Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
First of all permit me to congratulate you on the upcoming holiday, Day of Homeland Defender.
Meetings between the head of state and members of the high command have a long historical tradition in Russia. It goes back to the glorious times of Peter the Great, when the country’s regular army, its military might and its famous Russian “victorious spirit” were forged in fierce battles.
The Army has always been the bearer of the special national spirit and moral values, the ideas of justice and peace. It has never been an army of aggressors. It has provided hope and support for the state and its people.
Homeland and Honour have always been at the top of the immutable code of the Russian officer. We have never had and will never have any doubt about that.
Gathered in this historical hall are the representatives of all the security-related agencies of the Russian Federation. We all share the single common task of ensuring the security of our country, protecting the national dignity of its citizens, and the sovereignty of its interests.
You, high commanders, have to carry out these tasks in practice, and recently you have had to do so in combat.
I can state confidently that you have been performing all the tasks set by the political leadership correctly and professionally. There is no doubt that you will continue to do so.
My friends, the past months have been in many ways decisive and crucial both for the authorities as a whole and for the security agencies. The stark question facing us was whether we will be able to defend our country and the lives of our fellow-citizens, or are we going to show weakness and cave in to terrorists?
Today we can confidently say that the counter-terrorist operation will be carried through to its conclusion, which means until full liberation of the Chechen and other Russian territories where insurgents are still holding out, until Russia’s integrity as a governable state is fully restored.
The course of the operation and the results achieved by now demonstrate the real potential of our state, its defense capability and, importantly, a profound shift in public opinion.
The army has come to believe in its strength, and society has faith and trust in its army. You are restoring the honour and the spirit of our glorious Armed Forces, respect of the men in uniforms, those who at a difficult moment did their duty, came to the rescue and protected us. An army is only respected and recognised when it upholds the legitimate interests of its fellow citizens and when it wins.
There has been a marked improvement in the work and coordination of all the state, law enforcement and security agencies, in the first place the Ministries of Defence and Internal Affairs, the FSB and the Federal Border Guard Service.
Special credit for the success of the counter-terrorist operation is due to the leadership of the Russian Defence Ministry and the General Staff. I would also like to praise the command of the North Caucasus group, and especially Viktor Kazantsev, who is staying today in the North Caucasus together with the Defence Minister.
Restoring peaceful life in the Chechen Republic and bringing relief to refugees was the difficult job of the Ministry for Emergency Situations. Thousands of lives have been saved. Working against heavy odds, they promptly provided victims with food, shelter and first aid.
But you have a lot of strictly civilian tasks to perform. A huge amount of work needs to be done to clean up the aftermath of hostilities.
Our Federal Railway Troops Service has managed, in a difficult situation, to clear the railway tracks of mines and to restore regular traffic in the liberated territories.
The FAPSI units have done an excellent job ensuring reliable communications and promptly providing the country’s leadership with information.
The Foreign Intelligence Service has played a great part. Thanks to its efforts, we had information about the plans of international terrorist organisations working against our country.
I would like to stress that our attention to this area of activities must not and will not flag.
In the early and most difficult days of intense fighting in Daghestan the special units of the Russian Justice Ministry blocked the advance of the militants.
Tracking down and suppressing the sources from which terrorists are financed is obviously a key element in the fight against terror.
The insurgents use criminal, dirty, blood money made through trafficking in drugs and people, extortion racket and economic crimes. And the Tax Police Service plays a special role here, stemming the flow of shadow money.
Restoring peaceful life in Chechnya is a critical task which you are already addressing. I urge you to pay close attention to the conditions of the military units and the regional federal bodies of power permanently located in the Republic. How well we staff these units with personnel, provide them with equipment and arms, and with supplies will go a long way to ensure social order and stability in the region.
For all the importance of the problem of Northern Caucasus, I must stress that there will be some other urgent business to attend to this year.
Strategic deterrence and prevention of any aggression against Russia and its allies remains the main task of the Armed Forces, all the troops and military units and the security agencies.
The priorities are contained in the Guidelines of State Military Development Policy up to 2005. One of these is to optimise the structure, composition and strength of the Armed Forces.
Special attention is due to rational use of the money allocated for defence and security. These tasks are set in the new Military Doctrine adopted on February 4.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I have signed a decree promoting to the ranks of Army General and Fleet Admiral and, in keeping with the officers’ tradition, I would like to personally present the new shoulder straps and congratulate you once again on the upcoming big national holiday – Day of Homeland Defender.