President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to receive President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, my friend, in Moscow, in the Russian Federation. This is the Venezuelan President’s ninth visit to our country now. As Mr President pointed out at the start of our talks, he visits practically every year. These intensive contacts are not coincidence, but reflect the partnership between our countries, their good dynamic, and their focus on the future. In order to give this future a clearer and predictable outline, Mr Chavez and I have just signed an action plan for 2010–2014. We just witnessed the signing of a number of bilateral agreements that reflect the areas we will be working on and the high level our partnership has reached.
A few years back our cooperation was limited mostly to particular areas, big areas, certainly, including military technical cooperation, but nonetheless limited in scope. As far as military technical cooperation goes, we are not slowing the pace in any way and are continuing our work. But the changes that have taken place in our economic relations represent a real tectonic shift and cover practically all areas of mutual interest. We are not just talking about trade and economic relations but real investment, above all in the energy sector. We are already carrying out a range of projects in the hydrocarbons sector, including projects signed earlier, in the Orinoco Basin. But I note that, although we have signed new agreements in our traditional sectors today, we are also looking to go beyond these sectors and develop new projects, including in the energy sector.
Mr President and I spoke today about our mutual interest in developing technology cooperation. One example here is the agreement we have just signed on nuclear energy cooperation. The President said that some countries will feel various emotions upon hearing this news. I don’t know about that, but I do want to say quite clearly that our intentions are totally clear and transparent. We want our partner, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to have the full range of energy possibilities, energy independence, and domestic mechanisms for self-development. In this respect, even a country with as much oil and gas as Venezuela needs to develop new energy sources. I therefore think that our cooperation is a very good symbol.
We hope to develop infrastructure projects. We discussed high technology today and raised for the first time the question of cooperation in space, and in the pharmaceuticals industry. The people in our governments working on these matters therefore still have a lot of work ahead. I am sure that they will be up to the task, because the results are already very good so far.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our Venezuelan friends who helped draft these documents, and their Russian colleagues too, of course, who have done much to develop this cooperation without which we would not have reached the strategic partnership that we have today.
Of course, we work together not just on economic ties but also on developing our cooperation in a broad range of areas, including security, given that we just signed a memorandum on disaster relief. Actually, we already have experience of working together in this area, because our Emergency Situations Ministry team worked together with the Venezuelan National Civil Defence and Emergency Management Agency to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti, which had been struck by a powerful earthquake. In this respect then we already have experience and are ready to take this work further.
Our humanitarian ties are also very important. I said to the President today that we place great importance on the education projects and events related to the celebrations of victory in World War II, and the events that we plan to hold next year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. These are all examples of how we can strengthen our relations, build up our friendship, as the President could see too while taking part in the forum Two Centuries of Latin American Independence and the Bolivarian Revolution, which took place yesterday at the Foreign Literature Library.
Another symbol of our friendship and respect for each other was the ceremony laying the foundation for the monument to Simon Bolivar in Moscow, and the monument to Francisco Miranda, another hero of Venezuela and all of Latin America, that will be built in St Petersburg, where he spent more than a year at the end of the eighteenth century.
International issues were an important part of our agenda. We always discuss these matters when we meet. Russia and Venezuela both support a modern and fair world order, a world order in which our future would not depend on the will and desire of any one country, not depend on any country’s prosperity or mood, but would depend on the common efforts of the international community, and internal development too of course. This is the only kind of world order that guarantees humanity’s sustainable development in the twenty-first century. We are in regular contact with our Venezuelan friends in this respect and always find complete mutual understanding. We will continue to work in this way, and will continue to coordinate our international policies in compliance and respect for international law and the United Nation’s leading role.
We are happy with the way the situation in Latin America is developing. We discussed various regional issues. We are ready to take part in regional forums. I already took part in one such forum, the ALBA forum, which was underway in Caracas, when I visited Venezuela at the end of 2008. We will continue to work in this direction because there are many problems that require our common efforts. Which problems are these? They include fighting terrorism, cross-border crime, drugs, addressing environmental problems, and of course sustainable development, economic support and aid, and the problem of building a fairer economic system in our world. In this respect we agreed to make use in our work of our new economic possibilities and also use the new economic institutions that emerge.
On a separate note, I recall that Venezuela established diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in July of this year. I think that our Venezuelan friends have taken a principled line on this matter. First, this is an important step in helping these countries establish themselves as subjects of law, and second, it is a symbol of the friendship between our countries. This is the way real friends behave. They make good on their promises and do not just talk about it.
Once again, I want to thank my friend President Chavez for the wonderful atmosphere and the excellent discussions that always characterise our relations. We spent a lot of time yesterday discussing various matters, and held talks today. I am sure that this visit will give our friendly relations a new boost.
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez (re-translated): Thank you, Dmitry, my brother.
Foreign Affairs ministers, other ministers, deputy ministers and other colleagues, businesspeople and the media have all gathered here in the Kremlin. That means we must remember, restore, revive in our memory, and I would even say strengthen our vision of a better world. Alexander Herzen, a Russian thinker who lived back in the days of Bolivar, he was born in 1802, left us these words, my friend, Mr President: “We are not afraid to speak the truth, the harshest truth, we speak it out of love. We do not run away from the present into the past because we know that the last page of history will be written in the present.” Those are the words of Alexander Herzen. Today, our present is a time of many challenges, and we are ready for them. You spoke about those challenges and we looked into the future. You said: We must look into the future. Yes, sometimes we forget about the past. It is always with us, in the past and in the present. It is always here.
Bolivar, whom you mentioned, was our great leader. As Pablo Neruda said, he will “return when nations awake.” We live in the homeland he gave to us, in the Gran Colombia he created. At the last Congress he convened in 1830, Bolivar left us a phrase that we remember well. That phrase has come back now, it has been revived. He said he was greatly concerned about the situation after 20 years of revolutionary struggle. Independence is the only good we have left, despite everything else and at the expense of everything else. But this independence will enable us to win back all the advantages on the basis of equality, liberty and fraternity. Bolivar died a few months later, and with him perished our political independence, it died too. Then new empires came and Venezuela, which was a democracy throughout the 20th century, became in fact a colony.
It is exhilarating to say that we have regained our independence. We are here in Moscow, we are brothers, we are friends because of our independence. And we will fight for it harder than for our lives because the life of our homeland depends on this independence, and not only in Venezuela, but the future of the entire world. We need action, free action at any cost. We need free nations at any cost. In the words of Alexander Herzen: “We are not afraid to speak the truth, the harshest truth, we speak it out of love.” We are not afraid to come to the Kremlin, we are not afraid to come to Moscow and we are not afraid to sign peaceful nuclear agreements. We are not afraid to go to Tehran tomorrow, the next day to go to Kiev, and we are not afraid to go to Syria four days later and speak our truth, because we love people, we love them in the same way as Russia loves humanity. We do everything possible to build, to resurrect ourselves through our independence, to follow this path.
Dmitry, in Venezuela we will never forget — I thought of this just yesterday – two Sukhoi airplanes over Caracas on July 5, our Independence Day, which flew as free as eagles across the planet to declare to the whole world: we are free and we are not afraid to be free. Why? Because of our love.
I would like to thank you, Mr Putin and all our Russian brothers for your efforts and your support in consolidating our independence and our present search for our emancipation, which we understand as a more advanced stage than independence. Independence is a foundation for emancipation, for free development of political, social and integration technology. We have just embarked on our path to full emancipation. The new agreements we are signing in addition to those we have been concluding in the past 10 years, and the relations between Russia and Venezuela are moving along this path and we are sure that they will continue to provide an impetus for our nations. We must publicise our achievements. This is more than just documents, protocols or signatures. For example, our agricultural agreement involves Russia’s investment in Venezuela to import Venezuelan bananas, coffee, cocoa and many other goods, which will gradually begin to arrive from Venezuela. This is a big geopolitical development strategy for Europe and Asia. It is an important step, and you know it. We must emphasise it because until now our dependence on oil has been too great. We were like an oil factory, we just produced oil. We were the biggest oil exporters from 1925 until 1970, and we remain among the top oil exporters to this day. Yet we ended the 20th century with 60% living in poverty and 25% in extreme poverty. We live in a sea of oil, and yet we have such poverty in our country. That is all caused by imperialism, which has imposed this system on us. That is why I speak of sovereignty, emancipation and independence. We have just embarked on this path.
The subject of nuclear energy, nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Thank you, Vladimir, eight years ago we started talking about these issues, and thank you, Dmitry. I thank you all. And as always I will say, forgive me, I have to repeat myself, but I cannot avoid it. The Soviet Union left a legacy and you are the children of the Soviet Union, and let me say, that is how it is. None of these achievements or progress would have been possible without the great revolution, without the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives for the new Russia, who built the new path. And now Russia is generous not only towards Venezuela, but also to other countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. And if I may say so, Russia has been moving in this direction, and it must continue to move forward as the great nation that it is to build a new world, a new independent world, a free world which Bolivar called the global balance.
The Agreement on the Russian-Venezuelan Bank is a strategic agreement and we must make sure it begins working. You said you would invest any amount of money in it and we, too, are ready to begin operations in Moscow and Caracas, and there is also an office in Beijing.
Thank you for reminding me about ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. Russia is an observer country in ALBA, and we hope to sign an agreement soon between Russia and Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Dominican Republic. We want the whole alliance to sign an agreement in order to ensure a balance in the world and the creation of a multipolar world. I am referring to the agreement on gas and the crucial agreements we reached on the sale to Russia of the 50% of our shares in a vital, strategic oil refinery. This is similar to our agreement with a German company, Ruhr Oil, to which we will also sell our shares. We also intend to sell part of the assets owned by the British company BP in Venezuela to a Russian company: an oil field, which produces 120,000 barrels of oil per day, located at the mouth of the Orinoco River. This is one of the largest oil deposits in the world. Although the first attempts there were not very successful, there is a lot of gas in the Caribbean Basin.
Let us move on to the second set of documents in the same area, the agreement on Lada. I have owned a Niva car. I drove one a bit today. I had a Niva 20 years ago. You can’t imagine how I raced around Venezuela in that car, I just had to change the tires from time to time. It never broke down and used very little petrol. Today it will have to run on gas. Do you know my price for the Niva? I am a socialist but I’m also a good salesman. I will sell the Niva for $7,000. My friends here said… Where is the Trade Minister? They said this car costs $7,000 – that is very cheap. I want you to know it. Dmitry, I want you to know. Igor, do you know their price for good cars, like this Niva, made by western companies? Almost $20,000 or even more. They exploit us. And your cars cost from $7,000 to $10,000. And what about construction, housing construction? It’s Venezuela’s commitment to its people. Our people used to build their houses themselves. Now the state and the revolutionary government are engaged in building housing for our citizens, but we are faced with fundamental difficulties. Russia is ready to render us assistance in this area, in the creation of one, two, three — up to nine enterprises that will manufacture building materials, which will resolve the problem. This will be nine or ten companies that will help us build 10,000 homes to start with in vacant plots in Caracas, and in the long term we will build up to 40,000–50,000 homes, affordable and quality homes for our people. It's just a blessing, a blessing from above. Therefore, Dmitry, I want to thank you once again, thank you all. And as Alexander Herzen said: let us build the future from the present. The future of the new world, both Russia and Venezuela, each according to its opportunities.
You are a great country and you must become an even greater power. We are also a big country. We are smaller, but we have a great desire, as Bolivar said, to build a new world, a just world and freedom.
Thank you, Dmitry. Thank you, Russia. Thank you, my friends.
Look, I’ve brought some Venezuelan chocolate for Dmitry, the best chocolate in the world, let it go on sale all over Russia, and it will be cheap too. It's the best chocolate in the world. Here’s also some banana jam and cocoa powder, it’s the best in the world too.
Question: President Chavez has already anticipated part of my question, but I would nevertheless like to ask about the consequences of the agreement that was signed today for the people of Russia and Venezuela. What immediate benefits will our people feel from these agreements?
President Medvedev talked about Venezuela as a strategic partner; could he say a few words about this, and how he perceives this strategic partnership?
Dmitry Medvedev: I see it as exactly that: as a strategic partnership. In addition, here are the documents, right there on the table. That is the strategic partnership. It is a partnership that can be measured in millions of dollars. It is a mutually beneficial partnership. It is a partnership that leads to the establishment of new businesses and the creation of new jobs.
Hugo just talked about agricultural projects, and said many beautiful, sweet things. But after all, as far as prospective cooperation in agriculture is concerned, things really are good. The investments that can be made into developing production of bananas and other agricultural products in Venezuela are worth millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, and would create a significant number of jobs. They could create up to 20 thousand jobs at banana plantations alone. What else is this, if not a strategic partnership? New jobs, investments, and very serious plans.
But a strategic partnership differs from merely good economic cooperation not only because of high turnover or the signing of major contracts. The difference also lies in the fact that we are coordinating our efforts in the foreign arena, coordinating our positions, and helping one another. In certain situations, we try to defend one another. We monitor domestic problems very carefully. That is what a strategic partnership is about. And I suppose that it carries a special value. I already stated that we certainly feel that Venezuela’s steps toward supporting the young new small republics created in the Caucasus (I am referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia), are a gesture of friendship toward these young nations and a sign of respect toward Russia, which was forced to defend their sovereignty. That is strategic partnership.
Thus, if we continue acting this way in the future and continue developing our relations in the same way, then we will always be friends and we will always visit one another, sign new agreements, develop human contacts, and ultimately, make lives of a significant number of people in our nations happier. And in this regard, I would like to wish my friend Hugo Chavez great success in terms of reforming the government, reforming the economy, and creating new, more modern living conditions for millions of people living in his nation. This may be the most important challenge today, and that is what the President of Venezuela’s efforts are aimed toward.
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez (re-translated): Thank you, Mr President. I’ll be very brief. Let’s recall where the word ‘strategy’ comes from. Strategy means ‘paths leading to major goals.’ A strategic partnership is everything that we agreed on; it is a form of large-scale cooperation between our nations in the spheres of geopolitics, social policy, and economic policy. It is a joint battle, and it is very important. Since this question was asked by a Venezuelan journalist, it is very important to make enormous efforts for our people to know the truth. Because the campaign to demonise Venezuela that is unfolding in other nations, especially in North America and Western Europe, makes it necessary to develop military technical cooperation with Russia. But they do not like this cooperation either, and they have launched a new campaign. They have tried to establish new fronts of terrorist movement, they are repeating lies again and again, and everything, all of our plans, are distorted and deformed. That is why it’s so important to step up efforts to communicate with more and more people. That is why we come to Moscow and we feel that it is an enormous advantage for Venezuela that our partnership with Russia is a strategic partnership. It truly does lead to the creation of new jobs. And the project to establish a joint bank that we are nurturing is no small matter, nor is the fact that we will build tens of thousands of dwelling units for people and that we will build new companies to produce building materials. All this is aimed at developing the nation, as are the projects in gas, oil, and energy sectors. That is strategic partnership to the highest degree.
Question: I have a question for both presidents. The trade and economic ties between our nations seem to have reached a pinnacle. And nevertheless, a large package of documents has been signed. What other prospects do you foresee for the development of relations, first and foremost in energy – gas and oil – and when will the nuclear power station be built?
Dmitry Medvedev: Why don’t I begin? Indeed, in the last half hour, we have been persistently answering this very question. But nevertheless, I would like to say that overall, while our economic relations are truly at a pinnacle, our trade relations are not. Our turnover is not as great as we might like. We have very interesting investment-related plans, and now, we are implementing a whole range of projects in energy sector. We have just signed some very important agreements concerning energy cooperation and cooperation in other areas.
But in talking about trade, regular trade, we still have work to do, because our trade turnover is not entirely balanced, and we have opportunities for the mutual supply of goods from Russia to Venezuela and vice versa. Thus, there’s still work to do, especially since there are sectors that are well-developed in our nations and where we could establish full-fledged cooperation and full-fledged deliveries. From Russia, this would first and foremost involve cars and equipment. And from Venezuela, this would involve agricultural and food products. Overall, we will work on all of this.
As for energy, it is true that today, we signed a whole set of very important agreements. We had already spoken about nearly all of them. Right now, what’s most critical is to concentrate on breakthrough directions. And in this regard, I would like to note a certain comfortable position that we have, represented by our Venezuelan partners and by the President of Venezuela. In cases when, for whatever reason, a given project does not progress very quickly, even though we would like it to, or when there are technological problems, our Venezuelan colleagues always meet us halfway. For example, in gas cooperation, we agreed that we will look into new areas, because cooperation in the gas sector, as well as the oil sector, always involves exploration and is never entirely certain – it’s riding into the unknown, so to speak. And so, in this regard, we are pleased that our Venezuelan friends are responding to our wishes and requests.
This means that our relations are truly strategic, that we listen well to one another, and we know how to resolve these challenges in a practical way; and that is precisely what yesterday and today’s talks were aimed at. Hugo and I spoke at length about energy cooperation; nearly an hour of our time today was devoted to these matters. I feel that we have made progress.
As for the nuclear power station, we need to first conduct all the preliminary research and work to assess the structure, possibilities, and market size. But we are looking into this project as an interesting and positive one. You know that the Russian Federation considers nuclear energy to be a priority, including in modernisation. We have very good, competitive opportunities in this area. We are carrying out a lot of construction in a variety of nations. Why not build such a power station in Venezuela? Venezuela is our close partner. And after all, nuclear power gives you certain independence, including in the event of a drop in certain energy prices. Our nations are vulnerable, and we shared our thoughts about what happened last year. Naturally, the change in oil prices hit us very hard, and Venezuela and Russia are still feeling the effects. And so, the more we diversify our energy sector, the better it will be for our economies. We will work on it.
Hugo Chavez: Thank you, Dmitry.
We have things to remember, as far as energy is concerned. There is a book, which you know, given to me by Fidel Castro, who generally displays such vitality that one can only marvel. Fidel gave me this book when we were once at his summer residence in the Caribbean, and the book was called Hydrogen Energy, or more specifically, The Hydrogen Era. And I often find myself skimming through this book, because we are still living in a petroleum era in energy. But I feel that the era of hydrogen is ahead of us. And thank god that there are still nations, like Russia, that have oil. Russia belongs to the five oil giants, just as we do. This means that we must coordinate our strategy, to think about the future – about the not-so-near future – to bring our companies closer together, creating joint companies. The Russian oil corporation, just like our oil corporation, carries out an enormous number of projects and programmes. And it seems to me that we are also doing things right in the gas sector; we are also cooperating with the Russian company. And we should also add nuclear energy to this mix.
You know, Dmitry, that Venezuela was the first nation where a nuclear reactor was installed sometime around 1952. Then, it was dismantled. Naturally, it was an enormous contribution not only to Venezuelan economy, but also that of its neighbouring nations, with an eye toward the future. Two nights ago, we were speaking with the Portuguese delegation when we were passing through Lisbon. We are developing projects with them to create wind farms, and we also plan to use solar energy – all of these things are of interest throughout the world. And we must recognise this challenge and make it our mission.
There is also the question of the mining industry. Venezuela has major deposits of gold and other minerals and precious stones, including diamonds. We also have uranium deposits; I could show you the geological map. We have not yet signed a single final agreement, but we are moving in that direction.
We are also working on the tourism issue, and likewise, I could show you a relevant map. There are whole tour routes from Caracas through Havana, through Western Europe to Moscow, and this, too, is of great interest in terms of developing tourism. We would like to encourage tourists to come not only to Venezuela, but the Caribbean Basin as well, and to Latin America. Meanwhile, we want our people to go to Russia, to Asia, to Eurasia, and to Europe. I am looking at the prospects for the upcoming years. Yes, there are development projects for air transport, and there is an opportunity to create new routes for tankers carrying our oil. So in this regard… Note the similarities between the two national flags of Russia and Venezuela – it is no coincidence.
And so, since the journalist asked us about prospects for the future, I want to say that when we produce the first barrel of oil in Junin, we will give you this barrel of oil as a gift, the very first barrel of oil that we extract there.