Dmitry Medvedev’s interview with Japanese media

President Dmitry Medvedev has mapped out his vision of Russia’s role in the world in a question-and-answer session with foreign journalists ahead of next week’s G8 summit.

D. MEDVEDEV: I’ve been giving many interviews ahead of the G8 summit. Earlier today, I met your colleagues. As I understand, you have had a good opportunity to prepare your questions – and I am ready to answer them.

A. HIDEO: Mr Medvedev, Russia is rapidly returning to global politics and the world economy. You are going to visit our country soon to participate in the G-8 summit. It will discuss how to counteract global challenges, such as the food crisis, energy security and global warming. What is Russia’s stance on all these problems and what concrete steps and proposals are you planning to submit to the G8 summit?

D. MEDVEDEV: Our position on global challenges is by and large clear. They should be handled with joint effort. Not a single state is capable of coping with these challenges on its own, no matter how strong, powerful and influential it might be. Therefore, global challenges call for global answers. In this sense, the G8 summit will just offer an opportunity to the leaders of the world’s biggest countries to agree on their stances and work out recommendations to overcome these problems.

All the problems you've mentioned are posing a threat to humanity. If we take the climate, for example, it’s absolutely clear that mankind has by now reached a point when difficult and irreversible processes can occur in climate change, if a certain line is stepped over. Our task is not only to ensure a normal life for today, but also to think about future generations. Therefore, problems related to climate and the environment were in the spotlight some time ago and they are still the centre of attention.

Naturally, we should take a balanced approach to this problem. We should be concerned not only with how to physically cut gas emissions into the atmosphere and decrease the greenhouse effect but also with how to build a program for the future. This definitely creates the most difficulties because every country tackles its climatic problems in its own way. Far from all countries take part in vital instruments such as the Kyoto process. And if we think about a post-Kyoto period, including a period extending beyond 2012, we should base our stances on the conviction that the future should be provided by all the leading world economies. It is only in this way that we are going to succeed. In our situation, we simply cannot afford to divide economies and countries. We should seek the reduction of emissions through joint efforts. The opposite will be counter-productive.

Food security is another global challenge. It’s a very complicated matter, but it was not initially included in the agreed agenda for discussion at the summit in Hokkaido.

First, the problem consists in the fact that, today, some countries have excessive production of food while other states suffer from food shortages. Second, there have been sharp, massive increases in prices for separate food products. Various reasons have been named, but most analysts agree that a wrong decision was made to use a considerable part of arable lands exclusively for the production of biological fuel. The use of genetically-modified products in cases when that could have been avoided, the advancement of these genetically-modified products in global markets and increased food consumption in many countries also contributed to the food crisis. 

Responses to this are also evident. More food should be produced; under some circumstances direct aid should be provided for countries that are worst-hit, and international regulation in this sphere should be changed.

The third big problem is the world financial crisis. It’s clear that the existing system of regulation that was created in previous years turned out to be unprepared to match globally, the hardships of the world financial markets. A process that started in one country spread pretty fast to other countries, creating problems with cash, liquidity, inflation and several major mortgage schemes.

Several conclusions can be drawn. First, a new architecture of financial relations is necessary. A new system or even organisations may be necessary to regulate financial processes on an international scale. Second, supporting only one world currency is not enough. Several reserve world – and even regional – currencies should be developed so that the world economy is not so badly-affected by the weak dollar, and is balanced by other world currencies.

And finally, it’s what I’ve been talking about. Economic egoism is absolutely unacceptable is such relations. The world’s leading players should take a reasonable stance. They shouldn’t be confined to the borders of their respective countries. They should understand what consequences their behaviour might have for the entire world financial and economic systems. This is a subject for international talks.

I am going to discuss all these issues with my G8 partners.

M. Tosiaki: Mr. President, thank-you for the reception.

There is an opinion in Japan that the absence of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan hampers the advancement of Japanese investments and companies to Russia.  What actions should Russia and Japan take in compliance with agreements existing between the two countries, including the 1956 joint Declaration signed by the USSR and Japan and the 1993 Tokyo Declaration?

D. MEDVEDEV: Thank-you. You know that the absence of an appropriate treaty and the unresolved border problem are certainly hindering our relations. But we should neither exaggerate nor forget this problem. It should occupy a reasonable place in our relations. What does this mean? The past few years have seen good development of our economic ties. The reciprocal trade turnover has increased to more than $20 billion. Investments grew immensely and huge credits were issued for major projects. For instance, the recent decision to allocate $5 billion for the Sakhalin-2 project, as well as many other important subjects. This can only make us both happy. It shows what a high potential Russia and Japan have for developing their economic ties. 

Human and social contacts and cultural and humanitarian projects have also developed. That sounds great. It’s very interesting. Just yesterday, I visited an exhibition on the history of Japan in the times of the Samurai. The exposition is on display in the Moscow Kremlin. It is interesting and useful.

As far as the border problem and the absence of an appropriate treaty are concerned, we have a legal framework for considering these issues. These topics cannot be considered quickly but the main thing is not to overstrain the situation and – what’s more important – a positive background should be created for the discussion of these problems.

Any attempts to leap forward usually throw us back. Therefore, we should discuss this problem calmly and, let me say again, with positive impulses for making progress on the basis of the existing declarations which You have just named. This is exactly how I am going to act and that was exactly the subject of my meeting with Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Fukuda.

A. HIDEO: Could I clarify something on the food crisis?

D. MEDVEDEV: Yes, of course. You are welcome.

A. HIDEO: Has Russia, which exports food, wheat, etc, taken any steps to …ease the crisis?

My second question is about peace and security. The thing is that they are extremely urgent now. They include nuclear non-proliferation around the world, the North Korean nuclear dossier, the U.S. anti-missile defence system in Europe and NATO’s enlargement to Russia’s borders. All of these issues are very important to us. It’s clear that the interests of many countries, including Russia and Japan, are intertwined.

In this connection, it would be vitally important to hear the Russian leader’s opinion on these issues. What should be known to remove concerns and overcome existing differences? What’s your vision of a solution to these problems and does it fully coincide with how your predecessor – Mr. Vladimir Putin – looked at those problems?

D. MEDVEDEV: Let me start with food security. We are constantly passing decisions on how to help and support countries which have been stricken by droughts or suffered from food shortages. They are countries both geographically-close and foreign states, including African countries. Besides, this support is based on the same global decisions which we make. In recent years, we’ve slashed more than $16 billion worth of debts predominantly to African, and to some other, countries. It’s natural that the lifting of such a burden – the debt burden – helps resolve the current financial and food problems.

Besides, I think that the summit and the other forums that will follow will consider measures to support the worst-stricken countries – countries which experience obvious food shortages in general. These decisions will be targeted. We think that it would be correct to work in co-operation with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). But other options are also possible.

As for the second question, today there are a lot of international problems that aggrieve us and which require constant consultation with our partners. Some of these problems didn’t appear overnight, while some of them have emerged quite recently.

I’ll start with the North Korean nuclear program. This problem has been a source of concern for all of us for a long time. It may be an example of how certain conditions, the existence of good will and, in my view, effective international brokerage can help either to remove or substantially facilitate a problem. The recent consultations involving all parties concerned showed that there was progress in this direction. Our Korean partners, with whom we are conducting a dialogue, have undertaken several encouraging steps, including the dismantling of several nuclear facilities. I think that a system of positive incentives should be applied to motivate, in full measure, so that states like North Korea can act in the right way. We are ready to continue participating in this process. 

We fulfil our commitments on this issue seriously and to the last detail. We supply oil fuel to consumers in Korea – the Korean People’s Democratic Republic – under the existing agreements. 

I think that other participants in the talks are also fulfilling their obligations. In other words, I think that definite, positive changes are clearly obvious. This inspires hope for a favourable solution of the situation in the Korean peninsula. This can serve as an example of how such a problem is, as I see it, moving in the right direction towards eventual solution.

There are other direct challenges facing Russia, and the situation there is unfolding in the opposite way. By this, I'm referring to what You’ve been talking about – the creation of the third position area of the anti-missile defence system in Europe, the updated or adapted version of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFT) and several other programs that are currently being implemented against Russia’s interests. I cannot forget to mention NATO’s general policy towards expansion because all these decisions are not strengthening security in Europe. On the contrary, they create tensions and additional problems.

We are not exerting any additional efforts or going off into hysterics over all these developments. We simply tell our partners openly that it’s not the way to strengthen the situation in Europe. It would be much better to begin creating a new legal framework for safeguarding security in Europe including, through convening a big European summit and consequently through conclusion of a European Security Pact, that will involve all European countries as well as blocs and organisations that are not part of any particular group. It is much better than creating third, fourth or fifth firing position areas for anti-missile defence systems.

And even if we are to deal with anti-missile defences, we had better do it jointly rather than by building separate and exclusive relations with separate European countries. Global security in Europe and elsewhere in the world can be provided only if a joint system of monitoring and responding to the existing challenges and regional dangers is created. We are ready for such negotiations.

A thing like foreign policy is built for years ahead. It shouldn’t depend on the tastes and preferences of one person, even if the talk is about the president. As far as the predictability and consistency of our policy is concerned, nothing is likely to change here. And it is absolutely clear that our foreign policy will remain as pragmatic, predictable and aimed at protection of Russian interests as it was under my predecessor – President Putin.

M. TOSIAKI: Mr. Medvedev, if we speak about Russian-Japanese co-operation, we will see that opportunities for interaction in atomic energy look particularly promising. What do you think about that? Is it possible that a Russian-Japanese inter-governmental agreement on peaceful use of atomic energy will be signed at the G8 summit in Hokkaido? Thank you.

D. MEDVEDEV: Thank you. This co-operation is certainly vitally important. It’s a very important area of our reciprocal interests, especially in conditions when all of us are concerned with future energy security. This will also be one of the topics at the G8 summit. Nuclear energy and nuclear power engineering are promising areas. We have good relations in this sphere. An appropriate group is holding a meeting at the moment. A regular plenary session has recently been held. An inter-governmental agreement on this subject is being drafted.

I believe that the document is being prepared but I don’t think that we will be able to sign it prior to the summit or my visit. I wish that could happen as soon as possible. The most important thing is to draft a document of good quality meant for years of co-operation. I think that both the Japanese partners and the Russian structures concerned are interested in it. I am quite optimistic about that.

I would like to convey to your readers and viewers my warmest wishes of success and good health!

I am looking forward to my trip to Japan. I believe it’s going to be useful for our bilateral relations and I am sure that the global problems which we’ve just discussed together will feature high during the summit.

Thank you.