Good day, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, I would like to thank the French President for making this visit. Our talks have been very productive and have covered a lot of different subjects. Their spirit and substance entirely reflect the nature of relations between Russia and France, relations which have always been privileged, friendly and trusting, and which, I am sure, will continue to be so.
We have discussed in detail the development of our bilateral relations and exchanged views on the main international issues. One of the central themes of our discussion was ensuring stability in Europe and in the world. We talked about measures that would enable us today to strengthen the international security system and be more active in counteracting global threats, above all, that of terrorism.
The recent and cruel terrorist attacks in Moscow, Spain and Uzbekistan have confirmed once more that criminals are willing to commit the most heinous atrocities in order to achieve their aims. We are forced to admit that they have taken by surprise the civilised world which, despite the evident threat, has still not developed a clear system of common action. This is why we need to act together and make an effective joint effort to neutralise terrorist networks and cut off their financial base.
We also looked closely at developing cooperation between Russia and the European Union and at creating common European areas in trade and the economy, internal and external security, freedom, justice, science and culture. The European Union is one of Russia’s key partners and it is pleasing to see that our many-faceted business and cultural ties with this major union are developing and growing stronger with every passing year. We will continue to make this aspect of our policy a priority for our attention.
A few words about the planned European Union enlargement. Talks are now underway on resolving the specific problems arising from the accession of new countries to the European Union. It is my conviction that we need to look for mutually acceptable compromise solutions, solutions designed for the long term, for an enlarged Europe and for Russia. This is the position affirmed by the decisions taken at the Russia-EU summits in St. Petersburg and Rome.
The French President and I also exchanged views on other current international and regional problems. I would like to note that we share practically the same approach to the situation in Iraq, regulating the conflict in the Middle East and the problem of Afghanistan.
We spoke about the recent interethnic clashes in Kosovo. Our countries cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic events taking place there.
As you know, Russia has already sent humanitarian aid to the victims of this violence. We think the international community should take urgent measures to normalise the situation in this part of Europe.
We also had an extensive discussion on prospects for bilateral economic cooperation. We think it essential to develop all its aspects – trade ties, cooperation in investment, innovation and military-technical areas. I would especially note the great potential for expanding our bilateral cooperation in the high-technology sector. We have already taken some good steps in the aviation sector. We are looking to the successful implementation of large-scale space projects, in particular, launching Russian Soyuz rockets from the space centre in Guyana.
I hope that our guest, President Chirac, found it interesting to learn about the work of the Chief Space Command Centre, all the more so as it demonstrated the technical and human resources potential that Russia can bring to broad international cooperation in space exploration.
The very fact that this visit to this unique Russian centre took place shows the new degree of openness we have today. I would like to point out that before this, two French leaders visited Russian space facilities – General de Gaulle in 1966 and President Mitterand in 1988. Both of them visited the Baikonur space launch centre. Until today, no foreign citizen had ever visited the Chief Space Command Centre.
In the case of Russia and France, both countries with rich cultural traditions, humanitarian cooperation plays an exceptionally important role. Realising this, we spoke in detail about measures we can take to open up new opportunities here. I have in mind here developing our relations in the area of language learning – Russian in France and French in Russia – and developing youth exchanges.
In conclusion, I would like once more to extend a sincere welcome to President Chirac and to all our French guests. I am sure that today, we have taken a positive step, a serious step, in developing our relations.
Thank you for your attention.
President Jacques Chirac: First of all, I would like to say how great a pleasure it is for me to be once again here in Russia. Of course, I would also like once more to sincerely congratulation President Putin on his brilliant re-election as head of state of Russia.
Relations between France and Russia go back a very long way. Our relations always had an important cultural dimension. The Russians are an ancient people and have a great culture, and I have always had a lot of respect for this culture and this country, and have always admired its history. Today it is very clear that there are direct ties between our countries, especially since Russia has successfully taken the path of democracy and reform in order to adapt to the modern world and once more take its rightful place in the world. And of course, this place cannot but be an exceptional place.
It is France’s view that relations between the European Union and Russia are of importance for both Russia and for Europe. But even more important is that these relations are crucial for the balance and stability of tomorrow’s world.
We are constantly striving to strengthen ties between the European Union and Russia. We support the free movement of people, ideas and goods. This is the sense of the four general points that we formulated recently in St. Petersburg. In this respect, France and Germany have put forward concrete proposals and we hope that these proposals will be adopted at the next EU-Russia summit in Moscow.
I would like to offer the President my warmest thanks for the invitation to visit this space centre. Here, we have had a chance to see the latest developments in Russian technology and France very much values this. I think this is a gesture of trust. I listened to everything with great interest, though I do not, of course, have all the necessary knowledge to understand everything in full, but I listened carefully to all that was said.
Allow me to say to those who organised this visit and took part in it, to the military and civilian personnel involved, that I have great esteem for you and thank you for such a warm reception.
As well as discussing relations between Russia and the European Union, we also discussed issues regarding the international situation. Here I will be brief, because our approaches and views in this area, and in particular, our ongoing cooperation in the United Nations, show that we do share a common approach. This concerns Iraq. There are difficulties in finding a way out of the current situation, but I think that both France and Russia support the idea of handing over all power to a legitimate Iraqi government with the international community then helping the new Iraqi leadership achieve their country’s integration in the region.
Regarding the Middle East, I think that here we also have a common approach. This goes in particular for the potential dangers arising as a result of the recent events that could put an end to the hopes linked to the peace process. We do see, however, that some proposals are emerging, in particular from certain Israeli circles, and with active help from the international community, this could help us return to the road of dialogue, consultation and peace.
We also talked about the situation in Kosovo. We both unequivocally condemn the recent acts of violence that took place in Kosovo and we also reiterated our readiness to continue our commitments in this area.
Regarding European relations, we already said that our cooperation is developing and growing stronger, in particular in the space and aviation sphere. This is an achievement for our cooperation. You know that some specific decisions were made recently, and they confirm this growing cooperation. This includes, for example, launching Soyuz rockets from Guyana, Aeroflot becoming part of the Skydean Group, the MiG-AT training plane, Snecma’s participation in developing a regional plane and more. I think these projects will help us to integrate Europe’s industrial potential. Like our friends from Germany, we hope to see Russia join the World Trade Organisation soon, and this will help strengthen ties and make for a more harmonious spirit in Europe and in the world overall.
That is all I wanted to say. Now, if Mr Putin agrees, I am ready to answer your questions.
Question: Mr Chirac, when he last visited Moscow, then Foreign Minister Mr de Villepin, said that Russia has long been in a state of war in Chechnya. Did you talk about this war, and what is your point of view on this issue?
Jacques Chirac: Of course, we did talk about Chechnya, because Chechnya is also one of our preoccupations. In particular, we discussed the fight against terrorism. As you know, we, like Russia, hope that a political solution will be found for the situation in this region. But there is a very important issue linked to terrorism, and this issue needs to be dealt with. France has not changed its position regarding this issue.
Question: We have been preoccupied by the latest manifestations of terrorism in Europe, in France where, fortunately, the act was prevented, and in Spain where terrorist acts took such a heavy toll. Why do you think terrorism has begun spreading so fast around the world, and has France now reached a better understanding of Russia, which was confronted with terrorism and its awful consequences a lot earlier?
Jacques Chirac: What I would like to say first of all is that nothing, nothing at all, can justify terrorism, these savage and barbaric attacks on innocent people. No demands, no matter what their nature, political, social, religious, ethnic and so forth, can justify terrorism. This means that there is only one solution to the problem of terrorism and that is to fight it energetically and coordinate our efforts at the international level. France, as you know, has also been a victim of terrorism, and these were dramatic moments for us. But, having said this, I have also said on many occasions that we must pay attention not to the causes of terrorism, but to the causes that create the soil that can breed such a phenomenon as terrorism.
Of course, the world has a great number of problems such as ongoing unresolved conflicts, destitution, poverty, hunger and oppression. Many peoples see themselves as victims of these things and this all creates a certain climate that can lead to the emergence of such phenomena as terrorism. I think that along with fighting terrorism, we should also look for solutions that will help lessen the likelihood of its emergence.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I fully agree with the French President. I think the rise of the terrorist threat stems from a number of circumstances. Above all, it is linked to the continued gap between living standards in the industrially developed countries, this belt of countries that are home to one billion people, and in the countries that are still on the road to development and prosperity. This gap persists, and this, of course, makes fertile soil for a rise in the terrorist threat.
Second, after the collapse of the socialist bloc, dramatic changes took place in Europe itself and this also created conditions for terrorism to emerge.
The third circumstance that we should keep in mind is the lack of unity in approaches, evaluation and methods of fighting terrorism on the international stage. There is no adequate legal foundation. I think that all these factors are major causes of terrorism’s growth and rapid spread. Here, as I have said before on many occasions, double standards are absolutely unacceptable. I want to express my entire agreement with the French President’s position that any disputes should be settled by peaceful means only. It is absolutely unacceptable to settle problems through the use of terror. We have to be clear about this and this has to be the foundation upon which we can develop united approaches in our work on what is one of the biggest issues today.
Question: Mr President (addressing Jacques Chirac), today you are in Russia and on Monday you will receive the British sovereign. You are also preparing for the sixtieth anniversary of the allied landing in Normandy. Is such intense international political activity compatible with your functions and with the promise that you made to the French people to be more present in the country’s domestic political life, especially after the regional elections?
Jacques Chirac: I will attempt to make it compatible. Since you mentioned the sixtieth anniversary of the allied landing in Normandy, allow me to make use of the opportunity and say that it is precisely in this spirit that we see the future, and it is precisely at this time that we remember the key role the Soviet Union played in the fight against Nazism. We know that this changed the way the war went. Here in Moscow, then in Kursk and Stalingrad – it all changed the course of the war and made the allied landing possible. I have, of course, invited President Putin to attend the anniversary celebrations. I think this is perfectly normal and I am pleased that Mr Putin has accepted this invitation. German Chancellor Schroeder and other heads of state will be present. We have invited everyone who took part. I am very grateful that Mr Putin has taken up this invitation.
Vladimir Putin: I would just like to add a few words, although the question was not addressed to me.
As well as discussing general political and international issues, we spent about eighty percent of our time at today’s meeting talking about economic cooperation, both bilateral and Russia-EU cooperation. We had an increase in trade turnover of just over 28 percent last year, and that is an impressive result. This translates into industrial development, new jobs and better prospects. It is very important for us how Europe’s future energy system will take shape. I think that not only economic specialists but also ordinary citizens are interested in how relations between Russia and France in the energy sector will influence, say, European petrol prices, which are currently growing. These are concrete issues that have a direct impact not just on economic development, but also on the social situation for people in both Russia and France.
Question: This is a question for Mr Jacques Chirac. On the screen today, you saw missiles being launched. It’s known that information was published recently on serious new developments in Russian missile technology. Are you frightened at all by new Russian arms and work on developing these arms? And a question for President Vladimir Putin: When he went into space, Gagarin said, “let’s go!” Your second term in office has just begun. Where are going, and where do you want to end up?
Jacques Chirac: Concerning the development of military technology, there is the aggressive approach when we’re talking of projects that have aggressive aims, and then there is a second approach, which is about ensuring a balance in the world, a balance with which to deter one side and the other. When General de Gaulle proposed that France develop nuclear weapons, we had absolutely no intention of attacking anyone. We simply wanted to be a part of this deterrent. I think that had we not followed this deterrent policy then, we would have faced confrontation. In general, everything depends on the spirit in which we act. There is no cause for anyone to say today that Russia is developing defensive technologies with aggressive aims in mind. No one says such a thing and no one thinks this. Russia has chosen the difficult road of reform and democracy. And so, I think that what we are talking about here is a deterrent process only. This is also the position of France and that, I hope, of all countries that possess these kinds of arms.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I’d like to respond to the question regarding security. The fact that we are not just developing new arms systems – all the members of the nuclear club are doing this, and Russia is no exception here – but that we thought it possible today to share information with our French partners even on our latest promising developments, and this is what we looked at during the closed part of the visit, shows that Russia follows a policy of transparency and openness regarding security issues.
Certainly, we strive to defend Russia’s national interests and ensure our country’s security. But we do this openly in the areas where this is possible through our bilateral military cooperation and through our contacts with NATO.
I want to assure you that Russia’s efforts to ensure its security are not in the least bit aggressive in nature and are not directed against anyone else.
You mentioned Gagarin’s exclamation of “let’s go!” We will continue going, going on our way and sticking to the rules. And we call on everyone to strengthen the international security system and the foundations of international law in the area of international security.
As for our priorities, they are above all about the economy, about developing it so that we can resolve the social problems facing our people. That is our main and fundamental priority.
Thank you very much.