Medvedev’s relaxed and embarrassing meeting with London students

After the G20 summit in London on Thursday the Russian President headed for the London School of Economics and Political Science for an informal meeting with its students.

Despite the seriousness of subjects treated, it did pass in a relaxed and friendly way, with outbursts of laughter and applause.

The tone was given by LSE’s Director Howard Davies who opened the meeting in Russian. After a few remarks, he switched to English saying he expected the audience be pleased with that. In his native language he recalled his stay in a pioneer camp near St. Petersburg “where they might have met.”

Starting with the results of the summit, Dmitry Medvedev greeted the agreements achieved between the leaders.

“Today we agreed on the implementation of the major program of aid to the world economy: we arranged on the replenishment of resources of the International Monetary Fund in an unprecedented volume for the crisis-affected states and their peoples, notably in combination with serious reforming of the international organizations,” the Russian president said.

Calls for pan-European security body

Among the LSE alumni there are 28 former and incumbent heads of states and 30 MPs. Since its foundation in 1895, thirteen have become Nobel Prize winners. It was only natural that the Russian leader shared with the students his view of Europe’s future.

Medvedev said Europe needs a UN-type security organization, although this does not mean the existing structures such as NATO and OSCE are no longer viable.

Addressing possible objections, he added:

“A hundred years ago the United Nations Organization also seemed unbelievable. However, today it is the only existing universal organization in the world. If we agree on basic principles, such an organization may be efficient for Europe.”

He stressed, though, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe do remain major discussion and decision-making forums.

As for European energy security, Medvedev called to replace the existing Energy Charter as failing to protect the interests of suppliers.

“I spoke to my counterparts from the UK and Germany, and I hope a document will be drafted shortly to reflect all aspects of energy security,” he said.

Supranational currency

Ahead of G20 Russia came up with the idea of supranational reserve currency as a means to deal with the global financial crisis. Although its proposal has not been found its way into the G20 communiqué, Medvedev announced Moscow will press on the idea.

Missiles in Europe

Since US President Barack Obama came into power, there has been a gradual change in rhetoric between the two countries, notably on the issues that have long been stumbling blocks: American plans to deploy anti-missile defense system in Europe and NATO expansion.

Medvedev said there is a good chance Russia may not have to place Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Region in response to the US missile shield in Europe.

“We had a talk on this issue with the US president. At least I can say that today the US has a desire to listen to our argument. They are not trying to cut off [talks] and say that the decision has already been made," the Russian president noted.

Medvedev vs. anti-globalists

After the protocol speech it was the Q&A session that was the most interesting and animated part. It


AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov
turned out, for instance, that President Medvedev dislikes anti-globalists. Not them personally, but for the way they behave.

“How did the London protests affect you and President Obama?” asked one student.

“Well, I have to call him to ask if he was affected at all,” was the answer.

“Apparently the route of my travel was planned in such a way that I met nobody," Medvedev said. “I don't like it when they attack banks. I grew up in a country that had many revolutions. But after all, people should have the right to protest.”

‘Embarrassing’ ending

The meeting ended on the same light note as it began. School director Howard Davies presented President Medvedev a cap with their logo – “an embarrassing tradition that began when Nelson Mandela was here.” To everyone’s delight Medvedev tried it on amid ovations. He kept it on for the reporters to take the necessary pictures, but he was quick to take it off. The students might have probably been more pleased to see him walking out of the room in the cap, but kept their countenance.