Vladimir Putin: Some time has passed since our previous meeting and noticeable changes have taken place in our relations. I think much of the credit for this should go to you. There are many problems that are of interest both for the Alliance and for Russia. I know that you have had a positive dialogue with the Defence Minister of the Russian Federation. You know the two problems that worry us most of all. They are the various options of anti-missile defence and the expansion of the Alliance.
Regarding the first problem, we propose the following order of work: the Defence Minister has handed over to you our proposal on joint work on the European anti-missile defence. We hope that your experts will study the proposal within a short space of time. Thereafter our experts — military and civilian experts — are ready to arrive in Brussels to provide the necessary clarifications and, also very importantly, to address the European public opinion and to explain to the people of Europe what Russia actually proposes.
That work could be pursued on the broadest basis, bringing in the whole of the European Union. And I can repeat our proposal. You know that there is a Russian-American centre on the exchange of information on rocket launches, based in Moscow, and we are ready to invite more participants. I think our American partners won’t object to expanding the number of participants by bringing in European countries. We welcome the statement that the Alliance does not see Russia as an enemy, and we are grateful to you for this.
But the expansion of the defence alliance can only be justified by an alleged threat from Russia. And we are concerned about other statements by other Western officials, which we are familiar with, when they try to revive Russia’s image as an “evil empire” which threatens somebody. This despite the fact that nobody is afraid of us and I don’t think it would be easy for us to scare anyone.
I think that all the threats and the arms race happen when and where confidence lapses. There are some areas of activity that bring us closer together. For example, our joint peace-making efforts in the former Yugoslavia.