print
memri
October 31, 2016 No.
6658

Putin At The Valdai Club: 'Does Anyone Seriously Imagine That Russia Can Somehow Influence The American People's Choice? America Is Not Some Kind Of 'Banana Republic'... Do Correct Me If I Am Wrong'

Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the final session of the Valdai International Discussion Club's 13th annual meeting in a session lasting three-and-a-half hours. This year's theme was: "The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow."  The final session was also attended by former President of Finland Tarja Halonen, former President of Austria Heinz Fischer, and former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. In his speech, Putin discussed the new world order. He stated that countries that viewed themselves "as victors" in the Cold War opted to reshape the global political and economic order to fit their own interests. "In their euphoria, they essentially abandoned substantive and equal dialogue with other actors in international life," Putin said. He then added: "If the powers that be today find some standard or norm to their advantage, they force everyone else to comply."

Discussing NATO, Putin described the organization, established during the Cold War, as "clearly out of date." He accused NATO of churning out "imaginary and mythical threats such as the Russian military threat''. According to Putin, to talk about the "Russian military threat" is a "profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defense budgets at home, get allies to bend to a single superpower's interests, expand NATO and bring its infrastructure, military units and arms closer to our borders."

Concerning US-Russia relations, Putin described as 'hysteria" the US" accusations that Russia is meddling in the American presidential elections. Putin said: "You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth." He then added: "I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people's choice? America is not some kind of 'banana republic', after all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong."

During the Q&As, Putin also discussed the US elections, saying that the media have created the view that Russia favors Republican candidate Donald Trump. "I think that this idea, inserted into the public consciousness in the middle of the US presidential campaign, pursues the sole aim of supporting those defending the interests of Ms. Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, in her fight against... Trump," Putin stated. He then added: "How is this done? First, they create an enemy in the form of Russia, and then they say that Trump is our preferred candidate. This is complete nonsense and totally absurd. It's only a tactic in the domestic political struggle, a way of manipulating public opinion before the elections take place."

With regard to nuclear weapons, Putin said that nuclear weapons are "a deterrent and a factor of ensuring peace and security worldwide." He stated it is impossible to consider nuclear weapons as a factor in any potential aggression. "It would probably mean the end of our civilization," he added. However, Putin stated that Russia and the US escalated the arms race in this area, since the United States withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002.

Below are excerpts from Putin's speech at the Valdai International Discussion' annual meeting:[1]

 
Putin at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. (Kremlin.ru, October 27, 2016)

'Countries That Saw Themselves As Victors In The Cold War... Took The Course Of... Reshaping The Global Political And Economic Order To Fit Their Own Interests'

"... Our esteemed moderator [Timothy Colton] just wished me a good departure into retirement, and I wish myself the same when the time comes. This is the right approach and the thing to do. But I am not retired yet and am for now the leader of this big country. As such, it is fitting to show restraint and avoid displays of excessive aggressiveness. I do not think that this is my style in any case.

"But I do think that we should be frank with each other, particularly here in this gathering. I think we should hold candid, open discussions, otherwise our dialogue makes no sense and would be insipid and without the slightest interest... Last year, the Valdai forum participants discussed the problems with the current world order. Unfortunately, little has changed for the better over these last months. Indeed, it would be more honest to say that nothing has changed.

"The tensions engendered by shifts in distribution of economic and political influence continue to grow. Mutual distrust creates a burden that narrows our possibilities for finding effective responses to the real threats and challenges facing the world today. Essentially, the entire globalization project is in crisis today and in Europe, as we know well, we hear voices now saying that multiculturalism has failed.

"I think this situation is in many respects the result of mistaken, hasty and to some extent over-confident choices made by some countries' elites a quarter-of-a-century ago. Back then, in the late 1980s-early 1990s, there was a chance not just to accelerate the globalization process but also to give it a different quality and make it more harmonious and sustainable in nature.

"But some countries that saw themselves as victors in the Cold War, not just saw themselves this way but said it openly, took the course of simply reshaping the global political and economic order to fit their own interests.

"In their euphoria, they essentially abandoned substantive and equal dialogue with other actors in international life, chose not to improve or create universal institutions, and attempted instead to bring the entire world under the spread of their own organizations, norms and rules. They chose the road of globalization and security for their own beloved selves, for the select few, and not for all. But far from everyone was ready to agree with this.

"We may as well be frank here, as we know full well that many did not agree with what was happening, but some were unable by then to respond, and others were not yet ready to respond. The result though is that the system of international relations is in a feverish state and the global economy cannot extricate itself from systemic crisis. At the same time, rules and principles, in the economy and in politics, are constantly being distorted and we often see what only yesterday was taken as a truth and raised to dogma status reversed completely.

"If the powers that be today find some standard or norm to their advantage, they force everyone else to comply. But if tomorrow these same standards get in their way, they are swift to throw them in the bin, declare them obsolete, and set or try to set new rules.

"Thus, we saw the decisions to launch airstrikes in the center of Europe, against Belgrade, and then came Iraq, and then Libya. The operations in Afghanistan also started without the corresponding decision from the United Nations Security Council. In their desire to shift the strategic balance in their favor these countries broke apart the international legal framework that prohibited deployment of new missile defense systems. They created and armed terrorist groups, whose cruel actions have sent millions of civilians into flight, made millions of displaced persons and immigrants, and plunged entire regions into chaos.

'It Can Be A... Profitable Task To Portray Oneself As The Defender Of Civilization Against The New Barbarians. The Only Thing Is That Russia Has No Intention Of Attacking Anyone'

"We see how free trade is being sacrificed and countries use sanctions as a means of political pressure, bypass the World Trade Organization and attempt to establish closed economic alliances with strict rules and barriers, in which the main beneficiaries are their own transnational corporations. And we know this is happening. They see that they cannot resolve all of the problems within the WTO framework and so think, why not throw the rules and the organization itself aside and build a new one instead. This illustrates what I just said.

"At the same time, some of our partners demonstrate no desire to resolve the real international problems in the world today. In organizations such as NATO, for example, established during the Cold War and clearly out of date today, despite all the talk about the need to adapt to the new reality, no real adaptation takes place. We see constant attempts to turn the OSCE, a crucial mechanism for ensuring common European and also trans-Atlantic security, into an instrument in the service of someone's foreign policy interests. The result is that this very important organization has been hollowed out.

"But they continue to churn out threats, imaginary and mythical threats such as the 'Russian military threat'. This is a profitable business that can be used to pump new money into defense budgets at home, get allies to bend to a single superpower's interests, expand NATO and bring its infrastructure, military units and arms closer to our borders.

"Of course, it can be a pleasing and even profitable task to portray oneself as the defender of civilization against the new barbarians. The only thing is that Russia has no intention of attacking anyone. This is all quite absurd. I also read analytical materials, those written by you here today, and by your colleagues in the USA and Europe.

"It is unthinkable, foolish and completely unrealistic. Europe alone has 300 million people. All of the NATO members together with the USA have a total population of 600 million, probably. But Russia has only 146 million. It is simply absurd to even conceive such thoughts. And yet they use these ideas in pursuit of their political aims.

"Another mythical and imaginary problem is what I can only call the hysteria the USA has whipped up over supposed Russian meddling in the American presidential election. The United States has plenty of genuinely urgent problems, it would seem, from the colossal public debt to the increase in firearms violence and cases of arbitrary action by the police.

"You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.

"I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people's choice? America is not some kind of 'banana republic', after all, but is a great power. Do correct me if I am wrong.

'I Would Like To Have Such A Propaganda Machine Here In Russia... We Have Not Even Global Mass Media Outlets Of The Likes Of CNN, BBC And Others'

"The question is, if things continue in this vein, what awaits the world? What kind of world will we have tomorrow? Do we have answers to the questions of how to ensure stability, security and sustainable economic growth? Do we know how we will make a more prosperous world?

"Sad as it is to say, there is no consensus on these issues in the world today. Maybe you have come to some common conclusions through your discussions, and I would, of course, be interested to hear them. But it is very clear that there is a lack of strategy and ideas for the future. This creates a climate of uncertainty that has a direct impact on the public mood.

"Sociological studies conducted around the world show that people in different countries and on different continents tend to see the future as murky and bleak. This is sad. The future does not entice them, but frightens them. At the same time, people see no real opportunities or means for changing anything, influencing events and shaping policy.

"Yes, formally speaking, modern countries have all the attributes of democracy: Elections, freedom of speech, access to information, freedom of expression. But even in the most advanced democracies the majority of citizens have no real influence on the political process and no direct and real influence on power.

"People sense an ever-growing gap between their interests and the elite's vision of the only correct course, a course the elite itself chooses. The result is that referendums and elections increasingly often create surprises for the authorities. People do not at all vote as the official and respectable media outlets advised them to, nor as the mainstream parties advised them to. Public movements that only recently were too far left or too far right are taking center stage and pushing the political heavyweights aside.

"At first, these inconvenient results were hastily declared anomaly or chance. But when they became more frequent, people started saying that society does not understand those at the summit of power and has not yet matured sufficiently to be able to assess the authorities' labor for the public good. Or they sink into hysteria and declare it the result of foreign, usually Russian, propaganda.

"Friends and colleagues, I would like to have such a propaganda machine here in Russia, but regrettably, this is not the case. We have not even global mass media outlets of the likes of CNN, BBC and others. We simply do not have this kind of capability yet.

"As for the claim that the fringe and populists have defeated the sensible, sober and responsible minority - we are not talking about populists or anything like that but about ordinary people, ordinary citizens who are losing trust in the ruling class. That is the problem.

"By the way, with the political agenda already eviscerated as it is, and with elections ceasing to be an instrument for change but consisting instead of nothing but scandals and digging up dirt - who gave someone a pinch, who sleeps with whom, if you'll excuse me. This just goes beyond all boundaries. And honestly, a look at various candidates' platforms gives the impression that they were made from the same mould - the difference is slight, if there is any.

"It seems as if the elites do not see the deepening stratification in society and the erosion of the middle class, while at the same time, they implant ideological ideas that, in my opinion, are destructive to cultural and national identity. And in certain cases, in some countries they subvert national interests and renounce sovereignty in exchange for the favor of the suzerain.

"This begs the question: who is actually the fringe? The expanding class of the supranational oligarchy and bureaucracy, which is in fact often not elected and not controlled by society, or the majority of citizens, who want simple and plain things - stability, free development of their countries, prospects for their lives and the lives of their children, preserving their cultural identity, and, finally, basic security for themselves and their loved ones.

'My Personal Agreements With The President Of The United States Have Not Produced Results'

"People are clearly scared to see how terrorism is evolving from a distant threat to an everyday one, how a terrorist attack could occur right near them, on the next street, if not on their own street, while any makeshift item - from a home-made explosive to an ordinary truck - can be used to carry out a mass killing.

"Moreover, the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the past few years in Boston and other US cities, Paris, Brussels, Nice and German cities, as well as, sadly, in our own country, show that terrorists do not need units or organized structures - they can act independently, on their own, they just need the ideological motivation against their enemies, that is, against you and us.

"The terrorist threat is a clear example of how people fail to adequately evaluate the nature and causes of the growing threats. We see this in the way events in Syria are developing. No one has succeeded in stopping the bloodshed and launching a political settlement process. One would think that we would have begun to put together a common front against terrorism now, after such lengthy negotiations, enormous effort and difficult compromises.

"But this has not happened and this common front has not emerged. My personal agreements with the President of the United States have not produced results either. There were people in Washington ready to do everything possible to prevent these agreements from being implemented in practice. This all demonstrates an unexplainable and I would say irrational desire on the part of the Western countries to keep making the same mistakes or, as we say here in Russia, keep stepping on the same rake.

"We all see what is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and a number of other countries. I have to ask, where are the results of the fight against terrorism and extremism? Overall, looking at the world as a whole, there are some results in particular regions and locations, but there is no global result and the terrorist threat continues to grow.

"We all remember the euphoria in some capitals over the Arab Spring. Where are these fanfares today? Russia's calls for a joint fight against terrorism go ignored. What's more, they continue to arm, supply and train terrorist groups in the hope of using them to achieve their own political aims. This is a very dangerous game and I address the players once again: The extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose.

"Colleagues, it is clear that the international community should concentrate on the real problems facing humanity today, the resolution of which will make our world a safer and more stable place and make the system of international relations fairer and more equal. As I said, it is essential to transform globalization from something for a select few into something for all. It is my firm belief that we can overcome these threats and challenges only by working together on the solid foundation of international law and the United Nations Charter.

"Today it is the United Nations that continues to remain an agency that is unparalleled in representativeness and universality, a unique venue for equitable dialogue. Its universal rules are necessary for including as many countries as possible in economic and humanitarian integration, guaranteeing their political responsibility and working to coordinate their actions while also preserving their sovereignty and development models.

"We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at the national and international levels. There are many countries that can rely on a history stretching back a thousand years, like Russia, and we have come to appreciate our identity, freedom and independence. But we do not seek global domination, expansion or confrontation with anyone.

"In our mind, real leadership lies in seeing real problems rather than attempting to invent mythical threats and use them to steamroll others. This is exactly how Russia understands its role in global affairs today.

"There are priorities without which a prosperous future for our shared planet is unthinkable and they are absolutely obvious. I won't be saying anything new here. First of all, there is equal and indivisible security for all states. Only after ending armed conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries will we be able to talk about economic progress and the resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems. It is important to fight terrorism and extremism in actuality. It has been said more than once that this evil can only be overcome by a concerted effort of all states of the world. Russia continues to offer this to all interested partners.

"It is necessary to add to the international agenda the issue of restoring the Middle Eastern countries' lasting statehood, economy and social sphere. The mammoth scale of destruction demands drawing up a long-term comprehensive program, a kind of Marshall Plan, to revive the war- and conflict-ridden area. Russia is certainly willing to join actively in these team efforts...

"Russia advocates the harmonisation of regional economic formats based on the principles of transparency and respect for each other's interests. That is how we arrange the work of the Eurasian Economic Union and conduct negotiations with our partners, particularly on coordination with the Silk Road Economic Belt project, which China is implementing. We expect it to promote an extensive Eurasian partnership, which promises to evolve into one of the formative centers of a vast Eurasian integration area. To implement this idea, 5+1 talks have begun already for an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between all participants in the process..."

Q&As - Putin: 'Were There Terrorists In Iraq? There Were No Terrorists There Until The Country's State Structures Were Destroyed'

Vladimir Putin: "It was either [former President of Finland] Tarja, or [former President of Austria] Heinz, who said that the operations in Aleppo are only increasing the number of terrorists. But did the terrorist ranks start swelling only with Aleppo? Were there terrorists in Iraq? There were no terrorists there until the country's state structures were destroyed. The same was true of Libya, where there were no terrorists at all. But as soon as this country's statehood was destroyed, who came along to fill the vacuum? Terrorists. The same is happening in Syria.

"I understand the insinuations made about our action in Aleppo or elsewhere. But let's remember that as soon as the conflict began in Syria, and it began long before we became involved, terrorists appeared there and began receiving arms supplies. I mentioned this in my opening remarks. Attempts were made to train these terrorists and set them against al-Assad, because there were no other options and these groups were the most effective. This continues today because these are the most effective fighting units and some think that it is possible to make use of them and then sort them out later. But this is an illusion. It won't work, and this is the problem...

"Bells are tolling for those who have been killed in Aleppo. Bells should also be tolling for those now losing their lives in Mosul and its vicinity. The operation in Mosul is getting underway now. As far as I know, the terrorists have already shot more than 200 people in the hope of stopping the offensive on the town. Let's not forget this. And in Afghanistan? Whole wedding parties of 120 people were wiped out with a single airstrike. A single strike! Have we forgotten this? And what about what's happening in Yemen? Let the bells toll for all of these innocent victims. I agree with you here.

"We keep hearing Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. But what is the issue here? Do we leave the nest of terrorists in place there, or do we squeeze them out, doing our best to minimize and avoid civilian casualties? If it is better to not go in at all, then the offensive against Mosul shouldn't go ahead at all either. Let's just leave everything as it is. Let's leave Raqqa alone too. Our partners keep saying, "We need to take back Raqqa and eliminate the nest of terrorists there". But there are civilians in Raqqa too. So, should we not fight the terrorists at all? And when they take hostages in towns, should we just leave them be? Look at Israel's example. Israel never steps back but always fights to the end, and this is how it survives. There is no alternative. We need to fight. If we keep retreating, we will always lose..."

Putin: 'First, They Create An Enemy In The Form Of Russia, And Then They Say That Trump Is Our Preferred Candidate'

Andrei Sushentsov: "Andrei Sushentsov, MGIMO University, member of the Valdai Club.

The foreign media takes the view that Russia has a distinct favorite in the US presidential elections - Donald Trump. What role will the next American president really play for Russia and for bilateral relations? What conditions would US foreign policy need to meet for a normalization of relations with Russia?"

Vladimir Putin: "On the question of favorites in the US presidential campaign, you said that the media have created this view. Yes, this is the case, and this is not by chance. In my observation, it is a rare occasion that the mass media forms a view purely by chance. I think that this idea, inserted into the public consciousness in the middle of the US presidential campaign, pursues the sole aim of supporting those defending the interests of Ms. Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, in her fight against the Republican Party candidate, in this case, Donald Trump.

"How is this done? First, they create an enemy in the form of Russia, and then they say that Trump is our preferred candidate. This is complete nonsense and totally absurd. It's only a tactic in the domestic political struggle, a way of manipulating public opinion before the elections take place. As I have said many times before, we do not know exactly what to expect from either of the candidates once they win.

"We do not know what Mr. Trump would do if he wins, and we do not know what Ms. Clinton would do, what would go ahead or not go ahead. Overall then, it does not really matter to us who wins. Of course, we can only welcome public words about a willingness to normalize relations between our two countries. In this sense, yes, we welcome such statements, no matter who makes them. That is all I can say, really.

"As for Mr. Trump, he has chosen his method of reaching voters' hearts. Yes, he behaves extravagantly, of course, we all see this. But I think there is some sense in his actions. I say this because in my view, he represents the interests of the sizeable part of American society that is tired of the elites that have been in power for decades now. He is simply representing these ordinary people's interests.

"He portrays himself as an ordinary guy who criticizes those who have been in power for decades and does not like to see power handed down by inheritance, for example. We read the analysis too, including American analysis. Some of the experts there have written openly about this. He operates in this niche. The elections will soon show whether this is an effective strategy or not. As for me, I cannot but repeat what I have said already: we will work with whichever president the American people choose and who wants to work with us."

Putin: 'We Passed Information On The Tsarnayev Brothers On To Our American Partners... But Received No Response'

Question: "... You mentioned recently the case of the Tsarnayev brothers. As far as I know, Russia passed on information but no action was taken. Does this mean that practical cooperation in security is now in a critical situation?"

Vladimir Putin: "I spoke about this matter at a meeting with French journalists, if I recall correctly. Yes, we passed information on the Tsarnayev brothers on to our American partners. We wrote to them but received no response. After we wrote a second time we got a reply that they are US citizens and so it was none of our business and they would take care of everything themselves. I told the director of the FSB to archive the file. The response we received is still there, in the archives.

"Sadly, a few months later, the Boston marathon terrorist attack took place and people were killed. It is a great shame that this tragedy took place. If contacts and trust between us and our partners had been better this could have been avoided. The Americans came here immediately following the attack and we gave them the information in our possession. But it was too late. People had already lost their lives. This partly answers the last question too. We do not know if those who say they want to work with us really will or not, but they do say quite rightly that this is essential for all of us, especially in the fight against terrorism. In this sense, we welcome all who declare such intentions.

"As I have also said in the past, the Americans have provided us with real help, during the preparations for the Olympic Games in Sochi, for example, and we are grateful to them for this. Our cooperation was very efficient here, on site and at the level of our intelligence service heads. There have been other good examples of cooperation too. Overall, we have quite a good situation in this area with our European partners. We have open and professional contacts with the French intelligence services, for example, and exchange information. In general, the situation is not bad, but it could be a lot better."

Putin: 'As Far As The [Normandy] Format Goes And Whether It Is Useful Or Not, We Simply Have No Alternative'

Question: "... Mr. Putin, after quite a long hiatus, there was a Normandy format meeting in Berlin just recently. The different parties diverged somewhat in their interpretation of the talks' results. I would like to hear your assessment of these results and of the atmosphere at the talks. Also, do you think the Normandy format is effective in its present form, and do you think it might be more productive if, for example, the United States were to take part? Thank you."

Vladimir Putin: "Could you clarify something? What do you mean by different interpretations of the meeting's results? What are you talking about? Oddly enough, I have not heard of any different interpretations. What are they?'

Question: "There was discussion about sending a policing mission to Donbass, and also emphasis on the roadmap that we saw in Russia, for example, in the media and in political debate. I think this was really a case of diverging interpretations of the results."

Vladimir Putin: "This is no secret. I can tell you how it was. I might leave something out, so as not to put anyone in a difficult position or interfere with the process itself."As you know, the Minsk agreements, which I think the experts have all read, say in black and white: 'Thirty days after the signing of the Minsk agreements Ukraine's Rada [the unicameral parliament of Ukraine] must adopt a resolution outlining the geographical boundaries of areas where the law on the special status of these unrecognized republics would become effective immediately.' Because the only thing needed for it to work was the description of those geographical boundaries.

"That had to be established, not by law, but by a parliamentary resolution, and the resolution was finally adopted, even if past the deadline. So one would think that this law was to take effect immediately. It was passed, I would like to remind you, by the Parliament of Ukraine. The lawmakers voted for it, and it was coordinated with the unrecognized republics, which is very important, and in this sense, in my view, makes it viable legislation and a key element of a political settlement.

"But after passing this resolution, Ukraine and its Parliament adopted an amendment, a paragraph to Article 9 or 10, which said the law would take effect only after municipal elections in these areas. That once again postponed the law's enforcement. I repeat, in our opinion, that law is absolutely key to a political resolution to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine. Moreover, that was done without even consulting anyone, least of all the unrecognized republics.

"We discussed this very actively a year ago in Paris. I insisted that this be done then and done immediately, as it was part of the Minsk Agreements and is, in our view, a key component. But the Ukrainian president said that this was not possible and everything ended up in a dead end. In this situation, everything could have ended then and there a year ago in Paris, but Mr. Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, suddenly proposed a compromise.

"He suggested that we agree to have the law come into force on the day of the local elections in these regions, temporarily, and have it come into force permanently after the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights recognizes the elections as having taken place in accordance with OSCE rules. This was not at all what was set out in the Minsk Agreements, but in order to get us out of the deadlock we were in, I expressed my agreement and said we would settle the matter with Donetsk and Lugansk, which we did.

"But then in Berlin, the Ukrainian president suddenly also attempted to change this proposal, already the result of a compromise. He went even further, essentially renouncing the law's implementation whatever the case. We thus found ourselves back in the same crisis we had in Paris a year before. But I want to note the Federal Chancellor's role here. She found arguments to persuade everyone present that we could and should keep to the agreement we reached and said that it was not possible to change what we'd already agreed on a year later, or we would never reach an agreement. But we agreed to bundle the nuances and details of how it would be implemented together with the concept you spoke about, and which still has to be worked through.

"That is it, really. But in principle, a lot was accomplished in terms of ensuring security. We reached agreement on nearly every point. We made very little progress on humanitarian matters. These regions remain tightly blockaded and are in a very difficult situation. But the so-called civilized world prefers not to notice this. I do not want to get into debate on this matter now. As far as the [Normandy] format goes and whether it is useful or not, we simply have no alternative.

"Yes, the discussions proceed with difficulty, and this is not very effective, I agree, but we have no other option, and if we want to make progress, we have to continue working in this format. As for the question of getting any other actors involved, our position is that we are not opposed to the idea of others taking part, including our American partners. But we have reached an agreement with all participants in the process that we will work in parallel with our American colleagues. My aide and [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria] Nuland have regular meetings, discuss these issues and look for compromise. This is not being done in secret though, of course. All participants in the Normandy format meetings are informed and we take into account our American partners' position too, of course."

Putin: 'The US Withdrew From The Missile Defense Treaty, But We Did Not Withdraw From The Plutonium Agreement, We Suspended It'

Question: "This question is for President Putin. I'm Angela Stent; I'm a professor at Georgetown University in Washington. Mr. President, Russia recently withdrew from an agreement with the United States to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, but at the same time, the Russian Government said that it would consider re-joining the agreement if three conditions were met: firstly, that NATO troops should withdraw to the level that they were before 2000 in Europe; secondly, the Magnitsky Act should be repealed; and thirdly, that the sanctions imposed on Russia after the beginning of the Ukraine crisis should be lifted, and Russia should be paid compensation for them. So my question is: we will have a new President on January 20, I'm optimistic about that. Are we to understand, in the United States, that these three conditions would form the basis of an initial negotiating position on the Russian part with the American president, when she re-establishes high-level relations with the Kremlin? Thank you."

Vladimir Putin: "One can tell straight away that you are an academic and not a diplomat. If you ask the diplomats, they will tell you about the concept of 'starting position'. As for our decision on the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, we did not withdraw from it. The United States withdrew from the missile defense treaty, but we did not withdraw from the plutonium agreement, we suspended it. Why did we do this? What were this agreement's provisions? Under its terms, both countries were to build facilities for disposing of the surplus weapons-grade plutonium that had accumulated in both Russia and the USA.

"Not only did the USA not meet its obligations under the agreement, but said that it would not do so because of financial difficulties. As if Russia does not have financial difficulties of its own, but we built our facility and are disposing of this plutonium using industrial methods. Without any prior coordination with us, the United States made a unilateral announcement that they would not dilute this weapons-grade plutonium but would store it in some beds and so forth.

"This means that they retain what the experts call return potential, in other words, the plutonium could be returned and re-enriched at any moment. But we are eliminating our plutonium using industrial methods. We built our facility and spent money on it. Are we wealthier than the United States? There are many issues it has become difficult to discuss with the current administration because practically no obligations are met and no agreements are respected, including those on Syria. Perhaps we will be able to come back to this. We are ready, in any case, to talk with the new president and look for solutions to any, even the most difficult, issues."

Putin: 'Russians And Ukrainians Are Really One People'

Question: "In September 2014, at the Valdai Club, you described the relations between Ukraine and Russia with the following sentence: 'Two countries, one people'. Today, how would you describe the relations between the two countries? Thank you very much."

Vladimir Putin: "I will not go into who is to blame for what now. I have always considered, and still do today, that Russians and Ukrainians are really one people. There are people who hold radical nationalist views both in Russia and in Ukraine. But overall, for the majority, we are one people, a people who share a common history and culture and are ethnically close. First we were divided, then we were set against each other, but we are not to blame for this. We must find our own way out of this situation. I am sure that common sense will prevail and that we will find a solution."

Putin: 'Instead Of Separating The Jabhat Al-Nusra Terrorists From The Healthy Opposition, Our American Partners Broke The Ceasefire Themselves'

Question: "...We have heard reports, I do not know how accurate they are, that you discussed a ceasefire in Syria at your meeting with Mr. Obama in September. I do not know how accurate this information is, but it seems a 7-day ceasefire was proposed. You expressed doubts and said that it would not be possible to separate the radicals from the moderates in such a short time and that this task would likely prove impossible. You were given the answer then that if we failed in this task, you would have a free hand. Can you recall this conversation? It is very important for the history of what is taking place in Syria now."

Vladimir Putin: "Yes, I do not need to recall it because I never forgot it. It was a very important conversation. There was indeed talk on the lines that Russian and Syrian aircraft would cease their airstrikes against terrorist targets in Aleppo until the healthy opposition forces could be separated from the forces of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization recognized as such by the United Nations and included on the list of international terrorist organizations.

"In this respect, I note that it is no secret that our American partners promised to do this. First, they recognized the need to do this, and second, they recognized that part of Aleppo is occupied by terrorist organizations - ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. We can see this for ourselves from the news reports, where you see the banners of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in some parts of the city. They recognized that this needs to be done and assured us that they would do this.

"After this, we agreed that we would decide right there on the battlefield who the moderates were, and we would not touch them, and who the terrorists were, and we and our American partners would target the terrorists. They made repeated promises. These promises were made at the level of our defense ministers, foreign ministers, intelligence services, but unfortunately, this fell through each time and they did not keep their promises.

"The question was raised again during our meeting in China. Yes, my American partner, President Obama, did indeed propose separating these different forces once again. But he insisted that we must first declare a D-day, cease hostilities, stop the airstrikes, and then, within 7 days, they would take on the responsibility of separating the moderates from Jabhat al-Nusra. I will not go into detail her because I do not think I have the right to make these details public. After all, when we have talks like these, there are always some things we say in confidence. But the fact remains.

"Instead of separating the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists from the healthy opposition, our American partners broke the ceasefire themselves. I had originally insisted that they first separate the terrorists from the moderates and we would then end the airstrikes, but in the end, I decided to agree with the American proposal at the talks. "They were persistent and I decided to accept a compromise, said that we would go with their proposal, declare a ceasefire first and stop the airstrikes, giving them the seven days they asked for.

"The ceasefire was declared on September 12, I think, and on the 17th, American aircraft carried out a strike against Syrian troops, and this was followed by an ISIS offensive. We were told that the strike was a mistake and that the ISIS offensive was only a coincidence. Perhaps this is so, but the ceasefire was broken and we are not to blame for this.

"As for what the US President promised or didn't promise, you should ask him. I imagine that he will speak with our European partners about this when he goes to Europe. I think this should be done openly and honestly and not simply in an attempt to use this to influence our position on Syria.

"By the way, do you realize that Russian and Syrian aircraft have not been carrying out any operations around Aleppo for 9 days now. We gave them not 7 days, but already 9, soon to be 10 days. But where is the effort to separate the terrorists from the moderates? You have to realize that if we do not meet our obligations we will never succeed in this fight against terrorism.

"I realize that this is not an easy task and we are not looking to make any accusations, but we do have to try to keep our promises. In any case, it should not be we who end up accused of every possible sin. This is simply indecent. We have been showing restraint and do not respond to our partners with insolence, but there is a limit to everything and we might have to reply at some point."

Putin: 'The Plutonium Disposition Conditions, Which The US Has Violated, Are A Crucial Issue'

Question: "...Mr. President, the conditions you have placed on the plutonium disposition agreement actually sound aggressive. Meeting these conditions would mean essentially erasing all Russia's retreats since Mikhail Gorbachev's time. I am asking about the timeframe. When can these conditions be met, or, to put it differently, do you think you will still be President of Russia when these conditions are met?"

Vladimir Putin: "The conditions you referred to as aggressive have been set to paper in the form of a presidential executive order. It's a piece of paper. But the plutonium disposition conditions, which the United States has violated, are a crucial issue pertaining to international security and the management of nuclear materials. These are two different types of conditions. We have withdrawn from this agreement because the United States did not meet its obligations. As for conditions for negotiations on a wide range of issues, we can reach an agreement.

Putin: 'They Believe That The Power Of OSCE Observers Is Not In Weapons But In The Fact That They Represent A Respectable International Organization'

Question: "... Kiev and Moscow have different interpretations of the results of the Berlin meeting. Here is a brief summary of Kiev's interpretation: Poroshenko's main achievement at these talks is that he convinced the UN, and the other parties at the talks have convinced you to accept a policing mission. Moreover, Kiev understands policing as a group of armed people who will ensure security before the elections and for some time after them. According to official information from Moscow, that's not exactly how it is. Can you clarify this for us?

Vladimir Putin: "... President Poroshenko has advanced the initiative of a so-called policing mission for the duration of the possible future elections in Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk. I was the only one there who supported him. It is another matter that I do not describe this as a policing mission because the other parties in the process have objected to it. They objected not because they do not want to help Mr Poroshenko, but because the OSCE has never done anything like this before. It does not have the experience, the people or any practice in implementing policing missions."At this point, the other parties in the process have not supported the idea Mr. Poroshenko advanced, while I did. However, we do not describe this initiative as 'a policing mission' but as an opportunity for those responsible for the elections and security during the campaign to carry weapons. Those who objected to this initiative pointed out that it could provoke others to use weapons against the armed people.

"They believe that the power of OSCE observers is not in weapons but in the fact that they represent a respectable international organization, and the use of weapons against them when they are not armed is absolutely unacceptable and will be seen as the least acceptable behavior. This is their power, not their guns.

"On the other hand, if Mr. Poroshenko believes that this would help the cause, I agree with him. However, I was the only one to do so. The situation is strange; it is the only issue on which I agree with Mr. Poroshenko. I have spoken about this more than once; there is nothing new here. Ultimately, all parties have agreed that it can be done, but only after careful consideration, including at the OSCE. I think this has never happened before in OSCE history..."

Putin: 'Expectations Were High After The Soviet Union Switched To A Policy Of Openness'

Question: "Thank you. Just now, former President of Austria Mr Fischer said that the relationship between the EU and Russia is not as expected 25 years ago. It's unfortunate, and it's hard to be optimistic. So I want to ask you, Mr. President, from your point of view, why is this so? And were the expectations or the assumptions 25 years ago wrong, or did something go wrong along the way? And from a philosophical point of view, what do you think is the lesson to be learned for the next 25 years?"

Vladimir Putin: "What was done correctly and what was not? Expectations were high after the Soviet Union switched to a policy of openness, since ideological differences, which were considered the main cause of division between the Soviet Union and then Russia, and the Western world, have disappeared. Frankly, we, in the Soviet Union, under Gorbachev, and then in Russia, believed that a new life would begin for us. One of our experts rightly said that there are things that, as we found out, run even deeper than ideological differences, namely, national and geopolitical interests.

"Could we have done things differently? Yes, indeed. During our previous meeting in this room, I said that there was a German politician [of the SPD], Mr. [Johannes] Rau, a well-known figure from the Social Democratic Party of Germany, he is no longer with us, but he used to engage in lively discussions with Soviet leaders. Back then, he said (we have these conversations on record, but cannot get around to publishing them, which we need to do), that a new international security system should be built in Europe.

"In addition to NATO, he said, it is imperative to create another entity, which would include the Soviet Union and former Warsaw Pact countries, but with the participation of the United States in order to balance the system out. He went on to say that if we fail to do so, ultimately this entire system created during the Cold War would work against the Soviet Union. He said that it bothers him only because it would unbalance the entire system of international relations, and security in Europe would be jeopardized in a big way.

"What we have now is what this old gentleman warned us about in his own time. The people who worked on transforming the world, some of them did not want to change anything, as they believed that they already were riding high, while others did not have the political will to act on these absolutely correct ideas of this wise and experienced German politician.

"However, I hope that as the global alignment of forces in the world changes, political, diplomatic and regulatory support for these changes will follow. The world will be a more balanced and multipolar place."

Heinz Fischer: "I can also add that 25 years ago was the early '90s. And in the early '90s, the European Union had 12 members: Sweden, Finland and Austria joined only in '94 or '95. It was a sort of honeymoon time between Russia and Europe, in particular Russia and Germany, and Russia and other important European countries. It was the time before the economic crisis; growth rates were bigger. It was even the time before the introduction of the Euro; the Euro is very important, but the Euro is also accompanied with some problems, if you look at Greece or at Italy, etc. So these factors also have to be taken into consideration. Thank you."

Tarja Halonen: "I will also add that 25 years ago, Russia was different, and the European Union was different. Russia joined the Council of Europe after quite a long process, and I was myself also involved in that. So I think that one lesson that we could perhaps learn, also on the EU side, and from the Council of Europe side, is that this was a very good time to make an enlargement. But perhaps we should, to be fair, invest more in the enlargement process, not only before the enlargement, but also afterwards, and perhaps then the process could be easier today. But you know, sometimes things have to be hurried up, and you have not quite enough time. But we cannot take back the past, we have to try to build further on how it is now."

Putin: 'We Could Sell Gas To Ukraine For $180... But We Were Told That They Prefer Reverse Supplies, So Be It'

Question: "In the past few years we have often talked about Ukraine and the safety of Russian gas exports. Will Ukrainian flats be warm? Will Kiev pay for the gas? Are talks on gas exports to Ukraine underway? Was this discussed with Ukrainian President in Berlin?"

Vladimir Putin: "We are concerned about what is happening now with this very important energy component in Ukraine because in our opinion, in the opinion of our specialists - and they are no worse than Ukrainian experts because in Soviet times this was a single complex - we do realize what is going on there. To guarantee uninterrupted supplies to Europe, it is necessary to pump the required amount of gas into underground gas storage facilities. This gas is for transit, not for domestic consumption. This is the technological gist of what was done in Soviet times.

"The amount of gas in these facilities is too low. It's not enough. It is necessary to load from 17 to 21 billion and I think now only 14 billion have been loaded. Moreover, they have already started to syphon it off. These are grounds for concern. I discussed gas shipments to Ukraine with the Ukrainian President at his initiative. He wanted to know whether Russia could resume deliveries. Of course, it can do so anytime. Nothing is required for this.

"We have a contract with an annex. Only one thing is necessary and this is advance payment. We will provide timely and guaranteed energy supplies for Ukrainian consumers for the amount of this advance payment. But today the price for Ukraine - and we had agreed on this before and said so last year - will not be higher than the price for its neighbors, for instance, Poland.

"I do not know the current prices but when we had this conversation Poland was buying gas from us for $185 or $184 per thousand cubic meters in accordance with the contractual commitments that are still valid. We could sell gas to Ukraine for $180. I mentioned this price - $180 per thousand cubic meters of gas. But we were told that they prefer reverse supplies, so be it. By the way, this is a violation of Gazprom's contracts with its partners in Western Europe but we are turning a blind eye to this and showing understanding.

"If they prefer reverse supplies, okay, let them get that, but as far as I know the cost of gas for end users - industrial enterprises - has already topped $300 per thousand cubic meters. We sell gas for $180 but they do not want to buy it from us yet.

"I have reason to believe that the middlemen in these reverse deals are close to certain executives in Ukraine's fuel and energy complex. Good luck to them; let them do this but, most importantly, they must guarantee transit to European countries."

Renowned Russian Intellectual Lukyanov To Putin: 'Are You Pleased To Feel The Most Dangerous And The Most Powerful Man In The World?'

Fyodor Lukyanov: "Fyodor Lukyanov, the Valdai Club. Mr. President, as a follow-up to the issue that you raised in your remarks and that was picked up later. We all read newspapers, leading international magazines, and we see their front covers, which can also be very nice, and maybe you also see some of them. Are you pleased to feel as the most dangerous and the most powerful man in the world? After all, this is a very high compliment."

Vladimir Putin: "You know, I am pleased of course to be talking to you today. I like this - I will not deny it. However, I consider it far more important that the Russian parliament passes the Russian budget in order to ensure its impact on the resolution of the most important issues facing the country. Namely, ensuring sustained growth rates, which is crucial for our economy, and resolving social problems. We have lots of them. Fortunately, we manage to control inflation, which as I hope and as experts say, will be under six percent this year. I hope that our budget deficit will not exceed the set targets: about three percent.

"As you know, capital flight has fallen significantly, drastically. There are various reasons for that, but this outflow has declined. We have a lot of unresolved problems in the country. The resolution of these problems, above all in the economic and social spheres, is crucial for internal political stability and Russia's weight in the world. This is what is on my mind - not some mythical might."

Putin: 'The Main Thing Is How We Managed To Bring Russian Society And The Russian Nation Together'

Yuri Slezkine: "Yuri Slezkine, a professor of Russian history at UC Berkeley. What do you think about the issues that will be covered in future Russian history textbooks in the chapter about the Putin era? These textbooks are being written now, and some people are already composing these chapters. Some describe you as the builder of the Russian state, a reformer and consolidator, and compare you to Catherine, Peter the Great and other historical figures.

"Others see you as a conservative and guardian. Some divide your leadership into two periods, the period of building and strengthening the Russian state, and the period of reaction. These people compare you to Stalin and Ivan the Terrible. How do you see this chapter in a future history textbook?

"And I would also like to ask one more question that is connected with my first question. What and who will be the main subjects in the chapter that will come after the one on the Putin era? Two days ago, [speaker of the State Duma] Vyasheslav Volodin repeated a statement he made two years ago, that there is no Russia without Putin. I believe this highlights the importance of a key aspect for any political system - the mechanism of succession of power, which seldom worked predictably and without a hitch in Russian history. What should be done so that the next chapter is not titled The Time of Trouble?"

Vladimir Putin: "I certainly do not resemble Catherine the Great, at least for reasons of gender. As for the main thing that future students of Russian history would like to know, the main thing is how we managed to bring Russian society and the Russian nation together, to unite everyone towards achieving the national goal. I would like to remind everyone that Soviet historical science said that despite the importance of the individual, it is the people, the citizens who are the real creators of the country.

"As for your question on who or what will be the main subject of the next chapter, the people themselves will answer that when they elect the next leader and work together with the new government."

Putin: 'What We Ultimately Go Was A Clear Imbalance: The United States Has Kept Its Medium-Range Missiles'

Question: Good afternoon, I represent the Washington office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I have three concrete, non-philosophical questions.

Vladimir Putin: Are you a spy?

Remark: No. (Laughter)

Vladimir Putin: Then who are you?

Remark: A researcher.

Vladimir Putin: There is nothing wrong with that. Fine, later I will tell you a story about a prominent and well-known US political figure whom I greatly respect and love. We once had an interesting conversation on this subject.

Please excuse me.

Question: I have a question about the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, which is under a lot of pressure today as I am sure you are aware; there are lots of bitter mutual recriminations, and so on. In this regard, it is important to understand Russia's general approach to this treaty. Does Russia see any value in this treaty, and if yes, then what exactly? Is it even worthwhile to be part of this treaty?

Vladimir Putin: "It would be of great value to us, if other countries followed Russia and the United States. Here's what we have: the naive former Russian leadership went ahead and eliminated intermediate-range land-based missiles. The Americans eliminated their Pershing missiles, while we scrapped the SS-20 missiles. There was a tragic event associated with this when the chief designer of these systems committed suicide believing that it was a betrayal of national interests and unilateral disarmament.

"Why unilateral? Because under that treaty we eliminated our ground complex, but the treaty did not include medium-range sea- and air-based missiles. Air- and sea-based missiles were not affected by it. The Soviet Union simply did not have them, while the United States kept them in service.

"What we ultimately got was a clear imbalance: the United States has kept its medium-range missiles. It does not matter whether they are based at sea, in the air, or on land; however, the Soviet Union was simply left without this type of weapons. Almost all of our neighbors make such weapons, including the countries to the east of our borders, and Middle Eastern countries as well, whereas none of the countries sharing borders with the United States, neither Canada nor Mexico, manufacture such weapons. So, for us it is a special test, but nevertheless we believe it is necessary to honor this treaty. All the more so since, as you may be aware, we now also have medium-range sea- and air-based missiles."

Putin: 'Representatives Of The Donetsk And Lugansk People's Republics Signed The Minsk Agreements... And Now Nobody Wants To Talk To Them. This Is Illogical And Counterproductive'

Member of the committee of the State Duma for the CIS and relations with Russian nationals abroad, Konstantin Zatulin: "... We have come to the Middle East, including Syria, to help deal with the issue of terrorism, which is a delicate matter for the West. However, now we can see double standards regarding the operations in Aleppo and Mosul.

"My question is, would we have won WWII if our allies said about our actions on the Soviet-German front that we were not fighting correctly, and we accused them of not fighting correctly in the Pacific? This is a question about double standards, and it concerns not only Aleppo and Mosul. They are telling us that we must always take the opinion of the opposition into account in Syria, that the opposition is respected and invited to attend talks in Lausanne and Geneva.

"Regarding the talks on Ukraine, we are negotiating within the Normandy format, which implies four parties, but officially, the Donetsk and Lugansk republics are not represented at these talks. They are self-proclaimed republics, but they are parties to the conflict. Why are they not recognized as such? This is happening with regard to Transnistria, and this also happened in Abkhazia, Ossetia and so forth. Can and should we work to change this?"

Vladimir Putin: "This is not a question but a statement of grim fact, which is evidence of the violation of accepted principles of conflict resolution, according to which the parties to the conflict must directly participate in formulating solutions. And second, this is a violation of the Minsk Agreements, which provide for a direct dialogue. Representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics signed the Minsk Agreements. They did this at the request of our Ukrainian partners. They have signed the document, and now nobody wants to talk to them. This is illogical and counterproductive. This is all I wanted to say..

Putin: 'If The Cost Of Reducing Geopolitical Tension Is Our Funeral, Then That Is Not An Option To Anyone'

Oksana Antonenko: "I am from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mr. President, if I may, I would like to make a brief remark and then ask a question. Here is my remark. In response to Fyodor Lukyanov's question you said that what happens in Russia - the adoption of the budget and reforms - is more important to you than foreign policy. So my remark concerns precisely this: What is happening in Russia.

"Together with the World Bank, every five years, we conduct surveys in all transition economies - countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and now also in Turkey and the Middle East. The latest survey has just been completed, and it included, among others, a question about people's perception of their situation.

"There are some very interesting data on Russia. Thirty percent of people in the lowest income brackets in Russia: their attitude to things that affect their lives over the past five years has not deteriorated - on the contrary, it has somewhat improved. This despite inflation, falling living standards and everything that has happened over the past three years. On the other hand, 30 percent of people with the highest incomes have shown a decline of almost 30 percent. This is the highest among all transition economies. Interesting data.

"You have not yet said whether you are going to run in 2018, but if you are, how are you going to prove to this category of people that you meet their interests? And is it not your impression that they need, first, what [Chief Executive of the Center for Strategic Research and Russia's former finance minister] Alexei Kudrin has described as a reduction in geopolitical tension; second, the implementation of reforms; and third, fight against corruption."

Vladimir Putin: We all need a reduction in geopolitical tensions but not by burying ourselves alive. "If the cost of reducing geopolitical tension is our funeral, then that is not an option to anyone here, including those who doubt the effectiveness of the present authorities or who would like to see serious change. There are plenty of such people in the country.

"As for what you said about the majority still being satisfied with their situation, I believe this has to do with the fact that unemployment is minimal: less than six percent. Whereas in some EU countries it is over 25 percent or more, we have on average less than six. We have our own problems, especially in the Caucasus: there is an employment problem there. This is my first point.

"Secondly, we are committed to meeting our social obligations and people see this. On the one hand, they see that there are problems and on the other hand, the state is doing all it can to protect their interests. We follow a very balanced social policy and at the same time ensure macroeconomic stability. This is the basis for such an active stratum, active class, especially the entrepreneurial community, to hope that the situation will improve.

We were talking, and you spoke about geopolitical tensions. But are we interested in them? One cannot make us do what they want us to do exclusively - and I'd like to emphasize this - exclusively at the expense of our national interests. This is the bottom line. There is no dialogue, this is the problem. They formulate a position, announce that it is correct and all discussion boils down to how quickly we accept this position. That's it. But is it possible to work like that? This is the case almost on any issue. And if they promise something and do not do it, they pretend they did not notice and keep going.

"You represent a very respectable financial institution and we have a good record of relations. Why did you follow in the wake of politicians and curtail your projects in Russia? This is a question to you. After all, the institute was established not to escalate geopolitical tension but, on the contrary, to alleviate it. But even such institutes are being used for other purposes. This is sad but it was not our idea.

"As for restrictions, nobody likes them and, naturally, they are causing us concern and impeding our development. But I think, as I have already said, that even if these problems linked with Ukraine, its south-east, Crimea and Syria had not existed, something else would have been found to deter Russia. The reason is that they dislike our independent position on a number of issues, so it is necessary to pressure us, to compel us to obey and mobilize resources. Our American partners did not do something on the Syrian issue (they even feel embarrassed for not doing it, for not using the agreements), and they send the Europeans to exert pressure on us on the other side. This is not the way to go.

"Take these restrictions. Some Western experts believe we have sustained heavy losses in something. I think this is an exaggeration. Yes, you agree with me, I understand. They think we lost 0.5 percent of GDP. I believe this is not so.

"European countries themselves have lost almost 60 billion dollars or euros - I don't remember exactly - about over 58 billion worth of exports to Russia. This is lost profit from normal cooperation. Our losses are mostly linked with a drop in oil prices and then gas prices and these prices affect prices of chemical products, fertilizer, petrochemical products and so on. A real chain is emerging as a result and this is primarily what is affecting us.

"I must say the financial restrictions are also harmful because they are making investors nervous. This is what the 30 percent you mentioned do not like. I do not like it, either. And who could like it? We will work to get rid of them but this should be a two-way street."

Putin: 'Nuclear Weapons Are A Deterrent And A Factor Of Ensuring Peace And Security Worldwide'

Arkady Ostrovsky: "Arkady Ostrovsky, The Economist. Mr. President, over the past 15 years, Russia has made strides in its economy, growing it from 1 trillion rubles to 3.5 trillion rubles, and making Russia a country with an above average income. Russia now has an economically strong middle class and the first post-Soviet generation. Those who are now 25 were born in 1991. We saw some of them during the protests in Moscow in 2011-2012. Do you believe the political and economic model in this country needs to change in order to keep successfully growing the Russian economy? This is my first question.

"My second question has to do with the fact that everything that concerns nuclear weapons causes great concern in the West. When the Russian state channels say that America can be reduced to nuclear ashes (which they did not say even in Soviet times), do you think that the use of this very rhetoric concerning nuclear weapons is even acceptable?

Vladimir Putin: "First, with regard to change: change is always welcome. Without change stagnation sets in. The question is how do we go about such change. By way of a revolution, it usually causes nothing but harm. I think that some of the people you just mentioned - even if some of them are no longer with us - even if we assume that they aimed for the best, the way of achieving these goals was wrong and harmful. We need an evolutionary process. And I strongly hope that we will move along the path of evolution.

"I will not go into details there simply is not enough time for that, but we are thinking about it. We have our Centre for Strategic Research working on it as well, and we enlist the services of a variety of experts. We think about what we are going to do before and after the presidential elections of 2018.

"With regard to nuclear weapons, brandishing nuclear weapons is the last thing to do. This is harmful rhetoric, and I do not welcome it. But we must proceed from reality and from the fact that nuclear weapons are a deterrent and a factor of ensuring peace and security worldwide. It is impossible to consider them as a factor in any potential aggression, because it is impossible, and it would probably mean the end of our civilization.

"However, it is abundantly clear that nuclear weapons are a deterrent and many experts believe that the possession of nuclear arms by leading countries was one of the reasons why the world has not experienced a major armed conflict in the more than 70 years since the end of World War II. But it is important to observe non-proliferation of both nuclear arms and their delivery vehicles. Also, all nuclear powers must assume a highly responsible attitude toward their nuclear status. This is exactly what Russia intends to do despite any statements that are likely to be made in the heat of the debate. Let me repeat that at the government level Russia will approach its nuclear status very responsibly.

"Incidentally, you have given me an excuse to say this: when our US partners unilaterally walked out of the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty (what I will now say is very important), we said that since we are not ready to develop such systems - we do not know how they will work and how effective they will be - we are compelled to upgrade the complex of our assault systems. Our American friends replied: "Do what you like, because the missile defense system we are going to build is not directed against you and we will assume that your work on your assault systems complex will not be aimed against us." I said "fine." And we are working, but whether we like it or not, in this way we both escalated the arms race even in this area. Let me repeat, the main thing is to be very responsible in this regard. Russia will do this."

 

Endnote: 

[1] Kremlin.ru, October 27, 2016.