Press Conference Following Talks with U.S. President George W. Bush 2006-07-15 16:36:00 Strelna, St Petersburg Vladimir Putin: Dear ladies and gentlemen! Our meeting with the President of the United States has just ended. The Russian party is satisfied with the results of this meeting. The meeting has once again confirmed that Russia and the United States are reliable partners with common interests. We managed to reach a number of agreements on key questions on our bilateral and international agendas. We adopted a Joint Statement which concerns our joint initiatives for the development of nuclear energy. Its overall objective is to promote a steady and reliable supply of this type of energy while simultaneously decreasing the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We believe that this will be possible by creating a network of international centres to enrich uranium. And of course under strict supervision by the IAEA. It is no less important to pay steadfast attention to the development of innovative technologies and creating new-generation nuclear power reactors. The most productive way to work is by drawing on extensive international cooperation. As a whole, such approaches will act as positive, stabilizing influences during global political and economic developments. We also supported the American offer to engage in a global partnership in the field of nuclear energy. The Russian initiative to establish multilateral centres to perform services in the nuclear fuel cycle and a global partnership in this sphere will complement each other well. And we shall work together to associate these two things. To achieve this it is necessary to resolve problems linked to the conditions for trading nuclear materials between Russia and the United States. In addition, we made a Joint Statement on Combating Nuclear Terrorism. It confirms Russia and America’s shared aspirations to fight against this dangerous threat and opens new doors for common actions. As such, our countries show their determination to take the most serious measures to prevent terrorists from purchasing, transporting or using nuclear and radioactive materials, or homemade explosives made from such materials. It is no less important to exclude the possibility of any hostile actions against nuclear installations. We expect that our initiative will benefit from all due attention from other participants in the G8 summit and will be reflected in concrete joint decisions. We have had productive discussions on the whole range of international issues. They include the Iranian nuclear programme, the situation in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula, in other regions of the world and settling persistent conflicts in regions next to Russia. Both parties confirmed that they are ready to search for solutions to all of these difficult problems by peaceful, political and diplomatic means. We intended to increase our joint efforts to fight against new threats and challenges. Our joint initiative to hold a political conference in Vienna in the spring of 2007 on the partnership between government, civil society and business to combat terrorism is an example of this. In general, we hope that our joint proposals and agreements will act as a good basis for a successful G8 summit and will start this respected international forum off in a constructive way. At the meeting we discussed issues concerning our bilateral cooperation in detail and in light of the joint orders given to our ministries and departments with a view to increasing our cooperation. We are aware that we are successfully accomplishing the goals we have set out in all areas: in the economy, security, science, outer space, and in the cultural and educational spheres. A number of orders have already been implemented and work is proceeding on the others. In our opinion, work is proceeding at quite a good rate. We agreed on new tasks that both sides will work on in the forthcoming period: as I have already said they include, nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, combating avian flu and cultural cooperation. I shall especially note that the during our last meeting with the President of the United States we did not limit ourselves to discussing current problems. Rather we tried to look at Russian-American relations in light of the future and, of course, in the wider context of developing the system of international relations as a whole. I wish to thank our American partners for the very well-intentioned and constructive atmosphere in which our meeting took place. Many thanks for your attention. GEORGE W. BUSH: We did have a very good discussion today. It was started — actually, our discussion started last night over a really good dinner. And I want to thank you and Mrs. Putina for being such wonderful hosts. You've got to admit this is a fantastic setting. It's beautiful. The cottages are very comfortable. I think that our fellow G8 leaders are going to really enjoy being here. Anyway, we had a good discussion this morning. One thing is clear, is relations between America and Russia are good, and they're important that they be good. We've got a lot to — we've got a lot to work on. We discussed North Korea and Iran. Those are two difficult issues, made less difficult because Russia and the United States are willing to work together to send clear messages to both governments that their nuclear weapons ambitions are not acceptable. We talked about the Middle East. I explained my position, which I'm confident I'll be asked about here in a minute. The President talked about his concerns. We share the same concerns. We are concerned about the violence and we're troubled by the loss of innocent life. President Putin, like me, wants there to be peaceful dialogue. And so we had a good, frank discussion about the issue. We talked about our bilateral relations. I think it's indicative of the strength of our relationship that we're able to agree on non-proliferation matters — not only agree on it, we're taking the lead on this issue. And I want to thank the President for his leadership on this issue. We're talking about nuclear cooperation, and we're about to begin dialogues about how we can cooperate better when it comes to peaceful uses of nuclear power. We're talking about counter-terrorism. Nation states face the threat of terrorism, and we want to work together to deal with this threat. I, of course — we talked philosophy. One thing, what happens when you get relaxed and are friendly with each other, you're able to share philosophies and able to ask questions about decision-making. And I appreciate very much our discussion last night and this morning about why the President has made decisions he's made, what decisions he intends to make, and the decisions I made. We do not always agree with each other, but nevertheless, it's important for leaders to be able to share philosophy, whether it be the philosophy of government or the philosophy of governing. And our relationship is good. And I want to thank the President for his hospitality. I thank you for your good food, thank you for the 60th birthday gift you gave me last night, and thanks for the meeting this morning. Question: Good afternoon. I have questions for both leaders. The first question is to President Bush. During negotiations with its international partners, Russia has demonstrated how open and transparent its economy is, but this does not always receive an adequate response. We can see this at the talks on Russia’s accession to the WTO. If I am not mistaken, since 2001 the United States has been supportive of Russia's accession to the WTO, and yet remains the key obstacle for the completion of this process. Why is this? I'm sure that you discussed this issue at the talks. Please tell us about it. And a question for Mr. Putin: given that such difficulties exist, can we afford to give up our proactive position with respect to the accession to the WTO? Thank you. GEORGE W. BUSH: We're tough negotiators. But — and the reason why is because we want the agreement that we reach to be accepted by our United States Congress. In other words, when we negotiate an agreement, it has to be approved — any trade agreement has to be approved. But I believe we're fair negotiators, and our negotiators come to the table trying to achieve the objective that I've sent out, that we want Russian accession into WTO. That's what we want. And we will continue negotiating. Evidently, there was a false report in the press that said a deal was reached. Well, it's almost reached. In other words, we — a lot of the areas, we found accommodation in a lot of the areas. But there's more work to be done. And we discussed this today and I assured the President that we'll continue to negotiate. And he assured me that we'll continue to negotiate in good faith to try to reach an agreement that has been difficult to achieve. I understand that. But you've just got to understand the intention to achieve an agreement is there. Vladimir Putin: My guest and I, my friend, the President of the United States, George W. Bush, are often asked the question, whether our personal relationship helps in addressing certain issues or resolving various bilateral international problems. I always say so and I know that he also believes that this informal personal relationship is helping us in our work. I have to tell you that, at the same time, it does not prevent us from standing up for our national interests on a given issue. Talks concerning Russia’s accession to the WTO concern very concrete, calculable matters. This can be expressed in tonnes, billions, or millions of dollars or rubles. This is a complicated process that has lasted for quite a few years. This difficulty is not a surprise to us. We will continue to work further, pursuing our interests, the interests of our developing economy. Question: The violence in the Middle East is escalating despite calls for restraint. What can you, President Bush and President Putin, do to stop the violence, stop the fighting, given that there is divisions among allies here about whether Israel is using excessive force? GEORGE W. BUSH: I think you'll find all parties here want the violence to stop. In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place. And that's because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel, and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. That's why we have violence. And the best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms, and to stop attacking. And, therefore, I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah. Now, here's my concern — is that we were making good progress toward a two-state solution in the Middle East. The Israeli Prime Minister came to Washington and talked to me about his desire for there to be a democracy living side-by-side with another democracy, said this was part of his strategic vision for Israel and for peace. And he was working toward that end. As you know, he made efforts to reach out to President Abbas, who we support. He made efforts to reach out to countries in the neighborhood to help achieve this vision. And as the vision was progressing, certain elements — certain terrorist elements began to act to stop the advance of democracy. The militant wing of Hamas made decisions to attack and to capture. Hezbollah has made decisions to stop the advance of a two-state solution. The solution, short-term solution is for Hezbollah to stop the attacks. The longer-term solution is for nations around the world and nations in the neighborhood to support those who support the advance of democracy. Vladimir Putin: I agree with the premise that it is absolutely unacceptable to try and reach a certain goal, including political goals, through the use of force, through abductions, through carrying out strikes against an independent state from the territory of another state. This is all true. And in this respect we consider Israel's concerns to be justified. At the same time, we work under the assumption that the use of force should be balanced. And, in any case, bloodshed should stop as soon as possible. This should be the point of departure for establishing conditions that will allow us to resolve the whole range of problems. The escalation of violence, in our opinion, will not yield positive results. At any rate, we share President Bush’s approach. Both of us will make every necessary effort to resolve this problem and I hope that our G8 colleagues will support us. We will find common ground on this front in order to bring the situation, as quickly as possible, to a position where concrete results can be achieved. And desirable results include ceasing combat, building a favourable environment for both the development of Israel within secure borders, with security, and for building an independent Palestinian state. Question: Mr. President, let me address my question to both of you. There has been a lot of concerns about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And having discussed this issue, could you share the results of your talks? And also, if you could let me, we all can see that you enjoy good personal relationships, but do you notice any deterioration of ties on a state level between the two countries? Thank you. GEORGE W. BUSH: We sure have. We talked about our concerns about Iran developing a nuclear weapon, or Iran having the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, and we talked about North Korea. And the results of our talks are that we agree that we've got to work together to send a common message to both that there is a better way forward for these leaders. And so we're working with Russia and our partners to develop Security Council resolutions that will send a clear message. One thing is for certain, that if the Iranians see that the United States and Russia are working together on this issue, they'll understand the seriousness of our intent. And so we spent time talking about the issue, sure did. We understand that a grave threat that faces countries like America and Russia would be — is the ability of a terrorist organization to end up with a weapon of mass destruction. Both nations have had to deal with terrorism; both nations know what it's like to see people blown up. Russia suffered through one of the most horrible terrorist incidents in modern mankind, which is Beslan, where terrorists are willing to kill young children to achieve political objectives. And the President and I understand that when you make that kind of attitude with a weapon of mass destruction you could be talking about greater catastrophe. And so we spent a lot of time talking about it. I think relations between the United States and Russia are very good. There's a lot of skeptics on both sides of the equation as to whether or not the relationship is good. We've got people in Russia questioning U.S. motives, people in America questioning Russian motives. But that's what happens when you have — when you're big nations that have got influence, where you've got leaders willing to make tough decisions. And I would characterize, from my perspective, that our relationship is strong and necessary. That's the point I want to make to you — that a strong relationship will make the world a better place, in my judgment, because we'll be better able to confront the current problems that face us all. Vladimir Putin: I have already said that we will not participate in any crusades, in any holy alliances. This is true. I reaffirm our position in this matter. But our common goal is to make the world a more secure place. And certainly we'll be working with all our partners, including the United States, in order to accomplish this goal. It is for this reason that we are joining our efforts with other G8 countries. And I have to say that this is not some kind of scheme against a particular country where a certain problem has emerged, be it related to missile or nuclear proliferation. We are not only looking for the possibility of controlling a given process; we are also seeking opportunities for ensuring their legal access to nuclear technology. It is to this end that we have adopted our joint initiative on the creation of international centers for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. These are not unilateral actions aimed at trying to block somebody's access to something. This is a search for solutions that could ensure development in the world and at the same time make that development secure in light of the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles. We're satisfied with our exchanges at a working, bilateral level and when we meet at summits or within the UN Security Council. We will continue to work ahead, even tonight and tomorrow, during our discussion with our partners who are arriving in St. Petersburg. Question: Mr. President, we know that you talked about Iran and North Korea. Let me ask you if you moved forward at all on these issues? Did you ask Russia to take specific steps, for example with Iran to agree to U.N. sanctions? Did you discuss what you could move on in North Korea to move it forward? And, President Putin, is Russia now willing, if necessary, to vote for sanctions in the United Nations to stop Iran's nuclear preparations? GEORGE W. BUSH: We strategized on both issues. But this is not the first time that we've talked together to — on how to solve problems. You might remember that Russia proposed a very interesting way forward for Iran. It was the Putin government that said to the Iranians, if you want a civilian nuclear power program, we will support you in that; however, we will provide the fuel and we'll collect the spent fuel. I thought it was a very innovative approach to solving the problem. I strongly supported the initiatives. So, Bill, to answer your question, this is not the first time that we have strategized on how to solve this problem. And, yes, we talked about the U.N. Security Council resolution. And, no, I'm not going to tell you the particulars about the conversation. I will tell you, however, that there is common agreement that we need to get something done at the U.N. And I'm confident we will be able to do that. And there's agreement that we need to get something done on North Korea at the United Nations. Here's the thing, though, just so that everybody understands: Diplomacy is not two countries just saying, this is the way it is. Diplomacy is two countries agreeing to work together with other countries, in this case, to come up with common language that we can live with that sends the same message, and that is, no nuclear weapons programs. Our goal and objective is to have a nuclear-free — nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. Russia shares that objective. China shares the objective, Japan shares the objective, and South Korea shares the objective. So we've got common ground to move forward, and now we're working on language. And it was a very constructive meeting. Vladimir Putin: You know, I have already spoken on this account many times. I can repeat, it is not in Russia's national interests to see a proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in such an explosive region as the Middle East. This is something that we tell our Iranian partners directly. We have always told them this. There is nothing new about our position in this respect. But we work on the assumption that we have to find efficient ways of ensuring security around the world. We need to take efficient diplomatic steps that would not disrupt the delicate fabric of negotiations and the search for mutually acceptable decisions. And today we're satisfied with the status of how American-Russian cooperation is developing in this area. Question: I apologize, but I would like to follow up on the question of my American colleague, and go into a little more detail. You have always discussed the Iranian nuclear issue in terms of what has happened before and what may happen in the future. Yet the Iranian nuclear issue is also a reality today. How do you see it at present? And most importantly, what is waiting for us in the future? GEORGE W. BUSH: — progress, because Russia and the United States agree that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. In other words, the Iranians need to understand that we're speaking with one voice that they should not have a weapon, and that's progress. You see, my judgment is they're testing the resolve of the parties to determine whether or not we really are resolved to work together to prevent them from having a weapon. And the clearer they hear a message, the better off — or the closer we'll be to them recognizing there's a better way forward. See, we've made our choice, and that's progress. We've agreed to work together to achieve a common goal. That's considerable progress. And now the choice is theirs to make. I have said the United States will change our posture on this issue if the Iranian government does what they've already said they would do, which is to verifiably suspend their enrichment program. At which point, if they do so, we will come to the negotiating table. We will sit side-by-side. Right now, we're negotiating together to send a common message. We will come to the table. It's their choice to make, however. There is a better way forward for the Iranian people than to be isolated because of their government's actions. And so I would say that we've made good progress on the issue. Vladimir Putin: I can see that members of the Russian and U.S. press have colluded and are tormenting us with the same kind of questions. GEORGE W. BUSH: An old colluder, but a colluder. Question: (Inaudible). President Bush: That's right.. Vladimir Putin: I must say the following: Russia has agreed to participate in the six-country format for discussing the Iranian issue. We assume that while these six countries elaborate their position, than Russia’s opinion will be taken into account. And we can see that our partners are acting in precisely this way. What does this imply for us? This implies that if we elaborate common approaches to this difficult problem, we will be able to ensure that our joint decisions are implemented. This is what we said honestly and directly to our Iranian partners. I repeated it at the meeting with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in China quite recently. So it really is extremely important to adhere to an approach whereby the countries that are involved in the negotiations can elaborate common approaches to resolving this problem. But the approach has to be balanced and has to take into account the interests of the Iranian people and their desire to develop modern, high-tech products, including nuclear products. I repeat, the sine qua non of their being able to do so is more than just ensuring nonproliferation. It requires improving the overall security situation in the world. Question: President Bush, you said that you planned to raise, in a respectful way, your concerns about Russian democracy with President Putin. How did that conversation go? And I know you've already talked a lot about the U.S.-Russian relationship, but I'm wondering if both of you could elaborate on that, and how the differences of opinion over the democracy are affecting the relationship. GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought the discussion was a good discussion. It's not the first time that Vladimir and I discussed our governing philosophies. I have shared with him my desires for our country, and he shared with me his desires for his. And I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian-style democracy. I do not expect Russia to look like the United States. As Vladimir pointedly reminded me last night, we have a different history, different traditions. And I will let him describe to you his way forward, but he shared with me some very interesting thoughts that I think would surprise some of our citizens. Now that I've lured you into the deal here, you know — like, for example, how do you promote land reform. So we discussed land reform. You know, one of the interesting decisions a government has to make, particularly this government would have to make, is how do you encourage private ownership of land further than that which has already happened. Anyway, he shared some thoughts with me. Sorry to put — lay the trap out there for you — but it was a good discussion. He's a strong man. Look, he's willing to listen, but he also explains to me, he does not want anybody telling him how to run his government. He was elected. And so it was a cordial relationship. But he can speak for himself. Vladimir Putin: I can tell you honestly that we certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq. GEORGE W. BUSH: Just wait. Vladimir Putin: But it is true that we discussed this issue at length, both at the initiative of the President of the United States and at my own initiative. It is true that we assume that nobody knows better than we do just how to strengthen our own nation. But we know for sure that we cannot strengthen our nation without developing democratic institutions. And of course we will do this. But, equally certainly, we will do this by ourselves. At the same time, in reference to the discussions we had last night and earlier today, we consider that it is not only tolerable for us to have such discussions with our partners, but I personally believe that it is quite useful. Because when we do this in an unbiased, friendly, objective manner, when we recognize the existence of problems in different parts of the world, then we recognize that problems with democracy are universal in nature. These are not specifically Russian problems. Problems with human rights and with democracy are universal. And when we honestly and openly discuss this, as was the case last night, as was the case earlier today, then I think that this will always be useful.