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20 Sep, 2009 11:01

“The moment of truth” for Medvedev and Obama

“If our partners take our concerns into consideration then, surely, we will be more attentive to the concerns that they have,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said during an interview with Swiss media.

Q: On behalf of myself and my colleagues, I would like to thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. We have prepared three groups of questions to discuss with you. The first one deals with Russian-Swiss relations in connection with your upcoming visit. The second group of questions pertains to the latest political developments in Russia, particularly your speech in the Valdai Club and your article in gazeta.ru. The third block of questions is about Russia's foreign policy and its image abroad. I would like to begin with a question regarding your visit to Switzerland. You are going to become the first ever Russian leader to visit Switzerland. Neither Tsars nor General Secretaries nor Presidents visited it before. You and your predecessors have visited virtually all countries except Switzerland. Why is the visit taking place so late and how do you explain the fact that Switzerland is so low on Russia's list of priorities?

Medvedev: Well, it is difficult for me to speak about what happened before me. What I can say, though, is that Switzerland is not low on my priority list, if only for the fact that I have not been in office for long yet, yet I'm already going on a state visit to Switzerland.

As for me, personally, I have been to Switzerland more than once. I like your state. It is very diverse, it has its own historical place in the world and in Europe, and it has its own position on most different issues, which is something I have always respected. I mean, Swiss people are like all Europeans, but slightly different at the same time. This is exactly the identity that we respect in each other. It is something that brings us closer yet demonstrates our unique qualities. Well, I am very glad that such a state visit is finally taking place, although our relationships are centuries-old already. As a matter of fact, we have common pages in history. My visit is devoted to one of them, namely Suvorov's crossing of the Alps, the 210th anniversary of which is in 2009. Besides, many Swiss citizens worked not only for their home state, but also in Russia. I will spare the entire list of names, as you know quite well who I am talking about. Of course, some of them, such as Domenico Trezzini, are part of our common culture, including the St. Petersburg culture, where I come from. This is why it is with great interest that I am preparing for this visit. I am convinced it will be rich on events and we will discuss all existing issues with the President. We will also talk about the bilateral part of our relations and touch upon international and European subjects. Of course, we will talk about the crisis, as it is impossible not to talk about it today. We will discuss various problems related to it, both regarding the Russian and Swiss side, so our agenda is very rich. And, of course, despite the fact that I have repeatedly visited Switzerland before, both for business and recreation, I hope I will be able to see some areas of the country that I haven’t seen yet.

Q: Mr. President, what expectations are you coming to Switzerland with? Where do you see the potential for the further expansion of Russian-Swiss relations? Besides, it should be kept in mind that Russia-Swiss relations have not always been that easy. There have been periods of tension, for example, after the tragic air catastrophe. Do you see any more potential for conflicts or complicated relations between Russia and Switzerland?

Medvedev: You see, difficulties always happen, both in life and in bilateral relationships. However, I wouldn’t like to focus on any complicacies or conflict potential today. Thank God, we barely have any such conflict zones at all. As for little problems that emerge, they can always be settled. This is why I'm going there, after all, and this is why our Swiss colleagues come to Russia. As for the potential, I see it in several directions. First of all, as is usually the case in intergovernmental relations, it is business connections. Russia is very widely represented in Switzerland. We have extensive economic ties, and we have a structured and smoothly running system of cooperation, including the field of finance. I think this is quite important. As for the fact that in some period Russian business began using Swiss capabilities, I tell you frankly that I see nothing bad about that. It is because, as a matter of fact, business always chooses the most comfortable environment. The task of modern Russia is to create such an environment at home. Well, nevertheless, we realize that there are states where many services, such as financial ones, are rated at the top level. The fact that Russian businesses used Switzerland is quite normal. Moreover, I have had practical experience with that. So this is why this direction of cooperation is very important. That does not mean, however, that we should not try to develop business cooperation in other areas, such as manufacturing, services, and tourism. All these are great cooperation possibilities, and I am sure that they will be addressed during my state visit.

The other direction is cultural and humanitarian connections. I consider this area extremely important because it determines the mood of the people. It determines how well we know and feel each other and it even influences our decisions on where to go on vacation. That is why we are always glad to see Swiss people come to Russia, or when Russians go to Switzerland for skiing or summer recreation.

Finally, another direction that seems vital to me is that of regional cooperation and cooperation in the European community. I have said already that Switzerland has a position of its own in Europe. This is good because it allows Switzerland to view certain problems from its own angle, avoiding some stereotypes. Well, everyone has stereotypes; so do our European colleagues and probably so do we. And when there is a state that can view problems from its own unique angle, this may help in solving some complicated issues. For example, we are concerned with the matter of European security now. Russia has formulated its own proposition to establish a universal platform on which various European issues could be discussed. It should be a platform where everyone could be present, for there are very different states in Europe. There are NATO states and non-NATO states, as well as EU and non-EU states. There are also states that are members of our Commonwealth of Independent States, the CIS. There is the Collective Security Treaty, which Russia is part of. There is the OSCE, which is really a versatile platform, but it cannot solve all issues and sometimes, in my view, it is busy addressing non-essential issues instead of dealing with security matters. This is why I see the idea of international cooperation in the sphere of European security as a very relevant one. This subject is also what I would like to discuss with my Swiss colleagues.

Q: Are there any signs that you might receive Switzerland's support in this initiative of yours?

Medvedev: There are signs that this initiative might receive support of different countries. However, I am of the opinion that Switzerland has every reason to uphold it. This is because Switzerland is a unique country that is not shackled by bloc discipline. As I see it, it is important for Switzerland to be woven into the fabric of European ties on the one hand, yet retain its neutral status on the other hand. So I hope that, yes – there are signs.

Q: Mr. President, you have already talked about Switzerland as a financial center. Being one of the key financial centers of the world, it is nevertheless not a member of the G20. Does Russia support the inclusion of Switzerland in the negotiations led within the G20 format?

Medvedev: I think Switzerland should have its deserved place in different formats exactly because it is one of the leading financial centers of the world. Switzerland is not just a beautiful mountainous country or a country with an interesting history; it is, after all, a serious financial center. However, the admission or non-admission to different formats depends not just on Russia's position. It depends on a common, consolidated position. My personal position is the following: I think we should find such forms of cooperation that allow us to solve our problems. What I mean is that, with all due respect, the G8 has demonstrated the inability to deal with the global crisis on its own. This is an absolute fact. A new format was required – the G20. Is this format complete or absolutely universal? Probably not, because not all issues can be discussed among those 20 countries. That means we have to come up with formats that allow for the addressing of all issues, including complicated ones such as tax regimes, banking privacy, and all issues that are discussed now. They are also important for Switzerland as well. That is why I think that all formats that really solve problems are good.

Q: If you don’t mind, I would like to switch to the latest events in Russia. Many Russians, and not only Russians but foreigners as well, read your article in gazeta.ru with great interest, and you also gave a speech this week in the Valdai Club. You said several, clear, unambiguous, and rather tough words regarding the current situation in Russia. I was there and I heard your speech. You described the situation, but many observers were shocked by the contrast between your speech, your harsh choice of words – and your stance one year ago. What has changed? Why did you need to talk like that this time?

Medvedev: In this world, everything changes. The President's position should change as well. That doesn’t mean, however, that the President should veer from side to side, but every one of us should adequately assess the situation. So, what I have said this year in my gazeta.ru article and in other media continues what I said last year. That doesn’t mean I should always say the same. Of course I have reconsidered a number of things What I mean is, our economy, despite all efforts taken over the last years to develop it and help it get rid of its Soviet past and the ramifications of the 1990s, has proven uncompetitive, to say the least, in the times of crisis. This is a hard blow. We all underestimated the impact of the crisis on our economy. We have to openly admit that. In late 2008 and early 2009, we forecasted that the economy would go down some one or two percent, just like many of our European counterparts, who also underestimated it a lot. Now we are facing a very serious recession, and that makes us more determined about our priorities and forces us to take harder, more radical decisions. This applies to the structure of our economy first of all. Besides being a colossal test, the crisis is good because it makes for a rethink. Were it not for that landslide, we would still continue to follow the raw-material scenario. Everything would have been calm, and raw materials would still have brought us great revenues. That would have been good. But on the other hand, if such events came several years later, the fall would have been more painful, because we would have conserved our approaches to the economy. Now we must show greater commitment. Of course, we are far from success yet, and there is still a lot to do, but this is exactly the desire to rethink many of our traditional views. Speaking of other spheres – politics, justice, fighting corruption, development of judicial system, and development of democratic institutions – my ideas there develop as well, and this is normal. What I considered not quite suitable just a year ago is already being implemented these days. Even in my last year's address, I voiced several ideas that have already evolved into laws these days. Therefore, I think I will have to voice some more thoughts this year that will be aimed at improving our political system. I say it frankly that our political system is still a developing one. We have no illusions that we have created an effective democracy that might serve as an example for other countries and help our people solve their problems. Maybe this is the reason for the charge of criticism that was voiced in my speeches.

Q: In your critical statements, you talk about problems with corruption, human rights, and raw material dependence. As for raw material dependence, the situation has not improved over the last year. What large-scale measures do you see that can help improve the situation in those spheres?

Medvedev: In some directions, we can make such steps, and quite quickly. In others – I have no illusions about that – we have a long way to go. Speaking of our raw material orientation, the orientation on gas, oil, and some other kinds of raw materials that we export – this is an economic model that was not created in the 1990s or the last decade. It was created in the Soviet era. The Soviet economy relied on several fundamental aspects such as oil, gas, and some other export commodities. This is an absolute fact, and it has been so for some 40 or 50 years. And there was the defense industry that created lots of jobs by placing defense orders. This is how we ended up with an economy like this. This is nothing new. The question is how to change this quickly. This is a very tough task as it requires enormous investments. Well, in my opinion, we could change the raw-material dependence of our economy in a reasonable period of time. This can be done, if we work consistently and determinedly, in like five or ten years. We could create a separate cluster of a high-technology industry. I will spare the specific examples, but even in Europe, there are countries that have created their own IT industry in 10 or 15 years. Think Finland, for example, and others. So this is feasible. I said recently that in my opinion, it is very important that our new economy is at least comparable in size with our raw material economy. It doesn’t mean we need to give up oil and gas. We will export them and increase our energy cooperation with other countries, but our new economy must at least be comparable in scale. I think that this goal is feasible and it can be achieved in the foreseeable future. There are tasks that are far more delicate and complicated. You have mentioned fighting corruption, which is really a centuries-old problem in Russia. I mentioned it in my article. Unfortunately, it cannot be solved using simple methods. To be more precise, the problem of corruption can be solved quickly, but with very specific methods, the way it is addressed in totalitarian societies. No doubt that in restricted, harsh, totalitarian societies the degree of corruption may be rather low. This, however, is not our way. We cannot return to the past. However, we should admit that even during Tsarism, when there was no democracy in our country, corruption flourished. In the Soviet period, its degree was lower. That's a fact, because everything was penned down. I do not mean that we should go back to those times. We need new technologies that will motivate people to work honestly, and that means a new upbringing and the creation of a new way of thinking. Before it appears, it will be hard to make people follow it. That doesn’t mean, again, that we should give up. Last year, we accepted a special plan for combating corruption. On the base of that plan, a law was passed that, for the first time in the history of the Russian state, contains a special set of rules and regulations pertaining to corruption crimes. The code of laws about state officials provides rules about their accounting and income declaration. We never had that before, and we shouldn’t forget that. On the one hand, it requires getting used to. On the other hand, we need to enforce the observation of those laws. This is why it may take longer to solve this task, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start addressing it at all. I once said that when we were working out general approaches to fighting corruption, voices were heard saying that we better not do it at all and that we would not achieve any considerable success soon and that we would be accused of failing. I said that we must do it, even if we don’t change the situation in the next year or two or three. Corruption, crime, and organized crime accompany all countries. In the thirties and the forties, many European countries, let alone the United States, had stratospheric levels of organized crime. They managed to curb it, and so must we.

Q: If I may ask a bit more on this. You used some harsh words in your article for gazeta.ru. And then again, at the Valdai meeting you talked about corrupted functionaries that rule Russia. When I talk about this with your fellow-countrymen, I see that many fully share your position and think you are very brave. But only a few people believe that something can really be changed. A lot has been said about the reforms, but they haven’t been effective. Don’t you think some symbolic move is necessary? Say, arresting some oligarch, a corrupted functionary – to create a symbol to add some weight to your statements and give people more faith?

Medvedev: Well, it would perhaps be against my convictions if I told you that we needed to arrest a functionary for the sake of a coming up with a symbol, because there should be other reasons than that – like valid proof of this or that person’s guilt and his involvement in a crime. Although, at times, something high profile can indeed boost the authority of the administration, one should never just toy with it or get into peanut politics or populism as the risks are too high. At the same time, if we talk about the actual trial cases, then yes, there are many. The corruption is pretty large scale, but we already have put on trial dozens of high-ranking officials at the ministerial level, deputy ministers, governors, public prosecutors and law enforcement officers. It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t come together in one picture all at once. Russia is big – and the volume of the calamity, the volume of corruption is just as big. Indeed, we occupy one of the leading positions as far as the number of people on trial goes. The same can be said about the number of dishonest businessmen. Very often, when people talk about legal actions taken in regards to businessmen, they remember only a certain set of names. And even then it’s more about wondering whether it was fair or unfair, a just conviction or not, whether politics were involved or not. But people don’t remember that there are a significant number of businessmen on trial, who actually broke the law. I am not saying I am happy about this – on the contrary, it’s sad. But this is life. After the crisis many countries have taken quite a few serious measures and a very large number of businessmen lost their property. Some of them were prosecuted and are now in prison; some of their terms going up to 100 years. And no one is surprised about this, because their guilt has been proven. So, I do think we should proceed from the legal criteria, even if someone doesn’t like that.

Q: In your article you didn’t mention the United Russia party. Not a single word. Is it true to say that the current political system, in which one party is a monopolist, is one of the major obstacles in the modernization of the country?

Medvedev: Well, I didn’t mention the United Russia party not because I have a negative attitude towards it, but because it is a party just like all the rest. Still, today it has won its popularity and is now in power. But from a legal standpoint it’s a party just like any other. That’s one thing. Secondly, I think the fact that today we have such a strong political power is not an obstacle for the development of democracy – on the contrary, it encourages the development of the party system. I’ll explain why. The role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was once and for all defined in Article 6 of our Constitution, whereas the role of United Russia is not defined by any regulations or standards. If it starts to lose its popularity, it will, naturally, lose power. United Russia needs to think about maintaining and keeping its popularity. Every political system has its traits and characteristics and I don’t think our political system will develop, say, according to the Japanese scenario, where, as you know, one and the same party remained in power for 60 years. The situation has changed just recently, when the representative of another party has become the head of the government. Actually, I talked to him on the phone today. So, for them this is a fundamental change. But before that no one questioned the political system of Japan as non-democratic. It’s original and unique, but it’s still democratic. I don’t know how much longer United Russia will continue their triumphant participation in power-related matters. My desire is to see it prove its right to rule the country through its efficiency. And then it will be ok. But it doesn’t mean that other parties don’t need to develop. Moreover, I think that the competition among the parties should really contribute to the development of the political system in the future. I think that in the outcome we should get a system that will provide constant competition between several parties. It’s perfectly normal. We don’t need to create this situation artificially and we shouldn’t be saying – “here, Party – yes, we do respect you, but you must get, say, no more than half of the votes.” It’s undemocratic, but in the future, I think, we will most likely have the situation with several major political forces competing for votes. They exist even now, or rather their prototypes, but they do exist. We have the left-wing parties that have their own electorate. And we have the right-wing parties that can get their own electorate, but are not represented in the State Duma. We have a center party, which currently represents the interests of the voters to the maximum extent – that’s United Russia. So, it’s also about developing a party culture.

Q: I would like to go back to the question that has been widely discussed after your statement and the statement of the Prime Minister about your relationship. When I listened to you and to Putin when you talked about your relationship, I was struck by this famous phrase that “we are of one blood”. What does it mean? Usually we use it with people to say that they belong to one family. So, one of you is the father and the other one is the son? How are we to understand this phrase? I’ll add another thing that also struck me. During the discussion you talked a lot about your connections with Barack Obama and the warm relationships that you’ve established, whereas the Prime Minister spoke more about his friendship with Bush. So, my question is – will it be correct to say that you belong to an already different political generation?

Medvedev: Well, as for the blood-and-kinship connections and the blood group, I’ve already talked about it at our meeting with the Valdai Forum. This comparison is figurative, of course and, by the way, it was my colleague Vladimir Putin who said it, not me. But I think it is interesting because…well, at least, here is how I can describe it. The educational code, the roots people develop throughout their youth and on which they establish their life – all this is very important. That’s why, in this sense, we indeed have the same roots or the same “blood group”, as we both grew up in St. Petersburg – Leningrad back then, and both got our education at the same Law school, in the same atmosphere and during the Soviet times, although I got to study through two stages of the Soviet period. My colleague Vladimir Putin studied during the seventies – that’s one situation. And I started studying during the Brezhnev era and finished when we had Gorbachev. There were certain nuances as well, of course. Nevertheless, the level of education, the quality of teaching, certain life values, the skills the university gives you, the desire to apply them into practice and the social network – all this is so close and interconnected. So, when some show us in contrasting colours all the time – a young liberal lawyer and a spy that has just returned from the cold – it’s not right, as we really have a similar understanding of many things in life. Although, there are no completely congruent people, which is understandable as well, and it would be rather ridiculous to say that we are absolutely the same in all things. That’s not correct. As for the topic of generations – you know, it’s not so much about Vladimir Vladimirovich being older and me being younger. It’s about the fact that he had to work with Bush, that’s true. But I worked with Bush much less, although we did meet and talk at the G8 summit and during the bilateral meetings. I have my own, fragmented perception of him. With Obama, though, we did have a full-scale meeting. It was the moment of truth, if you will. Because by that time, with all my respect to George W. Bush, the relationships between America and Russia had degraded to their lowest, almost to the point of the Cold War. I am not going to talk about the reasons why now, it’s not that important. So, the fact that Barack Obama wanted to overcome this situation – and I had a similar desire, there is no secret about that – is normal. It’s for the good of all and for the benefit of our countries and of the whole world. If we manage to do something about it – and we have already laid the groundwork for that – it would be very good.

Q: Mr. President, here is a burning question. Allegedly, the US has made a decision to give up the idea to set up the ABM system in Eastern Europe. What’s your reaction to that? If that’s really the case, what steps will Russia take in regards to the US then?

Medvedev: While we are recording this interview, I am waiting for some final information about that. I don’t have it at the moment, but it’s good that such a signal has been given. It shows that, at the very least, our American partners are ready to listen to the position and the arguments provided by the Russian side as well as to have a dialogue and make decisions directed to ease the situation. I don’t think anyone would get any dividends from the Third Site in Europe, apart from a group of politicians who depend on making this happen and a group of companies, who would have supplied the needed ABM and would have constructed the radar. But they’re pursuing their own interests. As for the situation in Europe, it wouldn’t become better with this. And, in the outcome, the Russian-American relations and, sadly, the relationships between Russia and Europe would have become significantly more intense. That’s why we were initially against this idea. And if this variant of the idea is not implemented, it will be very good for Europe and for the Russian-American relations. But I need to thoroughly study the propositions offered by the American side. It’s a positive sign and we will definitely analyze it.

Q: One more question in that regard, if I may. Does it mean that Russia will reciprocate and cooperate with the United States on other issues and will there be some compromises in other spheres as well?

Medvedev: We are all adults. When I talked about my partner Barack Obama, I mentioned that together we really try to establish a new relationship. It’s very important that we have a similar educational background and this is good. That is what I talked about in regards to my colleague Vladimir Putin and I can say the same about Barack Obama. So, we indeed studied the same books, to a certain extent. And that’s true, because when I was already in the post-graduate school, we had access to the books written by American authors and learnt from them. It was useful. Why do I bring this up? To say that we are adult enough not to precondition one decision with another. Well, of course, there is a constant counting of points in politics – obviously. And if our partners take our concerns into consideration, then, surely, we will be more attentive to the concerns that they have. This doesn’t imply primitive compromises and exchange. Well, the fact that we are being listened to and heard is, apparently, a signal for us to listen to our American partners with attention.

Q: Twenty years have passed since the Cold War, but the image of Russia in the West is, in part, still not what it should be from the Russian viewpoint. The war in the Caucasus last year, the violation of human rights in the Russian North Caucasus – all that again influences the way Russia is seen in the West. What can Russia do about this bad image? Where does this bad image of Russia in the West originate? And why is it sometimes so hard for Russia to find real friends, even in the post-soviet space, on CIS territories?

Medvedev: Image is a complex concept. It is shaped by many different elements. I would also like Russians to have a very good image. But image is not just what others think about us, but also what we think about ourselves and what our identity is. Who has the best image? Those who are strong, effective and impartial. That’s what our state and our society must be. What are our identity problems? What are our communication problems with the West? The thing is that aside from our own problems that you mentioned correctly, there are a great number of stereotypes that originated from the times of the Cold War. That’s what I’ve always thought. But to be frank, when I became president I felt for myself what a great number of stereotypes still exist. They probably exist in out country as well, but they also exist in the West, in Europe and in the United States. In fact, we are still held at gunpoint figuratively speaking, as we are believed to be set to achieve any results by military means. It means that we are supposed to achieve economic objectives through action. What are the grounds for such assumptions? These are just beliefs from the past. I am not saying that Russia is absolutely innocent, and does not take any steps that can be interpreted differently. I think every state makes mistakes. I mean, their leaders make mistakes. And that’s normal. We must admit it. But generally, image problems you are talking about are linked to our perception of the West. In addition, unfortunately, there is another side to the same coin. Many Western countries are being criticized in Russia. That’s not just the problem of Russia’s perception by the political and business circles, or by some intellectuals in the West. But the problem is that some Western countries are perceived by Russians inadequately. Many people in our country feel offended by such an attitude. That’s the first point. Secondly, stereotypes do exist. That’s true. That’s the legacy of 80 years of Soviet rule. But we should not get offended. We should not put on airs because we have a head start in some areas. We should treat each other as equals. We should learn from each other. There are a lot of lessons Russia could learn. And we are not ashamed of that. Thus, we should openly talk about that. But that’s not the reason for self-condemnation or any other conclusions.

Q: Could you answer briefly another question about Russia’s image. There are a lot of cases of human rights violation. It is being discussed in Strasburg by the European Court, in fact.

Medvedev: So what’s the question?

Q: Why can’t we solve human rights problems? Why are reforms of the European Court in Strasburg blocked?

Medvedev: The situation with human rights leaves much to be desired. There are a lot of human rights violations. And they should be eliminated. We must do our best to protect human rights. First of all, court procedures should be used. There are so many human rights violations because there is no effective state and there is no effective court. These institutions should be developed. And here comes a question of perception by people, as few existing problems are solved through court proceedings. As for the situation with human rights and court hearings of such cases, I think it is due to the drawbacks of our legal system. We should change it and adjust it to the interests of our state and, what matters most, to the interests of the people. Our legal system does not always provide for effective defense and does not always allow one to appeal to courts of different instances and get a just verdict. So it gives one an opening to appeal to Strasburg pretty quickly. On the one hand, that’s good. But on the other hand, that hampers our court system development. So, we can just create such a system, in which a local court is immediately followed by Strasburg. But will it help resolve these issues? We should develop the system that we have, rather than overload the Strasburg court. It doesn’t mean that they do not hear the cases that require adequate response of our state. That’s our internal problem as well. That’s the problem of modernizing the legal system. That’s why I think that the development of our court system will lead to fewer cases in Strasburg. But if our citizens think that appealing to the Strasburg Court is the only option for them, that’s their right. As for the so-called Protocol 14 you are asking about… That’s not a question to the president – the president just introduced the draft law – but to parliament. Parliament rejected it, as it found some points that violate the interests of our country. But that doesn’t mean that the process has been suspended. Yesterday, I got an update on the situation. Right now some points are being considered. So, the work on the issue has been resumed. Our colleagues are working on the protocol. And we are thinking over the best way for us to fit into this process.

Q: In the past months we’ve seen a number of contradictory statements by the Russian government regarding Russia’s accession to the WTO. For external observers it now looks as if Russia’s accession to the WTO as part of the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan is an attempt to put off the accession itself. Do you support Russia’s accession to the WTO? What, in your view, should the Russian government do to ensure accession?

Medvedev: Nothing should be done. We have always wanted access to the WTO. The fact that we are not a member of the WTO sounds, to me like the organization’s problem and like the problem of the states blocking the accession. There are no contradictions in our position, which is the following. We want to access the WTO. At the same time, we want to develop integrated relations with Kazakhstan and Belarus. And I can openly tell you that a year ago I agreed with President Nazarbayev on the accelerated creation of the Customs Union. How did we manage to reach this agreement? It was easy. If we were not allowed to get any further than the waiting room, we decided to set up the Customs Union and access the WTO together. If we do access the WTO by that time, we will position the Customs Union differently. No advances have been made so far. We set up the Customs Union, and that’s very good. But we haven’t given up the idea of WTO accession. And we will achieve it, no matter the means. Maybe it will be accession of the Customs Union. If it will be difficult to handle, we’ll be acceding the organization separately. But we will coordinate our actions. We are now discussing the issue. We will coordinate the positions of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus and will proceed from this. But separate accession will take different time. That’s my position. And I gave certain instructions to the government. Naturally, the government has the same position. There are no contradictions in this regard.

Q: My final question is about the North Caucasus. You said that many managers, journalists, and activists have been killed, and terror attacks have been launched. If the criminals get away with this, does it not undermine the government’s authority? Does it seriously affect Russia?

Medvedev: Impunity definitely undermines government’s authority. It undermines the authority of the government, of officials and law enforcement bodies. I don’t have anything to add in this respect. But criminals must be punished. And they are punished. Despite a new wave of terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus, a fight against terrorism is underway. Anyone can fall victim to terror attacks and activists as well. The thing is that their deaths usually stir the public. Law enforcement agencies are also attacked by terrorists. Sadly, a lot of policemen have been killed recently. They are common people who have families. They are common citizens who die at the hands of terrorists. So if such criminals are unpunished, it undermines the authority of the government. But we must do everything to prevent impunity. I understand that negative events get more publicity. But I want to stress, that many terrorist acts have been prevented lately. I cannot even talk about some of them. There might have been dire consequences. Leaders of terrorist groups have been eliminated. The number of eliminated criminals is much higher than the number of their victims. It means that the fight against them brings results. But we must conclude this fight and investigate the previously committed crimes, including the cases with the murdered activists, as well as with other individuals. We must finalize the court hearings. And that’s anything but easy. That’s also because our court system does not operate properly. It doesn’t work as quickly as we would like it to. The court system is sluggish. Sometimes it fails to make a decision that brings the result immediately. One of the frequently asked questions is that about jury court. Jury court is a purely humanistic institution. But to be frank, first, we created our own court of jury, which deals with a wider range of issues. One can make a simple comparison and see that the range of criminal cases heard by European and American courts is much narrower, while our court deals with almost everything. That’s the first point. Second, juries must be ready to take responsible decisions. If the juries are intimidated, if they are scared of terrorists, they won’t be able to make such decisions. For this reason, I took certain steps to make the consideration of such cases more objective. Now, professional judges are hearing such cases. In addition, I have recently decided to draw up a draft law to allow such court hearings in the regions other than the North Caucasus so that nobody is afraid of judging terrorists. That was a tough but necessary decision. Some European countries also had to take such actions to punish their own criminals, when court hearings took place in the regions different from those where the crimes actually occurred. And we have to follow the same way. But I am confident that we will be successful. Thank you for the interview.