This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.


Saturday, 3 January 2009

Medvedev: 2008

On Christmas Eve, Russia’s three main state-owned television channels; Channel One, Channel Russia and NTV interrupted their normal schedule of programmes to air President Medvedev’s round up of the events of 2008. In a live interview with one leading journalist from each channel Medvedev spoke extensively on the war in the Caucasus, the financial crisis, his relationship with Putin, Ukrainian-Russian relations, Russia’s national interests and Russia’s position in the world today. The questions were uncontroversial, the journalists understanding and sympathetic; Jeremy Paxman it most certainly was not. Below are a few bits from the interview that I thought were particularly interesting (original transcript from kremlin.ru).

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Kiril Kleimenov (Channel 1): Dmitri Anatol’evich, were you sure that the military operation (in Georgia / South Ossetia) would be successful?

Dmitri Anatol’evich Medvedev: We had of course supposed that our neighbour (Georgia) wasn’t quite right in the head, but we had not realised to what extent. In retrospect, I think at some point I had begun to feel that our Georgian colleagues had simply stopped communicating with the Russian Federation. Before that they had been asking to meet us in Sochi to discuss matters, but then they simply disappeared off the radar. At that point I started to suspect that they were thinking of carrying out a military procedure.

So we were prepared for the event. And I think that as a result of our preparation the costs of the operation were minimal. The Russian army destroyed Georgia’s military infrastructure and still managed to avoid any acts that would have been of an inhumane character.

[…]

Tatiana Mitkova (NTV): Recently you have been in close contact with other world leaders. Do you feel that Russia as a country sits comfortably in the world today? I’m referring in particular to our return to defending Russian interests in such a practical, if one can use that term, military way.

Medvedev: Russian interests should be guaranteed by all available means; that is my deepest conviction. First and foremost they should be guaranteed by international law, by international institutions such as the United Nations and by regional institutions. But when necessary they should be defended by military means. The world is a very contradictory and complicated place; there are a large number of internal conflicts, a very significant number of threats such as terrorism and international crime. We need to be ready to respond to all of these threats and, when necessary, our response should be strong and forceful otherwise we will not be able to guarantee our state sovereignty. However, this does not mean that we should resort to only one of the available means; on the contrary, we should try to come to a compromise, to an agreement with various world powers, so long as they do not present an open threat to the Russian Federation. In this sense, we are most comfortably placed to talk with our colleagues abroad.

The thing is that nowadays, sometimes I really do feel that there is an attempt to cut Russia down to size. And whilst not so long ago, when Russia was in a different situation, such attempts were to some extent successful, now such attempts are impermissible. We do not like in any way the desire, for want of a better word, of our colleagues and partners in NATO to infinitely extend its limits; we have told them this clearly. We think that this does nothing to improve international security; on the contrary, it is necessary to take a different approach, it is necessary to create new mechanisms, modern mechanisms and this is what my idea of creating a pan-European agreement on security is aimed at achieving. There are different opinions on this; some, such as our biggest European partners say, “Yes, it’s an interesting idea, we want this, we are ready to take part in this,” whilst some are wary and say “What do we need this for? We’ve got NATO and that’s fine as it is.” But then not every country in Europe and most certainly not every country of the world is a member of NATO. The time has come to create mechanisms that will guarantee the security of all states. And I, as president of the Russian Federation, will always, as a matter of principle, take such a position on this subject. Even if some people don’t like it.

There are also other situations. We have spoken quite a lot today about the conflict in the Caucasus, of Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia. If the lives and dignity of Russian citizens are going to be threatened then Russia’s position will be most simple; we will be rational yet forceful. We will, and I have said this on numerous occasions, assert and defend the interests of our citizens wherever they should be. And this does not infringe international rule of law; it is the responsibility of any country and any leader.

So all in all I have good and perfectly comfortable relations with my colleagues worldwide, but we should not forget about our national interests; that is absolutely clear.

Tatiana Mitkova (NTV): The United States of America have always been one of the priorities of our foreign policy. Next year, Barack Obama will become president. How do you see the future of US – Russia relations?

Medvedev: You know, I want nothing else than our relations to be one of a partnership. As for priorities - when I was on the phone with president elect Barack Obama he told me that he sees relations with the Russian Federation as one of the highest priorities of American foreign policy. I agree with this 100 per cent and I hope that we will manage to successfully build a much more effective and more reliable relationship than what we have had previously, because although we have done a lot in recent years, many possibilities to develop normal relations with America were still neglected. In our opinion this was not Russia’s fault.

3 comments:

Russian President said...

Dear Caroline,

I wish to welcome you to the Russian blogosphere! Keep in touch.

Best wishes,

Russian President

Russian President said...

... sorry I meant to say "Caroline and Katie", of course. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

Caroline said...

Thanks prezzy