President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I would first and foremost like to thank Mr Prime Minister for accepting our invitation to come to Russia. We have discussed practically all the issues relating to Russian-German relations and those that directly affect Bavaria, a region with which we have had a special relationship for many years.
There are a large number of German investors working in Russia and the main Bavarian companies are also represented here. We hope that this will be two-way street. We are grateful to Mr Prime Minister for bringing a large and representative delegation of business representatives with him. We are confident that this visit will benefit the development of our bilateral relations and the situation in Europe more generally.
Prime Minister of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber: Yes, I was deeply touched by this demonstration of friendship. The fact that a foreign guest had the opportunity to participate in the ceremony of the changing of the guard for the first time. And I see this as a tribute to our special relationship and friendship. Throughout our conversation, which lasted several hours, we were able to discuss all the problems that presently exist between Russia and Germany, Russia and the European Union, in a very open and friendly atmosphere.
In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr President for telling me in detail about his conversation on missile defense with President George W. Bush. And I also want to emphasise that President Putin has clearly stated that there are now two options. The first is a missile defense system against potential threats from Iran executed as the Americans had planned, that is with bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. This option will, of course, result in a significant hardening of positions. And probably — I will speak cautiously here — complicate cooperation between Russia and the United States, Russia and NATO. However, the second option would allow us to do this together. Together, under the leadership of the Russia-NATO Council and with the two centres for information exchange in Moscow and in Brussels. The second option is based on a plan that makes clear that in addition to a radar station in Gabala (Azerbaijan) another radar station could be built in the south of Russia.
And I think that Germany’s position and that of the German government or, in any case, that of my government and my party, is very clear: we are in favour of the second option. We are in favour of close cooperation to protect all of Europe, not just parts of it, and thereby to construct close ties between Russia, the EU and NATO.
Otherwise, we talked about a variety of topics and I cannot even mention them all; we talked about Kosovo and the future development of democracy in Russia. I see good prospects in this respect. Because the President also believes that a parliamentary system and increasingly diverse parties will continue to develop in Russia. And it is precisely through the closely intertwined security concerns of Russia, Europe and the United States that the development of democracy in Russia can and will proceed at a completely different pace.
So I was very pleased with the discussions that took place. And, of course, I will also tell Madame Federal Chancellor about them. We must say very clearly that the German federal government has favoured the second option — namely cooperation between the parties — from the beginning. We are not in favour of the Americans acting on their own, in the interests of America, and potentially causing difficulties for Europe. This is not our goal.
Question: Mr President, may I ask you just one question? Why do Russia and Bavaria have such good relations and how would you characterise the current development trends in relations between Russia and the European Union?
Vladimir Putin: As a whole, we have good relations with Germany. This is primarily due to objective circumstances, including the fact that both countries’ economies have benefited from each other’s growth. There are a great many very strong, good companies in Bavaria. It is well-known that Bavaria is a region oriented towards exports and, judged by this criteria, Bavaria is a leader not only in Germany but in the world at large. And because of the increasing economic growth within the Russian Federation our mutual interests will only continue to increase.
As to Russia-EU relations, I think that they have very good prospects. First of all, because we really want this to be the case. Secondly, because Russian society and the Russian leadership are in complete agreement that our policies should be oriented towards Europe. And I am simply confident that by joining our forces we will be able to accomplish a great deal both for our peoples and for the world at large.
You can see that even events linked with so-called military culture do not take place without the participation of our German friends: our military men just told us, in September in Russia a major international event is scheduled to take place on the Red Square. And we expect German military musicians to participate in this event.
Edmund Stoiber: I have seen history develop with my own eyes — and I already told Mr President that I first came to the Kremlin 20 years ago, and it was a very different time. And the fact that Russian-German relations have changed so dramatically over the past 20 years is an excellent, positive thing. But I would also like to clearly lay out my long-term vision. Russia is a necessary partner for Europe and for Germany. And therefore the future requires that we conclude not only a Russia-EU partnership and cooperation agreement, but also establish a free trade zone between Russia and the EU. We need to allow our economies to become more closely intertwined.
After China and Japan, Russia has the world’s largest gold and currency reserves. And I am very interested to see Russia invest first and foremost in Bavaria, in Germany, in Europe and, as a third or fourth option, in Asia. I also think that the Russian President is a good partner for us, someone who has clearly and consistently given priority to European-oriented policies. We need to use these opportunities. And we have always done so in relations between Bavaria and Moscow, and therefore acted as an impetus for the development of German-Russian relations more generally.
German-Russian relations should clearly and unambiguously act as a valuable and large-scale addition to our transatlantic ties with America.
Question: Mr President, how optimistic are you that the Americans will accept your proposal relating to a missile defence system?
Vladimir Putin: That is a question that you will have to ask the Americans.