The TV channel "MIR" took an exclusive interview with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the CSTO

12.05.2017

Photo: Website of the President of the Russian Federation

This year the CSTO is 25 years old. The benefits of Russia's allies are obvious. First, this is the latest Russian weapons at preferential prices. Secondly, it is the training of officers and soldiers in Russian universities. Thirdly, it is access to intelligence information of the Russian army and, finally, it is anti-space and air defense, which is also considered by the forces of the Russian Federation. The Russian army today is not only the most powerful in the CSTO, but, as the operation in Syria has shown, is one of the most effective in the world. So, the benefits of our allies are clear. What are the benefits of Russia from CSTO membership?

Vladimir Putin: Russia is vitally interested in stability in the post-Soviet space. You and I know the threats that are forming around the perimeter of our borders; this will most certainly be discussed. We will not now talk about the western frontiers, in the east - Afghanistan. And the fewer threats we have from different directions for Russia, and the more effective joint actions are, the better. We should not forget that there are also modern threats, for which the boundaries have no meaning, they are transboundary. This is terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and it is only possible to fight these threats, including for us, by joining forces. We proposed to unite efforts on a global scale. You know, I proposed this from the UN rostrum, but, in any case, we can do it from a regional perspective and, as practice shows, we do it quite effectively. An organization such as the CSTO, of course, justifies itself. This year we have not only the 25th anniversary of the signing of the treaty, but also the 15th anniversary of the creation of the CSTO as an organization. And these are very important milestones that give us the opportunity to look back, to evaluate everything that has been done in the field of security. Evaluate critically: make some adjustments, if necessary, somehow further coordinate our actions, strengthen the regulatory framework. In general, for us, as for our partners - I am deeply convinced of this - security cooperation is one of the priorities, and it is beneficial for all the participants of the collective security organization.

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If you make a list of threats to the security of the CSTO countries, what would it look like?

Vladimir Putin: This, above all, is terrorism, extremism of various stripes. I have already said: drug trafficking, cross-border crime, but, of course, we should not forget about more global threats. We know various theories that are somehow implemented in different regions of the world and lead to a serious destabilization in these regions. Of course, we should not allow anything like this, and we will do our best to properly behave in Russia and support our CSTO partners in every way.

As we succeed in fighting the “Islamic State” banned in Russia and the CIS countries, we must not forget about another front in the fight against terror - this is Afghanistan. Every day we see how the Taliban and other radical Islamists are getting closer and closer to the borders of the CIS states. How do you assess the efforts of the CSTO in this direction?

Vladimir Putin: This is a very dangerous direction for all of us. And we already know examples, very tragic examples, when militants broke through from the territory of Afghanistan. I’m not talking now about drug trafficking, the infiltration of certain criminal elements. But we know examples of breakthroughs of large gangs, for example, on the territory of Kyrgyzstan several years ago, when it was necessary to use armed forces to combat these gangs. We are well aware of how dangerous it is for our country, for the Russian Federation. It is not by chance that our 201st military base is deployed and is functioning in Tajikistan. This is an important element of stability in the region. Therefore, the first threat is, of course, the threat of terrorism; it is very, very serious on the part of Afghanistan. But as for the Taliban, many states of the world are somehow in contact with this organization ( Taliban - “WORLD” ). Of course, there are a lot of very radical elements. But we always, as well as our partners, including, by the way, representatives of the United Nations, proceed from the fact that it is necessary to build relations with any forces in Afghanistan, based on at least three principles: this is recognition of the Constitution of Afghanistan, disarmament and the achievement of full national harmony. We very much hope that we will never have to use our armed forces, including our units of the 201st base in Tajikistan. This is one of the alarming directions, of course. Just like the Afghan border, I mean that it is very long, over a thousand kilometers, 1,300 kilometers. We presume that by helping the legitimate government of Afghanistan, along with other participants in this settlement process, we will ultimately achieve reconciliation and put Afghanistan on the path to a peaceful solution to all domestic problems and development.

Afghanistan is also the drug transit you mentioned. And drugs are one of those food bases of terrorism, so to speak.

Vladimir Putin: So it is. Unfortunately, the volume of drug trafficking is increasing, the volume of the product produced, if it can be called that, namely drugs, is also increasing. One-third of the territory of Afghanistan, the rural areas of Afghanistan, is today controlled by the Taliban. Here we are looking more and more at the forces of the so-called international coalition, mainly American troops, we have to take part in various hostilities, we even hear about plans for a full-scale return of the American military contingent to Afghanistan. All this is associated with complex processes that occur in this country.

In general, the security of the CSTO as a military-political alliance is impossible without effective border security. How do you assess the actions of the CSTO to protect the external perimeter of our countries?

Vladimir Putin: This is a very important direction, this question directly arises from what you asked before that. Of course, this is a very important area, we are strengthening this interaction. At the initiative of Kyrgyzstan last year, relevant decisions were taken that intensify work in this area. We carry out permanent joint exercises, and our border services, special, are not just in contact, they constantly interact, exchange information. A corresponding databank is being created and is rather actively used in joint practical work. Everything that happens through the CSTO has an outlet to practice in the truest sense of the word, this is a daily collaboration. But, as for the border services, the border troops, we do not just cooperate with our colleagues, we help them with weapons, special equipment, and personnel training.

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In the ranks of the banned "Islamic State" thousands of immigrants from the CIS countries. Someday the victory over ISIS will come, and they will return to their homeland and will create new terrorist cells here. How does the CSTO work in this direction?

Vladimir Putin: First, you still need to achieve this victory. To achieve it, it is necessary to unite efforts, and not only within the CSTO, but also in the wider international coalition. Otherwise, success is hardly possible. As for the way you formulated the question, I would very much like this victory to be held in such a way that no one could return to our country. That is the goal pursued by our contingent in Syria. Our military, our group, which is fighting with international terrorists in another territory, not in Russia, precisely so that no one here can return. And, if this happens sometimes, it proves once again that we have made the right choice and we must do everything to minimize this return. This is the first. Secondly, indeed, you are right, according to various estimates, there are about 20 thousand foreign fighters fighting in Syria, of which almost ten thousand from the CIS countries. Well, about nine thousand, according to various estimates, a little less than half from Russia. About five thousand approximately from the countries of Central Asia. Basically, this is, by the way, the CSTO. Therefore, the threat is very big. She is real. We know it, we understand the scale of this threat and we must do everything to minimize it. We are working on it.

The CSTO Heads of State decided to create a Collective Rapid Reaction Force - the CORF. Tell me, when creating the RRF, was the experience of the use of special operations forces of the Russian army taken into account, which showed themselves quite effectively, including in the North Caucasus and Syria?

Vladimir Putin: The special operations forces have earned the way they now show themselves, literally, well, let's say, over the last year, that is, after the creation of the KFOR. Although the KSOR was created from fairly well-trained units, the special forces of the Russian army were still a new page in the life of the Russian force component. And these are such units, which, I can say it is absolutely responsible, we have never had before, even in Soviet times. These are very high professionals, well-equipped and effectively working in very difficult conditions. These are people who are very well motivated and highly professional, and, of course, I know what and how they do. They are patriots of their country. You know, we, of course, will do everything to ensure that our combined forces, the CRRF, which you mentioned, have the opportunity not only to get acquainted with the newest techniques and use special tools that our special operations forces work with. Of course, we will share and will extend this experience to our CSTO allies.

Watch the documentary film dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the CSTO on the MIR TV channel on April 13 at 19:10

The CSTO is often compared with another military-political bloc - with NATO. What are the similarities, and what are the differences and why does the CSTO not make political statements like NATO? And how do you think the CSTO, as an organization, should react to a significant and, I would say, demonstrative strengthening of the NATO contingent along the borders of Russia and our allies?

Vladimir Putin: NATO was created in the context of the Cold War and the confrontation of two blocs. Now there is no such situation. There is no ideological separation between states, and in Europe as well. But these birthmarks of the Cold War on NATO are very noticeable. This organization continues to live in the paradigm of block opposition. Indeed, it is very ideological, despite various statements that it should be transformed in modern conditions. We have heard such statements a lot, but still we don’t see a real transformation. And the CSTO was created in the new conditions, for stopping modern threats, I listed them in order of importance: terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, cross-border crime. Therefore, maybe we do not have direct joint purely political or politicized statements. Our decisions are made by consensus. And it is not formal, but in fact so. It is essentially a consensus. We have a completely different atmosphere in the organization.

See, now, quite recently, we have witnessed rocket attacks on Syria by the United States. So how did the NATO allies react? Everyone nods like Chinese dummies, without analyzing anything that is happening. Where is the evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops? They are not. And there are violations of international law. This is an obvious fact. Without the sanction of the UN Security Council strikes a sovereign country. And, despite this clear violation of international law, everyone agrees, accepts and begins to nod and support. I recently said, you probably saw at a meeting with an Italian colleague. So it was in 2003, when a completely contrived pretext was used to send troops into Iraq. The country was destroyed, by the way, it was after this that the rapid growth of various terrorist organizations and movements began, the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations emerged. Everyone knows this, everyone understands this, but again they step on the same rake. This is how NATO works. CSTO does not work that way. We try, as I have already said, having arisen in completely different new realities, first of all, to concentrate our efforts on real threats, on joint struggle against these real threats. Nevertheless, we cannot pass by things of such a global nature that pose a threat to the whole world. For example, we have repeatedly spoken about our rejection of deploying missile defense systems, placing weapons in space, etc. That is, on such fundamental global issues, we consider it possible to formulate our common approach, and we are doing this.

After the meeting with the Italian president, you said that it is possible that the chemical attack on Syrian Idlib, which caused the US missile attack on the Syrian airbase, was a provocation of ISIS militants. And that the same igilovtsy prepare another provocation with the use of chemical weapons near Damascus. It turns out that the Americans are actually helping the actions of the ISIL militants, with whom, in theory, they should fight?

Vladimir Putin: In my opinion, I did not say that it was a provocation by ISIS, I said that it was a provocation, but I didn’t say who it was organized by. There are various options. But in order to give a final answer, you need to thoroughly investigate this event. And there is no other way. That is what we propose to do. And everyone knows well, everyone is well aware that, on our initiative and on the initiative of the United States, we carried out a great deal of work on the elimination of chemical weapons that the Syrian authorities had. And they fulfilled all their work, they fulfilled all their obligations, as far as we know, and this is confirmed by the relevant specialized organization in the UN. If any doubts arise, you can conduct this check. And you know, because this is not difficult to do with the help of modern technology, modern analysis systems, analyzers. If someone from the official authorities applied, then the so-called “tails”, the remnants of the powder on the machinery, in the territory, they cannot but remain. Modern technology will accurately fix them. Well, what is easier - to arrive at the same airfield, on which the strikes were carried out and allegedly from which the planes with chemical weapons started, and check everything there. If our partners tell us that some civilians have come under attack from the Syrian aviation, then let these civilians allow the UN observers and international organizations to take the places of these attacks, and there they should check everything. There are several possible versions. Two of them, I think the main ones. The first is that Syrian aviation got into the underground shop for the production of chemical warfare agents. And this is quite possible, since the militants have repeatedly used, and no one argues with this, including, by the way, they used it in Iraq against the international coalition and the Iraqi army. It's just that they fixed it, but no one tries to ignore it, because no one is blowing up noise there on this issue. Although everyone agreed that the militants used it. So, they have, and if there is, then why not in Syria? This is one gang. So this is the first version. And the second version is just a statement, that is, a provocation. And specially made in order to inflate the hype and create prerequisites, a pretext for additional pressure on the legitimate Syrian authorities. That's all. And this is subject to verification. Without verification, we do not consider it possible to take any steps against the official Syrian authorities.

Was this Donald Trump decision a surprise for you?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, it was, of course, a complete surprise. Well, except for the fact that a few hours before this event, we learned about it.

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Can it be said now that Russian-American relations have degraded even lower than they were? Well, or that the relationship with Donald Trump after three months of his presidency have become even worse than under the previous president?

Vladimir Putin: It can be said that the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better, but rather degraded.

Back to the topic of the CIS. We are still a Commonwealth TV and Radio Company. Speaking of security, it is impossible to forget the tragedy of April 3 in St. Petersburg. A lone terrorist who blew up a bomb in the subway, although he is a Russian citizen, but he is an ethnic Uzbek, was born in Kyrgyz Osh. Immediately after this, many in Russia started talking about completely stopping labor migration from post-Soviet countries and abolishing the visa-free regime. How do you feel about a similar idea that causes serious concern in our allied countries?

Vladimir Putin: First, I understand the concerns of our citizens. We record quite a lot of events that we perceive as a threat to national security emanating from the militants, which are filtered through the republics of the former Soviet Union. This applies not only to Central Asia, but also to other republics. Some of them come, by the way, from abroad. The modern world is so constituted that it is impossible to completely stop migration. This applies not only to Russia, it applies to almost all countries. The question is how to establish tight control over these migration flows. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of people who come to Russia still come to work to help their families. And the creation of such an organization as the Eurasian Economic Union implies the free movement of labor, capital, services and goods. And this is a huge advantage for the development of all our countries, namely a huge advantage. And the modern world is arranged in such a way that it is success or failure in the economic sphere that decides the fate of entire regions. Therefore, this is the key issue of our life and our future. Success in the economic sphere is impossible without integration, this is how the modern world works. Therefore, it is impossible to simply turn it on or turn it off just for objective reasons. The intelligence services just have to work better, more efficiently, and if we are talking about economic processes, then we should not forget about our cooperation in the field of security. This is what the CSTO was created for. You mentioned the decision of Nursultan Nazarbayev to deprive citizenship of Kazakhstan citizens who were involved in the criminal activities of ISIL. In accordance with the Russian constitution, we cannot deprive anyone of our citizenship. But we can cancel the relevant decisions that served as the basis for obtaining Russian citizenship. We will consult with our lawyers, and I think such decisions will be made as soon as possible.

You talked about another integration project, which includes almost all the CSTO countries, this is the Eurasian Economic Union. He began his work, began difficult, began uneasy. And in many states, almost all the problems of the growth of the EEU are connected precisely with the difficulties that the Russian economy faced after the sanctions. And they say that because of the Western sanctions after the events in Ukraine, the Russian economy sank and crushed us. Therefore, we were unable to show citizens the obvious advantages of combining the capital, labor and labor market. How do you feel about this point of view?

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Vladimir Putin: This is absolutely untrue. Because, frankly, sanctions have nothing to do with it, if they played a certain role, it was minimal. What is serious is the change in world market conditions. And this influenced, of course, the Russian economy, but it, this conjuncture is negative, influenced the economy of our partners. And influenced directly. Not through us, but directly. There is, of course, our interdependence, including the dependence of our partner countries on our economy, but, by the way, ours on them too. But what is absolutely obvious are the advantages that these integration processes provide, if properly guided. And we, I think, are acting very carefully and economically very balanced. We do not run ahead, as, for example, in some EU countries. They introduced a common currency there and made all sorts of decisions, and then it turned out that the economies of some countries, they can’t live without their own currency, but it’s very difficult for them to live by attaching to a fairly strong euro. They can not use the tools of monetary policy in order to weaken the national currency, somehow maneuver in this regard, and so on. Now, if you look at countries such as, for example, Kyrgyzstan or Armenia, which later joined the EEU, the advantage is quite obvious. Their trade volumes with us have increased dramatically. For Kyrgyzstan in general, in my opinion, 2.5 times. And, say, in Armenia, trade volumes increased by 80%. This is the first. Secondly, in terms of value, there may be some figures of concern. This is due to exchange rate differences. And physical volumes, they not only did not decrease, but also increased. There is one more circumstance that I consider extremely important: our trade structure is improved, the volume of mineral raw materials and mineral goods in our mutual trade operations decreases, the number of machines, equipment and high-tech and financial services increases. This is extremely important, and it means that our integration association and the tools we create help to improve the structure of our economies. And this is generally the main way, the main goal of our development is a high-tech economy with well-paid jobs.

CIS is a territory without visa barriers. CSTO is a common security. The EEU is a common capital, labor and labor market. Our interstate television and radio company Mir is a single information space of the CIS. What would you wish for viewers in our countries to conclude our interview?

Vladimir Putin: All the most simple, but the most necessary - happiness, health, well-being. And since we are talking about our organization, which is designed to ensure peace and security, this is precisely the moment of peace and confidence that this world will be reliably provided by our armed forces and our common efforts to maintain this world.

Interviewed with the Chairman of the Mir International TV and Radio Company Radik Batyrshin.


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