President Vladimir Putin
Interview with German ARD Television Part 2
September 19, 2001
QUESTION: You will come to Berlin and the current plan is that you will meet
with the Chancellor who together with the majority of the German population,
at least as I see it from here, very quickly took the American side. The Chancellor
did not rule out that even the Bundeswehr will take part in possible retaliatory
actions or at least could take part. The Bundestag fully backed that position.
Does that worry you at all? Aren't you going to try to influence the Chancellor
to renounce it? Will you, perhaps, tell him: Be careful, or are you quite relaxed
about it and you will tell him, That's the right thing to do?
PUTIN: Let us face it, the positions of Germany and Russia differ if only because
Germany is an active member of NATO, which Russia is not. The Alliance has decided
to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and all the NATO members are
in full solidarity with the position of the United States. We are not members
of NATO, they don't want to admit us. So, of course, our positions will differ.
As for the possible participation or non-participation of the Armed Forces of
the Federal Republic of Germany, the decision rests with the German government,
the German people, the parliament and the Chancellor. I am the President of
the Russian Federation and not of the Federal Republic of Germany.
At the same time I think that if you ask me whether the participation of German
Armed Forces in a military action outside the territory of Federal Germany will
cause any concern in the Russian Federation, my answer would be no. I see nothing
worrisome about it. The Federal Republic has the right and the possibility to
comply with its obligations within NATO. If such a decision is taken, so it
will be. The decision is up to the German people.
QUESTION: You are not going to comment on it. In general, it's a free state
and that's that.
PUTIN: I've said everything.
QUESTION: Yes, yes, that's true.
Let us now turn to the economy. It is an important topic for both countries.
To listen to what is said in the German business community, at enterprises and
in the midst of managers, they say that there has already been some positive
change under President Putin. But they also say, mainly out of sight of TV cameras,
that old problems still remain. They are a lack of legal protection or insufficient
legal protection. Let me quote one manager who says that "adventurous customs
practices, the tax system, although somewhat improved, the mechanisms of its
implementation still remain very complicated, at least from the German point
of view, and there is red tape." So, obviously, something has changed,
but not enough. Why can't it be changed?
PUTIN: We have just been discussing global problems, the problems of world politics
and even possible deployment of military operations in some regions of the world.
But, you know, we have a saying, probably a very sound one, that war or no war,
lunch must be served on time.
So, in this area, too, I attend to economic issues practically every day and
communicate with ministers, vice premiers and the chairman of the Russian government.
We discuss the budget which the State Duma has now begun to debate and we discuss
our immediate tasks that we have to accomplish by the end of the year in order
to improve the economic mechanism in the country.
Unfortunately, in the previous ten years because of a measure of political instability,
normal economic life has not been put on track. Now that we see a degree of
consolidation, political consolidation in society, a great deal has been accomplished
in the economic sphere. No such economic results have been achieved in the last
30 years in the Soviet Union or in the Russian Federation. In general, it is
not a bad platform to build on. We have done a great deal in terms of creating
a sound legal basis. But, of course, it was impossible to accomplish everything
within a year and a half. As you know, we have passed some very serious laws
in the field of taxation. Just today I discussed with the vice premier who is
in charge of economics and finance the priorities for the next half year. They
include the land reform and adoption of the Labor Code. You have mentioned the
legal system. Improvement of the activities of the law courts and what we call
the reform of the justice system is on the agenda. And you are absolutely right
to draw attention to it. There is something to discuss here, and there are many
shortcomings. You have mentioned the problem of the customs. It exists and we
see it and are aware of it. Intensive work is underway on a new edition of the
Tax Code. The main meaning of the proposed changes will be to minimize the decision-making
powers of the bureaucrats and to make the provisions of the law self-implementing
so that customs regulation should not be governed by internal departmental instructions
but directly by the provisions of the law.
And there are other provisions and plans, including improved administration,
that are sure to improve the situation in this area. So, we are aware of all
this, we see this, but it is a fact that movement, fairly positive movement,
QUESTION: Mr. President, a major event in European economy will take place at
the end of the year. The euro will become legal tender. Aren't you worried that
Russia will be isolated from Europe because it will introduce the euro whereas
the Russian economy and, in fact, partially your daily life, are geared above
all to the dollar? How are you going to proceed in this situation? How will
you counter the possible threat of isolation?
PUTIN: As for the dollar, I think it's pretty simple. It's you and not us who
made it the main reserve currency of the world. You are introducing the euro
now and I think you are doing the right thing. All this strengthens the European
space as a center of world politics, as one of the leading centers of world
politics. The issues may be simply technical. First, I must draw your attention
to the fact that today we should discuss this topic very cautiously. We know
that the terrorists have struck not only at the prestige of the United States,
but also at the world economy. The basic foundation of the American economy
is very strong as the recent trading in the stock market has shown. All this
should reinforce our conviction that the terrorists have not achieved and will
never achieve the goals they set before themselves. But we should act and speak
circumspectly, including on the issue of the dollar because it is, properly
speaking, to a large extent the basis of the world economy. Whether it is right
or wrong, this is so. And we should be considerate of this.
This is not to say that we are not following the processes in Europe attentively.
On the contrary, Europe already accounts for 35 percent of our trade and after
the admission of possible new members in the European community the figure will
rise to 40-45 percent. Naturally, we cannot and do not want to be in isolation.
The Central Bank of the Russian Federation is today actively studying possible
ways of introducing the euro in the settlements between our partners in Europe
and Russian legal entities. We very much count on effective support in this
matter from the Central European Bank. And, frankly speaking, I see no problems
There is one technical detail which we must draw your attention to. But this
is not something we can resolve ourselves, we can only resolve it together with
the Europeans. Our main currency revenues come from the sale of our traditional
commodities in the foreign market. These commodities are normally traded in
exchanges and the settlements in exchanges are in dollars. It is not our invention,
it's yours. So, we should think about this problem together. I repeat, the Central
Bank of the Russian Federation and its colleagues are working actively on what
we will do after January 1, 2002 and how.
QUESTION: There are three more concerns in Germany in connection with Russia.
Perhaps, they are not only German concerns, but they certainly worry my country
and with your permission I would like to touch upon them. You are criticized,
not only you, but also you specifically, for your policy. The question is that
your critics claim that your strategy is not aimed at creating an open democracy
which we in Germany call the civil society, but at creating an authoritarian
state that will be geared not so much to democracy as to the power of the army
and the special services. How can you respond to this criticism?
PUTIN: You know that if we look at Western Europe itself, it's not a large entity
territorially, even there democracies differ markedly from one another. You
can take the example of France or the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy or
some other European country. Democracies are different everywhere. The forms
of democracy and the practice of democracy differ everywhere. This is due to
history, tradition and so on.
There are, of course, basic things that everybody shares and of course Russia
will try to see to it that these basic things totally and fully integrate Russia
into the European humanitarian and political democratic space. And there is
no question, in this context, that the security service or the army will acquire
a special and independent political power or political significance. All these
structures, all these power structures, as we call them, should be under the
control of the state and society.
QUESTION: There is yet another concern and I confess that I share it. The Russian
Union of Journalists has spoken about it and it can present proof that the work
of journalists, especially in the provinces, is not only taxing, but that many
journalists are at the mercy of state power, the power of governors and administrations
and that under the pressure of that power they can work very little or poorly,
if at all. Do you share that concern? And if so, what can you do about it?
PUTIN: In any normal democratic society the mass media and the press are, as
a rule, in opposition to the establishment. This is a natural position. At the
end of the day that is how it should be, otherwise it makes no sense. And from
that point of view we will, of course, support press freedom. But the problem
with us is that at present the main thing required for press freedom is lacking,
no economic basis for freedom has been created. At present our media market
and the advertising market that make it possible for the mass media to function
as a commercial enterprise is practically non-existent. Normal effective information
media as a commercial enterprise can hardly exist without the assistance of
some outside sponsors. And once it is so they have to cater to economic interest
groups. This is where the problem lies. And I see my task in creating such an
economic base for press freedom. I won't challenge the fact that the press faces
some difficulties in the regions. And I don't think everything is perfect in
that way in the center either. And of course, there is a lot to be done. It
is a complex and multi-farious work that calls for constant attention, above
all, in the sphere of the economy and in strengthening the legal framework for
press independence. We will certainly move forward on that.
QUESTION: I have two questions and a favor to ask you.
Let me begin with two brief questions. Your visit to Germany will almost coincide
with the first anniversary of the sinking of the Kursk. Perhaps, the submarine
will be lifted, with luck, while you are in Germany. Can you tell us today what
caused the sinking of the Kursk, because it is a question that worries many
people in Germany?
PUTIN: You know, to get at the causes of the disaster a lot has yet to be done.
First, we hope that the sunken submarine will be successfully lifted and towed
to dock and the first to board the submarine will be the investigators of the
Prosecutor General's Office. You are the first to learn it. So far, neither
military specialists, not the navy men know about it. It is a firm decision.
The first to go on board the submarine, if everything goes well (and I expect
it will), will be the investigators of the Prosecutor General's Office and the
technical specialists who will work under their control.
We very much hope that the information obtained will bring us closer to solving
the riddle that confronts us today, to solving the question of the causes of
the disaster. I don't think I need explain to you why we have decided to go
ahead with this complex and costly enterprise of lifting the submarine. Above
all, we need to meet our moral obligation to the relatives of the dead, and
also to solve the ecological issues, the ecological problems that may arise
if the submarine is not raised. As we know, there is a nuclear reactor and a
large number of missiles. If they can be removed and put into their places of
storage, it must be done. We have analyzed this situation together with West
European specialists and both our and West European specialists, I repeat, came
to the conclusion that the Kursk can be lifted. And this work can be done absolutely
safely. There is constant monitoring there, including radiation monitoring.
No alarm signals have yet come.
QUESTION: And the last question is of a personal nature.
You spent your vacation in Karelia. I saw many pictures covering your vacation,
including pictures on Russian television. You were often seen in churches. You
received blessings and you took part in church ritual. Doesn't it indicate that
in the year and a half that you have been the President of Russia you have drawn
closer to the Church than before? Haven't you, perhaps, established a more intimate
relationship with the Church? Have you become a believer?
PUTIN: As for faith, I prefer never to discuss it publicly. That's one thing.
And secondly, my visits to such places have come to attract attention only now
because all my movements inside the country and even more so abroad have attracted
such attention. There was no such public attention before and I could afford
to do what I wanted. All I want to say is that it doesn't mean that I haven't
visited such places previously.
Thirdly, it was pleasant for me to spend the short week-long vacation that I
took in my native places, and that is the Northwest of the country. You know
that my birthplace is Petersburg, it's a very beautiful place. So, I just wanted
to be in my native region.
As for Church, I can tell you honestly that there was a certain additional agenda
to this trip. You see, after the collapse of the communist ideology we have
been left without any ideology. The Church is separated from the state, it has
been in a humiliated position over decades, but man cannot live without a moral
basis. And so, attention to the Church is just a manifestation of attention
to moral human values. I think it is very important for Russia today.
And besides, I got added proof that the material basis of the Church is in a
sorry state. Churches in Moscow, say, and cathedrals in Petersburg have a shiny,
festive look. But as soon as you are out of the regular tourist beats you see
the real position of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is deplorable. And I think
it would be right for Russian society to pay attention to it.
QUESTION: I have no more questions left, but in conclusion I would like to ask
you for a favor which you may do us if you are kind enough. Could you tell our
TV viewers a couple of words in German in connection with your forthcoming visit
and in connection with the crisis situation in the world and the fear that exists,
including in Germany, that things may come to a large-scale war? You can answer
it in German if you feel like it.
PUTIN: (in Russian) As for the fears that humanity may be on the brink of large-scale
military actions, a big war, I think these fears are without grounds. I don't
think anything like that will happen. The leading countries will not allow that
to happen. There needn't be such fears. There is nothing to presage a large-scale
military conflict. At any rate because all the leading countries of the world,
all the permanent members of the UN Security Council are determined to combat
terrorism together, and terrorism and religious extremism of the most diverse
stripe are always the main causes of unrest.
As for the German language, I will have an opportunity to speak German in Germany.
QUESTION: I thank you cordially for this interview. I thank you also for the
open way in which you answered my questions. Thank you very much.