Maria Bartiromo (as translated from Russian): Mr President, thank you for finding time for the interview.
A certain fall in GDP has been observed in Russia. What would be your comments on the matter? Could you tell us at what stage the Russian economy is at the moment, after the global economic slump?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Russian economy – first of all, I would like to start with it and say that it has suffered from the global financial crisis to the same degree as other countries. There are objective reasons for that, as well as subjective reasons associated with our economic environment and economic situation.
Indeed, we have been affected by the economic slump and the fall in GDP, which we anticipate to reach no less than 6 percent this year or maybe even more. As to certain indicators, such as the level of industrial production, the drop has been considerably deeper at about 14 percent in recent months. At the same time, we cannot but note some other alarming developments, such as the rise in unemployment rate. Now over 2 million people in the country, somewhat 2.2 million are unemployed and registered at job centres. In fact, I think the figure is even bigger, as some unemployed people do not register there. The unemployment calculated using ILO [International Labour Organisation] methods may be put at over 6 million people, or 7.5 to 8 percent of the economically active population. These are alarming figures to which the Government must react.
There are other problems as well, such as the ruble exchange rate fluctuations. We had to weaken the ruble due to decrease in currency inflows caused by decline in exports. We face a problem of high inflation, too. Nevertheless, I should say that these negative trends have been suppressed if not reversed.
I believe we have come to a stage at which we should understand what comes next for both Russia and the global economy.
What actually has caused problems for us? It was the current structure of the Russian economy that caused problems, as it is no secret that the Russian economy was, and still is, to a considerable extent export-oriented. Such orientation toward raw materials export surely caused problems once oil and gas prices dropped. A range of other export commodities, such major products as, for example, products of metallurgy industry which account for a significant share of national exports, also became essentially cheaper.
Therefore, we have in a way fallen victims to the economy structure which has developed for decades. The main task here, the goal for the future, is just to change our economy's structure.
I do not see the situation as a dramatic one, but it is complicated. It is in some way less, and in some way more complicated than in other countries, but in general it is, probably, the same as in most nations that are affected by the economic and financial crisis.
Maria Bartiromo: Can I ask you to tell us about your economy diversification plans? How are you going to respond to this downturn? For example, could you, please, tell us about the situation with the Stabilisation Fund accumulated by your predecessor Mr Putin and yourself before the recession?
Dmitry Medvedev: The main task for us right now is to overcome the crisis consequences and to shape the new structure of national economy.
Indeed, it took us quite a while to lay foundations for advanced economy in our country, but unfortunately its diversification degree remains extremely low.
In my opinion, we can not accept the general situation and the current state of affairs. We have failed to create a high-tech economy, we are still highly dependent on the raw materials exports, as I have just said, the innovative component in our economy is very weak, and we do lack immediate implementation of innovative technologies in our industries which is the main feature of a modern innovative economy. In other words, national economy diversification is probably one of the most urgent and important tasks for our country. Of course, we will strive to accomplish it, but in doing so, we need to design a new structure.
As for our Stabilisation Fund, we indeed have spent much time and effort to accumulate certain reserves which now account for billions of US dollars. At some point, over $600 billion were accrued in the Reserve Fund, some reserves have been spent now, but nevertheless, the remaining reserves are still vast, it is still a lot of money and of course, it helps us solve many problems at the moment, but development is impossible at expense of reserves alone. Therefore, despite the fact that we continue to accumulate gold and currency reserves and strengthen the currency component as such, we will have to think about the diversification of economy in general, about launching new industries and creating a high-tech innovative economy. This is probably the main task at the moment.
Maria Bartiromo: Indeed, the world has witnessed unprecedented changes, and now we are questioning many topics that have never come up before. This includes both bank solvency and the global economy.
Do you think the US dollar will be able to get out of the recession? Do you think its status as the number one world currency will change?
Dmitry Medvedev: We, too, are very much concerned over this issue since the whole world depends on the situation with the US dollar. Although there are other reserve currencies such as the euro, pound sterling, yen, still a lot depends on the well-being of the US dollar.
As you know, we have our own standpoint in this regard, which I expressed a year ago, by the way, at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Today the world requires more than just one reserve currency and this is not because the US dollar is bad or the euro is not sufficiently good. The current situation itself suggests that there should be several currencies, which banks, individuals and whole countries could invest in. This will give options to react should any problem emerge in any economy. The problems, as we understand, initially occurred in the US economy, it is evident now. May be in case the United States Government had countered these problems in some other way, the downturn, the crisis would not have been so deep now. I am not going to elaborate on the subject at the moment; my point is that the US economy crisis has naturally changed the general attitude to the US dollar.
Therefore, our task for the nearest future, as I see it, is to create more reserve currencies. One of such reserve currencies could possibly be the Russian ruble – as a regional reserve currency, especially taking into account the fact that there is a number of states which are genetically, historically, economically and in many other regards linked with Russia. In this context I believe that at some stage the ruble too could become a regional reserve currency.
At the same time we do not exclude the possibility of creating in the future a so-called supranational currency, especially since the decisions of the G20 London Summit provide that the International Monetary Fund will issue various securities for the countries to invest in. Some instruments already used by the International Monetary Fund, such as special drawing rights, for example, represent in fact a prototype of such a supranational currency. What does it mean? It means that in any case we will need a universal payment instrument to lay a basis for a future international financial system. I do not think this will undermine seriously the US dollar. But I consider it very important for the US dollar and other reserve currencies (including, hopefully, at some moment the ruble too) to have additional possibility to react, some interlink at possibly the level of special drawing rights or some special currency unit, the interlink to be activated in crisis situations. That is why this idea, brought forward by Russia and supported by our Chinese colleagues, seems to be very productive. We purposefully did not discuss it in the G20 format in London and agreed with our colleagues, that this issue should be dealt with some time later. One of the reasons for that was our intention not to allow destabilisation of currency markets. However, in my view it should be done — sooner or later.
In general, we see the future of the international financial system in establishing modern rules of the game. Speaking of such rules, it has become rather common to talk about the fact that there is not enough regulation, and that we need to adopt a greater number of decisions. As I see it, it is not the point. The point is not in adopting substantially more conventions to regulate one financial and economic process or another. The point is in making such decisions, international conventions and international commitments more efficient and more transparent. In other words, we do not need more regulation, but rather a better one.
Therefore, when we talk about the fate of the Bretton Woods financial and economic system, our country stands not for closing it down, or crossing it out, but rather for modifying it in such a way that it would meet the needs of the 21st century, take account of a greater number of successful economies, and a greater number of regional reserve currencies. We would like, of course, that ultimately the fate of the financial system is decided not in one place, but, say, at the forums where major economic players meet. In this sense we must admit that nevertheless the Bretton Woods system was primarily focused on a few countries only – the United States, Great Britain, and still less the European countries. Today we need to create a modern universal framework that would unite American perceptions about a fair economic order and financial system, British perceptions as well as the perceptions of other partners from Europe, Russian perceptions, Chinese perceptions, and Indian perceptions as well. Only then can we be sure that the modern regulation will prove effective. Otherwise we will have to confront a new financial crisis in five or ten years because we realise that due to the cyclicity of international economy sooner or later crises will come back. The question is only about the degree of their threat to or impact on the global situation. Such approach I believe to be very important in general and in the context of world currencies' prospects.
Maria Bartiromo: You have made a very good comment. In fact, we already have a regulatory system, we need no further regulatory systems. The only problem is that it simply failed. I absolutely agree with you.
You have made, Mr President, a very important comment. Indeed we already have a regulatory system, and we had it before. But let me ask you something about what you said, the idea about reacting to what we saw in the Untied States, in particular.
Do you expect global inflation, in particular, given the situation with raw materials, the situation in the US, the weakening of US currency, the dollar — can it bring about global inflation that would be necessary to cover the expenses the United States have to face? Can we expect a global inflation?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I would not exclude global inflation namely due to the problems that you have mentioned. We, I mean Russia, if compared to other countries, are in a very difficult situation as concerns inflation. Unfortunately, we failed to cope with inflation earlier, before the crisis. It was about something like eight percent. After we had to partially devalue the ruble, certain processes accelerated. The overall amount of money in the economy increased. As a result, inflation pressure has grown. For this year we forecast an inflation rate of about 13 percent, which is naturally beyond the limits of possible as it has a negative impact on the liquidity, as well as the banks’ discount rates, credit interest rates, and ultimately on those loans that are extended to companies and individuals, because such loans are extended at unrealistic interest rates that we got rather unused to. These interest rates reach 18 to 20 percent per annum. That is way too high. Nobody wants to borrow money on such terms here, while foreign cash inflows — European cash recourses, and US cash resources — naturally, considerably fell down due to the crisis.
Therefore, our task today in Russia is to seriously reduce the inflation rate. But the processes that you have mentioned, related to the situation around the dollar, the need to resolve various problems in the US economy, including measures to support a number of large manufacturers (as far as I understand a decision will be made in the immediate future about the de facto nationalisation of General Motors, a decision worth huge money, dozens of billions of dollars, not to mention the fact that the overall program in the United States aimed to support the national economy actually runs into trillions of dollars) coupled with the decisions taken by other countries, may lead to a still greater volume of cash injections. As a result, inflation processes may gain momentum, which naturally will have to be offset by additional emissions. Such additional emissions will have a most negative impact on the global economic situation.
It would therefore be desirable to avoid such a scenario. I have initially told you about the economic situation in this country, but in terms of inflation we, of course, depend on the inflation situation in other countries. By the way, for us, the last few months turned out to be more favourable, the inflation rate in Russia turned down and by the year end it will most probably be lower than anticipated. Nevertheless, it is still a high rate because we have been pursuing the so-called policy of inflation rate targeting and expected to see inflation at some acceptable level of, say, 5 or 6 percent. This year, of course, it will not be like this, but we will strive to curb by any means the inflation because this is a very important factor for our economy, as well as for the global economy.
Therefore, in our view, as well as in my personal view, the threat of an accelerated global inflation is nevertheless present in the current situation, which may result in any sort of problems, including problems in the banking sector.
Maria Bartiromo: Let me ask you a question on foreign capital. How to attract it back to the country? By the way, you have mentioned the situation with General Motors in your statement. How would you respond to it? It is a major manufacturer after all. What may happen after the company goes bankrupt, after the purchase of Opel basket of shares by the Russian bank?
Dmitry Medvedev: No doubt the crisis has badly hit real production in this country as well as in Europe and the United States of America. These are the worst affected industries. And now all the governments are considering the ways to support them. We understand the decisions that the American government is taking to support its national producers. We are taking similar decisions in respect of a number of Russian car companies. The damage may be less substantial in this sector, but still it means loans and additional funds totalling billions of US dollars. These processes are very painful for the economy, they really are. And talking about the consequences, this is probably the most important thing.
We should clearly understand what the so-called crisis exit strategy will involve. What are we now talking about? What are we thinking about? Where is the bottom of the crisis? This is the first question. Have we reached it yet or not? The second question is how shall we recover from the crisis. You definitely know the approaches and formulae suggested as the crisis recovery strategy. There are several options. The first option is the most favourable one: a V-like recovery meaning a slump followed by an uplift. The second one is a less encouraging option and could be associated with an L-like pattern: a slump followed by a very slow recovery process. And the worst-case scenario would develop according to a W-like pattern: production would fall, then grow and then fall again. This is why I consider the issue of exit strategy so urgent. Why am I talking about it today? Because today we are making a decision to support our domestic producers. And this is the right step to do. But we need to look into the future. Say, for example, the American government nationalizes General Motors. What will it do next? Will it keep this basket of shares as public property? But this seems to run counter to the concept of free market economy that was formed in America in the 20th century. Or should it be sold nonetheless? And if it should be sold then to whom, who will venture to purchase it, especially when it involves enormous social responsibility as General Motors is a huge corporation with a great number of employees and immense debts even despite the US government support.
Other countries face similar problems. Today we are talking about Opel. The company is indeed in a difficult situation. So, the decision has been made to sell the company's basket of shares to the consortium with the participation of some Russian enterprises and Magna as well. This is a way out. But it is important to understand what will happen in general, what the future economy will look like, and primarily the real sector, since it has been worst affected.
We also take measures to help out our car and metallurgical industries, to protect the so-called strategic assets, even despite the fact that these decisions are not always strictly in line with the market economy concept. But now everyone has to act like this, and we actually have to grant soft loans.
I already told you that our lending rate is very high because of the inflation, but to the giant corporations, the so-called local economic mainstay companies with a great number of employees, we grant soft loans at a low lending rate, and sometimes interest-free loans just to support them.
I believe that we are all concerned with the question of how we will tackle the situation, what our real sector will look like in the future, how we will be able to help out new owners that will enter it, what the government shall do if it acquires a share in the capital of these companies. This is not just an idle inquiry. The global economic system should alter considerably after this crisis. And of course, we would hope that the recovery be quite fast and follow the V-like pattern. But anyway, we should think this exit strategy over and I am going to say a few words about it, including at the St Petersburg Forum.
Maria Bartiromo: Many people follow every change of oil and gas prices, and think that the recent spike also testifies to economy recovery. How do you think this boost in oil and gas prices could be explained? Is this a positive economic development or just a short-term adjustment, after the prices dramatically fell from $147 to $30 at the end of last year?
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to hope that this is a signal of an overall improvement. Before this interview I checked the oil price dynamics. The prices we are having now, that vary from $60 to $70 per barrel, were the same in 2006. We saw oil prices floating from $60 to $70 per barrel during the year, and the price seemed to us very high. Today, I think, the price is fair, mindful of the recent peak price of $140-$150 per barrel.
What are the reasons of soaring oil price? There are two points of view on this issue. The first one is that of the optimists. They think that the current oil price situation reflects fundamental changes in the global economy, including the leading economies, e.g. the Unites States. The money that was injected into the economy, economic recovery plans developed in the United States, Europe, China, Russia, and other countries were resultative, the economy has shown signs of recovery. This has lead to increased oil consumption, and therefore this trend is already evident and will be fairly sustainable.
Pessimists take another view. This view is that the current increase in oil prices reflects random processes, which are influenced by the support programmes but are not long-term in their nature. In other words, they have slightly warmed up the American economy, which resulted in increased oil prices. But soon we will see another downturn. The oil price will go down and cool down the global economy in quite a dramatic manner.
Yet, I would like to believe that the changes in oil prices already reflect certain underlying patterns, which are taking place in the world economy. Let us not go ahead of time, let us wait and see. Anyway, some processes that are taking place in our country make me feel positive like a moderate optimist since the inflation is slowing down, oil prices are growing, output decline has stopped in a number of industries although showing lower indices than before, unemployment rate has declined. We hope that is not accidental. I believe that the experts with whom we shall exchange views during the Forum in St Petersburg will give a more substantial answer to this question.
Maria Bartiromo: I am going to ask you another question concerning the Forum. Just to mention, do you like the way we have organized everything? Are you comfortable?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, everything is fine.
Maria Bartiromo: With your current knowledge of the economic downturn, financial problems your country is facing now, do you plan to use oil revenues for the benefit of the Russian economy? Will the oil sector remain the leading industry in Russia? Or are there plans to use the oil revenues in other sectors and for other purposes?
Dmitry Medvedev: We have not yet discussed it with you and I must say a few words about this. The crisis is not only an ordeal or troubles that befall us, but a challenge that life offers to us, and we should make good use of it. I have said that I am not satisfied with the structure of Russian economy, it's true. The structure is outdated, resource-based and not innovative, and perhaps we should have invested more funds in innovations, the IT, the so called new economy. As we failed to do it previously, before the crisis, I think it is very important to take advantage of the situation and try to change the structure of our economy. That is why, I think, additional revenues, including revenues from oil and gas should be spent for two main purposes.
The first is to safeguard our social programmes, such as pensions, benefits, issues of medical assistance, i.e. health care, that must remain a priority of the state. The health care and education systems have been so structured some time ago that they remain within the government's responsibilities.
On the other hand, we should use additional possibilities from the exports of raw materials — gas, oil, etc. — to make a substantive change in our economic structure, that is to say, to invest additional revenues not only in expansion of oil and gas capacities, which is quite natural, in developing our ongoing major projects (oil refining, petrochemical and gas chemical production, natural gas liquefaction), but also in developing cutting-edge technologies, namely the IT, up-to-date biotechnologies, i.e. green economy, energy saving, and energy efficiency, which are now at the forefront. If we succeed in finding balance between social spending on the one hand and the development of new production facilities in our country on the other hand, we will ultimately obtain a new pattern of Russian economy. Currently, this is the most important goal for us.
Maria Bartiromo: And what, in your opinion, is the main achievement that Russia should have in 10 years? What are your aims? Even after 10 years, oil will be important for Russia, but if we take other industries, what assets are important for Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: In our country we are used to saying and hearing that people living in Russia are very creative and smart. And I would like to hope that our resource-based economy will be supplemented by an intellectual, knowledge-based economy.
When talking about my views and my dreams on how we will live in 10 years, in my opinion, the introduction of a knowledge-based economy and knowledge-based production, in the broadest sense of the word, would be the best thing to do, which we should not spare money on. We have just discussed this issue, but I would like to reiterate that this should be an investment of maximum efficiency in the new technologies, such as energy efficiency, biotechnologies, and some modern “green” technologies. If we are capable of doing that, we will have quite a different economic structure.
Therefore, in 10 years I would like to see the Russian economy as something more than a simple strong resource economy – but it should be an economy that allows the emerging of numerous solid production facilities, state-of-the-art equipment and various modern technologies, including in the communications area – this is what the entire world is doing now. However, we will have certainly to preserve our energy and machinery capacity that was created during the Soviet period, because this sphere is rather complicated and we also have to invest seriously in it.
Maria Bartiromo: I would now like to ask you about investments, including foreign direct investments.
Many investors do not want to invest in Russia fearing that this country lacks the rule of law and will not protect their money. Examples are numerous, including TNK-BP and Shell, when they were pressed to sell their 51 percent stakes in the joint ventures and hand over control to Russia. How future activities in this area will be arranged?
Dmitry Medvedev: Apparently, I have a somewhat different view of the processes that took place in the previous period. I do not think that anyone sold their investments or their shares under whatever pressure or a set of so-called threats from someone. That has nothing to do with truth, I believe.
However, concerning the issue of investments and investment climate, I do believe that we should further develop our investment legislation. Recently, we have established a rather good legislation on this subject which also covers the judicial protection of investments.
As far as investments are concerned, Russia, like all countries, other developed countries, applies a so-called national investment regime that makes foreign investments equal to the Russian ones, and there can be no difference in that regard.
As far as the right of ownership is concerned, the ownership institution in our country is absolutely the same as Europe and other countries have. We may have differences, say, between the legal systems of Russia, England and America, but we still have this truly developed modern institution.
Perhaps, I am not satisfied enough with how the judicial protection of investments functions, we have problems there. Therefore, it is really quite important to improve the Russian legislation on judicial protection and laws on court organisation in order to obtain prompt and fair decisions. Recently, we have made quite a long way towards this goal – and so far the principal Codes governing the participation in judicial proceedings (the Civil Procedure Code, other Codes and decisions relevant to economic disputes) have been adopted and have come into force. However, that does not mean that everything is all right.
Back to examples you have given. In my view, the TNK-BP situation has nothing to do with Russian legislation or somebody’s intentions. That was an ordinary conflict between the shareholders. I would like to point out that the shareholders concerned are private ones – a Russian private entity on one side, and a British private entity on the other side. They have reached an agreement, created a new entity – a joint company owned in 50/50 proportion. As a former lawyer, or let me put it in other way, as a former practicing lawyer, I can tell you that this form of business is, I believe, the least sustainable one, because nobody has a ”golden“ stock and the parties can pull the plug on each other for a very long time. Then, the companies began quite a long and lingering dispute. By now, they have almost settled the dispute without – I would like to highlight it – engaging the authorities. Although both our businessmen and the British side representatives contacted me on this issue, authorities never tried to intervene. My position was quite simple: this is a dispute between the private companies. “So go to court and try to negotiate.” By the way, I would note that dispute we are discussing now was adjudicated, to a significant extent, without using the Russian law, because the documents, as far as I remember, had been signed under foreign law and at a foreign court. So this example is not quite representative.
Another matter is that foreign businessmen that file an action against Russian parties or sometimes the Russian government may proceed from the assumption that they will obtain a prompt and effective judicial protection. Or relatively prompt, because nowhere the courts are very expedient. This is what we should take into account when making decisions on improvements in the existing corporate and judicial procedures. And this is what I am dealing with, because the legal reform is very important for Russia; I directly address these problems as well as corruption issues.
Maria Bartiromo: Mr. President, which outcome do you expect of the St Petersburg [International] Economic Forum? A huge number of investors will come to Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: In my view, the St Petersburg Forum has turned into a fairly well-developed and suitable venue used by major businessmen to communicate with their Russian colleagues. Given the importance of this Forum, we asked for certain co-participation from the Davos Forum at some point, and such support was provided to our Forum. The most important thing though is that it is the main economic forum currently existing in our country. We are expecting guests from various countries; as a rule, it is CEOs who come, which is very good. We have a tradition of meetings with these CEOs, it is always the head of state – the President, who meets with them. I hope that the same will happen this year as well. I would like those who will speak at the Forum (there will be both political and corporate leaders) to try to answer the most practical questions, which concern all of us and which have a lasting impact, if you want. There are several questions like that: where are we now, what is going on with the global economy and with our national economies, are the measures to support national economies sufficient, how to deal with the protectionism (it is a complex issue though), how the exit strategy should look like (we have discussed the latter with you). These are the most pressing issues today, I believe.
Maybe, there is one more discovery that we made during this crisis. Precisely one year ago, speaking in St Petersburg, I said that we were standing at the threshold of a crisis, that partners from other countries could pay more attention to the economic processes in their respective countries. Regrettably, my forecasts came true. Of course, it does not matter at all now, but we should listen to each other. This crisis showed how interdependent our economies are. Only 20–30 years ago, and even more so, 60 years ago, when the Bretton Woods system was being established, there was no such interdependence between the world economies. Now, one problem arising at one place in one country, be that in America, Europe or Asia, is enough for the whole world community, for the whole global economy to catch fire. That is why a very important conclusion that we should make and take as a basic one is that taking all kinds of domestic national economy decisions, concerning inflation, issue of money and some other economic indicators, we are making a direct impact on other economies. This economic globalism is, maybe, the main lesson of the current crisis, which, at the same time, creates better conditions for development in the future, because we can create a much fairer financial and economic architecture.
In this regard, I do not think that the Forum is a decision-making place, though I do hope that we will be able to talk with all the colleagues, with all those who are concerned, about the current economic situation. I hope that you will like it as well, and you will be able to see that such events, which take place in Russia, can bring positive results, for addressing particular tasks among other things. But it is one of the elements for achieving the overall economic success. I hope that after this Forum we will get a bit closer to understanding present-day economic processes. In Italy, there will be a G8 summit soon, to which other major economies are also invited. After that, in September, there will be a G20 summit in the USA. Such fora help us understand the current state of affairs. I expect this to happen in my native city, in St Petersburg, as well.
Maria Bartiromo: It is a great honour for me that I will be able to take part in this work. Thank you, Mr. President.
Another question that I would like to touch upon. It is the issue that will be discussed both at the G8 and G20 [summits]. I was reading about it in the report from the Commission on United States Policy toward Russia that it is necessary to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. What is your reaction to North Korea’s actions, to the tests they conducted recently? How do you plan, either on your own, or together with President Obama and your colleagues around the world, to stop this process?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is not an economic issue, but it is not less urgent, unfortunately. What happened recently is very sad. We acted within the framework of international mediation efforts to help North Korea out of rather difficult economic situation with a view to making the nuclear program, which is being implemented now in North Korea, a peaceful one, and not posing a threat to the neighbouring states.
One should admit that North Korea is close not only to the Republic of Korea and Japan, it is not far from us, too, it is our close neighbour. And we always had fairly good relations with the Korean leadership. But what happened is a very big concern.
Recently I have had several telephone conversations. I talked with Prime Minister of Japan, with President of the Republic of Korea and with my other colleagues. And our conclusion is simple: what has happened — I mean nuclear tests and continuing launches of different missiles (short-range missiles and possible launches of ballistic missiles were reported), these measures undermine international security and are in direct contradiction with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. That is why we support the proposals that have been made, i.e. to adopt a new, quite substantive resolution to condemn what has been done, to consider introducing certain mechanisms of restraining the on-going programs through regulating, inter alia, the economic processes. We hope that the Korean leadership, the North Korea leadership will show the necessary understanding and return to the negotiating table because this problem has no other solution. Our world is so small. We have talked about economic issues that are common for all of us. Certainly, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction implies or creates even higher risks. Thus, the expansion of the ”nuclear club“ and creation of these kinds of nuclear products which go contrary to the international obligations is quite unacceptable.
In this regard, our position is clear. We are ready for interaction with other states, with our neighbours, with the United States of America. I am ready to discuss this issue during my meeting with the U.S. President to be held in Moscow this July, and we will communicate with him in other formats. This is our common concern. In this regard, we should make a decision.
Maria Bartiromo: Mr President, thank you very much for your time.