Too soon to discuss Russia’s next president – Putin
Q: Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you very much for meeting with us. On Thursday and Friday, you will be in France. Is your decision to buy a helicopter carrier final? Would you say it’s a new stage in cooperation between France and Russia?
A: You can tell that we have not yet fully come out of the global economic and financial crisis. That’s why the people of France and the French media are so eager to know whether we will buy the Mistral or not. It’s a good deal for French manufacturers. One costs about 300 million euros. We would be interested in the deal, if we got the technology together with the vessel. We want to stimulate the technological development of our shipbuilding industry – I mean both military and civilian shipbuilding.
For example, our two countries have good cooperation in aircraft manufacturing. Our French partners are designing an engine for our modern civilian aircraft the SuperJet 100. Last year, I visited an aircraft manufacturing facility in Russia’s Far East. It is very far from France, but you can hear French spoken there. French specialists are right there, helping to finalize the design.
With the Mistral, of course, it’s primarily up to the General Staff to decide how to use it, where to use it, and where to manufacture various components. I repeat, it is very important to us how much of it will be manufactured by Russian companies, and what components specifically will be manufactured in Russia. There are many questions pending, and I’d like to emphasize that we haven’t thoroughly discussed this issue at the expert level. We need to start this process, and we’ll see how it goes.
But on the whole, as you know, Russia’s defense industry is well-developed. Russia is one of the world’s top arms producers. And just like in any other area, it is good to exchange expertise, exchange technology, and exchange the goods this industry produces. This is particularly true with hi-tech production. That’s the first aspect.
The second aspect is, when countries cooperate in such a sensitive area as the military industry, this definitely helps build confidence between them. And I believe this second aspect is no less important than the first, than the purely economic and technological one.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Russia’s plans to buy the Mistral have alarmed some of your neighbours. Could you please comment on that?
A: I believe they are alarmed because they think Russia may use this ship to harm their interests. This is an offensive weapon. Does the French Army have such helicopters? Yes, it does. Does France plan to attack anybody? No. Why do you think Russia would attack somebody with these weapons?
Let’s put the cards on the table. I think you’re talking about Georgia. Georgia has a very long land border with Russia. Two years ago, President Saakashvili launched a criminal operation, which resulted in numerous casualties. Russia had to protect the lives of its peacekeepers and of the South Ossetian people. We were forced —I’d like to emphasize that—forced to use our Armed Forces for this purpose. We stopped 20 or 15 kilometers outside Tbilisi—not because we couldn’t enter Tbilisi but because we didn’t want to. We wanted to avoid a military conflict altogether. That’s why we had our peacekeepers there.
You know, that’s not the kind of situation where we should use things like the Mistral. I sincerely hope there will never be another armed conflict between Russia and Georgia. We did all we could to avoid one in the past, and we will do all we can to avoid a similar tragedy in the future. But if we have to, with our modern systems we can hit targets anywhere in Georgia from our territory, and we don’t need the Mistral for this.
Q: Staying on the subject of relations between France and Russia, I’d like to ask you: what kind of relationship do you have with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, considering that you have been friends with Jacques Chirac for many years?
A: My personal relationship with Sarkozy is very warm and friendly. You can even say we’re friends. But, in principle, I’d like to say that relationships between national leaders are based not only on personal likes and dislikes. In fact, this is not the main factor. The main factor is national interests. And Russia and France have been partners for many, many years. France and Russia have common, overlapping interests. We pursue those interests together in order to strengthen our defense, our security, and to develop economically and socially.
I’m convinced that it is those considerations that are at the core of our relationship with French leaders: Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy, and the French Prime Minister, Mr. Fillon. It’s just that I worked together with Mr. Chirac for a longer time, and naturally we had more contacts. He’s a very interesting person, a really interesting person. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of many areas. I’d like to emphasize this, and this is not an exaggeration. Every time we met, in whatever format—I mean the G8 and other forums—he always was in the spotlight. And that was not because he conducted himself in some special way. That was because he is so knowledgeable and he was always ready for a deep discussion of whatever issue we had on our agenda.
As for the current leaders of France, I don’t have as much experience of working with them, but I can certainly say that the very warm and friendly relationship we enjoyed with the former French president, Mr. Chirac, definitely received a continuation with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Fillon. We treasure this relationship very much, and I expect that it will continue.
Q: Ten days ago, Israel and Gaza once again found themselves in the spotlight of world attention. Is Russia demanding the immediate lifting of the blockade?
A: We’ve always wanted the blockade to be lifted. I don’t think such methods will help find an effective solution to the region’s problems. Unfortunately, we’ve faced similar dramatic events and ordeals at home, inside Russia. I firmly believe that such methods are not the way to solve the region’s problems. I am not talking about methods which could lead to a solution – we definitely cannot solve problems this way. As for the attack on the humanitarian convoy, you know our position: Russia’s permanent Ambassador to the United Nations formulated it quite clearly. We’ve condemned what happened and we are grieving for the victims. But what’s particularly tragic is that sssd convoy came under attack in neutral waters. This is a new development, which, certainly, needs to be given closer consideration. Every effort should be exerted to prevent the recurrence of such things. Though we’ve always believed, and I stress it once again, that people living in this region, including the Israelis, have the right to their own secure development. But in the light of the latest tragic events, what means should be used to solve this problem, and how this aim should be pursued, is a question which should be considered a separate issue, to be discussed separately.
Q: You are calling for an international investigation into the tragic events. But what do you think about Iran’s initiative? Is it escalation or provocation? What do you think?
A: I wouldn’t like to make any suggestions here or accuse anybody, but we all know about Iran’s attitude towards Israel. This attitude alone is a source of concern, because Israel is a state recognized by the international community, and it’s inadmissible to openly speak about the need to destroy a country which is a United Nations member. Sadly, this is what’s taking place now, and we indeed hear such calls. It will certainly be hard for our Iranian partners to put forward any initiatives if they are sticking to this position. But I don’t think that I should comment on anybody’s position. You should ask the President of Iran to do that.
Q: Do you think that we should consider sanctions against Israel, or should such sanctions never be considered?
A: Well, you know about our cautious attitude to sanctions against Iran. Generally speaking, I don’t consider sanctions to be a very effective method. We should seek to find acceptable solutions that would suit all those involved, and in this context Israel is no exception. We should search for ways of solving the problem, rather than trying to put pressure on one of the sides through sanctions. International practice knows how these sanctions work. And what do we see? Do you know a single case when sanctions have been effective? For ethical reasons, I am not going to recall all the things that are going on in the world, but sanctions are applied only to the thorniest and most urgent problems. But the dogs bark while the caravan keeps going. Sanctions have largely been ineffective. We need to know how to find the right solutions.
Q: What’s your attitude towards Iran, has your position got tougher? Can we say that Russia is ready to vote for new sanctions against Iran together with the United States?
A: Not so long ago, President Medvedev said that a consensus had practically been reached on a new resolution. We’ve always cooperated on Iran’s nuclear program with all our international partners. We’ve always succeeded in reaching a consensus. This time our position remains virtually unchanged. We are ready to search for a solution on Iran’s nuclear program, and we will move forward on this path together. In doing so, we will first and foremost urge the Iranian leadership to take a stance that would remove the international community’s concerns over the country’s nuclear program.
Q: When you showed this new readiness to accept sanctions, Iran’s reaction was rather tough. Iran described Russia’s actions as unacceptable. How do you regard this gesture by Iran?
A: The international community is trying to exert influence on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian leadership is defending its position. I don’t see anything unusual here. I think that this is an understandable reaction, but I do hope that this discussion, including a public debate, will help find forms of interaction with Iran that neither the Iranian leaders nor – even more importantly – the people of Iran feel that their right to work in hi-tech fields, including the nuclear sphere, is being infringed. At the same time, Iran’s neighbors shouldn’t experience any concerns about the basis of this program. These questions should be removed. For our part, we’ve offered several solutions, but Iran has unfortunately turned down all of them. We regret that. We think they would have helped the situation. I mean our proposals to enrich uranium in Russia, to set up a uranium enrichment centre in Russia and supply the nuclear fuel necessary for the development of the nuclear power industry to Iran’s atomic power stations. We’ve been open with Iran, and we have our own stance. As you may know, it’s Russia, and no other country, that is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr. It’s nearly completed. But that doesn’t prevent us from working with other international parties on those areas of Iran’s nuclear program which have become a source of concern.
Q: The IAEA chief has suggested that France, the United States and Russia send their monitors to Iran so that they could give an answer to this question.
A: Well, this needs to be coordinated with the Iranian leadership, but IAEA experts are in fact present at all nuclear facilities in Iran, including a nuclear research reactor in Tehran. The program is, in principle, under control, but the IAEA is still waiting for answers to some of its questions. But if the IAEA thinks that Russia, France and the United States should send additional monitors, we could consider this. No solutions should be imposed on Iran. Iran itself should be interested in making its program as transparent as possible. Iran’s leader has always assured me personally and other partners in Europe and America that our concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program are groundless, and that there’s nothing to fear. But if this is so, then they should open up their program so as to show that there’s nothing terrible about it. In this sense, I am confident that additional measures aimed at increasing this transparency will be useful. What are these measures? This is a different question. Perhaps, we could consider a proposal from the IAEA head. We should think about that.
Q: Why are you not closing the door for Iran to avoid these sanctions?
A: I didn’t get your question. What do you mean? We have always been convinced that we should follow this path of sanctions in a way that would enable Iran not to evade, but to avoid sanctions by taking the necessary steps towards the world community. We’ve always based our policy on this principle. We’ve always proceeded from the fact that it’s impossible to undertake radical and ill-conceived steps that will shut the door and lead to consequences that won’t leave a way out. Can you imagine a situation where there’s no control by the international community or the IAEA? Will it be better? And what is to be done then? Using force is not an option. This would simply lead to tragedy without any positive results in solving a problem, which we’re trying to solve because one can only guess what’s going to happen with Iran’s nuclear program. But the consequences like the radicalization of the Islamic world, and destabilization of the region would be catastrophic.
Q: Sanctions have been imposed on North Korea. Do you think similar sanctions may be introduced against Iran’s nuclear programme?
A: That’s what I’ve been trying to say or to hint at least. Well, the sanctions are being applied to North Korea, but its nuclear programme keeps developing. Moreover, at some stage the North Korean leadership announced that the country possesses nuclear weapons. And what do we have? What are these sanctions worth? But we made quite significant progress when we managed to agree on a six-way format and secure North Korean interests, particularly in the economic sphere. In fact, the North Korean leadership said it was ready to stop its nuclear weapons programme. In other words, this case which makes it clear and obvious that peaceful agreements are possible even in such a complicated and sensitive sphere as nuclear proliferation if the interests of all the parties concerned are taken into consideration.
Q: Several months ago, there was a crisis of trust in the euro zone. Russia keeps much of its reserves, about 40%, in euros. Do you still believe in the euro? Do you trust it?
A: We trust it, and we believe in it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t keep so much of our reserves in the European currency.
Yes, there are problems. I won’t go into the reasons for these problems; European leaders speak a lot about this, and what they say makes sense. Generally, I agree with what they say. You need more discipline; you need to monitor budget deficits—there are a lot of things you need to do. Perhaps, you need to revise currency regulations and make them uniform for all EU members. At least, they should be as close as possible.
But on the whole the foundation of the European economy is pretty strong. Some nations, like Germany and France, are clearly more stable than others. And nobody wants the European Union to fall apart. I think Ms. Merkel is right: if there is no euro, there will be no European Union. Or it will become something different, even if it is still called the European Union.
Many generations worked hard to produce the European Union. Much work went into it. And I am convinced that it is an absolutely positive process. It is good for the whole world, it is good for the world economy, and it is good for global security. So, nobody is interested in tearing down the EU.
And, in fact, I don’t think there are objective reasons for the euro to fall. Yes, there are difficulties, but I’m sure they are temporary. Yes, the European Central Bank will have to print a few more bills; but there’s nothing you can do about that. The European Central Bank announced that it would buy up government bonds. How will they pay for them? Naturally, most of the money will come from printing more bills.
But given the fact that the EU market is so large, 300 million people, and many countries use the euro as a reserve currency, I don’t think if they print a few more euros this will have a very negative effect on the European economy. And anyway, the EU has reserves, so they can use their reserves, after all. So, on the whole, what the European economic authorities are now doing is totally right and proper.
And this shows once again that we have no second thoughts about using the euro as a reserve currency— keeping part of our reserves in it.
Q: How did the crisis affect the Russian economy? Do you expect your economy to grow in 2010?
A: Yes, of course. We’re already seeing this happening.
First of all, the downturn was substantial and painful. This has to do with the structure of the Russian economy. It needs to be diversified. That’s obvious. We’ve been talking about this for five years. But our economy has been developing like this for decades, and it’s practically impossible to change its structure overnight. What makes it even more difficult is that our natural resources, such as metal, chemical resources and hydrocarbons, are in much demand on world markets. Naturally, investors tend to invest in the industries where they can make more money and make it more quickly. That’s the structure of the Russian economy. So, when prices for these materials dropped on world markets and demand dropped, the Russian economy shrank. Just to give you an example: our coal industry used to export 60%, or perhaps 65% or even 70% of all the coal it produced. Once demand for coal fell and coal prices went down, the industry suffered from this double blow. This caused a domino effect and affected the metal industry. The same thing happened with hydrocarbons and the petrochemical industry, and the automotive industry.
But in the first quarter of this year, we’re already seeing significant growth in industrial output and in GDP. So, the economy is growing. Actually, this tendency started late last year, but now it’s gaining momentum.
By the way, you were asking about the euro. The fact that the euro grew weaker, as I’m sure you understand, is very good for European economies—for the French economy, the German economy—in other words, for export-oriented economies. This makes things a little more difficult for us, because, if you take, for instance, Russia and France, we are natural partners in some areas, but there are areas where we compete with each other, such as nuclear energy and nuclear construction. When the euro is weak, French companies get an obvious advantage. But that’s a challenge for our industry. Our companies should learn to produce better goods at a lower price. They can do it.
But on the whole, as our economy grows, trade turnover between France and Russia grows too. In the first quarter of 2010, it grew by about 30%. That’s a very good figure. I expect that our cooperation will grow even faster. With some European countries, say, Germany, our turnover grew by 50% over the same period.
Q: The European Union is concerned about the situation in Russia because of certain restrictions on democratic liberties, such as free press. Do you understand the EU’s concerns?
A: I understand them. That’s a long-standing tradition of European countries. They impose their standards and rules on others. Remember what happened during the colonization period, say, in Africa. Europeans went there with their own rules and began teaching the indigenous people and civilizing them.
I get the impression that this old tradition has transformed into democratization. Europeans and our Western partners in general like to use this method whenever they want to get a tighter grip on a certain region. But there are some ancient civilizations in various parts of the world that you should respect.
As for violations, they happen everywhere. Let’s take, for example, human rights violations in the French penitentiary system, in French prisons….
Q: You think these things are comparable?
A: Absolutely. A couple of years ago, international human rights organizations wrote huge volumes about rights violations in French prisons.
Yes, there are violations, and we should fight against them. In fact, I think even in the Russian political system there are certain things that need to be adjusted, or corrected, or enhanced. But that’s a natural process by which our society becomes mature. It doesn’t happen in isolated sectors of society: here, here and here. The entire organism is involved. And we are making progress. Look at our past: initially, we had the Czar; then Stalin and the Communist regime. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that we started building a society based on different principles. It takes time.
Q: Do you think that the democratic model, the Western model, is not very good for Russia at this point?
A: Can you explain to me what you mean by the Western democratic model? There’s one model in France and a different model in the US. One time, a French politician told me, “You know, in the United States you can’t run for Congress, or Senate, let alone for president, unless you have a lot of money.” So, where’s democracy? Who benefits from such democracy? The rich?
The United States is a presidential republic. Great Britain is a monarchy. These are all various elements of democracy. What is democracy? There is no such thing as a uniform model of Western democracy.
Alright, let’s not talk about France. I have to go to France soon, so I won’t give examples from French politics. Let’s talk about my good friend Tony Blair. His party won the election under his leadership. Of course, people voted for the party and for its platform, but I think you will agree that to a very significant extent they voted for Tony Blair personally. After that, for internal political reasons, the Labor Party decided that Blair should go and another person should take his place. So, Tony left, and Mr. Brown took his place and automatically became Prime Minister, the head of state, without being elected. What is this? Democracy? Yes, that’s one kind of democracy. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad but it’s there. At some point in the past, I had a lot of discussions with my American colleagues. I would ask them, How come the majority of your people voted for one person yet another person becomes president? That’s because they have the Electoral College. My American colleagues replied to me, “Don’t touch this thing. We got used to this system, and we won’t change it.” So, we don’t lecture them. Well, what makes you think you can lecture us? We can decide for ourselves what we should do.
Q: Recently, you talked to a rock star about democracy and civil liberties. Do you think this process could go faster? And what needs to be done?
A: Of course, it could go faster. But let me point out one thing to you. I talked to this artist about democracy, including freedom of the press. But then all Russian television channels aired this discussion! Don’t you agree that was a sign of democracy? If we had no democracy, if we had no free press, it would be logical to expect that the authorities will just omit this episode. But all our major channels aired this discussion, let alone the Internet. On the Internet, people talk and talk about that. By the way, unlike some other countries, we have no restriction on the Internet, none at all.
What did we argue about? I can remind you. He asked me, “Will we be allowed to stage rallies?” That was his first point. Then, his second point was, everybody should be equal before the law. I did my best to explain to my counterpart: if everybody is equal before the law, then those who want to stage a rally must act according to Russian laws. It is up to the local, municipal authorities to decide whether to sanction a rally and where the rally should take place. If you want everybody to be equal before the law, you should obey the law yourself before you demand that others should do the same. Democracy can’t be alienated from law and order. And, vice versa, law and order cannot exist without a democratic society. Laws should be adopted by a legitimate elected parliament that represents the interests of all people. It’s a sophisticated mechanism, and I’d like to emphasize again: I don’t mean to say that everything’s perfect in Russia. We are aware of our problems, including those related to the media. I’m not saying we are perfect. You know, this happens everywhere. Pick any country you like. Everywhere, the authorities always try to appear better than they are; that’s why they try to limit the media. But where civil society is strong, the authorities usually are unable to do so. Where civil society is weak and immature, it is easier for the authorities to manipulate the media. Therefore, our goal is to strengthen our civil society, help it mature and grow strong. And that’s what we intend to do. The point is not to adopt another law or to make a new rule, even though this may also be important. But still, the main safeguard is a mature civil society.
Q: A more personal question. French politicians often like to have their picture taken when they have a knife in their hands, when they are fishing, or hunting, etc. Do you think you need such a strong person to govern Russia?
A: In general, I think that, in order to perform administrative functions, the man must know how to organize the administrative process. This applies to everybody—to those who run a small company, or a theatre, or a media outlet. By the way, it is very difficult to run a media outlet because the people who work in the media are quite peculiar: each person has his own opinion; everybody thinks he is a very knowledgeable person or even a genius. Such people are very hard to manage.
Of course, running a country is much, much more difficult. And it doesn’t matter very much if the country is big or small, if the economy is big or small. Of course, there is a difference between the United States and Luxembourg. But I assure you, the burden of responsibility that the head of state in Luxembourg has is as great as that of the US president. Actually, I think Luxembourg is very fortunate to have its current prime minister. Even though Luxembourg is a small nation, its prime minister is a major European statesman.
Of course, it’s a very special feeling when you are entrusted with a great responsibility. So, I agree, you do need some special attributes to organize the administrative process.
Q: The reason I brought up this issue of strong personality is because we noticed that you, too, try to look as a strong person. For example, you like judo and things like that.
A: You know, I have been doing judo since my teens. It would be foolish for me to hide it, or, on the contrary, to advertise things with which I have nothing to do. As for judo, I have a black belt, and that means something. It’s one of my lifelong projects; it’s a sport I have been doing all my life. Frankly, when the media first reported it and this fact attracted so much attention, I was surprised because I didn’t regard it as something special. To me, it was a routine, something I did every day. Well, perhaps not every day; maybe, every other day. In fact, sometimes we had training camps—like, for example, there was a period when I was preparing for the national championship. During those times, the national team had training sessions every day. Eventually, I didn’t take part in the championship, but I did go through the training camp. That was part of my life.
I don’t even know what to say. What do you want me to do? Keep it secret?
Q: Apart from all those things like judo, sometimes you get the impression that there’s some kind of cult or something like that.
A: What do you mean?
Q: More and more, you appear in the media as a strong man who can deal with all problems. It seems that there is something like a cult of personality emerging.
A: You know, first of all, I just live and work the way I can. I don’t pretend; I don’t do things on purpose. I just do what I like to do. Life is short, and despite all the limitations you need to learn how to enjoy life.
Second, let’s talk about the cult of personality. The Russian people definitely know this, and I think Western viewers should also be aware that a cult of personality is more than just worshipping a person. A cult of personality implies mass violations of law and reprisals. In my most terrible dreams I cannot imagine this happening again in today’s Russia. I spoke just a few minutes ago about a mature civil society. So I can assure you, civil society in Russia is mature enough to prevent things we went through in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s from repeating.
Q: Since we have touched this subject, there will be an election in 2012. Currently, you have a president and prime minister in Russia. Who makes the final decision? It seems that people in Russia think it is you who makes the final decision. At least, that’s what the people we saw were saying.
A: There is no secret about it. Everybody knows that, when my term was over, I actively supported Dmitry Medvedev as a candidate for president. I have known him for a long time, but that’s not the point. The point is, we have been working together for a long time. Moreover, when I was president and he was the chief of my staff, I often sent my ideas to him and to my staff to work on them. So, in this sense, he was a co-author of our domestic and foreign policies. Yes, after the election, our roles changed; but according to the Russian Constitution and Russian laws, the government of the Russian Federation has a very broad jurisdiction, many things it takes care of. Certain things are the president’s prerogative. But the general amount of work is huge, just huge. So, there is no need to interfere in each other’s jurisdiction.
Let me give you a recent example. We are now working on the budget. Now that our economy has shrunk and our revenues dropped, we need to consider our expenditure. The problem is, when the economy was growing, we made many plans; so, now we need to decide how to consolidate our limited resources and allocate them to the most important areas. We need to decide which areas are priorities. And this is a very complex and even painful job.
I mean, we are not going to abandon our social obligations. Perhaps not everybody in France knows that this year we decided to raise pensions by 46% in spite of the crisis. Next year, we’ll launch a large-scale health care reform. All this requires a lot of funding. So, when we have to make a crucial decision, of course, President Medvedev and myself need to have a co-ordinated position. So, I am not embarrassed when I have to pick up the phone, call him and say, Look, let’s talk about this and come up with a common position.
Once we have a common position, it is strong and firm. Because, you know, you always have people with different opinions and different motives. Some of them come to me; others come to President Medvedev. So, whenever we feel that there may be some discrepancy, we come together, discuss things and then we make a common co-ordinated decision and carry it out. But he also does the same thing. Sometimes he simply calls me and says, “You know, I have some things I need to discuss with you. Let’s talk. There’s this problem, and I’d like to know what you think about it.” That’s normal; that’s natural. Nobody tries to show off, and nobody tries to show the other who’s boss. On the contrary, we both do our best to find the best, the most effective solution with this or that economic situation, or with domestic policies, and sometimes even with foreign policies, such as security issues.
For example, in Russia, the President is the Supreme Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. But it is the cabinet who allocates funds for the Defense Ministry. It is up to the cabinet to decide how and in what way we will develop our defense industry, including ship-building. That’s where the issue of the Mistral and other similar projects come in.
But some cases are borderline in terms of jurisdiction. In such cases, of course, we meet and discuss the issue. And I assure you, we interact very well.
Q: Which of the two functions do you prefer – being prime minister or the president? Which one would you prefer in 2012?
A: I have to live to see 2012. We are now in 2010. The most important thing is that I have a chance to serve my people and my country. I would like to repeat once again that the level of responsibility is colossal and the price of decisions I make is high. That’s why I like what I’m doing now. We will see as we approach 2012. Naturally, President Medvedev and I are already thinking about this matter but we’ve decided that we are not going to rush around and divert our attention to this issue in advance – at the expense of our main job, which is fulfilling our duty to the people of Russia honestly, professionally, consistently, with dignity and a feeling of responsibility for what we are doing. The results will show what we are going to do in 2012.
Q: If you were doing something else apart from being a Prime Minister or President, something in an entirely different field, what would you choose? What life would you prefer to lead?
A: The Russian people placed their trust in me to head the country two times. For me, for one who was brought up in a working-class family… as you know, both my mother and father were just simple workers, in a very real sense….for me, the trust of the people of Russia, who placed the responsibility of presidential duties on me twice, and after my second term was over – supported the candidature of Dmitry Medvedev, who I was actively supporting myself, backed the shaping of parliament, to some extent also reacting to my request of support, for me it’s a great privilege.
I’m saying it without any irony. I feel it every day and never forget about it. As well, I never forget my background. I am always concerned about how the decisions we take affect an ordinary person. What would I prefer to do outside politics? I have no idea, I didn’t think about it. I think, though, that the most interesting thing people do – is creative work. For example, I am very much attracted to doing research work – in different fields, but first of all, of course, in the sphere of politics, law and economy. However, I haven’t thought about it specifically yet – how you posed the question – I haven’t thought….
Q: This is the time for our last question. In 2014 Sochi will host the Olympic games. With all the recent violence such as explosions in the Caucausus, will the delegations feel safe during the competitions?
A: We have quite competent, well organized, well equipped and with a lot of experience special services and agencies of law enforcement. Quite frankly, we have quite good working relations with the French. I can tell you that our partnership with the French special services is better than with any other European nation. They are well defined, professional and based on partnership and trust. Based on my competence, support from our European colleagues and the world, I am sure that we will do everything to provide proper security for our guests and competitors. I have no doubt that we’ll manage.
In terms of the situation in the region-yes it is restless- for a long time now. But it is not in the Sochi area – thank God- but in Northern Caucuses. That is why we will work there step-by-step. In terms of Sochi and the Olympic events, we will make the maximum effort to make sure that there will be no problems.
The same was said, stating the same concerns, by our colleagues ahead of the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg. As you remember there were no problems. Everything was done according to the highest standard. But now we are dividing the budget to see who gets what for staging the Olympic Games. And our special services want to get something – and want even more. Therefore they will be glad that you asked this question- they’ll ask for more to provide security. But we will give them exactly as much as is necessary to maintain safety. But no more.
Q: Where could danger come from?
A: A meteor can fall. The volcano in Iceland can come to life again. But when it comes to special services and law enforcement- everything will be done to the highest standard.