Andrew Marr: Mr. President, thank you very much for coming here to give an interview to the BBC. First, I would like you to reflect on the overall economic situation. We are meeting today at the time of the global crisis. How did it affect Russia? What do you think is the most probable course of events in your country?
Dmitry Medvedev: Hello, Mr. Marr. I am pleased to give this interview to the BBC, even more so that I am doing this on the eve of my visit to London to attend the G20 Summit. Of course, the reason for our meeting in London will not please anybody. The financial crisis is indeed a global one affecting almost all economies in the world. Thus, the challenge all the leaders face is to find adequate ways of dealing with it. The question is what does adequacy mean and what can we possibly achieve today.
I have just discussed this matter with Prime Minister Brown, and we have agreed that the set of proposals to be considered at the Summit has been almost finalized. I will not cite them here, as they are rather big and bulky and perhaps will not attract the interest of the TV audience. What people really want is that we make at least a slight progress on our way forward.
Russia, too, was hit by the financial crisis. Some of its manifestations in Russia are exactly the same as in Britain. I am talking about a lack of financial liquidity and banking activities; however, there are also some problems specific to Russia. The Government has formulated a programme, which includes providing support to the so-called real sector that is our businesses, and creating new jobs, since the crisis has naturally affected our industries and led to increased unemployment. Over the last five months alone, 200 thousand people lost their jobs; of course, we need to deal with this problem, just as other governmentsdo.
We have taken certain measures to support our banks, and at some point we have managed to reverse the most alarming trends in our banking system. Asa result, this system now operates normally.
Andrew Marr: Your economy is heavily dependent on natural resources, on the energy sector. The crisis seems to require new reforms, greater diversification. In Russia there are not so many small and medium-size enterprises.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, the crisis has exposed our problems. We realized it before that the Russian economy is not diversified enough and to a great extent based on the production of raw materials. Naturally, today we continue to believe that supplies of oil, gas and other energy supplies are an important part of our economy. But the point is that these are export commodities whereas the crisis makes the export shrink, thus reducing the revenues.
I can be frank here and say that it is the most heavily export-oriented countries that have mostly suffered from this crisis. In this regard, Russia is one of them. Therefore, our most important future task is to continue following the path of economic diversification, to set up new industries, mainly high-tech ones. IT is the priority that we set for ourselves long ago. We should maintain the domestic demand; we should develop small and medium-size enterprises since they seem to be less dependent on the world economic situation.
Andrew Marr: What will happen if, say, the G20 leaders do not reach an agreement, if they express different views on the world market?
Dmitry Medvedev: They have to reach an agreement, because it is the future of our countries and our peoples that depends on our accord, on our determination to introduce fundamental changes into the world financial architecture.
Andrew Marr: Would you like dollar to be replaced as the world's reserve currency, which has been mentioned by you and many others? Would it be a practical solution from your point of view?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I have just discussed this issue with Gordon Brown and other partners. Of course, we are realistic, and I hope that my position is realistic, as well as that of our Chinese colleagues. But it is quite obvious that the existing currency system has not coped with the existing challenges. We were lucky to have a set of currencies: dollar, euro, and a pound. But in the future this system should be based upon a multi-currency basket, it should also include other regional reserve currencies. If we manage to agree on that, in the future we could talk about creating a kind of a supercurrency.
Andrew Marr: You see this financial crisis as a moment when the balance of forces in the world shifts, to put it bluntly, from the West to the East.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that the question is not where this movement originates and where it goes. The question is that we should provide a right response. Of course, the existing architecture of the world economy is not perhaps quite in tune with the present situation. We see how fast the socalled dynamic economies grow, how fast the growth of the emerging markets is, like the BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China), how fast the Far East is developing. All that should be taken into consideration. But the crisis is not a reason to say ”that's it, the new configuration and the new political landscape have been fixed, now we are living in a different world“. The crisis should be used to find a solution.
Andrew Marr: Russia has six million of the unemployed, the ruble lost one third of its value. Do you blame the greedy Western bankers for that? Should they be blamed for this crisis?
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, not. We do have all the problems that you mentioned, but it is essentially a response of any state. At the moment when the foreign currency inflow started to decrease gradually, we had to take this decision to devaluate the ruble, which was the case in other countries as well, a considerable number of countries did the same with their own currencies. Indeed, many our companies used to take loans from Western banks. Maybe, some of them have done it improperly, without taking into account possible consequences, but this is a responsibility of specific owners of those companies, and foreign banks have nothing to do with that. One should always think, when borrowing money, how you are going to repay it. This is the question for any moneylender.
Andrew Marr: G20 will give you the first possibility to meet President Barack Obama personally. I believe you keep an eye on him. What do you think about the President today, what is your view of him?
Dmitry Medvedev: I know him well, I have seen him many times on TV. (L a u g h i n g.)
But seriously speaking, we have had two telephone conversations. These were fruitful and constructive talks. We exchanged letters to present our own vision of the evolution of the world situation. I would like to say that, in my view, the message by President Obama was very positive. And, frankly speaking, when I was reading it I was even surprised by the fact that many views outlined there coincided with my own ones. The question, certainly, is how we shall be able to present our views during our personal meeting. To what extent our teams are ready to move in a certain direction, to what extent we are ready to break stereotypes. To what extent we are ready to carry out the rebooting which is spoken about so much today.
Andrew Marr: One thing proposed by President Obama is that he wants to reflect upon the issue of the antimissile system in Eastern Europe once again. But he would like you help him in other aspects– regarding Iran and its nuclear ballistic missile programme. If you wished to do this, would you be able to exert an efficient pressure upon Iran? What do you think, could they abandon this Programme or, to be more precise, ballistic missiles and not develop nuclear weapons?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, we have issues regarding which we maintain permanent contacts with the United States Administration irrespective of the level of our relations or whether our views on any specific issue of the current agenda coincide or differ. Both antimissile defense and a settlement of the situation around Iran are among such issues. We have maintained regular contacts on these issues with the previous Administration too.
As regards the ABM, as regards the deployment of the notorious capabilities in Europe, our position has always been clear: we should not create ABM elements – a comprehensive antimissile system is required. And Russia is ready to become engaged in this system, because we are also interested in securing our country and our citizens from threats posed by certain problematic states. But the point is that this should be done through common efforts rather than by deploying any missiles or radars along our borders when a real doubt arises as to what lies behind all this? Is it done to make us nervous or in order to really prevent some threats?
As for Iran, we maintain full-fledged relations with this state, but our position is based on well-known UN resolutions and approaches set forth by the IAEA, namely that Iran's nuclear programme should be peaceful. This is our public position, we have always informed Iranians about this. I don't think that any trade-offs are possible in this respect. Any information as to replace one issue with another one is not true, this is not a serious talk. But I have no doubt that we shall discuss both issues– that of ABM defense and of the situation around Iran's nuclear programme. I believe that President Obama thinks the same way.
Andrew Marr: But, presumably, it may not be comfortable for the Russian people that the Iranian missiles so closely located to you finally would turn out to be nuclear missiles.
Dmitry Medvedev: We wouldn't like to have any new nuclear missiles along our borders. The world has enough missiles without that and their multiplication does not assure the needed security. We are interested in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to be the main principle of human development for the years to come. We don't want any new members of the nuclear club; it's quite unnecessary.
Andrew Marr: The modernization of the Russian Armed Forces is broadly noted and covered in the West and there have been your own statements on this subject. And what to say to people who consider it a kind of threat, a kind of “rocking of the boat”? Do you think that a serious modernization of the Russian Armed Forces is needed or something is done here additionally to counterbalance the West?
Dmitry Medvedev: The modernization is a completely normal work. Russia as a big state, as a responsible participant in the International Club, as a permanent member of the Security Council has a number of serious obligations. Russia is a major nuclear power and we bear responsibility under the main conventions, including those in the field of strategic nuclear arms limitations. We should have an efficient defense system. But it cannot be on the level of the 1970s or the 1980s. We should have a defense system of the 21st century. And this is my main duty as the Commander-in-Chief. But certainly it shouldn't be regarded as a step against someone. This is our task– to maintain the needed level of defense capacities of our country. The fact that we didn't do that in the 1990s doesn't mean that we didn't want to modernize our defense system. As a matter of fact, we have had no possibilities to do that. Now the situation is different. Despite the crisis, Russia has sufficient means to carry out its own defense strategy and to create modern armed forces. This is what we are doing. These actions are not directed against anyone, these are defense actions, and any state is doing that. You can say this to everybody interested in this matter.
Andrew Marr: Can we ask a question on Afghanistan? At this moment, Americans are rethinking their policy on Afghanistan. But, besides that you could say: ”We had been warning you“, what would you recommend to Americans to do in the future as regards Afghanistan?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Afghan issue is, of course, one of the most challenging, the most complex issues today. Initially, we have supported the efforts of Americans and the Allied States aimed at preventing the terrorist threat coming from that country, including in the course of negotiations with our close neighbours. Moreover, a few times we have simply rendered an open assistance when we were asked whether it was possible to deploy these or those forces or bases. Our response was simple: these are antiterrorist measures and we recommend to our friends, to our partners, including from the Central Asia, to help in this respect.
I believe that today a number of threats are still there. And in that sense we are ready to participate in the efforts directed at putting things in order, at preventing terrorist attacks, including within the obligations we had taken. Another matter is that sooner or later, as I see it, there should nevertheless appear a normal and developed political structure of Afghanistan. It is impossible to rule Afghanistan with the aid of the Alliance; it is impossible to rule Afghanistan from abroad. Afghanistan should find its own path to democracy.
Andrew Marr: If Americans carry out a big campaign, as it was done in Iraq, what will be your reaction to it?
Dmitry Medvedev: As for Iraq, the situation is a little bit different.
I have just explained our position on Afghanistan that is clear and open. But our approach to the situation in Iraq differs from that in Afghanistan. As for that country, we proceeded from the assumption that there was no reason to carry out such large-scale operations, all the more so when there were no proven threats. Thedevelopments that followed have shown that we were right. The threats that the previous American Administration was talking about appeared to be a phantom to a large extent. Nevertheless, that state is in disorder, there is actually no state, and only military units and police forces maintain some order there. Was it really necessary to break up the Iraqi political system, if greatly imperfect, to be frank? Only to create a worse one? We therefore remain wary of the measures taken in that country. Certainly, we wish success to Iraq in searching for its own way, and we are willing to see it developing. And we also maintain contacts with the Iraqi Government.
Andrew Marr: Can we turn to the relations between Britain and Russia? They were not good over the recent years, too. In this regard, there are certain problems to be highlighted: the case of Litvinenko, TNKBP and not least the British Council that is in the list of spy scare. Finally, how do you assess the climate of our relations? Of course, some warming can be seen. Can you describe the situation?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think we have the above-zero temperature, like in the spring as you can see the weather outside. The changes take place.
Andrew Marr: More specifically, is there any way to secure that Mr. Lugovoi would be subject to a lawsuit in a third country? It's a big issue in Britain. Is any compromise possible here?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, we may have problems that cannot be settled in a judicial manner, so it's not possible to seek a legal solution to them. With regard to the extradition of a Russian citizen, our Constitution and our legislation contain relevant provisions, which have been repeatedly brought to the attention of our British partners. Russia, like many other countries, has never used such a practice, irrespective of how sensitive the issue is.
Andrew Marr: So, what can we tell Mrs. Litvinenko, a widow who cannot achieve a fair settlement concerning the death of her husband?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I believe that any settlement, including such grievous and tragic instances like Litvinenko case, should be sought within the existing legal framework. This is what I have been taught as a lawyer. Some people, certainly, may– and do– appeal to political authorities. However, when it comes to legal dimension, there is a procedure established, there are investigating agencies and the judiciary. Whether people trust the investigation or not, whether they believe the court or not– there are no other arrangements in place to settle this kind of problems. So I have one thing to recommend, which is to observe the legal framework and respect the laws of the Russian Federation.
Andrew Marr: What is your forecast with respect to the problems involving British Ambassador in Moscow and the British Council? What is your vision of their future in the short term?
Dmitry Medvedev: Frankly speaking, I don't see any particular problem here. It might have been a sequence of some regrettable incidents. Some of them were rooted in the Great Britain, while others might have their origins in Russia. It's not a systematic thing though. However, despite those difficulties that our relationships faced in the past, we were on excellent terms in other fields, such as trade, and this kind of situation is quite natural. The only thing that Russian senior authorities were talking about– and what I am now saying as one of them– is that the Russian laws should be respected.
We have come up with some proposals to the British Council. And even now the British Council keeps on its operation, despite some restrictions. If the issues concerning its legal status are settled, as proposed, the British Council will resume its activities in accordance with our law on foreign legal entities and public associations.
Andrew Marr: As for British businessmen, a lot of concerns have been expressed regarding the BP company. And there is no doubt that even in these circumstances many British businessmen ask themselves a question: is it safe to invest money in Russian economy and do business in Russia? What would be your answer to them?
Dmitry Medvedev: It will be simple, absolutely simple, clear and exact. British businesspeople are welcome in Russia. We believe that British businesspeople have the same rights on Russian investment market as all others. They can work on the territory of the Russian Federation and are actually doingso.
The only thing is that they should choose the right partners. I have mentioned it more than once during the talks with my counterparts, i.e. British Prime Minister and others. Yet these are the risks, which everyone has to take. When having found a partner one should certainly think of the divorce procedure. I have been in juridical business for ten years and the first question which I asked right away before developing such joint projects was always the following – whether the ‘divorce’ procedure was documented and how it was defined, in which court the proceedings would took place and what would be the principles for the division of property. Yet, thank God, in case of the TNKBP it didn’t go so far.
Andrew Marr: A lot of people in Britain keep a close eye on Khodorkovsky case, who is now facing even a longer term in prison. Do you think it is possible to reconsider Khodorkovsky case and offer him some sort of parole, since it would be an indicator of business-friendly atmosphere in Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: I always try to think in a specific manner. This is perhaps both my merit and demerit. My cast of mind is one of a lawyer although I am a President. That is why I would like to comment simply on the Khodorkovsky case. It is true that he had been sentenced on certain charges under Russian criminal law. Currently new trial is being heard. We should wait for its results. If there is an acquitting judgment– that is one thing, if there is a judgment of conviction– that is another thing, but in any case, this will be decided by the court and in this context neither President nor anyone else has a right to interfere in this situation. A President has only one privilege, only one power– to grant pardon on behalf of State. When people make such appeals, it is my duty to consider them. That’s it.
Andrew Marr: The next question is about political reform in Russia. Is it true that you have told the Novaya Gazeta ”It's great that you still keep working“?
Dmitry Medvedev: Absolutely. Besides, I promised to give them an interview. I will have to do that.
Andrew Marr: A number of journalists have been killed in Russia over the past few years. Do you think that some special reforms are needed in order to normalize the situation?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, unfortunately, we are facing major crime issues. This is the reason why I am addressing corruption. Recently I have held a special meeting on crimes against children. Unfortunately, journalists suffer too, together with other people who fall victims to crime. I do not think that all such cases have to do with politics. Yet, I am sure, in some cases it is a matter of political revenge. Each of them should be examined in the most detailed manner, and the criminals should be found and prosecuted. This is the only way to change the situation.
Andrew Marr: You are a … person, you are a President. Does this open for you a new vision of what is going on in Russia, unlike people from different regions of this country?
Dmitry Medvedev: I don't know about other people, but as for myself, I find my previous practice and my previous experience very helpful. I have dealt with legal matters, I have dealt with business, and I have my own views on many processes. I believe that the experience of working for the government which I have had by the time I was elected President— almost nine years' experience– has also been helpful. So I think that such a combination is really useful. Anyway, I will advise future Presidents to work in all these spheres.
Andrew Marr: Who is now leading in Russia – do you lead Putin or does he lead you?
Dmitry Medvedev: I am leading the country, I am the head of state, and the division of power is based on this. Mr. Putin is the prime minister of the Cabinet that implies very complicated and comprehensive work. But it is clear that the President is taking major decisions on behalf of the State.
Andrew Marr: During President Sarkozy's visit to Russia Putin was quoted as saying then that he was a bad cop while the President was a good cop. How do you see the situation? Was he right?
Dmitry Medvedev: I do not think so, I believe, we both are good cops. (L a u g h.)
Andrew Marr: Are you going to run in next elections for the second term?
Dmitry Medvedev: I would rather finish this term and realize what is going on. Such plans on the next term could be made only by a person who believes his rule to be a success.
Andrew Marr: What changes and what kind of Russia would you like to get at the end of your Presidency? I mean, what changes does President Medvedev look for in Russia as he takes the lead?
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like Russia to be an efficient and powerful country where people live well in accordance with appropriate and civilized standards with ensured adequate quality of live. I would also like to see Russia among democracies, within unified Europe, as a country that speaks to its partners on equal footing and with respect, and addresses the most challenging tasks. I would like Russia to be well-educated with preserved deeply rooted traditions of the Russian culture. Here are comprehensive, global goals, but I believe that they can be achieved.
Andrew Marr: You are planning to come to London soon. And it seems to us that in the West we all know Mr. Putin, we even saw some of his topless photos where he is without a shirt. But we are not so well informed about you. What could you tell us about yourself?
Dmitry Medvedev: First of all, I am ready to do a photo session if that may help. Though it is always a rather complicated matter to talk about myself as a politician currently in office. I think that some things that we had started together with Mr. Putin when he was President have succeeded after all. Yet let our citizens, not us, make the judgment.
As for myself, I do not even know what would be interesting for our TV audience. I realize that some specific facts, juicy details which people usually prefer to keep silent about, always arouse interest. As for my personal background, it is well known.
Andrew Marr: Finally, let us sum up our conversation. For some time the relations between Russia, Great Britain and the West have been very difficult. Do you think that with Mr. Obama now in office, and after the outbreak of the crisis there could be a new beginning for these relations? Is it possible in the future?
Dmitry Medvedev: New start is certainly possible, it is even necessary. I hope that my partner shares that point of view. Very soon we will meet and discuss everything. I am a moderate optimist. I believe that if the humanity exists and progresses that is because there is some reason behind it.
Andrew Marr: Mr. President, thank you very much for taking part in our show on BBC news. I hope that your participation at the G20 Summit in London will be a new and interesting part of our history.