On June 1-3, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). During the plenary meeting, Putin answered questions by American journalist Megyn Kelly. The questions focused primarily on Russia-U.S. relations and on accusations that Russia influenced the recent U.S. presidential elections. Other personalities invited to take part in the SPIEF plenary meeting were Indian President Narendra Modi, the pro-Russian Moldovan President, Igor Dodon and the Federal Chancellor of Austria Christian Kern.
Putin also met with the Head of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, the Minister-President of Bavaria Horst Seehofer, the President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, the Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani, the Director General of the IAEA Yukiya Amano, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
The SPIEF program included the 2nd meeting of the Russian-Iranian working group for energy cooperation under the permanent Russian-Iranian joint trade and economic commission, a panel on boosting Russia-Serbia economic cooperation, a panel on Russia-France cooperation (one question raised in this panel was: "Could France become a 'window to Europe' for Russian investment?"), several events and roundtables were dedicated to Russia-U.S. relations. Putin himself had a meeting with U.S. business leaders (See Appendix IV). During the meeting, Putin stressed that business and cooperation also depend on political dialogue. Putin told the U.S. businessmen: "I want to pass this [hockey] puck to you. Help us restore a good political dialogue. I am asking you on behalf of Russia. I am addressing our American counterparts. Help the newly elected President and the new administration of the United States."
The following are excerpts from the SPIEF plenary meeting:
St Petersburg International Economic Forum plenary meeting. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
SPIEF Plenary Meeting:
- Paris Climate Agreement
- Russia-NATO Relations
- Accusations Of Russia's Interference In U.S. Elections
- Sanctions On Russia
- The Ukrainian Crisis
- The Syrian Crisis
- Russia-U.S. Relations
Appendix I - Interview To NBC:
- Accusations Of Russia's Interference In U.S. Elections
- Accusations Of RussiaTrump Connections
- Democracy In Russia
- Accusations That Russia Has Information To Damage Trump
- Russians' Opinion On Putin
Appendix II - Meeting With Heads Of International News Agencies:
- Parliamentary Elections In Germany
- Japan-Russia Retaliation (The Kuril Islands Dispute) And North Korea's Nuclear And Missile Programs
Appendix III - Meeting With Heads Of International News Agencies:
- Putin Assesses That It Is Too Early To Speculate Whether He Will Participate In The 2018 Presidential Election
- Putin's Opinion On Trump
Appendix IV - Meeting With Russian And U.S. Business Leaders
Putin: "We Should Be Grateful To President Trump. I Heard It Was Actually Snowing In Moscow Today"
Megyn Kelly: "… So let us start with what has been in the news everywhere, what's on the minds of a lot of people here today, which is that yesterday, as you gentlemen know, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate deal, saying that it will hurt the United States economy and cost jobs. European leaders were quick to react, accusing President Trump of shirking America's role as a global leader. President Putin, how do you see it?"
Vladimir Putin: "I do not belong to the category of European leaders, at any rate they do not think I do (laughter, applause), but of course we, I mean Russia, have our own viewpoint. Have you read the Paris Agreement? No, you have not, as I can see.
"In general, the Paris Agreement is a good, logical document aimed at resolving one of today's global problems – preventing climate change. The question is whether we are in a position to avert climate change. What does it do? The goal is to prevent a two-degree rise in temperature.
"So far, we do not get the sense here that the temperature is going up rapidly. Actually, we should be grateful to President Trump. I heard it was actually snowing in Moscow today, while here it is raining and quite chilly. Now we can blame everything on him and U.S. imperialism, and say it is all their fault. But we will not.
"As for the Paris Agreement, it is a framework document that relegates all decisions to national governments. It does not contain any mandatory requirements. All countries are to make decisions independently. The United States undertook to reduce emissions by 26–28 percent by 2025, as I recall, while Russia committed itself to reduce them by 70 percent of the 1990s level but by 2030.
"If memory serves, the United States ratified the agreement whereas we have not done so yet. However, we have not done this because we want to wait for the rules for distributing resources and other strictly technical but important matters to be worked out. The United States assumed an obligation to contribute $100 billion to the so-called Green Climate Fund that is to be used to help developing nations implement environmental programs. But how these funds are supposed to be transferred and who will dispose of them – these issues have not been resolved yet.
"Here is the premise I am working from. To cut emissions by 26–28 percent by 2025 – that is not too far away – obviously, it is essential to modernize production on a really big scale. It is important to force businesses to invest hundreds of millions and maybe billions – that is right, billions of dollars in the economy.
"The other side of the coin is that it is necessary to think about what to do with the employees who will be made redundant in the production system today. They need to be employed, and this requires planning ahead and appropriate resources, unless we want them to fall by the wayside and join the army of people living below the poverty line.
"I was asked about people with low incomes in Russia. By the way, since 2000, we have almost halved the number of people living below the poverty line, from 40 percent. There are certain fluctuations related to the current crisis but nevertheless, we have managed to do this. So the United States should also think about what to do about people who will end up without a job. These are additional resources.
"Therefore, I will not pass judgment on President Trump right now, because President Obama made certain decisions and maybe the incumbent president believes they were not well thought out. Maybe he thinks that there are not enough resources to go round. All of this calls for careful analysis. However, in my view, it was unnecessary to pull out of the Paris Agreement because it is a framework agreement in nature. Now, what could have been done?
"The U.S. commitments within the framework of the Paris Agreement could have been changed. However, what is done cannot be undone. What has been said cannot be unsaid, and now it is time to think about how to proceed, what to do next. As for the problem, of course, it should not be ignored. However, as far as I know (granted, I am not acquainted with the text of President Trump's statement), he said he would like either to review the agreement or sign a new agreement.
"After all, he is not refusing to work on this issue. And it seems to me that now it is important not to make a fuss but to create conditions for joint work because if such countries, such large emitters as the United States do not cooperate, then it will be impossible to coordinate and sign any agreement in this area. Therefore, it is essential to make do with what there is and seek to put this work on a constructive track.
"Incidentally, this agreement has not even entered into force yet. It should come into force in 2021, so we still have time. If we work constructively, we will still be able to agree on something. Don't worry, be happy! [last four words said in English]"
St Petersburg International Economic Forum plenary meeting. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: "Disputes Over NATO? Do They Help Russia? Well, In The Sense That NATO May Fall Apart, Yes, This May Help'
Megyn Kelly: "President Putin, does all this squabbling over NATO help Russia?"
Vladimir Putin: "Disputes over NATO? Do they help Russia?
"Well, in the sense that NATO may fall apart, yes, this may help. However, for the time being, there are no signs of it falling apart. You know, I wondered on many occasions and even asked this question publicly. NATO was created as a Cold War instrument to oppose the Soviet Union and what was known as the Warsaw Pact. Now there is neither the Warsaw Pact, nor the Soviet Union, but NATO is still there.
"Hence, the question: why? There is only one answer – no matter what they say, it is an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. If someone likes it that way, so be it. What is important is if the processes that NATO has always mentioned, specifically there was talk of transforming this bloc into a political organization which would create essential elements of stability across the world, if this happens, then that is probably not a bad thing. However, this has not materialized so far. What we have seen so far is their military infrastructure expanding and approaching our borders. This cannot but cause concern for us, and we have mentioned it many times publicly.
"Speaking of the recent summit, the United States is demanding that its allies increase their military spending, while maintaining at the same time that NATO has no plans to attack anyone. If you are not going to attack anyone, why increase military spending? Of course, this raises additional questions on our part.
"Therefore, you know, we tried to establish a constructive dialogue with this organization, and even created the Russia-NATO Council in Rome. However, all this ceased to exist, and not through our fault. The absence of such instruments of cooperation is a bad thing, because it does not allow us to constructively work on the issues on the current agenda.
"They say that NATO should step up its fight against terrorism. This is good, and we support this. But, at the same time, what do we see? Look, we have just held a major international conference on security issues at the level of security councils of our partner countries. Representatives from 95 countries attended. Many representatives from the American continent and Europe whispered to us that Brussels and Washington tried to talk them out of going to Russia.
"What is that about? People who take such a position, what part of their body do they think with? The professionals are willing to cooperate, they realize the importance of such interaction and information sharing. The politicians ride in armored vehicles, they are safe, and apparently do not sense any threat to their citizens.
"If it stays that way, we will be hit in Germany, Brussels, the United States, and Russia. I said many times that it is necessary to unite efforts in order to fight major threats, one of which is terrorism. If NATO works constructively in this area, we will cooperate, of course."
Putin: 'There Are Not So Many Countries That Have Sovereignty. Russia Treasures Its Sovereignty, But Not As A Toy'
Megyn Kelly: "On the subject of relationships, one of the elements between Russia and the United States today, and indeed Russia and Europe today, is the allegation that Russia interfered in elections. Mr. Putin, this week you told a French newspaper that Russia is being accused of interfering with the U.S. election by people who lost that election, who don't want to admit defeat. But all 17 of the United States' intelligence agencies have concluded the Russians did interfere with our election, and these are non-partisan career professionals. Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill, including President Trump's supporters (and some are your defenders) who have seen the classified intelligence report have all accepted this conclusion. And even private non-partisan security firms say the same – that Russia interfered with the US election. Are they all wrong?"
Vladimir Putin: "Have you read these reports?"
Megyn Kelly: "I have read the non-classified version."
Vladimir Putin: "A non-classified version means no version. 'Who made the suit?' 'Are the pockets good?' 'They are.' 'Are the buttons sewn on well?' 'They are.' 'Do you have any complaints about the buttons.' 'No, they are sewn tight, but the suit is so ill-fitting I can't wear it.' Can such a thing happen? It happened to Arkady Raikin, one of our stand-up comedians.
"Now you also say, 'a non-classified version.' I have read these reports. There is nothing specific in these reports. There is only supposition and inference in those reports. That is it. You know, if there is anything specific, then there will be something to discuss. As they used to say in the organization where I worked at one time: 'addresses, safe houses, names.' So, where is all that?
"As for independent sources, there is nothing independent in this world. Even the recent appointments in your intelligence services show that there are some predilections all the same. Therefore, it seems to me that this useless and harmful idle talk should come to an end.
"To reiterate, this is bringing domestic political squabbles in the U.S. out into the world arena. It is an attempt to address a domestic political issues with foreign policy tools.
"This is detrimental, damaging to international relations, the global economy, security issues and the fight against terrorism. It is simply harmful. I have just given you the example of Washington warning against attending a counterterrorism event in Russia. This is absolute nonsense.
"Somebody is behind this. The people who engage in this nonsense also initiate such reports. I think this needs to come to an end, and the sooner, the better. It is necessary to begin normal cooperation.
"What else can I say? There are not so many countries in the world that enjoy the privilege of sovereignty. I do not want to hurt anyone but what Ms. Merkel has said was dictated, among other things, by long-standing resentment – I assure you, despite whatever she might have said later – over the fact that sovereignty is in fact limited.
"By the way, it is limited officially within the framework of military-political alliances, where it is stipulated what may and may not be done, but in reality, it is even worse: Nothing is permitted except for what is permitted. And who gives permission? The chiefs. And where are the chiefs? They are far away.
"To reiterate, there are not so many countries that have sovereignty. Russia treasures its sovereignty, but not as a toy. We need sovereignty to protect our interests and to ensure our own development. India has sovereignty and we know it. Now I would like to say something to t[India's] Prime Minister. I have never said this to him, even though yesterday we talked face to face for several hours and before that also for several hours, but now I would like to say it to him publicly.
"We know the position of the Indian Prime Minister, of the Indian leadership, the Indian people and the Indian state regarding all the attempts over the past several years to compel India to adopt a position on Russia that is beneficial for someone but not for the Indian people. Relying on its sovereignty, on the character of its leader and on its national interests, India does not let these advisers push it around. However, there are not so many countries like India in the world. That is true. We should simply bear this in mind. India is one such country and so is China. I will not enumerate them all: There are other countries, too, but not many.
"If these attempts continue to order people around in or outside a country using unreliable information, it will damage international relations. But to reiterate – and at this point I would like to conclude my answer – this must eventually come to an end."
Putin: 'It Is Easier To Say, 'We Are Not To blame, The Russians Are To Blame…' It Reminds Me Of Anti-Semitism: The Jews Are To Blame For Everything'
Megyn Kelly: "So one of the reasons the question is relevant is because the United States views this as a matter of its national sovereignty, as does the UK, as does Germany, as does France, and so it keeps coming up over and over. And what they say in response to the question of 'Where is the proof?' is that this type of disinformation campaign is intentionally difficult to find hardcore proof of. It is other factors. And what the experts say is that this couldn't have been faked – that it's not one factor, it is a hundred factors that point to Russia. They say it is the forensics, it's the digital fingerprints, it's the IP addresses, the malware, the encryption keys, the specific pieces of code – that all of them, all of them, point to Russia and none of them points to anyone other than Russia."
Vladimir Putin: "What fingerprints? Hoof prints, horn prints? Whose fingerprints are these?
"IP addresses can be simply made up. Do you know how many such specialists there are? They will make it look like it was sent from your home address by your children – your three-year old kid, they will organize everything to look like it was your three-year old daughter who carried out the attack. There are such IT specialists in the world today and they can arrange anything and then blame it on whoever.
"This is no proof. It is an attempt to lay the blame at someone else's door. This is not our problem. The problem is in U.S. politics. That is the problem. Trump's team proved more capable during the election campaign. At times, I actually thought the man was overdoing it, really. That is true. However, it turned out that he was right, that he found a key to those social groups and voters' groups that he had bet on, and they came out and voted for him.
"The other team lost. They are reluctant to acknowledge the mistake. They do not want to admit that they did not get it, that they miscalculated. It is easier to say, 'We are not to blame, the Russians are to blame, they interfered in our election, but we are good.' It reminds me of anti-Semitism: the Jews are to blame for everything. The halfwit cannot do anything but the Jews are the ones who are to blame.
"However, we know what such sentiments can lead to. They lead to nothing good. The thing to do is simply to work and think of how to get things right.
"You have just mentioned disinformation. What disinformation? One of the hackers' planted stories was that Mrs. Clinton's election campaign managers had acted unfairly with regard to other Democratic Party candidates. However, when that information appeared in the public domain, the campaign manager actually acknowledged that it was true and resigned. Is that disinformation? It is truthful information.
"Does it really matter who revealed it? They should have apologized to the public and they should have said before resigning, 'We will not repeat these mistakes.' But what did they do? They said, 'We are not to blame. It is the Russians.' What have the Russians got to do with it? Did the Russians engage in pushing through one Democratic Party candidate to the detriment of another candidate? Whatever the case might be, we did not do it. They were the ones who did it. Enough." (Applause.)
Megyn Kelly: "Even President Trump has said now that he believes Russia did it. So it is not just people who don't want President Trump in office. And the difference between the hacking and the disinformation…"
Vladimir Putin: "She just won't let it go." (Laughter.)
Megyn Kelly: "The difference between the hacking and the disinformation – this is not my allegation, this is the conclusion of the 17 US intelligence agencies and the others that I mentioned. What they say is Russia not only that hacked into the Democratic National Committee and hacked into Hillary Clinton's campaign emails, but that they also perpetuated a campaign of disinformation that involved putting out fake news stories through Russian-controlled entities like RT and Sputnik, and that those then were pushed by aggregators and what are called "bots" on Twitter and elsewhere, and specifically targeted at voters who were potentially pro-Trump, voters in the Rust Belt of America, in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, who were potentially gettable for Trump. And that is the conclusion that they have reached."
Vladimir Putin: "We should all learn from American journalists. Megyn is doing first-class professional aerobatics. I have just given her an example showing that there was no disinformation, whoever planted the story regarding the manipulations within the Democratic Party during the elections.
"There is no getting away from the fact that the campaign manager, managing director (or whatever the position is called there) resigned. I just said it and she goes: 'Disinformation.' What disinformation? Where is the disinformation? I simply do not know. Do you understand? I do not know.
"She says, specifically President Trump. Again, give me the text showing what he actually said. Did he say he won because of Russian interference? I do not think I ever saw anything like that."
Megyn Kelly: "He did. He finally came around to saying 'I think Russia did it', and he said, 'I don't think they'll do it again'."
Vladimir Putin: "She thinks! Listen, these are very serious global political issues, and you think. It is not just any interview or some piece for a newspaper.
"As for interference, you should have seen what you colleagues are doing here. They have simply barged into our internal politics with their shoes on. They are walking all over us, chewing gum. They are just having fun.
"This is systematic, years-long, gross, absolutely unceremonious interference in our domestic policy, including the level of diplomatic missions. Let us end this. You will feel better, and we will feel better."
Megyn Kelly: "Prime Minister Modi, President Putin said the other day that Russia does not engage in state-sponsored interference with other countries' elections. Do you believe that?"
VladimirPutin: "Ask [Moldova's President] Mr. Dodon. He knows." (Laughter. Applause.)
Narendra Modi: "You are talking about America, Germany, Russia, Trump, Hillary Clinton, Chancellor Merkel and Putin. You are talking about people who, it seems, do not need a judge or lawyer like myself."
Vladimir Putin: "It is not all that simple with the Hindus. It is an ancient philosophy. It is only we, ordinary people, who say exactly what we think."
St Petersburg International Economic Forum plenary meeting. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'Our Ambassador Met With Someone. What Should An Ambassador Do? That Is His Job… This Is Some Sort Of Hysteria And You Cannot Stop It. Do You Need To Take Something For That? Does Anyone Have A Pill? Give Her A Pill Or Something.'
Megyn Kelly: "President Putin, there are reports today in the American press that the Trump administration took active steps to ease sanctions on Russia almost immediately after Trump took office. Was this possibility ever discussed between the Trump team and your representatives prior to President Trump being inaugurated?"
Vladimir Putin: "You know, I saw what was happening. Frankly, I was also amazed. What nonsense they are talking. I do not know where these people who are spreading this information have come from. This is simply disastrous!
"Our ambassador met with someone. What should an ambassador do? That is his job. That is what he gets paid for. He should have meetings, discussing current affairs, reaching agreements. What is he supposed to do there? Go to the kind of places that he will be fired for visiting? No. This is his job but he is being accused of meeting with someone. Are you nuts out there or what? This is diplomatic service. This is just amazing.
"I saw that President Trump then fired his aide because he was accused of talking to somebody somewhere. You see, I am telling you, but of course those who have a different position will not believe me, but I simply knew nothing about that. Who met with whom there? What did they talk about?
"They talked about nothing. There were simply general words, simply general words about the need to think about how to develop our relations. Should we not think about developing our relations, or what? Should we simply act on the spur of the moment? Nothing specific, simply zero, zilch, nothing at all. Just amazing.
"This is some sort of hysteria and you cannot stop it. Do you need to take something for that? Does anyone have a pill? Give her a pill or something. (Laughter.) Honestly, frankly, this is amazing."
Putin: 'I Believe That, Firstly, The Sanctions Have Been Imposed In violation Of All International Norms And Rules'
Megyn Kelly: "Let us talk about those sanctions, which have now been in place, by the Europeans and the United States, since 2014 against Russia. Do you believe they have hurt more than helped?"
Vladimir Putin: "I believe that, firstly, the sanctions have been imposed in violation of all international norms and rules. The United States, for one, has always been upholding the ideas of a free market, open economy, always teaching everyone (now apparently it is giving up on teaching others because it needs some teaching itself) and saying that politics should not influence global economic processes and that politics will only interfere with the economy, but then did precisely what they cautioned everyone against doing.
"First of all, I would like to say that the events that happened and served as a cause and pretext for imposing those restrictions were not brought about by our policy. As a matter of fact, they were caused by U.S. policy. Look, they spoke about the 'greater' Middle East. Although nobody could formulate what this concept of the 'greater' Middle East means.
"Then they devastated Iraq and Libya and almost ruined Syria and destabilized and brought Egypt and Tunisia to the point of disaster. I am not even talking about the processes that were already under way in other countries, such as Somalia, and after that, they got to work in the so-called post-Soviet space.
"After all, they said openly that they had spent almost $5 billion on supporting the opposition in Ukraine and they supported the coup. What is this? It is support of a military takeover. When we disagreed with that, they imposed sanctions on us. However, we can never agree to this and never will.
"When we supported Russian people and people who consider themselves to be close to the Russian world, Russian-speakers in Crimea, who were simply intimidated by the anti-Russian propaganda and the surge in racist sentiments and radical views, as well as physical actions – people were being killed in Kiev – when we supported them and in keeping with international law, supported a referendum, sanctions were immediately imposed. And what did you expect?
"Look at what is going on now in Yemen. Its president was also overthrown, and the entire Western world led by the US supports the actions of countries that are in effect conducting hostilities there. Should we, too, have conducted hostilities all over Ukraine or what?
"Let us agree on a uniform interpretation of the norms and fundamental principles of international law and adhere to these rules. Because until that happens and as long as the principle that might is right is asserted, we will continue to have problems like the ones we are currently seeing in North Korea.
"Smaller countries can see no other way to protect their independence, security and sovereignty but by acquiring nuclear weapons. This is what abuse of power leads to. This gave rise, unfortunately, to the restrictions and limitations in the economy. Who suffered more from them: we or those who imposed them? It is absolutely clear that they have done considerable damage to those who imposed them.
"I see here one of the former leaders of the German organization of the so-called eastern economy which maintains relations with Russia. They calculated that Germany lost several hundred thousand jobs. Did it hurt us? Yes, of course, the restrictions hurt us. This is mainly due to the financing restrictions and the work of our financial organizations, the transfer of technologies. But there is a positive side to it because we were able to ramp up the development of whole sectors of the Russian economy.
"Our agriculture grows by more than three percent each year, around three percent, which we have never had before, this is a phenomenon, to be honest. I had some concerns about how we were going to solve the problem. It is indeed being solved. Incidentally, we would not have been able to do that ten years ago, whereas now we can, and we are doing it well. It pushes the development of a number of hi-tech sectors of the economy. We had to use our heads rather than just sit back and enjoy the oil and gas revenues. We had to stoke the development of some technologies, fundamental and applied science, and we see the positive results.
"And now we have growing exports in sectors other than raw materials, oil and gas. I do not remember exactly, I spoke about this with my colleagues yesterday, I believe. Those exports have grown by 10 percent this year, and they also grew last year. What does this indicate? It indicates structural changes in the economy itself. This is only the very beginning of the road, we still have a lot to do, there is much that has not been done yet, but it is basically the beginning of the road.
"Thus, on the whole there is nothing good about it but it is not going to kill us either. As the Chancellor of Austria said here quoting Mark Twain, 'The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.' about the same is true of the sanctions. But we would rather there were none, and we need to put an end to that."
Putin: 'Russia Cannot Unilaterally Comply With The Minsk Agreements'
Megyn Kelly: "Thank you for your kind words first of all. Flattery will get you everywhere. I appreciate that. Let us shift gears if we may to Syria for a minute. President Putin I know that you said that you do not believe…"
Vladimir Putin: "[Chancellor of Austria] Christian [Kern] spoke about the Minsk Agreements here. It is an important issue because it is the Ukraine crisis that lies at the root of today's problems and sanctions. We keep on hearing 'Everything will be all right if Russia complies with the Minsk Agreements.'
"Russia cannot unilaterally comply with the Minsk Agreements. We are ready to support this process but we cannot do what Kiev authorities are obliged to do. They do everything to prevent any improvement, absolutely everything. You actually do not take any notice of some things, or pretend not to.
"I did not mean you personally, I meant some Western media and my western colleagues. Everybody says there is shooting there but it is not clear who is doing the shooting. There was fire but it is unclear who was behind it. As a result, nothing is done; heavy armaments are not withdrawn from the contact line.
"It was agreed to launch economic rehabilitation of those unrecognized republics, those territories. And what is happening in reality? Radicals decided to completely block any movement of people and goods. President Poroshenko tried to open it up again, staged a fight and shooting at the sky. But he still did not achieve anything.
"And even though he publicly claimed that those behind it are virtually criminals who should be brought to order, after one or two days, when he realized that he was unable to do anything about it, he issued his own executive order about his joining in and signed off on the blockade officially. But the Minsk Agreements clearly state, I think, in Item 8, to conduct rehabilitation, to take off the blockade. But no, he joined the blockade by an official resolution. What are you demanding from us? What do you want us to do in this case?
"Another example. They shut down all Russian media outlets, and they do not let Russian performers and journalists into the country. Now they have closed access to social networks. You are a journalist, where is free information exchange? Who is going to guarantee it, particularly in Ukraine? Why is everybody keeping silent about it? Why are all the demands being directed at Moscow? We will never solve any problem this way.
"If you started that ball rolling, and it was indeed largely you who started the ball rolling, then do something to stop this. Just something. It is not enough to point your finger at Russia all the time. I am saying this not so much to you; this will be read and heard by those who take real decisions. They know my stand but I would like them to hear it once again."
Putin: 'We are not defending so much President Assad as Syrian statehood'
Megyn Kelly: "Shifting gears to Syria, our president has said that you are backing an evil guy there. He said that Assad is an evil guy. Do you believe that?"
Vladimir Putin: "What? That Assad is an evil person? Ask other leaders who have met him. After all, since he was elected, he has been to Europe more often than to Russia. We are not defending so much President Assad as Syrian statehood. We do not want Syria to be confronted with a situation similar to that in Libya or Somalia or Afghanistan, where NATO has been present for many years but the situation is not changing for the better.
"We want to preserve [Syrian] statehood and once this fundamental matter is resolved, to move further towards settling the Syrian crisis by political means. Yes, perhaps everyone is to blame for something there. But let us not forget that if it were not for active intervention from the outside we would not have had the situation and the civil war that we are seeing now.
"What does President Assad stand accused of today? We know about the charges of using chemical weapons. There is absolutely no proof. As soon as that happened we proposed conducting an inspection right there on the airfield from where President Assad's aircraft had allegedly taken off with chemical weapons on board. I would like to reiterate because not everyone has heard this: if chemical weapons had been used, if some shells with toxic agents had been loaded, modern analyzers, modern control systems would definitely have detected that there were chemical weapons there on board this aircraft, on that exact spot.
"They declined. Nobody wants to. There is a lot of talk but no practical action. We proposed conducting an inspection in the area of the attack, 'Let us see what there is.' No way again. 'Why not?' 'It is too dangerous there.' 'What is so dangerous there if the strike was allegedly carried out against the good part of the armed opposition? These are normal people out there, why would they be dangerous?' 'No, it is not possible there either.' However, it is known for certain that in Iraq (an Iraqi representative is present here, and we also welcome him), in Iraqi Kurdistan, militants used chemical weapons and that fact was established by the entire international community. Therefore, they have them. And judging by the statements made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Syria has destroyed these weapons.
"You see, if reasons and excuses are invoked, without any intention of looking into the essence of the problem, then one can talk about anything. Let us get down to the heart of the matter. Has Assad made mistakes? He probably has, and quite a few, too. Now, are the people who are up against him angels? Who is killing people, executing children and beheading people there? Are we supposed to support them?
"As you know, we argued with our U.S. colleagues until we were blue in the face about whether certain territories could be attacked. 'No, that is off limits.' 'Why?' 'The healthy part of the opposition is based there.' We say: 'But ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are still there.' 'Yes, but everything is intermingled there, so it is hard to understand who is where.' 'Well, separate them then. What are decent, honest people doing with terrorists? Do you have control over them? Let them go and let us fight terrorists.' 'No, do not touch them.' Why not? Should we wait until they come to you or to us? We will not. If you want to agree on something, let's agree.
"The Prime Minister is nodding because India is constantly confronted with the terrorist threat. It is not an imaginary problem. According to our preliminary estimate, there are 4,000 people from Russia alone in Syria, plus 4,500–5,000 from the CIS countries, mainly from Central Asia. It is a real threat to us. They are trying to return. Some are in fact returning. This is precisely why we began our operation in Syria, because we realized where things were headed. So, there should be no name-calling. Let us simply work together on the matter at hand. We are prepared for this. What is needed is a constructive position on your part."
Putin: 'Al-Qaeda Was Created To Fight Against The Soviet Union In Afghanistan. And Then Al-Qaeda Carried Out The 9/11 Attacks In The United States. This Is What This Can Lead To. It Is Important To Think About The Possible Long-Term Consequences'
Megyn Kelly: "So, we know that Assad has used chemical weapons before, and Russia entered into an agreement in 2013 to stop that. I mean, Russia acknowledged that in 2013 to try to stop that by Assad. The only question is whether he launched the chemical weapons attack that happened a couple of months ago. And I just want to ask you, to press you a little further on this, because we all saw the video of the suffering, dying children, and that was the reason that President Trump dropped the bomb. Do you deny – because Assad denies that those tapes are real, he is purporting to tell us not to believe our lying eyes – do you believe those tapes are fake?"
Vladimir Putin: "Firstly, when President Obama and I agreed to work together on destroying chemical weapons in Syria, we acted on the premise that those weapons were out there. However, we have never acknowledged that Assad used them. I would ask you to be more accurate.
"Secondly, regarding the people killed or injured as a result of the use of weapons, including chemical weapons, this is false information. At the moment, we are absolutely certain that it was simply a provocation. Assad did not use those weapons and all of that was done by people who wanted to blame it on him.
"Furthermore, our intelligence services received additional information suggesting that there were plans to re-enact a similar scenario in other parts of Syria, including near Damascus. We made that information public. Thank God, the plotters had enough common sense not to follow through."
Megyn Kelly: "If I could just follow up on that, though, because the bodies of the victims were autopsied at Turkey's and our forensic medicine institution. The autopsies were witnessed by officials from the World Health Organization and from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and they concluded that the victims were attacked with zarin gas. Are we really to believe that the whole thing was staged? That everybody was in on it – the World Health Organization, the forensic medicine institution, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons?"
Vladimir Putin: "The answer is very simple and you know it: it could have been used – however, not by Assad, but by someone else in order to put the blame on Assad. So any further investigation without understanding who did it is senseless. It only plays into the hands of the provocateurs who organized this attack. That is all. What is there you cannot understand? It seems to me that everything is absolutely clear.
"However, I would like to ask you a question: why didn't they immediately go to the spot from where the chemical weapon attack had allegedly been launched? Why did nobody go to inspect the airfield? Why did nobody inspect the aircraft that had allegedly been used to carry out the strike, as we proposed? Why did nobody go to the place of the attack? The answer is simple: because they were afraid that this entire falsification would be uncovered – that is all.
"As for what you are telling me, it does not convince me in the least but only goes to show that it would be far better not to indulge in speculation or a tug of war but combine efforts against real threats. We know very well what it is like. America is far away and there was a minor explosion, as a result of which, unfortunately, people were hurt at a well-known athletic event. And do you have any idea of how we have suffered here? We know full well, who we have to deal with.
"Under no circumstances can anyone from this environment, which is hostile to modern civilization, be used to address current political issues. Meanwhile, sometimes we see such attempts: 'Let's use these and those to fight Assad.' Why these and those? Because there is nobody else who can fight. Once you use them today, you will never know what will happen to you tomorrow. Then they will start fighting you.
"At one time, Al-Qaeda was created to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. And then Al-Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks in the United States. This is what this can lead to. It is important to think about the possible long-term consequences."
Putin: 'Mr. Dodon Has Said That The World Ceased To Be Unipolar. No, An American Journalist Is Sitting Here, Ordering Everyone Around And Giving The Last Word'
Megyn Kelly: "Last question. We have talked a lot today about things that divide us, that divide our countries, each of our countries. And it would be nice if we could end it on what unites us, because there are many things, separate and apart from the disagreements our countries have. President Putin, I will give you the last word."
Vladimir Putin: "We are sitting here, discussing numerous problems. There is a representative of India with us today, one of the largest countries in the world. Russia, too, has some importance. There is an EU representative. There is a representative of a small country in the post-Soviet space. In other words, all regions are represented.
"Mr. Dodon has said that the world ceased to be unipolar. No, an American journalist is sitting here, ordering everyone around and giving the last word. (Laughter.) However, generally speaking, I believe this kind of unipolar world, with this quality of discussion, suits everyone. In any event, let us thank our moderator.
"As for what unites us, there is a lot that unites us. The Prime Minister has just talked about fighting terrorism. Should not share threats unite us? Should not the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, unite us? We need to understand what is going on and where this can lead us and prevent an unfavorable course of events in a timely manner through joint efforts.
"We should understand that poverty is growing all over the world today, in countries from where thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of migrants are moving to Europe and there is a danger that millions of people from Sub-Saharan Africa may move to Europe in the foreseeable future. If this socioeconomic situation continues, nothing will hold back this flow of people, nothing will stop them in their search for a better life. "Therefore, it is necessary to think of what we should do to ensure that people in these countries have acceptable living standards, that they can have, raise and educate their children, get jobs and enjoy modern living standards. Isn't this a shared challenge?
"The same goes for the environment. The Prime Minister [of India Narendra Modi] said this and all other speakers here said it and you also gave much prominence to it. It is a real challenge. We need to understand what is going on there. It is not an easy job. We also need to work out common rules of conduct. It is very important here – and I believe [Federal Chancellor of Austria] Christian [Kern] spoke about this – it is very important to have stability here and together work out a solution, but then we should move together in carrying it out. We have a lot of unifying agendas, a lot. And if we focus on this, on the positive side of our cooperation, then the world will, without any doubt, change for the better."
APPENDIX I - Interview To NBC – Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2017
On the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin answered questions from NBC anchor Megyn Kelly.
Below are excerpts of the Putin's Interview with NBC:
Putin during the interview with NBC. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'The United States, Everywhere, All Over The World, Is Actively Interfering In Electoral Campaigns In Other Countries. Is This Really News To You?'
Megyn Kelly: "President Putin, you have repeatedly and passionately denied that Russia was behind the interference with our American presidential election, including on stage at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
"But as you know, the consensus view in the United States is that you did. That's what the 17 intelligence agencies concluded and that's what the Republicans and the Democrats on the Congressional oversight committees who have seen the classified report have said. Are they all lying?"
Vladimir Putin: "They have been misled and they are not analyzing the information in its entirety. I have not once seen any direct proof of Russia's interference in the presidential election in the U.S.
"We have talked about it with former president Obama and with several other officials. No one ever showed me any direct evidence.
"When we spoke with President Obama about that, you know, you should probably better ask him about it – I think he will tell you that he, too, is confident of it. But when he and I talked I saw that he, too, started having doubts. At any rate, that's how I saw it.
"I have already told you, and I can say it again, that today's technology is such that the final address can be masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one will be able to understand the origin of that address. And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack.
"Modern technology is very sophisticated and subtle and allows this to be done. And when we realize that we will get rid of all the illusions. That's one thing. The other thing is that I am deeply convinced that no interference from the outside, in any country, even a small one, let alone in such a vast and great power as the United States, can influence the final outcome of the elections. It is not possible. Ever."
Megyn Kelly: "But the other side says is it was only 70,000 votes that won Trump the election, and therefore influencing 70,000 people might not have been that hard."
Vladimir Putin: "The Constitution of the United States and the electoral legislation are structured in such a way that more electors can vote for a candidate who is backed by fewer voters. And such situations do occur in the history of the United States. True, isn't it?
"Therefore, if we were to discuss some kind of political and social justice, then probably that electoral legislation needs to be changed and bring a situation where the head of state would be elected by direct secret ballot and so there will be direct tabulation of votes that can be easily monitored. That's all there is to it. And there will be no need for those who have lost the elections to point fingers and blame their troubles on anybody.
"Now, if we turn this page over, I will tell you something that you most likely know about. I don't want to offend anyone, but the United States, everywhere, all over the world, is actively interfering in electoral campaigns in other countries. Is this really news to you?
"Just talk to people but in such a way (to the extent it is possible for you) so as to convince them that you're not going to make it public. Point your finger to any spot on the world's map, everywhere you'll hear complaints that American officials interfere in their political domestic processes.
"Therefore, if someone, and I am not saying that it's us (we did not interfere), if anybody does influence in some way or attempts to influence or somehow participates in these processes, then the United States has nothing to be offended by. Who is talking? Who is taking offense that we are interfering? You yourselves interfere all the time."
Megyn Kelly: "That sounds like a justification."
Vladimir Putin: "It does not sound like justification. It sounds like a statement of fact. Each action invites appropriate counteraction, but, again, we don't need to do that because I did not tell you this without a reason, both you personally and other members of the media, recently I was in France and I said the same things.
"Presidents come and go, and even parties come to and away from power. But the main policy tack does not change. So by and large we don't care who will be at the helm in the United States. We have a rough idea of what is going to happen. And in this regard, even if we wanted to it wouldn't make any sense for us to interfere."
Megyn Kelly: "You had said for months that Russia had nothing to do with the interference of the American election, and then this week you floated the idea of patriotic hackers doing it. Why the change and why now?"
Vladimir Putin: "It's just that the French journalists asked me about those hackers, and just like I told them, I can tell you, that hackers may be anywhere. They may be in Russia, in Asia, in America, in Latin America. There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can't you imagine such a scenario? In the middle of an internal political fight, it was convenient for them, whatever the reason, to put out that information. And put it out they did. And, doing it, they made a reference to Russia. Can't you imagine it happening? I can. Let us recall the assassination of President Kennedy.
"There is a theory that Kennedy's assassination was arranged by the United States special services. If this theory is correct, and one cannot rule it out, so what can be easier in today's context, being able to rely on the entire technical capabilities available to special services than to organize some kind of attacks in the appropriate manner while making a reference to Russia in the process. Now, the candidate for the Democratic Party, is this candidate universally beloved in the United States? Was it such a popular person? That candidate, too, had political opponents and rivals."
Putin and Megyn Kelly during the interview. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'I Just Find It Amazing How You Created A Sensation Where There Wasn't Anything At All. And Proceeded To Turn That Sensation Into A Tool For Fighting The Sitting President. You Know, You're Just Very Resourceful People There, Well Done, Probably Your Lives There Are Boring'
Megyn Kelly: "Let's move on. A special counsel has been appointed to investigate contacts between your government and the Trump campaign. You have said that your ambassador Kislyak was just doing his job. Right? So, what exactly was discussed in those meetings?"
Vladimir Putin: "There were no sessions. You see, there were no sessions. When I saw that my jaw dropped."
Megyn Kelly: "No meetings between Ambassador Kislyak and anybody from the Trump campaign?"
Vladimir Putin: "No clue. I am telling you honestly. I don't know. That's an ambassador's every day, routine work. Do you think, an ambassador from any place in the world or from the U.S. reports to me daily as to whom he meets with and what they discuss? It's just absurd. Do you even understand what you are asking me?"
Megyn Kelly: "Well, you're his boss."
Vladimir Putin: "Listen, his boss is the foreign minister. Do you think I have the time to talk to our ambassadors all over the world every day? This is nonsense. Don't you understand that this is just some kind of nonsense. I don't even know with whom he met there. Had there been something out of the ordinary, something remarkable he of course would have advised the minister and the minister would have informed me. Nothing of that happened.
Megyn Kelly: "Since it happened have you gone back to speak with the ambassador about what was in those discussions he had with Jared Kushner, with General Michael Flynn, with anybody else from the Trump campaign?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, I haven't."
Megyn Kelly: "Aren't you interested?"
Vladimir Putin: "No. Because if there had been something meaningful he would have made a report to the minister, and the minister would have made a report to me. There weren't even any reports. Just every day, routine work that doesn't mean anything that may not even have any prospects.
"It's just that someone decided to find fault with it and, you know, select it as a line of attack against the current President. This isn't for us to get into, these are your domestic political squabbles. So you deal with them. Nothing to talk about.
"There was not even a specific discussion of sanctions or something else. I just find it amazing how you created a sensation where there wasn't anything at all. And proceeded to turn that sensation into a tool for fighting the sitting president. You know, you're just very resourceful people there, well done, probably your lives there are boring."
Megyn Kelly: "I am sure you have heard by now that one of the things they are looking into is the fact that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, reportedly discussed with Ambassador Kislyak in December establishing a back channel for communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. And the suggestion was, by Mr. Kushner, that they could do this at a Russian embassy or a Russian consulate. That they could use Russia's communications gear to make those communications happen so that the United States intelligence service could not hear. Does that strike you as a good idea?"
Vladimir Putin: "Russia had no channels of communication with neither campaign, the campaigns of the US Presidential candidates. None whatsoever. Russia did not set up and did not have any channels with anyone. There may have been official contacts with the campaigns of all the candidates, which is a standard diplomatic practice."
Megyn Kelly: "This is a proposal, a proposal by Mr. Kushner."
Vladimir Putin: "I am not aware of such a proposal. No such proposal ever reached me."
Putin: 'If Mr. Flynn And I Had This Kind Of Interaction, While You And I, We Have Spent An Entire Day Together, And Mr. Flynn Was Fired From His job, You Then Should Be Arrested And Put In Jail'
Megyn Kelly: "Did you know General Michael Flynn? He came over here for a dinner a photo of which has been widely circulated in the American media. What was the nature of your relationship with him?"
Vladimir Putin: "You and I, we have a much closer relationship than with Mr. Flynn. You and I met up yesterday evening. You and I have worked all day together. We are meeting yet again at this moment. When I came to the event at our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman, and someone else was sitting down on my other side.
"I made a speech, then we talked about something else, then I got up and left. Afterwards, I was told, 'You know, that American gentleman, he used to do this before, used to work in the special services. And now he does this.' 'Great,' I said, 'Are you working with him somehow?' 'No, we just invited him as a guest, one of the guests.' And I replied: 'Well, good for you!' And that's it.
"I almost did not talk to him. I said hello, we sat next to each other, then I said goodbye and left. This sums up my entire acquaintanceship with Mr. Flynn. If Mr. Flynn and I had this kind of interaction, while you and I, we have spent an entire day together, and Mr. Flynn was fired from his job, you then should be arrested and put in jail."
Putin: 'Why Do You Believe You Are Entitled To Put Such Questions To Us And, Mind You, Do It All The Time, To Moralize And To Teach Us How We Should Live?'
Megyn Kelly: "Many Americans hear the name, Vladimir Putin. And they think, 'He runs a country full of corruption, a country in which journalists, who are too critical, could wind up murdered, a country in which dissidents could wind up in jail or worse.' To people who believe that, what is your message?"
Vladimir Putin: "I want to say that Russia is developing along a democratic path, this is without question so. No one should have any doubts about that. The fact that, amidst political rivalry and some other domestic developments, we see things happen here that are typical of other countries, I do not see anything unusual in it.
"We have rallies, opposition rallies. And people here have the right to express their point of view. However, if people, while expressing their views, break the current legislation, the effective law in place, then of course, the law enforcement agencies try to restore order.
"I am calling your attention to something that I discussed recently when on a trip to France and in my discussions with other European colleagues. Our police force, fortunately, so far, do not use batons, tear gas or any other extreme measures of instilling order, something that we often see in other countries, including in the United States.
"Speaking of opposition, let us recall the movement Occupy Wall Street. Where is it now? The law enforcement agencies and special services in the U.S. have taken it apart, into little pieces, and have dissolved it. I'm not asking you about how things stand in terms of democracy in the United States. Especially so that the electoral legislation is far from being perfect in the U.S. Why do you believe you are entitled to put such questions to us and, mind you, do it all the time, to moralize and to teach us how we should live?
"We are ready to listen to our partners, ready to listen to appraisals and assessments when it is done in a friendly manner, in order to establish contacts and create a common atmosphere and dedicate ourselves to shared values. But we absolutely will not accept when such things are used as a tool of political struggle. I want everybody to know that. This is our message."
Putin: 'Well, This Is Just Another Piece Of Nonsense'
Megyn Kelly: "There have been questions in America about Donald Trump's finances. He hasn't released his tax returns. There have been questions about this secret Russian dossier, which he says is fake, but which purports to have blackmail information in it generated by the Russians. There have been questions about the communications between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, all of which has Americans asking, 'Do you have something damage on our president?'"
Vladimir Putin: "Well, this is just another piece of nonsense. Where would we get any information about him? Did we have some kind of special relationship with him. There was no relationship whatsoever. Yes, he visited Moscow in his day. But, you know, I never met him.
"Many Americans come here. There are representatives of 100 companies from the U.S., who have come to Russia. Do you think I have met each and every representative of those American companies? You probably saw me walk into the conference hall, where our colleagues were sitting. I consider them all to be our friends. They are all working in Russia and many of them have been doing it for many years. They are investors. They are the CEOs of major US companies. They are interested in joint work. And that's great! And we will welcome each and every one of them. And we will consider each of them our friend.
"And we will help them implement their plans in Russia and will try to steer things in a direction so that they can work here successfully and make a profit.
"And should they all be arrested for it afterwards? Have you lost your minds there or something? What about the freedom of economy? What about human rights? Do you think we are gathering dirt on all of them now? Are you all right in the head, all of you there?"
Putin: 'I Will Never Forget The State In Which This Country Was In The Early 1990s'
Megyn Kelly: "Last question. We have been here in St Petersburg for about a week now. And virtually every person we have met on the street says what they respect about you is they feel that you have returned dignity to Russia, that you've returned Russia to a place of respect. You've been in the leadership of this country for 17 years now. Has it taken any sort of personal toll on you?"
Vladimir Putin: "I hope not. Do you know what I feel? I feel this live, direct connection to this land, to its history, to this country. You have said that you have been in St Petersburg for several days. Yesterday, I had a conversation with Indian Prime Minister. He had visited the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery, where almost 400,000 residents of Leningrad were buried, most of them civilians. They died during the siege of Leningrad. They starved to death. And buried in one of those graves is my older brother whom I have never seen. And I will never forget that, just like I will never forget the state in which this country was in the early 1990s.
"You and I have had a debate today in the course of our conversation. However, in this country, since 2000 – and we have many problems, and recently even the poverty threshold has become a little worse than we planned – the situation will recover, I am confident of that, and yet our population's real wages have grown manifold. And so have pensions.
"Our economy has become completely different, on the whole. The size has changed. The economy has almost doubled in size. And the quality is changing, not as fast as we would like it to, but the structure is changing.
"Our Armed Forces are completely different today from what they were, say 15 years ago or so.
"All of this, including our great history, great culture, all of this, not just what we see today, is what makes the vast majority of Russia's citizens feel proud for their country."
(Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2017)
Appendix II – Meeting With Heads Of International News Agencies – Kremlin.ru, June 1, 2017
Putin: 'We Are Seeing The Emergence Of A Multipolar World, And This Is Not To The Monopolists' Liking'
Director General of TASS Sergei Mikhailov: "… Colleagues, following tradition, I will attempt to moderate our meeting today.
"This is the fourth time now that we are meeting on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Many of my colleagues present here today are not meeting with you for the first time, but our circle of participants changes each year, and we have new colleagues this year and it is a pleasure to welcome them to St Petersburg. I hope that this inflow of new blood will mix organically with the experience of the old hands and will produce a fruitful and interesting dialogue for all.
"Mr. President, it always seems that all that needs to be said has been said after each of these meetings, but at the same time, we know that next year will bring new subjects of discussion. This is the case this year too.
"We have discussed things together, and we see the stubborn efforts underway to push Russia against its will into conflictual confrontation with the West. The media and some politicians constantly foment anti-Russian sentiments, and some politicians even put us in the same ranks as ISIS and terrorists. Baltic countries have even started suspecting that the popular children's cartoon Masha i Medved could be used as a tool in hybrid war. You met with the cartoon makers yesterday, this is why I recalled this example.
"But excesses of this kind no longer raise a smile and, it seems to me, are even becoming a threat to stability in the world. How long do you think these unfounded attacks on Russia will continue? What should we do to end this political Russophobia? This is the first question that I wanted to put today.
Vladimir Putin: "First of all, yes, I would like to share my reflections and thoughts on what is happening and on the reasons for this Russophobia. It is evident and in some countries is simply going beyond all bounds.
"Why is this so? I think this is because we are seeing the emergence of a multipolar world, and this is not to the monopolists' liking. Monopolies are not good things, as we know, but monopolists always fight to keep hold of them, in all sectors and all areas of life.
"A multipolar world is emerging and this is partly due to Russia's efforts to stand up for its interests, for its legitimate interests, let me stress. That is one aspect.
"The second aspect is that some of our partners in some countries began making attempts a while back to contain Russia and limit its lawful desire to protect its national interests. They do this through all kinds of actions that are outside the framework of international law, including economic restrictions. Now, they see that this is not working and has produced no results. This irritates them and rouses them into using other methods to pursue their aims and tempts them to up the stakes. But we do not go along with these attempts, do not offer pretexts for action. They therefore need to invent pretexts out of nowhere.
"How long will this last? I do not think it will go on forever, because sooner or later, people will wake up to the fact that this is counterproductive and harmful to all. Of course, it causes us some harm, but it also harms those who initiate these policies. I think that people are already coming around to this realization. We see some very clear change in the situation, change for the better. I hope that this trend will continue."
Putin: 'In Principle, We … Are Ready To Work With Anyone'
General Director of DPA Peter Kropsch: "(In German.) I want to thank you for finding the time to meet with my colleagues and me.
"(In English.) I'm going to switch to English. This is a little better and I have a question. We will have parliamentary elections in Germany this year and what do you think in the sense of the relationship between Germany and Russia? Would you prefer to work with your partner Chancellor Merkel or could you imagine that with Chancellor Schulz you could even make bigger progress?
"And maybe a second question. I know you answered that but I am asking for your advice. There is always a kind of nervosity in Germany about the situation that it could be that some hackers, maybe also from Russia, could try to influence, by leaking information or by false information, this election process. Would you think that could be possible and what would be your advice for Germany and the German officials?
Vladimir Putin: "The first part of your question concerns relations with my partners and colleagues in Germany.
"I have known and worked together with Angela [Merkel] for a long time now. We do have our differences, but we have many areas of common ground too, especially in economic cooperation. We share similar views on some issues in international politics too. As I said though, there are issues on which we differ in our policy approaches.
"I hardly know Mr Schulz at all, but I know he is an experienced person who has been in politics for a long time. He has been in European politics and in German politics, and has recently returned to German politics. In principle, we – and when I say 'we', I mean the entire Russian team – are ready to work with anyone. The main thing is to have partners who, like us, seek constructive cooperation. We have no preferences in this respect.
"I think that if we and partners act not out of political considerations of the moment, but are guided by our countries' and peoples' fundamental interests, not only will we find common ground, but we will find good and effective roads for working together, effective means of cooperation.
"I have no doubt whatsoever about this because we have so many interests in common. After all, our cooperation in some economic sectors and our interdependency in some sectors is such that dozens if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in both countries depend on its successful development. This is a powerful factor for our coexistence in today's world and all the more so in Europe.
"Some German producers make big profits out of working on the Russian market. There is no need to be an expert or specialist to understand that the Russian economy needs to develop technology cooperation. In this area, we have been working together with success and we have results. I am thinking of the recovery in our trade with Germany, for example, which was up by nearly 40 percent in the first quarter of this year. This, I think, is significant growth.
But I am thinking too of the many projects that we are carrying out with success, and that increase the amount of high-tech goods produced on Russian soil. In other words, this is a serious localization effort, and localization reaches up to 60–70 percent. The automotive sector provides a good example. Despite the political difficulties, not a single German company, and the same is true of our other foreign partners, has left the Russian market. Everyone continues working. And this is despite the political and also economic difficulties, the fall in production, drop in GDP, decrease in people's real incomes and the corresponding fall in demand. Everyone is working all the same. The state authorities are doing their best to support them and we are continuing this constructive work.
"That is not to mention the energy sector. Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy, but nuclear energy accounts for a big share of Germany's energy, bigger than in Russia today. Where will Germany get its energy from? We see that Norway's resources are coming to an end, and Britain will soon be a net consumer country. Their resources are also dwindling. So, where will the energy come from?
"At the last forum, we spoke about the prospects on the Yamal Peninsula, where we had reserves of 2.7 trillion cubic meters of gas. Gazprom just briefed me on the new reserves they have discovered there. Can you imagine what this increase represents? It's a two-fold increase. We have another 4.2 trillion cubic meters there, and that is just in one small region. But these reserves are global in scale, and given Russia's proximity to Europe and cheap logistics and well-organized procedures and technology, this is an absolutely natural partnership. We offer a cheap and clean energy source, if its hydrocarbons we're looking at. This is absolutely natural. In the long term, if we look at long-term contracts, this guarantees stable supplies and – also very important – guarantees that the entire German economy is competitive. This is tremendously important. It's a relatively cheap resource and comes from a reliable source.
"We also have historically strong humanitarian ties and contacts between people. This has always been the case. Despite the tragedies of two wars, our peoples have always maintained their contacts.
"I say all this simply in the hope that Germany will be led by people who understand all of these relations, and we take the position that no matter who is in power in Germany, these fundamental factors in our relations will play a positive role.
"Now regarding hackers: hackers can be anywhere, they can lurk in any country in the world. Of course, the general context of inter-state relations should be taken into account in this case because hackers are free people like artists. If artists get up in the morning feeling good, all they do all day is paint. The same goes for hackers. They got up today and read that something is going on internationally. If they are feeling patriotic they will start contributing, as they believe, to the justified fight against those speaking ill of Russia. Is that possible? In theory, yes. At the government level, we never engage in this. This is what is most important. This is the first point.
"Second. I can image a scenario when somebody develops a chain of attacks in a manner that would show Russia as the source of these attacks. Modern technology allows that. It is very easy.
"And finally, what is most important is I am deeply convinced that no hackers can have a real impact on an election campaign in another country. You see, nothing, no information can be imprinted in voters' minds, in the minds of a nation, and influence the final outcome and the final result. This is my answer.
"We do not engage in this activity at the government level and are not going to engage in it. On the contrary, we try to prevent this from happening in our country. At any rate, I believe that no hackers can affect the election campaign in any European country, nor in Asia or in America."
Putin: 'Missile Defenses Are Being Put In Place In Alaska, And Now In South Korea. Like With What Is Happening To The West Of Russia, Are We To Look On Idly At What Is Happening to the east?
Vice President of Kyodo News Juno Kondo (retranslated): "Thank you very much for letting me ask a question. It is about Russian-Japanese relations and southern Kuril Islands. You agreed with Mr. Abe on joint economic activities in southern Kurils. This will certainly help build trust between Japan and Russia.
"But as for the attitude of the Japanese, we know that Russia is building up military preparations on the islands of Iturup and Kunashir and we are naturally worried about this.
"On the other hand, Russia may also have grounds for concern. If Japan receives two islands after the conclusion of a peace treaty, U.S. troops may be deployed there in accordance with the Japanese-U.S. security treaty.
"In this respect, I want to ask, is demilitarization of the southern Kuril Islands possible? I believe it is not possible to resolve the issue of these islands now, of course, but if you do have a position on this matter, I would very much like to hear it. What possible solutions do you see on this issue?
"And a second question concerning North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. This is unquestionably a grave threat for security throughout Northeast Asia. What prospects for solutions do you see here, in particular in light of American military activity in the region?"
Vladimir Putin: "First, concerning the military build-up in the Russian Far East and on the islands in particular, this was not Russia's initiative. The same applies to the situation in Europe. NATO bases are coming ever closer to our western borders, infrastructure creeps closer, and contingents are being beefed up. What are we to do in this situation? Are we to watch on idly? No, we cannot and will not. We are taking the appropriate responses.
"The same is happening in the east. One aircraft carrier sailed to the region, then a second American aircraft carrier arrived, and there are reports of a third heading for the region now. This is not the end of the world – aircraft carriers come and leave again, but components of a missile defense system are being installed as well, and this is a great concern, which we have spoken about for the last decade, because it destroys the strategic balance in the world.
"You are all experienced adults with decades spent working in the news field, but you keep silent on this issue. The world remains silent as if nothing were happening. No one is listening to us, and if they are listening, they do not pass on our message further. The global public is living in ignorance of this whole situation, but what is happening is a very serious and worrying process. Missile defenses are being put in place in Alaska, and now in South Korea. Like with what is happening to the west of Russia, are we to look on idly at what is happening to the east? No, of course we cannot. We are considering possible responses to this challenge, and it is a challenge in our eyes.
"When we raised the issue of the American BMD system in Europe, they cited the problem of Iran, saying that they are doing this to neutralize Iran's nuclear program and the threat it allegedly presented. But since then we have signed an agreement with Iran that removed this alleged threat, and the international community has agreed that there are reliable safeguards. The IAEA shares this view. However, the development of ballistic missile defense sites goes on at a fast pace. Who is it designed against?
"We kept saying that the above arguments hold no water, and that they are trying to deceive us. They replied that Iran is their only target. Now I am the only one to keep talking about this, while the rest stay silent and pretend not to understand what I mean. But you do know what I mean. Why do you stay silent then? Meanwhile, the situation is getting worse. This is pushing the arms race into a new round. This is obvious. And so we are pondering a response. We are thinking about ways to improve our missile defense system. This is a new round of the arms race exactly.
"The same applies to the [disputed] islands. We are concerned with our security. We are thinking about ways to neutralize possible threats a long distance from the border. The islands are a convenient place for this. In other words, I do not agree that we have taken the initiative to militarize them. No, we have been forced to reply to the developments in the region.
"Of course, you can refer to the North Korean nuclear missile threat, just as it happened in the case of Iran. But I do not think that North Korea is really the point. If Pyongyang announces tomorrow that it is going to abandon the nuclear tests and its nuclear weapons program, the United States will continue to develop its BMD system under some other pretext or without any pretext at all, as it is doing in Europe now. We must definitely bear this in mind.
"I do not want to build up tensions, but you have asked a question and I had to explain our position.
"Coming to your second part, to the theoretical possibility that American troops could be stationed on the islands if they were to become Japanese sovereign territory, yes, this possibility exists. This stems from the treaty, from the protocols that were signed. We have not seen them, but we have an overall idea of their content.
"I won't go into the details now, though I am familiar with them, but the possibility for stationing American troops on the islands exists. Of course, we could ask, does Russia plan to worsen its relations with the United States in some way, and does this possibility frighten us? No, we have no such intentions, and nothing frightens us, but we see, for example, what is happening now in the United States, we see the anti-Russian campaign and the Russophobia that continue there. How will this situation develop? We do not know, and it does not depend on us, as we did not begin this whole process. In this situation, we can theoretically imagine that today everything is fine, and tomorrow they deploy missile defense system components there too. This would be totally unacceptable to us.
"Is demilitarization possible? Yes, of course it is, but simply demilitarizing these islands alone is not enough. We need to look at how to reduce tension in the region in general. Only then can we look at serious, long-term agreements. It is difficult to say right now just what kind of agreements they might be, but I do think they are possible."
(Kremlin.ru, June 1, 2017)
APPENDIX III – Meeting With Heads Of International News Agencies - Tass.com, June 1, 2017
The Kremlin's website did not publish the full transcript of the meeting with the heads of international news agencies. Following are excerpts of the meeting as published by TASS news agency:
Putin Assesses That It Is Too Early To Speculate Whether He Will Participate In The 2018 Presidential Election
"Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it is too early to speculate whether he will participate in the 2018 presidential election. 'Not now,' Putin replied, when asked at a meeting with the heads of the world's leading news agencies, when asked when he would be able to say something about the possibility of his participation in the election. 'I still don't know myself when,' Putin said, adding that 'the presidential election date is a little less than a year away and this is a lot of time in a quickly changing world.'
"'Time is not ripe yet,' he reiterated. He explained that as soon presidential election campaign or any other campaign began, 'everybody stops working and starts rushing about here, there and everywhere, surfing the world web and nobody wants to work in earnest anymore.' 'The later it begins, the better,' Putin concluded.
(Tass.com, June 1, 2017)
Putin: 'How Can One Be On Friendly Terms With A Person They Have Not Met Yet?'
"Russian President Vladimir Putin has described his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump as a frank and sincere person with whom he is determined to establish a normal business and personal relationship… 'As far as our rumored friendship with Trump goes, how can one be on friendly terms with a person they have not met yet? I believe that Mr. Trump is unable to call me a friend of his either. We haven't shaken hands with him yet. We haven't met just once!' Putin said at a meeting with the heads of the world's leading news agencies on Thursday.
"Asked about his attitude to Trump, Putin said that he had a liking to such type of personalities in general. 'He is a straightforward and frank man. He does not belong with the traditional type of politicians. He had never been in big politics before,' the Russian leader said, adding this looked like a great advantage to him in a sense.
"'He takes a fresh look at things, regardless of whether some people may like this or not. Very often this yields certain benefits,' Putin said. The Russian president recalled that during his presidential election campaign Trump declared his readiness to take steps for the sake of normalization of Russian-U.S. relations and to propel them to a level 'meeting the interests of both countries.'
"'Naturally, we are prepared for such a dialogue with the president of the United States,' Putin said. He added he had no idea yet what future Moscow-Washington relations would look like in practice, because 'internal political struggle underway in the United States does not allow for building relations on many tracks.'
"Asked what advice he might share with the U.S. president as to how to counter bureaucracy, Putin said that 'a man like Trump does not need advice, especially when it comes to internal political matters.'
"'Generally speaking, it is always counterproductive to try to lecture counterparts,' Putin said, adding that in that case there is always a chance to blame failure on somebody else.
"Putin said he hoped to have a normal business and personal relationship with Trump, just as with all other foreign counterparts. 'I would like to establish a constructive dialogue on the basis of national interests of our countries and with due regard for those interests. I believe it is possible to achieve that jointly with the current president [of the United States]. What will happen in reality I do not know,' Putin said."
(Tass.com, June 1, 2017)
APPENDIX IV - Meeting With Russian And U.S. Business Leaders, Kremlin.ru, June 2, 2017
Vladimir Putin took part in the Russia–U.S. Business Dialogue panel discussion. The event was held as part of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Renova Group Viktor Vekselberg: "Mr. President, allow me on behalf of all participants in the Russia-U.S. Business Dialogue to thank you for taking part in this meeting and to brief you on our discussions.
"First, I would like to say that the U.S. delegation at this year's St Petersburg Forum is the largest ever, which probably came as a surprise for many of us. More than 300 people represent various U.S. companies and businesses at this Forum.
"In terms of the discussions we had and the conclusions we came to, I do not think you will be surprised since participants in this discussion from both sides were adamant in calling for stepping up business ties, saying that they all firmly believe in the lasting benefits of cooperation and the complementarity of Russian and U.S. businesses. They also supported various cooperation and collaboration frameworks, especially in areas dealing with new challenges for the global economy alongside traditional ones. I am referring to IT-related challenges. Russia and the U.S. have extensive expertise, making it extremely important to promote cooperation in this area, as was pointed out during today's meeting.
"To conclude, the business community spoke out in single voice in the hope that solutions at the political level will pave the way for improving and further promoting our economic relations."
Vladimir Putin: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
"I would like to begin by thanking both the Russian and American organizers of this event. It is a pleasure for me to welcome you all.
"I would like to thank our American friends for coming to this event. Mr Vekselberg has already mentioned the unfortunate state of U.S.-Russian and Russian-U.S. relations.
"Of course, as influential world powers, Russia and the U.S. have been keeping the dialogue alive in various multilateral formats, including the UN, the Group of Twenty, which will soon meet in Germany, as well as within APEC and other frameworks, and have continued to cooperate on key global and regional matters. There is no getting away from it, and it is so much better that this process carries on.
"However, it has to be recognized that it took decades to lay the groundwork for cooperation that was all but annihilated over the past few years. Our bilateral relations deteriorated to their lowest point since the Cold War.
"This could not fail to affect the economy and our business ties. Bilateral trade was modest to begin with, but in 2014–2016 it decreased by 30 percent.
"From a realistic, pragmatic perspective, neither Russian, nor American businesses can be satisfied with a situation where mutually beneficial projects are being curtailed. Of course, taking into account the modest trade volumes, this could be viewed as having little importance. However, once we factor in the missed opportunities, it turns out that this was harmful for everyone. In this regard, let me stress that only solid trade and investment ties can ensure a reliable safety net from political oscillations.
"Even in the most challenging periods of history, when our two countries represented different political and ideological systems, the United Stated always remained an important trade partner for us. This was case in the early days of the Soviet state, when U.S. businesses contributed to the industrialization effort. This was also the case with the lend-lease program during the Second World War. By the way, modern Russia completely paid off its debt under this program.
"Americans are good businesspeople. When they saw big money in Russia with the rise of oil and gas prices, they asked for lend-lease debts to be paid back. We did not want to be greedy, and paid them back. We all have to keep this in mind. Incidentally, we also paid back all of the debts contracted by the Soviet Union, including those of all the former Soviet republics. Russia assumed all these debts and paid them off.
"Still, even in the 1970s and 1980s, during the Cold War, we cooperated with the United States.
"Today major U.S. companies continue to operate in Russia and to maintain a notable presence on the Russian market. There are about 3,000 firms with American capital in Russia. The total assets of these enterprises amount to about $75 billion, and they employ over 180,000 people.
"Interestingly, the delegation of U.S. business representatives is one of the most representative at this forum. Mr. Vekselberg mentioned this, and I would even go further and say that almost a quarter of all foreign companies registered with the forum come from the United States, 144 out of 511. This, by the way, is a record number.
"To reiterate, our economic interaction with the United States is balanced and diversified, and focuses on technology-intensive projects. The ongoing projects are in good shape, in general. Thus, from 2014 to 2016, the share of innovative products in Russia's total exports to the United States fluctuated between 9.7 and 14 percent.
"Exports of high-tech services, such as space transport, information technologies, engineering and scientific designs, amounted to about $900 million in 2015, or about one-third of our total exports of services to the U.S. market.
"We intend to promote in every possible way bilateral business projects based on equal and constructive partnership and cooperation. We are interested in technology transfers and bringing in international firms to help us expand our domestic industry and infrastructure.
"We operate on the premise that such mutually beneficial joint initiatives will contribute to the success of the work we are doing in Russia to step up socioeconomic development, and help us establish on our territory the production of competitive world-class products with a view to exporting them to third countries. Of course, we will do our best to make this business in Russia lucrative for our American partners.
"It is good to know that the business communities of the two countries continue to maintain close contacts. Today's meeting is a good example of this. Last year as well, Russian and U.S. business associations organized several events and roundtable discussions, including those at the St Petersburg Economic Forum.
"I believe that improved bilateral relations will benefit both countries. We will continue the dialogue on this with the new US President, Mr. Trump, and the new Administration.
"However, success requires serious efforts on both sides. It also takes political will and a willingness to solve problems of mutual practical interest.
"I hope that today's discussion, your initiatives and specific considerations contribute to forming a favorable environment for expanding this complicated task in order to restore trust and constructive dialogue.
"Mr. Vekselberg said that many things in business, cooperation and the economy depend on political dialogue. I want to pass this puck to you. Help us restore a good political dialogue. I am asking you on behalf of Russia. I am addressing our American counterparts. Help the newly elected President and the new administration of the United States.
"We agreed that I will not participate in your discussion now because there will be a large panel session later. There will be similar questions and similar answers. I would not like to repeat myself and undercut interest in the main event.
"I would like to thank all of you for being here today and for thinking, in this direct discussion, about how we can move forward.
"Thank you very much and good luck."
(Kremlin.ru, June 2, 2017)
 See MEMRI Special Dispatches on SPIEF 2016:
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6489, Two Weeks To NATO's Warsaw Summit, Putin At The SPIEF Questions The Very Necessity Of NATO Now That Warsaw Pact And Soviet Union Are Gone; 'One Day It Will Come To A Cold War', June 23, 2016.
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6485, Russian President Putin At SPIEF Plenary Session: The 'Greater Eurasia' Project Is Open To Europe - Part I, June 20, 2016.
MEMRI Special Dispatch No.6487, Russian President Putin At The SPIEF Plenary Session: 'Our Goal Is To Achieve Economic Growth Rates Of No Less Than 4 Percent A Year' - Part II, June 21, 2016.
 Kremlin.ru, June 1-3, 2017.
 Kremlin.ru, June 2, 2017.