Following is the transcript of a panel discussion with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. The discussion was broadcast on CNBC on 30 March 2017.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
Hosted by Geoff Cutmore, Anchor, CNBC, at the International Artic Forum.
Geoff Cutmore (GC): Presidents, distinguished guests, friends and those who are joining us on our international television feed, welcome.
Great pleasure having you here with us today. My name is Geoff Cutmore, I work for the CNBC network, and I'm delighted to be here to run this plenary panel. Before I invite the presidents to the stage, I just wanted to make a few observations, and I think they're obvious to everybody that's in this room who has any dealings with the Arctic. The first one is, the Arctic is a pristine wilderness, that it is critical for all of us to protect. It is a potential larder, or course of mineral resources, and economic opportunity. And of course, it is also a strategic theatre with the risk of becoming remilitarized. Now, all of these issues can be managed with cooperation. And of course, cooperation requires communication, which is why we are all here to participate in this dialogue.
So what I'd like to do now is get started, and I'd like to invite the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, the President of Iceland, Guðni Jóhannesson, and of course, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to come on stage and kick off this event.
Let me start by just asking you for a view on markets currently, how do you see the world in terms of investment opportunity?
Vladimir Putin (VP): Good day ladies and gentlemen. Minister, Mr. Jóhannesson. Allow me to warmly welcome you all to Russia in Arkhangelsk. This is already the second time that the capital of the Russian North is holding the forum 'the Arctic a territory for dialogue'. It is symbolic that Arkhangelsk is linked with the significant events and names that opened the 'frozen polar routes' to the world. An important polar anniversary will be celebrated this year. I am of course talking about the 85th anniversary of the world famous expedition carried out by Otto Schmidt, who was the first person to sail from Arkhangelsk to the Pacific Ocean in one voyage. And laid the foundations for regular navigation along the Siberian coast - the legendary 'North Sea Route'. The significance of the arctic is increasing greatly it is the focus of the growing attention for different nations all over the world, a region that has a massive impact on the world's climate and also a treasure trove of unique natural resources. It's a territory with a colossal economic opportunities, huge economic potential. It is a matter of principle that we should keep it as a space for constructive dialogue. For creation and cooperation as equals. Our forum has a part to play in meeting this challenge. The main theme of the forum year is 'man in the arctic'. We have pulled together the resources and efforts of leading scientists, businessmen and politicians to make this forum a platform for a serious and professional conversation about the present and future of the Arctic. It is precisely this is that we are counting on. It is a forum in search of a practical partnership and the forms that that partnership might take. Your expert opinions and initiatives have a practical input into the work of the Arctic Council as well, which for the past 20 years has served as a good example of effective international cooperation that is not dependent on developments on the international stage. Russia, which covers nearly one third of the Arctic area, recognizes that it bears a special responsibility for this area. Our aim is the sustainable development of the Arctic, which means creating modern infrastructure, developing its resources, developing its industrial base, improving the quality of life of the native peoples of the polar north, conserving their unique culture, their traditions, and with the government taking particular care in this regard. These objectives must be considered along with preserving the Arctic's biodiversity and fragile eco-systems. And it is good to see the protection of the Arctic environment is one of the priorities of international cooperation in this region. As well as scientific cooperation, it is good to remind ourselves of another important date here. The 8th anniversary of the Russian 'North Pole' drifting scientific station... the integrated development of the 'Northern Sea Route' and its adjacent territories, including infrastructure, hydrography, security, management and all the necessary services associated with this. We would like to invite our foreign colleagues to take an active part in using all the opportunities offered the 'Northern Sea Route', which will allow us to reduce the costs and delivery times of shipments between Europe and Asia. Moreover, we understand very well that this corridor needs to be competitive, universal and useful for the transportation of all sorts of cargoes from mineral resources to containers. It is vital to create for transport companies the most favourable conditions possible that correspond to the latest modern standards in this field.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all the participants of this forum. Thank them for their constructive discussions of the issues concerning the Arctic. For their passionate attitude with regards its future. I would especially like to thank my colleagues, the President of Finland and the President of Iceland, who have found the time in their busy schedules to make a personal appearance at today's event.
A broad and authoritative international presence, which is a signal of the political will of the Arctic and other states of the world to preserve the Arctic as a territory of peace stability and mutually beneficial cooperation. I thank you for your attention.
GC: Let's invite now the President of Finland to take the stage.
Sauli Niinistö (SN): Thank you. President Putin, President Jóhannesson, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to attend this distinguished forum again. I want to thank the Russian Government and the meeting place of east and west. I approach the event in this spirit, promoting a meeting of minds with a firm belief that the Arctic will indeed remain a territory of dialogue. My starting point today is the recurring thread of climate change. Tackling this challenge is crucial, if we want to ensure that the Arctic remains the place it is today. But the issue is of global significance. If we lose the Arctic, we lose the whole world. Global warming is a well-documented fact. Last year was the warmest year ever in the history of monitoring the earth's temperature, and already the third record warm year in a row. No one can escape the effects of global warming. At the moment, the problem is most acute in the north. The former UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, has called the Arctic the ground zero for climate change. The average temperature has risen twice as fast in the Arctic as in most other regions. The summer ice cover reached an all-time low in 2016, and recent reports indicate that this winter has not fully rectified the situation. A further concern is the recent report made by Russian scientists, that in Siberia there are some 7,000 methane filled pockets waiting to release their content. This will create danger and disruption to infrastructure and humans in the area. What is worse, once released, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Eventually, a warming climate will cause major challenges to everyone on this planet. In the Arctic, residents are facing immediate consequences that will fundamentally impact their communities and traditional livelihoods. Food security is threatened, and new health concerns are emerging. Make no mistake, this catastrophe will not be limited to the Arctic. There will be enormous consequences worldwide. As the ice melts, sea levels will rise. As the ice melts, solar radiation will not be reflected back, instead its energy will further warm the water and accelerate global warming.
Climate change is also a major security issue. It is a threat multiplier that aggravates many issues behind conflicts. Famine, water scarcity, flooding, forced displacement, and so forth. So, what needs to be done? Firstly, a major step in the right direction was the conclusion and early ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change, but the most important part, effective implementation, lies still ahead of us. Secondly, we need intensified cooperation across the borders, to combat the challenges and to strengthen the resilience of Arctic residents. Thirdly, in order to be effective, Arctic cooperation must have a global dimension. A case in point is the impact of black carbon on climate, environment and human health. The sources of black carbon are known, technology and know how to deal with the issues exists. It is time we dealt effectively with it. One source of black carbon is flaring, that is burning excess gas at the production site. For the layman, that is almost impossible to understand. In 2015, flaring amounted to almost 150 billion cubic meters of wasted gas. To put this in perspective, this is almost 40 times more-, as much as Finland uses natural gas annually. This amounts to burning money. On top of this, flaring accounts for a quarter of the climate warming in the Arctic. Fourthly, we must ensure that the Arctic remains an area of cooperation. The strategic importance of the Arctic is growing. The geopolitical tensions in other parts of the world should not be allowed to spill over the Arctic. Cool heads are now needed to keep the Arctic an area of low tensions also, in the future.
The good news is that the Arctic has remained peaceful, and Arctic cooperation works very well. There is a strong culture of cooperation, and a vibrant system of Arctic governance. The Arctic is also a place where international law is preeminent. The maritime boundaries and ownership of and minerals, oil and gas will be determined by international law. The Arctic coastal countries have jointly declared that they will follow the UN convention on the law of the sea. The maritime delineation agreement between Norway and Russia in 2010 set an encouraging example that everybody should follow. Finally, we must ensure that the mechanisms we already have reach their full potential. Beginning in May, Finland will Chair the Arctic Council for two years. Our Chairmanship slogan will be 'Exploring common solutions' we want to highlight the need for constructive cooperation between the Arctic stakeholders. Also, we believe it is the time to take the Arctic cooperation to a new level. Finland proposes the convening of an Arctic Summit, to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the region and beyond. This will provide an opportunity to ensure that the Arctic indeed remains a territory of dialogue. It is our government responsibility to see that this promise and tradition is upheld here in the north. Thank you.
GC: Before I invite the President of Iceland, I just wanted to pick up on that last point. Would you be keen to invite both President Putin and President Trump to a leaders' meeting, immediately you take up the Chair of the Arctic Council?
SN: We would surely be very pleased to have a possibility of hosting such a summit, but to host a summit, you have to have also something to say out of that summit, and we want to surely see how the situation is going on, how the discussions are going on, whether we find some new common points of view, and then, surely, we would be very proud to hold such a summit.
GC: And President Putin, if Finland did set up such a summit, which would come, obviously, several months ahead of the potential July G20 meeting with the US President, would you be very happy to meet with President Trump at the Arctic Council?
VP: Finland is our good neighbor, a very good neighbor of ours, and Finland has very good expertise in organizing groundbreaking events, high profile events, of this kind. The famous Helsinki Process for example, was initiated in Helsinki, where very important documents were signed. Therefore, Finland, I believe, would be an appropriate country and Helsinki would be an appropriate venue for such events, and the Finnish president, his excellency, has just said that these sort of events need to be properly and thoroughly prepared by both sides. If this happens, we'll be happy to participate and I will be happy to attend. If not, such a meeting could take place as part of the regular meetings at the G20 summit.
GC: Thank you very much for the answer. Let me invite, now, President Jóhannesson to take the floor, and give his presentation. Thank you.
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson (GJ): President Vladimir Putin, President SN, Excellencies, dear guests, I thank the organizers for the opportunity to speak at this important conference. I also thank you, President Putin, for your interest in Arctic issues, and for showing continued commitment in promoting international cooperation in the region. For Iceland, the Arctic plays an important role. We have worked with other Arctic nations in the Arctic Council and other forums. In recent years, we have also drawn attention to the region through the annual Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavik, under leadership of my predecessor Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Allow me also to add my appreciation for being here in Arkhangelsk. When I studied history, in my youth, I became fascinated by Russian and Soviet history, and the Russian language. Unfortunately, I was only able to study Russian for one year, but the admiration remains to this day. Back home in Iceland, I gained the friendship of Russians living there. Hospitality and honesty, these are the words I would use to describe those friends, and as the Russians saying goes, nothing is as precious as true friendship.
We Icelanders share parts of our history and heritage with the peoples of Russia, and all the countries in this part of Europe. Our old sagas contain tales of Viking travels to eastern lands, to…and Kiev, and other sites. In our more recent past, development in this part of the world has of course influenced our society. In Iceland, people fondly remember how the rulers in Moscow sided with us in disputes about fishing limits in the mid-20th Century. Later, when we extended the line even further, there were objections from the Soviet side, it is true, but the general history of fishing disputes and the development of the law of the sea demonstrates how international disagreements and conflicts can and should be solved, through dialogue and negotiations. Thus, the United Nations law of the sea convention has already proven its worth, yet there is still work to be done. Throughout the 20th Century, fisheries were the backbone of Iceland's economy. Although we have diversified our economy, and enjoy a boom in the tourist industry, we still depend on marine resources. The ocean is vitally important to us. In fact, it is vitally important to all humankind. Therefore, I want to draw your attention to some risks and opportunities in this field.
For centuries, humans have used the ocean as a rubbish dump. A few weeks ago, a man who used to work at the president's residence in Iceland told me how they used to clean the garbage there in the old days. 'We would put it all in a container which we then took to the shore and emptied it into the sea, problem solved.' Fortunately, such methods are no longer used in Iceland, but bigger issues confront us. Today, more than 8 million tonnes of plastics are dumped into the ocean each year, and the volume is fast increasing. Unless we act, by 2050, there might be more plastic waste than fish in the sea, and, dear friends, we will not survive on plastic fish, no matter how we will advance and progress in the future. The plastic threat is clear and present. Ocean acidification is another problem facing us. It is invisible, but equally worrying. The most immediate harm is done to animals such as snails and crabs, other animals including marine mammals will also be hard hit. In the Kiruna Declaration of 2013, the 8th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council highlighted this concern. Since then, the situation has only deteriorated. Maybe we need another declaration. But let us also recall another Russian proverb, 'Action speaks louder than words.'
The third issue we need to address concerns increased sea traffic in the Arctic Ocean. Oil and nuclear energy driven vessels always carry with them the risk of serious pollution. Cruisers carrying tourists will need certain rescue facilities if danger strikes. Yes, we do have the 2013 agreement on cooperation on marine oil pollution preparedness and response, but we must continue to be on our guard, be prepared for all eventualities. Finally, let me mention the changing behavior of pelagic fish stocks, such as mackerel and herring. They swim where they want to, they do not respect borders. Therefore, we believe that it is of fundamental importance for the Arctic nations to reach agreements on how to share these migratory fish stocks, and such agreements need to be based on scientific foundations regarding stock sizes and yield of each species. In this regard, we welcome the ongoing discussions on how to manage future fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean. Never before have international negotiations on fisheries taken place before the fish were actually there. We are proud to participate in this undertaking, a good example of how to conduct business in the Arctic.
Dear friends, I now move from the ocean to dry land. This conference has highlighted the many opportunities and challenges that confront people in the Arctic region. It is easy to be spellbound by the stunning beauty in the north, and the ways of life that have changed relatively little throughout the centuries. Still, nature is not only beautiful here, it is also harsh. We need to work together to improve the living conditions of people in the countries of the high north. President Putin actually touched upon this in his opening speech here, and last week, his Excellency also addressed the International Forum and 8th Congress of Small Indigenous Peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East, making the following observation. 'It is essential to develop a constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue with the local authorities and influential public organizations, take into account people's opinions and act in their interest.' Let this be the guiding light in our mutual effort. Economic activities must not only be sustainable and harmless to the ecosystem, they should also benefit the local populations with improved infrastructure, healthcare, school system, communications and other aspects of modern society, and actually I believe this was also a subject touched upon by President Niinistö. And here, in the north, as elsewhere, social problems should be faced, not ignored. We need to combat such ills as substance misuse, here as elsewhere, young and old, male and female, should have the right to security in their homes, be free from all kinds of violence.
Dear conference guests. Iceland's Arctic policy is based on a parliamentary resolution approved unanimously in March 2011, six years ago. Its aim is to secure Icelandic interests with regard to the effects of climate change, environmental issues, natural resources, navigation and social development, as well as strengthening relations and cooperation with other states and stakeholders on the issues facing the region. The resolution refers to the importance of international law, especially the need to resolve any differences on Arctic issues on the basis of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. Dear listeners, President Putin and President Niinistö. In a few weeks, Finland will take over the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. In two years' time, Iceland assumes that role, and then Russia will follow from 2021 to 2023. We should work closely together, ensure good continuity and common long term objectives, in the Council's work. The Arctic region is changing fast. We face environmental changes, and changes in people's living conditions. Let our impact be positive. Let our Arctic dialogue deliver results. Thank you very much.
GC: Thank you so much. So what I'd like to do now is have a meaningful conversation about how we make progress on a number of these issues, and I'd like to start, President Putin, if I could just pick up where your speech focused on the 150 projects and the trillions of rubles. One of the challenges, it seems to me, at the moment, is the relatively low cost of oil and other minerals. The projects in this part of the world appear to be economically unviable. Does that mean that the pace at which these projects are embarked upon will be relatively slow, and do you see any change in the near term price outlook for many of these commodities that would make your priorities different?
VP: No, it's highly unlikely that anything will change our priorities in the region. For the following reasons. Firstly, today, 10 percent of Russia's GDP is the result of the economic activity of enterprises operating in this region and their contribution continues to grow. Another significant factor is the growth and growing efficiency of cutting edge technologies that are constantly evolving. For example, today we received the first tanker in the newly constructed port of Sobieto. It's a brand new port, built from scratch in the Arctic. A greenfield development, not long ago it would have been difficult to achieve this, at such high quality level, and the ship that docked today in this port is in itself an example of modern technology. It's just like an ice breaker, it breaks the ice down to a depth of two metres. Cutting edge technologies. The second significant factor that heartens us is climate change. The Finnish President mentioned that and talked about it most persuasively, the number of days that you can navigate the Northern Sea Route has been going up dramatically of late, which means that we'll have better transportation capabilities. But also, yesterday, as you know, I visited the extreme north region of Franz Josef Land, it's 900 kilometers away from the Arctic Pole, and our experts, our scientists told me yesterday that they have been observing the constant melting of snow and glaciers there, which the Finnish President also mentioned and this is a sign that climate change brings more favorable conditions to develop the economic potential of this region. If such trends continue, look what's going to happen. Currently, along the Northern Sea Route 1.4 million tonnes of cargo is being transported and by 2035 this figure is going to be 30 million, this is the kind of growth I am talking about. Even during the implementation of one of our largest projects, the Yamal LNG, which is yet another sign that such major projects can be implemented at this latitude. This is a unique, brand new facility that has been built, construction is in its final stages, which would have been inconceivable in the past. But it will become operational at the end of this year. It's almost there. It'll produce 16.5 million tonnes of LNG and shipping volumes will increase four-fold along the Northern Sea Route and this will go in both directions, from Europe to Asia and vice versa, so all this shows that our plans to tap into this region of the globe are justified.
GC: President Niinistö, to bring you in on that issue, I think what we hear is that there's going to ebb more shipping, more fishing, all of that potentially with environmental consequences. Be specific for me, how do we prevent the downside, but get the upside?
SN: Well, that is a complicated question, but first of all, it's very evident that the warming of the Arctic area will continue in spite of the fact, even if we meet all the Paris Agreement criteria. That's a fact. Now, we tend to think very easily that environment and business are against each other. We should find a way of combining that, and I tried to tell that we have even… like black carbon, like flaring, where if we could get rid of those which have nothing to do with business, will not harm any businesses, that would already help quite a lot. So to find a thinking where we can, you know, in a reasonable way, have all the possibilities that Arctic area gives by resources, and also by fishing, and at the same time, try to at least cut down all such behaviors which are useless and only cause damages, I think that is the first step we should go forward.
GC: Can I bring you in, President Jóhannesson? Iceland, in particular, I think, has been very focused on marine conservation. Again, just to repeat the question and give you the opportunity to answer, how do we achieve the economic benefits that President Putin has described, and the rolling out of significant projects, without damaging the biodiversity?
GJ: Yeah, again, you ask wide ranging questions, and that is all the better. In my speech, I did mention that we used to treat the oceans as a dump, a rubbish dump. We also thought that there was always enough fish in the sea, that we could just continue fishing endlessly and we'd not have to worry about the consequences. The last century taught us that this is no longer the case. Increased catch efforts will lead to the delimitation of stocks, and ultimately their total downfall. So everybody agrees that we need to cooperate for a common benefit. Then, as history shows, we disagree on who gets what, and how we delimit this wealth of ours, and that's why it is so important to take part in a dialogue like this, an Arctic dialogue, and the way forward there is through negotiations, and ultimately, compromises. All of us have mentioned global warming and its effect on the Arctic, and one visible effect is, of course, that the ice is melting, and thus changing the behavior of fish stocks. The increased temperature in the sea also means that fish species that used to go southwards instead of northwards are moving up here. And this leads to the question, should we just take it as it comes, or should we try to be proactive? And that is why it is so important, what we have been doing, to negotiate and discuss, and find ways to delimit or divide the stocks before they are actually there, and I think that should ebb our guiding light.
GC: President Putin, does, it then seem odd, or challenging, at this stage, that we now have an American administration that has appointed, as the head of the EPA, apparently somebody who doesn't believe in the scientific judgment of how climate change happens? There is no American on the stage here, but how do we address this difficulty, when the current US administration appears to be embracing policies that will only increase the ice melt, and probably heat up the north even faster?
VP: Well, first of all, there are some Americans in the audience, thank goodness. For example, the American Ambassador, welcome, your excellency. Secondly, I'm going to say something that might not go down very well. I think it was Sauli who said that we will respect all the commitments in the framework of the Treaty of Paris, and Russia is intending to this as well, the same it discharged its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, but as Sauli has mentioned, global warming will continue anyway, and this is true. So, the point is... As I mentioned, I visited the Franz Josef Land yesterday. So at the beginning of the 1930s, in 1932, I think, I might be wrong, Mr. Bayer, an Austrian researcher and explorer, visited that land, and later he left. He mapped out and describe the land including its glaciers. And 20 years later the future king of Italy made a visit as well and took some photos, and then showed them to Mr. Bayer. Mr. Bayer had a photographic memory, and in addition he had drawn lots of maps including maps of glaciers, and he discovered that the number of glacier had decreased in those 20 years. In other words, global warming started back in the 1930s, but at that time, we didn't have the same manmade factors, the same emissions as we have today, yet global warning had already started. So, it's not about preventing it, I agree with those who believe it's not about prevention, I think prevention is impossible. It's related to some global cycles on earth, or even interplanetary processes. The question is how to adapt to it. Mr. Jóhannesson talked about how we should share fish resources, where the fish are disappearing, where they are making a comeback. This requires scientific research. So the issue is that mankind, the people who live in the region, should adapt to this. So the suggestions and positions of those who disagree with their opponents are not so stupid, including the man you have mentioned, who is heading... What exactly is he heading...? In the United States. We wish him good health and every success. But all of us need to learn to listen to and hear what each of us are saying. Only then shall we be able to find the best ways of solving these problems. And of course these solutions do exist...
GC: Well, Mr. President, his name is Scott Pruitt, and he's getting a lot of media coverage at the moment, and you have said that Russia will abide by the Paris Accords, but does it not concern you that we don't hear the same commitment from Washington?
VP: Are they any concerns? I don't think we should be talking about concerns, we should be looking for compromises. I remember back when I had a good personal relationship with George Bush Jr. I know his position because when he came to power, he was also against these measures, including the ones under Kyoto Protocol and in the end the compromises were found, and I think the same thing is going to happen here. We shouldn't over-dramatize things and I wouldn't use these factors of global importance for internal American political wranglings.
GC: President Niinistö, given the comments you have made, maybe I could ask you the same question. Are you disappointed, at this stage, that we don't have a very clear commitment from Washington on the Paris Accords?
SN: Actually, I do agree a lot what Vladimir has said. It's now very important that we continue discussions, and try to first understand each other, and then try to find compromises or solutions. I wouldn't describe the situation yet as a disaster with Paris Agreement. I take one example, and I come back once again to black carbon. It is due to the incomplete burning of fossil materials. How could we get rid of that? It needs investments, to renew those plants, and that might very well be a common task. First, to make very close studies, and then try to build up together, it's a problem, it's a problem in Russia, but it's a problem in United States and Canada, wherever, maybe partly also, in Finland, and if we could find some common means how to invest, to renew those plants, that would be a route forward, with no damages or-, it doesn't hurt anybody's economic thinking, but it benefits us all. Something like this, I think, might be a good start, to find the common points of view and maybe going forward, even with the Paris Agreement.
VP: With your permission, I will take issue with Mr. Sauli here. He just talked about black soot emissions, but now I'm going mention my trip to Franz Josef Island for the third time today. We examined the ice there at one of the glaciers. This glacier was formed over a period of hundreds of thousands, millions, and one of the strata... and believe me, you can go and see it for yourself if you go there, there is a clearly marked soot deposit. And yet, this happened thousands of years ago. At that time there were no factories emitting soot in those quantities at that time. Please bear in mind that a few eruptions of Mt. Etna would undermine all the efforts mankind is currently making to combat manmade emissions. So, we need to study these things in great detail.
So let me just follow up and come back to you. How do you make sure that the economic projects that you've talked about that will be rolled out overcoming years, how do you ensure that those have minimal environmental impact?
GC: So let me just follow up and come back to you. How do you make sure that the economic projects that you've talked about that will be rolled out overcoming years, how do you ensure that those have minimal environmental impact?
VP: I would like to refer to my colleague on my left, the President of Iceland and his intervention. He spoke about the need to work with scientists, what kind of guarantees could we have, only an insurance provides you with guarantees. Whereas we should responsibly work together to search for technological solutions and take responsible at governmental level. We in Russia, have a programme, it's a governmental programme on arctic exploration, where the key element is the preservation of biodiversity, environmental protection, the interests of the indigenous peoples of the north. So we need to harness state of the art technologies, not just to extract natural resources, but also to protect the environment. I've already mentioned our project that we've been implementing together with seven other countries, namely the Yamal LNG, a 16.5 million tonnes liquefied gas production project. Two out of seven of our international partners have a direct share in the joint stock venture, and several others are organizing operations, helping us in terms of technology and equipment and so on. So all these technologies allow us to implement the project without any emissions whatsoever. Without any waste. Everything is recycled, brought back on shore and destroyed in an environmentally safe and friendly manner. So if we adopt such technologies, we won't face any risks.
GC: What is coming through very obviously is that there needs to be dialogue, and there needs to be continued communication with all parties who are on the Arctic Council, but we know that we are actually at a very low point in relations between Russia and many western countries, and part of that is to do with the Ukraine and Crimea. But I don't want to go over that here. What I do want to say, though, or I'd rather like to ask the question, President Putin, is how do we build confidence from here, when we are at such a low ebb in international relations. Because it seems to me that it's difficult to get cooperation on issues like the Arctic if, in America, today, even as we are speaking, there is a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing as to whether Russia has used disinformation to affect the outcome of the last Presidential Election.
VP: I knew that this was coming. I wouldn't want the positive sentiment that we have achieved while discussing the arctic at this forum to be undermined by bringing up the problems of bilateral American Russian relations. But out of respect for you and your company CNBC, yes?, that has instructed you to pose this question, I'll need to take my cue from you. First and foremost, I'd like to thank you, that having raised this issue, you said that there is problem Ukraine and Crimea. You separated the two, Ukraine on the one hand and Crimea on the other, and that was the right thing to do. And now, to the substance of your question, we have said on numerous occasions, and I would like to reiterate this again, we know, we aren't completely sure, but we know in all likelihood because the opinion polls in the United States indicate that Russia has a lot of friends in the United States. So, first and foremost, I would like to tell them that we perceive and regard the United States as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations. Everything else is fantasies and lies as far as Russia is concerned. And provocations to boot. All this is being used for the domestic political agenda in the US. What do I mean by this? The anti-Russian card is being used in the interests of certain different political forces inside the United States in order to improve and consolidate their own positions inside the United States. I have mentioned that the Ambassador of the United States is here in the audience. He has come to this forum, he has been meeting with all the participants here, he can talk to any members of our government, representative of large Russian companies. We are not interfering with this or impeding it, on the contrary we are assisting him. Whereas, the contacts of our own ambassador in the US are being restricted. Any meeting he plans meets with a lot of opposition as though it were an act of espionage of some sort. Isn't this complete nonsense, isn't this completely stupid. What is the Ambassador there for? To talk to people, to have contact with the political elite, with businessmen, with congress and senate members, members of the government, the US administration. Why on earth would he go there otherwise. This is accepted diplomatic practice. And now there question marks being placed over the meetings of our businessman and bankers over there. Why? Don't American businessmen and bankers come to this country and talk to our representatives, including our government representatives. How could they operate otherwise. Of course they communicate. I don't think this serves the interests of the majority of the American people to make such an absurd fuss about American-Russian relations. To serve the domestic political agenda. So what are we aiming at? To put an end to our relations completely. They are already almost non-existent. There's only 20 million dollars' worth of turnover. It used to 27 million, which is miniscule for such countries as Russian and the United States and now it has gone down to 20. So what do we want to achieve? To terminate our diplomatic relations completely? To drive the situation to the level that it was at in the 1960s during the Cuban missile crisis? And where next? People who behave in such an irresponsible manner, where are they going to lead us? Including their own people in the US. I think this is a big mistake and I very much hope that sooner rather than later the situation will normalize.
Now, let's turn to the Ukraine now, there is point of view in the US and elsewhere, that the worse the relationship between Russia and the Ukraine is, the better it is for them, because it will make Russia weaker, it will detract from integration processes that would make Russia stronger, including economic ones, and let Russia be sidetracked with its border issues with its neighbors and play no role on the international arena and questions such as Syria, the Middle East and others. And this serves their interests they say. But this is a mistake. It serves nobody's interests because if we try to use such different means including dangerous means such as regional conflicts to contain another party, this could lead to global conflicts. On the contrary, we should try to aim at conflict resolution using all means. So, I really hope that our American partners will embark on the path of cooperation, and, I repeat, the sooner we do so the better.
Let's go back to the Arctic. Here, we are cooperating with our American partners, within the framework of the Arctic Council and currently it's chaired by the United States. Together with the United States at the level of experts we have put together a draft agreement that will be adopted shortly, I think, in Alaska. They are planning to take this decision soon. It concerns the joint use of scientific research in the Arctic, which I think is very important. Bilaterally, however odd it might sound today, we continue to cooperate on border issues. For example Russia and American citizens who live the shores of the Bering Straits enjoy a visa-free regime to visit each other. So we do still have a visa-free regime, thank goodness. And this allows the people living in this region to meet and communicate with their relatives and friends. It is a good foundation for expanding this sort of cooperation in the future. So there are specific regional issues that both sides have an interest in seeing resolved. Take the Bering Straits, for example, the shipping volumes and the intensity of navigation has increased dramatically. So both the United States and Russia have an interest to ensure the safety and security of shipping in these waters. In the same way that we need to safeguard the future of the polar bear together and organize the fishing industry that President of Iceland has referred to. Using biological resources etc. etc. This is in our common interest. Not to mention the huge opportunities that exist to develop hydrocarbon resources and other minerals in the arctic. We have excellent examples of this sort of cooperation in this region with Exon-Mobil and other partners. There are fantastic prospects for Russia and the United States and the rest of the world as well. So I very much hope that we will travel along a road... a road with two-way traffic. And will improve Russian-American relations for the benefit of both our peoples and the rest of the world.
GC: So, Mr. President, I just want to be very clear about this. You, and the Russian government, did never try to influence the outcome of the US Presidential election, and there will be no evidence found?
VP: Ronald Reagan once said to the American public during a debate about taxes. He said, 'Read my lips,'… 'No.'
GC: So I know President Niinistö is very keen to get in, and I'll let him come in, but I just want to ask one more question before I move on from this, and please forgive me for this, but I think it's very important for the international audience to see you answer these questions. So let me just follow up here. We have seen very prominent businessman, Oleg Deripaska, offer himself up to the committee because he feels that things have been said about him that were wrong and inappropriate. I know it would be unprecedented, but would there be any way in which the Russian government would be prepared to make available people to appear on that committee, or those committees, just to clear up this business?
VP: Look, we hear these endless and unfounded accusations of interference, we talk about cybersecurity, but did you know that we suggested to the Americans a long time ago that we should put together and sign an agreement, a joint document, an intergovernmental agreement on cybersecurity? We made the proposal, the Americans rejected it. Why? Maybe because they benefit from accusing us of this, dictated by their domestic political agenda. But why is this? As for the address made to the American Congress by the Russian Duma, I know for certain from our Duma Members that they have made several attempts to contact both the US Congress and the Senate with an invitation to visit us in Moscow and with a proposal to visit them in the states in Washington. In order to meet, in order to explain things, to have a frank exchange about our bilateral relations and the international agenda. No response whatsoever. They've actually tried to do this two or three times but have got nowhere. So if one of our business representatives goes to speak at Congress, we have no objections. It's his intrinsic right, okay. He was denied entry to the US. But, on what grounds? It's not clear, no one is explaining anything. Let them explain. Let him go to the US, let him speak in Congress. If the law enforcement agencies and secret services declare their complaints against him, that have some sort of basis, then at least we will understand what this is all about. All sorts of things happen. Business is a complex matter, there are probably some violations there perhaps. But we are not aware of them. If there have been violations let them bring them to our attention and this would be a good signal, an example of good practice. And I reiterate, we are happy to host a delegation from Congress and the Senate in Moscow. And we are always happy to embrace our business friends from the US of which we have many who work and want to work in Russia and continue to work in Russia: 'you are welcome'. We shall help you.
GC: President Niinistö.
SN: Yes, I go back to a couple of minutes ago when you described that tensions are growing worldwide. I do not actually agree with you totally, because what we have seen, specifically in Europe, that the need of dialogue has been widely confessed, and I see now very many of my European Union colleagues visiting Moscow, even our neighbor, the Prime Minster of Sweden, met her counterpart in Moscow, the dialogue is increasing, and that's not tension, that' getting rid of tensions. We have this kind of a very positive development going on, in Warsaw, in NATO countries at a meeting last summer, and every member underlined the importance of dialogue with Russia. But there is a question, and that is the question dealing with the relation between the United States and Russia. We don't know, actually, at the moment, which kind of-, how it will develop, and surely it's the case of Russia and the United States to confirm it, but it is of huge interest, also, in countries like Finland. What is going to happen? I remember even the years of the Cold war, we are not nearby those, but nevertheless, we understood then that Washington and Moscow somehow knew each other. Well, they didn't agree, but they had quite a clear picture of what the other one is thinking, and this is even a positive thing, even if you don't agree, and now we are wondering how this relation is going to develop, and we wish the best, but once back again to Arctic and Arctic Summit-,
GC: Well, I think, personally, that these things are all connected to the Arctic, to be quite honest with you.
SN: If we are, really, feeling that there are tensions, what would be a better surrounding than a cool Arctic to solve those tensions? Everybody stays cool.
GC: President Jóhannesson, you want to come in?
VP: That's what our hot-blooded Finnish friends are telling us. We need to listen to them.
GJ: Iceland is also very cool. And Finland, for that matter. I think it would be hard to find, seated next to each other, Presidents of countries more dissimilar in size and power. Russia, the greatest landmass on earth, Iceland, a small island in the north Atlantic, we don't even have a military. We have got a soccer team, though. Sometimes, sometimes being small can help you. I do not want to belittle the seriousness of the issue, the accusations. We had a presidential election in Iceland, as well, and nobody has ever asked us about outside interference of any kind. We, however, survive as an independent sovereign state because respect for international law has grown in the 20th Century, and the beginning of the 21st. We need to hold onto that. We need to hold onto the respect for international law, international treaties, and we were talking about the Paris Agreement, and if I am not mistaken, even a company like Exxon Mobil would encourage the US administration to maintain adherence to the Paris Agreement. So respect for international law, respect for international treaties, and also, like the President of Finland mentioned, trust. There was, you knew where the other player was, as it were, during the Cold War, and President Putin mentioned a favorite remark of Regan, but do you remember another remark of Ronald Regan during the Cold War years? It was a Russian saying, 'Trust, but verify.' And that was his favorite saying. We need to build that trust again. We, the smaller nations of the world cannot influence the world stage, but we can possibly assist, and ultimately, it is in our own interest that the greater powers at least get along. So a symposium like this where we meet and discuss is all the better for us, and therefore we participate.
GC: Thank you very much. The warmth coming off you three is going to melt the ice outside, I think, but I'm not going to let you get off the hook quite so easily, and let me come back to this. You are a NATO member, your security, in a sense, is ensured by NATO, and America is a key participant in that organization, and Finland, of course, has been a high profile attendee at NATO events for many years. When US Defense Secretary James Mattis took up his position, he described what he saw as Russian moves in the Arctic as "aggressive steps". Now, how is this helpful in deescalating the tension, President Putin?
VP: What are you referring to? Our aggressive behavior?
GC: It's a quote from James Mattis, the US Defense Secretary as he took up his position, and he pointed to what he saw as an upgrading of bases in Russia's Arctic north and of course the introduction of new military technology in the region, and I think that's why he made those comments, but I'm quoting verbatim from what he said, so this is not me making this up.
VP: Look, those places where we are developing our border and military capabilities this is on Russian soil in the Russian Federation. And we are proceeding on the premise, like any other country, for example, like the United States, which incidentally is our Arctic neighbor, to have a right to develop its own military activities, which in our view, represents a certain military threat to us, because if what we are doing is of a local nature, then what the United States in doing in Alaska is of a global nature. They've been developing the missile defense system there. And this system, as is well known, is one of the most serious concerns in terms of global security today. It's not simply a defensive system, it's part of their nuclear potential that is stationed on the periphery of their country. It's not something that warns of a nuclear strike, it's something that helps minimize our 'strike response'. These are things that are little bit dangerous today, and the experts understand this full well. So, the United States is developing its infrastructure, it's developing state of the art technology. Having at one time unilaterally withdrawn from the missile defense treaty that, in my opinion, was a cornerstone ensuring strategic stability. Once they withdrew, they started developing their infrastructures, military infrastructures. What we are doing on the islands, or on the shore, is of a local nature, and at the same time we can also reestablish, rebuild the infrastructure for maritime shipping in the region, we should work together to develop all the legal, economic activities, and the use of mineral resources, bio-resources of the arctic. All of us together should work together to combat all kinds of smuggling and piracy. We know that piracy is rife in southern seas, but there are examples of it in other parts of the world, and we should do our best to prevent any negative developments of this sort. In addition to this, we are not just developing the military infrastructure. I talked about this yesterday, it's about a dual or triple use of the infrastructure, I would say. Our emergency ministry will also be using it, as well as some services preventing and minimizing possible oil spills in this environmentally sensitive region of the world. And these infrastructures should also help our scientists and that are carrying out research in the arctic. Meteorological services will also be using this infrastructure. We are creating a comprehensive set of infrastructure, including infrastructure for military purposes. And I believe this is the right thing to do, and what's more I'd like to say that we are fully open and we are ready to invite everybody in this regard to work with us, including our American partners.
GC: Unfortunately, the shared military exercises that used to take place in the Arctic have now stopped. Again, to get that cooperation, how do we get to that point, given the difficult relationship and the sanctions?
VP: Look, during my visit to Finland last year, President Niinistö voiced Finland's concern about the fact that Russian war jets are flying with their transponders switched off over the Baltic Sea. These are devices that send signal to air controllers, that a plane is flying, simply flying, in this instance a military jet, a jet from the military air force. And at that time I promised the Finnish President that Russia would come up with an initiative so that all countries that carry out military activities in the Baltic region would use these transponders. It has to be said that it turned out that technically this wasn't such a simple task, because we have different type of transponders, different devices in Russian and in the NATO countries. They are subject to different standards and in order for them to work effectively, we need to take certain steps. We have stated that we are ready to do this. We had a meeting in Brussels, and we heard the response, 'No, NATO member states will not do this.' Ask them why? And same with us here. I honestly don't understand why. Their activity is much higher than ours, several times higher. If you look at the number of the Russian and NATO jets flying over the Baltic Sea. Several times more activity on their part. And after that someone tries to accuse us of aggressive behavior. It's just idle talk, it's just for sake of the media. And experts have measure this and know full well about this. The same is true with regards the Arctic. We're not going to wage wars or compete with the United States here. Everybody knows that the United States spends more on defense than all other countries of the world together, taken together, put together. Now they are going to increase their military spending once again by $40, or another $60 billion. But nevertheless, the Russian Federation and the United States are the largest nuclear powers, and we are vested with a special responsibility before the global community for international security. And the sooner we establish military cooperation the better. But... incidentally, with regards some sensitive issues, for example cooperation in Syria, despite some external statements, nevertheless real and tangible cooperation is being established, deepened and broadened. And we can see the interest of our American partners to develop that interaction, which is a very good signal. We hope that it will spread to other regions of the world, including the Arctic.
GC: Did you want to come in, President Niinistö?
SN: We are not-, first of all, I go to Baltic Sea airspace and transponders. First of all, Vladimir, I didn't say that only Russians are flying without transponders. I said to you last summer that there are planes flying without transponders. It is-, how I saw that question is, it's a minor step, surely. One piece of the globe, just the Baltic Sea airspace, just a question of transponders, technical equipment, but it might be a small step to build up co-understanding, and I thank you, Vladimir, for supporting and pushing forward, I know that you have done a great job in Russia, in developing technically, your planes, but I don't see that we have, actually, missed the case, because I remember in München, that was a couple of months ago, in the Security Conference, both Foreign Minister Lavrov, whom I see there, and Secretary General… they are very positive on that initiative, and now there is a group of experts…experts inside…, the international organization, that are studying the case, and they have promised to take up also transponders in their discussion, and that is a military question. So we haven't closed the case, but I think that the most important, like I said, it's a small step, but if you can take a small step, that is an indication that you can make even bigger steps one day, and that is the whole idea.
GC: Yes, and I think to President Putin's point about the cooperation that is taking place in Syria, with forces very close to each other, it is clear that there is, operationally, a requirement for both American and Russian forces to talk to each other. President Trump believes he's going to launch a new campaign against ISIS. He talks about wiping them off the face of the earth. Would this be something that you would, if Mr. Trump, President Trump, reaches out to you, is this something where you could find common ground, and work together early on?
VP: We undoubtedly have common ground. This is fighting international terrorism, and the fact that President Trump is setting himself such a goal is the right thing, and we definitely will support these efforts. I spoke in New York at the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, I said that only by joining hands can we combat terrorism. And it's not just about some other place on the planet. It's a global issue, and as the king of Saudi Arabia once told me the first victims of terrorists are Islamic countries and this is true. It has its origins many centuries ago, with upsurges every now and then, and now we're witnessing one of these upsurges. This is extremely dangerous, we see this in the tragic events that are taking place throughout the world, and Europe is suffering because of this and the United States has suffered. Moreover, there were global incidents, I refer to 9/11 and Russia is a constant target of terrorist attacks. But if we try to use these forces, to achieve some sort of political goal, we will never suppress them. I'm not even talking about being victorious but about even suppressing them as a minimum. And the fact that President Trump is setting such a goal for himself, that, of course aligns us in terms of cooperation. And we are really counting that we will finally be able to work together to constructively establish this sort of cooperation.
GC: But can I ask, is this something that you will reflect to Mr. Tillerson when he goes to Moscow? I believe he will be in Moscow some time before you meet with President Trump.
VP: Yes, definitely, this is one of the key topics on our agenda, fighting terrorism, and if Mr. Tillerson comes, I have met him on several occasions before, two or three times, by the way, and we will definitely talk about this topic as well probably. And I need to say, and you know better than myself, that in order for this work to be effective, we'll need to interact not only with Department of State, but with the Pentagon and the CIA also. Without constructive work with our colleagues in these agencies, it's unlikely that we'll attain positive results.
GC: To wrap up this area of sovereignty and security just by addressing Russia's claims in the Arctic, because as we know, there are some competing claims for the same area. Russia's claim to territory in the Arctic Ocean beyond 200 marine miles continues, it seems, to be a source of low level conflict and discussion. How do we resolve that, President Putin, to everybody's satisfaction?
VP: Well, firstly, it's very difficult to make everybody happy, and it never happens. There are always compromises resulting from mutual concessions. This means that someone has to make concessions in certain areas. But we have a good example. When we, I don't remember, it was either in 2008, or 2010, after many years of lengthy negotiations and disputes with Norway, we were nevertheless able to reach an agreement, and delineated the waters of the Barents Sea into defined state borders to the satisfaction of both of our countries. Both Russia and Norway. My colleague on my left, Mr. Jóhannesson, mentioned that his country has no army, that it's a small country. Norway is also not a very big country in comparison with Russia, and our armies are not comparable, but we will never be guided by such ideas and concepts as who is stronger, who is bigger? No. We are proceeding from the premise that these issues should be resolved on the basis of justice and the rules and norms of international law. And we have succeeded in doing this with Norway. And I am confident that if we work on the basis of these principles, then we will be able to come to an agreement with Denmark and other Arctic states, as well.
GC: President Jóhannesson, please come in on that, because it seems that this is still a thorny issue, and as President Putin says, maybe not everybody will be satisfied. Are you ready to be dissatisfied?
GJ: No. But, we live in a world of options, and you do not always get what you want, and we have done well in the Arctic region, within the Arctic Council, we have had satisfactory methods to resolve disputes, though we disagree, especially when it comes to catches, and there are issues, there are, not as we speak, but there have been, in the last few weeks, meetings between the Russian and Icelandic officials, where there are disagreements, but if we approach the problem in a non-provocative manner, and respect the other opponent's view, an furthermore, believe in scientific evidence, we have discussed many things today here, global warming, we've gone from the Arctic to Syria to the US, even stopped by in Iceland and Finland, one thing that should concern us is the, I dare to say, decreased respect for scientific research. People will just say, 'Well this is your view, this is my view,' whereas if we lose the respect for obvious facts, then we are in trouble, and we have done okay. When it comes to fisheries research and fishing delimitation, we have had scientists on both sides of the table who will say, 'Yes, these are the undeniable facts,' and if we do not agree, if we do not agree on how to divide the catch, then both of us will lose. So in this spirit, I am confident that we can move on forward. So this is the guiding principle for us, and as President Putin pointed out so correctly, we'd be in deep trouble if the size of armies mattered at the negotiating table.
GC: Let's move on and talk about how we see the Arctic developing from here, and I'm aware as I look out to the audience in this venue, there are people from many countries that are not involved in the Arctic Council, and there is a large representation here from China, China has talked about its own near Arctic position and its interests in the Arctic. President Putin, how would you see some of these non-Arctic countries being involved in some of the projects that you've talked about here? Is it purely about putting in investment? Or do you see them having a larger role?
VP: Well, we have the international law on the sea, there are the relevant agreements on the arctic. We have also the Arctic Council that consists of eight nations. And we are developing a uniform approach to our work with countries outside the region. But we believe that all the countries of the world have a right to operate in this region. The question is how to build these operations, how to come to an agreement about this? What's more, everybody is already working there. I mentioned the Yamal LNG, a major project of ours. In addition to the Russian stakeholders, there are French, and the two Chinese companies also operating there, the equipment is being supplied by Koreans and Japanese companies, and several other countries, seven states in total. And the People's Republic of China is represented by two shareholder companies that will be involved with production. Exxon Mobil, an American company, together with Russia's Rosneft, discovered one of the biggest fields in the arctic, it's called the Victory field. Indian companies are also working in the far north of Russia, this is also in the Arctic, also on hydrocarbon production. We already attracting them, getting them involved. Our Chinese partners intend to take part in building railways in the far north of Russia that will lead to new deep water ports. You know, it's not just that we are not planning to interfere and impede the operations of countries that are not from the region to develop the arctic. On the contrary, we are interested in attracting their capabilities and resources to develop the region. But it stands to reason this will be based on complying with principles and standards ensuring environmental security and biodiversity, and upholding the rights and interests of the indigenous peoples living there. But these are things that we can and will come to an agreement about. We are already coming to agreements, the work is already underway.
GC: Can I bring you in on this? Because it raises some other questions about, again, what we were discussing earlier, that you bring in many nations on a commercial basis, does it become more difficult to control the development?
SN: Well, today I already said that the Arctic issue is a global issue from an environmental point of view, so I would say that there is, or at least there should be, huge interest worldwide, how the Arctic is going forward. What is the environmental impact? We are all sitting at the same boat, in that question, globally. But surely there are specific interests, Vladimir talked about those, let's take the passage, north eastern passage, which by the way, was found originally by a Finn, but nevertheless, surely that would shorten our way from Asia to Europe a lot. Then there is an idea of information cable, maybe it goes forward, that is of interest to everybody involved, but somehow I see the Finnish position a bit similar than some of those countries you described outside Arctic, because unfortunately we have no possibilities to be disappointed with the sharing of resources in Barents Sea, because we have no demands. We have no right to demand. So in that position we are a bit…than the many others. Surely we are a member, which makes it different, but nevertheless, I think I very well understand the interest, global interest in the Arctic.
GC: But as you take over the Chair of the Arctic Council, is the Artic Council the correct forum for adjudicating between non-Arctic member states' claims? Because it can't be a free for all, can it? There has to be some restriction.
SN: But non-Arctic countries do not have such claims as those countries which have a border with the Barents Sea, so the position is different, but there are a lot of… and I think that we hear their opinions very well through that channel, too.
GC: President Jóhannesson?
GJ: Well, of course, increased cooperation is in general for the better. We have here, as was mentioned, representatives from China, Singapore, from various countries who have an interest, naturally, in the Arctic as a region, and as a potential for utilization, sustainable development. We nations of the Arctic also benefit from a meeting like this, myself and the delegation from Iceland, we've had discussions with people at this nice university here in Arkhangelsk. Have thought out loud about ways to exchange students, exchange academics, have summer courses, winter courses, etc. We've also met with the government in this region and spoken about potential business opportunities. Also with the governor from… where we already have a footing, we already have Icelandic companies operating there. Now, I'm not going to mention sanctions, but you know, this is the way forward to foster ties, because we learn it is in the common interest to work together, to the benefit of both sides, or even all sides. So that is the benefit of a meeting like this, and I think, you know, the description, 'Arctic, a territory of dialogue,' says it all. We will have our differences, serious differences, the larger the nations of the earth, the bigger the differences, I should think, but if we do not meet up, and if we do not have a constructive dialogue, the situation will not improve. So therefore, it is a pleasure and an honor for somebody representing a small country like Iceland, and Finland, I should think, as well, to be able to participate. Because if we just had stayed home and ignored the whole thing, then we would at least not move forward.
GC: President Putin, you can now blame President Jóhannesson for my question on sanctions, since he brought it up-,
GJ: It was bound to happen. But you never asked me about the Reykjavik Summit, though. You asked my colleague President Niinistö about a summit in Helsinki, but not Reykjavik.
GC: Well, you know, Slovenia is also bidding to host the first meeting between President Trump and President Putin, so why not Reykjavik? I'm sure President Putin would be happy to travel there, as well. It seems to me that you are reaching out on this platform, actually, to President Trump and his office to organize a meeting soon.
VP: What can I say? I've already expressed my position. We are ready for the meeting, we shall discuss the parameters, the agenda, and that depends, to a large extent, on the American side. You see what is happening, what has been happening, you are just trying to involve me into all those squabbles and quarrels. You know what is happening there. The newly elected President is being barred from implementing his pre-electoral agenda, on a lot of issues. On healthcare and other questions... and on international affairs and relations Russia. We'll just wait until things correct themselves and stabilize. We are not going to interfere in anything there in any way. And I believe that this is the best proof that we haven't been doing this previously. But at a certain point in time when this comes to a close, I hope, we will determine where we will hold this meeting, what we will discuss. These are all technical issues. There are a lot of issues, they have been ripe for discussion for a long time. With regards the economy, security and regional conflict, we are ready for these discussions. But there is a need for the other party to show the goodwill and readiness to work together constructively.
GC: You have said on many occasions, on platforms that I have been involved in, that non-interference is your principle. But this week we've heard not only Washington, but also the EU in Brussels, saying that you should release protestors, you should release the leader of the opposition, they've been making calls upon you. And the fact that there is this apparent interference from them, will that have consequences?
VP: All these calls happen against a backdrop of police mistreating protestors in Paris. With regards a citizen of French or Chinese origin who was killed in his own home. Therefore, putting questions of this sort on the agenda and claims against Russia of this sort. We believe these are purely politicized issues in order to exert pressure on our domestic political affairs. With respect to the events that have been going on in our country. We have consistently been in favor of fighting corruption, which is a fairly serious problem both for us, although of late it has become a bit less important, and also judging by public opinion, but also for other countries. This is happening and we are doing this. And the people in our country see this. And I am personally speaking out so that the issue of the fight against corruption is constantly in the public spotlight. And I am always positive when people draw everybody's attention to these problems, but the only thing I don't think is right is if certain political forces try to use this as a tool for their self-serving interests. Not to improve the situation in the country but to promote themselves on the political stage. In advance of certain upcoming political events such as the country's election campaign. We know full well, and I'd like to draw your attention to this, that this tool was used at the start of the so called Arab Spring, and we know very what bloody events in that region that that led to. We also know full well that this was one of the driving factors and reasons for the coup d'état in Ukraine. These events have created a huge amount of chaos and harm for our neighbor, Ukraine, and we are well aware of this too. Therefore, so fighting corruption is okay, but it's not okay to use it as a tool, as a pretext for self-serving political goals, and everybody should act within the political process and be guided by the law. Everyone who acts outside of the framework of the law should be punished in accordance with Russian law.
GC: One of my viewers actually sent a question in for this discussion, an American, and he said, if you take further consequences against the Americans over sanctions, would you stop giving them rockets, so that they can get to the space station?
VP: We would never act in accordance with the principle of not allowing someone on board who has already bought a ticket. Why would we do this? We have never taken any steps that would be harmful to ourselves. The Americans have been buying our rocket engines for a long time. And it's good for them because they save their taxpayers' money that otherwise would have spent on building their own production capacities. But is also beneficial for us because it uses the capacities of our manufacturing sites. We'd never take any steps that would be detrimental to our business, or our inter-governmental ties. We're not planning to do anything of this sort here. The fact that the previous, the former American administration did, is, I think harmful to the American people and economy. And the fact that the Obama administration incited the Europeans to act likewise is harmful to the European economy, it reduces the competitiveness of the European economy, it will lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is a breach of the principles of the workings of the WTO and international rules with this regard. It's a gross violation both in terms of the economy and in terms of human rights. We are constantly talking about protecting human rights, all the time. Including through the lens of the protests and demonstrations in Moscow and other cities in Russia. Sanctions were introduced in connections with the events in the Crimea, sanctions were introduced against individual persons who don't have any connection with these events whatsoever. They didn't know anything about what was being planned, what was happening, they only found out through the media and press. But still sanctions were imposed on them. Well, where are their human rights? They closed their bank accounts, so that now they aren't even able to use their money for operations for members of their family and so on. So, what are we talking about? What human rights are we talking about here? So it means that they should be observed here but in other places not. There is no logic whatsoever. There is no evenness in the approach to this problem whatsoever in our contemporary world. Unfortunately, we have now reached such a degradation of international law and in the practice of international relations. This needs to be put right, is this possible, it's possible. Let us strive to do this together, but this needs to be done by both sides.
GC: I think at the beginning you said what we need is open and constructive cooperation, and I think we've had plenty of open and constructive dialogue here, and I want to finish on a positive note, because I think the conversation has had many positive notes, and very quickly, because I am being told that we need to wrap up now, maybe if I could just ask each of you to give me, perhaps, one thing that we hope we can achieve before we meet again at this event. One thing that would take us forward in terms of that cooperative dialogue on the Arctic. President Jóhannesson?
GJ: An agreement to continue in the vein that the Arctic Council has worked so far, for 20 years or so. That we base our agreements and conclusions on the Arctic on scientific evidence with full respect for the opinions and wishes and needs of all concerned, leading to constructive, reliable and viable compromises.
GC: President Niinistö.
SN: Well, I would like to see all of us, and other members of the Arctic Council, sitting at the table and at least understanding profoundly what the other one is saying. That is the minimum, and I already got to that, that we don't know at the moment, exactly what kind of relation, for example, the biggest members, or participants, of the Council have. And that would be a way forward. First you have to know what each of us thinks, and then you have a possibility, maybe, of finding solutions.
GC: President Putin.
VP: I can also support what has just been said by my colleagues, Presidents Jóhannesson and Niinistö. This is the right approach, like the slogan of the operations of the Arctic Council, and the slogan of our forum, as well. It is a striving for positive attitudes. As we have said, Arctic is a space for cooperation and dialogue, and I would very much like the examples of positive joint operations in this part of the world be transferred to other regions of our planet, where we might, capitalizing on the expertise and experience gained in the Arctic, resolve the problems that stand before us. But with respect to the Arctic, we can see that it represents the future of Russia and the future of the global economy. Here, there are huge reserves of untouched mineral resources. It's a crossroads of many international interests. And if we find the tools to resolve problems here, then it will set the configuration to resolve problems in other parts of the world as well. But, by way of concluding and wrapping things up, I would also like to thank my colleagues, as I mentioned at the beginning, for finding the time in their busy schedules to come and visit us in Russia. And, of course, I would like to thank you, as our Moderator, for leading the discussion, and taking it beyond the issues of the Arctic region, which makes discussions of this sort more relevant and more interesting. Thank you very much.
GC: Thank our Presidents. Thank you.