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Monday, October 17, 2016
Vladimir Putin answered questions from Russian journalists
The President of Russia answered questions from Russian journalists following the BRICS Summit.
October 16, 2016
Vladimir Putin answered questions from Russian journalists following the BRICS Summit.
Question: Much is being said in the Western media about BRICS going through a rough patch. Since Brazil got a new president, the country has been allegedly thinking whether it needs BRICS. There is little secret about the tension that exists between India and China. In fact, the US has been increasingly proactive regarding India.
You have said on a number of occasions that you view BRICS as an important and viable association. How serious do you think are the challenges, if any, that BRICS face? Will BRICS succeed in overcoming them and what are the development prospects for BRICS in general?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Some of our partners are always trying to dig up issues and challenges, no matter what we do. But as we say in Russia, why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own.
There are always issues, anywhere and in relations between any countries. Does this mean that countries whose representatives talk about BRICS this way do not have any issues with their closest strategic partners and allies? As a matter of fact, they have plenty of issues.
If there were no problems, they would have signed and ratified the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) a long time ago, and would have resolved many other issues. However, the issues they face are still there, and they are real. So there is nothing special about having problems. This is how things work across the world.
Every country, and even more so major powers, has its own interests that may run counter to those of its closest allies. That said, what underpins the mutual interest of BRICS countries? It is underpinned by the similarity of their economies and the objectives that they face. This is so obvious that you do not even have to be an expert to understand this. All it takes is to look at their economic structure, development patterns, growth rate and objectives.
You know, it is this objective interest in maintaining contacts and promoting cooperation in various areas that lies at the core of our association and encourages optimism.
Furthermore, to be honest I am pleased with this meeting, because for the first time I saw that all parties involved were genuinely interested in developing relations within this framework, which could pave the way to cooperation in specific areas.
New areas of cooperation and frameworks, for example, industrial cooperation, are being developed on top of structures that already exist, such as the New Development Bank and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement with a total capital of $200 billion, a substantial amount that will further increase in the future.
We are discussing introducing uniform technical standards. These are fundamental initiatives that pave the way to harmonising economic development and policies.
Yesterday night, my Brazilian colleague and I had a lengthy conversation to review the state of our respective economies. As it turns out, we have much in common. We face common global challenges and it would be easier to overcome them if we combine our efforts.
All in all, I have quite a positive view of this association, and I think that BRICS has every chance to develop further.
Question: US Vice President Joseph Biden promised yesterday to send you a message and respond to the hacking that the US blames on Russia…
Vladimir Putin: There is nothing surprising about that.
Question: As a matter of fact, it was a threat coming from a very high-ranking official, and if I am not mistaken, it targeted you personally. Do you expect hacking attacks on Russia or some other kinds of attacks?
Vladimir Putin: You can expect anything from our US friends. But was there anything new in what he said? As if we didn’t know that US government bodies snoop on and wiretap everyone?
Everyone knows this all too well, there has long been no secret about it and there is sufficient evidence to support this. Billions of dollars are channelled into this activity, with the NSA and the CIA working on it alongside other government bodies. There are both witness accounts and full-fledged confessions.
In fact, they are spying not only on their real or potential enemies, but also on their allies, including the closest ones. We know about so many wiretapping scandals involving top government officials from countries that are allies of the United States, so there is absolutely nothing new here.
The only new thing is that for the first time the US has acknowledged at such a high level, first, that they actually do this, and second that they are making some kind of a threat, which of course is inconsistent with the norms of international dialogue. This is obvious.
Apparently, they are a little bit nervous. The question is why. I think there is a reason. You know, in an election campaign, the current government carefully crafts a pre-election strategy, and any government, especially when seeking re-election, always has unresolved issues. They need to show, to explain to the voters why they remained unresolved.
In the US, there are many such problems, they certainly have enough of them. While it’s the leading economy in the world, a great power, no doubt, it still has a lot of unsolved problems. For example, the massive public debt is a time bomb for the US economy and for the global financial system. Nobody knows what to do. Maybe devaluation in the future might help, or something. But what? There’s no answer. This is just an example.
More examples can be cited in foreign policy. The Middle East reconciliation process, broadly speaking, is certainly stalling, including between Israel and Palestine, unfortunately. Moreover, tensions are growing between the United States and their regular allies in the region.
We are not going to go deep into this business – it is their problem. I'm just saying that there are many problems, and in these conditions, many choose to resort to the usual tactics of distracting voters from their problems.
In my view, this is exactly what we are witnessing. How do you do it? Try to create an enemy and rally the nation against that enemy. Iran and the Iranian nuclear threat did not work well for that. Russia is a more interesting story. In my opinion, this card is being played now.
I said recently at a VTB forum that it is not wise to sacrifice Russian-American relations to solve current internal political problems, because it is destroying international relations in general.
By the way, I have not fully answered your question. This part has to do with your second one – about who is developing relationships, with whom and how. India, for example, is making friends with the United States. Good for them! The United States is a great power, and India is a great power. Great powers have interests and they pursue these interests in a multilateral format. It is impossible to imagine the modern world any different.
The more intense, the more global these processes are, the more stable the world is. I hope that, once this debate is over, once this difficult period in the political life of the States comes to an end, we will have a chance to restore relations between Russia and the United States.
Remark: So we shouldn’t see this as a threat?
Vladimir Putin: I just said, anything could happen. With this global surveillance, I assume they do have certain information. That information can be easy to compile.
People can be fed a half-truth or a quarter-truth, or even just a bit of truth diluted in lies, and this information can be used to mislead the public in one country or another. Russia is no exception, we are often the target of these attacks. We already know that.
Question: Mr President, did you know you are featured in the new episode of the cartoon The Simpsons? You are boosting Trump in it. What is your actual preference? You have been asked many times – Clinton or Trump?
And one more question: the US Vice President said recently that we cannot influence the US election results. Frankly, are we even trying to interfere? Do we even need to?
Vladimir Putin: What did he say, precisely? We cannot fundamentally affect them. So the reporter needed to press him: not fundamentally, or not at all? He seemed to be acknowledging that we actually could play a role, but I would like to reassure you all, including our American partners and friends: we have no plans to influence the election campaign in the United States.
The answer is very simple: we do not know what will happen after the US President is elected. Ms Clinton chose her aggressive rhetoric and aggressive stance with regard to Russia, and Mr Trump, on the contrary, is calling for cooperation, at least against terrorism.
We will certainly welcome anyone who wants to work with us, and no, we are not interested in quarrelling constantly with anyone, which only creates threats to oneself and the world, or at the very least makes it harder to achieve the desired results in the fight against terrorism.
We do not know what will happen after the election. We do not know whether or not presidential candidate Trump will follow through on his intentions, how far he will go in cooperation with us, whether Ms Clinton will stick to her harsh anti-Russian rhetoric if she is elected President, or maybe she will also adjust her position. We cannot know this now.
I will repeat this again: sacrificing Russian-American relations for the sake of internal political events in the US is harmful and counterproductive. This is not the first time. Look at all the previous election campaigns – it’s the same story again and again, as I said.
And then they whisper in our ear: “Just wait it out. This will pass, and things will go back to normal.” You know, this is not even funny anymore. But if someone wants a confrontation, it is not our choice. Confrontation means problems. We do not want that. On the contrary, we would like to find common ground and work together to address global challenges facing Russia and the United States and the world.
Question: On Friday, a CSTO summit took place in Yerevan, where Alexander Lukashenko said that the organisation needs to formulate new priorities, to become at least respected if not feared. Could you clarify what was discussed exactly, what new priorities? Do you believe that other military organisations do not even notice the CSTO? And, talking about priorities: is the Nagorno-Karabakh situation a priority for the CSTO?
Vladimir Putin: I will start with what you ended with. We have spoken about Nagorno-Karabakh and a definite tension arising between other countries, former Soviet republics. Here is what I think – and I told my colleagues about this – you see, there are issues that arise between NATO member states, for example, between Turkey and Greece on the Cyprus issue. This is nothing new.
It is well known that these problems have persisted for many years, decades even. But is NATO going to war with one side then the other? And for us, it does not even matter whether a country, a former Soviet republic, is part of the CSTO or not. It matters that we have special, historical relations with all these countries, and they are closer and deeper than the relations between NATO member states. We cannot but take this into account.
The CSTO was created to address external threats. Certainly, we have to somehow respond to what is happening next to us, but we must strive for all problems with roots in the past to be solved peacefully, through compromises – compromises that both parties are willing to accept. In this context we have discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and other problems.
In fact, what I just said is not so different from Mr Lukashenko's stance. But it is better to ask him to clarify what he was thinking and what he considers necessary to do. He is a rather impressive speaker, and he will elaborate on this himself.
Question: May I ask a question about the domestic economy? With Rosneft acquiring Bashneft as part of the privatisation programme, we are now privatising Rosneft. The potential buyers are still unknown, but Rosneft said it planned a share buyback, which is perfectly fine as corporate practices go, but on the other hand, this would not be a real privatisation. Do you agree with that?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I do. I will explain.
You are absolutely right, a buyback is not our goal. The idea is not to get Rosneft to buy back its own shares and call it a day. Even if that happens, it is only an intermediate step to real privatisation, also with strategic investors, maybe international ones, but under the control of the state, because Rosneft is under state control, and government representatives on the board can still control it.
If Rosneft is able to sell its own shares together with the Russian Government, if we do this, it will be a natural step, this large-scale privatisation of a major Russian state-owned company, without losing controlling interest.
But if the market is low, if we cannot reach an agreement, then we do not exclude a buyback as a preliminary step for further work toward privatisation. So I would like to reassure you, as well as the experts who are closely monitoring this: we are not going to build state capitalism, as I’ve said many times.
We will follow the path of real privatisation, but not in a falling market. And if we had to, we would stick with those who understand that the market is falling but will go up again, and are willing to become an investor with a certain premium.
Or we will do a little time lag, but still, the state budget will get the money one way or another this year, that's the point.
I would say this is a fairly cautious, even intricate plan that the Government has approved.
Question: Mr President, could I ask a question about the cancellation of your visit to France. French President Francois Hollande said he wanted to discuss the situation in Syria with you, but you cancelled the trip. Why did that happen?
Vladimir Putin: You may have misunderstood the President of France. The main purpose, the main reason for my planned trip to France was to attend the opening of our religious and cultural centre and to visit a Russian art exhibition.
In fact, the purpose of the visit was just that – our joint attendance of these international cultural events. However, the circumstances surrounding the Syrian problem for some reason made France decide that part was now impractical as a joint activity.
As for the second question, we have not even negotiated it, as it happens. We have issues beside Syria, so it would have been possible to discuss other issues. Also, France is not as deeply involved in the Syrian peace process. At one point the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier reached the shores of Syria, and we agreed to work together to an extent, but after a couple of days, the ship turned around and headed for the Suez Canal. What was there to discuss, then?
True, we are always willing to negotiate with everyone. Moreover, we are interested in more countries being involved in this process, especially such a large and great power like France with its capabilities.
But, again, this was not the main purpose of my trip to Paris, and when the main reason was cancelled, it simply made no sense to discuss the minor issues on the agenda.
I would like to repeat, although France is part of the Friends of Syria Group, it is not as deeply involved in Syrian issues.
Question: Mr President, you mentioned in your interview with the French media that the Americans ignored our information regarding the Tsarnaev brothers. Is there any interaction or dialogue between us?
Vladimir Putin: There is always a dialogue. As regards this information… I have already forgotten when this was; you probably remember better. This took place before the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.
Several months prior, we had informed our American partners. Russia's Federal Security Service did this at my instruction by sending them an official written notification, warning that these two people could pose a danger, and we proposed working together on it. We never received a response.
Sometime later, Mr Bortnikov [Head of the Federal Security Service] approached me and said, ”They haven’t responded.“ I told him to send another notification, and he did so. As far as I remember, we received a response after the second or the third time, saying: ”They are citizens of the United States, you should mind your own business; we will figure it out on our own.“ And I said, ”Ok, that's that.“
A month or two later, a terrorist attack took place at the Boston Marathon. This is more proof that the position of those who push for cooperation in fighting terrorism is the right one. We have always held this opinion.
But there are also examples of positive cooperation. For example, during preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, US intelligence agencies established a good working, relationship with us and helped us provide security. We appreciated this.
Question: Mr President, we know that you also talked with our partners from India and China yesterday. Can you tell us about it? Did you pay special attention to certain issues? We know about an important agreement signed with India for S-400 Triumf systems. How big is the deal, and when are they due? Have you discussed any other aspects of military technical cooperation?
Vladimir Putin: Indeed, India is one of our priority partners, and a strategic partner. I should not need to recall the time of the popular Hindi Rusi bhai-bhai slogan (Indians and Russians are brothers). In fact, little has changed since then, and our relations have grown stronger if anything.
But military technical cooperation is not the only area of interest to us. Unfortunately, we have not fully taken advantage of our capabilities in the civilian economy, and there is so much we could do there.
India is a huge market with 1.25 billion people. Moreover, a significant portion of the Indian population has fairly high living standards that match average European income levels. That is a very big and lucrative market for our products.
We tried to find additional niches for cooperation. The options were broad, for example, more contact in space research, aviation, and mechanical engineering in general. As for military technical cooperation, the quality of that cooperation is quite high, maybe even better than with many other countries: we do not just sell India high-tech modern weaponry, but we also have joint research projects.
The S-400 Triumf contract is worth not hundreds of millions, but billions of dollars.
We have also agreed to improve the BrahMos missile, which will be land-, air- and sea-launched. We will also work to increase its range. And we will work together on a fifth-generation aircraft. It has basically made its maiden flight, but there are some issues we need to work out. I am talking about the T-50 fighter plane.
As I have said, our relations in this area can be described by our willingness to help our Indian friends acquire additional competences. You know that we have organised the assembly and production of the latest T-90 combat tanks and the Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft here.
Question: Considering the theme of this BRICS summit, can you tell us whether you discussed Syria in detail, bearing in mind the fact that an agreement on the deployment of a Russian air force group in Syria was ratified shortly before your trip here? Do the BRICS leaders have a common stance on Syria?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, they share a common stance in general and in other terms. All of us agree on the need for a consistent fight against terrorism. And all of us believe that there is no other solution to the Syrian problem other than a diplomatic one.
In this context, I have informed all of our colleagues and friends in this five-member group about our view on the situation in Syria and, in particular, around Aleppo.
Question: Mr President, a trip to Berlin is being planned. As your aide said, it all depends on whether those representing the conflicting parties will be able to make any progress. What is your take on this? Do you intend to go? You are asked quite frequently about resolving the conflict in Ukraine, and you have to repeat time and again that, to put it bluntly, the ball is in the court of the Ukrainian authorities who are not doing what they are supposed to. In your opinion, how could this change? This situation with no war, but no peace either cannot last forever.
Vladimir Putin: I hope it will not last forever, and I hope that all these problems will be resolved as quickly as possible.
As for the trip to Berlin, we have agreed with the President of France and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, by telephone, that it would be advisable to meet in Berlin only if our aides, who I think met on Saturday and Sunday in Minsk, took the dialogue to the point where we could meet to formalise these arrangements. If the aides are unable to reach an agreement, it would make the Normandy format meeting premature.
Regarding the question of whether Ukraine is delivering on its commitments. I am aware that my colleague Petro Poroshenko has published an article – I think it appeared in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – in an attempt to once again shift the responsibility to Russia and alluding to unsettled security issues. I believe this is only a pretext for doing nothing on the political track.
We need to work along several tracks at the same time by resolving security issues while also undertaking political initiatives for promoting a settlement in general and in the long run. Otherwise it will be impossible to bring about a resolution. How can people who live in Donbass be sure that they will not be persecuted, detained and imprisoned on charges of separatism or terrorism?
A lot of people could face groundless accusations unless an amnesty law is enacted in advance. But how can people be sure that their rights will be respected and guaranteed, if not by having the Rada adopt a law on the special status of the region and including it in the Constitution?
Why does it need to be in the Constitution? If this law is simply adopted and implemented, tomorrow it could be declared unconstitutional. Everybody understands this, so it needs to be introduced into the Constitution. Everybody knows this, and they have spent 17 hours in Minsk discussing it through the night. If it is not done, it means that the current government is not ready to resolve the issues its regions in the southeast face.
Question: Mr President, I would like to discuss BRICS again.
You are wearing a navy-blue suit in the “family” photo. Tell me, please, did they suggest this suit to you, or was it your choice given the Indian tradition that navy-blue symbolises power and the struggle against evil? And one more question: Michel Temer was next to you. You said that you spoke with the President of Brazil. Should we trust WikiLeaks that reported in 2011 that Mr Temer had allegedly been recruited as an informant by the United States? Please reassure us.
Vladimir Putin: Look, we started by discussing the fact that the United States overhears and eavesdrops on everyone. All of you are being watched by these services. It’s not a joke, and I’ll tell you why. You have certain information because you are members of the presidential pool. You are used to hearing and seeing certain things, and speaking with certain people.
You chat freely on the telephone, on open communications systems; you broadcast everything you consider essential, as well as all your thoughts or just conjecture. This is of interest. So it is possible to open a file on each of you, and it has probably been done. And they may monitor your conversations. All this is systematised, consolidated and analysed. This is what the US National Security Agency is doing.
Remark: And what about Russian secret services?
Vladimir Putin: Russian secret services operate strictly in line with the law. As we have learned from former NSA officials, that agency even violates US law. We act only under court rulings, and it turns out that they don’t do this. There is a big difference between Russian and US secret services’ approaches.
I don’t know who has been recruited and where, and I don’t care. You know, people at a certain level are guided by the interests of their own country, state and people. I cannot imagine, even theoretically, that a different approach is possible. I simply cannot even imagine it. We always work with representatives of a government, and we try to build positive and trustful interstate relations.
Question: Mr President, what do you think about the possibility of new sanctions over Syria? And one more question. The Mosul offensive is underway, with artillery shelling and also air raids by our allies who have been criticising Russia so strongly. These actions appear to be similar. Why the double standards?
Vladimir Putin: As for the sanctions, you know our attitude to sanctions. They are counter-productive and harmful. But the main thing is that they never attain the goals set by those who impose them.
In general, regarding sanctions against Russia, no matter whether introduced over developments in southeastern Ukraine or in Syria, I can tell you that the goal of those who formulate and advocate this policy is not to settle a specific problem, for example, in southeastern Ukraine, but to contain Russia.
Even without Ukraine, they would have found some other pretext. They are simply dissatisfied with the fact that Russia is becoming, and I would even say that it has become, a full international player, has consolidated politically and has shown a willingness to work with any partner. International issues require concessions and compromises. But they do not want to compromise – they want to dictate their will.
This is the style that our US partners have developed over the past 15 or 20 years, and they appear unable to change it. Do you see that there is no dialogue? They just tell us what should be done and how. And then they invent methods to make everyone around them accept their positions. Their formula is “He that is not with us is against us.” This is their logic. But this is not productive, which explains the increasing number of failures.
The goal of these sanctions is not to settle a problem, but to contain the strengthening of Russia as a full member of the international community. This is their goal. But it cannot be achieved with these methods.
Now as concerns Mosul, the similarity is obvious. When we are told that there are many humanitarian issues around Aleppo we can, of course, refer to Mosul and tell our partners that they should remember that this city has hundreds of thousands of people too. This is a city with over 1 million people, and air strikes and shelling are very dangerous in terms of potential civilian casualties.
We hope that our American and, in this case, French partners will take selective action and do everything to reduce or, better yet, rule out civilian victims. Of course, we will not build up hype about this like our Western partners do because we understand that we have to fight terrorists and there is no other way besides continued fighting.
Question: To continue with Syria, Russian Navy flagships, an aircraft carrier and the Moskva guided missile cruiser are departing for the Mediterranean. Does this mean that there will be an attack on terrorist strongholds?
Vladimir Putin: Do you really expect me to say when and where something might start?
Question: Then another question on the same issue. Russia’s diplomatic relations with the US have been aggravated by the Syrian issue. Do you expect…
Vladimir Putin: Excuse me?
Question: Relations with the US have been aggravated by the Syrian issue.
Vladimir Putin: Do you really think so?
Question: It appears to me they have.
Vladimir Putin: You are mistaken. Think about Yugoslavia. This is when it started. I was not even the president yet. Was it me who turned the plane around over the Atlantic? I think it was Primakov.
Question: Yes, Yevgeny Primakov.
Vladimir Putin: By the way, Boris Yeltsin was also in favour and agreeable until he took a very tough stance on Yugoslavia. Then everybody started bringing up his drinking and other compromising behaviour. That is when it all started.
You see, as I just said: they do not like our growing independence, that’s the problem. Then it continued with Iraq, which we did not initiate, by the way. I know this very well because they tried to convince me to take up a stance on Iraq that was eventually taken up by the German and French leaders. After Saddam Hussein was hanged, everybody was happy. Remember what they said? “You were against it but they came in and won.” Whether or not they won is a question.
Just like Libya, Iraq was never a centre of terrorism. But after all the government institutions were destroyed, both countries turned into hotbeds of terrorism. Now we are at a point where we have to storm Mosul with one million people with aircraft, tanks and artillery. This is the outcome. How to proceed with Libya is not clear at all.
The state ceased to exist. Now it is a hotbed of terrorism, with a massive flow of refugees. Are you sure our relations with the US deteriorated because of Syria? No, not because of Syria but because of attempts by one country to impose its decisions on the entire world.
We are not against this country, but we are against unilateral and ill-considered decisions that disregard the historical, cultural and religious specificities of any country, even if there are conflicts and tensions there.
Question: So we cannot hope for improvement or de-escalation until a new administration takes over?
Vladimir Putin: I believe one should always hope for the best. We maintain contact with the current US administration. Mr Kerry has recently met with Mr Lavrov, and, in general, we maintain contact with President Obama. The US administration is continuing to work, although there is less than a month left until election day. I believe the [US presidential] election is in November?
They are continuing to work, and we have to hand it to them, they are working intensively and to the last day. As I said, we maintain contacts in nearly all areas, and we will work with our US partners, but only if they are willing to work with us.
Question: Mr President, your position on sanctions is well known, and I share it completely. But what about response…
Vladimir Putin: This is all you need to say.
Remark: This is not what the question is about…
Vladimir Putin: It is a pity; it could have been a good ending.
Question: My question is about response measures. It is clear that we have reciprocated. In my occupation, I often meet with representatives of both big and small businesses, those who export their products and those who are working within BRICS.
All of them tell me that our response measures only increase the burden of Western sanctions on Russian business. Our Chinese and Indian partners look at this situation and wonder whether they should start an investment project with Russian companies in light of these sanctions and counter-sanctions. This is not good for them. Since these sanctions have been in place for several years, we could review the situation and consider a change of policy. Maybe we could ease our response measures or make them more selective?
Vladimir Putin: I will explain my position. I have stated it, but now I will try to explain it.
First, I do not agree when our response measures are described as sanctions. They are not sanctions, but response measures taken to protect our market. Look at what is happening, and you will see that we had to take these measures.
For example, certain limitations have been approved against us in the financial arena, so that our banks cannot refinance their loans, whereas our market is completely open to our partners. Overall, the situation that has developed since the early 1990s has prevented our farmers from holding even a small place on the Russian market.
It is true that we used sanctions against Russia to impose certain restrictions [against the West]. And look at what has happened: despite a falling GDP and industrial production in 2015 and 2014, our agricultural output grew by 3.6 percent a year.
We have very accurate figures now. Just recently, we had to import 1.4 million tonnes of chicken meat. Now we produce so much that we have to export it. We almost completely meet the domestic demand. The situation is similar with pork. Not exactly the same, but we are getting closer.
Yes, we have some problems with the vegetable market and even more with the fruit market, but we knew this would happen. There has been a certain increase in domestic prices, but this provided an opportunity for domestic producers – with government support, of course. And they have this support. We could debate whether there should be more or less support, but it exists and it is significant for getting back on track and filling the necessary niches in our own market.
Right now we are, for example, improving our relations with Turkey and opening certain niches. When I was in Turkey I noted that we opened the way for stone fruit and citrus imports. Russia does not produce stone fruit or citrus fruit. Then why would we hold them back? On the contrary, this would create competition for other importers.
Now, as for the so-called import replacement in industrial production. I will be honest with you. I had big concerns and doubts. Therefore, we regularly meet with defence and civil production representatives to discuss the state of these areas and the outcome. This includes, for example, our decision that major state-run companies must provide for a certain part of the market for Russian small and medium-sized enterprises.
So you see, it has a real effect. They received funds to market their products, and high-tech products account for a significant part here. The scope is growing, to say nothing about import replacement in the defence industry. It is unacceptable that in microelectronics we depend on spare parts for the Strategic Missile Troops or other very sensitive systems. This dependency is gradually fading, not only with regard to Ukrainian suppliers, but other countries as well, including European countries and the US.
One hundred percent – I would like to stress this – of our helicopters used to be outfitted with Ukrainian engines. Now this is over. We built one engine plant and are now finishing another. It could be operating already. But it will be a completely different production.
Import replacement is not limited to transferring production of one engine to Russia. No, it means production at a completely different technological level. In this respect, it is certainly part of the country’s development.
It is the same situation, only a more complex process, for the Navy, where we will soon see the completion of work to develop new engines for our vessels. This work will have synergy effect for civilian sectors too. Regarding Ukraine, let me thank you for raising this question. As far as the situation there goes, we see, sadly, that the country is regressing and a de-industrialisation process is underway there.
But our Ukrainian partners have only to say the word and we will be ready to involve Ukrainian industry in the effort to meet our consumption demands. This includes joint cooperation to modernise Ukraine’s defence enterprises and civilian sectors. But this is possible only if, as I said, the needed conditions are in place and our partners want this themselves.
Finally, on the question of how our BRICS partners have responded to our response measures taken against the countries that imposed sanctions on us, I do not see any concern on their part because we have not and have no plans to set any restrictions on the goods they produce.
Furthermore, the restrictions that we introduced for the countries that imposed sanctions against us give our BRICS partners and other partners new opportunities on the Russian market. They are making active use of these opportunities too. I therefore see no problems and complications here.
Question: Will Russia face new sanctions?
Vladimir Putin: What I want to say here is that we made a conscious choice to introduce restrictions on agricultural products. This was an asymmetrical measure. They imposed sanctions on industrial goods, some kinds of what they consider dual-purpose goods, and financial restrictions. We could not do the same in response, it would have made no sense, and so we took measures in a sector which would cause them problems.
As you can see, the losses are now into the billions. These are not our estimates, but those of Western European experts and representatives of the various sectors in question, including in industry. We took action in areas in which it was to our advantage to act.
We will not take any action purely for the sake of punishing others and end up punishing ourselves at the same time. We will not buy a ticket and then not travel. This is not the road we will take. We have no plans for now and have not looked at any countermeasures. We will need to wait and see what our partners do and make our decisions accordingly.
Thank you all for your attention.
At midday on Friday 5 February, 2016 Julian Assange, John Jones QC, Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and Baltasar Garzon will be speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club on the decision made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the Assange case.
THE ENTIRE 14:02' INTERVIEW IS AVAILABLE AT
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