Thursday, October 2, 2014

President of Russia

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Dmitry Medvedev addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos

The President spoke about his views of the situation in Russia and the world, the main principles of Russia’s modernisation strategy, and presented a number of Russia’s specific proposals and initiatives.

Dmitry Medvedev began his speech by addressing the tragedy that has shaken Russian society: the terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport. Noting that globalisation has made the world more interdependent, Mr Medvedev highlighted the need to create a global security system that is equal for all states, emphasising the necessity to do everything for sustainable, safe and fair global development.

According to the President, the world must truly unite in order to fight terrorism and eradicate its socioeconomic causes – poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, orphanhood, and many others.

Mr Medvedev affirmed that the crisis has had a sobering effect on everyone, but the economy has not been the only source of lessons learned. Noting the recent environmental disasters in various nations, the President of Russia stressed the necessity of completing the ‘long-standing’ climate talks and creating a common system for environmental monitoring, prevention of and responding to emergency situations.

According to Dmitry Medvedev, today the world needs ideas that can change it for the better; in this regard, it would be beneficial to discuss Russia’s proposals for a new European Security agreement in Davos.

International relations and regulation principles are increasingly lagging behind. In order to build a new world, it is necessary to be guided by several well-known principles, Mr Medvedev said.

First of all, problems need to be addressed through a strategic, long-term approach.

Second, we must be realistic and ready to live within our means. Today’s reality in various nations - sovereign debt crises, budget deficits, reluctance to cut spending – is fraught with new economic and political crises.

The third principle concerns global partnership and its proper organisation. Dmitry Medvedev stressed the necessity for the G20 to work effectively and for developing new leadership alliances, particularly within BRIC format, which will soon be joined by South Africa. The President suggested including BRIC currencies in the IMF’s basket of main currencies known as the special drawing rights (SDR) system.

The fourth principle is the diversification of the world’s various economic and political models that allow for adapting to future challenges.

Mr Medvedev emphasised that Russia’s modernisation strategy fully corresponds with these principles and offers new opportunities for successfully doing business in the country. The President specified the main steps being taken by Russia as regards privatisation, investment, financial sector, energy sector, creation of new markets and creation of a common economic space with the European Union, as well as the creation of a common economic space with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Furthermore, new opportunities are being created in Russia for innovation and venture capital financing; the mechanisms for technology transfer are being used, and there is a programme for expanding broadband Internet access along with a state project for integrating banking and public services and developing electronic payments. In addition, Russia is training its own specialists and seeking to attract the best foreign specialists.

The President also spoke about the implementation of major infrastructure projects in Russia, including major international sporting events.

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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Mr Schwab, ladies and gentlemen,

A terrorist attack was committed at Moscow Domodedovo International Airport the day before yesterday, killing dozens of innocent people. Citizens of different countries died at the hands of terrorists: Russia, the United Kingdom, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Over a hundred people sustained injuries and are now in hospitals.

This tragedy was a real shock for Russian society, despite the fact that our country had suffered similar ordeals in the past. It caused an outrage throughout the civilised world. I have received numerous letters, telegrams and telephone calls from leaders of many states and heads of international organisations expressing their condolences and solidarity. I am grateful for your sympathy and the words that I have just heard from you and from other forum participants. We mourn for the dead together.

The pain from the loss of lives will remain in our hearts for a long time, but the incident only strengthened our common resolve and determination to find effective safeguards against international terror, and I think it is extremely important. Those who committed this atrocity, directing their attack against the citizens of different countries, expected that this would bring Russia to its knees and force us to assume a defensive position; they believed that the Russian President would not come to this forum. That is how they chose the time and place for perpetrating the attack. They miscalculated. Russia is aware of its place in the world, its commitments to its citizens and to the international community and will fulfil them, which is why I speak from this podium on this day.

Terrorism negates the most important right: the right to life. Whatever its ideological foundations, it defies any and all rights and freedoms, breeds fear and hatred and hampers efforts to reform and improve our world. The tragedy is that terrorist attacks fundamentally change the course of normal life, our habitual way of life, and at times force us to take very tough decisions that radically alter the thinking not only of the terror’s victims, but also of all the people on the planet.

Unfortunately, no country in the world is safe from terror today. The reality is that a terrorist attack, similar to the one that shook Russia a few days ago, and not for the first time, unfortunately, can occur at any time anywhere in the world. No country today is secure against terrorism. There are no universal methods to fight this scourge but one thing is certain: our success in countering this common threat depends on our solidarity and concerted efforts, especially at a time when globalisation has made our world much more dependent and interdependent than it was some time ago, and we need to boost our efforts to jointly fight terrorism. We must do everything possible to influence if not the ideology, then the socioeconomic roots of terrorism: poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and orphanhood, and to ensure that global development becomes stable, secure and fair. Once again, I sincerely thank you for your sympathy.

This forum is taking place at a time when many people are talking about the end of the global financial crisis. At the same time it is also clear that things are not that simple. A period of superfast development gave rise to euphoria but the crisis sobered everyone up. We have dealt with a significant part of its symptoms, but not all of them, and until we find a new growth model, economic growth will be slower than we would like.

At the same time, it is not only the economy that has taught us important lessons in recent years. Modern civilisation is technologically very advanced, at least if compared with the world as it was just one or two hundred years ago. Yet a single natural anomaly or technological error can put entire regions on the brink of ecological disaster and separate continents from each other, as it was in the past centuries. The volcanic eruption in Iceland, a major accident on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, the heatwave in Russia last summer, devastating floods and snowstorms in various parts of the world – it all makes one think about the humanity’s fragility.

I believe that any delays in this sphere can be dangerous. Our objective is not just to complete the protracted climate negotiations, though this is imperative, but we must also create a common system for monitoring the environment and hazardous sites, and a general warning and disaster management system. Russia has put forward such an initiative, and I hope that our partners will also agree that these measures are long overdue.

Today there is an urgent need for new ideas that can change the world for the better, ideas that in the future will set new requirements for policymaking and will become standards for governments, the business community, social development and relations between states.

If we talk about security, some time ago Russia put forward a number of proposals regarding a new European security treaty. I think that such issues can be discussed at various venues, and it would also be useful here, at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Today politicians’ actions, international relations and the regulation principles are increasingly lagging behind progress. At the same time, some people, some politicians continue to believe in the phantoms of the Cold War and get carried away by their primitive ambitions of power. But it is precisely in this period that a considerable part of the global community, almost one billion people – just think about this figure – use social networks for the first time in the thousand-year history of humankind; they are communicating directly with each other while remaining on various continents. That is amazing.

The modern world is becoming more flat, as they say, erasing formal borders and barriers. The World Wide Web has fostered the creation of communities of people who live in different countries but are united by a shared goal or idea, and no national government can claim to have a strong impact on such communities. Perhaps that is for the better. The business community has experienced similar changes.

However, these processes also have a dangerous side: they can become a very important tool for extremists who incite ethnic and religious hatred, for drug traffickers, arms dealers and terrorists. These problems are also increasing, and it is impossible to ignore them.

At the same time this universal connectedness must become a powerful driver of economic growth, and any attempts to sever these ties, such as restrictions on Internet freedom or the spread of innovations, will lead the world to stagnation and I think everybody realises that today. Russia will not support initiatives that may jeopardise Internet freedom, a freedom that is founded on basic values and the law.

Colleagues,

Our task is to use every opportunity to transform our new world into a world that is more just for the vast majority of citizens, a world in which success is determined by talent and hard work rather than family background, a world where billions of people will be able to communicate directly with each other, a world where people are not afraid of the government, and international relations are free from double standards and hypocrisy, a world where it will be easier and more efficient to work together, to work jointly. Especially since a new generation of leaders has come to power in many countries, politicians whose views were formed after the Cold War. We can discuss and realise our dreams together, we are ready for that – and when I say “we” I mean Russia. All this should compel us to move towards a greater level of transparency and coordination. I believe that the positive trends in relations between Russia and the United States, as just noted by Mr Schwab, are a good example of new principles and approaches in international politics.

Incidentally, I would like to remind you that yesterday our Parliament finally ratified the new START Treaty. In order to build such a world, we must rely on a number of well-known principles, some of which we sometimes forget. There are several such principles and I would like to list them.

First, it is a strategic long-term approach to addressing problems. Simple and often populist solutions in 90 cases out of 100 are wrong and sometimes they prove to be the worst out of the possible options. A vivid case in point is a trend to resolve all economic problems through nationalisation, including the nationalisation of financial institutions.

During the financial crisis, many states considered that course of action and many of them chose that option, including states with highly developed liberal economy. We don’t have a sufficiently developed economy in Russia but we did not resort to that option, and I believe we were right in doing that. I am confident that in most cases it is possible to find solutions to crises through the efforts of the private sector, and in the long-term perspective, this is the most effective way of dealing with things.

Second, it is vital to be realistic and be prepared to live within one’s means. Many bubbles burst during the crisis, not just financial bubbles, but also bubbles of illusions and complacency. I think we all understand that none of us are insured against the emergence of new bubbles. The right to risk is part of a free economy, but that right should be balanced by relevant responsibility. The right to excessive risk is something that businesses should have, as well as individuals and scientists, within reasonable limits, of course, but states and the entire international community cannot have the right to excessive risk.

The present-day reality in many developed countries is such that they face the problems of sovereign debt, budget deficits and, despite all of that, the reluctance to cut expenditures. This is fraught with new global economic and political crises. Incidentally, yesterday’s State of the Nation Address by the President of the United States was very indicative in this respect: it spoke about a five-year freeze on budget expenditures. This is a serious measure.

Third comes global partnership and the right way to organise it, no matter how difficult it is to renounce the practice of individual or narrow group interests, it is something that needs to be done. The establishment of the G20, I am quite frank in saying that, is a major, huge step forward. On the one hand, the greater the number of countries sitting around the table, the more difficult it is to reach consensus, the more time it requires, but on the other hand, the decisions adopted in the end are far more successful. I hope that the G20 has demonstrated that.

We are prepared to use all the instruments at our disposal but the efficiency of work in the G20 format must be enhanced. It is vital to proceed from general discussions, even if they are fascinating, to the implementation of specific tasks. There are many such tasks ahead of us and we have already achieved many things, for example, we have determined the ways to develop world financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. That is good, but still there are many things we have not done yet.

There is one subject I would like to mention now: I am confident that the old principles of intellectual property regulation are not working anymore, particularly when it comes to the Internet. That is fraught with the collapse of the entire intellectual property rights system and therefore I believe this issue should be included in the agenda for the next G20 summit. We should offer new solutions to the international community, solutions that should be formulated as international conventions. Russia will advance its proposals.

At the same time, we should develop new alliances of leaders. It is important that the BRIC group, as modelled by economists some time ago, has acquired huge credibility and the status of a truly efficient organisation. At least we intend to expand our efforts in that format. Starting this year, South Africa is joining this group, and it will become BRICS. These are countries that stand every chance to become the leaders of global development and to shoulder responsibility for that process. I believe that one of such ideas could be implemented very shortly: to include the currencies of BRICS countries in the IMF SDR basket.

And finally, the fourth issue is diversity. The fact that various economic models of market economies co-exist in the world is an advantage. The crisis has demonstrated that even those models that seemed perfect were shaken and suffered major losses. Therefore a single-format world, no matter what the format is, is full of risk and a multi-format world is capable of compensating for such risks and provides an opportunity to adapt to new challenges.

A few words about Russia. Russia is very often criticised. Sometimes the criticism is well-deserved, and sometimes it is absolutely unjustified. Russia is rebuked for the lack of democracy, authoritarian trends and the weaknesses of legal and judiciary systems. Today, we are the way we are. I would like to say that Russia indeed faces many difficulties in building the rule of law, in creating an efficient and modern economy. Russia has been confronted with the evil of terrorism and extremism to a greater degree than many others. Russia has many social problems to cope with, although in recent years we have succeeded in resolving many of them. Finally, Russia, which means all the decision-makers in Russia, is not immune to ordinary mistakes. But it is vital to understand one obvious thing: major changes are taking place in Russia’s public life, in our society, we are developing and moving forward. In particular, our fight against corruption, the modernisation of judiciary and law enforcement systems, even though we may not have scored tremendous successes in that area yet, are real steps to improve the investment climate and the quality of life in Russia. We have not yet reached outstanding results in our efforts, but we are full of resolve to persevere. We are learning and we are willing to listen to friendly advice – but what we do not need is lecturing. We should be working together.

People’s feelings, their social self-esteem is perhaps the most important indicator of how successfully the country is developing. The people’s firm belief that they live in a democratic state, the existence of a dialogue between the government and citizens are key signs of modern democracy, direct democracy. The quality and effectiveness of that democracy depends not only on political procedures and institutions, but also on whether the government and civil society are prepared to listen to each other. It is not enough to have personal freedom; we have to respect each other’s freedoms. This principle also applies to relations between democratic states.

I am also convinced that democracy will continue developing through economic modernisation. A primitive economy based on raw materials cannot ensure the improvement in the quality of life, especially in the future, and therefore it is not capable of ensuring the sustainability of our democracy. In order to avoid the threat of populism, democracy should have a safe base in a well-developed society, a society of independent and free-thinking people.

Dear friends,

The modernisation strategy and principles that I have outlined are fully in keeping with what I just said. I want to say a few words now about the new opportunities that modernisation creates for doing business with success in Russia, despite certain difficulties. I will list ten points for brevity’s sake.

First, I recently launched a programme to privatise major state assets, the biggest of its kind in recent years. I issued an executive order that has seen the list of strategic enterprises in Russia cut five-fold. Shares worth a total of tens of billions of dollars in leading banking, infrastructure and energy sector companies will be privatised over the next three years. Budget revenue is not an aim in itself for us, though it is important of course, but the main thing is to make the companies more efficient and improve the competition environment for conducting business in our country. It is for this reason that we have got leading global banks involved in managing this privatisation.

Second, we will soon establish a special sovereign fund that will share the risks with foreign investors by carrying out joint investment in economic modernisation projects in Russia.

Third, we expect to gain much from developing our country’s financial sector. I therefore want to say once again before you here today that we will not introduce new taxes in the financial sector, but on the contrary, have abolished starting from January 1 this year the tax on sale of securities when carrying out long-term investment. We take a somewhat different line to our partners, including in the G20, on this issue.

We will not introduce new restrictions on financial activity but will do all we can to give financial institutions the broadest range of opportunities. This is the goal of our project to develop Moscow as an international financial centre that will become not just the nucleus of Russia’s financial system but also a catalyst for developing financial markets throughout the post-USSR region, and in Central and Eastern Europe too, I hope. We have already taken the first practical steps in this direction.

I hope, in particular, that starting this year we will see foreign companies borrowing and raising capital on the Russian ruble market. This project, which has global significance, is one of the main instruments for integrating Russia into the global economy. Let me add that we strive to make our judicial system more effective for finance sector companies that will operate in the Moscow financial centre.

Fourth, we are developing big new markets with common regulation that will offer investors an attractive environment. Russia has long since been ready to join the WTO. I hope that we will finally complete this process this year. My partners have all promised me this. The next step will be for Russia to join the OECD. Finally, we are also in the process of building a common economic space with the European Union based on the principles of indivisible security and the free movement of people, capital and goods, and a common set of technical standards.

We recently established the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan and are moving fast towards putting in place with these countries a common economic space along similar lines to the EU model. These are all important developments. They do not contradict each other, rather, I hope that they will complement and help each other. Ultimately, we advance towards creating a common market stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a vast market in which everyone will benefit.

Fifth, we are continuing our active efforts to develop new possibilities for innovative business and venture investment. I initiated a law that allows universities to set up enterprises using intellectual property. This law is already in force now and around 1,000 such companies have already been registered. This year, legislation making venture financing easier to carry out will also take effect.

The Skolkovo Innovation Centre is our biggest project in this area. Dozens of businesses, big and small, registered in various location throughout Russia, will take part in this project this year and will all enjoy special incentives. I am sure that we will see the emergence of new global brands coming out of Russia over the coming years, and the involvement of foreign business, innovative foreign business, in these efforts will boost our chances.

Sixth, the large-scale energy efficiency programme we have launched opens up new business opportunities. I have set clear quantitative targets, and pilot projects are now underway in many Russian regions. All new projects must measure up to the latest energy efficiency demands. These standards have either already been set or will take effect soon.

Given Russia’s important place in the energy sector it is essential too to make this sector one of the main driving forces behind innovation. This is why we seek to advance our modernisation through promoting global partnerships based on exchange of assets. Besides, these partnerships will be one of the key factors in the energy security that we declared five years ago at the G8 summit in St Petersburg. Big deals were signed in this sector today in Davos, as in other places a while ago, and I hope too that the new alliances Rosneft oil company is forming represent the step from words to action in this area.

Seventh, we will make full use of technology transfers to modernise our industry. Joint ventures and technology exchanges are important in all sectors, including the defence sector, and I am sure that they will create a new level of trust in the world’s common security, and this is why we welcome the decision to establish the Russian-French consortium to build Mistral helicopter carriers.

Eighth, we are carrying out an extensive programme to develop broadband internet throughout the whole of Russia, and are ready to offer the chance to conduct any lawful business making use of it. The most important public sector project that I too am working on in this area is to integrate banking and public services using universal payment cards. Development of electronic payment systems, public procurements and services will create a more convenient environment for ordinary people and for business too, not to mention that it will also be an effective instrument in fighting corruption in Russia.

Ninth, we realise that successful modernisation will be the product of tens of millions of personal success stories, the success of our own citizens and the hundreds of thousands of successful business stories from entrepreneurs and specialists from around the whole world. The source of any country’s strength and ability to be a global economic leader in the modern world is talented and educated people with knowledge, imagination, and a thirst for creation.

I hope that within the next decade thousands of young scientists, engineers, civil servants, and professionals in other areas will receive masters degrees and doctorates from the world’s top universities and then go on to take key jobs in Russian business and public administration, education and science. Our task is to make Russia a more attractive place for the world’s brightest minds. I think it is a realistic goal for us to attract thousands of the world’s best scientists and engineers to come and work in Russia. We need this influx of foreign specialists above all to learn best practices and create a fertile environment for our own specialists’ creative activity. This is why we are ready to take the unilateral step of granting automatic recognition to diplomas and degrees from the world’s top universities, and we are working on this now. I note too that we have simplified the immigration rules for highly qualified specialists coming to Russia. This was something that businesspeople wanted me to do, and I have done it.

Tenth, we have begun carrying out big infrastructure projects, especially as we have been chosen to host major international sports events. This is not just our sports fans’ desire, but is a real opportunity to modernise our infrastructure, and it was precisely our goal to make our infrastructure more convenient for our people, for business, and for trade. These projects will all be carried out on a public-private partnership basis. They will help us to develop individual regions and will also give people from around the world the chance to see Russia and realise that despite the current difficulties, Russia is an open country that has already become a part of the global community.

Forgive me for perhaps boring you with this list, but I hope that these ten points I have named could be discussed in more depth at the sessions devoted to our country’s modernisation tomorrow, together with the Russian Government members present here.

To conclude, I cannot but return to my opening words and say that all of our efforts to revive and develop the global economy will be in vain if we do not vanquish terrorism, extremism and intolerance, and do not join forces to eradicate this greatest of scourges for humanity for once and for all.

I want to repeat that success in this task cannot be achieved in isolation but calls for all countries to work together through broad-based public dialogue with civil society and expert circles that can play a big part in promoting education and cultivating the values of tolerance and understanding between the various groups in society.

Sadly, I am forced to cut short my participation in the Davos forum and will fly back to Moscow this evening, as soon as this session is over. Thank you for your understanding. (Applause).

EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM KLAUS SCHWAB: Mr President,

Let me first thank you for explaining to us your ideas and your achievements, I have to add, related to a modern forward-looking cooperative Russia. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank the members of your government; we have an extraordinary group of leaders from your government here, to follow up in the next phase some of the issues which you raised and which you raised in a very statesman-like manner.

I would say, Mr President, you may recall when you were here four years ago and you made your speech which was very highly appreciated, I said at the end we heard the speech of a future statesman. Now, four years later, I can say we heard the speech of a real statesman. Before we arranged the session and in agreement with President Medvedev, we made a call on knowing about your enthusiasm and I should say for social media, we looked really, we asked the public, what question should we ask you? And we got thousands of votes and responses, but I have to say most of the answers you have already given, but nevertheless I would like to maybe take up three or four questions which have emerged from this polling. They reflect very similar themes and the first question would be, Mr President, given the latest developments in Tunisia, how do you think government should react to such calls for openness? You committed yourself to the openness of the internet, but what is your feeling of what has happened last week which is so much also in our mind, the events in Tunisia?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think that what happened in Tunisia was a big lesson for governments all around the world. Governments should not sit on their laurels and settle back in comfy chairs, but need to grow and develop together with society, regardless of where they are: in Europe, Africa, or Latin America. When governments fail to keep with social change and fail to meet people’s hopes, disorganisation and chaos ensue, sadly. This is a problem of governments themselves and the responsibility they bear. Even if governments in power find many of the demands made unacceptable they still must remain in dialogue with all the different groups because otherwise they lose their real foundation. This does not mean that governments should automatically follow all recommendations made, but they must listen to what people are saying. I therefore think this is a big lesson for Africa, for the Arab world, and for governments in general. This is a test of strength too, and I hope that the situation in Tunisia will stabilise and not negatively affect the overall situation in the Arab world.

I just visited the Palestinian National Authority and was in Jordan too. Of course I realise the extent of the problems in Palestine, and the efforts still needed to bring peace and harmony between Palestine and its closest neighbour, Israel. This is a big and complex problem. But we should not forget either that elections can bring to power people the international community might not particularly like, but with whom it is forced to have dealings with. I therefore hope, as I said, that this test and this lesson for Tunisia will serve as grounds for thoroughly analysing the situation in this region.

KLAUS SCHWAB: Mr President, you have already addressed the issue, but there were a lot of questions related to recent events which have raised concerns about adequate legal protection for those wishing to do business in Russia and of course also corruption was mentioned very often. Would you like to add something to what you already mentioned before?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Yes, I should no doubt go a bit further into this issue, which is a big problem for Russia. Russia is not the only country facing corruption and a legal system that does not always work effectively. But we must take responsibility for our own country and not point the finger at other countries and say, “They have just as much corruption as us”. We need to tackle our own problems. As for how we should go about this, only through incessant combat and efforts to counter the corruption impact. This involves several different components. 

First, there must be real investigations into corruption cases so that all civil servants guilty of such acts realise that the law will catch up with them.

Second, proper and adequate declarations are essential. I recently made it compulsory in Russia for all civil servants to declare their incomes. This is not a task which may be easily accomplished and not everyone was ready to immediately accept it, as it requires their personal participation and openness, but this practice has already become part of our ordinary life now and this is important.   

Third, of course, is to improve the work of our courts and law enforcement agencies. I am aware of all the problems in this area. At the same time, I should say that over the last few years our country has passed anti-corruption laws for the first time in its history, and this is a step in the right direction. Now we need to learn how to use these laws in practice. The law enforcement agencies cannot stand apart from the trends at work in society too and must change accordingly. This is the goal of my work as the person responsible for these agencies, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

As for the courts, they must be completely independent and at the same time must be aware of their responsibility before our society and people. They should not hide behind thick walls and close their ranks to anyone expressing the view that the court system has its problems. I therefore think that we need to continue improving too our laws making it possible to monitor the progress of cases going through the judicial system.

All of this work is already in progress. I have no illusions about resolving all existing problems in just a year or two, but we have begun taking action and I am sure that we will succeed in vanquishing corruption in the end.

KLAUS SCHWAB: Mr President, you have mentioned the START Treaty. How do you see the next stage of developments towards the global zero nuclear free world? And in this respect, how do you evaluate the relationship of your country with Iran?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I am also happy that we have taken this whole new START Treaty process to its logical conclusion and it is almost complete now. When I return from Davos the text of the ratified treaty will be on my desk soon. I spoke just recently with President Obama, and we agreed too on how to exchange these documents.

But we cannot stop here. I think this was one of the very optimistic moments to come up over recent years. Despite the many difficulties on the way we both, Russians and Americans, followed this road to its end. I hope that people all around the world will breathe a little easier now simply seeing that we did reach an agreement, and this too is very important. I think we should now continue our efforts to limit strategic offensive arms, and should continue our efforts too in the related area of missile defence.  

A European missile defence system is currently being deployed in Europe. Russia considers itself part of Europe and no one disputes this. We do not want to feel any less secure because of a missile defence system that at some point could be transformed into part of strategic nuclear forces. We have made some proposals and we are open for cooperation. It is my big hope that in ten years time the future leaders of Russia, the USA, and European countries will have no differences among themselves over this issue but make coordinated decisions. This is very important for the world’s future. We must keep watch on the overall nuclear weapons situation in the world.

You mentioned Iran. Iran is our neighbour and partner. At the same time, the international community has a number of questions for Iran, and Iran must answer them. The international community does not yet have information on whether or not Iran is in the process of making a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, Iran is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore must dispel the international community’s doubts regarding its nuclear programme and give us proof that this programme is indeed a peaceful one. Russia has deep and longstanding ties with Iran and we want to use every possibility to make this difficult dialogue that is underway ultimately successful. I discussed this matter not so long ago with President Ahmadinejad and spoke to him about this, and he said that he agrees with me.

KLAUS SCHWAB: Mr President, you are very generous with your time and let me just end this discussion with asking maybe one or two more general questions. One which came out of this survey on the web and one of the questions, it may be quite provocative, was if someone were to come out on WikiLeaks about Russia, what could it be?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: That is a good question, thank you. I think that I in fact came to WikiLeaks’ defence in part just before when I said on this stage that a billion people are connected by invisible communication networks today. Not even the biggest secrets can be guaranteed safe today. Ultimately, the whole WikiLeaks affair should create a healthier climate in international relations. Yes, it is true that this affair involved what a number of countries would class as illegal activity, but I think nonetheless that it will have a very positive effect on international relations.  

As for the actual material leaked, I think that for some it might have been interesting and for others it was no secret anyway. As far as I am concerned, when I read the materials about Russia on the site I did not discover anything new. I had the impression now and then that most of the reports on Russia that made their way on to WikiLeaks were taken from general political sites on the internet. Maybe some had their sensitivities wounded by this affair, but not us; we’re a tough lot.

KLAUS SCHWAB: Two last questions, Mr President. Listening to you, I am sure that many here in the room had to correct some of the perceptions they had of Russia. You showed us a modern Russia, an open Russia. What is for you personally the perception which you encounter very often in your discussion about Russia which makes you most upset? Wrong perception, what do you feel is the biggest wrong perception abroad about Russia?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think that any stereotyped perceptions can be irritating, so I would not say that there is any one particular thing that makes me unhappy in this respect, although of course I sometimes read things that do make me unhappy. What I noticed is that when I go on the internet in the morning and read what people are saying about Russia, our government, and myself personally, it certainly gives me a brisk wake up and dispels any remaining tiredness, and at the same time it makes me want to make some quick replies via Twitter or pick up the phone and call the Presidential Executive Office to get some mistaken perceptions straightened out. But then I put it all aside because one should never act in haste, but only on clear and carefully thought through decisions. In any case, the truth always comes out in the end.

KLAUS SCHWAB: Very last question. You are a very young president and when you look now at your present presidency, I know it’s a question you have answered to a certain extent, but what is for you personally, what is your driving force as a person? You work so hard, you don’t sleep. What drives you?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think the answer is very simple: I have a very interesting job. Any president who thinks otherwise is probably deceiving himself. This is a job that forces you to be on the alert 24 hours a day. It is a responsibility that you never stop feeling, a responsibility towards your country and the people who elected you. In this situation you can always find the energy to keep going no matter what the tiredness, jetlag, or problems going on. I think this is the main thing for anyone, for presidents too. I have a very interesting and very important job.  

KLAUS SCHWAB: Mr President, in your important work we offer you all the best wishes. Again, also our condolences and we hope that you continue what you have explained to us. And we wish you all the best. Thank you very much for coming.

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Home News Dmitry Medvedev addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos

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