President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank our German friends and colleagues, and thank Ms Merkel for organising our work and for the atmosphere that she succeeded in creating during our time together over these last two days. She was the only woman in a large group of men and she had the task of heading this group’s work, of directing these men from different continents, men of different races, views and convictions. I think that she did a very good job and was very successful indeed.
The result can be seen in the agreements reached. As you know, we discussed a wide variety of subjects. Global economic development was the first subject of discussion, and our talks in this area were very positive. I must say that the Russian Federation is making an ever greater contribution to this process. As you know, our economy is growing at an average rate of around 7 percent a year and grew by 7.7 percent over the first four months of this year. Real incomes increased by close to 19 percent over the first four months of this year. We had total capital inflow of $41 billion last year and have already received $60 billion over the first five months of this year. We now have the world’s third largest gold and currency reserves and investment is growing in both relative and absolute figures.
Some matters are coming in for close scrutiny from the experts. One such issue is the disproportion we are observing between countries running a deficit – these are primarily economically developed countries – and countries where reserves are growing, one of which is Russia. This is not a matter for great concern at this point and the experts have yet to work out how this situation will develop. We gave a lot of attention to the issue of climate change, and I would once again like to congratulate the Federal Chancellor, for despite the complexity of the discussions on this subject, it seems to me that we have agreed on the main points.
For a start, we have agreed to observe the provisions set out in the Kyoto Protocol – at least, the countries that have signed and ratified this protocol will do so, and the Russian Federation, as you know, is one of these countries. Of course, we are all worried about what will happen after 2012, but I think that we have achieved the most important step, that of involving all countries in the discussion, all the main polluters, as was said so often during the summit, that is, all of the industrialised countries and some of the developing countries, whose economic growth obliges us to think about how to make them a part of this process, and also how to involve as strong and large an economy as that of the United States. Our discussions resulted in an agreement that discussions on this issue will continue through the United Nations and that all the different partners concerned will be involved.
Related to this subject, we also discussed the energy sector, of course, looking at energy conservation and fair distribution of resources. As you know, Russia also makes a substantial positive contribution in this area. We talked about education and about fighting disease. We held a substantial and positive discussion with our colleagues from African countries. This was one of the German presidency’s initiatives. I think that the proposals set out in the agreements reached are very positive, especially the principles that have been drawn up for financing small projects in Africa and some of the other agreements reached during our work together.
All of this gives me reason to say that the summit was a great success, and I would once again like to congratulate our German friends on this achievement. Furthermore, our formal and informal time together gave us the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with colleagues and discuss bilateral relations. I had meetings with the President of the United States, with the British Prime Minister, with my Brazilian counterpart, and I had the chance to talk with the UN Secretary General and with practically all the summit participants. The summit provided a unique occasion for meetings of this kind.
I would like to express my thanks once more and say that I hope all of our agreements will be implemented.
Question (Associated Press): Mr President, you already spoke briefly about your initiative to establish a joint Russian-American radar station at Gabala. Could you explain where, according to your plan, would the interceptor missiles be based? And would your plan not lead to a deterioration in Russia’s relations with Iran?
Vladimir Putin: My initiative and the proposals I made to our American partners go far beyond just setting up a radar station at Gabala. It seems to me I set these proposals out in quite some detail yesterday, but I am willing to go over them again if necessary. We do not need to build a radar station at Gabala – the station is already there and was built during the Soviet period. This is the whole point, and I do not think the idea would lead to a worsening in our relations with Iran because the station is already operating and has been operating for a long time now.
What is the basis and substance of our proposals? Our position is that our American partners’ withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which took place several years ago, was a serious mistake and will, as we said on earlier occasions, lead to destabilisation in international security. We said from the outset that we will not develop expensive weapons systems, but that the need to maintain the global strategic balance will oblige us to work on ways of penetrating a missile defence system. Our American colleagues responded by saying that this was alright because we are friends now, not enemies, and they said we could do as we please. Over these last years then we have developed just such a system for getting through missile defence systems. We already had this technology and have been working on improving it. But when we heard that these missile defence systems would be located in close proximity to our borders and would be supposedly targeting Iranian missiles that do not actually exist, we felt understandable concern. I draw to your attention the fact that it is not we, but our American friends who plan to develop missile defences against missiles that do not exist. There are no such missiles. Iran’s missiles have a range of 1,400 kilometres, but it would take missiles with a range of 4,500–5,000 kilometres to reach Europe’s southern borders, and Iran does not even have plans to manufacture such missiles at this point. That is one point. And there is another point. I would not be so quick to suspect the intentions of our neighbours, and Iran is one of Russia’s neighbours. As one of the Iranian leaders said, Iran has no plans to attack Europe.
This is a matter of concern for Russia, understandably so, given that these plans constitute a threat to our own nuclear arsenal. Do you know where the danger of implementing such plans lies? If one side is under the illusion that it is protected from the risk of counter-strikes, the potential for aggressive action increases, and this could lead to serious conflict. I am saying this in general, not with any personal motives or designs.
Since the Second World War, peace in the world has been maintained through the strategic balance of forces. Upsetting this balance threatens international peace. As soon as we heard that two systems – a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland – were to be deployed close to our borders, our military experts began calculating the consequences for our country. We are convinced that this would negatively affect Russia’s security and that of our citizens, and this forces us to think about steps we can take in response.
I stress this point that this is not a Russian initiative; these are counter-measures. What kind of counter-measures could we take? The prime concern, of course, is to neutralise the threats that arise for Russia, and this is why I say that yes, it seems we will have to target our missiles at these facilities. Such a step should not be seen as a surprise. It would be better not to provoke Russia into taking such action in the first place.
But I had a very encouraging conversation yesterday with the President of the United States. What we proposed was to use the Gabala radar station, which is located in Azerbaijan and is leased by Russia. This station fully covers the entire region that causes our American friends and colleagues’ suspicion. If need be, we are ready to modernise this station. We do not see the need at this point, but we are ready to undertake such work. We are ready to transmit all necessary information in real time. This would do away with the need for our American friends to deploy strike groups in outer space, which in itself would constitute a major threat to international security. It would no longer be necessary to build a new radar station in the Czech Republic and to deploy interceptors in Poland. The interceptors could be deployed in the south instead. I am just speaking hypothetically now, and talks with the relevant countries would need to take place, but the interceptors could be deployed in countries allied to the United States through NATO, in Turkey, say, or even in Iraq. What was the war for, after all? At least some advantage could be gained from it all.
The interceptors could also be deployed on mobile platforms, on military vessels, for example. This would have the advantage of not destabilising the situation in Europe and would also cover the entire region that is a cause of concern for our American partners. It would also have the advantage of providing a missile defence shield for all rather than just a part of Europe. This is because such a system would be able to intercept and destroy missiles fired at European territory during the first stage of the trajectory, and this, in addition, means that the remains of destroyed missiles would fall not on European cities but into the sea. This is a serious matter because hunks of metal up to 30 centimetres across can not just punch a hole in the roof, but if they are falling at great speed, could rip through a five or seven storey building right down to the basement, and this is no joking matter.
If our proposals are carried out, the debris would fall in the sea instead. What else are we proposing? We propose that this project should not be a unilateral or even bilateral undertaking, but that a group of interested countries, including European countries, should work on it together. We propose carrying out a real assessment of the missile threats for the period through to 2020 and agreeing on what joint steps we can take to counter these threats. We propose agreeing on equal, democratic and mutually acceptable involvement in this system’s command for all the participants. And finally, as I said to President of the United States George Bush, and at the press conference yesterday, we hope that no unilateral action will be taken until these consultations and talks have concluded. This will not create a delay of any kind because, as I said, Iran has no such missiles. Even if Iran were to begin developing such missiles, we would have timely warning, and even if we did not get any warning, we would soon find out when the first tests were carried out. We would see this, and U.S. satellites would see this. Four or five years go by from the time a missile is tested to the time it is actually commissioned and deployed by the armed forces. This is enough time to deploy any missile defence system anywhere in the world. So why destabilise the situation in Europe today? It seems to me that our proposals are entirely logical, justified, and are made in a spirit of partnership.
Question (RIA Novosti): I would like a clarification. You suggested deploying interceptor missiles in southern Europe or on platforms. Which would be preferable? If they are deployed in Europe, would this not be to the detriment of Europe’s security?
Vladimir Putin: I think I have already given a sufficiently detailed response to this question, but to repeat once more: if our proposals are implemented, there would be no need to build new radars in Europe or to set up new bases for the interceptor missiles. It would be enough to deploy them on floating platforms, on military vessels, or on the territory of southern countries, including the United States’ NATO allies. In this case, we would have no need to target our missiles at facilities of any kind in Europe or the United States. There would be simply no such need at all.
We are not going to deploy our own missiles in the Kaliningrad Region or move them closer to Russia’s western borders.
Question (Voice of America): Mr President, can you believe the Iranian regime when it says that it has no plans to develop missiles with a range of more than 4,000 kilometres?
Vladimir Putin: There is a concept that applies even to specific individuals – the presumption of innocence. If there are concerns regarding Iran, we try to clarify them and get explanations, including through existing international institutions, through the United Nations and the IAEA.
But as I already said, supposing there is a threat – and we are not rejecting this possibility outright; we do not see this threat, but we accept that it could potentially exist – we are proposing a concrete plan for joint action. I have just set out this plan and it is entirely acceptable. If our partners believe this threat exists, the implementation of our plan would completely neutralise it and there would be no need to complicate the global security situation and jeopardise security on the European continent.
Question (France Presse): Mr President, your Western partners continue to insist on independence for Kosovo regardless of how long this process might take – six months, a year or more. Are there any conditions on which Russia could agree to this?
Vladimir Putin: Our position on Kosovo is based on international law and on the decisions adopted by the UN Security Council. It is clear and straightforward. We base our position on the fundamental principle of international law that proclaims the need to respect countries’ territorial integrity and on Resolution 1244, which was adopted by the UN Security Council and which remains in force. This resolution states black on white that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia.
People are trying to persuade us today that we can resolve this issue without getting the needed agreement of one of the parties to the conflict – Serbia. We think that this is a mistaken approach that is not in keeping with either moral or legal norms. I think that we need to be patient and work with both the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs. We need to respect the existing principles of international law and not impose our will on other countries and peoples, or humiliate other peoples.
If we decide that in today’s world the principle of a nation’s right to self-determination is more important than the principle of territorial integrity, then we must apply this principle to all parts of the world and not only to regions where it suits our partners. In this case, the principle of self-determination should apply not just to the peoples living in the former Yugoslavia, but also to peoples, including the peoples of the Caucasus, in the post-Soviet area. We see no difference in the situations of one and the other. Whether in Yugoslavia or the post-Soviet area we saw the break up of Communist empires followed by ethnic conflict that has roots reaching far back into history. Violations and sometimes crimes were committed in both cases and in both cases we now have a situation of de-facto independent quasi-state formations. No one has been able to convince us of any difference in these respective situations, and so the rules applied should be universal.
Question (Nezavisimaya gazeta): Mr President, you met with the new President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. Could you share your impressions of this meeting and its results, and how experienced a politician is the new French President in your view?
(Shouts in German from the audience.)
Vladimir Putin (in German): Good, we will do so, a little later.
(In Russian) Excellent! Well done! Give me one, if you’re throwing them around.
(In German) Young man, give me one of the leaflets you’re throwing around. Have you done what you came to do now? Good, then leave us be and give me the time to answer. Is that alright? Is that democratic? Sit down please. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I had a good discussion with Mr Sarkozy. I have every reason to believe that the positive results achieved in relations between France and Russia over these last years will be used to continue to develop our intergovernmental ties. Moreover, we found many points in common on a personal level.
I think that Mr Sarkozy is very well-prepared, knows modern Russia well and is interested in developing our relations in all different areas. Frankly, I was even surprised by the detailed knowledge he displayed in our discussions on specific areas of cooperation, on cooperation between EADS and Russia’s United Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, for example. This gives me reason to believe that Russian-French relations have good prospects ahead.
I would like to say a few words on tyranny. Since this leaflet has come my way, I will respond to it and say a few words to this fine young man and to all those who want to defend democracy in Russia. Russia has lived through very difficult times. It has lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, what was essentially civil war in the Caucasus, the impoverishment of millions of its population after the old economy collapsed, the break down of the social protection system. All of this has had an impact on the reality of life today. But this does not mean that we will come up with some kind of specifically Russian form of existence or invent some kind of particularly Russian democracy. We will develop according to the common principles that apply to all civilised countries.
I have looked closely at the decisions of the European Human Rights Court and the conclusions of international human rights organisations. They contain a lot of criticism in Russia’s address, and this criticism is often justified. There are also plenty of cases when this criticism is not so justified, in our opinion, but often it is justified, and we will keep this in mind. But these same institutions and organisations criticise just as often our partners, including in the G8. There is plenty of criticism over the media, over decisions not to give licenses to media outlets, unjustified dismissals of journalists, and a lot of criticism about laws on immigration, for example. There is a lot of criticism about the judicial system and the detention of people in penal institutions. But is this all not also a part of common values? We should not pretend that everywhere else everything is fine and well and that only we have problems. There is no shortage of problems.
Now we are approaching a complex period in our political life. We will hold a parliamentary election at the end of this year, and the presidential election will take place at the start of next year. I can assure you that everything will take place according to democratic procedures. Everyone will have the right to express their views and to say what they think of the current authorities, and all we ask is that everyone acts in respect for the law in force.
We will not allow anyone to violate the Russian Constitution. I myself do not violate it and I will not allow anyone to do so. Everyone must show respect for the law. The winner of the Duma election and the presidential election will be whoever the majority of Russia’s citizens give their votes to through direct secret ballot. You will work with the Russia chosen by its own people, and not with the Russia someone on the outside might want to see.
We will not allow attempts by anyone trying to intervene in and support political forces within our country as the election season approaches in order to pursue their own interests in Russia.
Thank you very much for your attention and I wish you all the very best.