Jose Carlos Gallardo: Mr Dmitry Medvedev, His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos was the first to visit Moscow in 2008 to congratulate you as the new President of Russia. And at the time, that visit was viewed as a manifestation of good relations between our countries. What stage are these relations at now, in you view?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I think they are excellent. They are at such a stage that whenever we have discussions with our Spanish counterparts we find answers to the most complex issues and challenges facing our countries, in the bilateral as well as multilateral formats, including the issues of European security, and overcoming the consequences of the world financial crisis. That is why I am looking forward to the visit to Spain with great optimism and pleasure. We value greatly the respect that the King of Spain Juan Carlos has for this country, he is regarded here as a distinguished and experienced politician, and a leader of a friendly state.
We know that the King and Queen Sophia are very interested in Russian culture and history; we have noticed it on many occasions. That is why my first contact with His Majesty that took place last year-indeed it was almost right after the inauguration-assured me that we will find common ground on various issues. We even visited a photo exhibition together. I know that the King is interested in this field and so am I in a way, and we managed even to discuss not only our bilateral relations, but to talk about the world of photography and art.
This opens new opportunities for discussing various issues at the level of the heads of state as well as at the level of intergovernmental relations. In fact, we have great potential almost at any level to move forward our relations. I believe that this is especially valuable when the world is going through financial difficulties, when a number of old models no longer work, when we all are confronting the lack of financial resources to implement various important projects, when we have to cope with urgent social tasks, when there are people without work, and their number is growing, when we have to respond to global challenges, in particular, those related to the existing system of financial relations, and financial architecture. And the upcoming meeting in London is to create conditions to fulfill these enormous tasks. In this respect we count on mutual coordination of our efforts with our Spanish partners, not to mention that our countries have traditionally faced tasks of maintaining European security. In particular, the ongoing dialogue on this issue is multilateral. I have expressed my position on a number of occasions. And I believe that we shall touch upon these issues today as well. I do not consider that all existing institutions responsible for maintaining security in Europe are adequate today. We need to outline a new security system that would include not only the existing bloc organizations, with all due respect for them, but non-bloc entities as well. For example, the fact that today we have a number of for a where we can meet to discuss this issue is fine but that does not imply that this is a once and for all situation.
Why am I mentioning this? I am saying this because with our Spanish partners we have no difficulties in searching for common answers to the most complex issues of our times. That is why I anticipate the meeting in Spain with great optimism and look forward to the state visit during which, by the way, we are to sign the Declaration on Strategic Cooperation between our countries.
Luis Prados: Mr President, in 2008 you proposed to elaborate an international treaty to establish a new security architecture. I would like to ask if the idea of Mikhail Gorbachev concerning a ”common European home“ from Vancouver to Vladivostok has anything to do with this? And how do you view the North American project to create the missile defense system in Europe?
Dmitry Medvedev: In general, any idea only seems new but in fact it has its forerunner and if we speak about a “common European home” from the Atlantic to the Urals we know that this idea was voiced long before Mikhail Gorbachev. Charles de Gaulle spoke of it. I am convinced that even Charles de Gaulle had his predecessors. What does it tell us about? Good ideas always find their expression through politicians who formulate such proposals.
My proposals are naturally a modification of the proposals that existed previously, yet they reflect the realities of modern world. Today there is no confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The two blocs do not co-exist in Europe any longer. There is no Iron Curtain and, thank God, the Cold War is over. That is why that concept cannot remain untouched, but in my view it has the right to exist namely because the current security system in Europe is imperfect, and I have just mentioned this. Why is it imperfect? There are countries that, strictly speaking, are not part of any alliances and their security is not ensured by any bloc. And since this is the case this will always create tensions, and create the impression that one is not quite correctly understood, and simply create problems in relations. I believe that in order to cope with this task it is necessary to set up such an organization that would unite all European countries whatever entity they belong to, i.e. NATO, the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or the European Union. All these entities form multitudes that do not overlap. Therefore we need some other universal forum.
You may argue that we have the OSCE. The problem is that the OSCE in recent years has failed to realize its potential. In my view, the efficiency of the OSCE is lower than it was during the Cold War when it was not called an organization but the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and was backed by the so-called Helsinki Act. That is why we do not object the discussion of these issues in the format of the OSCE. Yet, I believe that the outline of the new security system should be somewhat different.
What could be proposed in that respect? We could hold a summit in the OSCE format. I have already mentioned that. Some of our European partners, including, as far as I understand, Spain, accept this idea while some other partners in Europe do not deem it necessary.
Let us then consider another mechanism. We could consider establishing such a forum based on relations among European countries which are not members of the EU, on the one hand, and the European Union, on the other hand. This is also an acceptable option. We should just take a creative approach and come up with an idea that could unite us all. It is my firm conviction that this is quite reasonable.
By the way, a number of dramatic events, including those which happened last year, have demonstrated that peace is extremely fragile. I refer, inter alia, to the August developments: crisis in the Caucasus, Georgia's aggression against small entities which were in the past parts of its territory. Thus, the above task is extremely urgent.
As to the ABM defense idea, I would put it another way. In my view, the idea as proposed is irrelevant. What is more, it produces a sense of disappointment, a feeling that it is aimed, though not directly, against Russia. Naturally, Russia does not like it, that is quite obvious. However, what could happen? No one denies the existence of various threats including those related to acts of nuclear terrorism or threats emanating from countries with unstable regimes. But let us respond to those threats collectively, without isolating each other from those processes; we have repeatedly made such proposals, including to our American partners. The past US Administration held a very ”simple“ stance: we shall do that because we decided so. I expect that the new Administration of the United States of America will approach that issue in a more inventive and partnership-like manner. We have already received such messages from our American colleagues. I expect those messages to take the form of specific proposals. I hope that during my first meeting with Mr Obama, President of the United States, we shall be able to discuss, inter alia, this very issue which is extremely urgent for Europe.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: If you please, let us return to the bilateral relations. As regards our trade turnover which has exceeded the amount of two billion euros, we still have some progress to achieve in that direction in which we are profoundly interested. Our cooperation is becoming increasingly closer. As far as I remember, last autumn the Lukoil company wanted to buy a package of Repsol shares and this idea provoked an explicit reaction in certain circles in Spain. I would like to put the following question: Do you think that those circles don't trust Russian partners? Maybe certain stereotypes still exist and what should be the basis of our relations?
Dmitry Medvedev: First, I would like to note that our trade turnover is of course good, but it is not large enough. In my opinion even in times of economic crises, the trade turnover between countries possessing great potentials, such as Russia and Spain, should of course be much larger. Our trade turnover with a number of states comparable to Spain by their economic potential has in fact achieved dozens of billion dollars or euros. In my opinion, we are quite capable of reaching a comparable trade turnover between our states.
As for investments, it should always be a two-way street. One cannot welcome and attract investments, on the one hand, and carry out a different policy towards other economic agents, on the other hand. This has always led to tension. We are interested in Spanish investments in Russia. In turn, we would like Russian companies to be able to access Spanish markets to invest in various sectors. Moreover, it is trivial, it is quite obvious that growing mutual investments will result in strengthening security in Europe. For, governments may change, heads of state may come and go, but if states have common business ties, they will never have reasons for grievances, or, in any case, for serious conflicts since countries will always have to negotiate in certain situations. On the contrary, in the absence of a commercial basis or joint projects the number of emerging problems grows.
As regards Lukoil and its offer concerning the purchase of Repsol shares, I cannot of course make any detailed comments on the situation since after all this was a decision to be taken by two private companies. Lukoil is a private company which is in no way related to the Russian Government; rather, to a large extent it is controlled by foreign shareholders. However, as I was told, the above offer was very interesting and deserved consideration; maybe it would have been appropriate to take a decision on equity participation.
It is my understanding that the matter concerned a fairly small stake that was even smaller than the so-called blocking minority holding. That is, it can have no significant impact on decision-making in the company but makes it possible to be present in the market, show one’s capabilities, and have a financial stake and so on.
I have heard, including from our Spanish partners and friends, that this investment is perceived differently, some like it, while others follow the logic of stereotypes: the Russians are coming even here as well and this endangers national independence, etc. I think this logic is harmful and even stupid; you may call it as you like. Because in this case we simply divide all investments into good and bad ones, as well as investors into right and wrong ones, which is a new Berlin Wall but this time in the economy. In this context this contradicts even the idea of a united Europe.
However, I do not know what specific decision will be made with regard to this investment. As far as I know, the companies are still negotiating. I would like to repeat that we are interested in being present in the Spanish market, while our Spanish partners are interested in being present in Russia. As far as this deal is concerned, I can only say that such countries as the Russian Federation and Spain should have their own energy cooperation track and framework because these are major countries with their own energy potential and range of interests. I am confident that we can determine certain energy projects in which our countries will be interested, maybe, in this area as well.
Luis Prados: The US has just lost their Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, the springboard for supplying NATO troops in their fight against Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan. I would like to ask you whether Russia can or wants to do anything to make up for this loss?
Dmitry Medvedev: I will divide my answer into two parts.
I will be absolutely brief in answering to the first part: the Kyrgyzstani leadership’s decision to close the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan was a sovereign one. They gave their reasons for this decision, as far as I understand, it was largely because back then it had been decided to host the base for a couple years. However, the base has been there for eight years. It does not seem to have been agreed on. But ultimately, it is their competence and they have made the decision. It should be respected as any decision made by a sovereign state on the legal basis they used.
As to our cooperation on Afghanistan, I would like to say that we are interested in stepping it up rather than in stopping it. We can see what threats radical groups operating in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some other countries pose. Those groups are threatening the entire humanity and largely, or primarily, their own peoples. That is why we are ready to step up this cooperation in all areas and do that also with the Unites States of America.
We have already come up with a number of proposals regarding the transit of non-military supplies for the US to use these opportunities. We have made such agreements with France and Germany. We have tackled similar issues with Spain, too. Therefore, we believe that this kind of work should continue.
In my view, we have a very good basis here to come to terms. It is my understanding that this issue is high on the foreign policy agenda of the new US President. We share this approach. Moreover, we are also ready to take part in discussing how to achieve settlement in Afghanistan and resolve its domestic problems, with the involvement of respected international organizations. We agreed to hold a conference to deal with this issue, during the SCO Summit not long ago. I believe that soon this year a conference on Afghanistan can take place under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
We use the SCO format in this case because those are primarily Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. Certainly, they are interested in a more active and efficient settlement in this country, as well as in a solid basis for shaping a sound political system in Afghanistan that would enjoy the confidence of its people, that would be effective rather than imposed from outside and weak. In any case, we are interested in seeing Afghanistan a civilized and efficient democratic State.
Pilar Bonet: Ukraine and Russia waged another “gas war” in January, and many Western observers note heavy financial losses incurred by Russia, as well as certain loss of credibility. You wrote about it, too, and Gazprom mentioned it. I got first-hand information, although I cannot quote it from the closed source, that high-ranking Russian officials were opposed to cutting gas supplies to Ukraine. Next time when you face this problem, what will you do? In January, when you negotiate new prices, will you cut supplies too, or will you rather file a claim to the International Court of Arbitration in Stockholm, applicable to such cases, as you are perfectly aware of as a lawyer?
Dmitry Medvedev: First, we did not cut supplies, we just faced a situation when Ukraine did not renew its agreements with us. We had no legal basis for supplying gas; therefore, we had to make tough decisions, which we did not want to make and would like to avoid in the future.
As a result of complicated, even dramatic discussions with our Ukrainian partners, we reached an agreement, signed on January 19, in accordance with which Ukraine is now purchasing Russian gas at market prices and is supposed to make payments on time. The next payment, which I guess is about 400million dollars, is due soon. In case of non-payment, stricter provisions of this agreement will apply: Ukraine will be receiving further supplies on a pre-paid basis. While now we are supplying gas on credit, on trust, yet at market prices, next we will have to switch to pre-paid supplies. Naturally, these consequences will follow in case of the untimely payment by Ukraine. Of course, we hate turning back to the previous scenario, this is surely not our choice, but I can tell you frankly that we will have to act correspondingly if they refuse to pay.
Recently I met here with my colleague, Mr Barroso, who was accompanied by many European commissioners on his trip. I told him one simple thing: if we are to bring security to everybody, to European customers, and to guarantee a decent level of cooperation between us, let us help the Ukrainians. In fact, they are in dire straits now. According to some analysts, the Ukrainian economy now is on the brink of collapse. If we see that they are unable to pay, let us make a financial pool and give them money. I believe this is an option for everybody. There is a system of European financial institutions, we may be involved in this too, and we are prepared to contribute some money in order to normalize supplies, but let us do this in a civilized manner. We came up with the proposal to set a consortium, that is, to buy some amounts of gas; this proposal is still valid, so let us do it if we see that Ukraine is unable to pay. However, the deadline has not expired yet, and I believe our Ukrainian partners are willing and able to resolve this issues.
As for the Russian officials you have mentioned, those who were against this strategy, tell me who they are, and they will be fired.
Pilar Bonet: I cannot tell you, because I cannot break “off-the-record” rules; it was said in public at a closed forum in Barcelona.
Dmitry Medvedev: OK.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: The recent gas crisis as well as the war with Georgia and human rights situation in Russia are factors that threatened and will continue to threaten the negotiations between Russia and the EU on a new treaty on partnership.
What is your vision of Russia’s relations with the EU, which you consider to be a strategic partner needed by Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that these two events, the dramatic Caucasus crisis last August, the aggression that followed on the part of our neighbor, and the gas problem, are rather complicated, and they cause tension, particularly in Europe. We cannot but admit it. At the same time, we believe that all European states would like to maintain normal relations with the Russian Federation, and vice versa, Russia would like to preserve good partnership with the EU and individual European states. These relations are by no means opportunistic, and they should not depend on any political turn-ups. And, of course, the signing of a partnership treaty with Europe, with the EU should not be viewed as a sort of award given to Russia for being nice. This treaty is needed by all parties.
In fact, we have a treaty right now. Although it has already expired, we still apply it. The new treaty is absolutely necessary. In my view, it should be an umbrella instrument with a lot of annexes containing agreements on various issues. I reiterate that this treaty is not meant to encourage Russia; it is indispensable for all of us – I would put it this way. This treaty, in turn, should form the basis for agreements on many different subjects.
We have talked about the gas crisis several times today. As a lawyer, I do not indulge myself in juridical illusions, but I still believe that we need a solid legal basis for resolving issues. What do we have now, say, in this area? We have agreements with our Ukrainian friends, which are being broken by the same Ukrainian partners from time to time. We also have the Energy Charter; it was ratified by some countries, signed but not ratified by others like the Russian Federation, and not signed but still others. It means that this subject is yet to become a part of international legal framework.
In this respect, I came up with a proposal, which I first voiced at the Moscow summit held at the time of the gas conflict, to draft a new Energy Charter or another version of the existing Charter. But what would it look like? This should not be a strictly consumer-oriented document. It is true that consumers are vulnerable, but now and then we need to address the concerns of producers and transit states; otherwise we will not reach an agreement. As regards the Charter we have today, it is still largely consumer-oriented.
I have recently given a corresponding instruction to our Government and major companies, which are now working on proposals for a new Energy Charter. As I have promised, I will definitely bring it along and hand it over to our partners, maybe in London or in Italy, but I still hope to do it in London. Russia will thus make its additional contribution to ensuring European energy security.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: We have just discussed the issues of gas conflict and war with Georgia; now let us talk about human rights. I think that certain parts of this issue will generate discussion; some of these issues have been a source of concern.
Dmitry Medvedev: Who voiced these concerns and on what occasion? If they meant any concrete situations, let us talk about them.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: When I referred to the international community, I meant governments and law enforcement organizations. And what cases are involved- there are specific cases, for instance that of Anna Politkovskaya.
Dmitry Medvedev: … of the country, our country, in Russia, because such cases are abundant in Europe, too. You are referring to Russian problems. I understand, this is a theme which prompts each country to find a lot of examples of what they dislike with their partners. I'm not a partisan of switching over the discussion to that topic trying to clarify the relations or find faults with our European partners. Though, there is no doubt, that one can find incidents in every country, which could be at least challenged and discussed in terms of observance of the basic human rights, even in highly economically and socially developed countries. We are not an ideal state, and we also have many different problems including those of ensuring human rights. What matters is to try systematically to reduce the number of such cases rather than pretend they do not exist. I think that over recent 18years Russia has gone a long way, since as far back as some decades ago the very fact of raising the question would be absurd since what human rights could be in the Soviet Union. Incidentally, Spain also remembers very well a similar period which it also faced quite recently. Now the situation is different. Our Constitution is efficient and it guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms of a man and citizen. The progress we have made in recent years is impressive even for me as a lawyer, rather than as a head of state. But that does not mean that there are no problems at all. I think that there are more than enough. Yet with regard to some basic rights we, unfortunately, have failed to achieve progress. I mean the protection of people against crimes, encroachments on their private life and the protection of property. In this respect, our traditions, unfortunately, are not very good, and the criminal situation is very grave, with public institutions underperforming. As for the state machine including law enforcement agencies, there are also a lot of questions to be put to them. We discussed the criminal situation at a meeting of the collegium of the Prosecutor General's Office, which took place just yesterday. I can tell frankly including to our Spanish friends that last year over 2000murders committed were not cleared. These are sad figures. We must do everything to ensure that such crimes were at least solved, but in a broader perspective we must focus on preventing such crimes, although it is difficult particularly amid the crisis when all problems become more acute. But this is a separate topic to be discussed. What is important is not to turn a blind eye.
Similarly, yesterday we discussed, for instance, the institution of jury trial. This is a new institution or, to be more precise, an old institution which was forgotten out and away. It used to exist in the Russian Empire though in a somewhat different form. Not so long ago the court jury that heard the case of Politkovskaya acquitted the accused. As the head of state I will not assess the court's ruling since this is the court, but I can tell one thing to which I referred yesterday during the meeting of the collegium of the Prosecutor General's Office- I am not sure whether you have heard that or not, — namely that law enforcement authorities and investigative bodies should take into account the existence of jury trials in their work. This is a rather complicated process. Suffice it to watch movies dedicated to this problem. This is a separate theme: evidence should be convincing, well prepared while the public prosecutors' actions during hearings should be eloquent and convincing, too. That is why to improve such institution is of course a pressing task for the state, but the civil society too should not remain idle since all these problems are more or less evident. And I believe that non-governmental organizations in this respect should help the state, including by referring to most complicated cases and offering legislative measures to be adopted. In this sense we maintain a dialogue with a number of public associations as well as with a number of non-governmental organizations. This dialogue is held on a regular basis and sometimes is very passionate. I myself meet with them and, by the way, I plan such a meeting in the near future. I am sure that they will raise hard-hitting issues for the state. What is important is to listen to all this and try to respond rather than turn a deaf ear to what is being said. Thus, we will have a modern developed society.
Luis Prados: Do you think that the depth of the world economic crisis and the depth of the crisis in Russia and other countries jeopardise the social contract, which existed during the presidency of Vladimir Putin? In recent years the country has been restoring itself, political influence and prestige of Russia have been restored, and the quality of life has improved as well. But can low oil prices destabilize this social contract and social accord?
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, you know that a crisis always brings problems to the state, brings problems to ordinary people generating tension in society. To say the opposite would be a lie. The crisis definitely does not lift the mood of the people. Of course I understand that.
However, in my view, there are several reasons to reject the idea that the changes that have occurred, can dramatically influence the situation in the country. First of all, the present-day Russia, its economic and social systems greatly differ from those that existed 10-15years ago. 15 years ago Russia was economically weak, it could not compete with major countries, it had lost its entire economic potential or at least a significant part of it. In recent years, we have managed to change the situation and therefore, I believe that the current economic crisis will not damage social stability so severely. Nonetheless, we should, of course, maintain decent living standards in our country, retain an appropriate life quality level of our people and keep it from falling below a certain mark. At the very least, we should prevent the living standards in our country from rolling back to the levels of the 1990s when a major part of our people was extremely poor. Actually, today the situation is much better. This is the main task of the state, the main task of our Government and this is the task that our main efforts are aimed at. Even when we approve a new budget and have to prune it, to cut its certain items, then first of all such cuts concern investment projects while our aim is to maintain social standards. So the social accord you are talking about, i.e. normal mutual understanding between the authorities, on the one hand, and citizens, on the other hand, is an enormous achievement of the past period. We should do all our best to preserve social peace and well-being in the country. I believe that we are fully capable of doing that.
Pilar Bonet: It is true that Russia has drastically changed over the last 15years. However, there is an issue that you deem important. I refer to corruption that exists now and existed before. Yesterday, I was at a meeting of Russian businessmen, politicians and experts. They said that the tax service had a certain plan. I do not want to accuse anybody. Yet, it is obvious that you understand that the problem is aggravating and therefore you have prepared a draft law.
What makes you think that this time, given the current crisis and heaps of past anti-corruption bills, which I have already forgotten, numerous commissions and committees fighting corruption, you will be able to move forward if not to overcome the evil which obviously exists not only in Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know there are two ways to act in such a situation. You can relax, concede your defeat and say: ”You know, we have been fighting corruption in Russia for centuries and still cannot beat it. Well, let it be where it is then“. Yet, you can make an effort and do something. I have chosen the latter option. And when I was contemplating this decision I heard very different things like: ”Why do you do this? By no means will you manage to achieve progress. Neither in a year, nor in two years. Anyway bribery will stay. Anyway there will be problems and all kinds of illicit deals“. All this is right, and it will probably be so. Yet, doing something, we send a message to the society that we are working on it anyway, we are trying to narrow this space, we are catching somebody red-handed, we are showing that in a number of cases the punishment will come and sooner or later the guilty will be called to justice. This changes the atmosphere, at least now we declare that the struggle against corruption is underway. Everybody says ”It is progressing slowly, too slowly, the results are not what they could be“. It would be worse if nothing at all was happening. That is why I think that the society should always respond to such issues and the state should make decisions.
As for the laws, I have no illusions as to them, too. The provisions that we have adopted will also work only to a certain extent. Yet (I can tell you sincerely) those are the laws that have been awaited for, probably, 10 or 12years, since the legislation has not included the term ”corruption“ up until recently. It was these new laws that established a legal framework in this field. They have also established a number of new institutions, which are noteworthy and uncommon for our legal system. Now administrative action for corruption can be brought not only against officials, but also against companies, legal entities, if relevant facts have been found. We encourage public officials to behave correctly, that is to declare their income, to prevent the so-called conflict of interests. If a public official has such a conflict, he or she must openly and publicly announce that, and in this case they will have an opportunity to resolve this conflict legally. If they do not do so, they commit an act of corruption. This is an internal motivation not to commit similar acts.
Furthermore, there are a lot of other important provisions of all kinds, including, by the way, on matters of declaring the incomes and property of officials' family members. We talked a lot about it, but the measure was not in place. Next year, the family members of public officials' will have to declare their income for the first time. It is also crucial. Probably, that will not work in some cases; probably one can imagine a simple situation when a part of income or property will be made over to some distant relatives. But after all it will be illegal.
Therefore, I believe that any actions to prevent corruption, to introduce some rules in this area already have something positive about them. This is the way for the state to show what it considers a priority.
Pilar Bonet: And these anti-crisis measures… Yesterday they announced the interest rates on the loans given to banks. On the ground, recently, they say they do not see this money, the money that was injected to handle the crisis.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is not the corruption issue. It is rather our economic situation that is to blame, unfortunately, because unlike many European countries where signs of deflation can be seen, in this country we have soaring inflation. The inflation is high despite the fact that many enterprises shut down, it results in higher interest rates on loans, and many enterprises simply cannot take loans and pay 18-20percent interest rate. There are no such interest rates in Europe. This is a major problem today. This is the truth and here there cannot be a single remedy. In some cases, the state simply has to subsidize part of this interest rate. Of course, we cannot do it for all the enterprises. We do it only for our ”backbone“ enterprises.
By the way, you mentioned tax inspections, planned tax revenues. But, in fact, there is nothing inappropriate here. Tax authorities must provide certain amount of state revenues. If they do it by legal means, without breaking any rules, they provide an income basis for the state. Of course, paying taxes is always unpleasant to any businessperson.
Pilar Bonet: But they (small businesses) complained there that ”they“ would come and say that there is a planned one million to be collected and tell them to work harder and bring this money while the business's turnover was 60,000 only. How should it be understood?
Dmitry Medvedev: This can be understood in many ways. If such payment is illegal then there could be only one answer – a complaint should be filed in the prosecutor's office and that's it. But if these payments are legal, then nothing can be done about it.
Pilar Bonet: You know how inspectors and auditors work…
Dmitry Medvedev: It is true, indeed, sometimes they just enjoy inspecting and nosing for any shortcomings. It can often be explained by their willingness to get promoted or, sometimes, to be offered a bribe, but we should fight this, of course.
Pilar Bonet: The key idea of that meeting, attended by Mikhail Gorbachev, was that there were those who wanted to make profit from this crisis under the guise of anti-crisis measures.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think this is a fair enough remark, and, by the way, I mentioned this at three board meetings of the law-enforcement bodies: at the collegium meeting of the Federal Security Service, of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and, yesterday, in the Prosecutor-General's Office, — I said that those who try to take advantage of this crisis should be brought to justice for that. Those are the crimes that pose particular social danger at the moment, because they actually undermine a whole range of enterprises and hit the pocket of a number of people rather than damage a certain single enterprise.
Pilar Bonet: You are a charming person.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Pilar Bonet: But why are you so afraid of the people, why are all the rallies of the radical opposition always banned? I am not talking about the Communists who are allowed to rally, but, in general, rallies or protests in the streets are, in fact, declarative events, and as for such people as Kasparov and all others, ”The Other Russia“, their rallies are always banned. What are you afraid of?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, of course, I do not track the activities of the radical opposition groups as closely as, perhaps, you do. In my opinion, this is a sort of a small group of marginalized politicians that always exist in any country and that is concerned with sparking interest of others in themselves. But as far as I can see the situation, and I see quite a lot, in particular when sometimes I visit the web-sites of these radical opposition groups, I can see that in fact all they want to speak out loud, they do speak out loud in various places. They go in the streets and shout that the President and Government should resign. All the statements they want to make they do make. That is why I think that nobody gags them, they say whatever they want. They say it in public, they are not deprived of this opportunity. The fact that they cannot rally in the Red Square, well, excuse me, I do not think that the Red Square is an appropriate place for them. They can turn up for rally anywhere, including the Kremlin, but in fact they will be allowed to hold rally only in places where such rallies are usually held.
Pilar Bonet: In fact, there were cases when they were arrested even in the restaurant before they could say something at the rally. It happened so.
Dmitry Medvedev: If there were violations they should be investigated, but I think that all these people want to say they do say as bluntly as possible.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: I would like to pose a global question. Regarding the global crisis: Russia proposes that new financial monitoring mechanisms be established. How could Russia contribute to the restructuring of the existing system?
Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that it could contribute somehow the same way as other countries. I mean that every state should make its own input to the global financial security system. During the Washington Summit, we managed to issue a declaration that was supported by all participants, no matter how different they were. This declaration contains an outline of a new financial system. I believe that today we have reached the point when we can create a totally new, more equitable financial system not because the former has proved to be somehow faulty it has just become out of date, and the present crisis, when the bubbles inflated in some economies (first of all in the US economy, similar problems have also emerged both in Russia and in the European States) have exploded, signifies and indicates that a new system is required. Therefore, we agreed that the next round in London should send a message with a view to prepare appropriate international conventions, that is to embark on establishing a new Bretton Woods — a kind of Bretton Woods — system. So, at present, we are passing exactly through this phase.
I have recently had telephone conversations with a number of my European colleagues and already in the next few days in a day or two I intend to submit them Russian proposals. Naturally, these proposals will be sent to all Washington Summit participants, including the Prime-Minister of Spain. I hope that both these and other proposals will be examined. We do examine our partners' proposals. Ultimately, what we have to do now is to agree upon a new configuration, which is the most complex task. For the time being, I can say that, as I see it, we are advancing very slowly. Meanwhile, the unfolding crisis does not give us such an opportunity since we have not yet reached its bottom line, have not passed through a final point of downfall and do not know its depth. And today it is extremely important that we find some support in the form of a convention or an agreement to overcome the crisis least painfully, that we agree upon a risk verification system; upon the methods used by big corporations; agree upon insurance; agree upon monitoring macroeconomic indicators in major European states and other states of the world. In other words, agree upon a new, more up to date system.
Should we manage to do this, we will at least mitigate the impact of the international financial crisis. In any case, I am looking forward to a productive and constructive work in London.
Pilar Bonet: Some clarification on Afghanistan. When speaking of the SCO, or within the SCO, you mean that the SCO will invite NATO to discuss Afghanistan, don't you?
Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that the SCO could certainly invite the North Atlantic Alliance's leaders to discuss these issues. The SCO has its own format, because the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is composed of the states that are actually bordering Afghanistan. No other state is as much affected by the radical activities going on there as the SCO states are: it concerns Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation. All these dirty flows of drugs and terrorists are first of all pouring out upon us. That is why, we, too, shall discuss these issues at the forum. But I believe that, taking into account the operation underway there, representatives of other structures should be present there, too.
Jose Carlos Gallardo: It was the United States who were primarily blamed for the world financial crisis that burst out last fall. This crisis, it was said, showed that the US system had failed. Russia stands for a multilateral approach. This idea is shared by many Latin American countries. For example, the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have recently visited Moscow. This idea was also expressed by Barack Obama. Can we say that Russia and the USA will find a more extensive common ground regarding these and other ideas?
Dmitry Medvedev: I hope very much that this will happen, as this accords with the interests of both the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the whole world. Today there is already no sense to cast reproaches, with the roots of the crisis being clearly evident to everybody. What is most important is to look into the future and to set up a system of protection from crises of this kind; in any case to try to attenuate their consequences. The world economy will always be cyclical and nobody can change these laws. The only question is what would be in the points of maximum upsurge and slump? It is one thing when we deal with something more or less predictable. It is quite different when we face a crisis comparable to the Great Depression in America or the current crisis. It requires protection, and we are ready for that.
Pilar Bonet: Don't you think that more democratization is required for that?
Dmitry Medvedev: Where?
Pilar Bonet: In Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: Do you think that to overcome the economic crisis it is necessary to deal with domestic Russian problems?
Pilar Bonet: No, I am only going on with his question, because it wasn't understood from interpretation, I thought that it wasn't understood.
Dmitry Medvedev: What exactly?
Pilar Bonet: I mean that the society renounced some liberties, civil liberties during the time of Vladimir Putin and in your time, because before you needed 10thousand people to form a party and now you need 50thousand for it. Lowering the level down to 45thousand and then down to 40thousand is presented as democratization, and it means that we are not even at the starting point. Will you overcome the crisis with a greater democratization or a lesser one? Will you tighten the screws or the other way round?
Dmitry Medvedev: I understand. Let me tell you this. If we speak about a better way to go through the crisis, I'm not sure at all it is in any way connected with the level of democracy. We have a different problem here. The problem is that there are no normal economic mechanisms enabling the majority of countries to pass through this crisis without losses. No doubt, it is better for a state to have the whole range of democratic institutions enabling it to take the right decisions and so on. Yet, if we speak about overcoming the crisis, let us recall what was happening in the United States of America in the 1930s and in some other states that were struggling through the crisis. I don't think that these were the best models of democracy of that time. On the contrary, in some cases the state had to tighten the screws to weather the crisis. But I'm not going to say that we would like to do the same in Russia. On the contrary. I just think that overcoming a crisis, on the one hand, and developing democratic institutions, on the other, are two different things that shouldn't be mixed up.