“Putin cares more about what he is doing than about how and when” – PM spokesman

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's press attache, Dmitry Peskov, spoke with RT about the Premier’s attitude towards protocol, his team’s plans and Russia’s handling of the global economic crisis.

It is ten years to the day since Vladimir Putin was first elected Russian president.

His second term finished two years ago but, as Prime Minister, he remains at the heart of Russian politics.

RT: Dmitry Peskov, thank you very much for your time!

Dmitry Peskov: It’s my pleasure.

RT: Now, you’ve been with Vladimir Putin for the last ten years. He was a prime minister, then, he became president and is the premier again. What are your team’s plans for 2012?

DP: We don’t have any plans for 2012. We have plans for today, for tomorrow, for next week, for next month. These are plans of very tense work. We are not looking forward to 2012 and what I suggest is let’s not create a false agenda. Let’s look into today’s business.

RT: At the Valdai forum, the premier said that there will be no Medvedev vs. Putin competition in the next presidential election. He also said that the premier and the president would sit and have a friendly chat and would decide who will run next. So does this inevitably mean that one or the other will run?

DP: No, he never said that they will sit and decide who will run next. They simply cannot. They simply cannot because we are going to have elections in 2012.

RT: Vladimir Putin in his recent statement has said that a reactor is to be launched – a nuclear reactor – in Iran’s Busher. And that was said at a time when Hillary Clinton was in Moscow. Now, was that a coincidence or was that some sort of a signal to our American friends?

DP: This statement by Prime Minister Putin was made during the launching of a new reactor in a nuclear power plant. Well, he was discussing the future of nuclear energy sector in Russia.

You know that we have very ambitious plans for increasing the share of energy in the whole, overall energy production. And so government will continue to spend efforts in order to maintain the level of activities in construction of new power plants that we have initiated lately. Russia possesses very advanced and extremely safe technologies. Having these technologies, we have a demand, an international demand for these technologies, and thus we have very good perspectives for international co-operation. In the framework of this international co-operation, our construction companies, relevant construction companies have their projects abroad. One of these projects is the Busher power plant.

The construction of the Busher power plant 100 per cent complies with all the demands of IAEA and has nothing to do with agenda of non-proliferation.

RT: Well, you know, it still worries the Americans.

DP: Well, we have the IAEA international body. This is the only responsible body, responsible for sector of nuclear energy, and compliance is total.

So, construction of Busher is going on and it’s going to be completed this year. And, certainly, these are planned activities. They have nothing to do with traveling schedule of leaders of other states or the state secretary of the United States.

RT: You know, Western media also speculates that Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation is to take part in the Pentagon tender for tankers’ aircraft supplies. Pentagon hasn’t confirmed this. Is Russia going to take part in this tender?

DP: No, Russia is not going to.

RT: Now, let’s talk about trade and economy, about Russia and China, two huge countries, two neighbors. It’s a bit odd that Russia’s main trading partner is Europe. The reason I am asking is whether there’s a possibility that China may replace Europe; that all Russian exports will end up in China, including oil?

DP: Well, it’s very hard to imagine that all Russian oil ends up in China, or China is, let’s say, an overwhelming trade partner. And the reason is very simple. Russia traditionally was looking in both directions. Certainly, we are trying to diversify routes of deliveries of natural hydrocarbons, natural resources not limiting us only with Western direction, but also try to take advantage, well, of demand that we see in the Far East, that we see in China.

This will and is balancing to a great extent the trade balance of our country and this will continue.

But definitely China is traditionally our privileged partner. Prime Minister Putin met the deputy chairman of China, and what we witness now is really political will, coming from Beijing, to broaden our cooperation, and in exchange, we certainly try to demonstrate and are demonstrating a totally reciprocal attitude.

RT: Well, then Russian citizens have their assets converted into dollars, partially in dollars. How justified is that considering the current state of the US economy, which is far from being perfect?

DP: Actually, the global economy is still far from being perfect. Let’s not forget that only one year ago we were all in a disastrous situation. Some countries managed to withstand the consequences in a better shape, some not.

I would rather say that Russia is among the countries that managed relatively smoothly. Yes, we had a greater decline and a greater shrinkage of economy in comparison with other BRIC countries. This is true, but at the same time we were, let’s say, sophisticated, economically sophisticated, enough not to allow negative social consequences to occur and not to allow decrease in the living standards of the population. Well, savings in dollars? Savings in euros? We know that Europe is also shaking economically.

RT: Well, do you have any further plans for diversification?

DP: Well, the Ministry of Finance proved to be a very wise investor. During the crisis they avoided any loss in their investments, in their international assets. And on the contrary, they managed to gain some profit. So, let’s avoid speaking in favor of one currency because the volatility in rates will continue for a certain period.

RT: Now, the government has made huge investments into the Russian economy during the crisis time. But even the premier said that not all the money was used properly and efficiently. What went wrong? How come the funds allocated once again fell into the hands of inefficient managers?

DP: Don’t forget that crisis management is a process of a very rapid reaction. You have to act very rapidly responding to changing global environment, economic domestic environment. And that was done by the government.

Unfortunately we don’t see the necessary level of growth of credit portfolio of the banks. So, they don’t give enough credits despite the fact that they were supported by the government. The conditions are not suitable. And, thus we cannot speed up economy as it is desired. Well, at the same time we know that some times we still see difficulties, let’s say, rather connected with bureaucracy.

So, it’s day-to-day business, it’s day-to-day problems. And that’s why some mistakes, some – let’s say – less-efficient responses for measures that were taken are inevitable. That’s why crisis management cannot be in automatic mode. It can only be in a manual mode.

RT: Now, Premier Putin is going to Katyn, which is the scene of the mass murder of thousands of Polish prisoners of war, and primarily military officers, who were killed by the Soviet NKVD. Russia has officially apologized for this crime of 1940. Nevertheless, in Poland, this historical fact is often used as political manipulation or speculation. Is this going to go forever?

DP: We sincerely hope that it is not. That was really a huge tragedy, but not only of Polish people, but also of the Soviet people. Let’s not forget that beneath the bodies of Polish officers, bodies of Soviet people were found. They were also destroyed, murdered by regime of Stalin.

RT: What is there to be done for this issue to become subject of discussion between historians rather than politicians?

DP: It’s just to exclude any attempts of politicizing on this issue from diplomatic and political practice. Also, it’s to exclude this issue from set of instruments of domestic affairs. Sometimes, for the sake of domestic situations, it used to be used in Poland. Certainly, we don’t think that this is appropriate practice.

We think that we, both Russians and the Poles, have to keep the memory of those dead and rather use this memory as a uniting factor, as a factor opening new perspectives for our two peoples, for interaction between the two countries being very close and historical neighbors.

RT: Protocol – it’s kind of a tricky thing and it’s kind of a ritual that Vladimir Putin over the last decade has, a couple of times maybe, stepped away from it. Can you, maybe, recall one instance when he made you nervous or made you smile?

DP: Putin is very pragmatic and much more he cares about what he is doing and not about how and when he is doing that. He cares about the real outcome, not about the process.

And sometimes he doesn’t care about protocol at all. Sometimes he prefers not to listen to a man of appropriate level for him.

RT: So, what do you do in these cases when he doesn’t care about protocol?

DP: Well, our job is to create conditions for his comfortable work, to assist. So we are trying to comply with his demands.