President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear friends,
It gives me great pleasure to see you and have this opportunity to welcome you here to Pushkin, one of the suburbs of St Petersburg. First of all, I wanted to see how you have organised yourselves here, how your stay is going, and see that you are making good use of your time. I was just with your friends before, who were having a video conference with young people in Cairo. I hope they also had an interesting discussion, no less interesting than that which you are having now with Mr Khristenko, one of the key ministers in the Russian Government. If I can add anything to help satisfy your curiosity, I will be happy to do so, so let’s make use of this opportunity. This will be all the more interesting and useful for me as your representatives will be having their meeting with the G8 leaders the day after tomorrow and I will be able to give them some idea as to what we can expect from this meeting.
I can tell you that, without any exaggeration, all my colleagues, all the leaders of the countries that you come from, are very much looking forward to this meeting.
That is all I wanted to say for a start. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them.
Question (in German): Your energy minister [Khristenko] said before that his country’s energy policy must be carried out using any means. Can you comment on that statement?
Vladimir Putin: I’m not certain you understood exactly what our minister said.
Question (in German): He said that Russia must promote its interests on the energy market using all possible means, firm means, flexible means and other methods.
Vladimir Putin: I find it hard to believe that our minister could have said that we need to ensure our energy interests using any means. But we all know, and I am sure that you are also well aware, that the modern world, any living entity, simply cannot survive without energy and it is our duty to provide energy not only for the needs of growing economies but for all societies.
There can be no life without energy, but that does not mean the means we use to resolve energy problems should pose a threat to life, or even destroy it. I think that Mr Khristenko just gave a very good example of this when he explained how we settled the problem of developing pipeline transport from Russia’s Siberian regions to the Pacific coast. When we saw that there was even a theoretical danger to Lake Baikal, one of the biggest lakes not only in our country but in the whole world, we decided to spend additional money in order to exclude all potential risk to the lake absolutely, achieve a zero-risk situation. I think that humanity always has a choice, especially in the modern world, and is always able, when making energy decisions, to find the optimum solution in terms of ensuring development and preserving the balance of interests, including environmental interests.
Bist du zufrieden? Fein. Das freut mich. (Are you satisfied? Good. That makes me happy).
Question (in English): I am from Canada and my question is also about the energy sector. Why is your government continuing to develop fossil fuel and nuclear energy and not paying enough attention to developing solar energy and other renewable energy sources?
Vladimir Putin: One of the energy issues that my colleagues and I will discuss at our meeting is alternative energy sources, renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources and environmental protection. But we must say frankly nonetheless that we cannot satisfy the energy needs of the developing world without fossil fuels, and in the coming 50 years at least, there will not be a real effective alternative to fossil fuels.
But in all countries, including in Russia and in your own country, Canada, governments always think about ways to achieve a certain balance between the different types of energy. This includes the fossil fuels – oil and gas – nuclear energy, and also the renewable energy sources that you mentioned. We need to develop technology and invest the necessary funds and resources in developing hydrogen energy.
This will all be on the agenda at our meeting. We will not just discuss these issues but will coordinate our decisions in this strategic area. Of course, in the medium and long term, the future is for renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources, but unfortunately, we are still a long way away from this yet. We plan to discuss these problems and look for long-term solutions.
Question: Tatayana Ushakova, Russia. I would like to know what expectations you have of this summit? What is the most important objective, as you see it? Is there a particular decision that you would like to see taken? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: One of the traditions of the summit is that the decisions taken by the leaders are prepared practically over the course of the entire year. Our experts have already coordinated the decisions on the main issues we will be examining – energy security, education and the fight against infectious diseases. All that remains now is to seal the agreements that have already been reached at ministerial and expert level.
But discussions always take place during these meetings and adjustments are possible. To give a direct answer to your question, I hope that, regarding the main subjects we are to discuss, that we don’t just examine and sign what the experts propose, but that we hold real discussions and make some adjustments if need be. The main thing is for us to reach a common position on all the key issues that we will be discussing.
Question: Hello, my name is Xavier and I am from France. One of the questions we have been discussing is intolerance. I would like to know your opinion on Israel’s bombing of airports in Lebanon.
Vladimir Putin: This is a great tragedy, of course. True, it does not have anything to do with the energy sector. When I spoke with your friends before who had a video conference with Cairo, I said a few words about this. All military operations involve human casualties and this is always a tragedy. If there is a chance for resolving this or that problem without resorting to force, that is always the best way. Unfortunately, in this case, we think that all the parties now involved in this conflict should end their military action immediately. This should be the starting point for resolving all the other issues. I will certainly be discussing this problem this evening with the President of the United States, and tomorrow with the G8 leaders. I have no doubt that our Government will also be giving this situation its full attention. Our Foreign Ministry has already made its position clear. This is a very sensitive situation. Hostage taking is unacceptable as a means of resolving problems, whatever they may be, including political problems, and large-scale use of force in response to these acts, even though they breach the law, is also unacceptable. We will call on all parties in the conflict to stop the bloodshed immediately.
Question: Hello, I am from Italy. I would like to know what can be done to encourage the use of alternative energy sources?
Vladimir Putin: We simply need to invest more money into research in this area. One of the most promising areas of research is the use of hydrogen fuel. Russia and many other countries are currently engaged in research in this area. In Russia we have what amounts to a public-private partnership working on this. One of our biggest private companies is working together with the Academy of Sciences and is putting considerable resources into this project and they are uniting their efforts with partners in other countries, above all in North America. That is as far as what our specialists are doing is concerned. We know that European countries are also working on this. We will work together to bring the day closer when we will have enough fuel of this kind to ensure economic growth in the world and achieve the development we need to resolve problems such as poverty, illiteracy and so on. Without energy we cannot achieve economic growth, and without growth we cannot solve the other problems. We are getting together in order to address these problems.
Question: Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich. My name is Kirill Levin. I represent St Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia. I would like to know if it is possible to have a normal friendly dialogue between countries that produce energy resources and those that consume them? And what concessions do both sides have to make? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Of course it is possible. And one of the key moments that we insisted on at the beginning of this discussion was related to balancing the security of the consumer and the producer of energy resources. In other words, the one that produces must be sure that he will be able to sell his goods, just as the one who consumes must be sure that he will receive the necessary amount of goods and at the right price. I cannot say that this harmony existed in the past and I cannot say that it exists today. But we aspire to this.
Question: Hello, my name is Diana. I represent the USA. It is a great honour to speak with you. Is Russia planning to allocate funds for education in developing countries?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course. I just spoke with Cairo on this account. There are 15,000 people from the Arab world alone studying in Russia. Several thousands are, in practice, studying free of charge. We are going to continue working on a bilateral level with all countries that need our help. But our help is not going to be limited to education in developing countries. We are going to take part in multilateral forums, including within initiatives that resulted from previous G8 summits. I am referring to the programme Education For All. Unfortunately, as of yet the volume of funds that has been allocated is less than the amount developing countries were counting on. But we are going to persistently act in this area, execute the responsibilities we have taken on, and also take on more responsibilities in the future.
Question: Hello, my name is Sofia Dziuba. I represent the Russian delegation. I have the following question: how did our country prepare for the G8 presidency?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, our partners made the initiative to give the presidency to Russia. And at one of the last G8 meetings our colleagues offered me the presidency for 2006.
In general, the value of the G8 consists in the following. As of the time that a given country assumes the presidency, it puts forward several issues that it thinks are the most important ones on the international agenda, issues in the sphere of culture, education, the economy, the fight against poverty. Today these issues are energy, education, health care. After this, the president country agrees on this agenda with all the partners and then work begins at the so-called expert level – what is actually the highest level of government. This means that the colleagues from eight countries regularly — almost constantly — discuss these issues and develop common approaches towards resolving a given problem.
In my opinion, we were able to engage in positive and very frank work with all our colleagues, something that has great value in and of itself. And as I already said, I have reason to believe that we shall arrive at a common decision and develop common approaches that will be reflected in joint documents.
Question: I am Dominik from Germany. I would like to ask the following question. How do you imagine third world countries in 30 years?
Vladimir Putin: You are asking hard questions. If you had asked about my own country, it would have been easier.
First of all, developing countries differ greatly among themselves. Developing countries are a diverse world. And different countries have different economic growth rates, different ways of resolving social problems, including in health care. I think that the great majority of these countries have the opportunity to develop their economies quickly and effectively and resolve the problems I mentioned earlier. Even today, many of them have high economic growth rates, many of them are leaders of economic development, even though their present position does not help them resolve all the problems they are facing.
Along with this, very serious tasks stand before developed countries if they want to make the world more equitable and more just. And for that reason they must help developing countries develop. To a large degree this is linked to the readiness of developed countries to reach out to developing countries in the sectors of the economy that are especially sensitive and important for developing countries. One of these sectors is agriculture. Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances, including pressure from their own producers, today I don’t think that developed countries are ready to change the economic order. They are not ready to take the kind of decisions that would ensure the development of agriculture in developing countries. For this to become a reality, countries with a developed economy must not only eliminate barriers preventing developing countries from gaining access to their commodity markets, their states must also stop large-scale export subsidies. And yet when the discussion gets to this crucial point, it is clear that countries’ own interests take priority over the interests of global development. Or as we say in Russia, “our shirt is closer to our own body”. In part, we gather within the G8 to overcome what is sometimes an egoistic attitude towards problems of global development and to resolve these problems. However, these issues are not only discussed within this forum, but also in others, and first and foremost within the WTO. Unfortunately, we have not yet managed to come to agreements in this sphere.
Question: Hello Mr President. My name is Carlo Leone. I represent Italy. Like you, I play judo. And one of the rules in judo is to give everything to the sport. Are you ready to do your utmost to resolve all the problems that face the country?
Vladimir Putin: I understand that you also play combat judo. And as I understood, you said that it is the kind of sport where people must be ready to sacrifice everything. But judo is not the most traumatic sport. As far as I recall, statistics designate football as the most traumatic sport. You and I do not need to look like heroes. If we talk about victims or about sport then we both know that one of judo’s main slogans is harmony with ourselves and the world around us. And if we can implement this idea not only in our favourite type of sport but also in life then this implies that we will not cause any victims. It means that together and in harmony with our partners, we will always be able to resolve the most difficult issues. You came here for this. I want to wish you successful and interesting discussions, pleasant and useful contacts, and a nice visit to St Petersburg. Everyone, my colleagues and I, are waiting to meet your representatives in Konstantinovskii Palace.
Thank you very much.