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Putin meets with heads of leading news agencies on sidelines of St. Petersburg forum

June 18, 9:25 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. missile defense system being deployed in Europe has the potential of turning into an offensive system and may be used against the Russian Federation
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© Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, June 18. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with chief executives of the world’s leading news agencies on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) to answer questions about many urgent issues on the international and domestic agenda.

Missile defense

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. missile defense system being deployed in Europe has the potential of turning into an offensive system and may be used against the Russian Federation.

“There’s no [nuclear] threat [from Iran], and the missile defense system [in Europe] is still being built, so we were right when we said they are deceiving us, they are not sincere with us referring to the alleged Iranian nuclear threat during the construction of the missile defense system,” Putin said.

“It is like this actually – they tried to deceive us once again,” he said at a meeting with the heads of global information agencies.

“We know approximately which year the Americans will get a new missile that will have a range of not 500 kilometers but more, and from that moment they will start threatening our nuclear potential. We know what will be going on by years. And they know that we know,” Putin underscored.

He stated that the United States, “despite all our objections, all our proposals on real cooperation, does not want to cooperate with us, rejects our proposals and acts in accordance with its plan.”

“You may believe me or not, but we have suggested specific variants of cooperation, they have all really been rejected,” Putin said.

He recalled that missile defense system elements have been built in Romania. “What have they constantly said? 'We need to protect ourselves from Iran’s nuclear threat.' Where’s the Iranian nuclear threat? There’s none!” Putin said.

Russia-U.S. confrontation

Putin said on Friday he is worried that military confrontation between Russia and the United States "is dragging the world into a new dimension."

"People feel no danger and that is alarming for me. Why can't we see that we are dragging the world into an utterly new dimension? This is the problem," Putin said.

He said he doesn’t know how to "bring it home" to partners from other countries.

Putin cited U.S. arguments that the missile defense system in Europe is of a defensive rather than offensive nature. “It’s untrue. The strategic missile defense system is part of a strategic offensive potential. And all that works in a link with offensive striking systems,” he said.

"I don’t know where it [the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe] might lead to but I know for sure that we will have to respond," he stressed, adding with a smile that he is sure in any case Russia "will again be accused of aggressive behavior, although it is just a response."

"It is clear that we will have to ensure not only our own security. It is vital for us to ensure strategic balance in the world," Putin said.

He recalled previous discussions with the United States of the idea to build non-nuclear ballistic missiles. “We said then: ‘Do you understand what it is? You will have missiles launched from submarines, from territory. A ballistic missile is fired, and we don’t know if it contains a nuclear warhead or not,” the Russian president said.

“It is the strategic balance that has secured peace on the planet from big armed conflicts over the past 70 years, and it is good, although it is based on a mutual threat, but it has ensured global peace for us for decades. How can it be destroyed? It seems to me it is very dangerous. I am convinced of that,” he said.

Putin did not advise Canada to abstain from joining the missile defense system in Europe. “We can’t tell you what to do. Do as you wish. And we will do as we consider necessary to ensure our security,” he said.

Nuclear striking armaments

Putin said Russia has achieved great success in modernization and development of nuclear striking armaments and in development of antimissile defense systems.

“We warned that we will do that (develop armaments), we said it and are doing it. I assure you: today Russia has achieved great successes on that way,” Putin said.

In his words, nuclear striking systems have been upgraded and new ones are being successfully developed.

“I am not even speaking about systems to counter missile defense systems,” Putin said.

“The world has been saved from large-scale wars and military conflicts thanks to the so-called strategic balance, which was reached after two super-nuclear powers actually agreed on deterrence both in the growth of offensive armaments and in missile defense systems,” he said.

“Because it is clear for everyone: if one country develops missile defense in a more successful way than another, it acquires an advantage, it begins to have a temptation to be the first to use the weapon,” Putin said.

He said “this is one of the cornerstones of international security – the missile defense system and agreements in the sphere.”

Putin said that “when American partners unilaterally quit [the agreements], they dealt a huge blow, it was the first blow on international stability from the viewpoint of the possibility of disruption of the strategic balance of forces.”

“Then I said that we can’t develop the technology now as it is expensive, and, second, it is unknown how it will work… We will follow a different path – we will improve striking systems to preserve the balance [of forces in the world],” he recalled.

Anti-Russian card in U.S. election campaign

Putin said Friday he believes using the anti-Russian card in the election campaign in the United States is counterproductive.

“It only remains to regret that the Russian card is used as some small coin nearly in each election campaign in the United States,” the Russian leader said at the meeting with the chief executives of the leading news agencies. “This, in my view, is absolutely counterproductive.”

He underscored that the Russian authorities will work with any newly elected president.

“Regardless of any pre-election rhetoric, we will judge not by words but by deeds of the newly elected head of the American state, and will certainly be seeking ways to normalize relations, our cooperation in the sphere of economy, international security,” Putin said.

He underscored that Russia and the United States have many problems that may only be effectively solved jointly, including the problem of international terrorism.

Speaking about the election period in Spain and promises given by parties, Putin said that like in the case with the United States, Russia will work with any parties and leaders.

Nevertheless, the Russian president paid attention to the fact that 10 years ago he warned European politicians of the danger of the migration policy conducted by them.

“The country should accept only the number of foreigners that it may adapt to local conditions of the labor market and adapt to the local language and cultural traditions,” he said, underscoring that many people live for decades in Spain while not speaking Spanish.

“We do not exult or accuse anyone. It’s not ideal in our country too, but it seems to me that your problem is more urgent because migration flows that come to you are completely alien people,” Putin explained.

Russia-Canada relations

The Russian president said the relations between Russia and Canada with the arrival of a new premier of the country have chances for restoration.

“Following the arrival of the new prime minister, the Canada-Russia relations have chances for restoration,” Putin told the chief executives of global information agencies.

Justin Trudeau became Canada’s premier in November 2015.

“Mr. Prime Minister himself told me that he is thinking over how to restore our relations in full; we welcome that,” Putin said.

He said both countries should “solve the issue [to restore relations] in solidarity.”

“For that, some specific steps on both parts should be made,” Putin said.

Britain’s possible secession from EU

The issue of the possibility of Britain’s secession from the European Union is up to the EU and Britain to decide, Putin said.

“This is the business of the European Union and the business of the people of Great Britain,” the Russian president said.

He said Russia should not be linked to the issue.

“It seems to me that it is not very decent to fasten Russia to any problem, even one that we have no relation to,” Putin said. “Intellectual people do not behave like that.”

He said experts assess the consequences of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in different ways. “Most agree that it would be harmful to Europe. But some say that Europe would only be more stable,” he said.

The Russian president said it is important to bring it to people who will come to vote objective information for them to understand both negative and positive consequences of the decision.

Putin suggested asking oneself why the current prime minister of Great Britain put the question of the possibility of the country’s secession from the EU to the referendum.

“Why has he done that? To blackmail Europe once again? Or to frighten someone? What’s the goal if he is against it himself? I would like to say that it is not our business, it’s the business of the people of Great Britain,” he said.

“I have my own viewpoint on that account. I can’t say in advance, can’t say anything about results. No one knows it yet. It’s like fifty-fifty. I have my own view whether it is good or not. But I will abstain for the time being from speaking about it,” Putin concluded.

Suspension of Russian athletes

Russian President Vladimir Putin called unjust the decision on actual suspension of all Russian athletes from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and said he hopes for a proper reaction on the part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“Of course it is unjust,” Putin said.

He said responsibility for the use of doping should be personified, whereas the punishment of all Russian athletes “does not fit into any frames of civilized behavior.”

“If a member of your family committed an offense, is it just to bring to account all family members, including you personally? It’s not done like that anywhere,” Putin said.

He underscored that people having nothing to do with violations should not “suffer for others.”

“We are indignant ourselves when we face doping problems and we try to stop it ourselves, punish those guilty. But ‘clean’ athletes – why should they suffer?” Putin said.

“I hope we will find some decision here as well. I hope we will talk to our colleagues in the anti-doping structure (WADA) as well and hope for a proper reaction on the part of the International Olympic Committee,” Putin said.

He underscored that the situation with the IAAF decision “does not mean we are going to get offended and say we won’t fight doping either.”

“On the contrary, we will boost our fight against doping,” the Russian president said, recalling that Russia’s law enforcement bodies have already taken all press reports on the issue for a check.

Commenting on IAAF decisions, Putin also recalled that doping tests were held for Russian athletes by foreign specialists who studied the samples in foreign laboratories.

The Russian president also noted the situation with meldonium, stressing that the substance does not give advantage at competitions and “has never been considered doping”.

“It is well known that meldonium was invented on the territory of the former Soviet Union and is nearly exclusively used by athletes from Eastern European countries. Everyone knew about that well. But they singled out that drug,” Putin said, adding that no one has held tests how fast meldonium leaves the human organism and calling the decisions to ban meldonium “hasty”.

The All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) confirmed on Friday earlier media reports that the Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided at its session earlier in the day to keep in force Russian membership’s suspension.

British daily The Guardian reported earlier on Friday that the decision was made due to Russia’s failure to implement the previously set requirements of the IAAF.

In light of numerous doping scandals, which hit the Russian sports in recent years, the IAAF temporarily suspended late last year the membership of ARAF in the organization.

The suspension means that Russian field and track athletes are currently ineligible to take part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The IAAF’s Council gathered in Austria’s Vienna on Friday to make a decision on the restoration of ARAF’s membership.

Friday’s decision means that Russia’s track and field athletes still have no rights to travel for 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Following the ARAF’s suspension last November, the IAAF set up its Taskforce group with the aim of overseeing the implementation of reforms in the ARAF, necessary for the restoration of Russia’s membership in the global organization.

The Taskforce is headed by its Independent Chair Rune Andersen alongside IAAF Council’s members - Abby Hoffman, the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Strategic Policy Branch at Health Canada, Anna Riccardi, a Technical Delegate for the Rio Olympic Games and Italy’s National Olympic Committee’s Head of Team Services Sport and Olympic Programme Area, Frank Fredericks from Namibia, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Chairman of the IAAF Athletes’ Commission, and Geoff Gardner, the president of the Oceania Athletics Association (Norfolk Island).

However, the IOC, at its meeting June 21, is entitled to allow Russian athletes to take part in the Rio Olympics.

Russia-India relations

Russia and India should develop bilateral relations, as the current level of mutual trade turnover does not meet the existing potential, Vladimir Putin said.

Putin called the two countries’ relations “confidential.” “All political forces here, and, as I feel, all political forces in India speak for development of Russian-Indian relations,” he said.

The Russian leader called the trade turnover level “too small yet” and not corresponding to the existing potential. “It is good that we help India develop a civilian nuclear program, but it’s not enough. We need to diversify our relations,” Putin said, calling to boost mutual investment.

Commenting on nuclear cooperation, the Russian president underscored that Russia interacts with India in that sphere within the framework of international law.

“But we believe that such a country as India, with such a huge population and great economic problems, facing energy challenges and the challenges of ensuring its national security, of course can’t be brought into line with all other countries. We need to act within the framework of international law, but seek opportunities for ensuring Indian interests,” Putin said.

Answering the question on his attitude toward rapprochement of India and the United States, Putin called it “a natural process.”

Gas transit via Ukraine

Putin said he is convinced blackmail on the part of Ukraine regarding gas transit will stop if the country no longer has monopoly on transportation.

“If Ukraine realizes that it has no monopoly right to transport Russian gas to Europe, then blackmail by some figures regarding those deliveries will stop,” he said.

“We will just switch over to normal business cooperation,” the Russian leader said.

“Monopoly is a bad story. And when someone has a monopoly in his hands, he starts abusing it immediately,” Putin said.

He underscored that Russia does not refuse to transit gas via Ukraine in full. “The question is how much we will transport and where,” he said.

Machinery exports to China

Putin said on Friday he sees potential of growth in Russian machinery exports to China.

“For years, we have been speaking about the necessity to change the structure of our exports to China. Now, I can note with satisfaction that despite a slight decrease in overall volumes, Russia’s exports of machine-building products to China have increased, and increased considerably,” the Russian president said.

“It cannot but be pleasing as demonstrating that we have possibilities of growth in these sectors,” he stressed.

He noted that both Russia and China need new technologies and both countries can be supplementary in this sphere “as Russia has research and development potential of fundamental science with subsequent continuation in applied science” and further use in industry.

Russia maintains cooperation with other countries in such sectors as nuclear energy, rocket technologies, aviation, including military uses, he said. In his words, Russia and China have a high level of trust in this sphere and such cooperation will be continued.

Diversification of economy

Russia plans to move along the way of diversification of the economy and attracting investment, Vladimir Putin said.

“We planned a small decline of the economy by the end of this year, but now we are observing growth. The growth in processing industries is 0.6 percent, in agriculture – 2.2 percent, and on the average – 0.5 percent,” Putin said.

“We have certain successes, and we intend to keep moving along that path of diversification and attracting investment,” he said.

Putin said conditions need to be created to attract investment (both domestic and foreign).

“It’s one of the general directions of our work,” he underscored. He noted that "the outflow of capital reduced several-fold.” “It means that money remains in the country, so attractiveness increases,” he said.

Putin added that there are purely formal indices too. “In absolute terms, our export reduced, including machinery, but in percentage terms, it has grown. That is the overall volume decreased but the structure of exports improved,” he said. “That tendency has been observed here in the past months.”

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