Medvedev Sums up 2008
Medvedev sums up 2008 - Full version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myE8d5jFJhQ
How strong and efficient could relations between Russia and the US be? What's to be done about the global financial meltdown? What are the main goals of modern Russia? President Medvedev answered these and many other questions in his interview with Russia’s top TV channels.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to ask you some questions on the results of the past year. What do you think about 2008? From your point of view, was it mostly positive or negative?
Dmitry Medvedev: Many different things happened this year. Of course, each year is different. On the one hand, this year brought us some happy occasions, some victories - in sports, first and foremost; in arts… There were some significant achievements in the economy and in the social sphere. From this point of view, this year was a normal one; it was the way we expected it to be. But on the other hand, this year brought us some dramatic events as well. Of course, I mean primarily what happened in the Caucasus - Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia. Also, I must say that throughout the last part of the year we have been doing our best to overcome the consequences of the global financial crisis. Thus, this year had both many positive things and big problems… serious trials for our country.
Q: Mr. President, let’s go back to one of the main subjects you mentioned: the war in the Caucasus. My colleagues have prepared a short video as a reminder about the events of August 2008. Let’s take a look. Can you recall how the events unfolded? How did you find out that Georgia had attacked Tskhinval? And how did you make the decision? Did it take you long? Or maybe, on the contrary, it was a quick decision.
Dmitry Medvedev: This picture will stay with me for the rest of my life. Things like this produce such a deep impression that they stay with you forever. To me, this was perhaps one of the most difficult days of my life. I can recall minute by minute what happened on that day. At about 1 a.m., Defence Minister Serdyukov called me. He said that according to the information they had, Georgia had declared war on South Ossetia. But there was no troop movement at the time. I told him to monitor the situation, to follow the events, and report to me on a regular basis, which is what he did for several hours. Every thirty minutes, he called me and told me what was going on: when the tanks first appeared, when other military vehicles transporting Georgian troops moved in, and so on. For some time, we still hoped this was a provocation and that Georgia wouldn’t follow through. But once missile launchers and tanks opened fire, and I was told there were casualties among Russian nationals, including our peacekeepers, I didn’t hesitate a single minute and I gave orders to return fire and destroy the attacking forces. Naturally, when making such a decision, one has to consider all the consequences, including the irreversible nature of the orders. Until you reach a certain point, it is still possible for you to turn back; but once the decision is made, it is impossible to go back to the way things were before. Of course, I realised this. And I hoped that common sense would prevail. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The Georgian leadership started a full-blown, bloody war against its neighbour. We took all the necessary measures and, on the whole, I believe the military campaign, which lasted only five days, demonstrated the effectiveness of our response, the strength of the Russian Army, and the fighting spirit of our troops. They were able to inflict extensive and, basically, irreparable damage on Georgia’s military without suffering major losses themselves. As a result of these actions, peace was restored in the Caucasus, and, most importantly, tens of thousands of people who were on the verge of extermination were protected. Thus, that was a very difficult day for me, but I think we had no other option and the events that followed confirm that we made the right decision.
Q: Mr. President, you’ve just mentioned that it was difficult for you to make the decision to send our troops into action. Were you absolutely certain the operation would be successful?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, of course, we did suspect that our neighbour was not fully sound mentally, although we did not think it was that bad. But we knew about their preparations. I have said this before: at some point, I realised that our Georgian partner had simply ceased to talk to the Russian Federation. In the past, he used to suggest that we meet someplace, in Sochi or somewhere else, and discuss things. But at some point he stopped talking to us. It was at this point that I began to suspect he might resort to force. So naturally, we took some steps to be prepared. And this preparation made it possible for us to minimize our losses. The Russian Army destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure, but at the same time it avoided inhumane actions. But, of course, I could only hope that our Army and our peacekeeping force would fight valiantly. Their training, their morale and courage proved excellent. They were worthy of the Russian Army’s glorious past. And this, of course, is precious.
Q: By the way, while you were still running for president, as you were preparing to become the president of the largest country in the world, did you ever consider that maybe you, Dmitry Medvedev, personally, as the Supreme Commander in Chief, would at some point have to make a decision which would transfer Russia from peace to a state of war? And, in fact, is it possible to foresee such things?
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s a good question. Anybody making a responsible decision to run for the highest office in the country - the office which makes one the Supreme Commander in Chief - must not rule out such a possibility. This is why the President is both the Guarantor of the Constitution and the Supreme Commander in Chief. Of course, it is very, very difficult for anyone, including myself, to make such a decision. It is one thing to have certain functions defined under the Constitution and other laws as an abstract possibility in case of an armed conflict - and quite another to make an actual decision when a real armed conflict unfolds… when you realize it is enough to say a word and you’ll never be able to go back to the way things were before. This is a genuine ordeal for anyone. I think that under such conditions a responsible leader should think soberly, consider all the pros and cons, and make a balanced decision.
Q: It sounds like you made the decision to send troops to South Ossetia rather quickly. But how do you usually make decisions? And which ones, aside from the decision on South Ossetia, were the most difficult to make?
Dmitry Medvedev: Some decisions really have to be made quickly. Moreover, in some situations, like the decision with regard to South Ossetia, there is no one I can consult. I just have to make a decision, period. Other decisions are also difficult, but they are not so urgent. I mean, you have time to consider all the pros and cons. I often have to make such decisions, but I can tell you frankly they are nowhere near the decisions like those that involve using the Russian Army to protect law and order, to protect Russian citizens. Some decisions involving the economy are also not easy to make. These include the decisions we make regarding the financial crisis the entire world is battling today. In this case, you have time to consider everything: how the situation is evolving in other countries, what has been done in other countries, both now as well as in the past. Such decisions are made as a result of “brainstorming.” It’s not like you have to decide right then and there. But I repeat, for me, these decisions are easier to make, even though their consequences may be very, very significant as well.
Q: Let’s go back to March. I’m sure you remember the presidential race and its overwhelming outcome. On television, it was rather bright, too. Still, we have entered a period, by the will of the world events, in which some things do not work, and some things works different than they should. In such moments many may be tempted to act ‘differently,’ too. For instance, local authorities may try to dodge their duties or employers may be tempted to lay off their employees, considering the labour force as mere dead wood, while honest citizens may also be tempted to position themselves above the law. Also, criminals may be tempted to decide their time has come. How will the state react to this? Have you any approach to such things? Or do you rely on improvisation?
Dmitry Medvedev: In such a situation, the state should react wisely but strictly. You mentioned honest people. Well, their distinction from others is that even when there are temptations, their brains work appropriately, and they do not commit crimes. This concerns the overwhelming majority of our citizens. As for hardships, they may indeed be there, including an increase in unemployment which is now about six percent of the economically active population. But this is not a high figure. It’s less than in the U.S. and Europe. However, during the crisis, employers may also face problems. Normal and responsible employers should simply behave according to the law, which means that they should try and continue to pay wages or allowances. At the end of the day, what we succeeded in doing in recent years is that we managed to create huge human potential. There used to be much discussion about the lack of a labour force, overproduction of, say, lawyers and managers whereas qualified labour was in short supply. Rural areas have received considerable investment. The reason I am saying all this is that any sensible employer - either the government or private – should, in this situation, do their best to preserve basic labour force potential for the future because if we consider current developments on the world markets, clearly the crisis is not a pleasant thing, but it will pass eventually, as in the rest of the world. And in time, growth will follow. So, a sensible employer should have the necessary capacity to restore production in order to switch on the conveyor belt that was stopped earlier. It is very delicate work, and it’s up to all of us, the state and businesses, as well as society in general. If it is a question of certain infringements, as I have mentioned - the reaction should be prompt. If the labour code is violated, if wages are not paid, if someone is fired unlawfully, the prosecutor’s office should immediately respond and instigate administrative proceedings or, a criminal prosecution, if necessary. Otherwise, these things won’t be suppressed. And it’s up to all - not only federal officials, but also heads of regions and municipalities. In this situation, nobody will be able to sit on the sidelines - one will have to get involved or let someone else do the job.
Q: Dmitriy Anatolyevich, could you please elaborate on the future in terms of the crisis, as we have countless forecasts of possible scenarios for the future, so different from each other that it’s something close to wild guesses. Do you think the “bottom,” as economists put it, will be reached? When will Russia come out of this hard situation? And, very importantly, what country will Russia be when it is over?
Dmitry Medvedev: I am not an analyst or fortune-teller, so I am not going to present any forecasts which would be irresponsible on my part. At the same time, I can say that, first of all, this crisis has patterns which are not quite clear. And there are some hopes that since it started so unexpectedly, it may, with a consolidated stance by the states outlining a new financial architecture, end even quicker than we hope. But, I repeat, it depends on future research on this subject. As to what country Russia will be when it comes out of the crisis, this is indeed very important. It is crucial that Russia becomes not weaker but stronger. The crisis is not only about irritating problems like less money, smaller investments and discontinuation of some production, but also about new opportunities. Our economy is not ideal. And in this situation, we must try and make it more efficient by optimising it, creating new jobs. It is essential to raise productivity, understand what professions may be required. We do have unemployment, but at the same time we have many vacancies, which means unemployment is always peculiar. We need to fill vacancies that are crucial for the development of our country, and continue to create infrastructure and strengthen the non-financial sector of the economy. It is our immediate task, just as we must reinforce our financial sector. We have to admit that our banking system belongs to an economy in transition. We need banks that are more powerful and more prepared to address domestic problems and, at the same time, the ones that receive state subsidies should be more helpful in resolving problems. This does not mean the problem is insurmountable. We must monitor the situation and, in some cases, help some banks. At the moment, the government is preparing a list of several hundred companies which will receive state support. We were not going to do so six months ago, but now we have no other choice. We have to directly finance areas which are strategic for our country. We have enterprises in the country which are city-forming. We’re not alone in this. Other countries do the same. This is our current challenge and it is very important. So, our task is to come out of this crisis with minimal losses and, hopefully, with improved manufacturing capabilities, by diversifying the economy through innovation and thus decreasing the dependency on exported raw materials, the latter being admittedly one of our drawbacks. Those countries that are export-oriented lose more. Despite rapid development they are now facing problems. It’s not only about us but our neighbours as well. Therefore we must create an economy that is more balanced and diversified, represented both by high-tech industries and new jobs, with properly developed infrastructure. This is something we have to address.
Medvedev Signs Constitutional Amendments
The new laws amending the Russian Constitution to extend the term of office for the president and the State Duma were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday. The law states that the president is elected for a term of six years which is up from the previous period of four years. Members of the State Duma will now be elected into office for a period of five years, as opposed to its current four. After being passed by the State Duma on 21 November and the Federal Council on 26 November, the amendments were just a Presidential signature away from becoming law. The amendments were first proposed by Medvedev at his state-of-the-nation address in November. The new laws, though official, will not affect the current administration or house of parliament and will come into effect after the next election. President Medvedev also signed a law requiring the Russian government to report annually to the State Duma. This law will come into immediate effect. These are the first amendments to the constitution in its 15-year history.