President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, I wish you a Happy New Year and a good beginning to the new political season. We are continuing our traditional practice of consultations and meet regularly in different places. Now once again I have invited you to Zavidovo to see it in winter time. So I hope we’ll now talk about how things are going and then we’ll go for a little walk, get some air – this is always good, especially on a Saturday – and today the weather allows it.
I will take up several themes at the beginning of our conversation. First, the Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly]. While speaking I watched your emotional reaction, in any case that of Mr Zhirinovsky [Liberal Democratic Party leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker], who agreed with a great deal and nodded his head when I said that this or that must be done. So I hope that the Address will be accompanied by serious work. I have already introduced one of the draft bills relating to changes in the number of regional parliamentarians. I understand it is now in the State Duma going through approval procedures. In the near future other bills will be prepared as well. They relate primarily to issues of local self-government, strengthening democracy at the – shall we say – regional and local levels and, in fact, embody some of the ideas laid out in the 2008 Address. That is one topic for conversation.
I think that the second one is also very interesting. As we agreed (incidentally, I think that this idea was hatched precisely during our discussions), I decided to hold a State Council session on the development of the political system. We talk a lot about the economy – last year was a deep crisis and this year is not exactly an easy one. But I think that we have never talked about the development of the political system in a format that includes the regional governors, top federal executives, and all political parties. I think this is very important, particularly since when we meet you sometimes tell me about the problems that exist in the regions, for example regarding the implementation of legislation. We have talked about elections and other issues and it would be very good to discuss all this in the presence of the governors of the regions of Russia.
Head of Communist Party Central Committee Gennady Zyuganov: On January 22?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, on Friday January 22. So I would ask, first of all, that you keep this in mind and, second, that we discuss certain issues today because I expect to talk about all aspects of the development of our political system: the development of political institutions, of party ones, of parliamentary democracy, of local self-government, of judicial and law enforcement systems; this is all joined in the concept ‘political system’.
And finally there is one other issue that I would not so much like to discuss in the classical sense, but simply to consult on. And I would like you to begin to think about it as well. As you know, we’re currently engaged in fairly complex negotiations, ones that nevertheless have good prospects, with the Americans on the conclusion of a new Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. We have made quite a big step forward and have already largely aligned our positions. But this is an issue that concerns our country’s future and, even for formal reasons, the treaty must be ratified by our Parliament. So I think it is logical to consult with parliamentary leaders on how you think should develop our cooperation with the United States and other countries in this respect. It is a matter of foreign policy but it is also an extremely relevant one; ultimately this will determine the image of our country for years to come.
These are my three topics for conversation. I know we will no doubt raise other issues as well, but I think this is a sufficient basis for our discussion – these issues cover almost everything that we usually talk about.
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Dmitry Medvedev: In view of the fact that I put the question of the strategic offensive arms treaty to you, I want to say that of course negotiations will continue – they are not easy, but in general we have many positions in common with the Americans. With regard to legislative procedures, I think it is extremely important that we proceed by synchronising the ratification of relevant documents.
There was an unacceptable situation in the Soviet period when the Soviet Union ratified these documents but the Americans did not. This is a matter of parity and it is in the best interests of the two countries: either we both ratify a treaty that has been thought through and actually reflects our understanding of strategic nuclear forces in the future, or this process cannot take place.
I believe that our American partners should know this.