President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the media,
I will start by saying that it is a great pleasure, of course, to see Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi here in Moscow. This visit is taking place in two stages as it were. But before telling you about what we worked on today, what we discussed, I want to say that of course we talked about the recent earthquake in Italy, and in this respect, I want to say once again that we express our sympathy and condolences to our Italian friends, to everyone in Italy.
We discussed the overall development of our relations today, including with respect to the agreements concluded yesterday, the energy sector agreements. We think these are very important agreements for our country. They are important not just for our country but for the entire European continent, because without strengthening the energy dialogue and reaching agreements on energy supplies, no reasonable development will be possible. What took place yesterday with the participation of our colleague, the Prime Minister [Vladimir Putin] was therefore very good.
We exchanged views on development of our trade and economic relations. Our trade turnover came to more than $50 billion last year. This is a very good result of course. Given the economic crisis, I am not sure that we will manage to maintain this level this year, but we are doing everything possible to keep our trade relations growing actively. A big delegation of Italian businesspeople visited earlier this year, and we had meetings with them. This is the best guarantee that our business contacts will continue, that our economies will develop, that we will preserve jobs and that our trade will grow. We definitely need to continue these kinds of contacts.
It is also important to continue building up our contacts in other areas too, in humanitarian and cultural cooperation. We have taken a number of good steps in this direction this year. I made a brief visit to Italy and took part in the ceremony handing back the pilgrimage complex in Bari. This was a big event for us, of course, and I want to thank once again the Italian Prime Minister for the help that Italy gave Russia on this matter. This is of symbolic importance for our country, and we will never forget this.
We discussed the international situation and spoke about the problems we face today. Of course, top of the agenda was the economic crisis. We reiterated our mutual desire to work together on solutions to the current economic problems, including through bilateral economic cooperation.
One particularly important issue is that of achieving stability and security on the European continent and developing relations along the whole perimeter. This applies to relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union, and to relations between the Russian Federation and NATO. There have been both achievements and problems in these relations. I will not go into detail on them right now. But whatever the case, cooperation in this area is essential. Last year’s experience, when dramatic events unfolded, when our country encountered problems in the Caucasus and war broke out in the South Caucasus, showed that a great deal depended on the position taken by our closest partners. I want to say a special thanks to Mr Berlusconi for the active part he played in resolving this problem. He made great efforts at that time to look for a compromise that would pave the way to a mutually acceptable solution.
European security is therefore a matter of crucial importance. I want to say once more that our proposal on a new European security treaty is aimed precisely at creating a new platform for cooperation in Europe, in which NATO members and non-NATO members could work together and thus set European security on a broader and more solid foundation.
I think that if we want to make progress on security issues, we need to not just come up with new ideas, but also turn to ideas put forward some time ago, and that have already proved their worth. I am referring, for example, to the principles drawn up for relations between Russia and NATO at the Pratica di Mare summit. These were good principles in my view, and I think that we should come back to them in order to further the dialogue between Russia and Italy, and make progress in the dialogue between Russia and the NATO member countries.
We also discussed a number of regional issues of mutual concern to our countries. They included the situation in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We exchanged views on all of these matters of concern, and we share similar positions on many points.
I am confident that we can achieve new results if we keep moving forward. I think that the Italian Prime Minister’s current visit to our country will give new impetus to developing very close and productive relations between our countries and strengthening our strategic partnership.
Question: This question is for President Medvedev. Barack Obama’s first months in office have sent some good signals, but there are also some negative moments, such as the NATO exercises currently underway in Georgia. What is your assessment of the impact President Obama’s first four months in office have had?
Dmitry Medvedev: Something has changed since the new administration took office in the United States. We have sensed interest in building up relations with Russia, and we have sensed a change in tone. I said already that my first conversation with the President of the United States was very constructive. Probably the most important thing of all was that we showed our willingness and ability to listen to each other’s arguments. There was none of this trying simply to hand out recipes for how to behave in international relations, or, even worse, how to organise our own country’s internal affairs. It was a real and positive dialogue that took place, without any lecturing overtones. This dialogue is now continuing at various levels, and our ministers are in contact with each other, holding meetings with each other. We have drafted two declarations that reflect our common desire to take our relations further, and set out a common framework for how we can achieve this. This covers the preparations for new strategic arms reductions agreements.
Work is really going full steam ahead now. We will have a big meeting here in Russia at the start of July, a few days before the summit in Italy. I hope this will take our dialogue to a new level. I hope that both sides will take a realistic approach to the issues on which we currently have differences. Of course, we cannot help but feel concerned about some of the things happening now. In any case, the NATO exercises taking place in Georgia, literally in the very places that were not so long ago the scene of confrontation cannot make us happy. They lead to problems and create tension. We have openly voiced our concerns to our partners, but these exercises are taking place nevertheless. I think that far from contributing to European security they will increase tension, given that Georgia is already in a tense situation as it is. This and a number of other actions that are clearly provocative in nature do not, unfortunately, create the right atmosphere for developing and resuming full-fledged dialogue between the Russian Federation and NATO. But I hope nevertheless, that we will discuss all of these issues at our meeting and perhaps succeed in giving new impetus to our dialogue in these areas. Overall, I think that events are shaping up quite well, and I am looking forward to seeing my colleague in the Russian Federation so as to continue our discussions.
Question: Mr Medvedev, what proposals and initiatives will Russia take to the summit in Italy? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: First of all, I want to say that we fully understand the reasons why Italy decided to change the G8 summit’s venue. This is a completely understandable decision in the current circumstances. We will do everything we can to help ensure that the summit is of the highest level in terms of organisation and substance. This is why we are busy preparing now for the discussions between the G8 members themselves, in the broader G8 plus six format, and in the broadest format. Overall, I think we do not have to look far for ideas, unfortunately, because the financial and economic crisis has already set the agenda for us. All top level meetings these days, whether bilateral or multilateral, are devoted to these issues.
Naturally, we have proposals of our own to offer. Some of them were put forward at the G20 summit in London, and some of them will be set out at the summit in Italy. Our proposals are similar in essence to those advanced by our partners, including our Italian colleagues. They concern the need to give the world a new and fairer financial and economic set of rules and organisations that takes into account the changes that have taken place in the global economy and international financial system over the last 50–60 years. We need to give the international financial system a new and modern foundation, while at the same time preserving the achievements of past years.
There is no question of simply abolishing the Bretton Woods agreements overnight and replacing them with something new. But we nevertheless need to reflect on how to make the international financial system fairer, give it a set of basic principles that all countries would agree to, modernise the system of corporate supervision, transparency, accounting and reporting on the basis of principles that are not just to the benefit of one group of countries, because the current principles are based on the Anglo-Saxon approach, and this is not to everyone’s liking in Europe, for example.
We need to modernise auditing, accounting and reporting principles, and take steps too to modernise the currency system and make it better protected. The current system, as we know, is based on a number of reserve currencies, chief among which is the United States’ national currency. But we need to think of ways to strengthen this system. We have raised the idea in the past of using other national currencies that could be developed as reserve currencies. We have also spoken about the possibility of making the rouble one of these currencies, and this remains one of our goals.
There are also more global ideas that were not the subject of such broad-format debate at the London summit, but were discussed nonetheless. One of these ideas was that of establishing a supranational currency. We have been looking at reorganising the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s work, and examining the possibility of using the special drawing rights used within these organisations as a potential supranational currency. Why not go further? These are all matters for the future, but in my view, this future is not far off at all.
Overall, in our efforts to deal with this crisis we need to act not just as countries that have fallen on hard times. We need to come through this crisis as winners and build a new system of international financial and economic relations. This work will continue at the G8 summit in Italy. We hope very much that the summit will be a success, and we will do everything we can to help our Italian friends.