President Vladimir Putin: Dear ladies and gentlemen!
First and foremost, I would like to once again warmly welcome our guest, President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus, to Moscow.
The Czech Republic always has been, remains, and will continue to be one of our most important, most significant European partners.
Our economic relations are developing dynamically and have attained an impressive amount: 7.5 billion dollars. Naturally, the fuel and energy sectors are the most important fields in which we cooperate. The Czech Republic receives 75 percent of the natural gas it requires from the Russian Federation.
I am very pleased to see that at the end of 2006 our companies concluded a long-term agreement on deliveries of our natural gas to the Czech Republic until 2035.
Cooperation in nuclear energy is very promising. However, today we talked a great deal about diversifying our relations. And I am pleased to be able to say that we are both interested in sectors such as machine building, chemicals, light industry, pharmaceuticals, tourism and others.
And you just witnessed how these contacts are developing. Uralvagonzavod just signed contracts totalling a billion euros. Bashkortostan signed an agreement on constructing a factory to produce construction materials in the region. The contract totalled eight hundred million euros.
I think that we are moving in absolutely the right direction when we provide support to our contacts in the cultural and educational spheres. Last year the so-called cultural seasons of the Russian Federation in the Czech Republic took place. And we have now planned an event on a similar scale that will run from the middle of 2007 to the middle of 2008 in the Russian Federation.
Of course, during my one-on-one meeting today with Mr President we could not ignore strategic policy issues, and we talked about security on the European continent. You know that the plans to deploy elements of the U.S. missile defence system in Europe and, of course, on Czech territory are very worrying for us. We will not interfere with the internal political debates on this issue in the Czech Republic under any circumstances, but we want the Czech people and the Czech leadership to have objective information on this topic and to be familiar with the Russian Federation’s position. And today I told Mr President the way both the Russian military and the Russian leadership perceive these issues.
In general we are pleased with how our intergovernmental relations are developing and, for our part, we are going to do everything possible to maintain the positive momentum.
Thank you for your attention.
President of The Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus: Ladies and Gentlemen!
Let me first thank President Putin for the invitation for this historic first visit by a President of the Czech Republic to the Russian Federation.
The great importance we attach to this visit is evident in the size and composition of the delegation accompanying me. Government representatives, parliamentarians and a large number of Czech businessmen are part of this delegation.
We are confident that this visit will act as a further stimulus for developing Czech-Russian relations. I am also confident that this visit will confirm the strength of our present relations.
Intensive cooperation between our countries is developing, and particularly in the economic sphere. Evidence of this can be seen in the large number of agreements that we signed here today and also within the Russian Economic Forum that was held in Moscow over the past few days.
President Putin and I had the opportunity to discuss various issues, a great deal of topics, and exchange opinions on issues that concern both our bilateral relations and multilateral international relations over two and a half hours.
As Mr President just mentioned, we also discussed the issue of the possible construction of an anti-missile defence system in the Czech Republic. I explained to Mr President that this radar is not in any way directed against the Russian Federation and tried to explain to President Putin that, from the Czech perspective, this project is not being executed against the Russian Federation in any way. And I would like to emphasise this one more time.
We touched on domestic issues within the Czech Republic, the Czech position in Europe and within the European Union, and deliveries of energy supplies and energy resources to the Czech Republic in a long-term perspective.
I would like to conclude my speech by once again expressing my gratitude to President Putin for this invitation, an invitation on a visit that acts as a continuation of his visit to Prague last year.
Question: Good afternoon!
As both presidents mentioned, relations between your two countries are developing quite successfully and, as far as I know, one of the few sticking points is precisely the situation surrounding the American anti-missile defence system.
In connection with this, what do you think helped both countries overcome the past and allowed them to develop their relations so successfully, relations, for example, in the economic, educational and cultural spheres?
And could you please explain what you have agreed on — if you have indeed agreed — concerning the American anti-missile defence system?
Vaclav Klaus: I would like to point out that our relations have a long history and that these relations are developing in both countries’ interests, but not only that. Both of our countries already have a large degree of economic autonomy. Business circles, businessmen and others should already be working on developing our respective economies.
As to the second question, I would add that we need to engage in dialogue on these issues, clarify our positions, try to understand one another, and substantiate our arguments. I think that this will continue to be a challenge in the future.
Vladimir Putin: As to the question about overcoming the past!
Of course Russia is the formal and legal successor of the Soviet Union. However, modern Russian is a completely different country with a completely different political system from that of the Soviet Union. And we condemn everything negative that happened in the past, and of course I am first and foremost referring to the events of 1968.
Nevertheless, we feel a moral responsibility for the past. And it seems to me that our Czech friends perceive the sincerity of our position. We are very grateful for this. And we think that the past should not prevent us from going forward into the future. We have a great deal of mutual interests both in politics and in economics. And we are pleased with how our intergovernmental relations are developing.
I think that we should focus on the best things that we have done, and try to build our future relations on this basis. Of course, we are concerned about what is happening with weapons in Europe today. As I told the Russian Parliament in my Address [Annual Address to the Federal Assembly] yesterday, we are doing everything to fulfil our obligations. We are reducing arms and the presence of the Armed Forces in the European part of Russia.
No heavy arms remain in the European part of the country. At the same time we now know about NATO’s plans to build two new bases with five thousand people each in Bulgaria and Romania. And to build two elements of a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. As such, Russia has been disarming unilaterally while our partners have been installing new types of weapons in central and eastern Europe.
With regards to the missile defence system, I would like to call your attention to the fact that it is not simply a defence system. It is an element of the American strategic weapons system. For the first time in history — and I would like to emphasise this — for the first time in history, elements of American nuclear strategic weapons systems are going to be deployed on the European continent.
For us, for Russia, this is similar to the deployment of Pershing missiles. The threat is absolutely the same. And we are ready to invite any experts from Poland, from the Czech Republic, or other European countries and prove to them using the simplest, most elementary, and clearest proofs that neither Iran, North Korea, nor the terrorists that the anti-missile defence system is supposedly protecting them from have such systems.
We do not understand why one would aggravate tension by increasing armaments in Europe today. What is happening in Europe today that instigates these really quite aggressive actions? And of course, if these decisions are in fact taken, then the Russian Federation reserves the right to ensure its security.
This absolutely does not mean that we are planning to interrupt our economic, cultural or educational contacts for this reason. We would like to engage in honest, open dialogue with all of our partners and in all areas in which we cooperate. And we are very happy with the President of the Czech Republic’s visit. We really are very happy because this gives us the opportunity to talk about precisely these problems.
Question: We expect that the elements of the anti-missile defence system will be deployed on Czech territory. How will this affect relations between the Czech Republic and Russia? And a second question for the President of Russia: were you convinced by the arguments of the President of the Czech Republic on this topic?
Vladimir Putin: Since Mr President was the first to answer a Russian journalist’s question, I will permit myself to answer a question from a member of the Czech media first.
Judging from what I just said, the answer to the second part of your question is obvious. We do not see any reasons at all for deploying an anti-missile defence system in Europe. In general, there are no reasons to believe that such missiles would reach Europe: they would need a range of five to eight thousand kilometres.
Europe will supposedly be able to use this system to protect itself from Iran, but Iran does not have such a missile system, is not planning one for the near future, and not contemplating one. And talking about eventual protection from terrorists is simply laughable.
Which terrorists? They work with different methods and one must counter the threat of terrorism not through confrontations but by cooperation among civilised nations. We simply do not see any justifications for this.
These systems, though, will then be able to monitor Russia’s nuclear potential to the Urals unless we take the necessary measures. And we certainly will take the measures needed to ensure our security. You would do the same. Just like any country would.
In general, we don’t understand why this is necessary. And if you absolutely need to defend from there, then put them in Turkey or somewhere else. Military experts will understand. We are inviting Czech military experts to come and discuss the issue at our Defence Ministry’s General Staff. Please come.
It will be extremely open, transparent and honest. Along with this, I would repeat once again that we are not going to interfere in internal political debates in Poland, in the Czech Republic, or in any other country. But we want the information to be objective, for the people of the Czech Republic to know what is really happening and then be able to make a decision based on objective information.
With regards to worsening relations. Of course, as the head of the Russian state which will be threatened by the deployment of these anti-missile defence systems, I am forced to say that, yes, relations will deteriorate.
Let me reiterate. We are going to develop our relations with Europe: with all European countries, including with the Czech Republic. However, the threat of mutual harm and perhaps even destruction will increase many times over. Let me repeat once again: this is not simply a defence system. This is part of the American nuclear arsenal. An integral part of a strategic nuclear weapons system. And we must recognise this fact. This novelty on the European continent.
Of course this will radically change the situation concerning defence and security in Europe. And we are going to react in a corresponding way. That is all. But let me repeat that there will be no hysteria on this account. We are simply going to take appropriate actions, that is all.
Vaclav Klaus: I would like to quickly add two small things. I certainly had two goals during the meeting.
First of all, I tried to ensure that during my visit, during our dialogue, we were able to separate overall Czech-Russian relations and this issue. I am confident that we were able to do so, and that this issue will not do substantial damage to Czech-Russian relations.
My second objective was to explain the Czech reasoning for having such a base on Czech territory. And judging from Mr President’s answers, I was not able to do so. However, I assured him that the Czech party — and I already said this in my statement — does not have the slightest desire nor the slightest intention to use this situation to create a threat for the Russian Federation.
Vladimir Putin: That is understandable because the Czech Republic will neither lead nor influence the activities of these centres. This is obvious and apparent to all.
You know, in conclusion I would like to say a few words about events that have nothing to do with the conversation we just had.
Two very unfortunate events have taken place in Russia: two outstanding prominent figures of Russian culture, Kirill Iurievich Lavrov and Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, have passed away. I would like to wish my most profound and sincere condolences to the families and friends of Kirill Iurievich and Mstislav Leopoldovich and to say that their decease is a huge loss for Russian culture.