June 18, 2001
Vladimir Putin Interview with Bureau Chiefs of Leading American Media
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good evening, esteemed ladies and gentlemen. The meeting in Ljubljana has just now ended, you know, not so long ago. In principle President Bush and I have already told about the talks quite thoroughly. But if there is an interest in this subject and there are some additional questions, I will answer them with pleasure. But then, just as any other questions if you have them. For a start I must say that we had expected, of course, a positive result of this meeting. And we had from the very start planned this meeting in such a way as to achieve the result. I must tell you that right from the first minute of our meeting I had the impression that President Bush was equally so disposed. We had also planned the walk along the lanes that you saw there. It had been planned that it would take much more time, it had been planned that the talks in an extended composition too would take more time. But the conversation between the two of us so went that personally I felt it was a pity to spend time on the protocol events. Quickly enough I told the President that I was generally glad that an opportunity had presented itself for us (by "us" I mean the Russian side) to start our relations as if from a "clean slate," but, of course, taking with us into the present day and into the morrow all those things of positive value that were accumulated earlier. I had been told that the President could not listen for a long time, that he loved more to talk himself and would in five minutes be nervous, as he waited for the interlocutor to finish. Everything actually turned out to be otherwise. The President proved a very attentive and a very keen listener. He quite energetically reacts to all that is being said to him. Listens, critically apprehends what he hears, very frankly states his own position. And immediately a very confidential atmosphere was created.
I must say that from the very beginning, I think that just as he, I had a definite plan for our conversation. I suggested we begin the talk on specific questions, on the questions that cause the greatest concern in the world now, questions that in relations between the two sides create a certain atmosphere, in particular, on the problems of missile defense. He listened attentively and then says: "Look, let's talk generally about how relations have been developing between the two countries in the last few years, in what state we are now, where we are now and let's look to the future."
I had just this in mind when at the press conference I said that the President as a historian had suggested we discuss a broad range of issues, have a broad look at the problems of Russian-American relations.
I must say in this sense he assumed a definite initiative and altered the character of the conversation, but that such a formulation of the question suited me very much as well. And it seems to me that those were not formal words that we said at the press conference. Indeed, a situation arose that one can describe as a fairly high level of trust.
Generally speaking, I must say the President is a pleasant interlocutor, a pleasant person. And we know what debates there were during the election campaign in the U.S., how difficultly all this was being solved. But we can already say with confidence: we are satisfied with the fact that we now have such a partner. We will hope that this receives a positive development.
I am ready to answer your questions.
JILL DOUGHERTY (CNN): On behalf of our correspondents thank you very much for the opportunity to talk with you. My first question. Before the summit, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you said you wanted to learn as much as possible about the new antimissile system of Mr. Bush. You succeeded. You have a good idea of the essence and scale of this program? Is that enough for Russia to think of, say, reviewing its stand on ABM?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The starting positions of the President cannot fail to evoke a positive reaction. The President says that Russia and the United States are not adversaries today, moreover, can become allies, as he said in Warsaw. And it is from this point of view that we must look at the entire package of previous agreements. We have nothing against this.
Our partners in the States said, and are saying now, we should think of the threats we're all facing and which will arise in the future as missile technologies develop.
Here in this country the attitudes to this thesis also vary, but I personally share it. We should think about this. And I think the President is right here: we have to think about how armament is developing in the most dangerous area - the area of missiles. And, of course, it does need a look what there will be in this field in ten, fifteen, twenty years.
Is there anything new in our relations on this issue after the meeting with President Bush? I believe there is. We have agreed that our experts will isolate, and talk specifically on questions of a purely technical character: what, strictly speaking, we understand by the term "threat," and what hinders us together or separately, if such is the will of our partners, from countering these threats? What specifically, what elements of the ABM Treaty stand in the way of overcoming the threats that we have yet to define together? That's where we have no common position so far.
For, when we are speaking of the Treaty on Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems of 1972, of its possible modification or, as you heard earlier, the United States' presumably pulling out unilaterally from this Treaty, in either case the issue is about counteracting missile threats. Yet this is not the sole threat.
Speaking in the language of professionals, where exactly is the aim? Not to send a missile, but the aim is to deliver a weapon of mass destruction. In this case - a nuclear weapon - onto the territory of a potential adversary. And this can be done not only with the help of missiles, in any case not only with the help of ballistic missiles, which is the subject matter of the 1972 ABM Treaty.
Then, say, we know the thesis about a threat from so called "rogue nations." You know what is in service with the so called "rogues." This is not our terminology, it's rather American terminology. If somebody does not know, I will tell: it's Soviet Scud missiles. And what are Soviet Scud missiles? They are, strictly speaking, modernized German Fau-1 and Fau-2 missiles, the same missiles which Germany in the period of the Second World War rained on London. North Korea has advanced farthest in their modernization. But there exists the limit to this modernization, and it has already been reached. One can enlarge the tanks, increase also the number of those tanks, but, I repeat, the limit of modernization has been reached. To develop missiles of another generation - that's quite a different story. One can steal some element, but to create a serious modern system of missile attack - that's a task of an entirely different order. This requires new, absolutely new materials. It calls for an entirely new fuel, fuel of a new generation. It requires a developed, very expensive system of test sites. It requires a very large set of components of this entire program. Generalizing this all, one can say that it requires an absolutely different economy and an absolutely different level of science and technology of the country which is seeking to develop those technologies. It requires economic growth. It will take decades.
Now let us look at the condition that as of now is known to us in the field of antimissile defenses. By preliminary estimates, the program itself will call for 50-60 billion dollars. What is this? What are we to achieve?
You know at what speed a ballistic missile flies? 7-7.5 kilometers per second. To shoot it down, the antimissile must fly at the same speed, that's 15 kilometers per second upon addition. It's like a bullet hitting a bullet. Is it possible today or not? Today experts say that it is impossible to achieve this. And the experience of real tests demonstrates that today it is impossible. And what if it's not one bullet? If they are ten, twenty, a thousand? Two thousand, three or five thousand? And that's exactly the potential of nuclear arms of Russia and the United States. Then we must give thought to what we need to prevent the threats. I repeat, it has yet to be defined where they lie.
Then we are told that the main threat is "rogue nations." But we know that, for example, in February of this year a new American tracking station, Globe-2, began radiating on an island in the north of Norway. There was deployed the Globe-1 station there, which records the launchings of missiles; now there is an additional station deployed there, that records not only a launch, but also tracks the movement of a trajectory. Where do the "rogues" fit in here?
Generally speaking, these are all questions that require an extra attentive study on the part of experts and a very high degree of trust. It seems to me that the last component, component of trust is developing between us. And I think this is the most important thing we've achieved as a result of the meeting with President Bush. Enough on that issue?
DANA LEWIS (NBC): Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the missile defense system does not prevent war, and that with Russia or without Russia the United States will deploy its system. Don't you consider this a toughening of the stand as compared to what you talked about with President Bush?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, I talked with President Bush, not Condoleezza Rice, even though she was present there. We agreed that our experts at all levels will work in contact with each other. The contact person for Ms. Rice is Mr. Rushailo - Secretary of Russia's Security Council. It seems to me that they can have conditions created for a positive dialogue with each other. If she said that the Treaty does not prevent war, then I do not know which of them - Rushailo or Rice - is planning war, when it must start. Strictly speaking, this question needs somehow to be separately discussed. It needs to be clarified what the talk is about. But we took due note of the other statements of senior administration officials. Now the Secretary of State, for example, said the following. He, as is known, is a military man, one can say he's an expert. He said: "The United States is not seeking the destruction of the ABM Treaty of 1972, but firmly intends to follow the course for creating effective but limited missile defenses." We took note of this statement by Powell. I think this is a very serious statement. The U.S. is not seeking the destruction of the ABM Treaty. This is for us a very serious message. We also believe missile defenses must be effective. Mr. Powell is saying, "but limited defenses." It has to be understood what this is. This is a subject of discussion, of talks, It is a serious statement. Are you satisfied?
DANA LEWIS: Yes, thank you.
ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS): During your meeting in Ljubljana President Bush said that he intended to send high-ranking officials of his administration to Moscow to discuss specific things. In your opinion what are the major themes on which you would like to achieve the greatest coordination, the greatest progress in your relations in the immediate future? VLADIMIR PUTIN: Strictly speaking, I've already said about that. I even have nothing to add. When we spoke about that, when the President said about that, I think that he meant precisely discussing problems associated with strategic stability and the ABM Treaty. We agreed (that was my suggestion) that our specialists must look not only at where the threats exist, but also what in the 1972 Treaty hinders the prevention of those threats today, what specifically. There are absolutely concrete things there, which experts must define. It is a question of the velocities of these missiles, and from this flows the notion "strategic" or "tactical system of antimissile defense," and so on, and so forth.
Set into the 1972 ABM Treaty itself is a mechanism for its modification. And a modification has already taken place, but we need to understand what the issue is specifically about now. And then we have spoken about it more than once, and I in Ljubljana said about this at the press conference: strung onto this Treaty are other agreements, including the problems of nonproliferation. There is no direct linkage there, in the Treaty, but nevertheless the agreements in the sphere of nonproliferation are linked with the 1972 ABM Treaty. And if we abandon it entirely, then it is much easier for threshold countries to declare themselves nuclear powers. Will the world be a more secure place? I doubt it. We must look at this problem from this angle.
That's why we're saying that we share the concerns of our American partners, but think that those concerns need to be dealt with by joint efforts, for otherwise some third forces might slip through between our contradictions and we will then not know what to do with that.
When we hear (I'm returning to your question) that some program or other will be carried out with or without us - well, we can't counter that. Without us - well, suit yourself. We cannot force anyone to cooperate with us, nor will we try to. We offer our cooperation. We offer to work jointly. If that is not needed, fine. We are ready to act on our own. But what will this lead to? For connected with this Treaty are, say, the Treaties on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms - START 1 and START 2 - and they contain a mechanism for verification and monitoring in the nuclear-missile sphere. Let us assume that we're speaking about the reduction of strategic offensive arms. Imagine we're abandoning, we're discarding the ABM Treaty of 1972. This means that automatically we exclude START 1 and START 2 from the practice of international relations. And if this is so, then we will not be able to monitor each other and see how many missiles we've removed from service. Unscrewed a warhead - put it nearby or did we destroy it? This so called "return potential" of both Russia and the United States can be so large that the questions of nuclear arms control will altogether cease to exist. There will be no control at all. Unscrewed it today, mounted it back tomorrow. Who will be able to check that if we exclude this element of control, if we discard the START 1 and START 2 Treaties? And this will inevitably occur if we throw away the ABM Treaty of 1972. All this is tied as one package to just this problem and to this Treaty. We aren't intruding, we aren't threatening or blackmailing anyone. We offer cooperation. And if it is acceptable, then we will do that with pleasure. If not - well, we will then act on our own. I don't think that the States and Russia and then all mankind too will benefit from this. I think not.
But it seemed to me that President Bush is precisely disposed to this cooperation, that he wants a dialogue, that he is seeking it. And I once again want to confirm that, and once again want to say about it: to me personally, to the entire Russian delegation this was very important. And I think that that is the most important thing.
PATRICK TYLER (NEW YORK TIMES): Mr. President, you spoke of the threats and that you stand ready to consider those threats together and to fight against them jointly. If that occurs, won't it so happen that China, which objects to the creation of any type of missile defense system, will feel more endangered and show its resentment? This is the first question. That is, do you think Russian relations with China will change in the negative direction?
And the second question, with your permission, I would like to turn to Iran. You are carrying out joint projects with Iran, helping Iran build a nuclear power plant. Sergei Ivanov in his time declared that the United States was supplying North Korea with the same kind of nuclear reactors. But I want to say that the United States specifies that North Korea should give up its military nuclear program. Can you stipulate your cooperation in the nuclear field with Iran by approximately similar conditions?
A remark: May we have the answer in English?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. It's rather difficult for me so far. I tried to speak some English with the President, said a few words. He pretended to have understood me. I am very grateful to him for that. But, in order to be understood more accurately, I will nevertheless state the answer in my native language. With regard to the attitude of China toward these problems. This question has to be addressed to Jiang Zemin.
You've so formulated this question that China generally regards negatively any missile defenses. This is not known to me. But the 1972 ABM Treaty already provides for a certain missile defense system. It is provided for there, for the missile defense of two areas. The United States chose the area of stationing of its ground missile launchers; Russia chose Moscow. As far as I know, China does not object to what is written down in this Treaty, therefore it cannot be said that it is generally against any missile defenses. As I understand our Chinese counterparts, they are against the destruction of the Treaty itself. I must say that I spoke to President Jiang Zemin by telephone today. I told him that I had conveyed the signal which he was through me sending to President Bush and must say the President had very positively reacted to my statement that China thinks the incident with the plane should be considered settled. The President also reacted quite positively and calmly and said it was necessary to forget about that. And today in conversation with me President Jiang Zemin said that he is expecting the President in Shanghai this autumn and is very glad that he has agreed within the framework of the APEC summit meeting to discuss separately the questions of American-Chinese relations, and that China is getting ready for this.
But what I take note of in your question, and think that it is after all formulated in a very correct direction. We, of course, must figure out all our actions in this sphere and see how other nuclear powers will react to this. In this sense the transparency of our action is very important, lest none of the nuclear powers would feel abandoned or that two countries are making agreements behind their backs; otherwise the result may be contrary to the expectations. We will not improve international security, but only make the world more vulnerable. Do you know how many ballistic missiles China has?
PATRICK TYLER: Eighteen.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The economic potentialities are also known to you? Therefore one must be very careful here. I repeat, no one should feel abandoned. We must here act according to the principle - don't harm.
Our American friends are speaking of future threats, of averting the future threats. This means we all acknowledge that today a certain balance exists and as a minimum we must not disturb it today, must not provoke anyone into an arms race. And, of course, all our actions must be confined to certain limits. Therefore the "nuclear club," each state of the nuclear club, of course, should be informed of what's happening and of the talks with our American partners. But as this takes place, naturally enough, all countries of the world think of their own security.
PATRICK TYLER: Has Russia an intention to hold a common position with China on this question?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have an intention to preserve this balance of security that has now been created in the world as a whole, and in this sense China is a substantial component part. But not just China alone, there are also other nuclear states. You and I know about the position of, for example, France. I think we have no right to ignore the opinion of France on this question. Other nuclear states also are very closely watching all that's happening in this sphere. I once again repeat, here I've got nothing to add: our action must not give rise to fears that someone will be ignored, someone will be deceived; we must not create a situation which will induce an arms race. This is very dangerous. So we're saying that the balance has been created. Let's assume that there are some threats, about which we must think together, let us think together since, by preserving this balance, we must improve the quality of security. We must all be together, and not disturb this balance. It's from this standpoint that our contacts with China too need to be considered. Regarding Iran. Our relationship with Iran is not simple. This is our neighbor, we have a centuries-old history of interstate relations. Iran is going through, I think, a process of renewal and gradual entry into the world community, and the results of the last election bear this out. I met with President Khatami here, in Moscow. He is a very modern person, a very strong and very worthy partner. I think he intends to develop the country towards the entry of Iran into the international community. We understand the concerns of the United States and the concerns of Israel. We take this into account in our relations with Iran.
When we are told that we're seeking to rearm Iran, it is necessary to clear up the notions here. We feel that the political theses that are sometimes being used to oust Russia from arms markets, including on the market of Iran's armament, are just an instrument of unfair competition. Therefore we have been cooperating with Iran, we have some definite obligations with respect to military-technological cooperation, and we are going to honor them. But there is an area that arouses the special concern of the United States, and the President told me about this at the meeting in Ljubljana. This is, of course, about weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons and missile technologies. I must tell you, and I told the President about this, in the plans of military-technological cooperation by Russia with Iran these programs are missing and are not being planned. And this position of Russia is known to the leadership of Iran. Russia has assumed certain obligations with respect to nonproliferation and is going to abide by these obligations. Moreover, this also meets our national interests. If you inquire of experts about what missile weapons Iran has, and what is their range, you will understand that I exaggerate nothing here.
As to defensive arms, this is a separate theme and I think it should cause no concern in anyone.
With regard other aspects, I can tell you, strictly speaking it's no secret that European countries are actively developing their relations with Iran. Germany has given a Hermes credit - 2 billion marks. Business circles of the United States are in contact with Iran's officials. If that is a secret to someone, it isn't to us. We know who meet, where and when. I gave President Bush the names.
PATRICK TYLER: Thus, you want to say that Americans are conducting business with Iran?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: They're getting ready. Getting ready to start large-scale cooperation, and that's the right thing to do. But why we should remain at the tail end, that's unclear. You've mentioned the construction by the United States of a nuclear power plant in North Korea. A correct mention. It is precisely such a nuclear power plant that we are helping to build in Iran. Nothing special is happening here. Experts will tell you this is absolutely not related to facilities for production of nuclear weapons. You're saying that the United States has stipulated the construction of the nuclear power plant in North Korea by the non- production of nuclear weapons in that country. That is to say, you consider this effective. Then why is North Korea being presented to us as a "rogue nation" that poses a danger? I tell you that we even out of considerations of our own security are not going to transfer to other countries, including Iran, any nuclear technologies. Of course, we can well imagine that someone clandestinely in circumvention of our law and the official policy of the state, some people may try to sell something, in order to earn money. We will do everything to cut that short. But that holds not only for Russia, it holds for any other country. You know the operating legislation of the United States on the training of specialists and students. So a student arrives from Iran, enrolls for one program at a college or university, and then no one has a right to prohibit them from proceeding to another training program. You look at these very teams of specialists, look what's happening in this field, and for you there will arise concerns as to the training of specialists for Iran within the United States. Look! I think that it's necessary here to stop altogether indulging in useless accusations of each other; it's necessary to work jointly to effectively counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technologies. That's for our staff of special services, they have a complex system of struggle between Russia and the United States, and it's easier for them to continue so further, as that does not require any internal changes, which involve certain efforts, it's easier to accuse each other than combine efforts to counter the real threats. This applies to both our special services and yours.
PATRICK TYLER: Thus, you're putting forward a proposal for cooperation between the intelligence services of Russia and the United States so it would be possible to share this information regarding these problems concerning Iran and other countries?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am putting forward a proposal to combine the efforts of the special services of Russia and the United States in the struggle against the threat of proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies irrespective of the country of origin, where these technologies might leak. Actually I know what I'm talking about, I myself worked there for a sufficiently long time. For decades one country worked against the other. And so the definite positions have been built, the people, specialists selected, all this was being created for decades. It is much easier to continue using all this the old way than realize what is happening in the world today, to see where the threats are, to rearrange something. This requires both understanding and a certain amount of effort. That's more difficult. So we are speaking of the new threats. One of them is national terrorism, national intolerance, religious extremism. I think this is a very good field for joint work of the special services. Especially as citizens of the United States really suffer from those threats: terrorist acts are occurring, your servicemen and civilians are being killed. That's a real threat, including to the States, a real threat! People are being killed! And in our country too the same thing is happening.
Unfortunately, I will now tell you, perhaps, words that will be perceived differently, but I consider it my duty to tell about this honestly. I'm sometimes under the impression that now our, now your special services, I think yours more often, try to use some elements in the continuing struggle between the special services and thus prejudice the national interests of both the States and Russia. I think that this comes from an incorrect understanding of the prospects of development of international relations and from an incorrect understanding of the threats of the present day. If we today allow ourselves to use some extremists in the struggle for our national interests to the prejudice of others, tomorrow those extremists might turn their weapons against ourselves. That's an extremely dangerous form of achieving an aim. Practically it will almost surely lead to the opposite results.
In this connection, as an example, we must define our position on the Taliban. What do we want to achieve, after all? Now they have destroyed works of art of thousand-year standing, the famous statues. Yet somehow that rustled through the media unnoticeably, and everybody has forgotten. But that's horrible! It's a catastrophe! We have all realized with whom we're dealing. No, a complete silence. That there are terrorist training bases there, which operate not only against us, but also against you - well, this is well known, it's a fact. Well, we all know about this. And there are many other themes where you and we could join forces.
PAUL QUINN-JUDGE (TIME): We then really can think that this is a continuation of the theme. You exchanged precise words, you got a very confidential talk with the President, but still what now most alerts, worries you in the behavior and in the policy of the U.S. administration?
If possible. You referred to this struggle between the special services. Please say in which field you are particularly concerned by the actions of Western special services?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: As regards the first part of your question, there is no concern, but a certain degree of wariness regarding the possibility of any unilateral action, although we are ready for it. I am confident that at least for the coming 25 years this will not cause any substantial damage to the national security of Russia. Any actions, including unilateral. Moreover, if we encounter unilateral actions and the destruction of the START 1 and START 2 treaties, I think our nuclear capability will be reinforced. This will require practically no financial injections.
If you look at the START 1 Treaty, you will see what the issue is about. It is that new warheads can be mounted on the existing missiles. Yes, a meager sum, it will cost almost nothing. Thus, the nuclear potential of Russia will be augmented multifold. Multifold. But something different worries us. That this could lead to an unbalancing of the existing balance. There will begin an uncontrolled armament of other countries, and many of them are somewhere near us. And that's what concerns us. Though the United States is speaking of this concern more. But it concerns us much more, actually. Because the missiles that the "threshold countries" now have, they won't reach the territory of the United States for a very long time yet. So that in this sense I am absolutely sincerely talking when I assert that we have a common platform with the President in discussing just this theme.
And the second part of your question?
PAUL QUINN-JUDGE: In continuation of what you've said about the special services, particularly how they are being used...
VLADIMIR PUTIN: What worries us in their activities?
PAUL QUINN-JUDGE: Where especially does this occur?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, nothing really concerns us, as both perform poorly. They do nothing interesting. They only hinder. In principle, their main job is to provide information for the political level of the leadership. But it seems to me that they do very little to neutralize the real threats with which our states are confronted. Though individual examples of positive work are there. You know, say, about a number of joint operations by American and Russian special services to cut off the channels of drug supply to North America. If there were a great degree of trust, it would be possible to cooperate by far more effectively in the field of the prevention of terrorist acts. And in respect of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of missile technologies, this is also quite a sphere where efforts can be combined.
Well, overall - I repeat - I perceive no great threat here. In the Western special services there is a concept, "pot stirrers." We've got fairly enough of them too. But on the whole there are many people sufficiently professional there, after all. I very much hope that they will be able to ensure the national interests of both the States and Russia. And will be able jointly, I repeat once again, to combine efforts to prevent the threats with which both states are confronted.
SUSAN GLASSER (THE WASHINGTON POST): In development of what was said specifically about one country - Iran - I would like to mention what President Bush declared after your meeting on Saturday as specific areas where there were differences in the course of your discussions. He mentioned such issues as the issues concerning Chechnya, as issues concerning and relating to your specific activities in the Caucasus, with regard to Georgia, he mentioned that country.
And the third specific issue which he mentioned, it is the situation with the mass media, with their freedom. He stated those issues, though, in somewhat general words, in the abstract, he did not specify.
I would like to know what specifically was said after all on this topic and what you told President Bush in your dialogue as to the specific concerns outlined by him, if I may. Because it seemed that later on he passed over the issues in somewhat general words.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, we did speak on these themes. The President, well he is an absolutely normal person, realistically perceiving things. I understand that one can dissect anything and in any way, and in any way present the material, but, if you want to look each other in the face, listen and hear what you are being told, some things have to be judged objectively.
So we, when we speak of Chechnya, I am getting tired of repeating these things again and again. I think that any misunderstanding of this matter is no longer possible.
Though I sometimes catch myself thinking that to the people who every day are not concerned with this, to them it is indeed necessary to repeat some things, yes precisely to them. The President, of course, is well informed of all the issues, but now, answering your question, I have to reconstruct some things once again. Moreover, I am ready even in some detail to tell about what specifically I said to the President on this question.
Well, you and I very well know what was happening over the previous decade in the Caucasus. In 1995 Russia did not recognize de jure, but actually accepted the independence of Chechnya, by completely withdrawing from there, entirely. It dismantled all its bodies of power and administration there, pulled out the army, police, prosecutor's office, the courts. Absolutely everything was dismantled. I must tell you that this looks as a national humiliation, but Russia did that in order to attain reconciliation. Russia encountered other problems.
We encountered in fact the physical destruction of the Russian- speaking population in Chechnya, but Russia failed to react to this as well, it was in about the same condition as America had been after the Vietnam war. Essentially it was in shock after 1995.
More serious processes began. From the territory of Chechnya, which had turned out to be absolutely beyond the control of any authorities, there began the criminal development of the economy of Russia itself, because there were no borders there. But Russia again failed to react.
Practically at once there began in almost daily mode, each day, attacks on the contiguous territories of Russia: Dagestan and Russia's other regions. People simply began to sell their houses and leave. There was absolutely no one to talk with, as there was no authority in Chechnya. There was no one with whom to raise the matter of grievances. And our law and order bodies there were absolutely powerless, they even feared crossing the border when hot-pursuing criminals.
What did it end in? It ended in a large-scale attack of several thousand armed people on Dagestan under the slogan of tearing away from Russia some additional territories and creating a new state from the Black to the Caspian Sea, creating, as they call it, united states of Islam. But, look, that's certainly going to extremes, it's simply an outright aggression!
What do you suggest we should do? Talk with them about biblical values? They interpret even the Koran in their own way. And regard all those who wear the cross as enemies.
I told the President: "Imagine that someone has come, armed people, and want to seize half the state of Texas. How do you imagine that?"
But that's exactly how the question was then for us, exactly so! And you know this. I sometimes even think over what is happening in the mass media and do not believe that no one understands this. If a campaign is being unfolded, I think that this is merely a deliberate attempt to exploit the situation in Chechnya in order to rock the Russian Federation. One can think of nothing else here. Moreover, everything is forgotten, both the beheaded foreigners, Britons, you remember, and the New Zealanders; forgotten are the public shootings in squares of their own citizens in Chechnya. No one takes any notice, as if this does not exist. Those public calls for the extermination of Jews. Leaders of just this so called "insurgent" movement used to appear on television, calling for publicly exterminating Jews, and no one takes notice of this. To us it is absolutely of no fundamental importance as of now, the question of Chechnya's dependence or independence from Russia. Only one matter is fundamental to us. We will no longer allow this territory to be used as a bridgehead for attack on Russia. We won't allow!
It was in this vein that we discussed this problem with the President. The international community never recognized the independence of Chechnya. We believe that it is a part of the Russian Federation. And think that this situation will remain such, as of now and in the near historical term. And we must, of course, bear the responsibility for what is happening there. Unfortunately, this is connected with big problems of a humanitarian character. We are willing to cooperate with international organizations in solving these humanitarian problems.
We believe that all those who violated the Russian laws should be brought to justice. This also applies to our servicemen and civilians. We draw no distinction, we believe that we must ensure the operation of the law on this territory. This is crucial. We are not going to act so as if we are occupiers. This is our own country and such a style of conduct is counterproductive. We are very well aware of this and we are not going to launch any repressions there. No one needs them. The result will be the reverse of the expected. We don't have to be urged. Are you satisfied as regards just this part?
SUSAN GLASSER: Yes.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are all of us adults, serious people, you are all very experienced persons. But you imagine a different version of behavior on our part, on the part of Russia, after what happened in the period of the attack on Dagestan? Well, does somebody imagine a different version of behavior?
How many times, how many years we tried to establish a dialogue, to agree on something. It is impossible to agree. And there is no one with whom to do the agreeing. For there, as a matter of fact, Maskhadov governed nothing. All of this was divided into separate pieces by areas. A so-called field commander stood at the head of each piece of territory. Simply there's no one to talk to. But, look, I have the responsibility for a vast country. People are being killed each day. I can imagine if that were in any Western country. You would have had an uprising long ago. Our people are yet patient, they bore that so many years.
Now Georgia. We have a complex relationship with Georgia solely on the questions related to the fight against terrorism. We suggested in the past to Shevardnadze that he should allow our troops from the bases which are located on the territory of Georgia to go to the border between Russia and Georgia on the Chechen section and close this border so that gunmen could not move onto the territory of Georgia. He agreed. With him Yeltsin spoke by telephone, and he said: "Yes, I agree. Okay." Yeltsin told him: "Defense Minister Sergeyev will fly to you tomorrow." He says: "Okay. I'm waiting for him." The next morning he phoned Sergeyev and said: "You know, we agreed with Yeltsin that you would arrive. I thought and changed my mind: Don't." To what this led - you know very well.
Georgian authorities now officially say that there are no gunmen there, now agree that they are. But the realities there are clear. People are being stolen there, crimes are occurring continuously. And I assert that in the Pankisi Gorge, in the Akhmeta district there are a large number of gunmen. We know by name all their leaders, and I told Shevardnadze about that. It's easy to learn, they are all the time talking over the phones, we're listening. There is nothing secret here, I will thus say to you. The official authorities of Georgia have actually lost control over this district. I think this is now an internal problem of Georgia.
That was why we were forced to introduce a visa regime. Because it is understandable that from the territory of Georgia in the conditions of a no-visa regime it's very easy for terrorists and bandits to infiltrate into the territory of the Russian Federation. The impression is that the official Georgian authorities have forgotten how terrorists from Chechnya in their time, during the crisis in Abkhazia, played football with Georgians' heads. And things like that, unfortunately, did happen. Although some of the leaders of Georgia say: "We remember that, we know it." I say: "Well, go on knowing it. What use you know it?"
This is in fact the only problem we have in interstate relations. We understand that this problem is for Georgia. And we understand, I do understand, why Shevardnadze, for example, changed his mind. The fact is that very many ethnic Chechens live in that area. And he feared that if our troops moved in there would be some disturbances there, and so on. This danger was there.
But is it now better? This is just the question that takes both trust and courage and joint action. Otherwise there will be no result. This may continue for a very long time. We will strengthen the border, we will reinforce our presence on this border.
What will Georgia do with those terrorists that sit there? On all other questions we have no problems. We conduct not simple, but we do conduct negotiations on the bases and agree on the bases. You know that we are already withdrawing weapons from there. And we will comply with all the agreements on flank restrictions. We are lending real assistance in the economic sphere of Georgia. There is no question which we would refuse to solve with Georgia in the sphere of the economy. They asked us to restructure the debt - we did that immediately. They asked us to help in the sphere of energy - we did that. They asked us to ensure gas supplies - we did it. Moreover, we supply them at prices lower than we do Europe. And lower than those at which we supply gas to Ukraine. We are helping Georgia. You know that approximately 600,000 to 700,000 Georgians have moved from Georgia to Russia. They monthly send 150-200 dollars in cash from Russia to support their families. This is not much. But if you count it up, it turns out to be about a billion dollars. For Georgia that's serious. Moreover, it's money actually for the support of particular persons.
We do not hinder this, we create conditions for these persons. It's jobs that are here occupied, it's support, I repeat, of particular people. We are doing everything to preserve the stability in Georgia.
Now on the media. I think that this will probably be the last question.
You know that ten years have passed since everything radically changed in Russia. Overnight it is impossible to create new qualities in anything, including in the state system, in the psychology, in the operation of the institutions of the state. I think this is the sphere that may be clearer to you than to me.
I will so speak as I understand this, and how I feel it. And you draw your own conclusion: what's right here, and what does not correspond to reality.
At the first stage, when the cardinal changes occurred - the breakup of the Soviet Union - those processes of disintegration, they, of course, affected the Russian Federation itself. This led to certain destructive phenomena of the very state institutions. They became weakened to the lowest limit. The legal system, the system of control - this was all in a very sad state. And it was precisely under these conditions that the process of privatization began. And, of course, there is nothing unusual here - very many people took advantage of this weakened condition of the state, plus the insufficiently perfect rules of privatization. I have already said that the rules themselves were not quite perfect. But in the conditions of the weakening of the institutions of the state conditions were created when these rules too could be violated. And it was difficult to find out generally what had been violated and what not, because they were too complex. Clans were created that took possession of multibillion fortunes, acquired multibillion fortunes. I am not exaggerating. It did involve billions of dollars. And where (in the States, for example) people had built up their fortunes for decades, here in this country some groups became owners of multibillion fortunes within two or three years. Very soon for many of them it was clear that to keep this wealth, to keep such status - they needed to acquire levers of influence on power. The best lever of influence on power, I would even say that this is the lever of blackmail against power, the path of blackmail against power - it is, of course, the mass media. And many of them, national media, also in violation of the operative laws were privatized de facto. Some of them were newly created, but with illegally earned money. Therefore I am deeply convinced that without a free media, we cannot have a normal society, we cannot have a democratic society. But they must indeed be free. They must serve society, and not cater to the interests of particular groups, must not be an instrument of blackmail against power in the process of servicing those economic interests. And not merely servicing the interests, but protecting that semi-criminal condition in which Russia was for a long time. And for the media to be truly free, for this purpose an economic base needs to be created. It is necessary that media should themselves be an effective enterprise, that they should not depend on other economic activities and that they should not be a subordinate part of a more serious economic interest. But this is a complicated process, it takes effort, time, persistent action. I repeat, an economic base needs to be created. And this is what I see as my mission. We will be acting in this direction.
DEBORAH SEWARD (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS): One more short question. I am interested in the quality of the partnership. Do you think that Russia and the United States are now like relatives, or is there some senior partner, junior partner? And a related question. You spoke a lot about the need to preserve the balance, the strategic balance in the world. Do you see the point, or think that it is necessary to restore the bipolarity of the world?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Regarding the junior or senior partner. We generally quite realistically evaluate the situation and the condition in which Russia is. If someone has doubts on that score, I can disappoint them. Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union lost 40 percent of territory, approximately the same percentage of economic potential. We are aware of this.
But I must tell you that a discourse on senior or junior partners, we already went through that in Soviet times. I think that this is the terminology of imperialism. On the international stage all are equal. And those who try to think differently, they very soon encounter problems. Because no one likes imperial ambitions. There is even no need to use cunning to rally people on this issue. Everybody most naturally unites against a potential imperialist. And he who understands this, is in a very advantageous position. But to understand and act in accordance with this understanding is a fairly complicated thing.
Take the meeting of the Europeans in Nice. Germany in its economic potential and influence is a very large European country, it was very successful in Nice. I think precisely by virtue of the understanding that imperial ambitions do not help but hinder, Germany proposed such construction of Europe in which its dominance will not overwhelm the other participants of this process. And the overwhelming majority of the meeting participants turned towards Germany. But for that it was necessary to understand all this and work out a definite strategy.
And, on the contrary, if there had appeared a desire to overwhelm somebody, everything would have collapsed at once. As to Russia, despite the loss of this so considerable potential, we can appraise also our positive aspects, the possibilities of development, the level of science, because the principal level of competition is after all in high technology spheres. Not in production, but precisely in these spheres. And this instills optimism in us. We think that we well be able to upgrade the economy. We think that on this basis we will be able to achieve a definite rate of economic growth and to maintain the level of our defense capability. All this gives us grounds to believe that Russia will occupy a befitting place. As to the bipolar world, I do not think that this is our aim, and will tell you why. Because we have already gone through this. If we have to do with a bipolar world, there begin to accumulate some forces around these poles, there begin some dividing lines again. This is bad. It seems to me that when we speak of a multipolar world, when we no longer draw a distinction, no longer build new "Berlin walls" between states, no longer strive to form blocs, we then do return mankind to normal existence.
ANDREW HIGGINS (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL): Two questions concerning energy and gas, in particular. You have recently appointed your old comrade in arms the head of Gazprom. What task have you set for him? What is he to do? Will he change the very atmosphere, the very climate in Gazprom? Will he investigate and study the questions connected with the assertions that there existed corruption, that the funds used to be misdirected, that there were misuses of funds? Will he try to see that those funds are found and be returned to Gazprom, returned to the state? And the next question, also concerning energy.
Foreign gas companies, oil companies keep on saying that they are ready to invest tens of billions of dollars in Russia, but on condition that they will at last get understandable and trustworthy conditions under production sharing agreements. Such efforts to adopt this law in an acceptable form have been made, in particular, last September, but those efforts got somewhere stuck in the bureaucratic mechanism. Are there intentions to resume these efforts now so as to carry this matter through?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Right away the question connected with corruption and with the money that disappeared no one knows where. I will begin with this. We know that enormous money was spent for other than designated purposes. One of them is well known to all: it was Mr. Gusinsky who received almost a billion dollars and did not pay them back, nor is going to. There he is running between Israel and Washington and feeling good, and buying groups of influence in the United States in order to carry out, to launch activities against us. Let him pay back the money. There are many other questions of this kind. But this is not a part of Miller's task, of course - this is the job for law enforcement agencies. He is not to engage in police functions. But a complex task faces him. First, to ensure the interests of the state in this company, to gather everything that rightfully belongs to the state, to make the activities of the company, above all its financial activity, absolutely transparent for all the shareholders, including minority shareholders. We must sort out the financial liabilities of the company. Of course, we must take care of the fulfillment of our obligations to our foreign partners and within the country. We must understand that the gas industry should function in normal market conditions, because this is a commodity and it must have a real price. And this price must not differ considerably from foreign. But, of course, we have no possibility of doing this overnight, all of this must be in line with the growth of the economy and the purchasing power of the population. We must on this basis ensure the development of new deposits and access to the pipeline system for all those who want to work in this sphere.
Now on PSAs, production sharing agreements. You know that I regularly meet with leaders of Russian business. Of course, some plans of the Russian Government in this sphere make them cautious and I think it would be incorrect not to listen to them. And their thesis is simple. They say: "Well, if you give foreign investors some favorable terms, say, on taxes, why are we worse? Then we will not invest as Russian legal entities. Then we also will come, but as foreign." So what is the point for us then? There is only one point: the development of oil or gas deposits under a normal tax regime. This regime must be the most favorable and liberal. And we have now outlined a whole variety of steps in this direction. What privileges the companies can and should receive that must spend considerable amounts of money, make great investments in the conditions of a certain commercial risk.
What do I mean? Say, we have proven reserves and deposits, about which everything is clear: what size, how much needs to be invested and what the returns will be. But under these conditions, of course, it is necessary to use a universal common standard. And if a firm comes to not very explored areas, the investments have to be rather big, and the returns are not yet quite clear, they run a risk. Then, of course, we must grant favorable terms. And, of course, we cannot place our national market participants in worse conditions than those foreign. The terms for production sharing must be universal, they must be accessible to Russian entrepreneurs as well. Enough? Are you satisfied?
CHRISTIAN CARYL: Mr. President, we asked you very many technically difficult questions, perhaps the following is a more personal question: You have many times said that you were very proud of having worked in the state security bodies of the USSR, haven't you? And as you know, for the Western public this is very difficult to understand.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: What?
CHRISTIAN CARYL: No, I presume that you know that we, Western journalists, are constantly saying: "Mr. Putin, he was in the KGB. Scary."
VLADIMIR PUTIN: When I spoke with Kissinger and told him where I had worked, he pondered and then said: "All decent people start out in intelligence. I did too." Therefore what causes your so special interest, is not very clear to me. Particularly since the 41st President of the United States also, I think, was not working in a laundry, he headed the Central Intelligence Agency.
CHRISTIAN CARYL: Without condemnation is this! What in this training, in this professional training and in this experience influences you today and helps you direct the country in such conditions of a very, shall we say, unstable situation?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know very much can be said, one can go deep into details, but the most important thing is the experience of work with people. With people absolutely different: with journalists, with scientists, with politicians, simply with ordinary people who can for some reason or other be interesting to a specialist. In order to effectively work with people, one has to know how to establish a dialogue, contact, it is necessary to activate everything the best that there is in your partner. If you want to achieve the result, it is necessary to respect your partner. And to respect means to acknowledge that he in some respects is better than yourself. You have to make the person an ally, to make the person feel that there is something common that unites you with him, that he and you have common aims. This is the skill that perhaps is the most important one and far from the least, of course, in international affairs, and first and foremost, the skill for work within the country. Now you do know what was happening in our Duma when the Land Code was being adopted at a first reading. Things came to blows, and, as I was told, one deputy during this fight broke another's nose. That is, the degree of tension was extremely great. And this despite the fact that I had met with the leaders of the factions before that on this question, we had discussed it in the State Council. By and large, with the difference in approaches, all had agreed, and nevertheless this led to such a serious, I would say, test, to such a serious clash. Simply the degree of intensity of the political life in Russia was very high.
So now much is being said about the consolidation being observed in our country, and that's true. But I want to tell you, and the latest events in the Duma show that this does not come easy, it requires a lot of strenuous effort. I think that just this is the most important thing. Of course, speaking more substantively, it is country studies, it is an ability to work with a large amount of information, it's a skill that in analytical services, in security agencies is being cultivated, the skill to pick the most important items out of the huge flow of information, process them and use efficiently. Well, in my opinion - still, the basic thing. At different times it was, of course, different, but at the time when I worked in the foreign intelligence bodies of the Soviet Union, as you understand, that was already on the threshold of the perestroika, I saw nothing there that would remind me of any repressions, there was nothing common with this. In the foreign intelligence service already at that time there prevailed such a spirit of fronde, because the people for the most part spent all their conscious professional life abroad, saw everything with their own eyes and could upon return to the country (and the rule was - 3, 4 ,5 years abroad, and then home, for brainwashing in the Soviet Union, and then again back) to compare what was occurring in the real normal life there, abroad, and what was occurring in the Union.
And so now I come up to the most important thing. Despite this, the security bodies, the intelligence service nevertheless cultivated the most important thing - it's patriotism and a love of the Motherland.
CHRISTIAN CARYL: Thank you.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thank you, very much.