Question: A question about the recent NATO summit. It is hard to understand whether they are promising NATO membership to Ukraine or not with their vague statements. But still, it sounds like some simplified version has been promised.
In addition, the G7 adopted a declaration on certain security guarantees for Ukraine. They promise to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” – this is a quote. Paris is beginning to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles.
What do you think about this, and does it create a serious threat to the security of Russia, and to Ukraine as well?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: As for Ukraine’s NATO membership, as we have said many times, this obviously creates a threat to Russia’s security. In fact, the threat of Ukraine’s accession to NATO is the reason, or rather one of the reasons for the special military operation.
I am certain that this would not enhance Ukraine’s security in any way either. In general, it will make the world much more vulnerable and lead to more tensions in the international arena.
So, I don’t see anything good in this. Our position is well known and has long been formulated.
As for arms supplies, different arms, we saw how many hopes were pegged on relatively long-range missiles. And so what? Yes, they are doing some damage but they don’t play any critical role in the zone of hostilities. The same is true of foreign tanks and infantry combat vehicles.
As of last night – just from June 4 – 311 tanks were destroyed. Of this number, a big part, I believe at least one third, were of Western make, including Leopards.
I can tell you that Ukrainian servicemen often refuse to even get inside these tanks, because they are a number one target for our military and they tend to destroy them first on the battlefield. This is a sad circumstance that stands in the way of using these tanks in battle. They burn just like other tanks and even better than other tanks like the Soviet-made T-72 tank.
So, from the perspective of potential changes in the situation on the battlefield, more deliveries of new weapons will only worsen the situation for Ukraine and add fuel to the conflict. If there is anyone out there who is interested in that, and it appears that there are parties who are interested in that, then sending more weapons is the way to further exacerbate the conflict.
With regard to security, we have said many times that all countries have the right to ensure their own security and to choose the path to get there which it believes is the best for it.
There is only one limitation related to the fact that while striving to achieve the security of one country, the security of another country must not be jeopardised. Therefore, we operate on the assumption that this principle, which has been repeatedly expressed in various international documents, will be taken into account. Without a doubt, Ukraine has the right to ensure its security.
By the way, the draft document that I mentioned several times, namely the draft agreement between Russia and Ukraine which was put together in Istanbul and then tossed out by the Ukrainian regime, set out in detail matters related to ensuring Ukraine’s security. We needed more time to see whether we agreed with what it said, but I think that document was acceptable overall.
Therefore, we see nothing unusual in what NATO and the G7 have announced, and we are not against discussing issues like this. Again, this can only be done if the Russian Federation’s security is provided for in full.
Question: Mr President, may I ask you a question? I hear the grain deal is under threat, that Russia’s part of the package concerning our exports is not being fulfilled, that Mr Erdogan has something to tell you about this in a personal meeting, and that you received a letter from the UN. Can you clear up these issues?
Vladimir Putin: Of course, there are no secrets here.
The point is that initially the UN and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented this deal primarily as assistance for the world’s poorest countries with a view to preventing famine there.
I would like to emphasise again that price increases on food, food products, on what is produced by agriculture in the world in general, on fertilisers are not related to the special military operation. They are related to mistakes by the leading Western economies in finance and investment, including energy.
For many years, they neglected the basic principles of developing the power industry and focused on alternative energy sources. They did not pay enough attention to investing in the oil and gas sector. Some countries renounced the nuclear power industry.
So, the result was the reverse of what they expected in energy, and prices started going up. Investments were not made in due time, and shortages began to appear. Now there are no shortages, but the lack of investment created this threat of high prices. The same applies to finance – I have talked about this many times.
These are widely-known things but they prefer not to talk about them because they are obvious blunders in the economic policy of the Western countries. In trying to counter the coronavirus pandemic, they started supporting both individuals and certain industries. We also did this but to a reasonable extent. They didn’t listen to reason. They printed enormous amounts of money and started shoveling food out of the world market, putting the poorest countries in a very difficult position.
With the onset of the special military operation, they decided to blame Russia for everything, for their own blunders. We had nothing to do with this problem. And, of course, by using sanctions as an instrument of pressure, an instrument of competitive struggle, they aggravated the situation in global food and energy markets. It is not us that made the situation worse. They brought about these results by their actions.
Meanwhile, the so-called grain deal was justified by the desire to support the poorest countries. I have said many times that of all the food, primarily grain, exported from the territory of Ukraine, only a little more than 3 percent went to the poorest countries – a bit over 3 percent. Everything else went to a well-fed and prosperous Europe. But ironically, many European countries started turning down Ukrainian grain. They started discriminating against Ukrainian grain – not us.
As for the conditions under which we agreed to ensure the safe export of Ukrainian grain, yes, there were clauses in this agreement with the United Nations, according to which Russian interests had to be taken into account as well. This concerns logistics, insurance, the movement of money related to the payment for our products, and many other points. Nothing – I want to emphasise this – nothing was done at all. There was no give and take. Not a single clause related to what is in the interests of the Russian Federation has been fulfilled.
Despite this, we have extended this so-called deal many times of our own free will. Repeatedly. Well, listen: enough is enough, finally. We are now being told that we should once again agree to the extension, and they pledge to honour the promises made to us.
We will think about it – we have several days – we will think about what to do. But if they tell us that they will fulfil the promises they made to us, which, by the way, are guaranteed by the United Nations… And I know that the Secretary-General and the United Nations staff who are dealing with this problem are sincerely striving to fulfil the relevant conditions, including with regard to Russia – I have no doubt about that. But they are not succeeding because the Western countries are not going to keep their promises.
As one of the options: not first the extension and then the honouring of promises, but first the honouring of promises and then our participation. What do I mean? We can suspend our participation in this deal, and if everybody once again says that all the promises made to us will be fulfilled, let them fulfil them – and we will immediately join this deal. Again.
Question: Can you tell me, on a related note, whether reconnecting Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT is a possibility? That is one of the conditions.
Vladimir Putin: This is just empty talk. Although it is one of the conditions. There is also freight. SWIFT means money transfers, yes, it matters. There are also logistics, foreign ships calling at our ports, and so on.
Question: Does the UN letter contain some new…
Vladimir Putin: No, I have not seen this new letter, but we are in contact with United Nations officials. I repeat once again: they are sincerely striving to ensure that Western countries fulfil the commitments they have undertaken, but they are not succeeding so far. And they say to us, I repeat, extend the deal again. We can do this in a different way: we will extend the deal exactly at the moment when the promises made to us are fulfilled.
Question: The deal expires on July 18. How long are we prepared to wait for them to start making good?
Vladimir Putin: As long as it takes to fulfil the promises made to us.