Putin: “Publish A World Map And
Mark All The U.S. Military Bases On It. You Will See The Difference Between
Russia And The US”
Vladimir Putin pulls no punches in an
interview with Corriere della Sera. See the full transcript below.
By Corriere della Sera
June 09, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Mint
Press" - Full
transcript of Corriere della Sera’s interview with Vladimir Putin
I would like to start with a question concerning Russian-Italian relations.
This relationship has always been close and privileged, both in the economic
and political spheres. However, it has been somewhat marred by the crisis in
Ukraine and the sanctions. Could the recent visit by Italian Prime Minister
Matteo Renzi to Russia and your upcoming visit to Milan somehow change this
trend, and if so, what is needed for that?
First, I firmly believe that Russia was not responsible for the
deterioration in relations between our country and the EU states. This was
not our choice; it was dictated to us by our partners. It was not we who
introduced restrictions on trade and economic activities. Rather, we were
the target and we had to respond with retaliatory, protective measures.
But the relationship between
Russia and Italy has, indeed, always been privileged, both in politics and
the economy. For instance, in recent years, that is, in the last couple of
years, trade between our countries increased eleven fold, from what I
believe was $4.2 billion – we make calculations in US dollars – to over $48
billion, nearly $49 billion.
There are 400 Italian companies
operating in Russia. We are cooperating actively in the energy sector, in an
array of fields. Italy is the third largest consumer of our energy
resources. We also have many joint high technology projects: in the space
and aircraft industries, and in many other sectors. Russian regions are
working very closely with Italy. Last year, almost a million Russian
tourists, about 900,000, visited Italy. And while there, they spent over a
We have always enjoyed
trust-based relations in the political sphere as well. The establishment of
the Russia-NATO Council was Italy’s initiative – Silvio Berlusconi was Prime
Minister at the time. This advisory working body no doubt became an
important factor of security in Europe. In this regard, Italy has always
contributed greatly to the development of the dialogue between Russia and
Europe, and NATO as a whole. Not to mention our special cultural and
All this, of course, lays the
foundation for a special relationship between our countries. And the
incumbent Prime Minister’s visit to Russia sent a very important message
showing that Italy is willing to develop these relations. It is only natural
that this does not go unnoticed either by the Government of the Russian
Federation or by the public.
We are, of course, ready to
reciprocate and go further in expanding our cooperation as long as our
Italian partners are willing to do the same. I hope that my upcoming visit
to Milan will help in this respect.
You have known several chairmen of the Italian Council of Ministers – Romano
Prodi, Silvio Berlusconi, Massimo D’Alema, Giuliano Amato, Enrico Letta and
now Matteo Renzi. With whom did you find that you understood each other
best? And how much, in your opinion, does the existence of a personal
relationship – like the one you had with Silvio Berlusconi – contribute to
good relations between countries?
No matter what posts we occupy or what our jobs are, we are still human, and
personal trust is certainly a very important factor in our work, in building
relations on the interstate level. One of the people you have just mentioned
once told me, “You must be the only person (meaning I was the only person) –
who has a friendly relationship with both Berlusconi and Prodi.” I can tell
you that it was not difficult for me, I still don’t find it difficult, and I
can tell you why. My Italian partners have always put the interests of
Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the
interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they
must maintain friendly relations with Russia. We have always understood and
This has been the key element
underlying our good relations. I have always sensed a truly sincere interest
in building interstate relations irrespective of the domestic political
situation. I would like to say in this regard that the attitude people in
Russia have developed towards Italy does not depend on which political party
is in power.
Mr President, you are coming to Milan for the celebration of the Russia Day
at the Universal Exhibition EXPO 2015. The core theme of this year’s
exhibition is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” What is Russia’s
contribution to this cause? What does this effort mean for relations between
This is one of the major challenges that humanity is facing today. So I can
and must acknowledge that the Italian organisers chose one of the key themes
for the exhibition.
The world’s population is
growing. According to experts, it will reach 9 billion people by 2050. But
even today, according to the same sources, to the UN, 850 million people all
over the planet are under nourished or starving, and 100 million of them are
children. So, there is no doubt that this is one of the key issues of our
time. Many other issues, seemingly unrelated, will depend on how we deal
with it. I am talking about instability among other things, that is
political instability of entire regions, terrorism, and so on. All these
problems are interrelated. The surge of illegal migration that has hit Italy
and Europe today is among these resulting problems. I would like to repeat
that, in my view, the organisers did the right thing pointing out the need
to address this issue.
As for Russia’s contribution, we
channel over $200 million into this through UN programmes. Many countries
around the world receive necessary support and assistance under these
programmes using Russian resources.
We pay significant attention to
the development of agriculture in our country. Notwithstanding all the
difficulties that the development of Russian economy faces today, our
agricultural sector, the sector of agricultural production, has been growing
steadily – last year the growth was around 3.4 3.5 percent. In the first
quarter of the current year, the growth stayed at the same level, exceeding
3 percent, at 3.4 percent. Russia is now the third largest grain exporter in
the world. Last year, we had a record harvest of grain crops, one of the
largest in recent years – 105.3 million tonnes. Finally, Russia has an
enormous potential in this sphere. I think that we have the largest area of
arable land in the world and the biggest fresh water reserves, since Russia
is the biggest country in the world in terms of territory.
Mr. President, when we were talking about the shadow cast on our relations,
you said that it was not your choice, and there is an opinion that Russia
feels betrayed, abandoned by Europe, like a lover abandoned by his mistress.
What are the problems in these relations today? Do you think that Europe has
been too dependent on the United States in the Ukrainian crisis? What do you
expect from Europe in relation to the sanctions? I may have asked too many
questions at once.
You have certainly asked a lot of questions, with an Italian flair. (Laughs)
First, about the mistress. In
this kind of a relationship with a woman, that is, if you assume no
obligations, you have no right to claim any obligations from your partner.
We have never viewed Europe as a
mistress. I am quite serious now. We have always proposed a serious
relationship. But now I have the impression that Europe has actually been
trying to establish material based relations with us, and solely for its own
gain. There is the notorious Third Energy Package and the denial of access
for our nuclear energy products to the European market despite all the
existing agreements. There is reluctance to acknowledge the legitimacy of
our actions and reluctance to cooperate with integration associations in the
territory of the former Soviet Union. I am referring to the Customs Union,
which we created and which has now grown into the Eurasian Economic Union.
Because it is all right when
integration takes place in Europe, but if we do the same in the territory of
the former Soviet Union, they try to explain it by Russia’s desire to
restore an empire. I don’t understand the reasons for such an approach.
You see, all of us, including
me, have been talking for a long time about the need to establish a common
economic space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. In fact, French
President Charles de Gaulle said something similar a lot earlier than me.
Today nobody objects to it, everybody says: yes, we should aspire to this.
But what is happening in
practice? For example, the Baltic States have joined the European Union.
Good, no problem. But today we are being told that these countries, which
are part of the energy system of the former Soviet Union and Russia, they
must join the European Union’s energy system. We ask: Are there any problems
with energy supply or with something else? Why is it necessary? – No, there
are no problems, but we have decided that it will be better this way.
What does this mean for us in
practical terms? It means that we will be forced to build additional
generating capacities in some western regions in Russia. Since electricity
transmission lines went through the Baltic States to some Russian regions
and vice versa, all of them will now be switched over to Europe, and we will
have to build new transmission lines in our country to ensure electricity
supply. This will cost us about 2 2.5 billion euro.
Now let’s look at the EU-Ukraine
Association Agreement. It does not require that Ukraine becomes part of the
European energy system, but it is considered possible. If this happens, we
will have to spend not 2 2.5 billion but, probably, about 8 10 billion euro
for the same purpose. The question is: why is this necessary if we believe
in building a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok? What is the
objective of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership? Is it to integrate
the whole former Soviet Union into a single space with Europe, I repeat for
the third time, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, or to cut something off and
establish a new border between modern Russia and the western territories
including, say, Ukraine and Moldova?
Let me tell you something else
now, and you can decide for yourselves what to publish and what to leave
What are the roots of the
Ukrainian crisis? Its cause seems to be completely disproportionate to what
has become an utter tragedy today claiming many lives in southeast Ukraine.
What sparked the crisis? Former President Viktor Yanukovych said that he
needed to think about signing Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU,
possibly make some changes and hold consultations with Russia, its major
trade and economic partner. In this connection or under this pretext riots
broke out in Kiev. They were actively supported both by our European and
American partners. Then a coup d’état followed – a totally
anti-constitutional act. The new authorities announced that they were going
to sign the Association Agreement but would delay its implementation until
January 1, 2016. The question is: what was the coup d’état for? Why did they
need to escalate the situation to a civil war? The result is exactly the
What is more, at the end of 2013
we were ready to give Ukraine $15 billion as a state loan supported by a
further $5 billion via commercial banks; plus we already gave it $3 billion
during the year and promised to cut gas prices by half if they paid
regularly. We were not at all against Ukraine signing an Association
Agreement with the European Union. But, of course, we wanted to participate
in the final decisions, meaning that Ukraine was then and is still now,
today, a member of the CIS free trade area, and we have mutual obligations
as its members.
How is it possible to completely
ignore this, to treat it with utter disrespect? I simply cannot understand
that. The result that we have – a coup d’état, a civil war, hundreds of
lives lost, devastated economy and social sphere, a four-year $17.5 billion
loan promised to Ukraine by the IMF and complete disintegration of economic
ties with Russia. But Russian and Ukrainian economies are very deeply
The European Union unilaterally
removed its customs duties for Ukraine. However, the volume of Ukraine’s
sales to the European market did not grow. Why not? Because there is nothing
to sell. There is no demand in the European market for Ukrainian products,
either in terms of quality or price, in addition to the products that were
already sold before.
We have a market for Ukraine,
but many ties have been severed unilaterally by the Ukrainian side. For
example, all engines for our combat helicopters came from Ukraine. Now
deliveries have stopped. We have already built one plant in St Petersburg
and another plant will be completed this year, but the production of these
engines in Ukraine will be shut down because Italy, France or Germany don’t
need and will never need such engines. It is impossible for Ukraine to
divert its production in any way; it will need billions in investment to do
I don’t understand why this was
done. I have asked many of my colleagues, including in Europe and America,
And what do they answer?
The situation got out of control.
You know, I would like to tell
you and your readers one thing. Last year, on February 21, President
Yanukovych and the Ukrainian opposition signed an agreement on how to
proceed, how to organise political life in the country, and on the need to
hold early elections. They should have worked to implement this agreement,
especially since three European foreign ministers signed this agreement as
guarantors of its implementation.
If those colleagues were used
for the sake of appearances and they were not in control of the situation on
the ground, which was in fact in the hands of the US ambassador or a CIA
resident, they should have said: “You know, we did not agree to a coups
d’etat, so we will not support you; you should go and hold elections
The same could be said about our
American partners. Let’s assume that they also lost control of the
situation. But if America and Europe had said to those who had taken these
unconstitutional actions: “If you come to power in such a way, we will not
support you under any circumstances; you must hold elections and win them” –
(by the way, they had a 100 percent chance of a victory, everybody knows
that), the situation would have developed in a completely different way.
So, I believe that this crisis
was created deliberately and it is the result of our partner’s
unprofessional actions. And the coverage of this process has been absolutely
unacceptable. I would like to emphasise once more: this was not our choice,
we did not seek it, we are simply forced to respond to what is happening.
In conclusion – forgive me for
this protracted monologue – I would like to say that it is not that we feel
deceived or treated unfairly. This is not the point. The point is that
relationships should be built on a long term basis not in the atmosphere of
confrontation, but in the spirit of cooperation.
You say the situation got out of control. But is it not the right moment for
Russia to seize the initiative, to find a way to engage its American and
European partners in the search of solution to the situation, to show that
it is ready to address this problem?
That is exactly what we are doing. I think that today the document we agreed
upon in Minsk, called Minsk II, is
the best agreement and perhaps the only unequivocal solution to this
problem. We would never have agreed upon it if we had not considered it to
be right, just and feasible.
On our part, we take every
effort, and will continue to do so, in order to influence the authorities of
the unrecognised self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics. But not
everything depends on us. Our European and US partners should exert
influence on the current Kiev administration. We do not have the power, as
Europe and the United States do, to convince Kiev to carry out everything
that was agreed on in Minsk.
I can tell you what needs to be
done; maybe I will anticipate your next question. The key aspect of the
political settlement was to create conditions for this joint work, but it
was essential to stop the hostilities, to pull back heavy weaponry. On the
whole, this has been done. Unfortunately, there is still shooting
occasionally and there are casualties, but there are no large scale
hostilities, the sides have been separated. It is time to begin implementing
the Minsk Agreements.
Specifically, there needs to be
a constitutional reform to ensure the autonomous rights of the unrecognised
republics. The Kiev authorities do not want to call it autonomy, they prefer
different terms, such as decentralisation. Our European partners, those very
partners who wrote the corresponding clause in the Minsk Agreements,
explained what should be understood as decentralisation. It gives them the
right to speak their language, to have their own cultural identity and
engage in cross border trade – nothing special, nothing beyond the civilised
understanding of ethnic minorities’ rights in any European country.
A law should be adopted on
municipal elections in these territories and a law on amnesty. All this
should be done, as the Minsk Agreements read, in coordination with Donetsk
People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, with these territories.
The problem is that the current
Kiev authorities don’t even want to sit down to talks with them. And there
is nothing we can do about it. Only our European and American partners can
influence this situation. There is no need to threaten us with sanctions. We
have nothing to do with this, this is not our position. We seek to ensure
the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
It is essential to launch
economic and social rehabilitation of these territories. What has happened
there, exactly? The current Kiev authorities have simply cut them off from
the rest of the country. They discontinued all social payments – pensions,
benefits; they cut off the banking system, made regular energy supply
impossible, and so on. So you see, there is a humanitarian disaster in those
regions. And everybody is pretending that nothing is wrong.
Our European colleagues have
taken on certain obligations, in particular they promised to help restore
the banking system in these territories. Finally, since we are talking about
what can or must be done, and by whom, I believe that the European Union
could surely provide greater financial assistance to Ukraine. These are the
I would like to stress that
Russia is interested in and will strive to ensure the full and unconditional
implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and I don’t believe there is any
other way to settle this conflict today.
Incidentally, the leaders of the
self-proclaimed republics have publicly stated that under certain conditions
– meaning the implementation of the Minsk Agreements – they are ready to
consider themselves part of the Ukrainian state. This is a fundamental
issue. I think this position should be viewed as a sound precondition for
the start of substantial negotiations.
All our actions, including those
with the use of force, were aimed not at tearing away this territory from
Ukraine but at giving the people living there an opportunity to express
their opinion on how they want to live their lives.
I would like to stress this once
again, as I have said many times before: if Kosovo Albanians were allowed
this, why is it prohibited to Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars living
in Crimea? And by the way, the decision on Kosovo’s independence was made
exclusively by the Kosovo Parliament, whereas Crimea held a region-wide
referendum. I think that a conscientious observer could not but see that
people voted almost unanimously for reunification with Russia.
I would like to ask those who do
not want to recognise it: if our opponents call themselves democrats, I
would like to ask what exactly democracy means. As far as I know, democracy
is the rule of the people, or the rule based on the will of the people. So,
the solution of the Crimean issue is based on the will of the people of the
In Donetsk and Lugansk people
voted for independence, and the situation there is different. But the main
thing, something we must always bear in mind, is that we should always
respect the feelings and the choice of the people. And if somebody wants
these territories to remain part of Ukraine, they should prove to those
people that their lives would be better, more comfortable and safer within a
unified state; that they would be able to provide for themselves and ensure
their children’s future within this state. But it is impossible to convince
these people by means of weapons. These issues, issues of this kind can only
be resolved by peaceful means.
Speaking of peace, the countries that used to be parties to the Warsaw
Treaty and today are NATO countries, such as the Baltic states and Poland,
feel threatened by Russia. NATO has decided to create special forces to
address these concerns. My question is whether the West is right in its
determination to restrain “the Russian bear”, and why does Russia continue
to speak in such a contentious tone?
Russia does not speak with anyone in a contentious tone, and in such
matters, to quote a political figure from the past, Otto von Bismarck, it is
not discussions but the potential that counts.
What does the actual potential
show? US military spending is higher than that of all countries in the world
taken together. The aggregate military spending of NATO countries is 10
times, note – 10 times higher than that of the Russian Federation. Russia
has virtually no bases abroad. We have the remnants of our armed forces
(since Soviet times) in Tajikistan, on the border with Afghanistan, which is
an area where the terrorist threat is particularly high. The same role is
played by our airbase in Kyrgyzstan; it is also aimed at addressing the
terrorist threat and was set up at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities
after a terrorist attack perpetrated by terrorists from Afghanistan on
We have kept since Soviet times
a military unit at a base in Armenia. It plays a certain stabilising role in
the region, but it is not targeted against anyone. We have dismantled our
bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on.
This means that our policy in this respect is not global, offensive or
I invite you to publish the
world map in your newspaper and to mark all the US military bases on it. You
will see the difference.
Sometimes I am asked about our
airplanes flying somewhere far, over the Atlantic Ocean. Patrolling by
strategic airplanes in remote regions was carried out only by the Soviet
Union and the United States during the Cold War. In the early 1990s, we, the
new, modern Russia, stopped these flights, but our American friends
continued to fly along our borders. Why? Some years ago, we resumed these
flights. And you want to say that we have been aggressive?
American submarines are on
permanent alert off the Norwegian coast; they are equipped with missiles
that can reach Moscow in 17 minutes. But we dismantled all of our bases in
Cuba a long time ago, even the non-strategic ones. And you would call us
You yourself have mentioned
NATO’s expansion to the east. As for us, we are not expanding anywhere; it
is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving
towards our borders. Is this a manifestation of our aggression?
Finally, the United States
unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was to a
large extent the cornerstone of the entire international security system.
Anti-missile systems, bases and radars are located in the European territory
or in the sea, e.g. in the Mediterranean Sea, and in Alaska. We have said
many times that this undermines international security. Do you think this is
a display of our aggression as well?
Everything we do is just a
response to the threats emerging against us. Besides, what we do is limited
in scope and scale, which are, however, sufficient to ensure Russia’s
security. Or did someone expect Russia to disarm unilaterally?
I have proposed to our American
partners not to withdraw from the treaty unilaterally, but to create an ABM
system together, the three of us: Russia, the United States and Europe. But
this proposal was declined. We said at the time: “Well, this is an expensive
system, its efficiency is not proven, but to ensure the strategic balance we
will develop our strategic offensive potential, we will develop systems of
overpowering anti-ballistic defence. And I have to say that we have made
significant strides in this area.
As for some countries’ concerns
about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane
person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack
NATO. I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears
with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line
countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic,
financial or some other aid. Therefore, it is pointless to support this
idea; it is absolutely groundless. But some may be interested in fostering
such fears. I can only make a conjecture.
For example, the Americans do
not want Russia’s rapprochement with Europe. I am not asserting this, it is
just a hypothesis. Let’s suppose that the United States would like to
maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. It needs an external
threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not
enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be
frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is
forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But
it was not our doing.
Let me tell you something –
there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that
people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale
military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you.
But you cooperate with the United States on Iran and other dossiers, and
John Kerry’s visit to Sochi sent yet another message in this regard. Or am I
You are right – it did. We are cooperating not only on the Iranian nuclear
programme, but on other serious issues as well. Despite America’s withdrawal
from the ABM Treaty, our arms control dialogue continues.
We are not just partners; I
would say we are allies in addressing the issues related to non
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are undoubtedly allies in
the fight against terrorism. There are some other areas of collaboration as
well. The central theme of Expo Milano, which you mentioned earlier, is yet
another example of our joint work. Indeed, there are plenty of issues that
we continue to tackle jointly.
Mr Putin, on May 9, Russia marked the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory,
which liberated both your country and the entire Europe from Nazism. No
other country paid as bloody a price for this victory as Russia. However,
there were no Western leaders standing next to you on Red Square. Il
Corriere della Sera published Silvio Berlusconi’s letter criticising those
leaders for their absence. I have two related questions.
Do you think that by their
absence they showed disrespect for the Russian people? What does the memory
of the Great Patriotic War mean to the Russian identity today?
It is not a matter of identity. Identity is built on culture, language and
history. This war is a tragic page in our history. When we mark such days,
festive but also sad given the number of lives lost in that war, we think
about the generation that made our freedom and independence possible, about
those who triumphed over Nazism. We also think about the fact that no one
has the right to forget this tragedy, first of all, because we must think
about how to avoid the repetition of anything like that in the future. These
are not just words; it is not an unfounded fear.
Today, we hear some people say
that there was no such thing as the holocaust, for instance. We are
witnessing attempts to glorify the Nazis and their collaborators. This is
part of our life today. Today’s terrorism in all its various manifestations
is very much like Nazism; in fact, there is hardly any difference between
As for the colleagues you have
mentioned, it is their personal choice, of course, whether to come to Moscow
to join in the celebrations or not. I think that they failed to see past the
current complexity in international relations to something far more
important that is linked not only to the past, but also to the need to fight
for our common future.
They made their choice, but this
day is, first and foremost, our holiday. You see, there were veterans from
quite a number of countries in Moscow: from the United States, Great
Britain, Poland and other European countries. In fact, it is these people
who are the true heroes of this day, and this was very important to us.
During those celebrations, we did not honour only those who fought Nazism in
the Soviet Union; we also remembered the Resistance fighters in Germany
itself, in France and in Italy. We remember all of them and pay tribute to
all the people who did not spare themselves in the fight against Nazism.
Certainly, we understand only
too well that it was the Soviet Union that made the decisive contribution
into the Victory and suffered the most severe losses in the fight against
Nazism. It is more than just a military victory to us, it is a moral
victory. You see, virtually every family lost someone in the war. How can we
forget this? It is impossible.
You are a very popular leader in Russia, but in other countries and even in
your own country you are often called authoritarian. Why is it so difficult
to be part of the opposition in Russia?
What is so difficult about it? If the opposition proves that it can tackle
the challenges faced by a district, a region or the whole country, then, I
think, people will always notice it.
The number of parties in our
country has multiplied, in recent years we liberalised the process of
establishing a political party and taking it to a regional and national
level. It is all about their competence and ability to work with the
electorate, to work with people.
Then why are members of the opposition so rarely interviewed by the main
Russian TV channels?
I think if they have something interesting to say, they will be interviewed
As for political competition, we
know that various means are used against political rivals. Just take a look
at the most recent history of Italy.
Mr President, Greece is facing huge difficulties in its relations with
Europe. If Greece leaves the eurozone, will Russia be ready to offer it
political and economical assistance?
We are building our relations with Greece irrespective of whether it is an
EU, eurozone or NATO member. We have very close historical and good
partnership relations with Greece, which is why it is up to the Greek people
to make a sovereign decision as to which union and zone to be part of. But
we don’t know what will happen in the future, so it would be wrong or even
harmful for both Greek and European economies if we, as the saying goes, try
to read the tea leaves.
For an economy like Greece there
are certain difficulties brought about by the common European rules. They
cannot devalue the drachma because they don’t have it, they are strictly
pegged to the euro currency. Their boundaries are fully open for European
goods, which gives a distinct advantage to the export-oriented economies.
Common decisions are made concerning such sectors as agriculture and
fishery, where Greece could have certain competitive advantages but there
are limits as well.
Another sector where it has an
advantage is tourism, of course, but it applies to the Schengen area and
there are also some limits. We have a visa-free arrangement with Turkey and
5 million Russian tourists visited this country last year, while less than
one million tourists visited Greece, around 300,000, as far as I know.
However, Greece receives concessional loans, financial support from the
European treasury, and it has access to the European labour market. There
are also other benefits of being part of the European family.
It is not up to us here in
Russia to decide what is more beneficial and preferable for Greece. Once
again, it is up to the Greek people to make a sovereign decision in dialogue
with their main European partners.
We can see the statues of four Russian emperors here, in this room. Which
historical figure inspires you the most?
You know, people ask me this question a lot. I prefer to dodge it since the
answer can give rise to various interpretations. (Laughs)
So I will put it like this: I
try not to idolise anybody. I try, or rather, I am guided by the interests
of the Russian people in my work, taking into account everything that has
been previously accumulated and the conditions we are living in today, and I
try to get a glimpse of the way we should build our life, economy and policy
– first and foremost, our domestic policy – as well as our foreign policy in
the medium and long-term strategic perspective.
There are many good examples in
both Russian and European history, as well as in world history. But all
those people lived and worked in certain conditions. The most important
thing is to be honest with yourself and with the people who have entrusted
you with this work.
One last question. What is your biggest regret in life? What do you consider
a mistake that you would never want to make again?
I will be quite frank with you. I cannot recollect anything of the kind. By
the grace of God, I have nothing to regret in my life.
(Translation by Julia Gabrielle Barnes)
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