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#4 - JRL 2009-45 - JRL Home
March 3, 2009
[Medvedev] Press Conference Following the Russian-Spanish Talks

QUESTION: I want to ask about the letter Barack Obama sent, in which he said that he wants to stop the construction and deployment of a missile defence shield if Russia cooperates on the Iranian issue.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Relations between Russia and America are indeed a very important element of international security. Russia wants to have normal and full-fledged relations with the United States. This was our position during the previous period too, when we worked with the Bush Administration, and it remains our position today. I hope that the positive signals we have received from Washington will become embodied in actual agreements. In any event, what we have received so far is evidence that our American colleagues and the new President, Barack Obama, want to intensify cooperation and arrive at a number of decisions of importance not just for Russia and the United States.

We are in constant contact and have spoken several times on the telephone. We do indeed correspond with each other, and it would make no sense to pretend otherwise, but as for this kind of exchange, this kind of deal you mentioned, I can tell you that the issues were not phrased in this way, for it would be counterproductive. We had and continue to have serious doubts about the missile defence project, at least in the form the previous administrations plans in this area took. Rather than strengthening security on the European continent, the missile defence initiative proposed a while ago only complicates matters further. In this respect Russia has taken a clear and straightforward position: lets work together on a missile defence system and build an effective and reliable shield against various threats, which are indeed many in number.

But what has been proposed was fragments of a system, and located close to the Russian Federation whats more, and this cannot but worry us because this will most likely be a defence not against global threats, but against something else again. This is why our reaction was so straightforward: we do not agree with what has been proposed, and if the new U.S. Administration shows common sense and proposes a new construction that would gain the approval of all Europeans, the approval of the United States itself, and our countrys approval, we would be ready to discuss these proposals. But this would have to be a real full-fledged global system, not just fragments of a system deployed in close range to Russias borders.

What we have received from our American partners shows at the very least that they are ready to discuss this issue, and this is already a good sign. Not so long ago, we were getting other signals, namely, that the issue had already been decided, there was nothing to discuss, and the Americans would go ahead with their plans. But the tone of the conversation always determines the tone of the response that follows.

Now the situation has changed, I hope. But no one is setting conditions of some kind of deal, some kind of swap, all the more so on the Iranian issue. As it is, we work in close contact with our American colleagues on the issue of Irans nuclear programme. These contacts were always just as close and just as regular even when we had a confrontation on a number of issues. We will therefore continue to discuss this matter on a regular basis, all the more so as we and the United States pursue the same objectives when it comes to this issue.

QUESTION: Did you discuss at todays talks the Russian Presidents initiative to conclude a new agreement on European security, and has there been any rapprochement in positions on this issue?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: The issue of concluding a new treaty on European security is constantly being examined and discussed. We hold these discussions personally, and they also take place between our respective ministers and expert groups. I think there is no need now to set out the substance of what we are proposing, although I do hear from time to time calls for us to be more specific about what this whole thing is actually about. I think that it is very clear by now what this proposal is about. The situation is very simple: so long as there are various countries in Europe that are part of different groupings, different blocs, members of this or that organisation, only a treaty of the kind we propose can ensure security in Europe on a universal basis. But as for the choice of forum for holding discussions on this treaty and on the creation of a new organisation, this is a matter of taste. We are considering various options. It could be the European Union, the OSCE, or other forums. In any case, there are a great many different options for discussing this issue.

I talked about this already today during the meeting with the senior officials of the Spanish Cortes Generales. I want to say to you too that in my view, there is no alternative to this kind of treaty if we see security in Europe as something that goes beyond blocs, something that is an indivisible whole. I think that everyone understands this now. Every citizen, every person living in Europe realises that they depend on the level of security established, so lets work together on concluding an agreement of this kind.

QUESTION: Does the memorandum on cooperation in the energy sector mean that the door is once again open for talks between Lukoil and Repsol on Lukoils acquisition of a stake in Repsol?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I will just say a couple of words about the cooperation between our companies. A memorandum has been signed. This memorandum does indeed bolster the possibilities for developing contacts in various areas of the energy sector. This includes gas, oil, other fossil fuels, and also new energy sources, which is also very important. As for specific business projects, they should develop and unfold according to their own rules. In this sense, I want to say that no one ever closed the door on talks between Lukoil and Repsol. They have to decide for themselves when to meet, what to discuss, and negotiate the conditions of any potential deal. This is a normal business process in which companies engage in.

I just want to say that Russia has always been in favour of our big energy companies working together with their European partners. Exchange of assets is one of the best ways of reinforcing energy security in Europe. As for the concrete results this will produce, lets wait and see.

QUESTION: Continuing on from the last question, could you clarify the basis for developing energy cooperation? Will it be done through asset swaps, or through investment in new projects, or perhaps work together in other countries markets?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think you have just answered the question yourself, because normal energy cooperation should include all of these things.

Asset swaps are good because they create immediate reciprocal access to each other. This is a business procedure that makes it possible to start rapidly carrying out projects at a good level. But this does not mean that big projects, and even smaller-scale projects, could not also involve the creation of new enterprises. There could be investment in new facilities, and new companies could be created for this purpose.

I think we should therefore keep all avenues of cooperation open, all the more so as energy cooperation is perhaps one of the biggest priorities today for our countries.

But, looking at the future, I would not want the economic relations between Russia and Spain to be dominated only by energy sector issues. I want to see us develop economic ties that are as multifaceted as possible, have us work together in high technology sectors, work on new materials, work on creating the potential for the twenty-first century, while at the same time realising the importance and promise of cooperation on the big energy issues.