Question: How will the problem of the four-island South Kuril archipelago be solved? Some people are already calling them the Habomai islands.
Vladimir Putin: Has anyone said that the Government of Russia plans to return the South Kuril Islands? Although we are negotiating and realise that the problem exists, any transfer of the South Kuril Islands is out of the question. We recognise this problem, and today we can only discuss it.
Question: The United States has decided not to deploy the National Missile Defence System. Could you say a few words on this issue in the context of our major initiative? What is the situation like today?
Vladimir Putin: Yesterday, I made a statement on this issue, and I can only repeat its main points.
Neither our US negotiating partners nor I have any doubts that President Bill Clinton has made this decision with the United States’ national interests in mind. We believe that President Clinton has made a well-thought-out decision not to deploy the National Missile Defence System. We are convinced that, among other things, it was made after the President held consultations with his allies. I also hope that the Russian position was taken into account during the decision-making process. All this gives reason to believe that such well-thought-out decisions are an important factor in international security and boost the prestige of the United States.
At the same time, we remain divided on some issues. As you know, we oppose modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was mentioned in the US statement. In spite of all these differences, President Clinton’s decision gives us every reason to hope for a constructive bilateral dialogue aimed at ensuring international security in the future.