expressed hopes that a new US president will work with him to rectify the
dangerous deterioration in relations between the US and Russia. Obviously, this
cannot happen if the new president is Hillary.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:Tarja, Heinz, Thabo, colleagues, ladies and
It is a great pleasure to see you again. I want to start by thanking all of the
participants in the Valdai International Discussion Club, from Russia and
abroad, for your constructive part in this work, and I want to thank our
distinguished guests for their readiness to take part in this open discussion.
Our esteemed moderator 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
I think that this style of discussion is extremely needed today given the great
changes taking place in the world. The theme for our meeting this year, The
Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow, is very topical.
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
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 globalisation
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 globalisation 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 organisations, norms and rules. They chose the road of
globalisation 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 centre 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
favour these countries broke apart the international legal framework that
prohibited deployment of new missile defence 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.
We see how free trade is being sacrificed and countries use sanctions as a
means of political pressure, bypass the World Trade Organisation 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 organisation
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 organisations 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 organisation 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 defence 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 civilisation 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
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
centre 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’ labour for the public good. Or they sink
into hysteria and declare it the result of foreign, usually Russian,
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 favour 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.
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
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
organised 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
globalisation 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
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
programme, a kind of Marshall Plan, to revive the war- and conflict-ridden
area. Russia is certainly willing to join actively in these team efforts.
We cannot achieve global stability unless we guarantee global economic
progress. It is essential to provide conditions for creative labour and
economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world
into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give
the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as
developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic
development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the
fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all.
Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst
It is also absolutely evident that economic cooperation should be mutually
lucrative and rest on universal principles to enable every country to become an
equal partner in global economic activities. True, the regionalising trend in
the world economy is likely to persist in the medium term. However, regional
trade agreements should complement and expand not replace the universal norms
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
centres 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.
An important task of ours is to develop human potential. Only a world with
ample opportunities for all, with highly skilled workers, access to knowledge
and a great variety of ways to realise their potential can be considered truly
free. Only a world where people from different countries do not struggle to
survive but lead full lives can be stable.
A decent future is impossible without environment protection and addressing
climate problems. That is why the conservation of the natural world and its
diversity and reducing the human impact on the environment will be a priority
for the coming decades.
Another priority is global healthcare. Of course, there are many problems, such
as large-scale epidemics, decreasing the mortality rate in some regions and the
like. So there is enormous room for advancement. All people in the world, not
only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is
a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world
today by investing in all priority areas of human development. And of course,
it is necessary to continue a broad-based discussion of our common future so
that all sensible and promising initiatives are heard.
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that you, as members of the
Valdai Club, will actively take part in this work. Your expertise enables you
to understand all angles of the processes underway both in Russia and in the
world, forecast and evaluate long-term trends, and put forward new initiatives
and recommendations that will help us find the way to the more prosperous and
sustainable future that we all badly need.
Thank you very much for your attention.
(comments at end)
Vladimir Putin: I would just like to make a quick response to what Mr Fischer
has just said. He mentioned discussions in the EU on the trade agreement with
Canada. This is an internal EU matter, but if you permit, I would just like to
make one small remark.
I know that some in Europe find Wallonia’s position irritating, after all, the
region is home to only 3.5 million people, but these 3.5 million people are
blocking a decision on an issue of global importance, namely, this trade
agreement with Canada. But when Belgium took part in the EU’s creation, it did
so on the basis of particular principles, including that Belgium overall, and
Wallonia, would have certain rights.
The EU has grown greatly since then and has a much different membership now,
but the rules have not changed. Perhaps these rules need to be changed, but in
this case, you would first have to give the people who created this
organisation a chance to change it through a democratic process and then obtain
As for the dispute itself, I am not as familiar with all the details as the
Europeans are, of course, but whatever the prerogatives of the EU supranational
bodies (note that I have already spoken publicly on this point), the European
Parliament adopts a far greater number of binding decisions with regard to the
member states than did the USSR Supreme Soviet with regard to the Soviet
Union’s constituent republics during the Soviet period. It is not for us to say
whether this is good or bad. We want to see a strong and centralised Europe.
This is our position. But in Europe itself there are many different views, and
I hope that this whole issue will be resolved in positive fashion.
On the matter of the UN, I have said before but will say again now that we must
return to what is written in the UN Charter, because there is no other such
universal organisation in the world. If we renounce the UN, this is a sure road
to chaos. There is no other universal alternative in the world. Yes, the world
has changed, and yes, the UN and the Security Council do need reform and
reconstruction. But as they say in our Foreign Ministry, we can do this in such
a way as to preserve the organisation’s effectiveness. We can do this on the
basis of broad consensus. We need to ensure that the vast majority of international
actors give their support to these reforms.
Today, we must return to a common understanding of the principles of
international law as enshrined in the UN Charter. This is because when the UN
was established after World War II, there was a particular balance of power in
the world. Later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States
decided that there was no one to coordinate things with and they did not really
need to get anyone’s approval on fundamental matters. This was the start of
First, in the 1990s, we had the airstrikes against Belgrade. I will not go into
the humanitarian aspect that preceded these decisions, but just seeing
airstrikes carried out in the heart of Europe at the end of the twentieth
century seemed to me simply barbaric. This was all the more so as it was done
in violation of the UN Charter and without approval. When this happened, people
immediately started saying that the old rules were outdated and something had
Things got worse from there with the events in Iraq. Did the UN sanction the
operations in Iraq? No. Before this there were operations in Afghanistan in
2001. Yes, we all know the tragedy of September 11, 2001, but even so, under
existing international law, a relevant UN Security Council resolution should
have been sought first, which was not done.
Then came Iraq, and then came the resolution on Libya. You are all experts
here, you have read the resolution on Libya, and know that it was about
establishing a no-fly zone there. But what kind of no-fly zone can we speak of
if airstrikes began against Libyan territory? This was a flagrant violation of
the UN Charter. And then came Syria.
It was either Tarja or 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.
I would also like to respond to the absolutely proper developments in Finland,
for instance. 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 minimise 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.
Regarding what Tarja said on the subject of security in the Baltic Sea area, I
remind you that this matter came up not on our initiative but during my visit
to Naantali in Finland, and on the initiative of Mr Niinisto, the president of
Finland. Quite out of the blue, he requested that Russian aircraft do not fly
with their transponders off. For those not familiar with military matters, I
note that transponders are instruments that signal an aircraft’s location in
the air. Of course, if aircraft fly with their transponders on, this increases
security in the Baltic Sea region. This is the truth of the matter. I responded
immediately then, noting firstly that there are far more flights by NATO
aircraft in the region than by our aircraft.
Secondly, I promised the Finnish President that we would definitely raise this
issue with our partners at the next Russia-NATO Council meeting. I can tell you
that we did this. The result was that our NATO partners rejected Putin’s
proposal, as they said. But this has nothing to do with Putin. They rejected
the proposal made by Mr Niinisto, the president of Finland.
This was not such a straightforward matter for us either, I would say, because
there is a technical dimension involved, a purely military dimension. But I did
give the Defence Ministry instructions to find a way to do this without
detriment to our security. The Defence Ministry found a solution, but our NATO
colleagues rejected it. So please, direct your questions to the NATO
headquarters in Brussels.
Putin: I think that intervention by any country in another country’s internal
political process is unacceptable, no matter how these attempts are made, with
the help of cyberattacks or through other instruments or organisations
controlled from the outside within the country.
You know what happened in Turkey, for example, and the position taken by
President of Turkey Recep Erdogan. He believes that the coup attempt in Turkey
was undertaken by groups inspired by and with the direct help of an
organisation run by a certain Gulen, who has lived in the United States for the
last 9 years. This is unacceptable, and cyberattacks are unacceptable.
But we probably cannot avoid having an impact on each other, including in
cyberspace. Your question was about the very specific matter of the electoral
system though. I think this is absolutely unacceptable. How can we avoid this
sort of thing, if it does happen? I think the only way is to reach agreement
and come up with some rules on which we will have a common understanding and
which will be recognised at the government and state level and can be verified.
Of course, the issue of internet freedom and everything related to it arises,
but we know that many countries, including those that support internet freedom,
take practical steps to restrict access out of concern for people’s interests.
This concerns cybercrime, for example, attacks against banking systems and
illegal money transfers. It concerns suicides too, crimes against children and
so forth. These are measures taken at the national level. We can take
appropriate measures both at the national level and at the intergovernmental
Putin: On the question of favourites 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 normalise 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 criticises 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.
Mr President, my question follows on the subject of security addressed just
before. Obviously, cooperation is an essential part of this, and we realise
that cooperation is not always easy. We saw an example just before with the
case of the transponders. The planes can still fly at least.
But there are areas of vital importance, areas where innocent people’s lives
are at stake. 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.
Fischer: 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 must adopt a resolution outlining the geographical boundaries of
areas where the law on the special status of these unrecognised 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 unrecognised republics, which is very important, and
in this sense, in my view, makes it viable legislation and a key element of a
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 unrecognised 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
recognises 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 civilised 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 Ms 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.
Stent: 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
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 defence 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
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.
Question: Mr President, my question is on Russian policy towards Asia. The
emphasis today in Russian foreign policy is on the construction of a multipolar
world. But do you also give some thought to the importance of a multipolar
Asia? Both in your speech today, and the general construction of the Russian
foreign policy, points, I think, to the growing, deepening contradictions
between the US and the West on the one hand, and the Eurasian situation. But it’s
also a fact that there are internal contradictions within Eurasia. The rise of
new powers is creating a lot of fears; the breakdown of the old order in some
parts is releasing primordial forces. These are internal to Eurasia. But is
there a danger that Russia, by its emphasis on a multipolar world, is
underestimating the dangers of a unipolar Asia, and the need for great powers
to work together to construct a genuinely democratic multipolar Asia?
Vladimir Putin: We are actively developing relations with Asian countries not
because of tension in relations with Europe or the United States, but simply
because life itself dictates this choice. Why do I say that life itself
dictates that we expand these contacts?
The Asian countries’ development and influence is growing and will continue to
do so, and, what’s more, they are growing fast. With a sizeable part of its
territory in Asia, Russia would be foolish not to make use of its geographical
advantages and develop ties with its neighbours.
China is our neighbour and I mentioned this in my opening remarks. We have
longstanding good relations with India and it would be a mistake not to make
use of this and develop solid long-term relations with India today. We have
many common interests. We can naturally complement each other in politics and
As for the question of a multipolar or unipolar Asia, we see that Asia is not
unipolar and this is very evident.
Life is very diverse and complex in general and is full of contradictions. It
is important to resolve these contradictions in a civilised fashion. I think
that the Asian countries’ leaders today have sufficient common sense to work in
just this way with each other, and we are ready to work the same way with them
I visited India just recently and our Defence Minister has just returned from
India. We have cooperation between our defence ministries and also between
industry in the defence sector, as well as in the civilian sector, where we
have many common interests with India, China, Vietnam and other countries in
the region. These ties are extensive and promising.
Gomart: 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.
Question: Mr President, before putting my question, I would like to pass on my
young students’ words. Two years ago, you came to Shanghai on other important
business and our students missed the chance to meet at the university with you
and ask their question, but they asked me to tell you that they would be happy
to see you any time, regardless of whether you have retired or not.
My question is as follows: We have discussed the philosophical matter of
international relations today. Humanity has already gone through different
types of international systems. In your view, to what extent will future
systems resemble past ones? What are the positive components we should
emphasise in particular? Should we seek more universality or more diversity as
far as principles go? What kind of combination of components would you prefer
And I have a specific question too. We have been actively discussing here the
relations between Russia, the West, and China.
Vladimir Putin: Heinz said that this is a very philosophical question and that
we could spend a long time discussing it.
Will tomorrow’s world resemble the past? No, of course not. How is this
possible? Does today’s China resemble the China of the 1960s-70s? They are two
completely different countries, and the Soviet Union is gone today too.
Mr Mbeki spoke about Africa before. I share his arguments. But Africa cannot be
some kind of peripheral place. If anyone thinks this way, they are deeply
mistaken. If we follow this kind of thinking, we can expect very serious trials
ahead. We already hear the talk about refugees and Syria. I saw today the news
about the latest incident in the Mediterranean, where the Italian coastguard
rescued refugees from Africa. What has Syria got to do with this? Africa’s
future and the world’s future are very serious issues. The same goes for
relations in Asia, where there are also many conflicts or potential conflict
I want to repeat what I have just said. The question is whether we have the
wisdom and the courage to find acceptable solutions to these various problems
and complicated conflicts. I certainly hope that this will be the case, that
the world really will become more multipolar, and that the views of all actors
in the international community will be taken into account. No matter whether a
country is big or small, there should be universally accepted common rules that
guarantee sovereignty and peoples’ interests.
As for our relations with our partners in Europe, the United States, America in
general, and the Asian countries, we have a multi-vector policy. This is not
just in virtue of our geographical location. Our policy with regard to our
partners is built on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Mukhin: Alexei Mukhin, Centre for Political Technology.
Mr President, Ukraine is constantly trying to prohibit things Russian. We get
the impression that everything Russian is being squeezed out of Ukrainian life.
In this respect, I have a philosophical question too. Petro Poroshenko said
that he plans to sell his Russian business interests. Does this business
actually exist? What is your view on this?
Vladimir Putin: We seek to respect ownership rights. Mr Kudrin is a staunch
advocate of property rights, seeing it as one of the pillars of economic
policy, and I fully agree with him. We have not always been entirely successful
in this area and we still have improvements to make and much legislative work
to do, but we will always keep working in this direction.
The same concerns our foreign investors, including from Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko
is one of our investors in the sense that he is the owner of a sizeable
business in Lipetsk Region, the Roshen factory. Actually, there are two
businesses there. The second is engaged in selling the products, as far as I
know. There are a few problems there concerning non-return of VAT, and the
courts have imposed some restrictions, but the factories are operating, paying
wages and earning profits, and there are no restrictions on using these
profits, including transferring them abroad. I do not recall the figures now
and do not get into such detail, but I know the business is turning a profit
and is working with success.
Dutkevich: Pyotr Dutkevich, Canada
Mr President, I already put this question yesterday to the Deputy Foreign
Minister, but I realise my mistake, because you are the only person this
question should really be addressed to.
My question is as follows: 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 organisation recognised as such by
the United Nations and included on the list of international terrorist
In this respect, I note that it is no secret that our American partners
promised to do this. First, they recognised the need to do this, and second,
they recognised that part of Aleppo is occupied by terrorist organisations –
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 recognised that this needs to be done and assured us that they would
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 defence
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
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 realise 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 realise that if we do not meet
our obligations we will never succeed in this fight against terrorism.
I realise 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: I can turn to Tarja and Heinz who know very well how the OSCE works. But
I will give my opinion.
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
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 organisation, and the use of
weapons against them when they are not armed is absolutely unacceptable and
will be seen as the least acceptable behaviour. This is their power, not their
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. If I am
wrong, Tarja can correct me. What do you think, Tarja?
T.Colton: Representative from Beijing, please.
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, Mr 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 jeopardised 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.
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.
Stier: My question to President Putin is about Ukraine.
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 realise 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 neighbours, 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 metres 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 metres 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 metres. 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
I have a question about the INF 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 neighbours 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 honour this treaty. All the more
so since, as you may be aware, we now also have medium-range sea- and air-based
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course. I fully agree that we should at least try to break this
vicious circle. But we were not the first to start drawing it. Quite to the
contrary, we opened up completely in the mid-1990s.
We expected to have an equal dialogue, that our interests would be respected,
that we would discuss issues and meet each other halfway. It is impossible to
offer only unilateral solutions and press towards your goal at all costs.
You mentioned the bombing of former Yugoslavia and Crimea. Thank you for this
example; it is wonderful that you have said this. The bombing of Belgrade is
intervention carried out in violation of international law. Did the UN Security
Council pass a resolution on military intervention in Yugoslavia? No. It was a
unilateral decision of the United States.
Now tell me what you meant when you mentioned Crimea. What was it you did in
Yugoslavia, when you split it into several republics, including Kosovo, and
then separated states from Serbia? In Kosovo, parliament voted on secession
after the end of hostilities, intervention and thousands of casualties. But
they made their decision, and you accepted it.
There were no hostilities in Crimea, no bombing raids and no casualties. No one
died there. The only thing we did was to ensure the free expression of will by
the people, by the way, in strict compliance with the UN Charter. We did almost
the same you did in Kosovo, only more.
In Kosovo, parliament approved a secession resolution, while people in Crimea
expressed their opinion at a referendum. After that, parliament ratified the
decision, and Crimea as an independent state asked to be reintegrated with
Of course, we can keep exchanging caustic remarks, but I think this vicious
circle must be broken. I have said this more than once, and I am prepared to
say it again. Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and NATO’s expansion – what
is this? And then promises are forgotten, and we are again provoked into
protecting our interests, after which “aggressive” Russia is accused of doing
this or that. Why are you provoking us into taking action to protect our
interests? Let us negotiate solutions instead. But it is impossible to agree on
anything. And even when we agree on something, these agreements are not
I would like to have different relations with the next US administration, a
partnership based on mutual respect for each other’s interests.