PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all. I've just had a very important and constructive dialogue with my friend. It's great to see – I know Laura was pleased to see Lyudmila Putin, as well. We have had, over the past four years, very constructive relations, and that's the way I'm going to keep it for the next four years, as well.
We've had an open and candid exchange of views and positions. In our meeting earlier I said, ”Vladimir, when we get in here I think people are going to be very interested in this press conference, for some reason, I'm not sure why.“ Perhaps it's because you're a leader of a great nation and I'm fortunate to be one, too. But you can see we've drawn quite a crowd here. So I'm looking forward to answering their questions.
We produced a lot of positive results at this meeting. We agreed to accelerate our work to protect nuclear weapons and material, both in our two nations and around the world. And I want to thank you for that. And I want to thank our Defense Ministers for working on the issue, as well – Minister Ivanov is here; he and Secretary Rumsfeld have had a very constructive relationship. Our mil-to-mil exchanges are very positive, and I appreciate that. You and I talked about that a couple of years ago; I think they're coming to fruition, which is a very important way to make sure we understand each other better.
We agreed upon new efforts to fight the war on terror, to combat MANPADS and improvised explosive devices. And I want to thank you for that. Vladimir, ever since September 11th, he has clearly understood the stakes that we face. And every time we meet, we have an interesting and constructive strategy session about how to continue to protect our peoples from attack. He has confronted some serious attacks in his country. I know what that means as a fellow leader. I know the strain, I know the agony, I know the sadness, I know the emotion that comes with seeing innocent people lose their lives, and we have shared that. I hope we never have to share it again, that common situation.
We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. And I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that issue. We had a very constructive dialogue about how to achieve that common goal. We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon. And again, this is an area where we're working closely together as two nations of the five nations that are involved with North Korea.
We agreed to accelerate negotiations for Russia's entry into the WTO. I stated that the other day in Brussels. We talked about ways to move this process forward. We agreed to cooperate in the field of energy. I told Vladimir that Secretary Bodman would be our main representative on this issue, and I look forward to constructive – hearing about constructive dialogue on energy.
We agreed to work together to find peace in the Middle East. Russia's a part of the Quartet, and they played a constructive role in establishing the road map, and now we look forward to working together to achieve peace.
This meeting also gave me an opportunity to share my belief that it's in my country's interest that Russia be a strong and viable partner with the United States. It's very important that we establish not only a working relationship, but that we understand that in the 21st century, strong countries are built by developing strong democracies. And so we talked about democracy. Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that. But democracies have certain things in common: They have a rule of law and protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition.
Russia has made tremendous progress over the last 15 years. It's an amazing transformation of the nation. And I applaud President Putin for dealing with a country that is in transformation. And it's been hard work. I was able to share my concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling these universal principles. I did so in a constructive and friendly way. I reaffirmed my belief that it is democracy and freedom that bring true security and prosperity in every land.
We may not always agree with each other, and we haven't over the last four years – that's for certain – but we found a lot agreement, a lot of common ground, and the world is better for it. Even though we didn't agree on certain issues, if you really think about what we have done the last four years, and what we want to do during the next four years, the common ground is a lot more than those areas where we disagree. And by working together, this world will be a safer, freer and more prosperous place.
Mr President, it's great to see you again. Thank you.
President Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to say that my meeting with the President of the United States has taken place in a very trustful and friendly atmosphere. This has been a dialogue of interested partners, which became clear right away.
In the course of our meeting, starting from the first minutes of our dialogue, we had a substantive discussion of the entire international agenda. The President has mentioned the key items in our dialogue. We do share a common position on the status of the Russia-U.S. relationship. It is true that over the past few years, through joint efforts, we have been able to build up a unique experience of cooperation. We are engaged in a constructive political dialogue, and we are discovering new opportunities for joint business, cultural, and scientific initiatives.
It is obvious that Russia and the U.S. share long-term interests, genuine strategic goals, and certainly, a great degree of responsibility before our own people and people of other countries where international security is concerned. This reality is not affected by the circumstances of the moment or the political situation. Therefore, we see no alternative to the consistent strengthening of the Russia-U.S. relationship. In the course of this summit, we have agreed upon specific guidelines that will help us build up our cooperation over the coming years.
This has to do primarily with addressing the threats and challenges of today; first and foremost, fighting terrorism. We have agreed to better coordinate our efforts on these fronts, including through the Russia-U.S. working group on counterterrorism, which has existed for five years now. Among the highlighted priorities are the neutralization of the systems of financing and recruiting of terrorists, and work on identifying terrorist cells, etc.
We are ready to jointly work on the pressing problem of stemming the illicit trade in MANPADS. Our colleagues today agreed upon this in very concrete terms. I'd like to note that on the sidelines of this summit, the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Ivanov, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a Russian-U.S. arrangement on cooperation in enhancing control over MANPADS. It is important to neutralize the attempts to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
We talked a lot about non-proliferation. We talked a lot about the situation in Iran, about the situation in Iraq, in North Korea, and we share a common opinion in this regard, and we are taking a similar approach. We need to put in place a reliable system to prevent the proliferation of missiles and nuclear technology. The proliferation of such weapons does nothing to improve the security either of individual countries or of the international community, in general.
We have also exchanged our views on the situation in Iraq, in the Middle East. Russia and the U.S. have at their disposal some solid opportunities for helping to settle regional crises. We intend to make active use of this potential. We paid great attention to bilateral economic cooperation and, as has already been said, to the possible accession of Russia to the WTO. We have also reaffirmed our intention to continue our search for mutually acceptable solutions to the still outstanding problems. Russia is ready for reasonable compromises, but these compromises should not go beyond the usual responsibilities assumed by countries acceding to the WTO.
In the presence of the press, I would like to thank the President of the United States for the serious message that our negotiators noticed in the course of negotiations, a message aimed at resolving all the problems that stand in the way of Russia's accession to the WTO. I'm sure that not only the Russian economy, but also the U.S. economy are interested in the positive outcome.
We also discussed issues relating to the Russia-U.S. energy dialogue. We've had some progress in this area, some good progress. We're going to continue this dialogue. Some issues have been positively resolved in terms of expanding the operation of U.S. companies in Russian energy markets. ConocoPhilips, as you know, has bought a stake in LUKoil, one of the major Russian oil companies. It bought a stake that used to belong to the Russian state. This happened recently, and I'm confident that this will be a success story, both for Russian and U.S. partners.
Another important and interesting opportunity is our cooperation in the supplies of liquified natural gas. This is a large-scale project that could see large supplies of Russian liquefied natural gas delivered to the North American market in 2010–11. Our investment cooporation is becoming genuinely bilateral and Russian companies are taking their first steps – confident steps – in this direction and are beginning to invest their capital in the U.S. economy.
We also discussed the status and prospects of Russia's cooperation in science, high-tech; in particular, in the exploration of outer space.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I highly appreciate the outcome of this summit. Later this year, we are going to meet a few more times within the framework of various international fora. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President of the United States who has accepted the invitation to participate in the events celebrating the anniversary of victory in World War II on May the 9th in Moscow. This is a natural manifestation of respect for the historic memory and the memory of the alliance that bonded our two nations in the years of the Second World War.
Question: Mr President (Bush), four years ago when you first met with President Putin, some in the world were questioning his commitment to democracy and you reassured a lot of those critics by saying that you had looked into his soul and saw a man that you found trustworthy. You've just listed some concerns here today. I'm wondering if you could unequivocally and without reservation repeat that statement today?
And, Mr Putin, I'd like to ask you to address critics in the United States and elsewhere who saw Mr Gorbachev and Mr Yeltsin as taking early steps on the path to democracy and now worry that you have reversed course.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: One thing that gave me comfort in making the statement I made in Slovenia was that Vladimir said, when I agree with you, I'll tell you, and when I disagree with you, I'll tell you. In other words, we'll have a very frank and candid and open relationship. And that's the way it's been. There was no doubt in my mind what his position was on Iraq. He didn't kind of hedge, he didn't try to cloud up the issue. He made it abundantly clear to me that he didn't agree with my decision. And that's an important part of having a trustworthy relationship, a relationship where, when a person tells you something, you know he means what he says, and, ”yes“ means yes, and ”no“ means no. Sometimes in politics yes means ”maybe,“ and no means ”if.“ This is the kind of fellow who, when he says, yes, he means, yes, and when he says, no, he means, no.
And we had a discussion about some decisions he's made. He's had some interest in the decisions I've made. And that's a very important dialogue. And as I said, I'll say it again, I think it's very important that all nations understand the great values inherent in democracy – rule of law and protection of minorities, viable political debate. When I brought that – I don't want to put words in – Vladimir can speak for himself on this issue, but all I can tell you is, he said: yes meant yes, when we talked about values that we share.
President Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to say that we discussed these issues at length, face to face, just the two of us. Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy. Fourteen years ago, independently, without any pressure from outside, it made that decision in the interests of itself and the interests of its people – of its citizens. This is our final choice, and we have no way back. There can be no return to what we used to have before. And the guarantee for this is the choice of the Russian people, themselves. No one can provide any guarantees for this process from outside. I would say that this is just unfeasible.
Any kind of turn towards totalitarianism in Russia today would be impossible because of the way Russian society now thinks and feels. As for the questions being discussed among our partners and in the media, I can only repeat what has been said by the President of the United States. First, we are not going to try to invent any kind of special Russian democracy; we will remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy that have been established in the world. But, of course, all the modern institutions of democracy, the principles of democracy, should fit with Russia’s current state of development and with our history and our traditions.
There is nothing unusual in this. Each country gives these fundamental principles its own embodiment. It is enough to compare, for example, the different electoral laws in the United States and a number of European countries. There may be some differences in the way the main democratic institutions operate, but when it comes to the findamental principles, we will implement them in the form in which they have been developed by modern, civilized society.
As for the preceding period in our development, there is no doubt that that period’s greatest achievement was that, despite the difficulties and problems engendered by the changes taking place in Russia, the politicians of that time gave the people what is most important – freedom. But I believe that a lot of people will agree with me when I say that establishing democratic principles should not cause the state to disintegrate or reduce the people to poverty.
We believe, and I personally believe, that the implementation and the strengthening of democracy on Russian soil should not compromise the concept of democracy. It should strengthen statehood and it should improve people’s lives. It is in this direction that we're going to act.
Question: Andrei Kolesnikov, Kommersant newspaper. I did want to ask another question, but we have an interesting conversation going now so I'm going to ask about the following: It seems to me that you have nothing to disagree about. The regimes that are in place in Russia and the U.S. cannot be considered fully democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe, for example,The Netherlands. It seems to me, that as far as Russia is concerned, everything is clear, more or less. But as far as the U.S. is concerned, we could probably talk at length. I am referring to the sweeping powers conferred on the security services that mean that the private lives of citizens are now being monitored by the state. This can be explained by the consequences of September 11th, but it has nothing to do with democratic values. What could you say about this? I suggest that you can probably agree with this, just shake hands and continue to be friends in future.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I live in a transparent country. I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open, and people are able to call me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis. Our laws, and the reasons why we have laws on the books, are perfectly explained to people. Every decision we have made is within the Constitution of the United States. We have a Constitution that we uphold. And if there is a question as to whether or not a law meets that Constitution, we have an independent court system, through which that law is reviewed.
So I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you, our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity, and we resolve our disputes in a peaceful way.
President Vladimir Putin: I would like to support my American counterpart. I'm absolutely confident that democracy is not anarchy. It is not a licence to do as you please or to rob the people of any country. Democracy is, among other things, and first and foremost, the possibility to democratically make democratic laws and the capability of the state to enforce those laws.
You have cited a curious example, The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a monarchy, after all. I have no doubts about the democratic nature of that country. It is certainly a democratic nation, but it is also very different from the United States and Russia, though there are also considerable differences between the U.S. and Russia.
Talking about who has more and who has less democracy is not the right thing to do. Talking about how the fundamental principles of democracy are implemented in this or that historic soil, in this or that country, is a different matter. And this in no way lessens the merits of The Netherlands, a country that has implemented democracy within the framework of a monarchy, nor does it lessen the merits of Russia or the U.S.
Question: Mr Bush, are you satisfied with the explanations Mr Putin gave concerning his decisions regarding democratic institutions in his country, or have you just agreed to disagree? And, President Putin, did anything President Bush say to you today prompt you to reconsider some of those decisions?
President George Bush: I think the most important statement that you heard, and I heard, was the President's statement, when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia, and they're not turning back. To me, that is the most important statement of my private meeting, and it's the most important statement of this public press conference. And I can tell you what it's like dealing with the man over the last four years: When he tells you something, he means it. He asked what some of my concerns were, and he explained answers. I told him that it was very important that capital sees rule of law, that there be stability, that there not be any doubt about whether or not – if somebody invests, whether or not the laws change. And I think Vladimir heard me loud and clear, and he explained why he made decisions he made.
But we had very frank discussions about a variety of issues. And again the operative statement, the summary statement that I think is important for people to hear in our countries, precisely his opening statement to King's question speaking about monarchies. Anyway. Get it? It's late in the trip. Which is, firm belief in democracy. And I appreciate that.
President Vladimir Putin: I have already mentioned that we paid a lot of attention to these issues. I sometimes get the impression the public in our partner countries do not fully know and, consequently, do not fully understand what is taking place in the Russian Federation. Naturally, within Russia there are people who are in favor and there are those who are opposed to the decisions that are being made, for example, the decision on the new procedure for the election of regional leaders in the Russian Federation.
But those who are opposed are richer than those who are in favor. They have the opportunity to spread their opinion in the media, and we often do not pay sufficient attention to that. I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that the leaders of the regions of the Russian Federation will not be appointed by the President. Their candidacies will be submitted to regional parliaments that are elected through direct secret ballot by all the citizens. This is, in essence, the electoral college system, which is used, on the national level, in the United States, and is not considered undemocratic.
We discussed these issues at length and some of the ideas – I wouldn't say, advice – but some of the ideas that I heard from my partner, whom I respect greatly, I could indeed take in consideration in my work, and I will pay due attention to them, that's for sure. I will keep it to myself for now precisely which ideas I have in mind. Thank you.
Question: Alexei Meshkov, Interfax news agency. To follow up on the issue of democratic institutions, President Bush, you recently stated that the press in Russia is not free. What is this lack of freedom all about? Your aides probably mentioned to you that our media, both electronic and our print media, gave full coverage of the manifestations and protests in our country. Our regional and national media every day criticize state institutions. President Putin, a question for you – why don't you say anything about violations of the rights of journalists in the United States, about the fact that some journalists from CNN have been fired? Or do you prefer to discuss this in private with your American colleague?
President George Bush: I don't know what journalists you're referring to. Any of you all still have your jobs? No, I look, I think it's important any viable democracy has got a free and active press. Obviously, if you're a member of the Russian press, you feel like the press is free. And you feel that way? Well, that's good. But I talked to Vladimir about that. And he wanted to know about our press. I said, nice bunch of folks. And he wanted to know about, as you mentioned, the subject of somebody getting fired. People do get fired in the American press. They don't get fired by government, however. They get fired by their editors or they get fired by their producers, or they get fired by the owners of a particular outlet or network.
But a free press is important. And it is an important part of any democracy. And if you're a member of the press corps and you feel comfortable with the press in Russia, I think that is a pretty interesting observation for those of us who don't live in Russia to listen to.
But no question, whether it be in America or anywhere else, the sign of a healthy and vibrant society is one in where there's an active press corps. Obviously, there has got to be constraints. There's got to be truth. People have got to tell the truth, and if somebody violates the truth, then those who own a particular newspaper or those who are in charge of a particular electronic station need to hold people to account. The capacity of the press to hold people to account also depends on their willingness to self-examine at times when they're wrong. And that happens on occasion in America. And that's an important part of maintaining a proper relationship between government and press.
I can assure you that the folks here are constantly trying to hold me to account for decisions I make and how I make decisions. I'm comfortable with that. It's part of the checks and balances of a democracy.
And so I'm glad to hear your editorial comment, so to speak, on your comfort with the situation of the press corps in the Federation of Russia.
President Vladimir Putin: First of all, what do you mean when you say I keep silent – or we keep silent about this or that problem? First of all, I'm not the minister of propaganda. Second, we discuss all issues in absolute openness. As George said, today we discussed this issue with regard to Russia and the United States. But what is absolutely obvious is that in the United States, there are a lot of mechanisms to uphold the freedom of the press. And as far as some kind of friction happening between the media and the government, there is an ongoing debate, an ongoing critical debate taking place and a lot of criticism coming from the media with respect to the government, this is normal, it is a sign of a democratic society. What you said about media criticism of the actions taken by the Russian government is testimony to the fact — and here I agree with you — that we do have freedom of the press. Although we are often criticized for its absence.
But what I would like to add in conclusion is that when we discuss these issues, absolutely frankly, we, and I, in particular, do not think that this has to be pushed to the foreground, that new problems should be made up from nothing. And I do not think that we should jeopardize the Russian-American relationship, because we're interested in the development of this relationship. We pay close attention to all the comments coming from the press or from opposition forces, but whatever the problems, and there are plenty of them, our responsibility is to positively develop the Russian-American relationship.
I would like to thank the President of the United States for the constructive dialogue that we've had today. Thank you very much.