Question: This trip has been a long one. What are your general impressions overall?
President Vladimir Putin: The programme was organised in such a way as to optimise time for, above all, settling issues regarding our foreign policy in the Asian region.
You are right in mentioning Turkey as well, although Turkey is also of importance to us regarding our foreign policy in Western Europe. I am also thinking here of the energy sector. We have just marked the completion of a major stage in our energy sector cooperation with Turkey and have outlined the direction our future cooperation will take, including developing links with Europe via Turkish territory.
I do not think there is any need to add anything in this regard because you all understand that diversifying transport flows and transport possibilities for our energy exports is one of the priority tasks for Russia today.
The rest of the trip concentrated on our relations with Asia, and I think that here too, the situation is clear. Russia views Siberia and the Far East as its most promising regions for development, and with Asia developing by leaps and bounds, we, of course, need to make sure we are a part of this growth and ensure that we have a worthy place in this development process. The outcome of our work in Busan, in South Korea, and in Japan, the dialogue we engaged in with our colleagues, all show that we are building stronger relations with our partners in Asia, and not just with the countries I was able to visit, but also with other countries in the region. This is definitely very positive because it gives Russia new opportunities for cooperation and this cooperation in turn brings us new benefits and new possibilities for developing our own economy and our own regions.
I think that Russia’s stronger position in the Asian region is the most important result of this work in which we have all taken part together – many of you here today accompanied me on this trip. But I would like to address the journalists from Magadan, thank them for their attention, wish them success and ask them to pass on my very best wishes to the people of Magadan Region.
Question: You are now overseeing the construction of new gas pipelines. Given past experience, are you worried about the issue of political risk?
Vladimir Putin: I think that diversifying our export transport possibilities will not increase but decrease political risk. Whereas, the more tightly we are tied to the transit countries, the greater would be the temptation for them to feed off the Russian economy.
Question: Could you tell us in more detail about your meeting with the Japanese Emperor.
Vladimir Putin: This is a traditional meeting and it is above all of a political and ritual nature. But it was a pleasant discussion. As you know, I have now twice had the honour of meeting with the Emperor of Japan, first during my visit in 2000, and now this time. Our discussion was of a general nature and concerned the spirit of cooperation between the Japanese and Russian peoples and the moral and cultural aspects of this cooperation. I think that this kind of cooperation does indeed form the foundation for all other forms of cooperation – both economic and political. I was very happy with this discussion and am grateful to the Emperor of Japan for the time he gave me.
Question: You have made new appointments to the government. Do you think the government has begun to work better as a result?
Vladimir Putin: I think it is still too early to make a real assessment, but as far as the changes to the government’s structure are concerned, they were made at the Prime Minister’s request. The Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov, proposed increasing the number of his deputies on several occasions because he felt that the organisation scheme initially put in place did not give the government’s leadership sufficient opportunity for effectively working on the objectives that have been set. Under the old structure, two people – the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister – ended up carrying too great a share of the burden, and Mr Fradkov felt that this was hindering effective work.
Concerning the actual people appointed to these new posts, they are all well known: Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, Sergei Borisovich Ivanov. [Sergei] Kiriyenko, as you know, has received a new appointment. These are all people with great potential. As for how they realise this potential, time will tell. I see that Dmitry Medvedev has already begun to take an active part in the government’s work and has prepared concrete proposals for carrying out priority tasks in the social sphere and also partly in the economy, in agriculture, for example, and in the area of the three national projects – affordable housing, healthcare and education. He has made proposals on how he thinks work should progress on the implementation of all these plans.
Sergei Ivanov has already begun active work in his new post as deputy prime minister and in this quality will be leaving today for a trip around the country. This is also a much-needed step because I agree fully with the Armed Forces General Staff that during the course of administrative reform, the link was lost between the Armed Forces’ needs and the development plans for the defence industry. This really is an oversight and something had to be done to fix the situation. There were several possible courses of action in this respect. We could have set up a special body within the government to work on this issue – a separate agency or ministry. But after holding consultations with the Cabinet, we decided that it would be better not to set up a special body but to appoint a deputy prime minister with particular responsibility for this area.
What I can say concerning Sergei Kiriyenko’s new appointment is perhaps a bit more new. He is not simply entering the government to head the Atomic Energy Agency, for this would be not enough for him. We have reached an entirely new crossroads in our work in the nuclear energy sector. I think this is a sector in which Russia has clear competitive advantages built up over the previous decades, and we must not lose these advantages. The sector now faces the need for organisational decisions and I hope that Mr Kiriyenko is precisely the man who will be up to this task. It is not a question of his becoming a nuclear specialist, but a question of re-organising the sector – one of the most important sectors in the Russian economy, all the more so as we have decided to give priority to the high-technology industries. The nuclear energy sector is an area in which we can achieve real results and I hope that this will be the case.
As you have seen, the new plenipotentiary presidential representatives in the Far East and Volga Federal Districts have also started actively pursuing their work. Mr Iskhakov is here and I very much hope that his experience at the head of a large municipality – the city of Kazan – will be of real use not just here in the Far East Federal District, but also in implementing Law 131 throughout the country. I want to draw your attention to the fact that, having now consolidated the necessary powers at federal level, we are now able to decentralise power in areas where it is most needed and where it will be most effective for resolving local issues. In other words, powers are being decentralised to the regional authorities and down to the municipal authorities. This is a task requiring great skill and attention and I think that Mr Iskhakov is the right person for carrying out this kind of work.
The new plenipotentiary presidential representative in the Volga Federal District has been working in the region for some time now. He is well known there and has the right qualities for carrying out the work he has before him.
Thank you very much.