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Vladimir Putin: We are strong because we are right

November 23, 2014, 12:00 UTC+3

The Russian president in the TASS special project Top Officials

8 pages in this article
Putin Prospect in the city of Grozny, Chechnya

Putin Prospect in the city of Grozny, Chechnya

© ITAR-TASS/Sergey Uzakov

On renaming streets, the Ukrainian passport and oil prices plot

- It’s not necessary to proclaim monarchic rule. It’s enough for you to move a finger and tomorrow they’ll revive the GULAG or, for example, the cult of personality so that a street named after Vladimir Putin appeared in every town. A steering committee that demands renaming of Sacco and Vanzetti Street named after the Italian anarchists who were electrocuted in America surfaced in Yekaterinburg recently. They said Sacco and Vanzetti had nothing to do with Yekaterinburg, while Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) prevented destruction of the country in 1990s and stopped the rampage of gangsters and oligarchs, and so on… And what do you think about it?

- I think people are doing it out of good and fair intentions.

- And such intentions will be displayed in any city if you give them a signal with your eyebrows.

- I see but it’s too early to put up monuments to each other yet. I mean myself. There is still some work ahead and the future generations will assess the contribution to Russia’s development each of us will have made.

- But what’s your attitude to such initiatives in general?

- As I’ve said, it’s too early to erect monuments...

- Yes, but streets?

- The same applies to streets and squares.

- But one street exists already.

- You mean Grozny?

- Yeah, Grozny (the capital of Chechnya)…

- Yes, and I won’t conceal it they didn’t ask me. But still Chechnya occupies a special place in our most recent history. There are many links to the activity of the first President of the Chechen Republic, Akhmat-Hajji Kadyrov. Everything was tangled so tightly there… But what’s done is done now.

- No one in the West has proposed monuments to you either?

- You recalled the early 2000s here, didn’t you? I haven’t forgotten how all of that was unfolding. The West would give even tougher assessments of my activity then. I lived through it all and I remember it.

It's too early to put up monuments to each other, and I mean myself What do we see? As soon as Russia rises to its feet, gets stronger and claims its right to defend its interests outside its territory, the attitude to the state and its leaders changes in the twinkle of an eye. Recall how it was with Boris Nikolayevich (Yeltsin). In the first stages, the world approved everything. The West received everything he did with unequivocal cheers. But as soon as he spoke up in defense of Yugoslavia, he immediately turned into a drinker and a carrier of all vices in the mind of the Westerners. It’s an open secret, of course, that Yeltsin loved to give himself a damp. And was there anyone who did not know about it before? Everyone knew it, but it did not hinder his contacts with the world. And as soon as the moment came to defend Russia’s interests in the Balkans and he stated it openly, he turned almost into an enemy of the West. Such was the reality in not so distant past. And I have fresh memories of it.

We’re speaking about developments in Ukraine today and our partners tell us all the time about the importance of observing the territorial integrity of that country. They say that all those fighting for their rights and interests in the east of Ukraine are pro-Russian separatists. While those who fought against us in the Caucasus, including those who did it under al-Qaeda guidance, for its money and with its weapons in the hands and even the al-Qaeda militants involved in combat actions were fighters for democracy. It’s incredible, but it’s a proven fact. We were rebuked for a disproportionate use of force then. We were told then, “You’re firing from tanks and using artillery. It’s no way!” And in Ukraine? Aviation, tanks, heavy artillery, and salvo systems. They’ve even used cluster bombs and ballistic missiles and the latter fact simply defies belief! And no one has said a word about the disproportionate use of force.

- Because it is assumed the Ukrainian troops are counteracting Russia.

- Because it is assumed that Russia has interests there but our right to defend them and the people living in those territories is denied. You personally come from Kharkiv, don’t you?

- From Luhansk.

- OK, from Luhansk. You definitely know that if you ask a person, whose ethnicity is identified in his passport as Ukrainian, you’ll see he doesn’t give much thought to it. People there perceive themselves as parts of the greater Russian world. No doubt, the Ukrainian nation has its original culture, language, and self-identity – unique, with marvelous sounding, and very beautiful. But fairly recently a colleague of mine showed me documents dating back to 1924. The word ‘Velikoross’ (‘Great Russian’) was entered in a passport. And today Ukrainians would have written ‘Maloross’ (’Little Russian’). There was no difference in practical terms. We are told, why are you pressing forward with the idea of the Russian world all the time, what if people don’t want to live in it? No one is pressing forward with it, which doesn’t mean however that it does not exist.

When I speak to people from Crimea, for example, or from the east of Ukraine, I ask them “What is your nationality?” Some of them tell me, “We don’t draw any difference.” But when Russia begins to speak about it and to defend people and its own interests, it turns into a bad guy at once. And do you think it’s the east of Ukraine that really matters? Does the problem lurk in our position on eastern Ukraine or Crimea? Not at all. Were it not this particular pretext, any other would be found. And this has always been so.

Take a look at our millennium-long history. As soon as we rise, some other nations immediately feel the urge to push Russia aside, to put it “where it belongs,” to slow it down. How old is the theory of containment? We tend to think it dates back to the Soviet era but, however, it is centuries-old. But we shouldn’t fan any passions over it on our side because that’s how the world is functioning. It implies the struggle for geopolitical interests and, consequently, the nation’s significance, as well as the ability to generate a new economy, to resolve social problems, and to improve living standards. This position is not aggressive a bit. But if you take the United States, our American friends…

- Friends?

- Surely, they’re all our friends. Americans are printing dollars and have turned their national currency into a global currency, although they gave up the gold equivalent several decades ago. But all the same, the printing machine is held by them and they’re obviously capitalizing on this.

- Good guys!

- Good guys. But why did this happen? The US achieved a certain position after World War Two. Why do I say this? The struggle for geopolitical interests leads to the situation when a country either becomes stronger, resolving its financial, defense, economic and subsequently social issues more effectively, or slides into the category of third-, fifth-rate countries, losing a possibility to safeguard the interests of its people.

The struggle for geopolitical interests leads to the country sliding into the category of third-, fifth-rate countries - And what about our attempt to contest with the West?

- We don’t need to contest.

- Will we have enough strength?

- We don’t need to contest. We simply don’t need to contest.

- What are we doing now?

- We simply need to calmly implement our agenda. Many say that oil prices are falling, including because a tie-up is possible between traditional producers, in particular, between Saudi Arabia and the United States. They say this is being done specially to sink the Russian economy.

If you talk to specialists now, I mean true specialists and not specialists like me…

- Who are true specialists, if not you?

- We have such specialists as the Economic Development Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank. What will they tell you? Some things lie on the surface. Look, oil prices have fallen. Why did they fall, by the way? Supply has increased. Libya is producing more, as well as Iraq, no matter how strange it may seem, despite all its problems. Illegal oil has appeared at $30 per barrel, which the Islamic State is selling on the black market. Saudi Arabia has increased extraction. Meanwhile, consumption has contracted due to the period of certain stagnation or, say, slower-than-projected global economic growth. There are fundamental factors. Let’s assume that there are also partners’ purposeful steps on the world energy market. Can we presume this? Yes, we can. What is the result? This leads to the depreciation of the ruble, our national currency. This is one of the factors, not the sole one, but one of them. And what does this mean for the Russian budget? We don’t calculate the budget in dollars. The ruble’s value has fallen and it has depreciated a little.

- By a third.

- By 30 percent... But look: we earlier sold a product that was worth one dollar and got 32 rubles for it. And now we’ll get 45 rubles for the same product costing one dollar. Budget revenues have increased and not decreased. Yes, certain corridors and curbs exist related to the fact that the situation is deteriorating for production sectors and enterprises oriented to purchases abroad with foreign currency. But this is not so for the budget and we’re confidently resolving social problems. This also relates to the tasks of the defense industry. Russia has its own base for import substitution. Thank God, we have inherited a lot from the previous generations and we have also done much in the past 15 years for the industry’s modernization. Does this do us damage? Partial but not fatal. If deliberate efforts are being taken to lower energy prices, they also affect those who introduce these constraints.

Contemporary world is interdependent. This does not at all mean that the sanctions, a sharp fall in oil prices and the depreciation of the national currency will bring about negative results or disastrous consequences solely for us. Nothing of this kind will happen! Problems arise, they are present and they will increase, deteriorating the situation but not only in Russia but also in our partners’ countries, including in oil and gas producing countries. We talk about falling oil prices. This occurs, among other things, because the United States has started to extract shale oil and shale gas. The US now provides itself with its own raw materials to a considerable extent. Not fully so far, but to a considerable extent. But what is the breakeven point of this production? It differs in various regions of the United States. Estimates range from $65 per barrel to $83. Now the oil price has fallen below $80 per barrel. Shale gas production is becoming unprofitable. Perhaps, the Saudis specially want to “kill” their rivals…

- But would it be better for us, if a neighbor’s horse died?

- It depends on the neighbor, his horse and how he used it.

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