Question: What agreements did you reach with Raul Castro? What concrete results did the visit produce?
Dmitry Medvedev: We already have a systemic dialogue with Cuba, and I can say quite frankly that our countries’ relations were already very well-developed. I am not just talking about the Soviet period but about today too. Nevertheless, it is true that our relations have become even more intensive over this last half year. This is something our Cuban friends have noted too, and it is indeed producing some clear results.
Today, we talked about building up our economic relations, our military technical ties, and our work together on security and regional cooperation, given that I have just visited a number of Latin American countries and talked with various colleagues. In general, we discussed the global issues that are of concern to everyone today, and to our Cuban friends too of course.
As far as specific results go, quite a few results have been achieved, and what is good to see is that they are not just agreements prepared to coincide with presidential visits, when packages of agreements laying the foundations for cooperation are usually signed. In fact, many agreements have been signed over these last four months, agreements on developing economic contacts, memorandums of intent, and also final agreements on energy projects (incidentally, representatives of our leading oil companies were present at our talks in enlarged format today. They were present in Caracas yesterday, and are working today in Cuba). We have a number of interesting projects in the non-ferrous metals sector, and a number of tourism sector projects (this is only natural here). So, I can say that relations have become more active in all areas of late. I am very pleased to see this and it seems to me that our Cuban friends are happy too. We will continue discussing now a number of matters with our Cuban colleagues.
Of course, talks are never abstract. There is always some specific subject of discussion. We have fewer projects in some countries and more in others, but considering Russia’s place and role in the international division of labour today, we discussed all of these matters in Peru, in Brazil and Venezuela, and now here in Cuba. We have a number of interesting projects that concern all of these countries.
The projects we are carrying out with Venezuela are perhaps at a more advanced stage at the moment. I discussed this in detail yesterday with my colleague President Chavez. We already have the agreements, and Mr Chavez and I were present for there signature. I can tell you that these are serious and far-reaching agreements that concern oil and gas. But we also have a number of interesting ideas on how to develop cooperation with Brazil, in particular with its big state company, the joint stock company Petrobras, in which the state holds a controlling stake. They have come up with some new ideas on developing fields not far from Brazil itself, and work in third countries, and this is all of interest to us (of interest to Gazprom, at any rate).
There are also interesting ideas for developing our relations with Peru. And here in Cuba too, there are a number of new projects we could carry out together. Overall, I think that from the point of view of the energy sector, one of the traditional subjects on the agenda, the visits have been very substantial and interesting, despite the current difficulties on the energy market, I mean in particular the falling oil prices, which is a worry of course for the main oil producers. You no doubt recall that one of the questions at the press conference yesterday was precisely about coordination between oil producing countries, the situation with prices and so on. So, as far as energy sector talks are concerned, I am happy with the outcome in all the countries visited.
Question: This is clearly a situation of what you call privileged relations. But if we look at the way the countries you visited build their relations with China, and also at the hopes they place on the new U.S. administration, what impact do you think this could have on their relations with Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: We live in the real world and we cannot close our eyes to other countries’ existence. We have partnership relations with some of these countries, for example, China, but this does not mean that we are always moving in exactly the same direction: China has its projects, the Americans have their ideas, and we come with our own proposals. This is normal competition and a full and normal division of opportunities and work in the world economy.
I do not see anything to worry about in this situation. We simply have to prove that in some areas, our projects are better than what our other partners can offer. If we see that we cannot manage this or that big undertaking on our own, this is also no cause for shame – we can agree on creating investment pools. Such projects already exist (at any rate, we are discussing this with our Chinese colleagues). There is nothing to fear in this situation. It is absolutely normal.
Latin America is a big region and to put things simply and clearly, we have never really had a serious presence here. Our presence in the region has been episodic. During this rather long trip we have visited countries where neither Russian nor Soviet leaders had ever gone before. We did not give these countries our attention in the past, and only now are we beginning to develop full-fledged and hopefully mutually beneficial contacts with these countries’ leaders and at the same time develop economic ties too. We should not be shy, not be afraid of competition, but should step boldly into the fray.
Question: Is it possible to say that Russia is returning to Latin America? How clearly does this come through in relations with Cuba, for example? Are there any plans to install radar facilities here, or other military-technical cooperation plans?
Dmitry Medvedev: You could say that we have already returned. Looking at the areas our cooperation encompasses, I think we should work together in all the areas that bind our countries together in a partnership and full-fledged economic, cultural, humanitarian and military ties, and this is nothing to be shy about. Of course, everything should be in compliance with international laws. It should not be imposed, and should not be directed against third countries, and not be to the detriment of international security. But our cooperation could develop in a very broad range of areas, including military technical cooperation.
Question: There were a lot of countries you have not been able to visit…
Dmitry Medvedev: We could stay on and keep going. Let’s draw up a list and start going down it…
Question: Which other countries in this part of the world do you consider of interest for the Russian Federation?
Dmitry Medvedev: It was very interesting for me and for the leaders who came yesterday to the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas] summit because it really was the first time we met. Some of the leaders said that they never expected to find themselves sitting down beside the President of the Russian Federation. Why? Because we simply did not have any relations with them in the past. This is important now, all the more so as some of these countries are not in the best of situations at present. At the same time, much of what was said yesterday during our informal discussion (I though we would have a brief discussion but we ended up talking for almost an hour) echoes very closely our own views and what I said to them yesterday. In this sense, we had a very productive dialogue. After this, I was able to have some one-on-one discussions with some of my colleagues and we agreed to continue our cooperation in various areas. They also asked for assistance on a number of economic projects. Overall, it was a good dialogue. Most important of all was that it has now got underway. We never held talks with these countries in the past and with some of them we do not even have diplomatic relations, or to be more precise, our interests there are represented by our embassies in other countries acting concurrently as embassies to these countries, which essentially comes down to no real presence at all.
Question: The news came today that [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice said that the United States will not insist on giving the go ahead to the membership action plan for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s accession to NATO. She said this was because of the position taken by the USA’s European allies. Does this reflect Russian influence on the European Union’s position?
Dmitry Medvedev: I do not know what has motivated our American friends’ decision in this particular case, but I am pleased at any rate that reason has prevailed, though regrettably this has come only at the end of the current U.S. administration’s term. But it suggests at any rate that they are taking into account the current state of affairs. I do not know if the Americans took heed of the Europeans or anyone else. The main thing is that they are not pressing ahead on this issue with the same blind determination or senselessness with which they pursued it not so long before. Let these countries decide on their own, decide for themselves, what they need. I have said this before. Let them hold referendums (in the countries that have not held them yet) and then move in the direction of their choosing.
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Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I would like to thank all of you, colleagues, for enduring this marathon. But there are still countries, including in Latin America, where we have not been, and so you can rest assured that we will have more travels ahead. It is a serious geopolitical decision. We will develop our relations with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.