Putin Maintains Presidential Air in Paris Trip
'Putin's presidency were great years' - Chirac: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwSZuypND0
It is Vladimir V. Putin’s first trip abroad as Russia’s prime minister, but he might as well still be its president. To be sure, Mr. Putin met here with his official counterpart, the French prime minister, François Fillon. But he dined on Thursday with the head of state, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and on Friday he met former President Jacques Chirac, who praised him profusely. In general Mr. Putin spoke for Russia as if he still ran it, which most analysts say they believe he still does. With Mr. Sarkozy, Mr. Putin discussed “a wide range of bilateral issues,” according to Mr. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, especially in the light of “France’s forthcoming presidency of the European Union,” beginning July 1. In addition, Mr. Peskov said, the two discussed “possible military cooperation” and “exchanged their views on relations between Russia and the European Union in general.” Mr. Sarkozy’s office said that the two men had a working dinner, and that Mr. Sarkozy telephoned Mr. Putin’s handpicked successor as president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, and that he looked forward to meeting Mr. Medvedev in July at the Group of 8 summit in Japan. Mr. Medvedev recently made his first trip abroad as president to China. On Friday, Mr. Putin smiled benignly as Mr. Chirac expressed his “very deep friendship” for him and said, “My esteem comes from the remarkable manner in which you governed Russia.” He grouped the time Mr. Putin was prime minister under Boris Yeltsin with his two presidential terms, saying, “These 10 years have been, unquestionably, great years for Russia.” Mr. Putin, prime minister again, certainly did not disagree.
What Putin said to Le Monde
What Putin said to Le Monde - in full: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7EhpjXUw1E
On Russia’s energy sector
In most oil-producing countries, oil-extracting companies are state-owned. In Russia, private companies account for a larger part of the oil and gas sector. All the world’s oil giants are represented in the Russian oil sector, including those from Europe, including those from France: Gaz de France, Total… And those companies develop our major fields. Granted, we did take some steps to support those companies where the state has a share, or a controlling stake - say, Gazprom, or Rosneft. But all the other companies - and we have perhaps a dozen major companies - are in private hands, and some of them are owned by foreigners. British, American, Indian, Chinese, French, German companies… The Russian energy sector is much more liberal than those of many other countries, even European ones. For example, we are about to complete a massive reform of the electric energy sector. From July 1st, our largest electrical company, UES, will cease to exist. Instead, we’ll have several major companies that were parts of this one big company. Generating facilities - both individual power plants and groups of plants - will now be sold to private owners. Major players from Europe will be part of this: ENI from Italy, some German companies… They will invest 6, 8, 10, or 12 billion dollars or euros. Please note that few European countries are so liberal. Nobody allows Russian investors to buy into similar projects abroad. But we are giving other countries such an opportunity. We have offered certain benefits to newly-developed fields, including those in the northern sea shelf and in Eastern Siberia, where there is no infrastructure. I have no doubt whatsoever that this sector of the Russian economy will develop dynamically in the near future.
TNK-BP hasn’t had any trouble so far. They do have some problems with their Russian partners. Several years ago, I warned them that they had it coming. It’s not because it’s TNK-BP. It’s because several years ago, they set up a joint venture with a 50-50 ownership. When they did it - and I was present when they signed the papers - told them, “You shouldn’t do it. You should decide between the two of you who will have a controlling stake. And we don’t mind if you want BP to have it. We would, of course, like to see the Russian side, TNK, as the main shareholder. But somebody has to be in charge. When you don’t have a clearly defined authority in such a business, it is very likely you’ll run into problems.” They told me, “No, we will always be able to work out an agreement.” I told them, “Fine, go ahead if you want.” Now they have problems. They constantly have frictions regarding this matter, which one of the two companies is in charge. That’s the main problem. These are commercial disputes within the company.
On Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Khodorkovsky broke the law. More than once and grossly. What’s more, a part of his group is guilty, proven in a court, of personal crimes, not only economic. They committed murders, more than one person. This kind of “competition” is not admissible. And we’ll do our best to stop it. Just as I was when I was president, Dmitry Medvedev should be guided by Russian legislation. Mr Medvedev, like myself, graduated from the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg University. We had good teachers who taught us to respect the law. And I’ve known Mr. Medvedev for many years. He will respect the law and, incidentally, he has said this in public several times.
On Chechnya and the Caucasus
The situation in the Chechen Republic has improved, and it improved because of several circumstances, the main one being the fact that the Chechen people have made a certain choice for themselves towards the development of their republic within the Russian Federation. We saw the reaction of the Chechen people to attempts to implant untraditional forms of Islam into the minds of the local population. This is what it all started with - resisting Wahhabism. In fact it is a normal branch of Islam, and there is nothing terrible in it, but it is those extremist trends within it, that were trying to be implanted into the consciousness of the Chechen people. And the people realized that someone from outside was fighting not for their interests, but trying to use people as a tool to loosen the Russian Federation as a major and significant player on the international arena and that would bring only suffering to the people. The awareness of this factor was the main thing, in terms of stabilisation. This was what it started with. And it became a fact, when we understood that the population’s mood has changed, we passed on the main part of the responsibility, both in law-enforcement sector and economy. It seemed impossible that a defence minister in the government led by [Aslan] Maskhadov could become a member of today’s Chechen parliament. Now it’s a fact. And it created the necessary political conditions for the reconstruction of Grozny and for immediate steps in the economy. I can tell you that courts and the prosecutor’s office is actively working in the Chechen Republic, and investigations are carried out. Suspects are made accountable for any crimes committed, disregarding their motives or previous posts or jobs. Even concerning former rebels and Russian servicemen. Criminal prosecution is possible not only in future but now. We have trials completed against a number of people who are convicted while serving as Russian officers, they are now in prison. I should say it was a hard decision for our courts, because despite their apparent crimes, a court jury justified them on more than one occasion. It shows trends in Russian society. Especially after the atrocities done to our citizens by terrorists. I’m personally certain that if we want to bring the order and peace, we mustn’t let anyone contravene the law. As far as Dagestan and Ingushetia are concerned, we see and are well aware of what is going on there - there are indeed disputes and conflicts of interest, but it is not about political interests, but first and foremost, economic, as well as some political conflicts, but not related to any separatist movements - it is about an internal political struggle within the republics themselves. What is the priority for the Caucasus as a whole and the republics? First for all, it’s the restoration of the social and economic sectors. Many people live below the poverty line there, most suffering from unemployment, which is particularly bad among young people. So we have adopted a Programme of Development for Southern Russia, which concerns the North Caucasus republics, first of all. This programme envisages huge investments into the economy and the social sector as a priority. I count on it to be fulfilled successfully.
We are generally against NATO extension. Let’s remember how NATO was created - in 1949, the 5th paragraph of the Washington treaty. It was done as a defensive measure during a face-off with the Soviet Union. To defend against a possible threat. The Soviet Union used to say that it wouldn’t attack anybody, western countries said the opposite, but nevertheless officially it was done to defend against the Soviet Union. There’s no Soviet Union anymore. There’s no threat. But the organisation remains. The question is: “Against whom are you allied? What is it all for? ” Ok, some say NATO should fight modern threats. But what are these threats? The spread of nuclear weapons, terrorism, epidemics, international crime, drugs. Is it possible to tackle these threats as a closed military alliance? No. These problems can be solved only on the basis of wide cooperation. Not on the basis of a military block, but on the basis of global cooperation. On the basis of an honest, open and joint struggle against these problems. And expanding the bloc is only creating new borders in Europe. New Berlin walls. This time invisible, but no less dangerous. It limits the power of joint efforts against common threats, because it leads to distrust. It’s obstructive. We all know how decisions are made in NATO. Military-political blocs limit the sovereignty of any member country. Inside barrack-like discipline appears. And the decisions are at first made (we all know where) in one of the leading countries of the bloc, and then legitimized and dispersed. For example the decision on AMD. At first the decision was made and THEN it was discussed in Brussels, only after we criticized it. And we are afraid that if these countries get into NATO today - tomorrow there might appear some offensive rocket systems which will pose a threat to us. Nobody will ask them - the rockets will appear whatever. And what are we going to do then? We always talk about limiting arms in Europe. But while Western countries have been talking about it, we have done it in our country. And in return two military bases appeared near our borders… Soon we might get two new positions in Poland and the Czech Republic. And we can see that military infrastructure is heading towards our borders. What for? No one is posing threat. How can you be a good willing democrat inside the country, and a scary monster outside? What’s democracy? - it is power of the people. In Ukraine polls show more than 80 per cent of the population does not want the country to join NATO. And our partners say that Ukraine WILL be in NATO. So they have decided everything for Ukraine? The opinion of the Ukrainian people doesn’t mean anything? And you are saying this is democracy?
On double standards and the West
We always hear things like “we are civilised countries in the West, choosing partners we should follow common values.” Remembering the hard events in the Caucasus several years ago - thank god it’s over now – during an apparent civil war we suspended the death penalty in our country. It was a hard, but responsible decision. Isn’t it a case of “common values”? In some G8 countries, NATO members, the death penalty persists. Death penalties still carried out. Are they “common values”? It doesn’t stop them from being in NATO and G8. Why is it so selective concerning Russia? What’s permitted to Caesar is not permitted to anyone else? Such dialogue cannot be productive. We should show our hands, treat each other honestly, respect each other - and then a lot more can be done. Let’s take Deripaska for example. I asked my US partners: “Why don’t you grant him a visa? Can you explain? If you have reasons for not giving him a visa, if you have evidence of his illegal activity, please give them to us, and we’ll use them in our country. They would give us nothing and explain nothing. However, he was not granted entry. He is not a friend or relative of mine, just a representative of big business in Russia. He has multi-billion dollar commercial interests in many countries of the world. Why is he restricted? What did he do? If there is something, show it to us. If there is nothing to show, then remove the restrictions.
On Iran’s nuclear programme
I don’t think the Iranians are looking to make a nuclear bomb. We have no reason to believe this. The Iranian people are very proud and independent. They are trying to implement their legal right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies. I should say that formally Iran hasn’t violated any rules. It even has the right to carry out enrichment. It only takes a quick glance at the relevant documents to confirm this. There were some claims that Iran hadn’t revealed all its programmes to the IAEA. This is what we need to clear up. But to a large extent Iran has revealed its nuclear programmes. I repeat there is no official basis for legal claims against Iran. But I have always openly told our Iranian colleagues that we take into account that Iran is not isolated in a vacuum, but in a very dangerous and volatile region. They should keep this in mind and avoid aggravating their neighbours and the international community, and should take steps to convince the international community that they have no secret plans.