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6 May, 2009 16:29

“This hasn’t been an easy year for Medvedev”

A year ago, Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated as President of the Russian Federation. His press secretary, Natalie Timakova, discussed his first year’s high and low points with RT.

RT: Hello to you Natalya, thank you for joining us on RT. First off let’s talks about the brightest and the hardest moments of his first year in office.

Natalya Timakova: Two key events affected the first year of his presidency. The conflict in the Caucasus, which happened in August and which required him to make decisions as President as well as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, was definitely one of them. The world financial crisis, which seemed impossible a mere year ago and which became the main item on the agenda in our country as well as in the entire world, was the other one. Thus these two events drastically influenced both internal and foreign policy during the first year of his presidency.

RT: This was a tough year in relation to the war in the Caucasus. Is he sorry?

N.T.: According to the President, it was the only possible decision in that situation. You may remember, it was a barbarian aggression in which many Russian citizens died, as well as the Russian peacekeepers who had been called to maintain peace and stability on that territory. The President stated on a number of occasions that he had no other choice but to use the military forces in order to protect the South Ossetian population as well as peacekeepers and the Russian troops which had been carrying out their mission.

RT: The Global Financial crisis has been blamed by some on controls which were too liberal. How do you think the crisis will affect his plans – will he resort to tougher state control?

N.T.: The financial crisis may have frozen some processes, but it hasn’t made him change his priorities. Liberalization and diversification of the economy still remain among the top priorities. This means making an innovative economy; turning it from an economy based on the extraction of oil and processing sectors and on oil and gas export, to the true economy of the future with personal initiatives and developed small and medium businesses. It would be unreasonable to deny the fact the crisis had affected the development of these issues. But it doesn’t mean he is giving up on them. These issues are certainly strategic for the President, and he intends to implement them.

RT: What will be his priorities over the next year?

N.Y.: They remain unchanged. They include the continued fight against corruption; independence of the judicial system; modernization, including that of the judicial system; maintenance of social stability in the country, including protection for the poorest sectors of the population which have been badly affected by the crisis. The President said on a number of occasions that the state has to fulfill its obligations to these people. Another priority is the continued policy of investing in innovational development and investing in people. All the things he had been talking about during the election campaign and the beginning of his presidency have remained relevant for him. He is not giving up on these priority ideas and tasks. However, as I’ve said the financial crisis has perhaps affected the pace of implementing certain ideas.

RT: What about the priorities in foreign policy?

N.T.: I’d say Russia is going to take a reasonable position in international policy. Today all countries are facing a number of common challenges. It would be absurd not to try cooperating with other countries in order to resolve those problems. This includes the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the notorious financial crisis, and the problems of certain countries where the situation has drastically worsened recently. I believe some key principles of Medvedev’s foreign policy are his sensibility and willingness to cooperate constructively with all countries and leaders which share our approaches and which are always open for dialogue.

RT: There were numerous international meetings in that first year. Obviously one that drew a lot of attention was with Barack Obama. What were your impressions?

N.T.: This meeting was much anticipated; and both our countries as well as the entire world had been placing great expectations on it. It is fair to believe the situation in the world is dependent to a large extent on the way relations between these two great states are going to develop. Both Russian and American Presidents have been fully aware of this responsibility. The meeting took place in a very good atmosphere. It lasted for more than one and a half hours; first with the assistants and then privately face to face for 20 or 25 minutes. According to their comments at the press conference afterwards, the meeting had been very productive, and the crucial first contact had been made successfully. Perhaps the point was not whether they liked each other personally. But the intentions which had been declared to each other and their willingness to continue the dialogue at the personal level as well as at the level of work contacts had been the most important issues. It’s not a secret that during the final period of working with the Bush administration those contacts had declined drastically, which had led to some serious disagreements.

RT: Medvedev is widely considered to be different from Putin. What are his relations with him like?

N.T.: Both President and Prime Minister have spoken about it on a number of occasions. They have quite a trusting working relationship. Their powers and obligations have been regulated by the constitution, and they’ve been fulfilling their obligations within this framework. And they have definitely preserved good personal relations as well.

RT: Do you think Medvedev is satisfied? Has he succeeded in meeting all the goals he had set?

N.T.: It’s a difficult question. I’d rather not invent the answer! I believe this hasn’t been an easy year. And I believe the President has tried to fully justify the responsibility placed upon him on the May 7, after his inauguration ceremony. Having worked as the first deputy of the presidential administration and the chief of presidential staff, and having worked alongside Vladimir Putin for eight years, Medvedev couldn’t help but know what the president’s work was like. When running for presidency, he was aware what limitations this work had and what intensiveness and responsibility it implied. And he stated on a number of occasions that the point of the ultimate responsibility was one of the key moments of the president’s work. You may take advice and consult with all kinds of respectable and smart people but at the end of the day when you sign a document or a decree the responsibility is yours and yours alone! For him this is a much more important factor than the number of hours spent on a plane, or the number of days spent in a GMT +12 time zone.

RT: Thank you for joining us on RT.