Valdai Discussion Club meeting
Vladimir Putin took part in a plenary session of the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
October 21, 2021
This year‚Äôs theme is Global Shake-up in¬†the¬†21st Century: The¬†Individual, Values and¬†the¬†State. The¬†four-day programme includes over 15 in-person and¬†online sessions.
* * *
President of¬†Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and¬†gentlemen,
To¬†begin with, I¬†would like to¬†thank you for¬†coming to¬†Russia and¬†taking part in¬†the¬†Valdai Club events.
As¬†always, during these meetings you raise pressing issues and¬†hold comprehensive discussions of¬†these issues that, without exaggeration, matter for¬†people around the¬†world. Once again, the¬†key theme of¬†the¬†forum was put in¬†a¬†straightforward, I¬†would even say, point-blank manner: Global Shake-up in¬†the¬†21st Century: The¬†Individual, Values and¬†the¬†State.
Indeed, we are living in¬†an¬†era of¬†great change. If I¬†may, by¬†tradition, I¬†will offer my¬†views with regard to¬†the¬†agenda that you have come up with.
In¬†general, this phrase, ‚Äúto¬†live in¬†an¬†era of¬†great change,‚ÄĚ may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of¬†change began quite a¬†long time ago, and¬†changes have become part of¬†everyday life. Hence, the¬†question: are they worth focusing on? I¬†agree with those who made the¬†agenda for¬†these meetings; of¬†course they are.
In¬†recent decades, many people have cited a¬†Chinese proverb. The¬†Chinese people are wise, and¬†they have many thinkers and¬†valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of¬†them, as¬†you may know, says, ‚ÄúGod forbid living in¬†a¬†time of¬†change.‚ÄĚ But we are already living in¬†it, whether we like it or¬†not, and¬†these changes are becoming deeper and¬†more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the¬†word ‚Äúcrisis‚ÄĚ consists of¬†two hieroglyphs¬†‚Äď there are probably representatives of¬†the¬†People's Republic of¬†China in¬†the¬†audience, and¬†they will correct me if I¬†have it wrong¬†‚Äď but, two hieroglyphs, ‚Äúdanger‚ÄĚ and¬†‚Äúopportunity.‚ÄĚ And¬†as¬†we say here in¬†Russia, ‚Äúfight difficulties with your mind, and¬†fight dangers with your experience.‚ÄĚ
Of¬†course, we must be aware of¬†the¬†danger and¬†be ready to¬†counter it, and¬†not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in¬†this era of¬†change. However, it is no less important to¬†recall a¬†second component of¬†the¬†crisis¬†‚Äď opportunities that must not be missed, all the¬†more so since the¬†crisis we are facing is conceptual and¬†even civilisation-related. This is basically a¬†crisis of¬†approaches and¬†principles that determine the¬†very existence of¬†humans on¬†Earth, but we will have to¬†seriously revise them in¬†any event. The¬†question is where to¬†move, what to¬†give up, what to¬†revise or¬†adjust. In¬†saying this, I¬†am convinced that it is necessary to¬†fight for¬†real values, upholding them in¬†every way.
Humanity entered into a¬†new era about three decades ago when the¬†main conditions were created for¬†ending military-political and¬†ideological confrontation. I¬†am sure you have talked a¬†lot about this in¬†this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I¬†would like to¬†repeat several things.
A¬†search for¬†a¬†new balance, sustainable relations in¬†the¬†social, political, economic, cultural and¬†military areas and¬†support for¬†the¬†world system was launched at¬†that time. We were looking for¬†this support but must say that we did not find it, at¬†least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the¬†winners after the¬†end of¬†the¬†Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and¬†thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the¬†ground was falling away underneath even there, and¬†this time it was their turn, and¬†nobody could ‚Äústop this fleeting moment‚ÄĚ no matter how fair it seemed.
In¬†general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to¬†this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and¬†permanent state of¬†transition, but this did not happen either.
I¬†would like to¬†add that the¬†transformation that we are seeing and¬†are part of¬†is of¬†a¬†different calibre than the¬†changes that repeatedly occurred in¬†human history, at¬†least those we know about. This is not simply a¬†shift in¬†the¬†balance of¬†forces or¬†scientific and¬†technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in¬†all directions¬†‚Äď from the¬†increasingly complicated geophysical condition of¬†our planet to¬†a¬†more paradoxical interpretation of¬†what a¬†human is and¬†what the¬†reasons for¬†his existence are.
Let us look around. And¬†I¬†will say this again: I¬†will allow myself to¬†express a¬†few thoughts that I¬†sign on¬†to.
Firstly, climate change and¬†environmental degradation are so obvious that even the¬†most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to¬†engage in¬†scientific debates about the¬†mechanisms behind the¬†ongoing processes, but it is impossible to¬†deny that these processes are getting worse, and¬†something needs to¬†be done. Natural disasters such as¬†droughts, floods, hurricanes, and¬†tsunamis have almost become the¬†new normal, and¬†we are getting used to¬†them. Suffice it to¬†recall the¬†devastating, tragic floods in¬†Europe last summer, the¬†fires in¬†Siberia¬†‚Äď there are a¬†lot of¬†examples. Not only in¬†Siberia¬†‚Äď our neighbours in¬†Turkey have also had wildfires, and¬†the¬†United States, and¬†other places on¬†the¬†American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and¬†technical, or¬†ideological rivalry becomes pointless in¬†this context, if the¬†winners will have not enough air to¬†breathe or¬†nothing to¬†drink.
The¬†coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of¬†how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and¬†our most important task is to¬†ensure humanity a¬†safe existence and¬†resilience. To¬†increase our chance of¬†survival in¬†the¬†face of¬†cataclysms, we absolutely need to¬†rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or¬†how they should develop; we need to¬†reconsider economic development priorities of¬†entire states. I¬†repeat, safety is one of¬†our main imperatives, in¬†any case it has become obvious now, and¬†anyone who tries to¬†deny this will have to¬†later explain why they were wrong and¬†why they were unprepared for¬†the¬†crises and¬†shocks whole nations are facing.
Second. The¬†socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to¬†the¬†point where, in¬†the¬†past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as¬†world wars or¬†bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the¬†current model of¬†capitalism which underlies the¬†social structure in¬†the¬†overwhelming majority of¬†countries, has run its course and¬†no longer offers a¬†solution to¬†a¬†host of¬†increasingly tangled differences.
Everywhere, even in¬†the¬†richest countries and¬†regions, the¬†uneven distribution of¬†material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of¬†opportunities both within individual societies and¬†at¬†the¬†international level. I¬†mentioned this formidable challenge in¬†my¬†remarks at¬†the¬†Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and¬†deep social divisions.
Furthermore, a¬†number of¬†countries and¬†even entire regions are regularly hit by¬†food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to¬†believe that this crisis will become worse in¬†the¬†near future and¬†may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of¬†water and¬†electricity (we will probably cover this today as¬†well), not to¬†mention poverty, high unemployment rates or¬†lack of¬†adequate healthcare.
Lagging countries are fully aware of¬†that and¬†are losing faith in¬†the¬†prospects of¬†ever catching up with the¬†leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and¬†pushes people to¬†join the¬†ranks of¬†extremists. People in¬†these countries have a¬†growing sense of¬†unfulfilled and¬†failed expectations and¬†the¬†lack of¬†any opportunities not only for¬†themselves, but for¬†their children, as¬†well. This is what makes them look for¬†better lives and¬†results in¬†uncontrolled migration, which, in¬†turn, creates fertile ground for¬†social discontent in¬†more prosperous countries. I¬†do not need to¬†explain anything to¬†you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and¬†are, probably, versed on¬†these matters even better than I.
As¬†I¬†noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and¬†risks in¬†ample supply, and¬†many among them are no longer interested in¬†fighting for¬†influence since, as¬†they say, they already have enough on¬†their plates. The¬†fact that society and¬†young people in¬†many countries have overreacted in¬†a¬†harsh and¬†even aggressive manner to¬†measures to¬†combat the¬†coronavirus showed¬†‚Äď and¬†I¬†want to¬†emphasise this, I¬†hope someone has already mentioned this before me at¬†other venues¬†‚Äď so, I¬†think that this reaction showed that the¬†pandemic was just a¬†pretext: the¬†causes for¬†social irritation and¬†frustration run much deeper.
I¬†have another important point to¬†make. The¬†pandemic, which, in¬†theory, was supposed to¬†rally the¬†people in¬†the¬†fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a¬†divisive rather than a¬†unifying factor. There are many reasons for¬†that, but one of¬†the¬†main ones is that they started looking for¬†solutions to¬†problems among the¬†usual approaches¬†‚Äď a¬†variety of¬†them, but still the¬†old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to¬†be more precise, they do work, but often and¬†oddly enough, they worsen the¬†existing state of¬†affairs.
By¬†the¬†way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and¬†I¬†will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and¬†for¬†working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I¬†have in¬†mind. We are talking about the¬†need to¬†counter the¬†coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the¬†same despite the¬†humanitarian considerations. I¬†am not referring to¬†Russia now, let‚Äôs leave the¬†sanctions against Russia for¬†now; I¬†mean the¬†sanctions that remain in¬†place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the¬†humanitarian fundamentals of¬†Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to¬†be on¬†the¬†surface.
Furthermore, the¬†technological revolution, impressive achievements in¬†artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and¬†medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at¬†the¬†same time, in¬†practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and¬†spiritual questions that were until recently the¬†exclusive domain of¬†science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in¬†the¬†ability to¬†think? Where is the¬†limit of¬†interference in¬†the¬†human body beyond which a¬†person ceases being himself and¬†turns into some other entity? What are the¬†general ethical limits in¬†the¬†world where the¬†potential of¬†science and¬†machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for¬†each of¬†us, for¬†our descendants, our nearest descendants¬†‚Äď our children and¬†grandchildren?
These changes are gaining momentum, and¬†they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as¬†a¬†rule. All of¬†us will have to¬†deal with the¬†consequences regardless of¬†our political systems, economic condition or¬†prevailing ideology.
Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to¬†the¬†ideals of¬†cooperation and¬†a¬†willingness to¬†work together for¬†resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In¬†reality, the¬†opposite is happening, and¬†the¬†pandemic has served to¬†fuel the¬†negative trends that emerged long ago and¬†are now only getting worse. The¬†approach based on¬†the¬†proverb, ‚Äúyour own shirt is closer to¬†the¬†body,‚ÄĚ has finally become common and¬†is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a¬†matter of¬†boasting and¬†brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the¬†notion of¬†the¬†common good.
Of¬†course, the¬†problem is not just the¬†ill will of¬†certain states and¬†notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in¬†my¬†opinion. In¬†general, life is seldom divided into black and¬†white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to¬†his own compatriots, obviously. The¬†main goal is to¬†ensure their security, peace and¬†prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as¬†important for¬†a¬†national leadership as¬†domestic stability. In¬†general, this is normal and¬†correct.
We need to¬†face the¬†fact the¬†global governance institutions are not always effective and¬†their capabilities are not always up to¬†the¬†challenge posed by¬†the¬†dynamics of¬†global processes. In¬†this sense, the¬†pandemic could help¬†‚Äď it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and¬†which need fine-tuning.
The¬†re-alignment of¬†the¬†balance of¬†power presupposes a¬†redistribution of¬†shares in¬†favour of¬†rising and¬†developing countries that until now felt left out. To¬†put it bluntly, the¬†Western domination of¬†international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for¬†a¬†short period, was almost absolute in¬†the¬†late 20th century, is giving way to¬†a¬†much more diverse system.
This transformation is not a¬†mechanical process and, in¬†its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of¬†a¬†stable world order being established without a¬†big war and¬†its outcomes as¬†the¬†basis, as¬†was the¬†case after World War II. So, we have a¬†chance to¬†create an¬†extremely favourable precedent. The¬†attempt to¬†create it after the¬†end of¬†the¬†Cold War on¬†the¬†basis of¬†Western domination failed, as¬†we see. The¬†current state of¬†international affairs is a¬†product of¬†that very failure, and¬†we must learn from this.
Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an¬†example: for¬†two decades, the¬†most powerful nation in¬†the¬†world has been conducting military campaigns in¬†two countries that it cannot be compared to¬†by¬†any standard. But in¬†the¬†end, it had to¬†wind down operations without achieving a¬†single goal that it had set for¬†itself going in¬†20 years ago, and¬†to¬†withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to¬†others and¬†itself. In¬†fact, the¬†situation has worsened dramatically.
But that is not the¬†point. Previously, a¬†war lost by¬†one side meant victory for¬†the¬†other side, which took responsibility for¬†what was happening. For¬†example, the¬†defeat of¬†the¬†United States in¬†the¬†Vietnam War, for¬†example, did not make Vietnam a¬†‚Äúblack hole.‚ÄĚ On¬†the¬†contrary, a¬†successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on¬†the¬†support of¬†a¬†strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the¬†upper hand, the¬†war does not stop, but just changes form. As¬†a¬†rule, the¬†hypothetical winner is reluctant or¬†unable to¬†ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and¬†only worsens the¬†chaos and¬†the¬†vacuum posing a¬†danger to¬†the¬†world.
What do you think are the¬†starting points of¬†this complex realignment process? Let me try to¬†summarise the¬†talking points.
First, the¬†coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the¬†international order is structured around nation states. By¬†the¬†way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms¬†‚Äď with all their might, which we could see from the¬†internal political processes in¬†the¬†United States¬†‚Äď have failed to¬†usurp political or¬†state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The¬†US authorities, as¬†I¬†said, have immediately put the¬†owners of¬†these platforms in¬†their place, which is exactly what is being done in¬†Europe, if you just look at¬†the¬†size of¬†the¬†fines imposed on¬†them and¬†the¬†demonopolisation measures being taken. You are aware of¬†that.
In¬†recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the¬†role of¬†the¬†state was outdated and¬†outgoing. Globalisation supposedly made national borders an¬†anachronism, and¬†sovereignty an¬†obstacle to¬†prosperity. You know, I¬†said it before and¬†I¬†will say it again. This is also what was said by¬†those who attempted to¬†open up other countries‚Äô borders for¬†the¬†benefit of¬†their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And¬†as¬†soon as¬†it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to¬†closing borders in¬†general and, first of¬†all, their own customs borders and¬†what have you, and¬†started building walls. Well, were we supposed to¬†not notice, or¬†what? Everyone sees everything and¬†everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of¬†course, they do.
There is no point in¬†disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the¬†need to¬†open up borders, events, as¬†I¬†said, went in¬†the¬†opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to¬†the¬†challenges of¬†the¬†times and¬†the¬†demands of¬†the¬†citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the¬†interests and¬†capabilities of¬†the¬†state and¬†proceed on¬†that basis, and¬†not try to¬†prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to¬†impose anything on¬†anyone, be it the¬†principles underlying the¬†sociopolitical structure or¬†values that someone, for¬†their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a¬†real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and¬†that is human life, which each state decides for¬†itself how best to¬†protect based on¬†its abilities, culture and¬†traditions.
In¬†this regard, I¬†will again note how severe and¬†dangerous the¬†coronavirus pandemic has become. As¬†we know, more than 4.9 million have died of¬†it. These terrifying figures are comparable and¬†even exceed the¬†military losses of¬†the¬†main participants in¬†World War I.
The¬†second point I¬†would like to¬†draw your attention to¬†is the¬†scale of¬†change that forces us to¬†act extremely cautiously, if only for¬†reasons of¬†self-preservation. The¬†state and¬†society must not respond radically to¬†qualitative shifts in¬†technology, dramatic environmental changes or¬†the¬†destruction of¬†traditional systems. It is easier to¬†destroy than to¬†create, as¬†we all know. We in¬†Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.
Just over a¬†century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of¬†the¬†ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and¬†possibly even smaller or¬†not as¬†acute as¬†the¬†problems the¬†other countries faced, and¬†Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and¬†in¬†a¬†civilised manner. But revolutionary shocks led to¬†the¬†collapse and¬†disintegration of¬†a¬†great power. The¬†second time this happened 30 years ago, when a¬†potentially very powerful nation failed to¬†enter the¬†path of¬†urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at¬†the¬†right time, and¬†as¬†a¬†result it fell victim to¬†all kinds of¬†dogmatists, both reactionary ones and¬†the¬†so-called progressives¬†‚Äď all of¬†them did their bit, all sides did.
These examples from our history allow us to¬†say that revolutions are not a¬†way to¬†settle a¬†crisis but a¬†way to¬†aggravate it. No revolution was worth the¬†damage it did to¬†the¬†human potential.
Third. The¬†importance of¬†a¬†solid support in¬†the¬†sphere of¬†morals, ethics and¬†values is increasing dramatically in¬†the¬†modern fragile world. In¬†point of¬†fact, values are a¬†product, a¬†unique product of¬†cultural and¬†historical development of¬†any nation. The¬†mutual interlacing of¬†nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and¬†allows them to¬†take a¬†fresh look at¬†their own traditions. But the¬†process must be organic, and¬†it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to¬†force one‚Äôs values on¬†others with an¬†uncertain and¬†unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a¬†dramatic situation and¬†usually produce the¬†opposite reaction and¬†an¬†opposite from the¬†intended result.
We look in¬†amazement at¬†the¬†processes underway in¬†the¬†countries which have been traditionally looked at¬†as¬†the¬†standard-bearers of¬†progress. Of¬†course, the¬†social and¬†cultural shocks that are taking place in¬†the¬†United States and¬†Western Europe are none of¬†our business; we are keeping out of¬†this. Some people in¬†the¬†West believe that an¬†aggressive elimination of¬†entire pages from their own history, ‚Äúreverse discrimination‚ÄĚ against the¬†majority in¬†the¬†interests of¬†a¬†minority, and¬†the¬†demand to¬†give up the¬†traditional notions of¬†mother, father, family and¬†even gender, they believe that all of¬†these are the¬†mileposts on¬†the¬†path towards social renewal.
Listen, I¬†would like to¬†point out once again that they have a¬†right to¬†do this, we are keeping out of¬†this. But we would like to¬†ask them to¬†keep out of¬†our business as¬†well. We have a¬†different viewpoint, at¬†least the¬†overwhelming majority of¬†Russian society¬†‚Äď it would be more correct to¬†put it this way¬†‚Äď has a¬†different opinion on¬†this matter. We believe that we must rely on¬†our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and¬†the¬†culture of¬†our multiethnic nation.
The¬†advocates of¬†so-called ‚Äėsocial progress‚Äô believe they are introducing humanity to¬†some kind of¬†a¬†new and¬†better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the¬†flags as¬†we say, go right ahead. The¬†only thing that I¬†want to¬†say now is that their prescriptions are not new at¬†all. It may come as¬†a¬†surprise to¬†some people, but Russia has been there already. After the¬†1917 revolution, the¬†Bolsheviks, relying on¬†the¬†dogmas of¬†Marx and¬†Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and¬†customs and¬†not just political and¬†economic ones, but the¬†very notion of¬†human morality and¬†the¬†foundations of¬†a¬†healthy society. The¬†destruction of¬†age-old values, religion and¬†relations between people, up to¬†and¬†including the¬†total rejection of¬†family (we had that, too), encouragement to¬†inform on¬†loved ones¬†‚Äď all this was proclaimed progress and, by¬†the¬†way, was widely supported around the¬†world back then and¬†was quite fashionable, same as¬†today. By¬†the¬†way, the¬†Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of¬†opinions other than theirs.
This, I¬†believe, should call to¬†mind some of¬†what we are witnessing now. Looking at¬†what is happening in¬†a¬†number of¬†Western countries, we are amazed to¬†see the¬†domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I¬†hope, in¬†the¬†distant past. The¬†fight for¬†equality and¬†against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on¬†absurdity, when the¬†works of¬†the¬†great authors of¬†the¬†past¬†‚Äď such as¬†Shakespeare¬†‚Äď are no longer taught at¬†schools or¬†universities, because their ideas are believed to¬†be backward. The¬†classics are declared backward and¬†ignorant of¬†the¬†importance of¬†gender or¬†race. In¬†Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and¬†how many characters of¬†what colour or¬†gender should be in¬†a¬†movie. This is even worse than the¬†agitprop department of¬†the¬†Central Committee of¬†the¬†Communist Party of¬†the¬†Soviet Union.
Countering acts of¬†racism is a¬†necessary and¬†noble cause, but the¬†new ‚Äėcancel culture‚Äô has turned it into ‚Äėreverse discrimination‚Äô that is, reverse racism. The¬†obsessive emphasis on¬†race is further dividing people, when the¬†real fighters for¬†civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and¬†refusing to¬†divide people by¬†skin colour. I¬†specifically asked my¬†colleagues to¬†find the¬†following quote from Martin Luther King: ‚ÄúI¬†have a¬†dream that my¬†four little children will one day live in¬†a¬†nation where they will not be judged by¬†the¬†colour of¬†their skin but by¬†their character.‚ÄĚ This is the¬†true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By¬†the¬†way, the¬†absolute majority of¬†Russian people do not think that the¬†colour of¬†a¬†person's skin or¬†their gender is an¬†important matter. Each of¬†us is a¬†human being. This is what matters.
In¬†a¬†number of¬†Western countries, the¬†debate over men‚Äôs and¬†women‚Äôs rights has turned into a¬†perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of¬†going where the¬†Bolsheviks once planned to¬†go¬†‚Äď not only communalising chickens, but also communalising women. One more step and¬†you will be there.
Zealots of¬†these new approaches even go so far as¬†to¬†want to¬†abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and¬†women actually exist, which is a¬†biological fact, risk being ostracised. ‚ÄúParent number one‚ÄĚ and¬†‚Äúparent number two,‚ÄĚ ‚Äú'birthing parent‚ÄĚ instead of¬†‚Äúmother,‚ÄĚ and¬†‚Äúhuman milk‚ÄĚ replacing ‚Äúbreastmilk‚ÄĚ because it might upset the¬†people who are unsure about their own gender. I¬†repeat, this is nothing new; in¬†the¬†1920s, the¬†so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a¬†new consciousness and¬†changing values that way. And, as¬†I¬†have already said, they made such a¬†mess it still makes one shudder at¬†times.
Not to¬†mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an¬†early age that a¬†boy can easily become a¬†girl and¬†vice versa. That is, the¬†teachers actually impose on¬†them a¬†choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the¬†parents out of¬†the¬†process and¬†forcing the¬†child to¬†make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to¬†consult with child psychologists¬†‚Äď is a¬†child at¬†this age even capable of¬†making a¬†decision of¬†this kind? Calling a¬†spade a¬†spade, this verges on¬†a¬†crime against humanity, and¬†it is being done in¬†the¬†name and¬†under the¬†banner of¬†progress.
Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I¬†have already mentioned that, in¬†shaping our approaches, we will be guided by¬†a¬†healthy conservatism. That was a¬†few years ago, when passions on¬†the¬†international arena were not yet running as¬†high as¬†they are now, although, of¬†course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the¬†world is going through a¬†structural disruption, the¬†importance of¬†reasonable conservatism as¬†the¬†foundation for¬†a¬†political course has skyrocketed¬†‚Äď precisely because of¬†the¬†multiplying risks and¬†dangers, and¬†the¬†fragility of¬†the¬†reality around us.
This conservative approach is not about an¬†ignorant traditionalism, a¬†fear of¬†change or¬†a¬†restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on¬†a¬†time-tested tradition, the¬†preservation and¬†growth of¬†the¬†population, a¬†realistic assessment of¬†oneself and¬†others, a¬†precise alignment of¬†priorities, a¬†correlation of¬†necessity and¬†possibility, a¬†prudent formulation of¬†goals, and¬†a¬†fundamental rejection of¬†extremism as¬†a¬†method. And¬†frankly, in¬†the¬†impending period of¬†global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the¬†most reasonable line of¬†conduct, as¬†far as¬†I¬†see it. It will inevitably change at¬†some point, but so far, do no harm¬†‚Äď the¬†guiding principle in¬†medicine¬†‚Äď seems to¬†be the¬†most rational one. Noli nocere, as¬†they say.
Again, for¬†us in¬†Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and¬†sometimes tragic history. The¬†cost of¬†ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the¬†material, but also the¬†spiritual foundations of¬†human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to¬†replace it for¬†a¬†long time.
Finally, there is one more point I¬†want to¬†make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the¬†world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to¬†be realistic: most of¬†the¬†pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to¬†global problems that we have been hearing since the¬†late 20th century will never become reality. In¬†order to¬†achieve a¬†global solution, states and¬†people have to¬†transfer their sovereign rights to¬†supra-national structures to¬†an¬†extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to¬†the¬†fact that you have to¬†answer for¬†the¬†outcomes of¬†such policies not to¬†some global public, but to¬†your citizens and¬†voters.
However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for¬†the¬†sake of¬†bringing about solutions to¬†global challenges is impossible. After all, a¬†global challenge is a¬†challenge for¬†all of¬†us together, and¬†to¬†each of¬†us in¬†particular. If everyone saw a¬†way to¬†benefit from cooperation in¬†overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to¬†work together.
One of¬†the¬†ways to¬†promote these efforts could be, for¬†example, to¬†draw up, at¬†the¬†UN level, a¬†list of¬†challenges and¬†threats that specific countries face, with details of¬†how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and¬†academic fields, including you, my¬†colleagues. We believe that developing a¬†roadmap of¬†this kind could inspire many countries to¬†see global issues in¬†a¬†new light and¬†understand how cooperation could be beneficial for¬†them.
I¬†have already mentioned the¬†challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an¬†obvious fact: it is now a¬†question of¬†reforming or¬†closing some of¬†them. However, the¬†United Nations as¬†the¬†central international institution retains its enduring value, at¬†least for¬†now. I¬†believe that in¬†our turbulent world it is the¬†UN that brings a¬†touch of¬†reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for¬†normalising the¬†situation.
Many criticise the¬†UN for¬†failing to¬†adapt to¬†a¬†rapidly changing world. In¬†part, this is true, but it is not the¬†UN, but primarily its members who are to¬†blame for¬†this. In¬†addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the¬†rule-making spirit, which is based on¬†the¬†principles of¬†equality and¬†maximum consideration for¬†everyone‚Äôs opinions. Our mission is to¬†preserve this heritage while reforming the¬†organisation. However, in¬†doing so we need to¬†make sure that we do not throw the¬†baby out with the¬†bathwater, as¬†the¬†saying goes.
This is not the¬†first time I¬†am using a¬†high rostrum to¬†make this call for¬†collective action in¬†order to¬†face up to¬†the¬†problems that continue to¬†pile up and¬†become more acute. It is thanks to¬†you, friends and¬†colleagues, that the¬†Valdai Club is emerging or¬†has already established itself as¬†a¬†high-profile forum. It is for¬†this reason that I¬†am turning to¬†this platform to¬†reaffirm our readiness to¬†work together on¬†addressing the¬†most urgent problems that the¬†world is facing today.
The¬†changes mentioned here prior to¬†me, as¬†well as¬†by¬†yours truly, are relevant to¬†all countries and¬†peoples. Russia, of¬†course, is not an¬†exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for¬†answers to¬†the¬†most urgent challenges of¬†our time.
Of¬†course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I¬†would venture to¬†say that our country has an¬†advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to¬†do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I¬†have referred to¬†it several times in¬†the¬†course of¬†my¬†remarks. Unfortunately, we had to¬†bring back many sad memories, but at¬†least our society has developed what they now refer to¬†as¬†herd immunity to¬†extremism that paves the¬†way to¬†upheavals and¬†socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and¬†being able to¬†live normal lives and¬†to¬†prosper while confident that the¬†irresponsible aspirations of¬†yet another group of¬†revolutionaries will not upend their plans and¬†aspirations. Many have vivid memories of¬†what happened 30 years ago and¬†all the¬†pain it took to¬†climb out of¬†the¬†ditch where our country and¬†our society found themselves after the¬†USSR fell apart.
The¬†conservative views we hold are an¬†optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the¬†most. We believe stable, positive development to¬†be possible. It all depends primarily on¬†our own efforts. Of¬†course, we are ready to¬†work with our partners on¬†common noble causes.
I¬†would like to¬†thank all participants once more, for¬†your attention. As¬†the¬†tradition goes, I¬†will gladly answer or¬†at¬†least try to¬†answer your questions.
Thank you for¬†your patience.
Moderator of¬†the¬†18th annual meeting of¬†the¬†Valdai International Discussion Club closing session Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much, Mr President, for¬†your detailed remarks covering not only and¬†not so much the¬†current political problems, but fundamental issues. Following up on¬†what you said, I¬†cannot fail to¬†ask you about the¬†historical experience, traditions, conservatism and¬†healthy conservatism that you have mentioned on¬†several occasions in¬†your remarks.
Does unhealthy conservatism frighten you? Where does the¬†boundary separating the¬†healthy from the¬†unhealthy lie? At¬†what point does a¬†tradition turn from something that binds society together into a¬†burden?
Vladimir Putin: Anything can become a¬†burden, if you are not careful. When I¬†speak about healthy conservatism, Nikolai Berdyayev always springs to¬†mind, and¬†I¬†have already mentioned him several times. He was a¬†remarkable Russian philosopher, and¬†as¬†you all know he was expelled from the¬†Soviet Union in¬†1922. He was as¬†forward-thinking as¬†a¬†man can be, but also sided with conservatism. He used to¬†say, and¬†you will excuse me if I¬†do not quote his exact words: ‚ÄúConservatism is not something preventing upward, forward movement, but something preventing you from sliding back into chaos.‚ÄĚ If we treat conservatism this way, it provides an¬†effective foundation for¬†further progress.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Speaking of¬†traditions, you also tend to¬†mention traditional values quite frequently, and¬†this is a¬†hot topic in¬†our society. In¬†particular, you have proposed relying on¬†traditional values as¬†a¬†foundation for¬†bringing the¬†world together. However, traditions are destined to¬†be unique for¬†every nation. How can everyone come together around the¬†same traditional values, if they have their own traditions?
Vladimir Putin: Do you know what the¬†trick is? The¬†trick is that of¬†course there is a¬†lot of¬†diversity and¬†every nation around the¬†world is different. Still, something unites all people. After all, we are all people, and¬†we all want to¬†live. Life is of¬†absolute value.
In¬†my¬†opinion, the¬†same applies to¬†family as¬†a¬†value, because what can be more important than procreation? Do we want to¬†be or¬†not to¬†be? If we do not want to¬†be, fine. You see, adoption is also a¬†good and¬†important thing, but to¬†adopt a¬†child someone has to¬†give birth to¬†that child. This is the¬†second universal value that cannot be contested.
I¬†do not think that I¬†need to¬†list them all. You are all smart people here, and¬†everyone understands this, including you. Yes, we do need to¬†work together based on¬†these shared, universal values.
Fyodor Lukyanov: You made a¬†powerful statement when you said that the¬†current model of¬†capitalism has run its course and¬†no longer offers a¬†solution to¬†international issues. One hears this a¬†lot these days, but you are referring to¬†our country‚Äôs unfortunate experience in¬†the¬†20th century when we were actually rejecting capitalism, but this did not work out for¬†us either. Does this mean that this is where we want to¬†return? Where are we headed with this dysfunctional capitalist model?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†also said that there were no ready-made recipes. It is true that what we are currently witnessing, for¬†example on¬†the¬†energy markets, as¬†we will probably discuss later, demonstrates that this kind of¬†capitalism does not work. All they do is talk about the¬†‚Äúinvisible hand‚ÄĚ of¬†the¬†market, only to¬†get $1,500 or¬†$2,000 per 1,000 cubic metres. Is this market-based approach to¬†regulation any good?
When everything goes well and¬†there is stability, economic actors around the¬†world demand more freedom for¬†themselves and¬†a¬†smaller role for¬†the¬†state in¬†the¬†economy. However, when challenges arise, especially at¬†a¬†global scale, they want the¬†government to¬†interfere.
I¬†remember 2008 and¬†2009 and¬†the¬†global financial crisis very well. I¬†was Prime Minister at¬†the¬†time, and¬†spoke to¬†many Russian business leaders, who were viewed as¬†successful up to¬†that point, and¬†everything is fine with them now, by¬†the¬†way. They came to¬†me and¬†were ready to¬†give up their companies that were worth tens of¬†millions, if not hundreds of¬†millions of¬†dollars, for¬†a¬†ruble. Why? They had to¬†assume responsibility for¬†their workforce and¬†for¬†the¬†future of¬†these companies. It was easier for¬†them just to¬†keep what they earned and¬†shift their responsibility to¬†others.
At¬†the¬†time, we agreed that the¬†state would lend them its shoulder: they kept their businesses, while the¬†state paid off their margin loans and¬†assumed responsibility, to¬†a¬†certain extent. Together with the¬†businesses, we found a¬†solution. As¬†a¬†result, we saved Russia‚Äôs largest private companies, and¬†enabled the¬†state to¬†make a¬†profit afterwards. We actually made money because when the¬†companies were back on¬†their feet, they paid back what they owed the¬†state. The¬†state made quite a¬†profit.
In¬†this regard, we do need to¬†work together and¬†explore each other‚Äôs experience. Other countries also had positive experiences in¬†making the¬†state and¬†the¬†market work in¬†tune with each other. The¬†People‚Äôs Republic of¬†China is a¬†case in¬†point. While the¬†Communist Party retains its leading role there, the¬†country has a¬†viable market and¬†its institutions are quite effective. This is an¬†obvious fact.
For¬†this reason, there are no ready-made recipes. Wild capitalism does not work either, as¬†I¬†have already said, and¬†I¬†am ready to¬†repeat this, as¬†I¬†have just demonstrated using these examples.
In¬†a¬†way, this is like art. You need to¬†understand when to¬†place a¬†bigger emphasis on¬†something: when to¬†add more salt, and¬†when to¬†use more sugar. You see? While being guided by¬†the¬†general principles as¬†articulated by¬†international financial institutions such as¬†the¬†IMF, the¬†OECD, etc., we need to¬†understand where we are. To¬†act, we need to¬†understand how our capabilities compare with the¬†plans we have. By¬†the¬†way, here in¬†Russia we have been quite effective over the¬†past years, including in¬†overcoming the¬†consequences of¬†the¬†epidemic. Other countries also performed quite well, as¬†we can see.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Do you mean that we are moving not only towards an¬†optimistic conservatism but also towards an¬†optimistic capitalism?
Vladimir Putin: You see, we need to¬†build a¬†social welfare state. Truth be said, Europe, especially the¬†Nordic countries, have been advocating a¬†social welfare state for¬†a¬†long time. This is essential for¬†us, considering the¬†income gap between various social groups, even if this problem exists in¬†all the¬†leading economies of¬†the¬†world. Just look at¬†the¬†United States and¬†Europe, although the¬†income gap is smaller in¬†Europe compared to¬†the¬†United States.
As¬†I¬†have said on¬†multiple occasions, only a¬†small group of¬†people who were already rich to¬†begin with benefited from the¬†preferences that became available over the¬†past years. Their wealth increased exponentially compared to¬†the¬†middle class and¬†the¬†poor. This problem clearly exists there, even if it is not as¬†pressing in¬†Europe, but it still exists.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.
I¬†will ask the¬†last question so that we do not keep the¬†audience waiting. You mentioned the¬†UN‚Äôs invaluable role. We can understand this, since the¬†UN is a¬†fundamental institution, and¬†so on. However, many now criticise the¬†UN, and¬†you have mentioned this in¬†your remarks.
Just a¬†few days ago, President of¬†Turkey Erdogan, whom you know well, said that the¬†Security Council must be reformed because a¬†group of¬†WWII victor countries monopolised power, which is not the¬†way it should be. Do you agree with this statement?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†do not. He has recently visited Russia, as¬†you know, and¬†I¬†had a¬†meeting with him. I¬†raised this question myself, saying that I¬†saw his main points. I¬†have to¬†admit that I¬†did not read the¬†entire book, but I¬†did look at¬†some of¬†the¬†ideas. I¬†agree with some of¬†them. This is a¬†good analysis. We can understand why a¬†Turkish leader raises this issue. He probably believes that Turkey could become a¬†permanent Security Council member. It is not up to¬†Russia to¬†decide, though. Matters of¬†this kind must be decided by¬†consensus. There are also India and¬†South Africa. You see, this is a¬†question of¬†fairness, of¬†striking a¬†balance.
Different solutions are possible here. I¬†would rather not talk about this now, getting ahead of¬†things and¬†preempting Russia's position on¬†this discussion. But what is important (I¬†just said so in¬†my¬†opening remarks, and¬†I¬†also said this to¬†President Erdogan), if we dismantle the¬†permanent members‚Äô veto, the¬†United Nations will die on¬†the¬†same day, will degrade into the¬†League of¬†Nations, and¬†that will be it. It will be just a¬†platform for¬†discussion, Valdai Club number two. But there is only one Valdai Club, and¬†it is here. (Laughter.)
Fyodor Lukyanov: We are ready to¬†step in.
Vladimir Putin: Valdai Club number two will be in¬†New York.
Fyodor Lukyanov: We will go and¬†replace it with pleasure.
Vladimir Putin: But this is the¬†point¬†‚Äď we would rather not change anything. That is, some change might be necessary, but we would rather not destroy the¬†basis¬†‚Äď this is the¬†whole point of¬†the¬†UN today, that there are five permanent members, and¬†they have the¬†power of¬†veto. Other states are represented on¬†the¬†Security Council, but they are non-permanent members.
We need to¬†think how we could make this organisation more balanced, because indeed¬†‚Äď this is true, and¬†in¬†this sense, President Erdogan is right¬†‚Äď it emerged after World War II, when there was a¬†certain balance of¬†power. Now it is changing; it has already changed.
We are well aware that China has overtaken the¬†United States in¬†purchasing power parity. What do you think that is? These are global changes.
And¬†India? Another nation of¬†almost 1.5 billion people, a¬†rapidly developing economy, and¬†so on. And¬†why is Africa not represented? Where is Latin America? We definitely need to¬†consider this¬†‚Äď a¬†growing giant there such as¬†Brazil. These are all topics for¬†discussion. Only, we must not rush. We must not make any mistakes on¬†the¬†path of¬†reform.
Fyodor Lukyanov: The¬†leaders of¬†the¬†Valdai Club will consider holding a¬†meeting in¬†New York. Only, they might not issue visas to¬†all of¬†us, I¬†am afraid, but no problem, we will work on¬†that.
Vladimir Putin: By¬†the¬†way, why not? The¬†Valdai Club might as¬†well meet in¬†New York.
Fyodor Lukyanov: After you and¬†Biden agree on¬†the¬†visas. (Laughter.)
Vladimir Putin: I¬†do not think the¬†heads of¬†state will need to¬†step in. Just ask Sergei Lavrov, he will speak with his colleagues there.
Why not? I¬†am serious. Why not hold a¬†Valdai Club session on¬†a¬†neutral site, outside the¬†Russian Federation? Why not? I¬†think it might be interesting.
We have important people here in¬†this room, good analysts who are well known in¬†their countries. More people can be invited in¬†the¬†host country to¬†join these discussions. What is wrong with that? This is good.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, we have just set a¬†goal.
Vladimir Putin: It is not a¬†goal; it is a¬†possibility.
Fyodor Lukyanov: A¬†possibility. Like a¬†crisis. It is also a¬†possibility.
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Please, Piotr Dutkiewicz.
Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, I¬†would like to¬†return to¬†the¬†words you have just said, that Russia should rely on¬†Russian values. By¬†the¬†way, we were talking about this at¬†a¬†Valdai Club meeting the¬†day before yesterday.
I¬†would like to¬†ask you which Russian thinkers, scholars, anthropologists and¬†writers do you regard as¬†your closest soul-mates, helping you to¬†define for¬†yourself the¬†values that will later become those of¬†all Russians?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I¬†would prefer not to¬†say that this is Ivan Ilyin alone. I¬†read Ilyin, I¬†read him to¬†this day. I¬†have his book lying on¬†my¬†shelf, and¬†I¬†pick it up and¬†read it from time to¬†time. I¬†have mentioned Berdiayev, there are other Russian thinkers. All of¬†them are people who were thinking about Russia and¬†its future. I¬†am fascinated by¬†the¬†train of¬†their thought, but, of¬†course, I¬†make allowances for¬†the¬†time when they were working, writing and¬†formulating their ideas. The¬†well-known idea about the¬†passionarity of¬†nations is a¬†very interesting idea. It could be challenged¬†‚Äď arguments around it continue to¬†this day. But if there are debates over the¬†ideas they formulated, these are obviously not idle ideas to¬†say the¬†least.
Let me remind you about nations‚Äô passionarity. According to¬†the¬†author of¬†this idea, peoples, nations, ethnic groups are like a¬†living organism: they are born, reach the¬†peak of¬†their development, and¬†then quietly grow old. Many countries, including those on¬†the¬†American continent, say today‚Äôs Western Europe is ageing. This is the¬†term they use. It is hard to¬†say whether this is right or¬†not. But, to¬†my¬†mind, the¬†idea that a¬†nation should have an¬†inner driving mechanism for¬†development, a¬†will for¬†development and¬†self-assertion has a¬†leg to¬†stand on.
We are observing that certain countries are on¬†the¬†rise even though they have a¬†lot of¬†unsolved problems. They resemble erupting volcanoes, like the¬†one on¬†the¬†Spanish island, which is disgorging its lava. But there are also extinguished volcanoes, where fires are long dead and¬†one can only hear birds singing.
Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, you have referred to¬†Lev Gumilyov, who presented me with a¬†samizdat edition of¬†his first book in¬†St Petersburg in¬†1979. I¬†will pass this samizdat on¬†to¬†you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Samizdat, a¬†tradition.
Dear friends, please introduce yourselves, when you take the¬†floor.
Alexei Miller: Good afternoon, Mr President.
I¬†am Alexei Miller, a¬†historian from the¬†European University at¬†St Petersburg.
Vladimir Putin: There are two Alexei Millers. Russia is a¬†rich country. (Laughter)
Alexei Miller: Two years ago, you were asked during a¬†meeting at¬†the¬†Valdai Club about the¬†European Parliament‚Äôs resolution, which made the¬†Soviet Union (and¬†hence Russia) and¬†Nazi Germany equally responsible for¬†the¬†outbreak of¬†WWII. Since then, you have commented on¬†this issue several times in¬†your statements and¬†in¬†the¬†article published in¬†the¬†summer of¬†2020.
In¬†particular, during the¬†ceremony to¬†unveil a¬†monument to¬†the¬†victims of¬†the¬†siege of¬†Leningrad at¬†the¬†Yad Vashem memorial complex in¬†January 2020, you said you would like to¬†propose a¬†meeting of¬†the¬†Big Five leaders to¬†discuss this issue as¬†well, so that we could overcome the¬†current confrontation and¬†end the¬†war on¬†memory. I¬†believe the¬†situation has not improved since then. Or¬†maybe you know something the¬†general public is not aware of, maybe there have been some improvements? It would be great if you could tell us about this.
My¬†second question follows on¬†from the¬†first one. When there is such confrontation in¬†the¬†countries that are involved in¬†the¬†war on¬†memory, some forces may be tempted to¬†join ranks and¬†to¬†restrict, to¬†a¬†greater or¬†lesser degree, the¬†freedom of¬†discussion, including among historians. Such discussions always involve a¬†difference of¬†opinions and¬†some risqu√© or¬†even wrong views. Do you envision the¬†threat of¬†such restrictions in¬†our country?
Vladimir Putin: No, I¬†do not believe there is such a¬†threat in¬†our country. We sometimes see the¬†danger of¬†not being responsible for¬†what some people say, indeed, but then this is the¬†reverse side of¬†the¬†freedom you have mentioned.
As¬†for¬†my¬†initiative to¬†hold a¬†meeting of¬†the¬†heads of¬†the¬†five permanent members of¬†the¬†UN Security Council, it has been supported by¬†everyone, in¬†principle, and¬†such a¬†meeting could have been organised. The¬†problems that arose are not connected with Russia but with some disputes within this group of¬†five countries. As¬†I¬†have said, they are not connected with Russia. This is the¬†first point.
And¬†the¬†second is that the¬†pandemic began soon after that, and¬†the¬†situation has become really complicated.
The¬†idea of¬†the¬†meeting received a¬†highly positive response, and¬†I¬†hope it will be held eventually. This definitely will be beneficial. We are discussing this with our American partners, with our Chinese friends, with France¬†‚Äď incidentally, the¬†French President supported it immediately, as¬†well as¬†with Britain. They have their own ideas and¬†proposals on¬†additional subjects that can be discussed at¬†such a¬†meeting. I¬†hope the¬†necessary conditions will develop and¬†we will hold this meeting.
As¬†for¬†historical memory, the¬†memory of¬†WWII, you know, of¬†course, that I¬†am ready to¬†talk about this with arguments in¬†hand. We have many complaints about the¬†country‚Äôs leadership between 1917 and¬†1990, which is obvious. However, placing the¬†Nazis and¬†the¬†Communists before WWII on¬†the¬†same level and¬†dividing responsibility between them equally is absolutely unacceptable. It is a¬†lie.
I¬†am saying this not only because I¬†am Russian and, currently, the¬†head of¬†the¬†Russian state, which is the¬†legal successor of¬†the¬†Soviet Union. I¬†am saying this now, in¬†part or¬†at¬†least in¬†part, as¬†a¬†researcher. I¬†have read the¬†documents, which I¬†retrieved from the¬†archives. We are publishing them now in¬†increasingly large amounts.
Trust me, when I¬†read them, the¬†picture in¬†my¬†mind started changing. You can think about Stalin differently, blaming him for¬†the¬†prison camps, persecution campaigns and¬†the¬†like. But I¬†have seen his instructions on¬†documents. The¬†Soviet government was genuinely doing its best to¬†prevent WWII, even if for¬†different reasons. Some people would say that the¬†country was not ready for¬†the¬†war, which is why they tried to¬†prevent it. But they did try to¬†prevent it. They fought for¬†the¬†preservation of¬†Czechoslovakia, providing arguments to¬†protect its sovereignty. I¬†have read, I¬†have really read¬†‚Äď this is not a¬†secret, and¬†we are declassifying these archives now¬†‚Äď about France‚Äôs reaction to¬†those events, including regarding the¬†meeting of¬†the¬†leading politicians with Hitler in¬†Munich in¬†1938.
When you read this, when you see it, you understand that attempts can indeed be made to¬†distort these facts. But you can at¬†least read these documents. I¬†can understand the¬†current Polish leadership‚Äôs attitude to¬†the¬†1939 events, but when you tell them: Just take a¬†look at¬†what happened slightly before that, when Poland joined Germany in¬†the¬†division of¬†Czechoslovakia. You lit the¬†fuse, you pulled the¬†cork, the¬†genie came out, and¬†you cannot put it back into the¬†bottle.‚ÄĚ
I¬†also read the¬†archival documents which we received after the¬†Red Army entered Europe: we have German and¬†also Polish and¬†French documents, we have them. They directly discussed the¬†division of¬†Czechoslovakia and¬†the¬†time for¬†the¬†invasion. And¬†then to¬†blame it on¬†the¬†Soviet Union? This simply does not correspond to¬†reality and¬†facts.
Simply put, who attacked who? Did the¬†Soviet Union attack Germany? No, it did not. Yes, there were secret agreements between Germany and¬†the¬†Soviet Union. Incidentally, I¬†would like to¬†note that the¬†Soviet troops entered Brest when the¬†German troops had been already deployed there; the¬†Germans simply moved back a¬†little and¬†the¬†Red Army moved in. Do you see?
There is no point adding a¬†political dimension here. Let us act calmly at¬†the¬†expert level, read the¬†documents and¬†sort things out. Nobody is accusing the¬†Polish leadership. But we will not allow anyone to¬†accuse Russia or¬†the¬†Soviet Union of¬†what they did not do.
And¬†lastly, I¬†would like to¬†say that there are some perfectly obvious things. Firstly, it was Germany that attacked the¬†Soviet Union on¬†June¬†22, 1941, and¬†not vice versa, and¬†secondly, let us not forget who stormed Berlin. Was it the¬†Americans, the¬†British or¬†the¬†French? No, it was the¬†Red Army. Have you forgotten this? It is easy to¬†recall, for¬†it is an¬†obvious fact.
As¬†many as¬†1.1 million of¬†our people died in¬†the¬†Battle of¬†Stalingrad alone. How many casualties can Britain claim? 400,000. And¬†the¬†United States, less that 500,000. A¬†total of¬†75 percent, and¬†probably even 80 percent of¬†the¬†German military potential was destroyed by¬†the¬†Soviet army. Are you a¬†little rusty on¬†this?
No, you are not rusty at¬†all. These events are being used to¬†deal with the¬†current internal political matters in¬†an¬†opportunistic manner. This is wrong, because nothing good will come of¬†manipulating history. At¬†the¬†very least, this does not promote mutual understanding, which we need so badly now.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Orietta Moscatelli, go ahead please.
Orietta Moscatelli: Orietta Moscatelli, Italy. Thank you for¬†the¬†meeting.
As¬†you mentioned, different things have been said about Homo sovieticus over the¬†30 years since the¬†Soviet Union‚Äôs disintegration. Was there really a¬†person like that? Here is my¬†question: Do you think it was true? Do you believe Russia has fully overcome Soviet experience as¬†a¬†society? What are the¬†main features of¬†the¬†Soviet times that you have kept in¬†your life?
Vladimir Putin: I, as¬†well as¬†many people of¬†my¬†generation certainly remember this idea and¬†this formula¬†‚Äď a¬†new community, Soviet people, the¬†Soviet person. Of¬†course, all of¬†us remember this. In¬†reality, this definition is not at¬†all bad. This is my¬†first point.
The¬†second point. Look, the¬†whole world and¬†the¬†United States describe the¬†US as¬†a¬†‚Äúmelting pot,‚ÄĚ in¬†which people of¬†different nations, ethnicities and¬†religions are melting together. What is bad about this? They are all proud¬†‚Äď the¬†Irish, people of¬†European and¬†East European origin, you name it, as¬†well as¬†Latin Americans and¬†Africans by¬†their initial descent¬†‚Äď many of¬†them are proud to¬†be US citizens and¬†this is wonderful. This is what ‚Äúthe¬†melting pot‚ÄĚ is about.
Russia is also ‚Äúa¬†melting pot.‚ÄĚ Since the¬†formation of¬†a¬†united Russian state¬†‚Äď the¬†first steps were made, probably in¬†the¬†8th-9th centuries, and¬†also after Conversion of¬†Rus‚Äô, the¬†Russian nation and¬†a¬†centralised Russian state began to¬†take shape with a¬†common market, common language, the¬†power of¬†a¬†prince and¬†common spiritual values. The¬†Russian state began to¬†be established and¬†later expanded. This was also a¬†‚Äúmelting pot.‚ÄĚ
Nothing particularly new was created in¬†the¬†Soviet Union except one very important circumstance: this new community, the¬†Soviet person, the¬†Soviet people acquired an¬†ideological tinge. Of¬†course, there was nothing good about this because this narrows the¬†horizons of¬†the¬†possible. This is the¬†first point.
The¬†second point. Positive features of¬†the¬†Soviet times reflected on¬†the¬†Soviet people. What were they? Patriotism inherent in¬†our peoples, supremacy of¬†the¬†spiritual dimension over material things, all these values I¬†mentioned, including family ones. But negative things in¬†the¬†life and¬†destiny of¬†the¬†Soviet Union also stuck to¬†the¬†Soviet people. Thus, they were deprived of¬†property as¬†such. Private property was embodied in¬†a¬†household plot, but this is quite a¬†different category. Hence, their attitude to¬†labour, the¬†one-size-fits-all approach and¬†so on.
The¬†Soviet Union had many problems. They triggered the¬†events that led to¬†the¬†collapse of¬†the¬†USSR. However, it is wrong, crude and¬†inappropriate to¬†paint everything black. Yes, I¬†know we have people that paint everything black. Hence, they deserve to¬†be put into something that smells bad.
There are both pluses and¬†minuses, as¬†for¬†‚Äúthe¬†melting pot,‚ÄĚ I¬†think it was good to¬†have it because it enriches the¬†people, enriches the¬†nation.
You know, what is typical of¬†Russia, something you can find in¬†all historical documents: when expanding its territory Russia never made life difficult for¬†the¬†people who became part of¬†the¬†united Russian state. This applied to¬†religion, traditions and¬†history. Look at¬†the¬†decrees of¬†Catherine the¬†Great who issued her instruction in¬†clear terms: treat with respect. This was the¬†attitude towards those who preached Islam, for¬†instance. This has always been the¬†case. This is a¬†tradition. In¬†terms of¬†preserving these traditions, the¬†new community of¬†the¬†Soviet people had nothing bad about it except the¬†ideologisation of¬†this melting pot and¬†the¬†results of¬†its functioning.
I¬†think I¬†have described everything linked with the¬†Soviet period of¬†our history. Now I¬†have mentioned this again and¬†I¬†do not think it is worth discussing this topic again.
As¬†for¬†me, like the¬†overwhelming majority of¬†people of¬†my¬†generation, I¬†faced the¬†problems of¬†that period, but I¬†also remember its positive features that should not be forgotten. Being from a¬†family of¬†workers, yours truly graduated from Leningrad State University. This is something, right? At¬†that time, education played the¬†role of¬†a¬†real social lift. On¬†the¬†whole, the¬†egalitarian approach was very widespread and¬†we encountered its negative impact, such as¬†income levelling and¬†a¬†related attitude to¬†work, but a¬†lot of¬†people still used the¬†preferences of¬†social lifts I¬†mentioned. Maybe, it was simply the¬†legacy of¬†past generations or¬†even cultivated in¬†the¬†Soviet Union to¬†some extent. This is also important.
I¬†have now recalled my¬†family. My¬†mum and¬†dad were simple people. They did not talk in¬†slogans but I¬†remember very well that discussing different problems at¬†home, in¬†the¬†family, they always, I¬†would like to¬†emphasise this, treated their country with respect, speaking about it in¬†their own manner, in¬†simple terms, in¬†the¬†folk style. This was not demonstrative patriotism. It was inside our family.
I¬†think I¬†have the¬†right to¬†say that the¬†overwhelming majority of¬†the¬†Russian people and¬†the¬†other peoples of¬†the¬†USSR cultivated these positive features. It is no accident that over 70 percent of¬†the¬†population voted for¬†preserving the¬†Soviet Union on¬†the¬†eve of¬†its collapse. Many people in¬†the¬†union republics that gained independence regretted what had happened. But now life is different and¬†we believe it is going its own way and¬†generally recognise current realities.
As¬†for¬†the¬†Soviet person, the¬†new formation, as¬†they said then, I¬†believe I¬†have already said enough on¬†this subject.
Fyodor Lukyanov: This year‚Äôs Valdai Club meeting is special in¬†part because we have a¬†Nobel Peace Prize laureate here with us for¬†the¬†first time in¬†our history.
I¬†would like to¬†give the¬†floor to¬†Dmitry Muratov.
Dmitry Muratov: Thank you. Good afternoon.
Mr President, Valdai Club guests, Fyodor, I¬†want to¬†let everyone know that the¬†prize money has been distributed.
Thanks go to¬†the¬†Circle of¬†Kindness Foundation. Furthermore, we hope that our modest contribution will help everyone realise that the¬†Circle of¬†Kindness Foundation helps young people under 18, but then after they are 18, they are left without guidance. It is like saying, ‚ÄúThank you, we saved you, and¬†now goodbye.‚ÄĚ We look forward to¬†the¬†Circle of¬†Kindness Foundation (they appear ready to¬†do this) expanding its mandate. There is the¬†children's hospice Lighthouse, the¬†First Moscow Charity Hospice Foundation Vera, the¬†Podari Zhizn Foundation, the¬†Anna Politkovskaya Award, and¬†the¬†Foundation for¬†Medical Aid for¬†Media Members. That is all.
Of¬†course, I¬†also think that, to¬†some extent, probably, this is a¬†prize for¬†our country as¬†well, although I¬†consider myself an¬†impostor. I¬†will do my¬†best to¬†make sure it benefits our people.
Now, if I¬†may, a¬†brief remark and¬†a¬†question.
Mr President, I¬†have very carefully studied the¬†answer you gave during Moscow Energy Week regarding foreign agents, where you said that we were not the¬†first to¬†adopt this law, that the¬†United States did so back in¬†the¬†1930s.
But, Mr President, since we do not adopt every law that is adopted in¬†the¬†United States, my¬†question about foreign agents remains. After all, I¬†believe this concerns not only dozens and¬†dozens of¬†journalists and¬†human rights activists who are listed in¬†the¬†register, but also hundreds of¬†thousands and¬†even millions of¬†readers. Therefore, I¬†believe it is a¬†serious matter.
Most importantly, you have just mentioned Leningrad University and¬†I¬†think your subject of¬†study will help us understand each other well. This law does not provide for¬†any court recourse. You are designated a¬†foreign agent and¬†there is no argument of¬†the¬†parties, no provision of¬†evidence, no verdict. It is a¬†stain. Let me remind you of¬†our favourite childhood book. This is the¬†same kind of¬†brand Milady in¬†The¬†Three Musketeers had. But before Milady was beheaded, the¬†executioner of¬†Lille read the¬†verdict to¬†her at¬†dawn whereas in¬†our case there is no verdict whatsoever.
Furthermore, it is impossible to¬†get away from this law. There is not even a¬†warning that you become a¬†foreign agent starting, say, tomorrow. For¬†many, this status undoubtedly means they are an¬†enemy of¬†the¬†Motherland. I¬†remember from my¬†days of¬†army service that under the¬†guard service regulations, the¬†sentry first fires a¬†warning shot in¬†the¬†air. Excuse me, but only security guards at¬†prison camps shoot to¬†kill without a¬†warning shot.
I¬†believe we need to¬†sort this out, since the¬†criteria are woefully vague. Take, for¬†example, receiving organisational and¬†methodological assistance. What does this mean? If I¬†am asking a¬†member of¬†the¬†Valdai Club for¬†a¬†comment, and¬†they come from another country, does that make me a¬†foreign agent? They make their announcements on¬†Fridays. I¬†want to¬†remind you that tomorrow is Friday.
I¬†would like to¬†ask you to¬†respond to¬†the¬†way this issue is presented. Perhaps, you, Mr President and, for¬†example, the¬†State Duma Chairman, could hold an¬†extraordinary meeting with the¬†editors from various media in¬†order discuss the¬†issues at¬†hand.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: First, I¬†would like to¬†congratulate you on¬†the¬†Nobel Prize. I¬†would like to¬†draw your attention to¬†one fact: Nikolai Berdyayev, whom I¬†have mentioned, was expelled by¬†the¬†Bolsheviks on¬†the¬†well-known Philosophy Steamer in¬†1922. Nominated for¬†a¬†Nobel Prize more than once, he never received this award.
Dmitry Muratov: That was about literature.
Vladimir Putin: No difference, but yes, I¬†agree. The¬†first Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and¬†Barrack Obama also received Nobel peace prizes. So, you are in¬†good company. Congratulations! But we really know. You have just spoken about a¬†hospice. I¬†would give you a¬†prize for¬†that because you are doing this good work. It is truly noble work, the¬†Circle of¬†Kindness, and¬†the¬†like.
Your concern about foreign agents; I¬†will not deviate to¬†the¬†right or¬†left. Look, you said that here when these decisions are made‚Ä¶ firstly, American laws. Do we have to¬†copy everything from the¬†Americans? No, we do not need to¬†copy everything. Yet many liberals in¬†Russia still think we should copy almost everything. But I¬†agree with you: not everything.
You said this is not decided in¬†court. This is not done in¬†the¬†United States either. They summon people to¬†the¬†Department of¬†Justice. Ask Russia Today about what they are doing. Do you know how tough they are? Up to¬†and¬†including criminal liability. We do not have this. This is not about the¬†position of¬†some public figure, some public organisation, or¬†a¬†media outlet. Their position does not matter. This law does not ban anyone from having one‚Äôs own opinion on¬†an¬†issue. It is about receiving financial aid from abroad during domestic political activities. That is the¬†point. The¬†law does not even keep them from continuing these political activities. The¬†money that comes from abroad, from over there, should simply be identified as¬†such. Russian society should know what position someone comes from or¬†what they think about internal political processes or¬†something else, but it should also realise that they receive money from abroad. This is the¬†right of¬†Russian society. In¬†fact, this is the¬†whole point of¬†this law. There are no restrictions in¬†it at¬†all.
So, when you said there is no verdict, that is right. There is no verdict. There was a¬†verdict for¬†Milady¬†‚Äď her head was cut off. Here nobody is cutting off anything. So, just continue working like you did before.
But you are right about one thing. I¬†will not even argue with you, because this is true. Of¬†course, we probably need to¬†go over these vague criteria again and¬†again. I¬†can promise you that we will take another look at¬†them. I¬†know it happens occasionally. Even my¬†personal acquaintances who engage in¬†charitable activities were telling me that cases were being made against them portraying them as¬†foreign agents. I¬†am aware of¬†the¬†fact that our colleagues discuss this at¬†the¬†Human Rights Council. I¬†keep issuing instructions on¬†that score to¬†the¬†Presidential Administration and¬†the¬†State Duma deputies so that they go over it again and¬†again, improve this tool, and¬†in¬†no way abuse it.
So, thank you for¬†bringing this up. We will look into it.
Thank you very much.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Just a¬†quick follow-up on¬†that. Mr President, are you not afraid of¬†excessive acts?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†am not afraid of¬†anything, why is everyone trying to¬†scare me?
Fyodor Lukyanov: Okay, then we are afraid, and¬†you tell us about excessive acts, since you know your former security service colleagues well.
Vladimir Putin: Not everyone, this is a¬†mass organisation, how can I¬†know everyone?
Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, not everyone, but many.
Vladimir Putin: When I¬†was [FSB]director, I¬†sometimes even summoned operatives with specific cases and¬†read them myself. And¬†now I¬†do not know everyone there. I¬†left it a¬†long time ago.
Fyodor Lukyanov: I¬†am talking about specific cases. Their psychological makeup is that overdoing things is a¬†safer approach than missing things. Will there be no blanket approach to¬†identifying foreign agents?
Vladimir Putin: What?
Fyodor Lukyanov: Will they not use a¬†blanket approach to¬†identifying foreign agents?
Vladimir Putin: Is there anything there that looks like a¬†blanket approach? How many do we have? Every second, or¬†what? I¬†believe there is no such thing as¬†widespread branding of¬†people as¬†foreign agents.
I¬†think the¬†danger is vastly exaggerated. I¬†believe I¬†have formulated the¬†underlying reasons for¬†adopting this law quite clearly.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Good. In¬†addition to¬†a¬†Nobel prize winner, we also have a¬†foreign agent in¬†the¬†audience.
Margarita Simonyan, please share your experience.
Margarita Simonyan: Yes, thank you, good afternoon,
We have been foreign agents for¬†many years now. Moreover, I¬†was summoned for¬†interrogation in¬†the¬†United States several years ago, because we did not register as¬†foreign agents earlier, despite the¬†fact that our lawyers, including former rather high-ranking officials from the¬†US Department of¬†Justice (Dima, this information is mostly for¬†you, congratulations on¬†winning the¬†prize), told us¬†‚Äď and¬†we have these legal opinions in¬†writing¬†‚Äď that this law does not apply to¬†us, because it clearly said in¬†English ‚Äúexcept the¬†media.‚ÄĚ
But when our audience started growing, and¬†we got in¬†their way, they told us: ‚ÄúWe do not care what the¬†Department of¬†Justice is telling you, you either register or¬†go to¬†prison for¬†five years.‚ÄĚ And¬†I¬†have a¬†summons for¬†questioning because I¬†myself failed to¬†register earlier, before they registered me. I¬†do not travel there anymore, just in¬†case, because I¬†might be jailed. This is my¬†first point.
Vladimir Putin: There is no fence against ill fortune, Margarita.
(Addressing Dmitry Muratov) You see, in¬†the¬†United States, some people face a¬†five-year sentence.
Margarita Simonyan: Yes, five. And¬†we know people who are doing time under this law, five years.
Secondly, unlike in¬†Russia, this law definitely has consequences and¬†implies sanctions. For¬†example, one‚Äôs accreditation to¬†Congress gets instantly revoked, and¬†if you are not accredited with Congress in¬†the¬†United States, you can no longer go anywhere¬†‚Äď not a¬†single event, nowhere (I¬†can see people that know this nodding their heads). You actually work on¬†semi-underground terms there. This is how we have been working for¬†how long now? Six years. But we will continue to¬†do this work.
Mr President, as¬†a¬†mother of¬†three young children, I¬†would like to¬†thank you very much for¬†your healthy conservatism. I¬†am terrified by¬†the¬†thought of¬†my¬†7-year-old son being asked to¬†choose a¬†gender, or¬†my¬†2-year-old daughter being told from all mobile devices, and¬†even at¬†school, as¬†is now happening in¬†many Western countries, that her future is that of¬†a¬†‚Äúperson with human milk who gave birth to¬†a¬†baby.‚ÄĚ And¬†the¬†thought that these tentacles of¬†liberal fascism, so-called liberal, will reach us and¬†our children. I¬†really hope that this will never be allowed in¬†our country, despite its great openness.
You mentioned bloviating, which the¬†so-called humanistic foundation of¬†the¬†European political thought turned out to¬†be, but this so-called freedom of¬†speech turned out to¬†be bloviating too. Freedom of¬†speech turned out to¬†be a¬†postcard made for¬†the¬†people we were in¬†the¬†1990s, so that we could look at¬†it and¬†think: ‚ÄúWow, it does exist. Great, we will do that too, we will not have foreign agents, and¬†everything will be fine with us.‚ÄĚ This freedom of¬†speech has just strangled our YouTube channel, which was very popular, and¬†everything was cool there, really. And¬†you know very well that this is not a¬†privately-run outfit, but a¬†public project which we created not for¬†ourselves, but for¬†the¬†Motherland, and¬†we have run out of¬†options to¬†get this project back. And¬†we no longer believe in¬†anything other than reciprocal measures.
According to¬†their own analyses, Deutsche Welle was behind us in¬†Germany in¬†certain rankings. It broadcasts in¬†Russia without any problems, but we cannot broadcast there. We have already built studios, hired people, produced shows and¬†earned an¬†audience, but now, with the¬†strike of¬†a¬†pen and¬†without any reason, and, Mr Muratov, without a¬†court ruling, everything fell apart in¬†a¬†single moment.
This is no a¬†question actually, I¬†am asking, pleading for¬†protection, Mr President. I¬†do not see any other way to¬†protect us other than through retaliatory measures.
My¬†question is the¬†following. Moscow has recently hosted a¬†Congress of¬†Compatriots, and¬†you sent greetings to¬†the¬†participants. I¬†took the¬†floor at¬†this forum and¬†asked those of¬†my¬†colleagues in¬†the¬†audience, people who are proactive in¬†defending the¬†Russian world and¬†the¬†Russian language around the¬†world, sometimes putting their lives and¬†freedom at¬†risk, who wanted but could not obtain Russian citizenship, to¬†raise their hands. Half the¬†audience had their hands up.
We have discussed this many times. You may remember that several years ago we spoke about granting citizenship to¬†Donbass residents. The¬†procedure was streamlined for¬†them. Can this be done for¬†all Russians? Why is Russia shying away from doing this? The¬†Jews did not hesitate about it, and¬†neither did the¬†Germans nor the¬†Greeks, but we are hesitating. This is my¬†question. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: First, regarding the¬†retaliatory measures, I¬†think we need to¬†be cautious when someone makes mistakes like this, and¬†I¬†do believe that you have suffered from them, when a¬†channel is closed or¬†you are unable to¬†work. I¬†know about the¬†fact that your accounts were blocked and¬†that you could not open, etc. There is a¬†plethora of¬†instruments to¬†this effect.
Margarita Simonyan: More like carpet-bombing.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, to¬†make it impossible for¬†you to¬†work there. I¬†know.
On¬†the¬†one hand, of¬†course, they are infringing on¬†freedom of¬†speech and¬†so forth, which is a¬†bad thing. But since they are doing this, you and¬†I¬†have to¬†think about how to¬†spread the¬†word about the¬†fact that they are cancelling you, and¬†then more people will become interested in¬†what you do.
Margarita Simonyan: The¬†only problem is that there is no place for¬†people to¬†watch us. People are interested, but there is nowhere to¬†watch us.
Vladimir Putin: I¬†do understand, but we need to¬†give this some thought, and¬†explore technical and¬†technological opportunities.
As¬†for¬†retaliatory measures, let me reiterate that what matters the¬†most is that they do not turn out to¬†be counterproductive. I¬†do not oppose them, but I¬†do not want them to¬†be counterproductive.
As¬†for¬†your question on¬†Russian citizenship, you are right. My¬†position is that we need to¬†improve this tool. There are questions here related to¬†socioeconomic matters: clinics, kindergartens, jobs, housing, etc. Still, the¬†citizenship laws must become increasingly liberal. This is obvious. By¬†the¬†way, this is what the¬†labour market compels us to¬†do. We are thinking about this.
Margarita Simonyan: Thank you, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Colleagues, in¬†addition to¬†those in¬†this room, there are other participants who are watching us online, as¬†they could not join us here due to¬†the¬†well-known circumstances.
I¬†would like to¬†ask¬†‚Äď Robert Legvold, our longtime friend, member of¬†the¬†Valdai Research Council, professor at¬†Columbia University.
Robert Legvold: Thank you very much, Fyodor. For¬†me, it is a¬†disappointment that I¬†have not been able to¬†be with all of¬†the¬†participants in¬†the¬†Valdai conference, but I¬†am particularly pleased to¬†have this opportunity to¬†be part of¬†this session. The¬†topic of¬†Valdai this year has been very transcendent and¬†fundamental questions, and¬†I¬†admire Valdai for¬†doing that.
President Putin has certainly risen to¬†the¬†challenge of¬†that agenda and¬†has addressed it in¬†an¬†extremely engaging and¬†revealing fashion.
My¬†question, however, is narrower but more specific, and¬†I¬†apologise for¬†descending to¬†this level, but it is a¬†question that is important in¬†my¬†country. I¬†think it is important in¬†your country. Although neither your government nor the¬†Biden administration believes that a¬†reset of¬†the¬†US-Russian relationship is possible at¬†this juncture, how do you evaluate or¬†assess the¬†evolution of¬†US-Russia relations since your meeting with President Biden in¬†June? In¬†what areas has there been progress, if any? And¬†what, in¬†your view, are the¬†obstacles to¬†further progress? Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: On¬†the¬†whole, I¬†have spoken about this; I¬†have answered questions like this. I¬†can only repeat myself now. On¬†second thought, not just repeat¬†‚Äď there is actually something to¬†be said about what is happening.
The¬†meeting in¬†Geneva was generally productive, and¬†it seemed to¬†us¬†‚Äď when I¬†say ‚Äėus,‚Äô I¬†mean my¬†colleagues and¬†myself¬†‚Äď that overall, the¬†administration was interested in¬†building ties, reviving them at¬†least in¬†some important areas.
What did we agree on? We agreed to¬†begin consultations on¬†strategic stability, and¬†the¬†consultations began and¬†are held regularly, on¬†cybersecurity issues as¬†well. At¬†the¬†expert level, cooperation has started. So we can safely say that although the¬†scope of¬†matters we agreed on¬†was limited, we are on¬†the¬†right track nonetheless.
These are the¬†most important matters for¬†today. And¬†in¬†general, the¬†administration (on¬†the¬†American side) and¬†Russia (on¬†the¬†other side) are fulfilling the¬†plans and¬†are moving along this path. And¬†when this happens, as¬†we know, it is always a¬†sign, one of¬†a¬†systemic nature. And¬†now, look, our trade has already grown by¬†23 percent and¬†in¬†many areas. This, among other things, is an¬†indirect effect of¬†our meeting in¬†Geneva.
So, overall, we are on¬†the¬†right track, although, unfortunately¬†‚Äď I¬†would not like to¬†talk about sad things now, but we also see certain backslides, remember that phrase we used years ago¬†‚Äď one step forward, two steps back¬†‚Äď this is also happening sometimes. Still, we are progressing in¬†line with our general agreements.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you. Since we are in¬†a¬†new world now, for¬†balance, I¬†will give the¬†floor to¬†our kind friend Zhou Bo from Tsinghua University in¬†Beijing.
Go ahead, please.
Zhou Bo: Mr President, it is really my¬†great honour to¬†ask you this question. First of¬†all, let me thank you for¬†this opportunity. I¬†will ask you something about Afghanistan. Afghanistan lies in¬†the¬†heart of¬†the¬†Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. So, if Afghanistan has a¬†problem, then the¬†Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a¬†problem. Now the¬†United States has withdrawn from Afghanistan. So how can the¬†Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is led by¬†China and¬†Russia, united with other countries, help Afghanistan to¬†achieve political stability and¬†economic development? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: The¬†situation in¬†Afghanistan is one of¬†the¬†most urgent issues today. You know, we have just had a¬†meeting in¬†the¬†appropriate format, in¬†part, with representatives of¬†the¬†Taliban. The¬†People‚Äôs Republic of¬†China (PRC) is also active in¬†Afghanistan. This is a¬†very serious issue for¬†all of¬†us because for¬†both China and¬†Russia it is extremely important to¬†have a¬†calm, developing Afghanistan that is not a¬†source of¬†terrorism, or¬†any form of¬†radicalism, next to¬†our national borders, if not on¬†our borders.
We are now seeing what is happening inside Afghanistan. Unfortunately, different groups, including ISIS are still there. There are already victims among the¬†Taliban movement, which, as¬†a¬†whole, is still trying to¬†get rid of¬†these radical elements and¬†we know of¬†such examples. This is very important for¬†us, for¬†both Russia and¬†China.
In¬†order to¬†normalise the¬†situation properly and¬†at¬†the¬†right pace, it is necessary, of¬†course, to¬†help Afghanistan restore its economy because drugs are another huge problem. It is a¬†known fact that 90 percent of¬†opiates come to¬†the¬†world market from Afghanistan. And¬†if there is no money, what will they do? From what sources and¬†how will they fund their social programmes?
Therefore, for¬†all the¬†importance of¬†our participation in¬†these processes¬†‚Äď both China and¬†Russia and¬†other SCO countries¬†‚Äď the¬†main responsibility for¬†what is happening there is still borne by¬†the¬†countries that fought there for¬†20 years. I¬†believe the¬†first thing they must do is to¬†release Afghan assets and¬†give Afghanistan an¬†opportunity to¬†resolve high priority socio-economic problems.
For¬†our part, we can implement specific large projects and¬†deal with domestic security issues. Our special services are in¬†contact with their Afghan counterparts. For¬†us, within the¬†SCO, it is very important to¬†get this work up and¬†running because Tajikistan and¬†Uzbekistan are right on¬†the¬†border with Afghanistan. We have a¬†military facility in¬†Tajikistan. It was based on¬†the¬†201st division when it was still Soviet.
Therefore, we will actively continue this work with China on¬†a¬†bilateral plane, develop dialogue with relevant structures and¬†promote cooperation within the¬†SCO as¬†a¬†whole. In¬†the¬†process, we will allocate the¬†required resources and¬†create all the¬†conditions to¬†let our citizens feel safe regardless of¬†what is happening in¬†Afghanistan.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.
Mikhail Pogrebinsky, please.
Mikhail Pogrebinsky: Thank you, Fyodor. Thank you, Mr President.
I¬†will try to¬†ask a¬†question, the¬†answer to¬†which is awaited, I¬†am sure, by¬†hundreds of¬†thousands of¬†people in¬†my¬†homeland.
You mentioned a¬†Chinese proverb about living in¬†a¬†time of¬†change. Our country has been living like that for¬†almost 30 years now, and¬†the¬†situation is becoming more difficult in¬†anticipation of¬†winter, amid the¬†pandemic, and, I¬†would say, the¬†situation with the¬†Americans. A¬†couple of¬†days ago, we had Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visit our country. He brought $60 million worth of¬†weapons and¬†promised us a¬†bright future as¬†a¬†NATO member, figuratively speaking.
I¬†will note right away that any allegations that NATO is irrelevant because Europe does not agree, are prevarication. One does not need to¬†be a¬†NATO member to¬†have US or¬†British military infrastructure deployed in¬†Ukraine. I¬†believe this process is already underway.
In¬†your July article on¬†historical unity, you wrote that transforming Ukraine into an¬†anti-Russia country is unacceptable for¬†millions of¬†people. This is true, and¬†opinion polls confirm it. Over 40 percent have good or¬†very good thoughts about Russia. However, this transformation has, in¬†fact, started. A¬†rather long and¬†very dangerous, in¬†my¬†opinion, distance in¬†this direction may have already been covered. I¬†think that if this idea with a¬†para-NATO infrastructure continues to¬†be implemented, the¬†process to¬†form what is now a¬†not so stable anti-Russia Ukraine will be cemented for¬†many years to¬†come.
You wrote in¬†your article that if the¬†process continues unabated, it will pose a¬†serious threat to¬†the¬†Russian state, and¬†this may be fraught with Ukraine losing its statehood. People who oppose this movement are facing reprisals. You are aware that they are trying to¬†put Viktor Medvedchuk in¬†prison based on¬†some outlandish charges.
How, in¬†your opinion, can this process be stopped? Maybe, you have a¬†timeline for¬†when it might happen? What can be done in¬†this regard at¬†all?
Vladimir Putin: Unfortunately, I¬†will probably have to¬†disappoint you¬†‚Äď I¬†do not yet know the¬†answer to¬†this question. On¬†the¬†one hand, it seems to¬†lie on¬†the¬†surface: the¬†easiest thing is to¬†say that the¬†Ukrainian people must make a¬†decision themselves, and¬†form the¬†bodies of¬†power and¬†administration that would meet their needs and¬†expectations. From one perspective, this is indeed true.
But on¬†the¬†other hand, there is another perspective, and¬†I¬†cannot avoid mentioning it. You have just mentioned Viktor Medvedchuk, who has been charged with high treason. For¬†what? Did he steal some secrets and¬†illegally disclose them to¬†a¬†third party? No. What then? Was it his open political position about stabilising Ukraine‚Äôs internal affairs and¬†building relations with its neighbours because those relations are extremely important for¬†Ukraine itself? It is concerning that such people are not allowed to¬†raise their heads. Some of¬†them end up killed, and¬†others locked up.
One gets the¬†impression that the¬†Ukrainian people are not allowed and¬†will not be allowed to¬†legally form the¬†bodies of¬†power that would uphold their interests. The¬†people there are even afraid to¬†respond to¬†polls. They are scared, because the¬†small group that has appropriated the¬†victory in¬†the¬†fight for¬†independence holds radical political views. And¬†that group actually runs the¬†country, regardless of¬†the¬†name of¬†the¬†current head of¬†state.
At¬†least this is how it was until recently: people ran for¬†leadership positions relying on¬†voters in¬†the¬†Southeast, but once elected, they almost immediately changed their political positions to¬†the¬†opposite. Why? Because that silent majority voted for¬†them in¬†the¬†hope that they would fulfil their campaign promises, but the¬†loud and¬†aggressive nationalist minority suppressed all freedom in¬†decision-making that the¬†Ukrainian people expected, and¬†they, in¬†fact, are running the¬†country.
This is a¬†dead end. I¬†do not even know how this can be changed. We will wait and¬†see what happens in¬†Ukraine‚Äôs political affairs in¬†the¬†near future.
For¬†our part, we are making every effort to¬†improve these relations. But the¬†threat you just spoke about¬†‚ÄĒ not even spoke about, only mentioned¬†‚ÄĒ is quite important to¬†us. And¬†you are right that formal NATO membership may never happen, but military expansion on¬†the¬†territory is already underway, and¬†this really poses a¬†threat to¬†the¬†Russian Federation, we are aware of¬†this.
Consider what happened in¬†the¬†late 1980s¬†‚Äď early 1990s (I¬†will not tell the¬†whole story now, although you just made me think about talking more about it), when everyone assured us that an¬†eastward expansion of¬†NATO infrastructure after the¬†unification of¬†Germany was totally out of¬†the¬†question. Russia could be absolutely sure of¬†this, at¬†the¬†very least, so they said. But those were public statements. What happened in¬†reality? They lied. And¬†now they challenge us to¬†produce a¬†document that actually said that.
They expanded NATO once, and¬†then expanded it twice. What are the¬†military-strategic consequences? Their infrastructure is getting closer. What kind of¬†infrastructure? They deployed ABM (anti-missile) systems in¬†Poland and¬†Romania, using Aegis launchers, where Tomahawks can be loaded, strike systems. This can be done easily, with the¬†click of¬†a¬†button. Just change the¬†software¬†‚Äď and¬†that is it, no one will even notice. Medium and¬†short-range missiles can also be deployed there. Why not? Has anyone even reacted to¬†our statement that we will not deploy this kind of¬†missile in¬†the¬†European part if we produce them, if they tell us that no one will do so from the¬†United States or¬†Europe? No. They never responded. But we are adults, we are all adults here. What should we do in¬†this situation?
The¬†Minister of¬†Defence arrives, who, in¬†fact, opens the¬†doors for¬†Ukraine to¬†NATO. In¬†fact, his statement must and¬†can be interpreted in¬†this way. He says every country has the¬†right to¬†choose. And¬†nobody says no, nobody. Even those Europeans you mentioned. I¬†know, I¬†spoke to¬†them personally.
But one official is not a¬†security guarantee for¬†Russia¬†‚Äď he may be here one day and¬†he might be replaced the¬†next. What will happen then? This is not a¬†security guarantee; it is just a¬†conversation on¬†a¬†given topic. And¬†we are naturally concerned.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, since you mentioned NATO‚Ä¶
Vladimir Putin: Yes, sorry. About the¬†bases¬†‚Äď I¬†know about the¬†corresponding clauses in¬†the¬†Ukrainian constitution. It allows setting up training centers. But these can be anything at¬†all, accounted for¬†as¬†a¬†training center. As¬†I¬†already said, and¬†it was also said publicly: what if tomorrow there are missiles near Kharkov¬†‚Äď what should we do then? We do not go there with our missiles¬†‚Äď but missiles are being brought to¬†our doorstep. Of¬†course, we have a¬†problem here.
Fyodor Lukyanov: We started talking about NATO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was interviewed just two days ago, and¬†he announced that NATO is adjusting its strategic vision somewhat, and¬†now views Russia and¬†China as¬†one common threat rather than two threats. This is an¬†interesting approach, apparently a¬†far-reaching one. But if this is how they see us, maybe it is time for¬†us to¬†unite with China and¬†consider someone else as¬†a¬†threat?
Vladimir Putin: We have said many times that we are friends with China, and¬†not against anyone else, but in¬†each other‚Äôs interests. This is the¬†first point. The¬†second point is, as¬†distinct from NATO, from the¬†NATO countries, we are not creating a¬†closed military bloc. There is no Russia-China military bloc and¬†we will not create one now. So, there is no reason to¬†talk about this.
Fyodor Lukyanov: I¬†see.
Mark Champion: Thank you. Mr President, on¬†the¬†subject of¬†the¬†potential for¬†sending extra gas to¬†Europe, which, as¬†you know, is in¬†a¬†gas crisis at¬†the¬†moment, you have talked about this before, but, you know, at¬†times it has been quite confusing. Sometimes Russian officials indicate that there is additional gas available that can be sent if Nord Stream 2 is opened, and¬†at¬†other times, they have suggested that there is no gas available to¬†send to¬†Europe. And¬†I¬†just wondered if you would take this opportunity to¬†clarify whether there is additional gas available that Russia can send to¬†Europe, if say, Nord Stream opened tonight, or¬†if there is not.
Vladimir Putin: Frankly, it is strange for¬†me to¬†hear questions like this. It seems to¬†me I¬†explained everything during the¬†Russian Energy Week in¬†Moscow. However, if these questions are being asked, we should certainly talk more about it.
Look what is happening. I¬†believe I¬†said at¬†the¬†meeting with the¬†Government yesterday or¬†the¬†day before yesterday: this is not just about energy sources or¬†gas, but also about the¬†state of¬†the¬†global economy. Shortages are increasing in¬†the¬†leading, economically advanced countries. Take the¬†United States, for¬†one. It has recently made yet another decision to¬†increase its national debt.
For¬†those who do not deal with the¬†economy, I¬†can tell you what a¬†decision to¬†increase the¬†national debt means. The¬†FRS will print money and¬†put it at¬†the¬†government‚Äôs disposal. This is emission. The¬†deficit is increasing, and¬†inflation is increasing as¬†an¬†emission derivative. This leads to¬†price increases on¬†energy sources, on¬†electricity. This is how it works, not the¬†other way around.
However, the¬†situation is also deteriorating due to¬†realities in¬†the¬†energy market. What are these realities? You just spoke about Europe. What is going on¬†in¬†Europe? Maybe I¬†will repeat some of¬†my¬†ideas or¬†maybe I¬†will say something new, if I¬†recall it. In¬†the¬†past few years, the¬†European Commission‚Äôs philosophy was entirely devoted to¬†regulating the¬†market of¬†energy sources, including gas, via a¬†commodities exchange, through the¬†so-called spot market. They tried to¬†persuade us to¬†give up long-term contracts where prices were tied to¬†the¬†exchange, that is, market quotes on¬†crude oil and¬†petroleum products.
Incidentally, this is market price formation. Since gas prices are established with a¬†lag of¬†six months after a¬†change in¬†oil prices, this is, firstly, a¬†more stable situation and, secondly, a¬†six-month lag allows consumers and¬†suppliers to¬†make adjustments along the¬†way based on¬†developments on¬†world markets.
So, everything began to¬†be brought to¬†this spot market, but it largely holds gas on¬†paper, not real gas. These are not physical amounts, which are not increasing (I¬†will explain why in¬†a¬†minute). A¬†figure is written on¬†paper, but there is no physical amount, it is declining. So, a¬†cold winter requires gas from underground storage; a¬†wind-free hot summer means a¬†lack of¬†wind generation on¬†the¬†necessary scale. I¬†have already mentioned the¬†macroeconomic reasons, and¬†these are the¬†sector-based reasons.
What happened next on¬†the¬†European market? First, a¬†decline in¬†production in¬†the¬†gas producing countries. Production in¬†Europe fell by¬†22.5 billion cubic metres during the¬†first six months. This is first. Second, gas storage facilities were underfilled by¬†18.5 billion cubic metres and¬†are only 71 percent full. The¬†gas storage facilities were underfilled by¬†18.5 during the¬†first six months of¬†the¬†year. If you look at¬†annual consumption, this number must be doubled.
Primarily American, along with Middle Eastern companies withdrew 9 billion cubic metres from the¬†European market and¬†redirected the¬†gas to¬†Latin America and¬†Asia. By¬†the¬†way, when the¬†Europeans were formulating the¬†principles governing the¬†formation of¬†the¬†gas market in¬†Europe, and¬†said that all gas must be traded on¬†the¬†spot market, they were proceeding from the¬†assumption that the¬†European market is a¬†premium market. But the¬†European market is no longer a¬†premium market, you see? It is no longer a¬†premium market. Gas was redirected to¬†Latin America and¬†Asia.
I¬†have already said that 18.5 billion cubic metres, plus double that amount, 9 billion (undersupplied to¬†the¬†European market from the¬†United States and¬†the¬†Middle East), plus a¬†decline in¬†production of¬†22.5 billion¬†‚Äď the¬†deficit on¬†the¬†European market may amount to¬†about 70 billion cubic metres, which is a¬†lot. What does Russia have to¬†do with it? This is the¬†result of¬†the¬†European Commission‚Äôs economic policy. Russia has nothing to¬†do with it.
Russia, including Gazprom, has increased deliveries to¬†the¬†European market by¬†8.7 percent, I¬†believe, and¬†deliveries to¬†non-CIS countries by¬†12 percent, I¬†think. But when we speak about non-CIS countries, we mean China as¬†well. This is also good for¬†the¬†international market, because we are increasing deliveries to¬†the¬†global market, and¬†increased deliveries to¬†the¬†European market by¬†8.7. In¬†absolute terms, this represents over 11 billion cubic metres of¬†gas. American and¬†Middle Eastern companies undersupplied by¬†9 billion, while Gazprom increased its supplies by¬†more than 11 billion.
Can everyone hear me? Not in¬†this audience, but the¬†so-called stakeholders. Someone out there is cutting supplies to¬†you, while we are increasing them.
But this is not all. Today, under the¬†so-called long-term contracts¬†‚Äď I¬†would like you to¬†listen attentively and¬†to¬†hear what I¬†say¬†‚Äď the¬†price of¬†gas is now $1,200 or¬†$1,150 for¬†a¬†thousand cubic metres. European companies that have long-term contracts with Gazprom receive it¬†‚Äď take note¬†‚Äď at¬†four times less than the¬†current price! Gazprom does not make any windfall profits. We are not concerned about this because we are interested in¬†long-term contracts and¬†long-term mutual commitments. In¬†this case, we ensure the¬†opportunity to¬†invest in¬†production and¬†produce the¬†required amounts for¬†our consumers steadily and¬†reliably.
You are asking me if it is possible to¬†increase supplies. Yes, this is possible. Speaking about Nord Stream-2, its first line is filled with gas and¬†if the¬†German regulator issues the¬†permit for¬†shipping tomorrow, it can deliver 17.5 billion cubic metres of¬†gas the¬†day after tomorrow.
Technological work on¬†filling the¬†second line of¬†Nord Stream-2 will be completed before the¬†end of¬†this year, in¬†mid- or¬†late December. The¬†total volume is 55 billion cubic metres of¬†gas. Considering that in¬†our estimate the¬†shortage of¬†gas in¬†the¬†European market will reach 70 billion cubic metres, 55 billion is a¬†decent amount.
Once the¬†second line is filled, and¬†the¬†German regulator issues its permit, we can start supplies on¬†the¬†next day. Is this possible or¬†not, you asked. Yes, it is possible, but one must have a¬†responsible attitude to¬†one‚Äôs commitments and¬†work on¬†this.
By¬†the¬†way, we keep saying: Nord Stream-2, Gazprom‚Ä¶ But there are five European companies taking part in¬†this project. Why do you mention Gazprom alone? Have you forgotten about them? Five major European companies are working on¬†this project. So, this affects not only the¬†interests of¬†Gazprom but also the¬†interests of¬†our partners, primarily in¬†Europe, of¬†course.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, to¬†an¬†extent, Nord Stream 2, which is now on¬†everyone‚Äôs lips, can be viewed as¬†your joint achievement with Angela Merkel. Do you regret that she is leaving office? Will you miss her?
Vladimir Putin: The¬†decision on¬†her departure was not mine, after all, but hers. She could have run for¬†another term. She stayed in¬†power for¬†16 years.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Not a¬†long tenure, at¬†all.
Vladimir Putin: You cannot say that this is not long enough. Quite a¬†tenure. Helmut Koehl, who unified Germany, also spent 16 years at¬†the¬†top.
As¬†for¬†the¬†Nord Streams, we started this process back in¬†the¬†Schroeder days. At¬†the¬†time, when we were working on¬†Nord Stream 1, there were similar attempts to¬†undermine this process, just like today. It was all the¬†same. Fortunately, today this pipeline delivers gas to¬†Europe and¬†Germany, and¬†the¬†volumes are quite high.
By¬†the¬†way, we are all talking about green energy. This is important, of¬†course. If there are questions on¬†this subject, I¬†will try to¬†explain how I¬†see this. As¬†for¬†the¬†Russian natural gas, let me emphasise that it has a¬†three times lower carbon footprint compared to¬†LNG from the¬†United States. If the¬†environmental activists are not guided in¬†their efforts by¬†a¬†political agenda and¬†really do care about the¬†future of¬†humanity, they cannot fail to¬†hear this. They must oppose the¬†construction of¬†and¬†demand that all LNG terminals are closed.
Unfortunately, the¬†same applies to¬†Ukraine‚Äôs gas transit system. I¬†have already said that Nord Stream 2 is a¬†modern, state-of-the-art pipeline that can handle higher pressure. There are absolutely no emissions involved when you deliver gas via the¬†bottom of¬†the¬†Baltic Sea. The¬†compression stations are like small factories. They are gas-fired and¬†also emit CO2 into the¬†atmosphere. Emissions from Nord Stream 2 are 5.6 times lower compared to¬†Ukrainian gas transits, because the¬†system there is old and¬†has been in¬†use since the¬†Soviet times. Environmental activists should have said: ‚ÄúImmediately close down the¬†Ukrainian gas transit!‚ÄĚ But no, it is the¬†opposite: ‚ÄúGo ahead and¬†increase supplies through Ukraine.‚ÄĚ How is that possible?
In¬†fact, it is the¬†same with oil. Even if we leave gas alone, since I¬†have already talked about this at¬†length, what is going on¬†with oil? In¬†think that from 2012 until 2016 annual investment in¬†oil extraction was at¬†about $400 billion, but in¬†the¬†years that preceded the¬†pandemic investment decreased by¬†40 percent, and¬†now stands at¬†$260 million. This is a¬†cycle that lasts for¬†15 to¬†30 years. Do you understand this?
In¬†my¬†opinion, what are current problems on¬†top of¬†what I¬†have said? I¬†talked about various political issues. This is one of¬†the¬†important topics that springs to¬†mind. There is a¬†lack of¬†overlap between political and¬†investment cycles in¬†the¬†leading economies, including in¬†energy, a¬†very important sector. How long is a¬†political cycle? Four or¬†five years. What do the¬†leading political forces, parties and¬†politicians do all this time? They make promises. They promise everything, as¬†much as¬†possible and¬†at¬†the¬†lowest cost. This applies, among other things, to¬†the¬†green economy. What comes out of¬†this? Banks stop funding investment, and¬†investment dwindles. The¬†time will come like what we are seeing today, when the¬†market will need to¬†accomplish a¬†breakthrough, but there will be nothing to¬†back this effort. Even today, OPEC Plus countries are increasing oil production even slightly above their agreement, but not all oil producing countries can increase output quickly. This is a¬†long-term process, and¬†the¬†cycle is quite long.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Please, Raghida Dergham.
Raghida Dergham: Thank you very much, Fyodor.
Mr President, it is good to¬†see you again in¬†Valdai and¬†Sochi. My¬†name is Raghida Dergham. I¬†am the¬†founder and¬†executive chairman of¬†Beirut Institute. So I¬†have come to¬†you, I¬†have come to¬†Sochi, from Lebanon, a¬†very wounded country. I¬†am sure, sir, that you are aware of¬†the¬†explosion that took place¬†‚Äď the¬†fourth largest¬†‚Äď at¬†the¬†port, the¬†civilian port of¬†Beirut. There has been an¬†attempt to¬†investigate what happened, the¬†story itself. There was a¬†Russian captain, there was a¬†Georgian owner of¬†the¬†ship.
There was a¬†request to¬†you, Mr President, to¬†share¬†‚Äď the¬†request came to¬†you from the¬†judiciary, and¬†it is an¬†independent body from the¬†government¬†‚Äď to¬†share what you have, from your satellite pictures, to¬†tell us, to¬†help find the¬†story, this horrible story that happened, that amounted to¬†the¬†assassination of¬†the¬†city, of¬†the¬†capital. My¬†first question, sir: are you willing to¬†share now the¬†information you have, the¬†satellite information, and¬†to¬†lend cooperation to¬†this investigation so that, you know, the¬†values that you spoke about are implemented where it really matters?
And¬†secondly, your two allies, Hezbollah and¬†Iran, have been resisting and, in¬†fact, have been demanding the¬†dislodging of¬†the¬†‚Äď not the¬†prosecutor, he is really the¬†investigator¬†‚Äď the¬†judge who is investigating the¬†case. They have issued a¬†warning that if¬†‚Äď to¬†both friends of¬†yours, the¬†President, Michel Aoun and¬†the¬†Prime Minister, Najib Mikati¬†‚Äď that if they do not dislodge this investigator, this judge, then the¬†government will fall. Do you support such a¬†position, particularly given that this country is on¬†the¬†verge of¬†a¬†civil war, with Mr Nasrallah announcing that he will not back down, announcing, at¬†the¬†same time, that there are a¬†hundred thousand fighters ready to¬†launch? So, this is a¬†civil war in¬†the¬†action, maybe, right next door to¬†a¬†prize accomplishment of¬†yours, Mr Vladimir Putin, which is in¬†Syria. I¬†thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Just a¬†minute, please. Can you explain the¬†beginning of¬†which war you are talking about? I¬†do not understand.
Raghida Dergham: Civil war, because, you see, there are armed people on¬†the¬†streets already. You do remember the¬†civil war in¬†Lebanon, and¬†right now‚Ä¶ Hezbollah is not the¬†only armed group, I¬†am not claiming that. There are many armed groups, but right now the¬†conflict is over this investigator. His name is Tariq al-Bitar. The¬†insistence of¬†Hezbollah is that he needs to¬†be dislodged. And, in¬†fact, this is interfering with the¬†very principle of¬†the¬†separation of¬†powers, and¬†that led to¬†confrontations on¬†the¬†streets and¬†the¬†possibility of¬†a¬†civil war really happening, Mr President. Do not dismiss that possibility; it is a¬†very scary one. And¬†I¬†am not sure at¬†all it would be in¬†the¬†interests of¬†the¬†Russian policy even for¬†Syria, never mind for¬†Lebanon, and¬†we wish that you will pay attention to¬†Lebanon, particularly after hearing you today emphasise these values.
Vladimir Putin: First, about the¬†explosion in¬†the¬†port of¬†Beirut. Frankly speaking, when that tragedy happened¬†‚Äď I¬†would like to¬†once again offer my¬†condolences to¬†the¬†Lebanese people over it, the¬†large number of¬†casualties and¬†catastrophic damage¬†‚Äď I¬†learned about it from media reports, of¬†course.
Many years ago, ammonium nitrate was delivered to¬†and¬†stored in¬†the¬†port; the¬†local authorities did not give it the¬†attention it needed, although, as¬†far as¬†I¬†know, they wanted to¬†sell it profitably. And¬†that desire to¬†sell at¬†a¬†profit came into conflict with the¬†possibility of¬†doing so, with the¬†market and¬†some internal contradictions related to¬†who would get the¬†profit, and¬†so on. In¬†my¬†opinion, this is the¬†main reason for¬†the¬†tragedy, and¬†that is it.
As¬†for¬†helping with the¬†investigation, frankly speaking, I¬†do not understand how satellite pictures can help, and¬†whether we even have any. However, I¬†promise that I¬†will make inquiries, and¬†if we do have anything and¬†can provide assistance to¬†the¬†investigation, we will do this. But first I¬†need to¬†discuss the¬†matter with my¬†colleagues who may have this information.
As¬†for¬†Hezbollah, Iran and¬†so on, regarding the¬†situation in¬†Lebanon. Take Hezbollah: different people in¬†different countries have a¬†different attitude to¬†it, which I¬†am well aware of. Hezbollah is a¬†serious political force in¬†Lebanon itself. But there is no doubt that we always, including in¬†Lebanon, call for¬†settling any conflicts through dialogue. We have always tried to¬†do this, one way or¬†another. We are maintaining contact with nearly all political forces in¬†Lebanon, and¬†we will try to¬†continue doing this in¬†the¬†future as¬†well, so that the¬†situation can be settled without any bloodshed. God forbid. Nobody is interested in¬†this. The¬†situation in¬†the¬†Middle East has been precarious recently as¬†it is. Of¬†course, we will do everything we can to¬†convince all the¬†parties to¬†the¬†internal political process to¬†stick with common sense and¬†to¬†strive for¬†agreements.
Please, take the¬†microphone.
Raghida Dergham: President Vladimir Putin, do you support the¬†ultimatum given by¬†Hezbollah that either the¬†investigator Tarek Bitar is dislodged or¬†there is a¬†downfall of¬†the¬†government? Do you support that ultimatum?
Vladimir Putin: Listen, colleague, we cannot comment on¬†the¬†internal political processes you have mentioned, whether we support an¬†ultimatum of¬†one of¬†the¬†sides or¬†not, or¬†one of¬†the¬†side‚Äôs positions. This would amount to¬†taking the¬†side of¬†one of¬†the¬†conflicting parties, which would be counterproductive regarding the¬†effectiveness of¬†our peace-making efforts. Therefore, I¬†would like to¬†abstain from making such comments. As¬†I¬†have noted, the¬†main thing is to¬†find a¬†platform that can be used as¬†the¬†basis for¬†agreements, without any shooting, God willing. We in¬†Russia are definitely interested in¬†that.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Please, Stanislav Tkachenko.
Stanislav Tkachenko: Thank you.
Stanislav Tkachenko, St Petersburg State University.
Mr President, a¬†question about energy. On¬†October¬†13, Chief of¬†the¬†European External Action Service Josep Borrell first unveiled the¬†Arctic Strategy and¬†then sent it to¬†the¬†European Commission and¬†the¬†EU Council¬†‚Äď a¬†new EU document that considers a¬†wide range of¬†problems, including energy.
I¬†would highlight two points in¬†that strategy. First, the¬†European Union believes that the¬†mineral resources found in¬†the¬†Arctic¬†‚Äď oil, gas and¬†coal¬†‚Äď should stay in¬†the¬†ground, including in¬†the¬†Arctic, and¬†to¬†achieve that, the¬†world may even have to¬†impose a¬†temporary moratorium. The¬†second point is linked to¬†the¬†first one. It concerns plans by¬†the¬†European Union and¬†its member states to¬†develop a¬†series of¬†instruments, financial and¬†others, to¬†prevent countries (perhaps primarily the¬†Russian Federation), which will be selling energy resources on¬†the¬†global market, from selling the¬†resources produced in¬†the¬†Arctic.
My¬†question is: What is Russia‚Äôs attitude to¬†this. Thanks.
Vladimir Putin: Right. To¬†be honest, I¬†try to¬†follow what is happening there behind the¬†European scenes, what is going on¬†there every day, but at¬†times, as¬†our people say, I¬†feel like I¬†am missing something.
Regarding the¬†EU's Arctic Strategy, what can I¬†say? Russia has its own strategy for¬†our presence in¬†the¬†Arctic¬†‚Äď this is my¬†first point. Second, we have always worked and¬†are working quite productively; Russia is currently chairing the¬†Arctic Council, where EU countries are also represented. Third, we have always talked about this, and¬†I¬†actually spoke about this at¬†the¬†meeting with President Biden and¬†his team members in¬†Geneva: we are ready to¬†continue cooperation, in¬†a¬†broad sense, with all interested countries in¬†the¬†Arctic, within the¬†framework of¬†international law.
As¬†you know, there are several conventions, on¬†territorial waters, and¬†on¬†the¬†law of¬†the¬†sea, from 1986, I¬†think. We act on¬†the¬†basis of¬†those internationally recognised documents, which Russia is a¬†party to, and¬†we are ready to¬†build relations with all states including the¬†European Union on¬†the¬†basis of¬†those documents.
But if someone from the¬†outside is trying to¬†circumvent these internationally recognised documents and¬†limit our sovereign right to¬†use our own territory¬†‚Äď according to¬†international law, territorial waters are part of¬†a¬†coastal state‚Äôs territory¬†‚Äď it is an¬†infringement using mala fide means.
The¬†same applies to¬†the¬†400-mile zone, which is called the¬†zone of¬†preferential economic development. The¬†rules that apply to¬†that area are determined by¬†international law, and¬†we fully adhere to¬†these requirements.
By¬†the¬†way, consider the¬†Nord Stream project¬†‚Äď in¬†accordance with these rules, we had to¬†request appropriate permits from the¬†coastal states¬†‚Äď Finland, Sweden, and¬†Denmark¬†‚Äď when we did not even have to¬†enter their territorial sea, but the¬†pipeline crossed those countries‚Äô exclusive economic zones. This is a¬†requirement of¬†international law, and¬†we abide by¬†this law, and¬†everyone, including Europeans, insisted that we acted within the¬†framework of¬†those international legal norms. Do they mean they are not going to¬†abide by¬†them now, or¬†what? We are required to¬†comply, but they can suddenly ignore them, is that it? It will not happen.
And¬†if they want to¬†restrict our activities, including in¬†the¬†energy sector, it is up to¬†them, and¬†they can try it. We can see what is happening in¬†the¬†world now, including in¬†the¬†European energy market. If they act like this, take categorical and¬†poorly substantiated action, I¬†doubt anything good will come of¬†it.
I¬†remember this popular fairy tale, at¬†least with the¬†Russian audience, where one of¬†the¬†characters makes a¬†wolf fish in¬†the¬†ice-hole in¬†winter using its tail as¬†a¬†rod, and¬†then sits by¬†the¬†wolf‚Äôs side chanting quietly, ‚Äėfreeze, freeze wolf's tail.‚Äô If the¬†Europeans follow this path, they will find themselves in¬†the¬†same position as¬†those characters in¬†the¬†Russian fairy tale.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Who is the¬†wolf?
Vladimir Putin: It is not difficult to¬†guess, I¬†think.
Fyodor Lukyanov: I¬†don‚Äôt get it, I¬†really don‚Äôt. Do you mean Russia? They chant¬†‚Äď
Vladimir Putin: The¬†wolf is the¬†one who has put its tail into an¬†ice-hole in¬†winter trying to¬†catch some fish, in¬†troubled water in¬†this case¬†‚Äď that's who. They will freeze. But of¬†course, if they try to¬†impose restrictions. They are already restricting investments, as¬†I¬†said, the¬†investment period in¬†the¬†oil industry is 15‚Äď20, or¬†even 30 years, and¬†now banks are refusing to¬†issue appropriate credit resources for¬†these projects. Here you go¬†‚Äď the¬†shortage will be felt soon, and¬†nothing can be done about it.
The¬†problem is that, unfortunately, decisions in¬†this area, in¬†the¬†energy sector, are made as¬†part of¬†political cycles, which I¬†have already mentioned, and¬†they are not made by¬†experts. As¬†one of¬†my¬†colleagues said, the¬†decisions are not made by¬†engineers, but by¬†politicians who are not really competent in¬†the¬†matter, but they simply deceive their voters.
Everyone is alarmed by¬†the¬†climate agenda, which suggests a¬†gloomy future unless we achieve a¬†decrease in¬†the¬†temperature rise to¬†its pre-industrial level, the¬†level as¬†of¬†the¬†beginning of¬†industrialisation. Yes, we know. Between 1.5‚Äď2 degrees is the¬†critical line, we know this. But this must be done carefully, while relying on¬†a¬†thorough and¬†deep analysis, not on¬†political slogans. But we can see that some countries are guided precisely by¬†political slogans, which are not even feasible.
Still, no one can forbid us to¬†act on¬†our territory as¬†we see fit. We are ready to¬†negotiate with everyone, but we hope that it will be a¬†professional conversation.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, you keep referring to¬†international law, and¬†have just mentioned it once again. So does Russian diplomacy. However, international law is not written in¬†stone like Moses‚Äô tablets. It results from a¬†certain balance of¬†power and¬†interests, then it changes. Maybe it is time to¬†adjust it?
Vladimir Putin: But these adjustments are always late, which applies to¬†all kinds of¬†law, including international norms. Social interactions and¬†international relations change faster than the¬†legal norms. This is a¬†well-known tenet of¬†state theory and¬†law. Relations change quicker, they need to¬†be regulated, and¬†those in¬†charge of¬†setting norms usually fail to¬†keep up with these changes.
What is international law? It is an¬†aggregate of¬†international norms. By¬†the¬†way, these are not simply rules that someone has scribbled under a¬†blanket, thinking that everyone has to¬†follow them. If we are discussing international public law, the¬†norms governing interstate relations have to¬†be coordinated and¬†agreed upon: you sign them, assume obligations and¬†honour them. If today‚Äôs world order hinges upon sovereignty, this means that if someone does not sign a¬†document, you cannot demand that this state complies with something it did not subscribe to. This is called ‚Äútrying to¬†impose someone‚Äôs will on¬†other countries.‚ÄĚ The¬†faster we move away from attempts to¬†introduce such practices into international relations, the¬†better, and¬†this would make the¬†world calmer and¬†more stable.
Fyodor Lukyanov: We have another colleague from the¬†United States¬†‚Äď Christian Whiton, Centre for¬†the¬†National Interest.
Christian, you have the¬†floor.
Christian Whiton: Hello, Fyodor. Great. Thank you so much for¬†calling on¬†me, and¬†thank you for¬†Valdai, for¬†organising this important conference.
President Putin, I¬†really appreciate your important comments, which I¬†do not think we have heard from any other world leader, about culture and¬†its importance. One person here in¬†the¬†United States that might be interested and¬†supportive of¬†what you have said is former President Donald Trump. I¬†am not certain about that, but he has spoken of¬†similar things. My¬†question for¬†you is that there is a¬†lot of¬†speculation that former President Trump may again run for¬†office in¬†2024, and¬†you have spoken about Angela Merkel, for¬†example. What do you think about the¬†idea of¬†a¬†second Donald Trump presidency?
Vladimir Putin: Would you vote for¬†him? (Laughter.)
I¬†am not kidding. Where is the¬†joke? Please help us. Would you vote for¬†Donald Trump as¬†a¬†presidential candidate in¬†the¬†United States of¬†America?
Christian Whiton: I¬†am sorry, I¬†thought you were asking President Putin.
Yes. My¬†view, and¬†I¬†worked in¬†the¬†Trump administration at¬†the¬†State Department, early in¬†his administration. I¬†think it is remarkable. He has redefined conservatism, perhaps, along some of¬†similar lines that President Putin talked about healthy conservatism.
However, in¬†our system, if you begin a¬†second term, you are essentially a¬†lame duck, in¬†that you cannot run again, so people start discounting you. Also I¬†like what Donald Trump does in¬†challenging the¬†vocal minority that has infected our culture, but on¬†the¬†other hand his administration had a¬†lot of¬†inefficiencies, if you will, staff in¬†very senior levels that did not agree with his agenda. Sometimes it seemed like the¬†authority of¬†his presidency did not extend beyond the¬†White House to¬†the¬†rest of¬†the¬†very large US government.
So my¬†preference is that other conservatives step up like Ron DeSantis, the¬†Governor of¬†Florida, step up and¬†run for¬†President. But if it is a¬†choice between Donald Trump and¬†a¬†Democrat, I¬†would vote for¬†Donald Trump, yes.
Vladimir Putin: If you allow me, I¬†would prefer to¬†keep my¬†point of¬†view on¬†this matter to¬†myself and¬†refrain from commenting on¬†what you have just said. Otherwise, you will have to¬†register as¬†a¬†foreign agent. (Laughter.)
However, I¬†do understand your idea.
Thank you very much for¬†your participation.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Anastasia Likhacheva.
Anastasia Likhacheva: Thank you.
Mr President, when speaking about the¬†biggest challenges of¬†our time, you have mentioned water scarcity and¬†food supply issues. In¬†your opinion, what positive contribution could Russia make to¬†addressing them within as¬†well as¬†beyond its borders, considering that Russia ranks second in¬†the¬†world in¬†terms of¬†its renewable freshwater resources, and¬†has its unique Lake Baikal and¬†great traditions in¬†research, on¬†top of¬†being a¬†major food exporter. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: We are already doing this and¬†will step up our efforts even more. Let me explain what this means and¬†where the¬†concerns about a¬†possible food crisis come from.
As¬†I¬†have already mentioned, both at¬†a¬†recent meeting with members of¬†the¬†Government, and¬†just now, there are system-wide dysfunctions within the¬†global economy. They are attributable to¬†growing deficits and¬†inflation and¬†lead to¬†disrupted supply chains. This is not just about the¬†Suez Canal, and¬†the¬†shortage of¬†lorry drivers in¬†Great Britain for¬†delivering fuel to¬†the¬†pump. There is a¬†general disruption, and¬†COVID-19 did play a¬†role in¬†this, unfortunately.
There are other reasons, however. Where does all this lead? We were discussing rising fuel prices. This, in¬†turn, pushes up electricity prices. If we convert our prices into euros, one megawatt-hour costs 20 euros in¬†Russia, and¬†over 300 euros in¬†European countries. Of¬†course, there is a¬†difference in¬†terms of¬†income levels, but this gap is too big.
Some governments and¬†representatives of¬†international institutions say: ‚ÄúThis is the¬†right way to¬†go, keep up the¬†good work.‚ÄĚ Just think about this. They are now thinking about paying out subsidies in¬†order to¬†offset this huge hike in¬†energy prices. It could seem appropriate. After all, the¬†state must lend its shoulder to¬†its people. However, this is a¬†one-time fix, and¬†afterwards people will still suffer.
Why? Because the¬†volume of¬†primary fuel stays the¬†same, which means that someone will not get it. People, the¬†households who receive this subsidy will not reduce their consumption, despite all the¬†fear mongering on¬†German television. They will not reduce their consumption as¬†long as¬†they are subsidised. Why cut back? But the¬†supply will remain the¬†same. What does this mean? Someone will have to¬†consume less. Who will that be? Industry. In¬†what sector? The¬†metals industry. This will lead to¬†higher prices on¬†all products containing metal and¬†all the¬†way down the¬†value chain. This is a¬†huge chain, from cars to¬†tiepins.
Second, fertiliser producers that use natural gas are already closing their manufacturing facilities. This is already happening. There are reasons to¬†believe that the¬†soil fertilizer sector will be underfunded. What will this result in? There will be less food on¬†the¬†global market, and¬†people will have to¬†pay higher prices. Once again, it all falls on¬†the¬†people, although it all started with an¬†initiative designed to¬†help them.
It may seem as¬†if it is headed in¬†the¬†right direction, but it is necessary to¬†raise the¬†question of¬†whether it is appropriate to¬†restrict extraction, including in¬†the¬†Arctic. Do we need to¬†restrict new transit routes, including Nord Stream 2, for¬†political reasons? These are the¬†questions to¬†be asked. We need to¬†think about fundamental things.
Considering the¬†growing risks and¬†uncertainty, do we really have to¬†transfer all the¬†supplies to¬†the¬†spot market? Or¬†maybe thinking about long-term investment would make more sense, and¬†using long-term contracts instead, at¬†least in¬†part. This is what we must think about. This is how we can prevent crises from suddenly breaking out.
Russia is making a¬†significant contribution to¬†food security today. We are increasing food supplies to¬†the¬†world market; we are exporting over US$25 billion worth of¬†foodstuffs. I¬†have already said this many times and¬†I¬†would like to¬†thank our agricultural producers once again. This is primarily the¬†result of¬†their efforts. We could never even dream about this. Now we must thank the¬†Europeans for¬†their agricultural sanctions. Well done. Thank you for¬†all your sanctions. We have introduced countermeasures in¬†agriculture and¬†invested appropriate resources.
By¬†the¬†way, we have boosted the¬†so-called import substitution in¬†industry, not only in¬†agriculture. And¬†I¬†must say, the¬†effect has been good. I¬†did have some anxiety, I¬†must admit, but the¬†overall effect has been very good. We have used our brains, resumed some old projects, and¬†started new ones, including in¬†high-tech industries. I¬†hope will continue to¬†increase production in¬†agriculture.
Climate change has also been bringing changes to¬†Russian agriculture. What am I¬†referring to? For¬†example, in¬†Russian black soil regions, the¬†quality of¬†the¬†soil is changing, and¬†things are shifting a¬†little further north. There are also problems caused by¬†natural phenomena and¬†cataclysms¬†‚Äď desertification and¬†things like that. But Russia will adapt to¬†this, this is quite obvious, and¬†it will fully meet not only its own needs, but also provide our main partners in¬†the¬†world markets with high-quality and¬†affordable food at¬†world prices.
There is also something else. I¬†just said fertiliser plants are closing, but the¬†quality and¬†quantity of¬†harvests, the¬†volume of¬†crops depend on¬†them. But we supply the¬†necessary amounts of¬†fertilisers to¬†international markets, and¬†we are ready to¬†increase production further. By¬†the¬†way, in¬†this respect, in¬†terms of¬†their impact on¬†human health, our fertilisers are among the¬†best in¬†the¬†world¬†‚Äď our companies‚Äô rivals are reluctant to¬†talk about this. But I¬†hope that after I¬†have mentioned this, our media will show what I¬†mean, I¬†just do not want to¬†waste time now.
Well, as¬†for¬†water resources, some say water will soon be more expensive than oil, but we are not yet planning projects to¬†reverse rivers. This must be treated very carefully and¬†with an¬†understanding of¬†the¬†long-term consequences of¬†the¬†decisions we make. But in¬†general, Russia is one of¬†the¬†countries whose water balance will be stable and¬†secure for¬†a¬†long time. Although we must also think about it. We must think about the¬†purity of¬†our rivers, carefully watch what is happening with the¬†water sector in¬†the¬†Far East, at¬†Lake Baikal, and¬†so on.
I¬†will not go into detail now, but we really have enough problems to¬†address. We know about them, we identify new problems. We will continue working according to¬†the¬†plans we have outlined in¬†this regard. When faced with new challenges, we will try to¬†overcome them.
Vladimir Putin: You have just mentioned the¬†possibility of¬†assuming the¬†lead. You know, of¬†course, it seems to¬†me that one should seek to¬†tackle the¬†most important objectives. But it is necessary to¬†proceed from reality. We publicly declared our aim of¬†achieving hydrocarbon neutrality by¬†2060, and¬†so we are doing this.
Incidentally (I¬†have mentioned this repeatedly and¬†will say so once again), Russia has a¬†greener energy mix than that of¬†many other industrialised countries. In¬†Russia, 86 percent of¬†the¬†energy mix is composed of¬†nuclear power generation that produces almost no emissions, hydropower generation, gas generation, and¬†renewable sources. Eighty-six percent! The¬†US figure is 77 percent. In¬†Germany, if my¬†memory serves me right, it is 64 percent, and¬†even less so in¬†Asian countries. Isn‚Äôt that the¬†lead? It certainly is!
We understand, of¬†course, that this is not enough. This is not enough even for¬†us, because here the¬†temperature is rising more rapidly than the¬†global average, while in¬†the¬†North the¬†rise is even faster than on¬†average in¬†the¬†rest of¬†Russia. For¬†us, this is fraught with serious consequences, given that a¬†considerable part of¬†Russia‚Äôs territory is in¬†the¬†Far North. We certainly are thinking about this.
A¬†few words about people‚Äôs lives.
Starting with the¬†removal of¬†all kinds of¬†landfill sites, which also generate CO2 in¬†large cities and¬†contaminate people‚Äôs lives, something that we are working on, and¬†ending with the¬†situation in¬†our large industrial centres, we have a¬†programme for¬†all of¬†this. We may not be advancing as¬†fast as¬†we would like to, but, overall, we are on¬†schedule with our plans.
We would have accomplished this earlier if it were not for¬†the¬†2008‚Äď2009 crisis, which came to¬†us from without, as¬†we are all aware. But our industry simply screamed that many enterprises would keel over if we started to¬†implement the¬†so-called best technologies in¬†that sphere. We had to¬†postpone the¬†implementation of¬†our plans, but now the¬†decisions have been taken at¬†the¬†legislative level and¬†are being implemented.
We are giving priority attention in¬†our programme to¬†12 cities that are the¬†largest emission producers, after which we will turn our attention to¬†all the¬†other emission producers and¬†all industries. This is one of¬†the¬†priorities of¬†our national projects and¬†national plans.
As¬†for¬†carbon neutrality in¬†general, it should be remembered that 45 percent of¬†carbon emissions are being absorbed, if my¬†memory serves me well. Incidentally, in¬†this connection we will insist that our absorption ability is taken into account, that is, the¬†absorption ability of¬†our forests, our seas and¬†the¬†territories connected with the¬†ocean. It is an¬†objective fact, and¬†it should be taken into account.
Moreover, in¬†this context we have major reserves regarding the¬†implementation of¬†plans, for¬†example, in¬†the¬†area of¬†housing and¬†utilities and¬†energy efficiency. This is definitely what we can and¬†should work on.
In¬†other words, what we need is not a¬†mechanical, mindless implementation of¬†measures formulated by¬†others, but a¬†result. We intend to¬†work towards this result absolutely transparently and¬†honestly. However, I¬†would not like our efforts to¬†protect nature and¬†implement climate policy recommendations to¬†become a¬†covert instrument of¬†rivalry on¬†the¬†global markets. This would be very bad. This would undermine trust in¬†what we are doing for¬†the¬†future of¬†humankind.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, do we have a¬†programme of¬†our own regarding our actions in¬†the¬†event the¬†EU introduces a¬†carbon tax and¬†Russian producers have to¬†pay it?
Vladimir Putin: So far, no fundamental decisions have been taken that would undermine our interests or¬†that would be non-transparent or¬†absolutely unfair. I¬†have talked with some of¬†the¬†[Western] leaders¬†‚Äď I¬†will not name them now¬†‚Äď who are aware that the¬†requirements that are being formulated at¬†the¬†level of¬†European institutions are not transparent and¬†cannot be described as¬†fair. All of¬†this certainly calls for¬†more work. We hope that this will be done through dialogue with other countries, including Russia.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Angela Stent, our veteran and¬†scientific council member, is with us from Washington.
Angela, please, go ahead with your question.
Angela Stent: Thank you very much, Fyodor, and¬†I¬†am sorry I¬†am only here virtually.
Mr President, I¬†heard you talk about some ways in¬†which the¬†US and¬†Russia are working together, and¬†I¬†want to¬†ask you another question about Afghanistan.
Twenty years ago Russia and¬†the¬†United States cooperated to¬†defeat al-Qaeda and¬†to¬†remove the¬†Taliban from power. Twenty years later, now in¬†the¬†aftermath of¬†the¬†American withdrawal, do you believe that counterterrorist cooperation between Russia and¬†the¬†United States is desirable? Is it possible? Do you think we would still share some of¬†the¬†same goals vis-√†-vis Afghanistan that we did twenty years ago?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†think that cooperation between Russia and¬†the¬†United States on¬†counter-terrorism is not only possible, but is a¬†necessity. We have discussed this many times, including with you. It is too bad you cannot be in¬†this room with us today.
It is obvious that this is a¬†common threat. Unfortunately, it has not become less of¬†a¬†danger than it was 20 years ago. Moreover, this threat has been growing bigger and¬†took on¬†a¬†global dimension on¬†our watch. We can only be effective in¬†countering it by¬†working together.
I¬†have already said that our countries‚Äô special services maintain contact, although in¬†my¬†opinion they could have established an¬†even closer relationship, but we are grateful to¬†our American partners for¬†the¬†information that has enabled us to¬†prevent terrorist attacks in¬†the¬†Russian Federation.
I¬†can assure you that we will do everything we can to¬†relay any necessary information to¬†our American colleagues in¬†a¬†timely manner if it is relevant to¬†them and¬†if we have the¬†information at¬†our disposal. I¬†would like to¬†emphasise once again that everyone stands to¬†benefit from this cooperation.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, on¬†Afghanistan. The¬†Taliban is de facto in¬†control there. They came to¬†Moscow, and¬†in¬†general communicate with everyone. How long will Russia view them as¬†a¬†terrorist organisation with everyone having to¬†say it is a¬†terrorist organisation every time it is mentioned?
Vladimir Putin: This is not about us, Russia. You can see that we work with the¬†Taliban and¬†invited them to¬†Moscow, and¬†we have been maintaining contact with them in¬†Afghanistan.
In¬†fact, these decisions were taken at¬†the¬†UN level. It is clear that the¬†Taliban are currently in¬†control in¬†Afghanistan, and¬†we expect them to¬†bring about positive momentum. Depending on¬†how it goes, we will come together to¬†decide whether it can be excluded from the¬†list of¬†terrorist organisations. I¬†believe that we are getting there. Russia‚Äôs position will be to¬†move precisely in¬†this direction.
However, we need to¬†take decisions like this the¬†same way they were adopted before, when we decided to¬†designate this movement as¬†a¬†terrorist organisation.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Asia is clearly underrepresented.
We have Professor Shimotomai joining us. Please go ahead.
Nobuo Shimotomai: Thank you.
Mr President, I¬†am honoured, although I¬†was unable to¬†come to¬†Sochi this time.
I¬†found your report very interesting, including your point that state borders have become an¬†anachronism. Indeed, perhaps the¬†most acute antagonism exists in¬†Northeast Asia over state borders and¬†the¬†like. Prime Minister Abe and¬†you made an¬†attempt to¬†fill this gap in¬†search of¬†a¬†new peace treaty. However, over the¬†past two years the¬†prime minister of¬†Japan has changed twice without meeting with you. How do you see future bilateral relations, primarily, the¬†prospects for¬†a¬†peace treaty between Russia and¬†Japan? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, indeed, political life in¬†Japan is structured in¬†a¬†way where the¬†political scene changes quite quickly, but the¬†interests of¬†the¬†Japanese and¬†Russian people remain unchanged and¬†are based on¬†the¬†desire to¬†reach a¬†final settlement in¬†our relations, including the¬†conclusion of¬†a¬†peace treaty. We will strive to¬†make this happen despite the¬†changes in¬†figures on¬†Japan‚Äôs political stage.
Most recently, as¬†you are aware, on¬†October¬†7, I¬†spoke with the¬†new Prime Minister of¬†Japan by¬†telephone. He is undoubtedly an¬†experienced person and¬†is up to¬†date on¬†our relations since he was engaged in¬†international affairs. He is fairly close in¬†a¬†political sense to¬†former Prime Minister Abe. So in¬†this sense, of¬†course, I¬†think we will see continuity in¬†Japan‚Äôs position regarding its relations with Russia.
Under Mr Abe, we aligned a¬†series of¬†joint actions and¬†joint work to¬†bring Russian-Japanese relations to¬†a¬†new level. I¬†would very much like this work to¬†continue in¬†the¬†same vein going forward.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends, the¬†President has been taking our questions, just questions, for¬†two and¬†a¬†half hours now. I¬†have a¬†suggestion to¬†optimise our work. We will have a¬†quick Q&A¬†session now. Please, ask short questions, do not make statements like Ms Dergham just did, but ask short questions. The¬†President will give quick answers like a¬†machine-gun burst. Yes?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†will do my¬†best.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Ryan Chilcote, go ahead please.
Ryan Chilcote: Thank you, Fyodor.
But please, do not give me a¬†machine-gun burst in¬†response.
Fyodor Lukyanov: It depends on¬†your question.
Vladimir Putin: We have it, too. (Laughter.)
Ryan Chilcote: I¬†understand.
My¬†question is about the¬†pandemic. The¬†biggest foreign agent and¬†the¬†greatest external threat is the¬†continuing pandemic. The¬†only difference between Russia and¬†many countries is the¬†low vaccination rate. What do you think about mandatory vaccination as¬†a¬†solution to¬†the¬†problem?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†have already said that vaccination will become mandatory when it is listed in¬†the¬†National Immunisation Calendar. Vaccination against the¬†coronavirus infection is not listed there, and¬†in¬†this sense, it is not mandatory. But under current legislation, the¬†regional authorities have the¬†right to¬†introduce mandatory vaccination for¬†certain categories of¬†people in¬†conditions of¬†a¬†growing epidemic on¬†the¬†recommendation of¬†chief sanitary doctors. This is what is happening in¬†our country.
But a¬†requirement is not the¬†point. I¬†personally do not support it. Why? Because it is possible to¬†get around any decision imposed from above. People will buy certificates.
Maybe it is the¬†other way around with those who get some Western vaccine. I¬†have heard many times how it goes: citizens from European countries come here and¬†get a¬†Sputnik jab and¬†then buy a¬†certificate that they got Pfizer. I¬†am serious. This is what doctors from European countries say. They believe that Sputnik is more reliable and¬†safer.
But this is not the¬†point. I¬†am saying this not to¬†promote Sputnik. I¬†am saying that it is relatively easy to¬†get around any imposed solution. It is a¬†well-known observation that hundreds or¬†thousands work on¬†the¬†laws and¬†millions think about getting around them. As¬†a¬†rule, they succeed. Therefore, it seems to¬†me, it is necessary to¬†convince people rather than impose something on¬†them. We need to¬†convince them, to¬†prove that vaccination is a¬†better choice. I¬†talked about this just recently.
This applies not only to¬†Russia but also to¬†other countries. There are only two scenarios for¬†almost every person: either get sick or¬†get the¬†vaccine. It is not possible to¬†slip through raindrops. It is necessary to¬†enhance the¬†confidence of¬†people in¬†the¬†actions of¬†the¬†authorities. It is necessary to¬†be more convincing and¬†to¬†prove a¬†point through example. I¬†hope we will learn to¬†do this.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr Sajjadpour, go ahead please.
Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour: Thank you, Mr President. My¬†question relates to¬†Afghanistan. How do you see the¬†American defeat and¬†withdrawal from Afghanistan in¬†a¬†broader strategic sense? Would it change the¬†US global positioning, and¬†what would impact on¬†the¬†alignment of¬†forces that you talked about? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: First, I¬†would like to¬†say that the¬†President of¬†the¬†United States did the¬†right thing by¬†withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Probably, he did not know the¬†details of¬†how this would proceed but he understood that this would be a¬†line of¬†attack on¬†the¬†domestic political scene. But he still made this decision and¬†assumed this responsibility.
Of¬†course, we see how this happened and¬†probably it could have been done differently. Naturally, this will primarily affect the¬†attitude towards the¬†US of¬†those countries that consider the¬†US their ally. But I¬†think that with time everything will fall into place and¬†there will be no cardinal changes.
Yes, this will affect relations with allies in¬†the¬†near future but the¬†appeal of¬†a¬†country still depends not on¬†this but on¬†its economic and¬†military might.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Alexander Rahr, go ahead please.
Alexander Rohr: Mr President, when you and¬†Gerhard Schroeder met at¬†the¬†first session of¬†the¬†Petersburg Dialogue, you said relations between Germany and¬†Russia were the¬†best in¬†a¬†hundred years.
Unfortunately, they have deteriorated a¬†lot now. My¬†question is: Will it be possible to¬†resuscitate at¬†least the¬†Petersburg Dialogue with the¬†new German Chancellor, in¬†all probability, this will be Olaf Scholz.
Vladimir Putin: You know, Alexander, this does not depend solely on¬†us. If the¬†Germans display interest in¬†this issue, we will step up our efforts in¬†this area. That said, the¬†Petersburg dialogue still exists, it has not disappeared and¬†it continues in¬†principle. Of¬†course, it is possible to¬†make bilateral contacts more intensive and¬†productive. I¬†understand this but it is necessary to¬†depoliticise these contacts. I¬†hope this will be done.
The¬†coalition in¬†Germany seems to¬†be complicated and¬†its various political forces are likely to¬†have different views. Let‚Äôs see what it leads to¬†in¬†practice. I¬†don‚Äôt know. But we are for¬†it, we are ready for¬†this.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Anatol Lieven, go ahead please.
Anatol Lieven: Thank you, Mr President, for¬†coming. Anatol Lieven from the¬†Quincy Institute for¬†Responsible Statecraft.
China and¬†other countries have made a¬†move to¬†electric cars, a¬†key part of¬†their action against climate change. What are Russia‚Äôs plans in¬†this regard? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I¬†have spoken about this many times. Of¬†course, when cars move in¬†cities they are one of¬†the¬†biggest air pollutants like housing and¬†utilities and¬†industry. This is obvious. But on¬†a¬†global scale we should not forget where electricity comes from.
Let us be straight with each other. Electric vehicles are a¬†good thing but pollution of¬†the¬†environment during electricity generation is not so good. Meanwhile, the¬†coal generation in¬†European countries, such as¬†Germany, since Alexander just asked about this, is twice as¬†much as¬†in¬†Russia. It is double there. I¬†think it amounts to¬†32 percent, and¬†here is it 15‚Äď16 percent.
But in¬†principle this is good. In¬†Russia, such global reserves of¬†natural gas could make gas engine fuel an¬†alternative. It is necessary to¬†change the¬†energy balance in¬†favour of¬†the¬†green agenda and¬†in¬†this case, we will achieve the¬†desired result.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, have you driven an¬†electric car?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I¬†have, in¬†Ogaryovo.
Fyodor Lukyanov: How is it? Is there a¬†difference?
Vladimir Putin: I¬†drive these cars in¬†Ogaryovo, this is true, but I¬†don‚Äôt feel much difference. They are good cars.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Konstantin Zatulin.
Konstantin Zatulin: Mr President, I¬†am Konstantin Zatulin, a¬†member of¬†the¬†State Duma from the¬†city where we are meeting [Sochi]. But my¬†question is not about this.
Vladimir Putin: But mentioning this is not out of¬†place.
Konstantin Zatulin: Yes, certainly.
My¬†question is about history and¬†memory. At¬†the¬†beginning of¬†this meeting much was said about ‚ÄúHomo Sovieticus,‚ÄĚ post-Soviet countries and¬†post-Soviet space today. I¬†would like to¬†note that on¬†November¬†2 we will mark 300 years of¬†the¬†Russian Empire.
This year we celebrated the¬†800th anniversary of¬†Prince Alexander Nevsky, and¬†you personally unveiled a¬†monument, which made a¬†great impression on¬†many people. But for¬†some reason nothing is being said about the¬†300th anniversary of¬†the¬†Russian Empire. Is it because we are embarrassed to¬†use the¬†word ‚Äúempire‚ÄĚ? If so, this is a¬†bad idea. This was a¬†major period in¬†our history, the¬†continuous existence of¬†our state, from the¬†Russian Empire to¬†the¬†Soviet Union and¬†on¬†to¬†the¬†Russian Federation, even though they might reject each other in¬†some ways.
I¬†would like to¬†hope¬†‚Äď we have addressed you on¬†this occasion¬†‚Äď that you will receive our letter and¬†will consider the¬†possibility of¬†taking a¬†more active part in¬†this event, even if we miss the¬†exact date, November¬†2, at¬†least we will remember it.
Vladimir Putin: I¬†agree with you. The¬†continuity of¬†history is important for¬†knowing where we are moving. I¬†fully agree with you. If we have missed something here, please accept my¬†apologies. The¬†next event will be connected with your name. (Laughter.)
Fyodor Lukyanov: Yury Slezkin.
Yury Slezkin: My¬†question concerns history as¬†well. You have been the¬†head of¬†the¬†Russian state for¬†many years, and¬†you certainly think a¬†great deal about your role in¬†Russian history. What do you regard as¬†your main achievements and¬†largest failures as¬†head of¬†state?
Vladimir Putin: You know, I¬†never think about my¬†role in¬†history. As¬†soon as¬†you start thinking about this, you need to¬†step down because these thoughts stand in¬†the¬†way of¬†decision-making. I¬†am speaking absolutely honestly now. As¬†soon as¬†you think: ‚ÄúWhat if this or¬†that happens, and¬†what would Princess Maria Alekseyevna say?‚ÄĚ¬†‚Äď the¬†game is over, and¬†you better step down.
As¬†for¬†what I¬†have accomplished, we had 40 million people living below the¬†poverty line. Today there are too many as¬†well, over 19 million, or¬†even 20 million, according to¬†various estimates. This is too many, but not as¬†many as¬†40 million. This is probably my¬†main achievement.
Our economy has recovered. Some industries, including the¬†defence sector, were as¬†good as¬†dead. If we had lost more time, we would have been unable to¬†restore them; the¬†production links and¬†our scientific schools would have been lost forever. We have restored them, not to¬†mention the¬†fact that the¬†statutes and¬†constitutions of¬†the¬†constituent members of¬†the¬†Russian Federation included all manner of¬†provisions, including the¬†right to¬†mint money, they even had their own state borders, but they did not mention the¬†fact that they were constituent members of¬†the¬†Russian Federation. It was a¬†very serious challenge. We have dealt with that.
Or¬†take the¬†fight against international terrorism. You know, I¬†will tell you what I¬†sometimes think, and¬†will be honest with you. Yes, we did overcome that difficult period in¬†the¬†life of¬†our country, especially when it comes to¬†terrorism. This was by¬†far not only my¬†personal contribution that we did it, but thanks to¬†the¬†patience, courage and¬†will of¬†the¬†Russian people. I¬†am not saying this for¬†effect but absolutely sincerely, because I¬†saw the¬†difficulties and¬†suffering Russian families faced. But Russia was equal to¬†the¬†task, which means that this passionarity we mentioned at¬†the¬†beginning, has a¬†big role to¬†play in¬†the¬†Russia nation. We definitely have the¬†internal impetus for¬†development and¬†it is very powerful.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, since you don‚Äôt want to¬†talk about your role in¬†history, I¬†would like to¬†try another track.
There is a¬†popular trend to¬†discuss the¬†vision of¬†the¬†future, everyone is looking for¬†a¬†vision of¬†the¬†future. The¬†Valdai Club is also looking for¬†it as¬†are many others. Mr Andrei Bezrukov is sitting here in¬†the¬†front row; he also does a¬†lot in¬†this regard.
Personally, I¬†am afraid we will not find a¬†vision now, because the¬†world is incredibly uncertain. But I¬†might be wrong.
Do you have any vision of¬†Russia‚Äôs future, or¬†the¬†world‚Äôs, something you would like to¬†see or¬†that you would like your descendants to¬†see?
Vladimir Putin: You know, one can talk a¬†lot about this, and¬†I¬†have already answered this question more than once, one way or¬†another, in¬†different forms, and¬†I¬†do not want to¬†repeat my¬†old phrases.
I¬†would start with the¬†theme of¬†today's Valdai meeting. What is it?
Fyodor Lukyanov: The¬†Return of¬†the¬†Future.
Vladimir Putin: No, no. The¬†slogan of¬†today's meeting?
Fyodor Lukyanov: Global Shake-Up.
Vladimir Putin: It‚Äôs longer.
Fyodor Lukyanov: The¬†Individual, Values. But ‚Äúindividual‚ÄĚ is rarely remembered.
Vladimir Putin: Well, it should be, because this is the¬†most important point.
I¬†have been remembering [Nikolai] Berdyaev. As¬†you know, he wrote several major works, and¬†they are still popular. He wrote about the¬†new Middle Ages, as¬†was relevant at¬†that time, about freedom, how it was such a¬†heavy burden. But he also said something else¬†‚Äď that the¬†individual should always be at¬†the¬†centre of¬†development. The¬†individual is more important than society or¬†the¬†state. I¬†would very much like to¬†see a¬†future where all the¬†resources of¬†society and¬†the¬†state are concentrated around the¬†interests of¬†the¬†individual. We definitely need to¬†strive for¬†this. It is difficult to¬†say now how effective we will be in¬†creating such a¬†system, but this is what we should strive for.
A¬†young man over there has raised his hand. Go ahead, please.
Dmitry Suslov: Thank you very much, Mr President.
Dmitry Suslov, Higher School of¬†Economics.
You noted in¬†your remarks today that disagreements around the¬†world¬†‚Äď both intranational and¬†international¬†‚Äď have reached a¬†level where world wars used to¬†break out in¬†previous eras. So far, we have not seen a¬†world war, at¬†least not a¬†‚Äėhot‚Äô one.
Vladimir Putin: Do you miss this?
Dmitry Suslov: I¬†just wanted to¬†ask if this means¬†‚Äď we probably have not seen a¬†world war because the¬†world has nuclear weapons¬†‚Äď but does this mean it cannot happen at¬†all? And¬†if it cannot happen, it‚Äôs like Dostoevsky wrote: if there is no God, anything is permitted. I¬†mean, if there is no threat of¬†a¬†world war, it can lead to¬†complete irresponsibility: you can do whatever you want because there will be no world war, there are no obstacles for¬†pursuing an¬†aggressive policy¬†‚Äď and¬†so on.
But, if there is a¬†threat of¬†a¬†world war, if the¬†danger of¬†a¬†world war is still out there, shouldn‚Äôt Russia, as¬†a¬†nuclear superpower, as¬†a¬†country that has gone through the¬†hardest wars¬†‚Äď you also mentioned this today¬†‚Äď a¬†country that knows the¬†value of¬†peace, and¬†peace is probably also a¬†universal value, shouldn't Russia declare a¬†little more strongly that the¬†protection of¬†peace, strengthening peace is the¬†goal of¬†Russia‚Äôs foreign policy, and¬†some practical steps should be taken here too?
Vladimir Putin: We say a¬†lot of¬†positive and¬†important things, but our partners simply prefer not to¬†notice many of¬†them.
So more talk would be pointless; we must act to¬†achieve what we are talking about. This is not an¬†easy job, not an¬†easy task, but we will definitely work at¬†it.
You spoke about nuclear weapons. It is a¬†huge responsibility that nuclear powers have. You also said a¬†third world war may be improbable in¬†the¬†modern situation; but there is still a¬†threat of¬†mutual destruction, let‚Äôs not forget about that.
The¬†central sector now, please.
Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean: Thank you very much.
Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean, French Institute of¬†International Relations.
I¬†have a¬†question that may seem unexpected but it is very important for¬†France. Newspapers have been asking questions these past days about the¬†presence of¬†Russian mercenaries in¬†Mali. To¬†keep it short, this is my¬†question: can the¬†interests of¬†a¬†private military company that operates outside Russian law be at¬†odds with Russia‚Äôs state interests? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: We have discussed this with our French colleagues on¬†numerous occasions, including with President Macron who raised this subject with me.
You said that these are private companies, not the¬†state. They do not represent the¬†interests of¬†the¬†Russian state. If they are operating somewhere without instructions from the¬†Russian state, this is a¬†private business, private initiatives related, among other things, to¬†fuel production and¬†other resources, gold, or¬†gems, what have you. However, if this contradicts the¬†interests of¬†the¬†Russian state, which can happen, we will unfortunately have to¬†respond, and¬†we will definitely do something about it.
Mehdi Sanaei: Mr President,
First, thank you for¬†this opportunity to¬†have this conversation.
I¬†have a¬†question about South Caucasus. There was a¬†ceasefire and¬†some agreements were reached, but so far, there has been no final solution, and¬†you know that some countries, republics in¬†the¬†regions, have reasons to¬†question whether this will happen.
The¬†three-plus-three format emerged, including with Russia‚Äôs support. However, it has yet to¬†become operational. Iran, Azerbaijan and¬†Russia had a¬†platform for¬†working on¬†the¬†North-South corridor. Iran, Russia and¬†Turkey had a¬†trilateral platform for¬†fighting terrorism. By¬†the¬†way, it is unfortunate that South Caucasus has also been affected by¬†terrorism.
Of¬†course, Russia plays a¬†very important role here. Other formats with the¬†participation of¬†Armenia and¬†other countries are also possible.
Do we need to¬†fast-track initiatives in¬†order to¬†create a¬†format of¬†this kind? What do you think? What format, in¬†your opinion, would offer the¬†most effective solution, taking into consideration the¬†interests of¬†the¬†South-Caucasian republics and¬†countries in¬†the¬†region?
Vladimir Putin: First, I¬†would like to¬†praise the¬†President of¬†Azerbaijan and¬†the¬†Prime Minister of¬†Armenia for¬†their political wisdom. After all, despite all the¬†tragedy with the¬†ongoing developments, they were able to¬†rise above the¬†political fray and¬†make some very responsible decisions.
I¬†do know that they have been facing criticism inside their own countries, as¬†strange as¬†this may seem. There are always political forces that are unhappy and¬†believe that things could have been better. ‚ÄúGo ahead and¬†do a¬†better job‚ÄĚ¬†‚Äď this is what always springs to¬†mind. After all, President Aliyev and¬†Prime Minister Pashinyan succeeded in¬†stopping the¬†bloodshed.
However, there is more to¬†it, although there is nothing more important than saving human lives. Nonetheless, there are other critical aspects to¬†it, namely: it is vital to¬†create proper conditions for¬†a¬†long-term settlement in¬†the¬†region. These conditions can be created only if both sides accept the¬†existing arrangements as¬†long-term and¬†appreciate the¬†advantages, I¬†want to¬†emphasise this, offered by¬†peaceful coexistence, and¬†everyone is interested in¬†this.
Azerbaijan is interested in¬†normal transport links with Nakhichevan. It is interested in¬†deblocking connection lines. One of¬†the¬†first tasks facing Armenia is to¬†create an¬†effective economic life and¬†effective interaction in¬†the¬†region going forward, including with Azerbaijan. Armenia is basically interested in¬†this. Interested in¬†unfreezing its relations with Turkey and¬†giving them a¬†modern dimension.
In¬†either case, it should lead us to¬†achieving our main goal which is to¬†create a¬†safe environment for¬†the¬†coexistence of¬†the¬†two states and¬†for¬†economic growth. Is it possible to¬†accomplish this or¬†not? It may well be. We did our best to¬†stop the¬†bloodshed, and¬†not only this. Our peacekeepers are performing their duty in¬†a¬†dignified manner, and¬†over 50,000 refugees have returned home.
Overall, the¬†situation in¬†the¬†conflict zone remains as¬†it is with no major hostilities. Unfortunately, some incidents do happen, and¬†unfortunately, people die sometimes. Maybe it is difficult to¬†conjure up a¬†completely idealistic picture after so many years of¬†confrontation. The¬†most important thing to¬†do now is to¬†finally settle the¬†situation at¬†the¬†border. Of¬†course, not much can be accomplished without Russia's participation. Perhaps, we do not need anyone else but the¬†two sides and¬†Russia. Why? There are simple and¬†pragmatic things, such as¬†the¬†maps that show where the¬†border between the¬†Soviet republics was in¬†the¬†Soviet period, which are kept by¬†the¬†General Staff of¬†the¬†Russian army.
Based on¬†these documents, both sides should sit down and¬†talk. There are things that require compromises on¬†both sides: some things need to¬†be straightened out and¬†some exchanges could be made but both sides must recognise that a¬†deal is beneficial for¬†both sides. Can this be done or¬†not? It can. But, of¬†course, we are also in¬†favour of¬†establishing a¬†multilateral format, such as, say, step up the¬†Minsk Group‚Äôs activities. We are working on¬†this, including with our partners.
Most importantly, we should achieve our main goal which is to¬†ensure security and¬†to¬†build relations in¬†a¬†positive manner. So far, we have been able to¬†achieve our goals. Of¬†course, we need to¬†look to¬†the¬†future and¬†see what will happen next. It is not about a¬†declaration on¬†a¬†possible extension of¬†the¬†Russian contingent‚Äôs stay; it is not about that. The¬†point is to¬†properly align relations between these two countries. This is what matters. I¬†hope we will be able to¬†get it done.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Igor Istomin. He has been holding his hand up for¬†a¬†long time.
Vladimir Putin: We must wrap up, it is already after 9 o‚Äôclock.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Yes, we are wrapping up.
Igor Istomin: Good evening, Mr President. Igor Istomin, MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of¬†International Relations].
In¬†your speech¬†‚Äď I¬†hope I¬†am quoting you correctly¬†‚Äď you said that the¬†reforming or¬†cancellation of¬†some international organisations may be on¬†the¬†agenda. In¬†this context, I¬†would like to¬†ask you about the¬†prospects for¬†the¬†Council of¬†Europe and¬†the¬†OSCE, as¬†well as¬†prospects for¬†Russia‚Äôs participation in¬†them. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: In¬†general, if these organisations work for¬†implementing the¬†goals that they were established for¬†in¬†a¬†broad sense, there are prospects for¬†their existence. The¬†Council of¬†Europe is primarily a¬†European question. The¬†same largely applies to¬†the¬†OSCE. But if they work exclusively with the¬†post-Soviet space, trying to¬†lecture the¬†newly-formed independent states that appeared in¬†the¬†post-Soviet space, their prospects are limited. I¬†can assure you that if Russia were to¬†withdraw from one of¬†these organisations it would be interesting to¬†see what would happen with them as¬†regards the¬†participation of¬†other countries.
Nobody needs moral preaching. So, we need to¬†take a¬†broader look at¬†humanitarian issues and¬†cooperation with the¬†Council of¬†Europe, or¬†security issues in¬†Europe in¬†the¬†broad sense of¬†this word.
But let‚Äôs finish our session. There‚Äôs a¬†colleague with his hand up in¬†the¬†centre.
Muhammad Athar Javed: Thank you very much. Dr Athar Javed from Pakistan House, Islamabad.
Actually, with all due respect, of¬†course, the¬†counterterrorism campaign is very important internationally, and¬†it will continue. My¬†question to¬†you, Mr President, is about the¬†ongoing negotiations in¬†Pakistan, Iran, Russia and¬†China. And, of¬†course, Pakistan facilitated this Doha process as¬†well. In¬†the¬†wake of¬†NATO failing completely on¬†almost every adventure¬†‚Äď or¬†misadventure¬†‚Äď they made, including Afghanistan, of¬†course, the¬†mess is their responsibility. But if the¬†Taliban manages to¬†prevent drug trade, secures its territory against ISIS and¬†terminates all the¬†infrastructure, what will be the¬†reaction or¬†the¬†response from Russia, China and¬†Pakistan?
Of¬†course, it is not about recognition only. It is, as¬†you said very rightfully, important to¬†empower the¬†Taliban on¬†the¬†ground economically, so the¬†continuity should award social areas, like doctors, salaries, nurses, education, teachers or¬†anything else related to¬†social factors.
I¬†think I¬†would really appreciate if you could, say, shed light on¬†this one, on¬†how important it is to¬†again wrap the¬†mess of¬†NATO. But it is important for¬†the¬†region, that is why I¬†think Russia and¬†China should take the¬†lead on¬†this account as¬†well. Thank you very much for¬†this opportunity.
Vladimir Putin: As¬†for¬†the¬†mess created by¬†NATO, I¬†do not think we should comment on¬†this because everyone has already expressed his opinion on¬†what the¬†United States and¬†President Biden have done. I¬†have already said what I¬†think about this. I¬†think he did the¬†right thing by¬†deciding to¬†withdraw the¬†troops. But, of¬†course, now we should look to¬†the¬†future. But because they were the¬†one to¬†create this mess, as¬†you said, they shouldn‚Äôt shed the¬†responsibility for¬†what is going on¬†there and¬†for¬†the¬†future. And¬†they have plenty of¬†instruments, primarily financial ones, for¬†exerting influence on¬†the¬†situation in¬†Afghanistan. Europe has them, too. One shouldn‚Äôt look down at¬†this territory, as¬†our colleagues in¬†the¬†Council of¬†Europe often do. They are also responsible for¬†what happened there. So everyone should join in¬†helping the¬†Afghan people.
However, we must still avoid repeating the¬†mistakes of¬†the¬†past. Nobody should impose on¬†the¬†Afghan people what the¬†Soviet Union or¬†the¬†United States tried to¬†inflict on¬†them. Incidentally, the¬†Soviet Union was even more prudent there and¬†this is why the¬†word ‚Äúshuravi‚ÄĚ as¬†the¬†Soviets were called, does not have a¬†negative connotation. The¬†region‚Äôs countries are even more interested in¬†normalisation, and¬†Russia will do all it can to¬†achieve it.
We see the¬†Taliban trying to¬†fight the¬†extreme radicals and¬†organisations such as¬†ISIS, which leave no doubt as¬†to¬†their terrorist intentions. Yes, they were their fellow travellers, we understand that¬†‚Äď after all, we are proceeding from reality¬†‚Äď momentary fellow travellers. Now they are attacking the¬†Taliban.
But the¬†thing is the¬†Taliban needs to¬†establish relations with all ethnic and¬†religious groups, with all political and¬†public organisations inside Afghanistan.
Let‚Äôs start with the¬†ethnic component. Yes, the¬†Taliban is mostly made up of¬†Pushtun groups. But there are also the¬†Tajiks¬†‚Äď from 40 to¬†47 percent, according to¬†various estimates. This is a¬†lot, isn‚Äôt it? There are Uzbeks, the¬†Hazara, and¬†so on. If we look at¬†this component, then right, I¬†know of¬†course that these groups have their representatives at¬†the¬†ruling level, in¬†the¬†government, but they are not playing the¬†leading roles, and¬†these people do aspire to¬†take important positions in¬†the¬†national governance system. This balance must be found.
We are not pushing them, we are just saying how this is seen, in¬†principle, from the¬†outside. We are doing our best to¬†influence them to¬†have regard for¬†the¬†appetites of¬†the¬†people we are in¬†contact with¬†‚Äď and¬†we are in¬†contact, by¬†the¬†way, with all political forces in¬†Afghanistan, and¬†we are establishing sufficiently stable relations with everyone. But we would like acceptable compromises to¬†be found so that the¬†problems confronting the¬†country are not being resolved with weapons alone, as¬†it has been. Women‚Äôs interests should be taken into consideration as¬†well.
After all, Afghanistan is aspiring to¬†be a¬†modern state. And¬†it seems to¬†me that Pakistan plays a¬†no less important part in¬†this than Russia or¬†China. This is why we are interested in¬†promoting cooperation, including with your country, to¬†achieve a¬†common, desirable result.
There is no doubt that Russia is interested in¬†Afghanistan at¬†long last emerging from the¬†unending, permanent civil war. The¬†people of¬†that long-suffering¬†‚Äď without exaggeration¬†‚Äď country must feel safe within their national borders and¬†have a¬†chance for¬†development and¬†prosperity. We will seek in¬†every way to¬†attain this goal.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, thank you for¬†the¬†conversation. I¬†will relieve you of¬†your duties as¬†a¬†moderator, because it is time.
Vladimir Putin: I¬†am not claiming your salary.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, just in¬†case, pre-emptively.
I¬†think we had an¬†exceedingly interesting session because we covered practically all matters. Thank you very much.
In¬†the¬†course of¬†this session, I¬†was thinking that we should probably stay away from New York for¬†a¬†while. Next year, the¬†Valdai Club will probably meet in¬†Sochi again. We very much hope that everything will be good, and¬†we will see you like this, in¬†person, and¬†talk¬†‚Äď only our conversation will last about five hours then. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
There is no need to¬†hold the¬†closing session in¬†New York; I¬†am saying this without irony. It is fun to¬†visit New York, and¬†some platforms there‚Ä¶ It is good to¬†visit Afghanistan, and¬†it makes sense to¬†do that. Other places, like Europe, as¬†well, and¬†to¬†discuss issues that concern Europe most of¬†all such as¬†energy and¬†climate. Why not? I¬†know forums are being held one way or¬†another.
Fyodor Lukyanov: We are holding them in¬†many places.
Vladimir Putin: Yes. New York is an¬†option, too.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Are you laughing? Do you think this is impossible? (Laughter.)
Colleagues, I¬†want to¬†thank you. Indeed, you have been coming to¬†Russia for¬†many years now and¬†continue to¬†show interest in¬†our country. This gives my¬†colleagues and¬†me an¬†opportunity¬†‚Äď I¬†am not the¬†only one at¬†this forum, our ministers attend as¬†well, such as¬†the¬†Foreign Minister and¬†the¬†mayors, and¬†the¬†Mayor of¬†Moscow spoke recently¬†‚Äď to¬†share our vision of¬†Russia in¬†the¬†modern world and¬†where we are headed. In¬†my¬†opinion, this has a¬†positive practical outcome.
Our colleagues travel abroad occasionally. A¬†Deputy Prime Minister returned from the¬†United States recently and¬†had the¬†following to¬†say: ‚ÄúI¬†was surprised to¬†find out during my¬†conversations with top officials from the¬†US administration or¬†a¬†national security adviser that there is a¬†lack of¬†information.‚ÄĚ That is strange. Maybe they do not have enough trust in¬†the¬†CIA, I¬†am not sure. But, in¬†fact, such forums are much sought after, since they provide an¬†opportunity to¬†have a¬†candid conversation, to¬†have a¬†sense of¬†each other and¬†to¬†give the¬†people who make decisions at¬†different levels of¬†power an¬†opportunity to¬†be aware of¬†what is being discussed, including at¬†the¬†Valdai Club.
Thank you very much.
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