“Next EU-Russia summits will take place according to the new rules”
RT: In his address during this year’s APEC summit in Singapore, President Medvedev said that Russia has serious plans for becoming a global financial center. Does this mean that the country’s leadership has fully adopted the world crisis and has real and effective ways of coming out of it?
Natalia Timakova: The idea that Moscow, St Petersburg, or some other large city in Russia would become a new financial center, came into being awhile ago, before the world financial crisis. Of course, this year the idea has not been very popular, because it was hard enough to keep the old financial centers going, let alone create new ones. Now, when the leaders of APEC countries got together and stated the fact that there are different signs of improvement in the economic situation – signs of coming out of the financial crisis – the questions are how we are going to live after the crisis, what lessons should be learned.
Most importantly, we need to figure out what new things could be done for our economy, which is part of the global economy, so that this will not happen again. That is why the idea of having a financial center in Russia is being revived, because, first of all, the President has mentioned it a number of times. The financial crisis showed us that one currency, even if it is as strong as the American dollar, cannot keep the global economy stable. The more strong currencies we have, like the euro for example, or maybe the yuan or the ruble, the more stable the situation is going to be.
In this sense, our suggestion to make the ruble one such currency has been seriously discussed not only at the recent APEC summit, but also at the BRIC and SCO summits. This idea is supported by many leaders, and I think that now, looking at the positive trends in the economy, it is time to go back to the idea, there is potential there.
RT: This year’s APEC summit in Singapore was mainly concentrated on tackling the global financial crisis. Doesn’t that mean that this summit was more important for economically than it was politically?
NT: Well, all the summits that took place this year, not just the APEC summit, but also the G-20 summit and even the G-8 summit, which has always been a political event, focused on finding ways out of the financial crisis. This agenda overshadowed all other agendas.
Nevertheless, the Asia-Pacific region has a lot of its own problems, including political ones. Russia could play a very important role in solving them. So I would say that the main focus was the economy, finding ways out of the financial crisis, dealing with consequences of the crisis, restoration of economy, consumer growth and finding new markets, including among APEC countries. But I think the political aspect was very significant as well, because it is a unique region with its own leaders, political problems that needed to be solved. So economy dominated, but politics were just as important.
RT: On the sidelines of the APEC summit President Medvedev met with Barack Obama and there has been talk that relations are improving between Russia and the US and we have seen evidence of this. However, what are the remaining stumbling blocks between the two countries?
NT: The situation is quite unique at the moment. If you look at the last 10 years in the relations between Russia and America, every meeting between the two Presidents – I will remind you, this was their fourth meeting this year – has marked serious advances in Russian-American relations. So far the agenda is limited, since the main topic remains the new START treaty. Nevertheless, the Presidents are faced with more and more new topics, new issues in the bilateral relations and international problems.
First of all, the Iranian problem. The presidents talked a lot about it at their meeting in New York and again in Singapore. The Iranian problem concerns all countries, including Russia. Russia, along with its Western partners, took a strong stand – Iran should disclose all the details of its nuclear program, especially because of the construction of the new plant.
So I wouldn't talk about problems that are still there, because of course there are disagreements. Both Presidents talked about it after the meeting. Disagreements do not mean stalling of relations. The important thing is that we have a dialogue, the Presidents are open with each other, they discuss existing problems in detail, looking for solutions together.
So I think now Russian-American relations had a good jump start, we have every reason to think that, first of all, work on the Treaty will be successful. At least both Presidents said after the meeting that they are ready to agree on the main points of the Treaty by the end of the year.
Besides, I hope our co-operation in such difficult areas as the Iranian nuclear dossier, the North Korean nuclear problem, the Middle East settlements – all the problems the solution of which depends on the two countries will be addressed.
RT: Let’s talk a little bit about the recent Russia-EU summit in Stockholm. During the summit, the EU said it fully supports Russia’s bid to join WTO. What is it really going to take to get Russia in to the World Trade Organization?
NT: This is up to our partners at the WTO, because not only did we voice our readiness many years ago, but have done a lot to comply with the rules the WTO requires from its members. We have been regularly performing more than half of the rules.
We have to admit that the common idea, as President Dmitry Medvedev told a news conference of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, that ascension to the WTO by the Customs Union, boosted interest among our Western partners to Russia’s joining the WTO. It seems like they themselves are expecting this.
We have expressed our stance more than once – we want to join the WTO and are waiting for an adequate understanding from our partners on whom this decision really
RT: President Medvedev said that the next EU-Russia summits will take place according to the new rules. How will the relationships between Russia and the EU change under the Lisbon Treaty?
NT: It’s a question of changing the form of contact first of all. Now that the EU has its first president and foreign minister, this will change the format but not the contents of the relationship. Recent summits have been characterized by a positive atmosphere and aspirations to jointly solve the existing problems, first of all to conclude an agreement on interaction between Russia and the EU.
We do hope the new EU leadership and new officials will help develop Russia-EU relations – at least the president said so at the concluding news conference: disregarding who and how they will rule in Europe, it’s absolutely obvious that Europe needs Russia as a partner, so does Russia. In any case we really hope this positive progress will continue, no matter what the posts of officials we talk to are called.
RT: About domestic policies. In his recent address to Russia’s Federal Assembly, Dmitry Medvedev offered a number of solutions in the country’s grassroots problems. Do you think that Russians are ready for the kind of modernization the President was talking about?
NT: No doubt the president is aware of all the complexities of the problem, not only with the economy being not ready for modernization, the bureaucracy not ready to accept the goals of modernization, as well as business not ready to join the process. You’re right by saying there is also a psychological aspect in that.
However, as the president presented these ideas in detail, also in his “Go, Russia!” article and his recent State-of-Nation Address – without changing psychology and one’s own concept about ways the economy should develop life in Russia, we’ll not be able to occupy the place we deserve in the new global world. It’s absolutely obvious. And it was the chief theme of his Address, that in order to preserve the leading positions Russia [still] has – as it is indispensable not only to preserve them, but also to improve them – all of us must change, become more active, more competitive and be more aware of our personal responsibility and initiatives of us, the citizens of this country.