Russian President Vladimir Putin met with heads of leading global information agencies during the 23th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 6. Traditionally urgent issues of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy dominated the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, when responding to a question from TASS Director General Sergei Mikhailov why the world is not becoming safer, Vladimir Putin said: “After the invention and creation of nuclear weapons the mankind has been in a state of relative dormancy for almost 75 years. We should simply bear in mind, understand what world we live in, what threats and dangers are waiting for us. If we do not keep control of that ‘fiery snake’, if we let it out of the bottle, God forbid, that could lead to global catastrophe.”
In this respect, Russian President criticized the US’ withdrawal from the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty and emphasized that it became the first step towards fundamentally shaking the framework of global security.
Here Vladimir Putin dwelled upon the issue of the New START Treaty. He stressed that Russia’s most advanced hypersonic weapons would be able to protect the country even in case of termination of the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021.
Meanwhile, Russian President noted that the United States has actually decided unilaterally to terminate its participation in the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Moreover, Putin said, if in the case with the ABM Treaty it “behaved honestly and simply withdrew unilaterally and this was all,” now, “apparently understanding that it will have to bear responsibility for that, it is trying to shift [the responsibility for that] onto Russia.”
That said, the Russian leader noted that his telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump in early May encouraged certain optimism on developments concerning arms control. That is despite the fact, Putin said, that Moscow and Washington still have differences of opinion on the US’ stance on climate, Russia does not share Washington’s position on Venezuela and Iran.
Later Vladimir Putin answered the questions on Russia’s relations with Europe. Particularly, he noted that there is no amplification of pro-Russian forces in the new European Parliament, though there are those who are interested in cooperating with Russia. Here he emphasized that Russia would take accommodating steps regarding the European Parliament, including lifting of economic restrictions if it demonstrates the wish to cooperate.
According to Putin, it is necessary to see how decisions will be made there, whether there will be enough votes of those suggesting that the policy on Russia may be changed. “If it happens, we will not only welcome it, we will take steps to meet the other party halfway. It particularly concerns the lifting of restrictions that Russia was forced to impose in response to the European Union’s sanctions… We have many common interests, so let us do everything together, we are ready for that. We will wait to see practical changes in Europe’s policy towards Russia,” President added.
President Putin also dwelled upon the sensitive issue of the peace treaty with Japan. “Those are challenging processes, and I cannot say that either I or Prime Minister Abe will solve it tomorrow. But I know for sure that PM Abe wants that, seeks to sign the peace treaty and I want that as well,” Putin said and urged to solve divisive issues with Japan through dialogue.
Meanwhile, the Russian leader stressed that Moscow is concerned about the military cooperation between Japan and the US. According to Putin, Russia makes no question of Tokyo's right to ensure its security using any means, though Moscow has an issue with the Japanese-US military collaboration.
Later Vladimir Putin touched on the problem of the relationship between Iran and the US and urged Tehran and Washington to restore normal dialogue. “I think that is would be better to return to normal dialogue. For example, I noticed that recently President Trump wrote on his social networks that in principle he is ready to meet and talk with his Iranian colleague, the president of Iran. We can only welcome that,” Putin said. He added that the present “way of behaving is self-defeating, which may cross the last line.”
The Russian leader could not but mention the situation around Venezuela as well. Russia considers it unacceptable to meddle in the affairs of that sovereign state and the affairs of other countries. Meanwhile, Putin noted that the examples of Libya and Iraq confirm negative consequences of the heavy-handed approach to handling of issues. He also claimed that Russia is not setting up any military bases in Venezuela, it only fulfills its obligations under the contracts in the field of military-technical cooperation. According to President, Venezuela’s debt to Russia amounts to $3.5 bln, and Caracas is repaying it in good faith.
At the meeting with heads of leading global information agencies, Vladimir Putin called on London to turn the page in relations with Britain. “We need to eventually turn the page about spies and assassination attempts,” he said. “By the way, we did not spy against you regarding that person involved in alleged poisoning in Salisbury. He was your agent and not ours, which means you were spying against us. As for what happened to him later, it is hard for me to say, but we need to eventually leave it all behind,” Putin stressed.
Here, when asked who he would like to see as new UK prime minister, Russian President noted that it is up to the British people to decide. “It is not up to us to decide, it is up to the British people and the British establishment, primarily the political, to decide about the layout of the parliament, which one of the candidates can offer the most attractive way to resolve the most acute problems of the global agenda, meaning Brexit, of course, and domestic and economic policies. I have no idea, it is none of our business,” Vladimir Putin emphasized.