Russia’s President has given his first reaction to the EU summit on the conflict in Georgia, in an interview with EuroNews. Speaking at his summer residence in Sochi on the Black Sea, Dmitry Medvedev said that the bloc’s decision not to impose sanctions on Russia was “positive.” But he added that the EU “did not fully understand” Russia’s motives in Georgia.
While the EU threatened to postpone talks with Russia on a new partnership pact, it did not adopt the sanctions some countries were demanding.
EuroNews: Mr President, Welcome to EuroNews. What is your response to the outcome of the emergency summit as far as EU-Russia relations are concerned?
Dmitry Medvedev: I closely followed events as they unfolded at the summit. I won’t hide the fact that I had preliminary talks with my colleagues. In my opinion, the outcome is double-edged. Firstly, unfortunately, the EU did not fully understand what motivated the Russian Federation to make decisions on repelling the Georgian aggression and recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent subjects of international law. This is unfortunate but not fatal because things change in this world. That is the first situation. The second situation is, in my opinion, much more positive. Despite certain divisions among EU states, a reasonable, realistic point of view on the issue did prevail. A number of states were calling for some mythical sanctions and penalties. This did not happen, which, it seems to me, is in the interest of Europe, particularly the European Union.
EuroNews: There is a perception that Russia, having recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent, has found itself isolated internationally. Do you agree with this view?
Dmitry Medvedev: There is no isolation. Russia is not seeking isolation and it is actually impossible to isolate Russia. It is another matter that, after the relevant acts of recognition, we all need to think about the security structure in our complex world in the years ahead. And for me, it is clear that the events that began after the Georgian aggression on August 8 this year, put the matter at the top of the agenda. The existing security structure has shown itself to be ineffective.
EuroNews: There is still talk about possible sanctions, like an exclusion from the G8 or a refusal to accept Russia into the World Trade Organisation. If these measures are taken, how will Russia react? And, something else that concerns ordinary Europeans, won’t the “hot summer” in the Caucasus become a “cold winter” in Europe?
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, the issue of sanctions is always complicated because sanctions are usually a double-edged sword. And, I think that, say, the position adopted by the European Union, shows how dangerous going down the road of sanctions is. Reason has prevailed. The result is clear. As for other international bodies such as the G8….The G8 without Russia is incapacitated. Even the G8 itself has already understood that without the representation of such states as China and India – without the use of the so-called “outreach” mechanism – many of the Group of Eight’s decisions are not fully valid, let alone taking such decisions without Russia’s participation. Therefore, of course, the G8 without Russia, would not be able to exist. And if it attempts to continue to meet, that won’t benefit the world order, because it exists in the real world.
The WTO is a separate economic issue. We, indeed, would like to become a member of the WTO. But not at any price. We have been continuing these negotiations for a long time. Unfortunately, they are not completely successful. Our position is simple. If we do not agree soon, then we will have to stop adhering to a number of agreements imposing additional obligations on us, under the framework of the WTO. Such decisions are likely to be taken unless movement towards the WTO is made. Therefore, Russia’s presence in the WTO is not only a goal of the Russian Federation but also a requirement for other economies. How will events evolve? Time will tell.
There are other influences. You know, I don’t think that a “cold winter” or something of that sort awaits us, because it would be in no-one’s interest.
EuroNews: I was referring to the supply of energy to Europe….
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I understand what you were hinting at. So we, of course, will fully comply with our obligations as a major supplier of oil and gas to Europe.
EuroNews: Analysts believe that the Caucasian crisis turned the final page in the history of post-Soviet Russia and became the starting point for a new world. You have mentioned that view already. How will Russia build its relationships with its neighbours, in particular with Ukraine, and the outside world, as a whole?
Dmitry Medvedev: We will build our relationships with all nations based on common criteria. You are right, and I have already said that the events of August this year showed the imperfection of the current security structure. We need to rebuild it, based on the realities of today. Recently, I outlined five principles that will guide me in implementing Russian foreign policy. I would like to reiterate them.
Firstly, Russia will fully comply with all rules of international law relating to the relationship between civilized nations.
Secondly, Russia understands the need for a multipolar world and believes that the unipolar dominance of one state is unacceptable, whichever state it may be.
Thirdly, we are naturally interested in developing full and friendly relations with all nations – European, Asian, the United States, African – with all nations on our planet. These relationships will be as profound as the partners want them to be.
Fourthly, I believe that the absolute priority for us is to protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they are. And this is one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy.
And finally, the fifth principle. I believe that Russia, like any other state, has regions to which it will give preferential attention – our “special interest” regions. And with states located in these regions, we will build a special, heartfelt, relationship in the long term.
EuroNews: Is there a danger that the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will ignite separatist sentiments in other parts of the Caucasus – for example in Russia’s Dagestan or Ingushetia?
Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t see any such danger, unless outside influences implement an agenda for the break-up of Russia.
EuroNews: What are the main lessons you have learned from the latest crisis in relations between the US and Russia?
Dmitry Medvedev: Well, I don’t think this is a fully-fledged, full-blown crisis comparable to the Soviet period. But nevertheless there is a tension. We are sure we have not been looking for that tension.
And this tension is a consequence of the United States’ quite senseless policies towards Georgia.
At some point, they gave Georgia’s leader a feeling of inpunity. It is as if he had received “carte blanche” to act using any means. How did it end up? It is quite clear. And today, I think, in the United States there is some disappointment that this “virtual project” entitled “Free Georgia” failed. Georgia’s leader is bankrupt, the regime is close to crisis, the situation is strained. The sooner our American partners sort this matter out, the better for US-Russian relations. We are prepared for their restoration in the best way possible. We are ready for full relations with the United States of America.