President Putin attended the plenary session of the 2021 Eastern Economic Forum. Its theme is The Opportunities for the Far East in a World under Transformation.
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh joined the session via videoconference. President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha sent their video greetings to the forum.
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Plenary session moderator Sergei Brilyov: Good afternoon, Mr Tokayev. Good afternoon, Mr Khurelsukh. Hello, friends. Good afternoon to you, Mr Putin.
We have the formal speeches coming up, but before that allow me to take two minutes of your time. Just a few moments ago, before coming on stage, I was carefully watching and made quite sure that you are not Angela Merkel, Mr Putin. At least, you do not have a mobile phone on you, so it will not ring during the session.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I think that this was clear enough as it was, but even so, thank you.
Sergei Brilyov: Unlike you, I do have my phone with me.
By the way, Mr President, do you have a mobile phone?
Vladimir Putin: No.
Sergei Brilyov: Not even from the old St Petersburg days? Something like 8–921… No?
Vladimir Putin: No.
Sergei Brilyov: Well I have my phone with me, and a notification popped up on its screen to remind me that it was right here, in Primorye, that I recorded my first interview with you eight years ago, as if I needed to be reminded of that fact. It did not happen in public or during Direct Line, but in the Ussuri taiga during a trip to see the tigers. I have to tell you that it is thanks to you that I came to take so much interest in the Far East. Since then I have been in so many places here: Khasan, Iturup, Zvezda right across the strait from here, the aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Lenskiye Stolby. The problem with being a journalist is that no matter where you go to film a report, you keep hearing: “Putin has been here, so let’s follow in his footsteps.”
You will soon address the honorary guests, your colleagues, but please let us take a minute and speak about the residents of the Far East. Mr President, what makes you return here, to these people, so often?
Vladimir Putin: The residents of the Far East, both the previous generation and the current one, are pioneers. Can you imagine the work that needed to be done to explore these territories, the scale of it? What personal and management qualities must there have been to achieve the results that we are seeing today?
By the way, the current generations are also to a large extent explorers because many things that are being done here are being done for the first time. This spirit of exploration, the spirit of those who move forward, who aspire and achieve results is the distinctive quality of the local residents, I believe.
But the development of the Far Eastern region is of huge importance to Russia, to the country. These are development prospects for not even decades but centuries ahead. If we add the Arctic to these territories, it will be even clearer why we have been paying so much attention to this region over the recent years.
The Arctic comprises 18 percent of our territory; it has the world’s reserves of resources, needed not only by our country but the entire world. In this sense, we have a huge responsibility to manage these riches wisely and sustainably.
This is why Russia pays so much attention to the development of the Far Eastern territories.
Sergei Brilyov: Let us then agree on the format. Now we will move on to official speeches and recorded videos. Let us move to the official part, so to say.
I again want to greet President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh. But first I will give the floor to the President of Russia, the host country, Vladimir Putin.
Mr President, please.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Tokayev, we just had the pleasure of talking to each other at the launch of a fairly big joint project by Kazakhstan’s government bodies and Sberbank, or Sber Group. I would like to once again thank you, Mr President, for making a choice in favour of the Russian partner.
So, Mr Tokayev, Mr Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, ladies and gentlemen, friends.
I welcome all the participants and guests of the Eastern Economic Forum.
Once again, after a break caused by the pandemic, Vladivostok welcomes company heads, businesspeople and experts from dozens of countries.
I am very happy that the presidents of Kazakhstan and Mongolia accepted our invitation. They are taking part in the plenary session via videoconference, as we can see. The leaders of China, India and Thailand sent their greetings to the forum.
Such broad representation and an interest in the development of the Russian Far East show that the economy is recovering and returning to its normal business mode. Russia is open to mutually beneficial partnership with all countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.
I would like to note that the APR, which accounts for one third of the global GDP, has been a driver of the global economy for a long time; this is a well-known fact. The growth rates of the region’s countries invariably exceed the world’s average.
Russia – and I would like to stress it even though it is obvious – Russia is an inalienable part of the APR, and we will establish in our Far Eastern regions a powerful centre for attracting capital and the new economy, create a space of opportunities for citizens to implement the most daring business ideas and projects. Let me emphasise that even under the tough conditions of the pandemic and its economic impact we did not give up the implementation of the long-tern development plans for the Far East. On the contrary, we tried to speed them up.
I would like to tell you about the outcome of these efforts. At any rate, this is what I am going to start with, and also I will also talk about the new decisions that already have been adopted or are about to be adopted to strengthen the economy and the social sphere in the region.
The volume of accumulated foreign direct investment in the Russian Far East has almost doubled in the past six years, reaching $80 billion. Industrial growth in the region exceeded the national average. During the same period, industrial production in the region has shown a growth rate of around 20 percent, or twice the national rate. New special mechanisms for supporting capital investment have allowed more than 2,500 residents to register in the priority development territories and the free port of Vladivostok. Sixty-eight thousand modern jobs have been created. Global projects in aviation, shipbuilding, chemical industry, gas processing and logistics have been launched in the Far Eastern regions such as the Amur Region, the Khabarovsk Territory and the Primorye Territory.
This kind of diversity is gratifying. This diversification of the region’s economy cannot but inspire us to achieve new heights across all these industries. The region already had its combat aviation and we have started developing and continue to successfully develop civil aviation as well. The shipbuilding industry fell into almost total ruin after the Soviet era. Now it is experiencing a revival, based on new technologies, with new products in development and excellent long-term orders. The chemical industry is developing, not to mention the gas processing industry. I think these projects are well known. This is what the overall progress in the Russian Far East has been like, each region working on a wide variety of projects. We continue to elevate conventional industries as well – for example, developing large ore and metal deposits in Chukotka, the Trans-Baikal Territory and Buryatia.
I would like to praise local management teams for improving the business climate. A great deal has been done locally and I would like to thank regional officials for that. Four Far Eastern regions were included in the top 30 of the 2020 National Investment Climate Ranking. I hope this number will continue to grow. It was zero not so long ago.
We are working constantly on reinforcing guarantees and expanding opportunities for businesses all over Russia. We know very well that new advanced solutions are always in demand, especially in the Far East, a region aiming for priority development at a rate above the national average. Obviously, we need to create a competitive environment for our partners, which means that the parameters such as the tax burden, the cost of debt, the delivery and quality of government services for businesses must be competitive on a global level. As I have just said, they must be the best in the Asia-Pacific. This is an extremely difficult task but we must keep working to fulfil it.
We are planning to create an unprecedented package of benefits and incentives on the Kuril Islands. We will relieve business of many taxes – profit, property, land and transport taxes for a long period of ten years. Let me emphasise that I am referring to the companies that are operating on the islands, that erect buildings, create businesses and hire employees, not those that are just registered there. These companies will also pay reduced insurance premiums of 7.6 percent for ten years.
In addition, we will establish a free customs zone on the entire territory of the Kurils. It will be easier to import commodities and equipment and export finished products. No VAT will be levied within this zone before goods leave the Kurils.
Let me make a reservation at this point that not all types of activities will enjoy these preferential tax incentives. They will not apply to intermediaries, the production of excisable goods, the extraction and processing of hydrocarbons or harvesting precious water bio-resources. Obviously, these activities are highly profitable as they are.
I would like to emphasise that foreign investors will also be able to use these tax, customs and administrative benefits, not just domestic companies. This certainly applies to our neighbours, including our Japanese partners. We have spoken with them before about the need to create conditions for the economic development of these islands and the promotion of cooperation there.
Using this opportunity, I would like to make a small digression. This year, Japan hosted the Olympics. The Paralympics will be over in the next few days. I would like to congratulate the Organising Committee, the leaders and all citizens of Japan – I know some Olympic executives and organisers personally – on holding these successful events at such a high level in difficult conditions. They created all the best conditions for the competitions and the athletes.
Back to our subject, I would like to express my hope that the preferential tax incentives for businesses on the Kurils will produce tangible results for development and will be an impetus for promising projects, primarily in such areas as tourism, aquaculture and fish processing. This is important for Russia, and of course, for our citizens in the Far East to have new points of economic growth with high export potential. This should provide additional jobs and higher incomes and encourage the development of small and medium companies.
Today railways, roads and sea ports in the Far East provide for a large part of Russia’s international trade, and we are working towards expanding their capacities and developing the main infrastructure, first of all, the throughput capacity of the Baikal-Amur Mainline and Trans-Siberian Railway. We have been talking a lot about this lately, and much is being done, but even more needs to be done.
I would like to elaborate on the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Russia has launched this project several times. Back in the first half of the 20th century, research was carried out and sections of the railway were constructed, but only in 1974, almost 50 years ago, did full-scale construction begin.
We will definitely celebrate the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. And today I would like to express my gratitude to the veteran construction workers who built such a necessary and, if I may say so, irreplaceable transport route for Russia in spite of its harsh climate, through the taiga and mountain ridges. Friends, you have laid a strong foundation, and now our task is to fulfil our plans to update the mainline and develop the entire Eastern railway system as scheduled and planned. I hope that we will fully execute this.
What would I like to note? The volume of cargo transported via the railway and Russian sea ports is growing, which means income from exports, revenue to the budget and, in the end, additional resources that we will first allocate to address people’s social problems.
However, we should not forget about the costs, environmental risks and coal dust. It is such a simple thing, but people can feel it, so it’s not a small detail. People can feel this, and not only feel, but rightly complain about such things. We have already made several decisions in this regard, including signing agreements with stevedoring companies. They require Russian ports to introduce environmentally friendly and the best available technologies for the transshipment of goods. Such technologies are being used in Russia more widely. I hope that this will be implemented in the Far Eastern region as well, as quickly as needed.
I believe we should go further and add the requirements for Russian cargo ports, not only Nakhodka and Vladivostok but also Murmansk, Kaliningrad and Novorossiysk among others, to introduce continuous environmental monitoring systems at the legislative level.
A shortage of construction materials is another serious problem plaguing the Far Eastern Federal District that is specific to it. A lot of construction materials have to be brought in from places that are hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. This, of course, directly affects the speed of construction and the cost of projects not only in the infrastructure sector, but the housing sector as well.
Soon we will need to scale up the production of building materials in the Far East by orders of magnitude. Among other things, we will create a modern cluster of this industry in the Khabarovsk Territory, which has the necessary resource, production and personnel base. Importantly, this cluster will serve the needs of the entire Far Eastern Federal District. I want the Government and our leading companies, including Russian Railways, Rosavtodor and other major users of building materials, to come up with proposals on this. As a matter of fact, they are in the works, if not to say that they are already available, but they must be finalised and implemented as soon as possible.
We will be developing the potential of the Far East as a critical hub of global transport corridors based on a modern materials and technology base with account taken for the most stringent environmental standards, including increasing the Northern Sea Route’s capacities. I would like to note that over the past 10 years, the volume of cargo transport along this route has increased by an order of magnitude. I think I have my numbers right; sometime in 1986 a little over 7 million tonnes were shipped, last year it was 33 million tonnes, and by 2024, this figure should be 80 million tonnes. I am positive that these are not the final figures.
Literally before the plenary session – I just saw our colleagues, the moderators of the sessions that are taking place as part of the forum – a proposal was made to launch a container shipping line along the Northern Sea Route on a regular year-round basis. I have already expressed my opinion there, and I will go over several things here as well: it is necessary to carefully, but without delay, assess the prospects for this transport corridor. This is vital, and we must definitely do this; and we will do it, but we need to work through the technical part. We need to develop the port infrastructure, ensure security, and so on. But it undoubtedly holds the future for global shipments from Asia to Europe and back.
It is important to consider the possibility of opening the first regular service for carrying goods, including containers, between Vladivostok and St Petersburg as early as next year in order to, as they say, break in the route and create a freight shipping base.
The strategic vector for the development of the Far East is towards a new economy, those areas for economic, scientific and technological development that shape the future, set long-term trends in entire industries, countries, and regions of the world. Here a broad range of opportunities for international cooperation opens up as well as the chance to really look at the development of the traditional sectors and branches of the economy.
Reliable and environmentally friendly energy sources, including autonomous ones, are vital for the Far East with its vast territory and remote towns. Such projects are already being implemented. A floating nuclear thermal power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov power unit, is already operating in Chukotka; the Toreyskaya solar power plant with a capacity of 90 MW was launched in Buryatia; methanol plants are planned in Nakhodka and the Amur Region, and methanol can be used not only as a raw material for chemical production, but also as a next generation fuel, primarily for sea-borne shipping. I ask the Government and the regional authorities to provide maximum assistance in the implementation of these projects.
We must also tap the energy potential of the Far Eastern seas, relying on modern technology, to accommodate the expected development of new markets. The planned Tugurskaya tidal power plant in the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk is one such project.
Along with other industrial projects, the Far East offers an opportunity to create a powerful industrial cluster for the production of green hydrogen and ammonia. The demand for these products will grow steadily for decades, especially here in the Asia-Pacific region.
The implementation of these plans will definitely require the development and introduction of breakthrough technological solutions in transport, energy and other industries; this is a serious challenge for our economy and science. I ask the Government to analyse all aspects of the creation of a centre for the production of green hydrogen and ammonia in the Far East, including the project’s feasibility and the participation of our foreign partners in it, primarily from Japan and China. After all, all of us have taken on serious nature conservation obligations, these countries, too, and these are the world’s leading economies. I would like to note that such projects meet global and Russian climate-related goals.
In this regard, I will say a few words about climate projects that we are going to promote in the Far East.
The Sakhalin Region – you probably know this, but I will say a few words nevertheless – will become the site for a pilot project that will allow us to work out the issues of regulating the emission and absorption of greenhouse gases on a region-wide scale. As part of this experiment, large companies will provide their carbon reports and present the results of their climate projects. The goal is concrete: by 2026, Sakhalin must reach carbon neutrality, that is, absorb as much carbon as it emits.
Before July 1, 2022, the Government is supposed to develop the entire statutory framework for the implementation of climate projects and the use of carbon units in Russia. It must be done in accordance with international standards. We will discuss this work with the Government in the near future, in October, I believe.
Here I suggest considering expanding the experiment on regulating greenhouse gas emissions to other Russian regions. I know that some of them have expressed their interest.
I would also like to add that the Arctic has a huge impact on the global climate. It is important to understand and forecast the processes going on there, for which we need accurate scientific data. In this regard, I would ask you to speed up the creation of the national permafrost monitoring system, and conclude the development of the statutory framework for its launch before the end of the year.
Russia currently holds the presidency of the Arctic Council. As part of this presidency, we propose an important initiative to organise an international expedition to the high latitudes of the Arctic. The North Pole drifting station, fitted out with the necessary equipment, will be the base for the expedition. The station will be located on a unique ice-resistant platform, which is currently being built in St Petersburg and will be put into operation in the next several months.
Colleagues and friends,
The meaning, value and significance of all the plans that we intend to carry out here is not only and not so much to develop natural resources or attract investment and technology, the main goal is to make life more comfortable for the people in the Far East, allow them to make use of their knowledge and talents, create families, build homes and bring up children.
A special demographic package has been valid here since 2019. It includes higher maternity capital benefits on the birth of a second child, lump sum payments on the birth of the first child, and monthly payment benefits on the birth of a third child and subsequent children. These are special support measures for the residents in this federal district and they are effective. Today, the birth rate in the Far East is higher than the national average.
However, we are still facing many challenges in achieving positive dynamics in population growth. We also discussed this issue at a meeting with our colleagues yesterday. We must drastically change the tide and achieve sustainable positive dynamics in this respect. The key goal here is to improve the quality of life.
Let me remind you that by 2024, the living standards in each region of the Far East must not be below the national average. This comprehensive, difficult task requires consistent work. I am primarily referring to healthcare. Doctors at Far Eastern hospitals, outpatient clinics and first aid care stations are working decently and doing all they can. However, there are obvious problems that we cannot resolve with formal, average formulas and approaches. We must always consider the specifics of each particular region.
I will not go into detail at this point. Obviously, it is necessary to work further on the issues we discussed at yesterday’s meeting. We will do this and carry out our additional support measures.
The Far East is a vast territory with low population density. It is essential to provide these people with quality healthcare. It must be reliable and accessible. Yesterday, we discussed proposals from the United Russia party with our colleagues from the Federal Government and the Far Eastern regional governors and adopted a number of important decisions on this issue.
The first point. We will further increase the current allocations for the healthcare system in the Far East, especially the remote and sparsely inhabited areas. We will allocate over 6 billion rubles a year for this purpose and this will only be the first step.
Second, we have agreed to prolong the Unified Subsidy. Under this programme, 476 social facilities have been built and 700 repaired in the Far East, including schools, kindergartens, outpatient clinics, fitness centres, and medical and midwife stations. Next year, Far Eastern regions will receive an additional sum of around 20 billion rubles for this programme, and at least half of this amount will be allocated for the development of the healthcare infrastructure in the Far Eastern regions. Let me stress that this money will be allocated on top of the 57 billion rubles that are already planned for the programme to upgrade the primary healthcare segment in the Far Eastern Federal District.
There is another task that is important for the entire federal district: 80 percent of the 2,500 Far Eastern post offices are located in remote villages, with three quarters of them in need of major repairs and renovation. As you know, I have supported the proposal of the United Russia party to upgrade and increase the capacities of post offices so that our people will be able to get public services and remotely purchase all the necessary goods, including food and medicines, there. We will begin a major renovation of the postal infrastructure, postal network across Russia, very soon. Far Eastern pilot projects will be launched in the Primorye and Khabarovsk territories as well as in Buryatia.
Next, we have to create all the conditions and opportunities for everyone in the Far East to be able to receive up-to-date education and competences as well as learn an in-demand profession and find a well-paid job.
Let me remind you that United Russia’s proposal also envisages launching a programme of major repairs in general education schools. Over the next five years, we plan to repair more than 1,000 school buildings here in the Far East. Moreover, we will introduce 21,500 new school places by the end of 2023 as part of the school construction programme.
I would like to note that the number of graduates in the Far East is growing, but many of them are leaving to study in other Russian regions today. As a rule, they find jobs there, then start families and settle there. It is necessary to improve the accessibility of secondary and higher vocational education here, in the Far East, while focusing on training highly qualified human resources. In this connection, I, of course, support wholeheartedly the idea of holding the 2023 WorldSkills National Championship for Young Professionals in Khabarovsk. I am sure it will give another boost to the development of the vocational education system in the entire region.
As concerns free higher education, its availability for school graduates in the Far East is still lower than the average availability in other Russian regions. Therefore, in the years ahead, we will continue to increase the number of state-funded places in Far Eastern universities. I have a reference document here but I will not bore you with figures. I think this data needs to be corrected because the number of state-funded places should be even higher than what the Government proposes.
As a concurrent measure, we need to improve the quality of higher education in the Far East, update study programmes, education and research infrastructure – in response to the demands of the economy, employers, the current labour market and, most importantly, the demands of students themselves. We need to attract more highly qualified professors and world-renowned scientists and scholars. The Far Eastern Federal University must become one of the world’s leading universities within the next decade. It must meet the highest international standards in terms of its facilities, research base, the level of teaching and career prospects.
Next, the most vital issue for young professionals and their families (and for all citizens for that matter) is housing, its quality and affordability. A special mortgage programme was launched in the Far East in 2019, under which young families and those who are building their own houses, including on a plot of land granted under the Far Eastern Hectare programme, can obtain a mortgage with a 2 percent interest rate. Around 24,000 families have already used this mortgage offer to improve their living conditions. There has been a proposal to extend this subsidised mortgage programme to other categories such as representatives of essential industries that are in great demand in the Far East. We will discuss this proposal with the Government shortly.
I would like to note that the cost of housing in the Far East has increased significantly lately. There is a shortage of high quality and affordable housing on the market. I would like to remind you about the goal of increasing the scope of residential construction in the Far East by 60 percent compared to the 2019 level by 2024. This is a request for the Government and regional officials to consider additional solutions to stimulate residential property development in the Far East.
It is very important to address the problems of housing availability and the quality of life in a comprehensive manner. The issue of launching a large-scale upgrade programme for Far Eastern cities is long overdue. I am not only talking about the renovation and improvement of residential areas and public spaces. We need to set vectors for the long-term development of these cities. Instead of agglomerating around major production facilities and large plants, as was the case, historically, they must become cities focusing on residents and their needs, comfortable living and growth conditions where there is room for fresh ideas, initiatives and projects for the economy of the future; where there is convenient and eco-friendly public transport available. Cities like Tynda and Severobaikalsk, which are essential for the operation and development of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, must not be overlooked.
I would emphasise that such a programme should be implemented in close communication with the residents, responding to their needs. We will also need to effectively tap the tools and mechanisms we launched recently. I am referring to government loans for infrastructure projects, DOM.RF subsidised bonds and support from the National Wealth Fund.
The Far East should also make intensive use of the opportunities provided by the public transport replacement programme, as well as the Far Eastern concession mechanism, where urban infrastructure, including utilities, is built with private investment, while the state takes on long-term obligations to reimburse these investors.
Development programmes and master plans for each city need to be prepared over the next two years. I propose we consider and approve the first of these at the next Eastern Economic Forum and start implementing them.
The development of the Far East is a unique effort in terms of its complexity, scale and significance, and at the same time, it is one of the most promising areas. It poses a challenge and offers exciting projects for large, global companies, medium-sized businesses, start-up entrepreneurs, for everyone, for young professionals and experienced professionals alike.
Again, the advanced development of the Far East is our long-term and absolute priority; it is a shared responsibility and job between the Government, the regions, all levels of government, our largest companies, co-owned by the state and the private sector.
The Far East is a region with a special geographic location, climate and nature. Here, courage and endurance are valued, and the people in the Far East have a special character and fortitude, as I said at the beginning of our meeting – they know how to set ambitious goals and achieve them.
All our efforts are aimed at creating up-to-date and comfortable living for people in the Russian Far East, for their incomes to grow, along with their families’ prosperity. I know that we will definitely achieve these results together. And I certainly look forward to your dedicated work and wish you success.
Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, there are many clarifying questions that I will leave for discussion, but allow me to ask one now. This morning, a Russian-Japanese business dialogue meeting was held here at the forum. It was nice to hear the confirmation of so many plans.
You just mentioned the Kuril Islands, a subject brought up here on this platform two years ago, and three years ago.
As I understand it, with this new customs freedom, economic freedom, the Japanese are among the foreign participants. But the Japanese always want more. They have insisted on linking the ownership of Russia’s southern Kurils with the peace treaty more than once or twice.
A constitutional referendum was held between the previous Eastern Economic Forum and this one, and the Russian Constitution now has a new clause stating that the country’s territory is indivisible. Accordingly, the South Kurils are part of the Russian Federation forever. Has this not changed the course of negotiations with the Japanese at all?
Vladimir Putin: This has not changed our approach with regard to our interest in concluding the peace treaty. We believe that the absence of the peace treaty in our relations is absurd. Moreover, both Russia and Japan are interested in the complete and absolute normalisation of relations, considering our mutual strategic interest in developing cooperation.
We have always insisted on the need to respect the results enshrined in international documents, the results of World War II. We have never rejected a dialogue on the peace treaty. We agreed with the former Prime Minister that we were ready to rely on the well-known documents from the 1950s, but our Japanese partners kept changing their mind. I have spoken about this many times, but I will repeat it: first we agreed that we would make the decision based on this well-known document (I mentioned it, the 1958 declaration, I believe). Moreover, both the Supreme Soviet and the Japanese parliament ratified that document, but then the Japanese side refused to implement it, and then they asked us to go back, and we agreed that any further progress would be based on that agreement; then the Japanese side upped their demands.
So this seems like an endless process, but of course, we must take into account existing realities. One of them is that when talking about the peace treaty, we must ensure a peaceful future, which means there must be guarantees against surprises from the possible deployment of American armed forces, let alone missile systems, close to our borders. We have conveyed these questions to the Japanese side. We have not received any answers yet. Therefore, I believe that in this sense, the ball is in our partners’ court.
However, we have agreed on the development of these territories more than once, including the implementation of Japan’s proposals. We considered it our duty to organise the appropriate work and create the necessary conditions for economic and commercial activity. The proposals I have outlined – not proposals, strictly speaking, but the plans I have laid out in my remarks – are the implementation of these joint agreements.
Sergei Brilyov: I understand the joint economic and commercial activity, but last year’s amendments to the Russian Constitution cancel the 1950s declaration, do they not?
Vladimir Putin: We need to look closely at this declaration, and we need to look closely at the amended Constitution and draw the appropriate conclusions.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you, Mr President.
We will now continue the part linked with the speeches of the distinguished guests of this session.
Mr Tokayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. I am giving the floor to you.
(The speech by President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will be published later.)
Sergei Brilyov: Mr Tokayev, to begin with, I would like to assume this responsibility and thank you on behalf of all Russians and Russian speakers for your speech in Russian. This confirms the idea from your recent address to the people of Kazakhstan that the Russian language has and will be used. Thank you very much.
Second, I would like to tell you that I closely watched the reaction to your speech in the hall. It is not as easy to see reactions these days because some people are disciplined and wear masks. That said, I can assure you that Rosatom Director General Alexei Lickhachev had a broad smile on his face when you spoke about the nuclear energy industry.
Third, with your permission I would like to touch on an issue that we are bound to discuss in a separate session. Anyway, I would like to mention it. You recently made, though not in your Address, a somewhat mysterious statement about Afghanistan. You said that it does not pose a threat (as I see it, you were referring to a physical threat from the Taliban crossing the river and moving north), but there are some risks. Can I ask you to explain what you meant by this? What exactly do you mean by threats and risks from Afghanistan?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: In my opinion, the threats and risks emanating from this much-suffering country are obvious. With the departure of the Americans, it has been left with huge amounts of high-tech weapons, worth over $85 billion. There is a threat of a refugee exodus. I am pleased to say that on these very sensitive issues we have a common position with the Russian Federation and the members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Recently, there was a CSTO conference, or summit, at the initiative of the President of Russia. We had a detailed, meaningful discussion of all issues on Afghanistan and decided to adopt a consolidated position on the risks that are emanating from that country.
Naturally, we believe that actions are more important than words, and we are closely following the developments in Afghanistan and the policy of the Taliban, which has come to power in that country. Of course, we want an enduring peace to be established in that much-suffering country.
Sergei Brilyov: I would like to reserve the right to return to this issue. We will talk about it separately.
Now I am giving the floor to the President of Mongolia. Go ahead, please.
(The speech by President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh will be published later.)
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you very much, Mr Khurelsukh.
Gazprom’s project will soon be completed. I think the new Trans-Mongolian gas pipeline will be visible even from outer space. In the meantime, when you fly from the beautiful and very modern city of Ulan Bator in any direction, all you can see below is an endless steppe and enormous trails going in different directions which are used by the nomads. How did you organise your vaccination programme? Did you go out into the steppe? Or did people come to you to get vaccinated? In general, are Mongols getting their jabs?
Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh: The vaccination programme is being successfully conducted in our country. Our Ministry of Healthcare has registered seven vaccines that can be used in an emergency. The effectiveness of the vaccines and the importance of getting it are very well understood by our people, and they are willing to get the vaccine.
The vaccination campaign began in February 2021. Today, about 90 percent of the target population, in other words, 68 percent of the total population, have been vaccinated. It was a very effective campaign with good results.
About 2 percent (statistical data) of those who received the vaccine are falling ill, which shows the high effectiveness of the vaccines that are being used in our country. We are using the Chinese-made vaccine Vero Cell, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Pfizer. They also show very good results. In the future, on the recommendation of the WHO, we will look into vaccinating children aged 3 to 17.
The biggest challenge is boosting our people’s trust in the vaccine. This is a common problem not only in our country, but around the world. So, we must work on the international recognition of vaccination.
Sergei Brilyov: Ninety percent coverage is quite an accomplishment. It appears that the world has split into two leagues: the countries that produce vaccines and struggle to convince people to get vaccinated and the countries that do not produce vaccines, but their people can’t wait to get one.
Mr Putin, this is a random conversation, so to speak. I had a very strange and interesting trip before I came to Vladivostok. Several weeks before Vladivostok, I was in Uruguay. We were shooting a film there. To draw a historical parallel, what they have there is a main continental yellow fever quarantine. They do not produce a vaccine and the people line up to get vaccinated. By the way, I think it is the only country in the world where you are considered vaccinated (I know this from my own experience) if you got vaccinated with a vaccine that is legal in the country of your permanent residence. That is, this topic is not politicised at all. So, if you live in Russia and were vaccinated by Sputnik in Russia, you are welcome. Perhaps, we can bring this matter up a little later.
Now I would like to give the floor to the President of the country that is producing its own vaccine and has already vaccinated 883 million people. Obviously, this is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But also, before giving the floor to President Xi Jinping, I would like to draw your attention to news that was made in the past 24 hours. China announced that despite the pandemic, or, to be more exact, having largely overcome the pandemic, it is opening its Beijing stock exchange in addition to what it already has in Shanghai and Hong Kong. We can only congratulate the Chinese on this occasion.
Let us see what kind of video address President of China Xi Jinping has prepared for the current Eastern Economic Forum.
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (retranslated): President Putin, ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am grateful to President Putin for his kind invitation. I am very glad to take part in the Eastern Economic Forum again for the first time in three years. Today is victory day in the war against Japan and the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II.
On August 25, I spoke to President Putin over the phone. During this conversation, we both expressed the need to preserve the firm commitment of the international community to upholding the results of World War II. We emphasised the importance of defending historical truth and drawing lessons from the past in the name of the future.
Last June, President Putin and I announced together via video conference our decision to extend the Treaty on Neighbourly Relations, Friendship and Cooperation between the PRC and the RF. We reached new agreements on a number of important issues, including the promotion of Russia-China strategic partnership and comprehensive practical cooperation.
In this new era, the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation of Russia and China are demonstrating powerful dynamics and huge potential.
The international context is undergoing profound changes today. The coronavirus situation is far from stabilised and the recovery of the global economy is still sluggish.
Regional cooperation in Northeast Asia is facing serious challenges, but there are also unique opportunities We should be guided by development trends both in the region and all over the world, and work together for the sake of broad-based development during this difficult period.
We must support each other’s pandemic response, increase cooperation in developing and producing vaccines as a global public good, fight attempts to politicise the issue of vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus, and jointly try to create a community of shared healthcare for all of humanity.
We must always promote efforts towards mutually beneficial cooperation, including by uniting the Belt and Road Initiative and the EAEU. We must support the innovative development of the digital economy, respond together to the changing global climate, and promote the socioeconomic development of the region.
We should join ranks to support peace and stability in the region, overcome points of contention, promote understanding through dialogue and consultation, and make real the concept of general, comprehensive, joint sustainable security in order to build a common home with harmony and tranquility.
This year China marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Our country has embarked on a new approach to fully building a modernised socialist state. We are ready to move towards our goal of creating the Community with Shared Future together will all our partners in the spirit of true multilateralism, mutual trust, friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Thank you for your attention.
Sergei Brilyov: A very substantive speech from the President of China, thanks to which we continue to accumulate topics for our discussion.
The President touched on security, as did the President of Kazakhstan. I suggest taking our time with this topic because we will probably hear more on it from others speakers yet to come.
But now I would like to remind you about last week’s events, when a joint investigation of the US intelligence community was released that said there was no proof the coronavirus had originated in a Chinese laboratory, at a Chinese market in Wuhan or from aliens (that really is one of the versions out there). President Putin, does it matter to you where this virus came from?
Vladimir Putin:We must always understand the reasons behind any phenomenon, that is the right thing to do; but it is wrong to politicise all of this.
Sergei Brilyov: Like your Chinese counterpart has said.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course. When things start to get politicised, it erodes trust in the conclusions drawn based on a politicised approach, because there is a feeling that we are far from the truth. All these investigations should be based on objective information. It is good that the US intelligence agencies have come to that conclusion, but it would have been better to do so earlier. And it is even more important, in my view, to fight to overcome the pandemic and its impact together, without political bias. This is critical for all humankind.
In this context, I would like to note one thing. Those who politicise are making colossal, and I would say catastrophic, mistakes in combatting the pandemic. What do I mean? After all, first, the vaccination opportunities are mainly concentrated in highly developed economies, where the bulk of vaccines are produced, and vaccination is aimed at protecting their own population. Very little is done, and I mean very little, to protect humankind more broadly. And this is bad for the producers. Why? Because it is boomeranging around the Earth all the time. For example, Africa has the lowest level of protection and vaccination, and while there are contacts with African countries, there is no escaping the virus. This disease will constantly reemerge from there. This is what I wanted to say first.
Second, there are humanitarian things. All the time, we hear from our colleagues from the West that it is necessary to humanise international relations. And where is this humanisation? It is not seen in lifting pandemic-related restrictions, at least in the sphere of distributing medicines, such as vaccines, and helping countries in need. For example, Iran. I do not want to go into details on policy, but the country needs help and no restrictions are being lifted, not a single one. It has not even been discussed. Not to mention other countries. Take Venezuela. Policy is one thing, and humanitarian aid is another. You have to be consistent if you want to be trusted.
The same thing is true for the economy. The economy is recovering faster in the countries using financial tools associated with pumping in cash and deficit spending than in other regions of the world. It would be wise to help developing economies. But nothing is done yet. Look at the level of deficits in the world’s leading economies: they have skyrocketed. By what means? By inflating the economy. As a result, they are recovering faster. What is needed is to think about all participants in economic activities. This is what lacks so far. So politicisation of these issues will not yield anything positive, only working together will.
Sergei Brilyov: Let us look into it. There is a reason why I mentioned my trip to Latin America. I visited with the Secretary General of the Latin American Integration Association, which, indeed, unites all countries. I asked him directly (I have it on record and I will show it on air): “Have you ever had Russians come to you with a vaccine – they say Russians are carrying out some kind of vaccine diplomacy – and ask you to do something in return?” His answer was a resounding no.
I would like to double-check this with your colleagues from Kazakhstan and Mongolia. When a small, peace-loving northern nation called Russia came to Kazakhstan and Mongolia with Sputnik V, did the Russians set any preconditions for you?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: There were no preconditions, of course. We have agreed that we will purchase Sputnik V and, as I just mentioned in my remarks, an agreement was reached on producing the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine at an enterprise in Karaganda. I think this is an important agreement.
Since I was vaccinated with Sputnik V, I believe this vaccine is quite effective. And it is surprising that it still has not been internationally certified. However, as far as I know, the WHO has certain requirements, about 26 of them. Clearly, you need to comply in order to be licensed or certified. In any case, Sputnik V is de facto recognised all over the world, I think, with over 60 countries already using this vaccine. So, this vaccine’s reputation was not affected, I believe.
Sergei Brilyov: What do our Mongolian friends have to say? Maybe the Russians came to see them hiding Sputnik in their jacket, saying the gas pipeline needs to follow a different route or they should buy something from Russians?
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh: The situation in our country is similar.
Sergei Brilyov: We have lost the translation, have we not?
Do you want me to repeat my question? What do our Mongolian friends have to say to this? When the Russians came with their vaccines, did they put up any preconditions or, perhaps, ask for a different gas pipeline route?
Ukhnaa Khurelsukh: There was absolutely no such thing. On the contrary, the Russian Government and the Russian people supported us in a big way. Our citizens get vaccinated of their own accord. We have vaccines made in China, AstraZeneca, and the Russian vaccine, as I mentioned in my remarks.
President Putin, I would like to take this opportunity and to express my gratitude for the fact that the Russian Federation provided us with timely support. Supply of the vaccine has played an important role in improving the COVID situation in our country.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you very much.
Let us see who is next on the list. Today, we really have many participants; not all of them will necessarily be online, many have sent video messages.
Now it is the turn of the Indian Prime Minster, Mr Modi, to speak. Let us hear from him now.
Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi: President of the Russian Federation,My dear friend President Putin, Excellences, Participants of the Eastern Economic Forum, Namaskar!
I am delighted to address the Eastern Economic Forum and thank President Putin for this honour.
Friends, In Indian history and civilisation the word ‘Sangam’ has a special meaning. It means confluence or coming together of rivers, people or ideas. In my view, Vladivostok is truly a ‘Sangam’ of Eurasia and the Pacific.
I applaud President Putin’s vision for the development of the Russian Far East. India will be a reliable partner for Russia in realizing this vision.
In 2019 when I had visited Vladivostok to attend the forum I had announced India’s commitment to an “Act Far East” policy. This policy is an important part of our special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia.
Your Excellency President Putin,
I remember our detailed conversation during the boat ride from Vladivostok to Zvezda during my visit in 2019. You had shown me the modern shipbuilding facility at Zvezda and had expressed the hope that India would participate in this great enterprise. Today I am delighted that one of India’s biggest shipyards, Mazagon Docks Limited, will partner with Zvezda for construction of some of the most important commercial ships in the world. India and Russia are partners in space exploration through the Gaganyaan programme. India and Russia will also be partners in opening the Northern Sea Route for international trade and commerce.
The friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Most recently it was seen in our robust cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic including in the area of vaccines. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the health and pharma sectors in our bilateral cooperation.
Energy is another major pillar of our strategic partnership. India–Russia energy partnership can help bring stability to the global energy market. Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Mr Hardeep Puri is in Vladivostok to represent India at this forum.
Indian workers are participating in major gas projects in the Amur Region, from Yamal to Vladivostok and onward to Chennai. We envisage an energy and trade bridge.
I am happy that the Chennai – Vladivostok Maritime Corridor is making headway. This connectivity project along with the International North-South Corridor will bring India and Russia physically closer to each other.
Despite the pandemic-related restrictions there has been good progress in strengthening our business links in many areas. This includes long-term supply of coking coal to the Indian steel industry.
We are also exploring new opportunities in agro industry, ceramics, strategic and rare earth minerals and diamonds. I am happy that diamond representatives from Sakha-Yakutia and Gujarat are having a separate interaction as part of this forum. I am confident that the 1 billion dollar soft credit line announced in 2019 will create many business opportunities between both countries.
It is very good that we have brought together the key players, the main stakeholders from the regions of the Russian Far East and the corresponding states of India. They all got together on one platform. We certainly look forward to continuing our productive discussions that began back in 2019 during the visit of key ministers from India and Indian states. I would also like to extend an invitation to the governors of 11 regions in the Far Eastern Federal District to visit India at their earliest convenience.
Friends, like I said, in 2019, at this very forum, Indian specialists were instrumental in promoting the development of many resource-intensive regions around the world. India is rich in talent and specialists. And the Far East is undoubtedly very rich in resources. So, I see here great potential for cooperation, including for Indian specialists, who can make a serious contribution to the development of the Far Eastern Federal District.
Far Eastern Federal University, the venue for this forum, is also home to an ever-growing number of Indian students.
President Putin, thank you once again for the opportunity to speak at this forum. You have always been a great friend of India. It is under your leadership that our strategic partnership continues to grow and gain strength.
I wish every success to all the participants of the Eastern Economic Forum.
Thank you very much.
Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, you visited the Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University the day before yesterday.
Vladimir Putin: I visited the university’s training centre.
Sergei Brilyov: Well, you made one remark, even a couple of times, that those who have nothing to do geographically with the Northern Sea Route (NSR) are still trying to get involved with it. And the Prime Minister of India, a southern country, is talking about the NSR as something that goes without saying. Did you have him in mind or were you referring to someone else?
Vladimir Putin: You should have paid attention to the rest of this remark. I said that we welcomed such interest. It is important to remember that we are following the developments in other countries (India is not one of them) that are concerned about Russia actively developing the NSR. They are assuming that we are planning to restrict certain countries. Such assumptions are divorced from reality.
We will not restrict anyone. Moreover, we want this work to strictly conform to the international law of the sea – the 1982 Convention and another document on the Arctic, if I am correct. We adhere to these fundamental documents and intend to do so in the future.
We are fine with this. We are happy to point out that the most economically beneficial and safe NSR passage is through Russian territorial waters, our internal seas. What objections could we have to this? We are fine with it. And the more this routing is used by all interested parties, the better.
We welcome interest from India, China, and other Asian and European countries in this cooperation. I believe we will repeatedly return to this issue in the Arctic Council, which I mentioned and that we are currently chairing.
During the meeting with President Joe Biden in Geneva, we discussed this issue in detail. Maybe not quite in detail but we paid much attention to it. I hope all our partners from Canada, Denmark and other countries will display interest in this and that all of them will be willing to cooperate in the process rather than seek yet another venue for dispute and confrontation.
Sergei Brilyov: I would like to draw your attention to one curious nuance. The President of Kazakhstan spoke about the Asia-Pacific region, which is the usual term for us. The President of Mongolia called it the Asia-Pacific region, but the Indian Prime Minister has now used a new term: the Indo-Pacific region. But we can talk about this later, during the discussion of security issues.
In the meantime, let’s listen to another leader who sent his video address today. This is Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha.
(The video address by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha will be published later.)
Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, will you go to the APEC Summit in Thailand?
Vladimir Putin: If it takes place in the usual format.
Sergei Brilyov: What about the APEC Summit in Brunei? Mr President, it will take place in November 2024. Will you go yourself or send someone instead?
Vladimir Putin: We will have to wait and see. First, we must live to see 2024. As you know, pandemics are surrounding us on all sides. So, we must keep working rather than think about such major international events that will take place in a few years.
Sergei Brilyov: But there will also be one domestic event – the presidential election.
Vladimir Putin: I know, I know. This is why I am saying that we must live calmly to see this time.
Sergei Brilyov: Can you say a bit more about the future?
Will you be sorry to see Sergei Shoigu and Sergei Lavrov go to the State Duma?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I will. They work well in their positions.
My colleagues just asked if they could head the list, demonstrating that everything the United Russia party is doing is actually put into action, including through the efforts of these people.
Sergei Brilyov: However, as far as I understand, the decision will be taken in September, after the elections?
Vladimir Putin: They are the ones to take the decision. Ultimately is it for them to decide.
Sergei Brilyov: While we are on the topic of the future.
What do you think, will the President of Ukraine come to Vladivostok to this forum or to St Petersburg one day?
Vladimir Putin: Why not? Certainly. I fully expect it because I think that the current situation is absolutely abnormal and unnatural, and sooner or later – and preferably sooner, the sooner the better – we will fully restore our relations with Ukraine.
Sergei Brilyov: You know, maybe I watched the wrong broadcasts, although I kept a fairly close eye on it, but on the day that President Zelensky was in Washington the news coverage of my colleagues, for example from the BBC World Service (on television), looked as follows: obligatory Afghanistan, abortion in Texas and the flood in Spain. And that visit was non-existent. I have a feeling that we in Russia pay somewhat more attention to that than the host party. Nevertheless, you said the President of Ukraine will perhaps come in the future. And what about President Zelensky specifically? Do you think it is possible?
Vladimir Putin: It depends not on Russia but on the Ukrainian people and the voters in Ukraine. They should assess the level, the quality and the results of the work done by those whom they voted for. And if President Zelensky is elected and pursues his policy of normalising relations with Russia, not in words but in deeds, then why not? Of course, yes.
Alas, in reality it is just the opposite. In reality, this is not the first generation of Ukrainian politicians that has come to power with slogans of restoring relations with Russia and resolving all the issues that accumulated over the previous years and later shamelessly deceived their voters and radically reoriented their actual policy. This happens under the pressure of extreme nationalists. It looks like newly elected leaders, after they enter high office, begin to fear that part of Ukrainian society and do everything to satisfy their ambitions. The results of this we can see in the economic and social conditions in Ukraine.
Sergei Brilyov: Then let us talk about the past, since we are having this lightning round.
Mr President, what are the hypotheses about Malyuta Skuratov? Let me remind everyone you that you met with the Governor of Tver the other day who said that he would build a church on the site where, according to legend, Malyuta Skuratov strangled Metropolitan Philip who, in turn, allegedly refused to bestow a blessing upon the “oprichnina”. You say it is just one hypothesis. What are the others?
Vladimir Putin: Well, the second hypothesis is simple. He did not kill him and did not pass by that place. And if he did pass by, he did not stop.
With regard to building a church, especially given the occasion, I think it is absolutely necessary to receive the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia before doing so.
Sergei Brilyov: A follow-up about the future, after which we will return to our general agenda.
I would ask our foreign guests to forgive me, I have a couple of questions which the interpreters might find challenging to translate, because the context here is purely Russian.
Let me check what his name is, I wrote it down for myself. What kind of future awaits Nikanor Tolstykh, Mr President?
Vladimir Putin: Who is he?
Sergei Brilyov: He is the boy who corrected you at the Okean Centre.
Vladimir Putin: About what?
Sergei Brilyov: You misspoke and said Seven Years’ War instead of Northern War. He corrected you. An absolutely normal situation. You have no idea of the storm that followed. The future of this boy is practically dangling by a thread. “How dare he say that to the President?” Seriously.
Vladimir Putin: Frankly, I know nothing about it.
Sergei Brilyov: This is the big news of the last 48 hours, the internet is buzzing.
Vladimir Putin: You don’t say!
I was dealing with the day’s work and getting ready for today’s event and holding other events. Frankly, I did not even know that, so I am not ready …
Sergei Brilyov: That is, it did not hurt your feelings, and the boy did nothing wrong?
Vladimir Putin: Why should that bother me? On the contrary, it can only please me. Young people know the history of their Fatherland well. It is great, and I am pleased to know that.
As for (now I understand what you are talking about) the Seven Years’ War or the Twenty Years’ War. In fact, it began in 1700, after Peter the Great joined the alliance of countries organised, among others, by Frederick II, the Saxon-Polish king, who, by the way, later slightly revised the originally stated goals. The Battle of Poltava took place, if my memory serves, in the late autumn of 1709. This was a watershed, after which everything started going Russia’s way and in favour of Russia. So, it was not seven years, it was eight and a half years, after all. The Battle of Narva (1700), where Russia was defeated, took place in the spring, if I am not mistaken, and the Battle of Poltava was in late autumn. So it took eight and a half years. We can safely assume that everything was done during these eight years, not seven, but eight.
It does not matter to me whatsoever. Your question caught me off guard and I find it strange, but there was something that made me call this war the Seven Years’ War, although, of course, it formally ended in 1721. It is great and we can only rejoice knowing that the Okean Centre has brought together knowledgeable schoolchildren and, importantly, that they freely speak their mind in the moment. Listen, this should tell us that Russia’s future is in good hands.
Sergei Brilyov: Mr President, to move on to the next subject, I must reintroduce myself. A year and a half ago I was invited to revive the Global Energy prize in parallel with my work. I have become a little more skilled on these issues and so I was a bit concerned today when you started talking about green hydrogen. I am not sure that even all those here know what that is: green hydrogen means hydrogen from the air. So, you take solar batteries and windmills and convert their energy into electricity. Electrolysis produces hydrogen (everyone knows this process at the secondary school level). You burn hydrogen without producing CO2 emissions. This sounds great.
You said it was necessary to calculate everything. But calculations show that a tonne of green hydrogen costs from 3.5 to 6 times more than blue hydrogen, which can be produced from natural gas (Mr Alexei Miller is across from us). Or compare this with other coloured hydrogens that can be produced from coal. I see that Kuzbass Governor Sergei Tsivilev is also here.
What am I driving at? It is very important to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Nobody argues that since climate change is obvious. Your colleague from Mongolia even talked about desertification, which is spreading to Russian territory. If the permafrost starts melting even more, things will get much worse. But it seems that the idea that a universal transition to green technology is a panacea is not devoid of hypocrisy. There is technology for intercepting CO2 and pumping it into hollow oil layers. Incidentally, this technology was developed in the West rather than Russia. So, this is not a Russian conspiracy. Is it possible at all to discuss this issue rationally? Sometimes there is the feeling that this discussion is prompted not by concern for nature but a desire to receive subsidies for technology that is still several times more expensive, though it will probably become less expensive in the future.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, there is this feeling sometimes. I think your apprehensions are based on certain grounds. Part of the reason is that some economies and some countries want to deprive others of their competitive advantages. This is why the European Union is talking about a kind of environmental tax, if I can put it that way. Of course, we are interested in cooperation on preserving nature and preventing this disastrous climate change. That said we do not accept the suggested rules that obviously contradict WTO standards. So, we are following these discussions closely and will cooperate with our partners in all regions, including the EU.
We understand that for now this is not a consensus position. Government experts in many leading EU countries realise that the declared initial approach is unfair and does not conform to international legal standards. Let me repeat that we will work very carefully with everyone. Unfortunately, this very important goal of countering climate change is often used to pursue some current economic goals. It reflects a striving to reshape the energy market. Many countries are using it in their domestic political agenda.
We have just heard about the nuclear power industry development. Do nuclear power plants produce any emissions? No, they do not. Some of our colleagues in our partner countries even suggest that the nuclear power industry capabilities should not be included in the calculations related to environmental well-being, along with the hydroelectric power industry. Nuclear and hydroelectric energy industries comprise up to 40 percent of Russia’s power generation nationwide, which is a substantial figure. We have to follow the development of technologies closely.
As you said, we can produce hydrogen from natural gas or coal, but today this process is expensive. You have mentioned that green hydrogen is 7 or even 8 times more expensive…
Sergei Brilyov: From 3.5 to 6 times, and more.
Vladimir Putin: All right, let’s say six times. But technology is advancing. Today it is six times more expensive but tomorrow it may be six times less expensive, so we have to follow this closely. If you ask our experts or Government representatives involved in this, we have the Energy Minister present here – I cannot see Deputy Prime Minister Novak, is he here? We discuss all these issues with him on a regular basis and in detail. Not only do we follow what is taking place globally in this sector, but we also take the necessary efforts to avoid lagging behind and to maintain our leadership positions in the energy sector in general and the energy industry of the future, in particular.
Sergei Brilyov: Now I might get told off by the founders of the Global Energy Prize, who are present here: Rosseti, Gazprom, Surgutneftegaz (cannot see them but they are probably here), and RusHydro, which became a founder this year. The winners will be announced next week. Over this year, the number of candidates has grown threefold, with 106 nominees representing 36 countries against last year’s 36 representing 12 countries.
After these efforts were expanded, we were able to take a broader look at what is happening, the trends and ideas. Although the winners will be announced next week in Kazan, I would like to name the person who won in the Traditional Energy category: Zinfer Ismagilov, a Russian winner for the first time in many years, and he works on the issues of the coal industry. Actually, it is true – what costs six times more today may cost six times less later, but I believe it is too early to give up on traditional energy resources.
The President of Kazakhstan was the first to mention this issue today. Kazakhstan is a major oil and gas exporter, and Mongolia is one of the largest coal exporters. Obviously, the renewable energy sector will grow, with a shrinking demand for hydrocarbons – although they are still required for petrochemistry. But what is the solution? The President of Kazakhstan has mentioned a general approach. What could such a joint approach of oil-producing countries be?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: As for Kazakhstan, coal amounts to over 70 percent in our energy balance. This is why we are interested in clean technology.
I agree with the opinion that technology is making headway. Indeed, what looks very expensive today may become cheap tomorrow. This is why it is very important not to miss the moment. In other words, we must focus on developing technology and borrow successful experience from abroad.
Look at China, for example. In the 15th century, its share of the global economy was 60 percent. There is a reason why it was called the Middle Kingdom and the Celestial Empire. China controlled an overwhelming part of the world economy. However, later it missed the technological revolution in the West, in particular, in England, and became an object of aggression of the then great powers. After two opium wars it became a colony of England, France and other powers. Why is China focusing on technological development today? Because it has learned the lessons of the past, the lessons of history.
I think we must also derive some lessons because we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Yes, we are fortunate to have traditional energy sources, such as oil, gas and coal, but it looks like the world is undergoing a transformation. I agree that it is possible and necessary to argue about the extent to which various new international taxes conform to the WTO rules. In this respect, we could adopt a consolidated position and closely cooperate in transforming our economies.
I think that Kazakhstan announced a rational enough strategy of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. This period is long enough to allow us to modernise all relevant equipment and switch to new technology. Only God knows what will happen in 30 years but God helps those who help themselves. This is why we must work very hard.
Of course, I agree that all issues linked with the future of our economies must not be politicised. Excessive politicisation usually leads to the loss of an objective approach and makes every idea biased, and this is very dangerous for national security. This is why I believe that Kazakhstan, as well as other countries, must cooperate actively first with its closest, natural partners and stay on trend, to use the current expression. To be honest, I do not like English words and do not use them often but some of them are up to date should be used sometimes.
Sergei Brilyov: What about Mongolia? Well, first, I hope that the fate of gas transit in Mongolia will be happier than in Ukraine.
It is interesting still – will Mongolia take the gas by agreement from the pipeline that will run from Russia to China? Will you switch to gas under the circumstances that we are discussing? Are you going to develop, say, solar power? What are your plans?
Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh: The gas pipeline which connects Russia and China and which will run across Mongolia is a mega-project of our three countries. Research work is underway. We are working on establishing an economic corridor, which would make its contribution to the green development of our countries.
The changing climate and ecosystems are our common problem. I think this is not a problem of any individual country but a global problem. Today, the coronavirus pandemic is yet more proof that we have mistreated nature and the ecosystem. It is my personal opinion. This is why the development of the renewable electric energy sector is a priority for our country’s economy. We have ample opportunities for all this as well as great potential for developing wind and solar energy production. For this reason, our plans are to raise the level of renewable energy production to 20 percent of the total by 2025, and reach 30 percent by 2030. It is also very important to have interdependence and interaction for energy sector cooperation in North-East Asia.
In addition to the electricity produced by solar and wind sources, we have set ourselves the objective of working in this area with other countries and increasing the share of such clean energy in the total amount of energy produced in our country.
We also think that the gas pipeline which we talked about provides a great opportunity for our country to join gas infrastructure development and will make an important contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in our country and improve environmental conditions. Mongolia accounts for mere 0.1 percent of the world greenhouse gas emissions; nevertheless, we pay much attention to this issue.
Protecting the Earth is our common goal and job, as well as the purpose of our cooperation. For example, the programme 100,000 Solar Yurts has been implemented in Mongolia since 2005. This programme supplies nomad families with energy; 100,000 nomad families use mobile wind and solar arrays. It is of great importance for preserving the ecosystem in our country.
Sergey Brilyov: Thank you very much.
I would like to conclude the discussion of this topic by giving you more specific examples. An agreement on the Udokanskoye [copper] deposit was signed before our session began. The President of Kazakhstan has just mentioned the Baimskoye deposit, which will be developed in Chukotka, drawing on the experience acquired in Kazakhstan. This is a copper deposit, as many of you know. It was discovered in 1972 but in the 1980s it was deemed unfeasible to develop because of the marshlands and because navigation in the area is possible for only two months a year.
Now an essentially new stage kicks off, with a road being built from Chukotka to Yakutia to address the issue of delivering supplies to that part of the country. This includes driverless dumpers running on low-carbon technology and the like.
However, I do not want to steal the show from Mr Tokayev, who can tell us all about it. In September, a similar project will be launched in Kazakhstan and this plan will be largely brought to perfection. That is, a traditional industry, in this case the construction of an integrated ore-processing plant, could be based on a totally different environmental platform and totally different environmental standards. Is that right?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Exactly. In September, a new integrated plant will open at the Aktogay deposit. I plan to attend this major event, which is of great importance for Kazakhstan.
As for the Baimsky Ore-Processing Plant, I want to inform the audience that a Kazakh company, KAZ Minerals, bought the deposit for $900 million. By 2028, investment will increase to $8 billion.
This deposit appears to be a feasible project now, while previously it was seen as unprofitable. Why has it become attractive? Because altogether new technologies are either being planned or already being used in the project. I will not go into detail right now but I would like to note that all digitisation methods are being employed. Seventy driverless trucks or dumpers with a carrying capacity of 350 tonnes are used there, as well as drones to ensure the plant’s security. The same technology will be used at the Aktogay deposit in Kazakhstan.
I believe this is an example of very successful cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan. So, we are pining great hopes on the Baimskoye deposit. Of course, we are determined to develop our Aktogay deposit.
Sergey Brilyov: It all fits together perfectly: the owner of KAZ Minerals is Russian, so it looks like it has a common Eurasian home – that is great.
Mr President, this all sounds great and very optimistic, but still there are issues you have mentioned, with ongoing depopulation and people leaving the Far East. How can we keep people here?
Vladimir Putin: This is not a sharp increase – just the opposite, the depopulation and outflow have decreased.
Sergei Brilyov: But people keep leaving the region.
Vladimir Putin: They do, but once again, the outflow has slowed down. And in certain sectors, where good enterprises are set up, we can even see an inflow – such as the Zvezda shipyard, which has a shortage of specialists.
Sergei Brilyov: This shipbuilding complex is in Bolshoi Kamen, just across the Amur Bay from here.
Vladimir Putin: Exactly. It has a shortage of specialists and they are coming here from other Russian regions. This is how it should be done – we need such projects to attract people by providing them with good, interesting and financially rewarding work that offers great prospects, instead of slogans. This is the aim of the Eastern Economic Forum – to seek and implement such projects.
Sergei Brilyov: By the way, those who are staying on the Far Eastern Federal University campus, if your room is high up and your windows overlook the sea, you can clearly see the Zvezda shipyard from here across the bay.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to say that we never had such dry docks like the one that has been built here, not even during the Soviet era. Even the Soviet Union could not boast such shipbuilding achievements, but Russia can now, and hopefully, this will advance further.
In addition, as I mentioned in my introductory remarks, we must create favourable living conditions for people. This work should be done in parallel, and the government must certainly play its role, and a crucial role at that – in housing construction, healthcare, education, and a whole scope of social measures that are already underway, and we will boost these efforts further. I have mentioned some of them earlier.
Sergei Brilyov: Let me ask you a difficult question – at least it is difficult for me, something that I find hard to understand. As I have mentioned, I travel a lot across the Russian Far East, and I have visited many places here, including newly built production facilities. And there is an obvious contrast. For example, when I toured SUEK’s coal export terminal in Vanino (here I am just stating a fact, not trying to promote anything), I saw a 21st century facility: I remember I walked around in white slacks and there was no coal dust. I saw amazing production facilities, workers dressed in smart corporate uniforms, and the menu offered three or four choices for each course. But as soon as you leave these facilities, you see a totally different world. And this is often the case in our Far East: immense efforts at the federal level, federal or private finances, and work to create new production facilities. But what exactly causes this contrast? Does it depend to a greater extent on the efforts of the municipal authorities, or federal ones? How can it be explained?
Vladimir Putin: No, I do not think we can blame the municipal authorities for everything because their financial resources are limited. We will soon have to go back to the issue of distributing government resources at various governance levels – federal, regional and municipal. In fact, the entire Russian Far East used to be a closed territory, and Vladivostok was a closed city just a short while ago. So, there is a lot left from the Soviet legacy, when the social sector stood idle (and I have mentioned this), while residential areas – not the towns and villages, but residential buildings – were erected around enterprises. This process went on for decades, and there is nothing we can do about it now. It is the legacy we have inherited.
Do we have the right to throw stones at our predecessors? Look, people used to work in the most difficult conditions and yet they implemented tremendously challenging tasks.
Sergei Brilyov: And most importantly, they worked fast. Vladivostok is a young city, after all.
Vladimir Putin: True, they worked fast. But this is not just about Vladivostok, or other cities, towns or villages. We only have to thank those people for what they managed to achieve under such hard conditions and with such limited resources. It is true, today we must make use of what we have and advance through utilising a new industrial, technological and scientific basis to address the new tasks that the entire region and the country are facing.
I have also mentioned the need to modernise towns and villages in the Far East. Frankly, I even drew up a list of these towns and villages. I did not mention this because first we need to initiate and implement this work, and only then can we talk about it. But I spoke about what we are planning to do. I have the list of these villages and towns; I mentioned only two of them and they are in a poor condition and deserve much better – especially since their residents include people who were involved in the Baikal-Amur Mainline construction. We are now starting the renovation of this major Russian transport artery. So we have to take every effort in this regard and work on the whole complex of tasks.
Representatives of the business community should influence the situation in the communities where they are operating (which they are efficiently doing already), while the government should take the necessary efforts to improve the external situation and provide for a better social environment. I have mentioned these sectors: residential construction, healthcare, education, and others.
Sergei Brilyov: Is this feasible?
Vladimir Putin: This is a challenging, comprehensive and strategic yet achievable task, and efficient efforts of the past several years only prove that we are on the right track.
Sergei Brilyov: I would like to set another Far Eastern topic aside for the very end of our discussion, and to devote the concluding part of the meeting to an issue which we have touched upon and which cannot be ignored: developments in Afghanistan and their consequences.
Mr President, at the very beginning you said you were not going to concentrate on it too much. And this is what others have done, including those outside Russia. For instance, I was astonished to see a headline in the Daily Telegraph that said the western hegemony has come to an end. I was also surprised by the material sent to me last week by my friends from the European Centre for Foreign Policy, a noncommercial nongovernmental organisation, which wrote that the United States is becoming a ‘normal country’ – meaning it is abandoning the function of the world’s policeman.
Mr President, if the US ceases – or is ceasing – to be such a global policeman, who then will be responsible for global order?
Vladimir Putin: This is the responsibility of the United Nations and its Security Council, including its five permanent members.
But, you know, this is a very good opportunity for some to rant about the events in Afghanistan as well as about US policy. This is a catastrophe, it’s true – and these are not my words, this is what American analysts are saying. It is a catastrophe, because the Americans, a highly pragmatic nation, spent over $1.5 trillion on the campaign over these years – but received zero result. And if we look at the number of people left in Afghanistan who worked for the collective West – the United States and its allies – this is a humanitarian catastrophe as well.
Hopefully, a realisation will come that actions based on previous stances, which aimed to ‘civilise’ other nations and bring to them elements of the modern civilisation in line with ideas and concepts of those who impose them, is a misguided policy.
Actually, as to Afghanistan, I have heard many of our colleagues saying, “This was a mistake, we made the wrong choice, and we should not do so in the future.” But this has been a typical policy since the so-called enlightenment missions of Catholic priests, who arrived, say, in Asian countries or China and ‘civilised’ the local residents, based on some achievements in natural sciences, education and medicine, but the main goal was to promote Catholicism rather than educate people.
There are hardly any changes. However, it is not a spiritual or economic colonisation going on but rather attempts to maintain their influence under the pretext of promoting democracy. Meanwhile, if a certain nation needs democracy, people will arrive at it by themselves, it shouldn’t be imposed on them by violent means.
At the same time from the point of view of technology, if we try to understand the developments, the Soviet troops also withdrew but they did it in an organised manner. This is number one.
Second. The regime that remains in that country existed for several years after the Soviet troop withdrawal. It is unclear how the situation in Afghanistan would have unfolded if the Soviet Union had not stopped rendering at least the economic assistance before the Soviet Union broke up. Chances are the parties to the conflict could have come to some agreement.
But how are the Americans withdrawing? Via airlifts. Whereas the Soviet troops marched towards their border. It is a different story. And it was easier for the USSR in this respect, of course.
Is this the end of some Western hegemony? You see, the point is that these lessons – and there are lessons – should be understood correctly and adjustments should be made to real politics. They say about Afghanistan, “We got there, we made a lot of mistakes there”, whereas the same is going on with regard to other nations. What are sanctions? It is the continuation of the same policy of imposing their standards. Russia is not the point. The point is there are other countries, including in the Asia Pacific, in Latin America and across the entire globe. If some major conclusions were made, then we might witness some major changes in global politics. Whether it is the end of domineering or not depends primarily on the economic potential of the countries in the international arena.
Our task is to pool efforts and achieve better results in the development of our own countries by working with partners and using the rule the Indian Prime Minister mentioned: Sangam, pooling efforts. And then Russia’s importance and Russia’s voice will grow to the benefit of the Russian people and also of all our partners.
Sergei Brilyov: Let’s ask our partners.
In a speech he made this week, President Biden voiced what you have just said, to a certain degree, that the era of military operations for the sake of nation building has ended. This is an approximation of what he said, although I think that was the phrase he used.
Vladimir Putin: Well, let’s hope so.
Sergei Brilyov: What upset me in his statement, if you listen to it in its entirety, is that he is the President of the United States, and he addressed his countrymen. However, the president of the nation that had launched all that in Afghanistan was somehow expected to address at least his allies, if not the world. Biden’s speech did not even mention their closest allies, who had fought alongside the Americans in Afghanistan all these years. And the idea was voiced – and it’s not the first time we hear it from the Americans – that there will be no terror attacks on their country while the others – though it wasn’t actually said this way but the message was: “Who cares?”
The thoughts that spring into my mind, and I am not sure if it is a conspiracy theory, that those poor translators who had been working for decades with the Americans and allied forces could be sacrificed along with women’s and girls’ rights. Whatever the Taliban might be doing, it has already been stated that women and girls are not going to have the rights they used to enjoy just recently, even if only formally. So, it is about leaving that country and really ending that twenty-year war while shifting all the problems to the neighbouring countries to a large degree: the proliferation of weapons, drugs and refugees.
My question on this issue is for President Tokayev. I am not asking you to agree or disagree with what I am saying. I am an irresponsible journalist whereas you are a statesman. Nevertheless, what is your vision of the aftermath of this whirlwind withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan today, and later possibly also from Iraq? The overnight collapse of the previous government, the arrival of the Taliban, the start of a new confrontation with the so-called Islamic State, a new confrontation in Panjshir. What does all this mean for the region? What do you expect to happen?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: We were certainly gravely concerned about the developments in Afghanistan. We duly took steps to evacuate our citizens from that country, although our embassy remained there, came into contact with Taliban representatives and managed to agree on the security measures for the diplomats and the embassy.
In addition, at the request of the United Nations, we made it possible for 237 staff of that international organisation to arrive in Kazakhstan by two charter flights. Currently they are working remotely from the territory of Kazakhstan.
We provided Kazakhstan’s air space and airports for flying and refuelling the aircraft that were evacuating the contingent operating in Afghanistan, including the military contingents of NATO countries and the United States.
As to the issue of taking in Afghan refugees who used to work with the US administration for an uncertain period of time – it could be two, three or six months – we did not agree to it because a great many nuances emerged connected with Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. The people who were to come to Kazakhstan did not have entry visas. Besides, the logistics did not make it possible to resolve the issue.
Regarding the aftermath, very briefly. First, Afghanistan will definitely not be the Afghanistan it used to be. They have a new government there and in all probability the regime has come to stay. As for hostilities in Panjshir between the forces headed by Ahmad Shah Massoud’s son and those of the current regime in Kabul, it is hard to foretell the results because the Taliban have an advantage so far. I think and I have already said that we must closely watch the actions of this regime.
We note peaceful statements, we notice that the Taliban leaders say they would like to have friendly relations with all countries. Obviously, it also concerns the Central Asian states. At any rate, I would like to return to the initial thesis that we, the Central Asian states, especially those that are party to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, must keep together because the developments are unpredictable.
I believe soon a large number of Afghans will want to cross the border and settle somewhere outside their country for safety reasons. This is a very serious challenge for a number of countries.
As for the United States, I am by no means inclined to indulge in malicious gloating over how all this has happened. Indeed, there is a great difference between how the Soviet Union pulled out its troops and how it happened now. So, this was the end of it. We should all put our heads together now to address the situation with Afghanistan.
Incidentally, Kazakhstan has traditionally seen Afghanistan as a good market for its products, primarily wheat. They always paid on time. We agreed with President Ghani that they would send a large trade delegation to Kazakhstan to sign relevant agreements, so we could diversify our trade and economic cooperation; however, this was not destined to happen. Anyway, people need to eat, including those who are living under the Taliban. They are interested in receiving staple goods, including from Kazakhstan. It is a very important factor that, naturally, will influence our approach to this regime.
As for the United States, some people have told me that the Americans do not care what is happening outside their country, overseas, and life in America will go on as usual. I cannot agree with this. No matter what, there will, of course, be implications for the US domestic policy and foreign policy in a broader sense, because Afghanistan is a very important country, which, of course, will have an indirect but serious effect on politics, including on US policy.
Of course, I am far from predicting the course of events in Washington, the White House and so on, and it is not the topic of our conversation, but, in my opinion, there will be implications and very serious implications at that.
Thank you for your attention.
Sergei Brilyov: Mr Tokayev, here is a very practical question that may surprise you, although I do not think it will.
What is truly frightening at the moment is that nobody has invented anything new. At one time Fidel Castro let criminals leave the country together with dissidents. Likewise, there may be people who have truly suffered among the Afghan refugees but there may also be specially trained agents of the Islamic State.
You are a Kazakh. I know that Kazakhs and Uzbeks understand each other, read each other’s thoughts and so on. As a Kazakh, can you distinguish an Uzbek from Uzbekistan from an Uzbek from Afghanistan, who can be much more dangerous, just by looking at them? Do we – the CSTO and the Eurasian Union – have tried-and-tested migration and other mechanisms for separating these migration flows? They will soon be coming. Can you personally tell an Uzbek from Uzbekistan from an Uzbek from Afghanistan?
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Of course, it is very easy. After all, we have all come from the Soviet Union. I think it is very easy to tell those who once lived in the USSR and now live in the post-Soviet territory.
I think we have always been identified as such. As a consular employee in Singapore, I met many people who made flight transfers. At that time, Aeroflot flew only to Singapore and then Soviet people had to transfer to other flights to Australia or the Philippines. When I was told to meet different delegations flying to Australia, for example, I identified them easily. The same applied to those delegations that were returning from Australia and made a transit stop in Singapore. People recognise us anywhere. That is the way things are.
As for the migration authorities, border guards and so on, this is their professional duty. It is not a problem.
Sergei Brilyov: I hope so.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: As for the language, the Taliban mostly consists of Pashtuns, who have their own Pashto language. If I am correct, Dari is the language of interethnic communication in Afghanistan. It is very close to Farsi and Tajik. As for other countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, we speak Turkic dialects. We understand each other but this is a different linguistic branch. There is a lot of diversity but we can recognise each other.
Sergei Brilyov: Let us hope that the CSTO members will share expertise because this is a very clear issue.
And my last question. You have kept your embassy in Kabul. Will you recognise the Taliban now? The prime minister is about to be appointed, if it has not yet happened during out session.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: This is a sensitive issue. It requires a careful approach. I said many times, I think three times today that we will closely follow the actions of the Taliban. Everything depends on this. That said, as realists we believe the Taliban will be in power in that country for a long time. We will proceed from this premise. As I have already said, we traditionally trade with Afghanistan and this is one more factor that will determine our attitude to its regime.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you.
Mr President, what will Russia decide regarding the recognition of the Taliban?
Vladimir Putin: First, let us not forget that the United States introduced its troops into Afghanistan after the heinous terrorist attacks on the International Trade Centre in New York. This entire operation was aimed at countering terrorism. Now the reality is such that the Taliban controls practically the entire territory of Afghanistan with the exception of Panjshir and small northern areas adjacent to Tajikistan.
Today, the Taliban is in control. If this is the case, we must proceed from reality. Of course, I agree with the President of Kazakhstan and many other colleagues, and I have discussed this with many of them recently, we must understand what stands behind the statements made by the Taliban leaders.
But I would like to draw your attention to one point. It was with a reason that I pointed out that the US brought its troops after the terrorist attacks on New York. The Taliban is not a homogenous movement, although it mostly consists of Pashtun tribes. This is perfectly obvious and I fully agree with my colleague from Kazakhstan. There are many representatives of other organisations in Afghanistan, including extremist groups like ISIS. Many people have been released from prisons, as you have just said, and there are radicals among them.
This is what I thought about in this context. Russia is not interested in Afghanistan’s disintegration, and if it happens, there will be nobody to talk to. If this is the case, we must realise that the sooner the Taliban joins the family of civilised nations, the easier it will be to communicate with it and influence it, ask certain questions and suggest, if not demand, that they observe certain civilised rules in the framework of these civilised relations. In the event of disintegration, there will be nobody to talk to. There is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and a host of others in Afghanistan and all this threatens our allies and neighbours. Considering we have no visa restrictions and the movement across the borders is free, this is very important for us, for ensuring Russia’s security. All of us must pool our efforts now in order to counter these problems together.
A agree with the President of Kazakhstan: of course, we must resolve together the issue of legalising the political forces in Afghanistan proceeding from what is happening in real life. But let me repeat that we must pool our efforts.
When I hear statements by high-ranking US officials that they will release their forces and focus on the struggle against China or Russia, I am tempted to say: Why not first deal with those you fought against for 20 years before declaring your intention to oppose Russia and China? Why make such statements at this moment?
Let me repeat that it is necessary to unite in order to effectively fight terrorism, a mission for which the Americans brought their troops into Afghanistan, and counter the spread of drugs and organised crime. These are common threats and since they are common, we can counter them only by concerted efforts.
Sergei Brilyov: Well, let us ask the President of Mongolia as the President of a happy country. After all, you are a bit aside from the Afghan subject. You are close geographically but still apart.
Here is my question to Mr Khurelsukh. Indeed, you look at all this a bit as an outsider. Are you content with the security mechanisms in Asia? There has been dialogue over the past 25 years. All participants came to the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore, held meetings and talked. Different powers were represented there. Russia and the United States were regular visitors. But now, after the collapse in Afghanistan, there are new realities altogether. But what encroachments were made in the past two or three years? Let us forget ASEAN and create a new Pacific NATO. This is a sovereign decision of states. This is an alliance. Roughly speaking, it consists of the United States, Australia and Japan. It is aimed against China, as it was sometimes said for the record.
Here is neutral Mongolia that has lived between the two huge mechanisms for centuries. I would not even call them countries. There is a Russian mechanism and a Chinese mechanism. Mongolia, which is looking around, is a third neighbour. I know you have this expression about various third neighbours.
So, Mr President of Mongolia, tell us please if our life in Asia is satisfactory in terms of security.
Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh: Mongolia is located both in Central Asia and North-Eastern Asia. As a North-Eastern Asian country, we pay much attention to the security of our region and are closely following the developments in the Asia-Pacific Region.
You said that we have no terrorism in our country and lead a peaceful life. We do not have any wars or a threat of terrorism and we peacefully coexist with our two neighbours. We do not have any border disputes with Russia or China. We are taking part in the talks on this issue with both Russia and China. We believe the issue of the Korean Peninsula must be resolved without the use of force.
As for Afghanistan, we are certainly concerned about the developments in that country. The United States and the members of the US-led coalition adopted a very quick decision that created big problems. In turn, this is exerting a very adverse influence on the situation in the region, in particular, on its security.
As a Central Asian country, we had close relations with Afghanistan, in the 13th century and during the Soviet times. As you know, recently our peacekeepers held an operation in that country.
Today, the Taliban has come to power in that country. The domestic political and economic situation in Afghanistan remains tense. It is undergoing a deep economic crisis and there is a big threat to the security of its citizens. All this is affecting their attitudes. They are directly facing a threat of physical destruction. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to pay attention to this regional problem. We think we must continue dialogue on this issue and pay close attention to it in the UN and regional organisations. I hope that the power structures that are now ruling that country will make a sensible decision.
We hope that country will not fall apart but will unite to form a single powerful and peaceful state. This is what we sincerely wish it. I think other countries wish Afghanistan the same. The international community is closely following the developments in that country in terms of security and peaceful life.
Sergei Brilyov: Thank you.
Generally speaking, Ulaanbaatar looks like an Asian Geneva, Mr Putin. Why don’t you meet with Mr Biden there next time? Look what a wonderful platform.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Mr Brilyov, I would like to add one more factor to the issue of recognising the Taliban or not. I think it is very important. I am referring to two resolutions that outlawed the Taliban. The UN Security Council adopted them in 2003 and 2011. If we start discussing the recognition of the Taliban, we must certainly take note of them. The role of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, the United States, France and the United Kingdom – is of decisive importance in this respect. I think we are again returning to the UN venue and this is very meaningful.
Sergei Brilyov: Mr Tokayev, I graduated from the same institute as you. If you remember, we had a course on the history of international relations and foreign policy. This debate about the recognition or non-recognition of the Taliban reminds me of the Anglo-Soviet-US correspondence on recognising the Badoglio government in Italy in 1944. This is going to end in some way but it does not matter.
Mr President, this is probably the last point. Believe it or not but I partly get paid for watching TV. When I arrived in Vladivostok, I started watching the local channels, primarily ours, the VGTRK channels: East 24 and a wonderful programme “News. Far East” on Rossiya 24. This is a very interesting programme. It starts at 10 pm and I recommend it to all of you. I wrote down the topics that I liked the most over these days.
Today, we spoke a lot about the development of the Far East and suggested industrial projects. I made notes on my phone. Look what I wrote: a bridge is under construction in Magadan. It is similar to the bridge in Zaryadye in Moscow. It looks like it will make life more convenient. There is a new crab fishery in Khabarovsk. Ski tracks have been extended here on Russky Island. There is an ornithological centre on Kamchatka. I am not sure whether you are aware of what has been done in this respect. In the past, poachers were hunting these birds of prey (all kinds of falcons) and took them to Arab countries. Now it is the other way round. The Arabs provided the locals with a breeding flock of 300 birds. So, they will engage in mutually beneficial trade. A centre is under construction. It is incredible. It has a pavilion… Speaking seriously, this is not even the 22nd century; it is like another planet.
One of the latest news is that Vladivostok wants to apply to host the 2036 Olympics. Maybe we should finish our discussion on this point. Will you support such an application from Vladivostok?
Vladimir Putin: As you know, unfortunately, fewer and fewer countries want to host the Olympics. First, it is an expensive undertaking and, second, it is difficult these days due to the need to counter the pandemic and infectious diseases. There are many other factors as well. You saw that during the preparations and holding of the Games there were many protests in Japan. Its residents protested against the hosting of the Games.
But we have always supported the Olympic movement and I hope its principles will not be distorted or mixed with politics. If everything will be as I say, we do not rule out the possibility of hosting the Olympics in the Russian Federation. The Far East and Vladivostok are promising venues, but it is too early to talk about it. We should first calculate everything, although holding major international political and sports events always promoted the development of the host region.
Today we are meeting on the territory of the Far Eastern Federal University. It was built during the preparations for an APEC summit. We could have held this summit in Moscow or St Petersburg. They have ready venues and it would not have taken as much time and money to hold it there. However, I decided to hold it here and build this complex for the development of the education system. I do not regret anything and think it was the right thing to do. In addition, we built a new airport and a railway that links the airport with the city centre, and did many other things. This provided an impetus for the development of Vladivostok.
In general, if we take the opportunity and conduct major sports competitions, they will further promote the development of the city and the region as a whole. I do not rule it out. But the necessary conditions must be created for that. As I said, Russia must be a full-fledged participant in major international competitions but this does not depend on us. It depends on those who politicise international sports.
I hope we have enough unifying venues, such as art, sports and the fight against common challenges to be guided by common interests rather than some selfish political considerations.
Sergei Brilyov: Well,
Esteemed participants in the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, let us thank once again those who sent their video addresses to us: President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha. We had a direct link with President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh.
I would also like to thank the host of our meeting, President Vladimir Putin. Thank you very much. I hope to see you at future forums.
Vladimir Putin: As per tradition, I would like to thank our moderator and all participants in our session for coming to Vladivostok. You devoted much time to this. Thank you for thinking about implementing your projects in the Far East. I hope they will be successful. For its part, the state will do everything it can for this purpose.