Question: Regarding the UN, has Mr Berlusconi not taken offence that you supported Germany's Prime Minister more than Italy?
Vladimir Putin: We are not children. We have honest and open relations. At times like these, the most important thing is to act according to your conscience, be consistent, and be fair; this will prevent anyone from taking offence. Furthermore, as Silvio Berlusconi has correctly described it, our position is that we will vote for Germany if we see a large consensus regarding this plan of reform. Do you understand me? The decision's structure is the following: first, a vote on how to reform the UN, and second, a vote on the candidates.
So, regarding that first stage. We understand Italy's position. But – and here I think that many in Russia would agree with me – Germany is our most important trading and economic partner. The volume of our cooperation is important in both a political and moral sense. This would mean finally turning the page on the Second World War, not in the sense that future generations would forget about it, but in the sense of reconciliation – something I have already spoken about. And in addition to this, Germany hugely contributes to the UN's activities, both through its financial participation and other ways. So there is nothing unusual here. Our position is clear, and has been the same for a long time.
Question: Is expanding “Blue Stream” possible?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it is possible. But, first of all, we must bring it up to its design capacity. Presently, it is only carrying four or five billion cubic metres of gas, and is designed for 16. And we are going to increase the pipe's capacity. In sum, we discussed the possibility of a second construction project with Azerbaijan – I think I spoke about it at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
We plan to substantially expand gas transport structures in Russia – both in the South and towards the Ukraine, where reconstruction is possible – and in Central Europe, Belarus, and Poland. Unfortunately, there too, were many problems with gas pumping stations. Unfortunately, the result was that we simply had to provide financing for the obligations of our partners, to help them invest 300 million dollars which they should have invested according to the agreement regarding the construction of gas pumping stations. We are also going to prepare a Northern European alternative. In other words, we are going to work in many different directions at once, first with the goal of allowing Russia to become independent from intermediaries, and second, with the goal of creating favourable and stable conditions for delivering energy resources to other countries' markets. Certainly, this applies first and foremost to the European market. You know that oil prices are more than 70 dollars, and are beating all records. Accordingly, gas prices are also going to get higher. For this reason, of course our partners are interested both in stability, and in long-term contracts.
Question: Is the project concentrated only on Turkey?
Vladimir Putin: Concentrated only on what? No, we just discussed the opportunities of entering other countries' markets through Turkey. If you mean expansion, than of course this refers to opportunities to enter other countries' markets, and this is linked to work with our Italian partners. And we have already spoken about this.
Question: Do you realise that the trip to Berlin will be seen as an attempt to support Mr. Schroeder in the election?
Vladimir Putin: We are all perfectly aware of the realities of domestic political life. I do not think it is really necessary to explain anything to anybody. We are not going to interfere in domestic politics, just as we do not think that they should prevent practical relations – in energy, culture and education, medicine, or any other area – from developing. Domestic politics are domestic politics. We do not go into them, and are not preparing to. But it would be too senseless, too silly, to put our contacts on hold because Germany will soon hold elections. If our partners from both Russian and German sides propose that we should meet, I do not think we should be scared off by domestic politics, and cut off our contacts. Believe me, this would be nonsensical. And if you spend all your time concentrating on what other people are saying, your head will get dizzy, and fall off.