Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev: Navalny is a political chancer, who is trying to make his way into power
Photo: Ekaterina Shtukina, courtesy of D. Medvedev's Office
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev has given an interview to a number of Russian media outlets, including Interfax, on the first anniversary of his tenure of the new office. Medvedev speaks in the interview about Russian-U.S. relations, protest actions in Russia, the fight against the coronavirus, his ideas of life-long senatorship and many other things.
Question: Mr. Medvedev, a year ago a new office, the Security Council deputy chairman, emerged in government, and you took it. One year has passed. What has been done? What are your priorities for this year? What do you consider to be the most immediate threat to Russia's national security? What is the main job for you now?
Answer: Thank you. I won’t state the obvious - everyone understands well that the past year was very tense. And it is not about the emergence of some kind of office or my movements, but exactly due to the reasons that evoked these tensions. Primarily, of course this is the pandemic of the novel coronavirus which the whole world is combating. This to a greater extent predetermined the development scenarios of many countries, including ours, and the reaction to threats. And the reaction by the means that the Security Council has. Apart from regular threats that every country always faces - internal and external, including crime, migration problems, terrorism, the fight against other problems of the world, as well as ensuring strategic stability, and, well, simply the drafting of strategic documents which the Security Council also addresses – things related to the epidemic got to the forefront. Hence, everyone addressed these things, the president of the country, the government, and naturally the Security Council and yours truly, because this is one of the areas of activity. Necessary mechanisms which have been used were created for this – various commissions, decisions, recommendations, and reports that the Security Council usually prepares for the head of state. And our attention focused on all of these things. Let me stress once again that everything happened under the apparent pressure of the problem related to the epidemic of the novel coronavirus.
On the other hand, the past year was obviously special for me too, because I addressed several other things. I cannot say they are totally new for me, as I tackled these problems in other offices. To a certain extent I addressed them when I headed the presidential administration, and of course I addressed these problems as Security Council chairman, and as president. That is why of course my duties include nothing significantly fundamental that I would not know. But this does not mean that there are fewer tasks. Let me remind that the Security Council is the body that actually was formed to help president perform his constitutional powers in the security sphere and in countering various threats. And I hope this body in general copes with these problems. So, this is what I was addressing throughout 2020.
Q.: You have listed the number of threats that the Security Council is preoccupied with, is addressing. You have even classified them as internal and external. But we, the media, when we speak about them and when the public discusses them, we consider them as something external. Even if something happens internally, it is presented as if someone is instigating these things from outside. Could you please be more precise in formulating the threats that you yourself consider internal, that can be described as our internal threat?
A.: You know, every problem could be considered differently. It can be considered as a challenge that envisages taking certain decisions, including a positive challenge. Right? And a problem can be considered as a threat. The task of the Security Council and in general of bodies that ensure security in any country of the world is exactly the second thing. This means that problems should be considered from the viewpoint of their threat to the order in the country, of their potential to destabilize the situation. There is probably even some kind of a professional slant in this, but this is right because each body has its own tasks. That is why problems inside the country, a major part of them, can be considered as a threat to the stable development of our state, our Fatherland.
I have already said that no one removed terrorism from the agenda. This also applies to the problems that exist along the external borders of our country, those are mutually penetrating things, and this problems exist inside our country. It exists in the Caucasus and certain manifestations of terrorist activity occur in some regions from time to time. Yes, they are related to foreign activity, but it is not right to consider them as purely foreign activity. That is why there are the followers of terrorism and terrorist methods of political struggle – and struggle in general – inside the country, it is absolutely clear, and of course not only inside our country. That is why this has remained among domestic threats to stability and security of our country. And this must be addressed almost every day.
Q.: I would like to go back to the pandemic issue. As far as I understand, the Security Council is directly involved in combating the pandemic. I would like to ask you about when the Russian leadership understood that the pandemic, the coronavirus is something serious thing that is here for a long time to come, that this is a threat on a historical scale? Was it considered, maybe behind closed doors, this way in December  when the first reports came from Wuhan, in January-February? And now looking back is there anything that could have been done differently in January-February, keeping in mind the future scale, or was everything done right?
A.: Trustworthy data is needed to understand the scale of a threat. It was not very simple, but I can say straightforwardly that, by early February, we all had the understanding that this is a serious problem. Probably, we did not have a feeling back then that it would turn into a universal problem, because of course there have been pandemics in the history of mankind, but a long time ago, and there was not the sort of response to them as we are seeing now for obvious reasons. I can even remember that I wrote one of the first reports on this topic to the president, maybe, two weeks after my appointment to the office, so right in early February. Beyond any doubt, there was an understanding that this threat was serious, which by the way enabled us to, in my opinion, prepare much better than many European countries.
Two factors played their part here. Firstly, we really did begin preparing for this. An emergency task force was established in the government, colleagues started to hold constant meetings, to work, make decisions, elaborate recommendations – even without having a complete understanding of treatment protocols and so on, because it all came with the experience. Nevertheless the work flowed. And the second component, if you like, is that in general despite all problems in our healthcare system, which is naturally constantly being criticized – to large extent, in a large number of cases – for a reason, our system was still much better prepared, because features that were inherited from the Soviet system, in particular a rather large number of beds, helped us at the first stage to cope with the problem better than other countries. This affected a number of things, including the number of people who got assistance, who recovered, as well as the death statistics. That is why there was an understanding.
Naturally, nothing is perfect, and probably there were some mistakes. By the way, the president said this, when for example there were problems with payments to doctors, but these are all technological elements, while the understanding that this is a serious problem appeared in our country at the highest level almost immediately, I think. I hope today everyone who is addressing such things is working in the same manner.
Q.: A follow-up question. Will foreign vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, be allowed onto the Russian market? Or, on the contrary, should we adhere to strict protectionist measures and not allow foreign vaccines onto our market?
And the second question about the vaccine race. Today in Europe, we can see countries arguing with each other, saying they lack [vaccines] or, on the contrary, some countries are trying to buy more than they need, or are trying not to allow... Do you think that this will become a sort of a global problem, when developed and rich countries can get the vaccine and poor cannot, which could lead to new inequality and a new outbreak of some sort of crisis?
A.: Let me tell you once again that the Security Council is calculating the risks of and reactions to threats. One of the characteristic examples is the so-called antibiotic resistance. I have recently hosted a meeting, a meeting of a commission, especially on this topic. Regrettably, it happened that mankind, after inventing antibiotics, started to gorge on them, and take them for all sorts of reasons after WWI. In addition regrettably, some food products also contain antibiotics. Antibiotics are often used to grow livestock, meaning in preparing meat products.
Doctors, scientists started to say that, regrettably, very many groups of antibiotics stopped working, which is bad in its own right and extremely dangerous amid a pandemic when people need antibiotics and these antibiotics do not work. We need to gather more and more new, so-called reserve medicines.
This is a huge problem which mankind should address and which we should research and on which we should reach agreements with partners. Moreover, [it is necessary] to stop purchasing antibiotics that do not work, to put it plainly. Very often this problem emerged because cheap foreign medicines are bought. Those can be both what is called branded medicines and generics. These medicines are not used there because a human organism has almost no reaction to them. In fact, this kind of work was unfolded in the Security Council.
Now about the vaccines, what you have mentioned. You see, I do not think that there should be any vaccines race. Moreover, of course vaccines should work everywhere. Back in April, I think, I wrote a small opinion piece about cooperation of various countries on vaccination and that it is impossible to vaccinate one lucky nation and leave things as they are along its borders. People communicate one way or another, and a virus can get in. That is why, although this was criticized back then, I would say once again - of course, vaccination should proceed in all countries, not only the developed ones, but also in weak countries. And now this is a huge problem. The WHO Director-General and a number of other international officials speak on this topic. Because large countries have begun producing vaccines but no one has got there yet, and if this does not happen, then problem would persist much longer than we would like it to.
Clearly, there should be no competition here; there should be cooperation, a rational exchange of information. Obviously, such amounts of vaccines should be produced on commercial basis – I mean that this cannot be a pioneering task for the medical industry itself – but at same time obviously every country is now thinking about its own population first, and this is quite normal.
Q.: But still, will there be a foreign vaccine on the Russian market?
A.: As for a foreign vaccine. We assess vaccines in terms of efficacy and safety, just like other country. We have our own vaccines which are now well-known. These are Vpitnik V, EpiVacCorona produced by the Novosibirsk-based Vektor center. Documents have been submitted to the Chumakov Center vaccine just recently. They all differ in terms of biological components and the means they use to deliver resistance to the virus. Let me remind you that Sputnik V is based on the use of adenoviridae, two different components by the way. EpiVacCorona includes a synthetized protein which in fact consists of parts, of cuts of certain elements of this coronavirus, the important ones to form immunity in a person. And finally, the Chumakov Center vaccine. It is classical one, as it is an inactive SARS Covid-19, a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, and it works according to the same principles as vaccines in the past 200 years. We tested these vaccines, they are considered safe, and they should be used. This is our main focus.
Speaking of foreign vaccines, first of all, we have not received many of such offers from anyone so far. This is because every country wants to meet domestic demand first and foremost, and wants to vaccinate its own population; this is absolutely normal, and we are acting likewise. Nevertheless, there have been such initiatives, and the Chinese have made such offers. Naturally, they will be analyzed very closely. If any medication is found to be efficacious and safe, it may appear on our market.
But now the task is more about producing our vaccines and achieving the necessary figures. Practically we are talking about manufacturing several million doses of each of the vaccines per month. In any case, we are looking to manufacture up to 30 million doses of Sputnik by the middle of this year, as for EpiVacCorona, Vector - the figures there are also significant, they need to be scaled up and I hope they will also be achieved, as well as for the third vaccine. This is the situation.
Q.: A follow-up question. In general our vaccines proved their efficiency, but at the same time developed counties show no interest in purchasing them, centering mainly in Pfizer and Moderna. In your opinion what is the reason for this? Is there some kind of political motive or some other circumstances? What is your forecast regarding the number vaccines that will be on our market by the year-end? Could there be more than three? And I would also like to ask you about the so-called certificate of vaccination. The president gave instructions to the government to this end, but maybe the Security Council is also addressing this issue.
A.: You see, let me stress once again that we do not impose anything on anyone at all. Our task today is to have a sufficient number of working vaccines for the population of our country. This is the priority task, and I hope it will be tackled at the speed that I have mentioned.
By the way in a while I will anyway host a meeting of my colleagues from the government, the presidential administration and other agencies that are addressing this issue and we will discuss the production. But it can already be said that we have achieved fairly high production rates. We need to produce tens of millions of doses before the end of this year for each vaccine. These should be very significant figures. In the view of the demand of our country and of our clear understanding that the so-called herd immunity could emerge only when certain figures in terms of vaccination and recoveries are reached. Scientists speak of various figures, but they all say speak about two thirds, or roughly 70% of population. That is why such a reserve must be made so we can feel calm and this epidemic, this pandemic can be brought under control.
As for interest in our vaccine, it exists. We have already signed documents with a vast number of countries. The Russian Direct Investment Fund is addressing this issue, and it does it quite successfully, it signs documents. There are documents of two types. The first relates to the supply of test batches, and in this case we should naturally supply a vaccine from our plants keeping in mind the demand on the domestic market, of course. And the second way –a more appropriate way – is the start of production of our vaccine under our control in the country that bought the rights. We have reached agreements on this matter with some countries in Latin America. As for the EU, the emphasis there is really more on other vaccines. Nevertheless, you heard that there is an agreement with Hungary. Negotiations with Germany are underway. And actually our colleagues from the RDIF are registering our Sputnik V vaccines in the European Union, so as to eliminate any issues related to the medical component of this vaccine.
Is there any politics here? Of course, there is. There is politics in everything. Somewhere there is pressure, somewhere there are probably non-competitive methods of rivalry used by pharmaceutical companies, there is a wish to restrain Russia somewhere, etc. But it seems to me it's all in vain. Why in vain? Just because all means are good for combating the pandemic, to put it simply. If a Russian vaccine helps, you need to purchase it, not say that you don't fully trust the Russians or that the vaccine is under-tested, bearing in mind that foreign vaccines are definitely not demonstrating better results. I will not criticize anything because that would also be wrong, but in any case, they definitely do not look better than Russian vaccines.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, if you would allow me. It seems to me that you have never described how you are getting on during this pandemic, your relatives and friends...
A.: I have.
Q.: Have you? Well, please remind us then, since you know well how certain vaccines work...
A.: Do not you know yet? It seems to me that everyone knows this today.
Q.: Have you chosen the one for you? Will you get vaccinated?
A.: Well, to speak about how we are all living this time, maybe it sounds a bit strange but I think that to a large extent we are experiencing the same problems. What are they? The amount of communication, contact has significantly reduced. You has to always monitor your health and so on. So, the pandemic does not promote human contacts, if we speak about offline life. But still the main part of life is offline, let me repeat this even to those from Internet media. But this may differ for some people, this is also possible. This is the first thing.
Secondly. As for my own family. Well, they live the same way. They are communicating with friends less, my son is communicating with friends less, there are fewer trips and so on. And you have asked about vaccination, haven’t you?
Q.: I asked if you were going to get vaccinated.
A.: I got vaccinated two months ago.
Q.: Which one?
A.: I was vaccinated two months ago. I received a Russian vaccine. Why am I saying it like this? So that you have no impression that one vaccine is better than another. What is this about? Vaccination is always an individual story: you need to give a blood sample for analysis and understand the general condition and the immune status of your system. This depends on age, unfortunately and it also depends on gender: as we know, men develop more serious cases of this coronavirus infection, and a whole bunch of other factors. That is why all our vaccines are effective and workable, but to choose one of them, you consult a doctor. I am telling this absolutely straightforward and honestly. But this must be done.
Q.: How did you take it?
A.: Very calmly.
Q.: Without consequences?
A.: Without consequences.
Q.: Without a temperature? Did you go through two stages?
A.: Yes, but I got vaccinated two months ago. There were no consequences from this point of view. But this is an individual story as well. Do you know what is usually said? On the contrary, the immune response of those who got sick after the vaccination is stronger, which means his defense can be stronger – more antibodies, various coefficients are higher, etc. But this does not always happen. Everything is very individual.
I once discussed this topic with our scientists and they told me that one so to speak important element, which is in general our immune status and our genome, contains information about how a person will be ill. If the genome of everyone present here, of every person on the Earth was decoded - probably this will happen one day as it is not that difficult, although this is related to certain expenditures – then it would be possible to immediately say that a person would suffer from this disease more seriously and that disease is of no danger to him. And I am sure that sooner or later at the big data level, provided that the genome information is decoded and processed, we will be able to get a full picture of ourselves and understand where there are threats for us. And the main thing is that doctors will understand what group of medicines should be used for this particular person if he fell ill with not only the coronavirus infection but other diseases as well.
Q.: Has the pandemic killed your fine idea of a four-day working week? Because it is in fact being implemented now.
A.: Then it has not killed but revived it.
Q.: But you said that it does not promote the development of human contacts, and here things are absolutely opposite, because people who are working online now...
A.: I said it differently. I said that it does not promote the development of human contact offline, real communication.
Q.: But many people, those who are constantly working online have an opportunity to communicate more, so is there any point in returning to the implementation of this idea after everything ends?
A.: It seems to me that this idea is valuable as an idea, it is valuable by itself. Indeed, mankind is moving in a direction where there should be more space for life and leisure, for forming the work schedule correctly. It is not without reason and in a number of companies – and I said this for the first time speaking at the International Labor Organization – four days is absolutely better than five. But no one sitting here at the table remembers – and I almost do not remember – but the Soviet Union worked for six days, and many other countries worked for six days. Then, there was a switch to five days.
In the Soviet times there were so-called black Saturdays when people were forced to work. There was a special schedule, when you had to go to work no matter what. I am not speaking about the continuous production cycle or services that should be provided every day. No, I am speaking about usual work. So, a four-day working week in a number of cases gives certain advantages without any pandemic, as it creates a more effective way to manage your free time, but at the same time labor productivity must not fall, productivity indices must not fall, and other problems must not occur. If we can combine these things together, this idea could work on an even broader scale. Some companies and states discussed the idea of a four-day working week before the pandemic. But this does not mean that right tomorrow we should switch to it, because when I voiced this, there were immediate reproaches: 'Why now, what four days, we cannot do everything in five days and we need the economy to grow...' Of course, it is not about switching to a four-day working week to the detriment of economic development.
The pandemic brought some colors to this story. Obviously, a lot of people switched to working online and indeed they work four rather than five days and their schedule differs, and some form their working schedule absolutely differently. That is why I think that we will return to this idea. Moreover, the United Russia [party] came up with a set of proposals - back in May or early June - to reform labor laws, to regulate online work, work and leisure schedule, guarantees and compensation for this. This means a full program. The Federal Assembly adopted these changes to the Labor Code and the president signed them, which means they have already been working.
Q.: By the way black Saturdays, as you said, already returned to school students, likely because they are said to have lagged behind seriously and schools cannot now make decisions independently. Is anyone caring about them, about protecting their rights?
A.: The rights of school students?
A.: This is purpose of Rosobrnadzor and the Education Ministry, they must oversee such things. And of course, we are overseeing this on our part, too.
There are various points of view regarding online education. There are advantages and disadvantages like in every other process. The advantages are clear. It is possible to continue education even amid the pandemic. The disadvantages are clear as well. Not all things, let me be honest, can be explained from a computer. Direct contact between a student or a teacher and other students at a university is needed. The future of education lies in a mixture of an online system and a regular one.
If we talk not only about school but also university students, you see, all our large universities and business schools previously could only dream of inviting a good foreign professor. This is expensive, and you have to convince this person to come to our country. And now everyone has almost equal conditions. Gurus of this or that degree sit at home and say what should be done, and all these things have simplified communication and opportunities for such contacts. Colleagues involved in business education, in particular the Skolkovo business school, told me about this. But similar processes are underway at usual universities as well.
Your colleague has already mentioned the six-day school week. But again, you see, we are looking at this from our own experience. I cannot even understand what five-day school week means, I always studied six days, all ten grades. But this was in Soviet times; after that everything was compacted into five days. We have now talked about a four-day working week. We don’t know - maybe means of transmitting knowledge, communication between professors and students, between teachers and school students, some other skills in this area will one day make it possible to receive education in four days [a week]. But now amid the pandemic, in my opinion, clearly there is a problem which the professional community must pay attention to. It is for a reason that parents highlight it.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, let me switch to foreign policy. Probably, it would be strange not ask the first question about the United States, so the question is about the United States. The new administration has started working. Four years ago, when the previous administration came to power, many applauded it here. And now, four years later, how appropriate was that applause? How could you describe Russian-U.S. relations in four years under [Donald] Trump? What are the expectations from the Biden administration? Are we expecting tougher sanctions and worse relations?
A.: The period of tenure of the previous administration was a period of disappointment. As the U.S. president himself, now the former one, Donald Trump was indeed a friendly man, who in every way showed aspiration, as he said, to get along with the Russians, but he did not succeed. First of all, that happened because a part of the American establishment categorically refused to accept him, and still does not accept him, and kept putting up roadblocks. True, that was done by both the Democrats and the Republicans. So, his wish and the summit held in 2018, in particular, at the initiative of the Americans, did not yield any results. Perhaps, he actually wanted those results. He was reproached all the time that he was dancing to the Russian tune, that he was almost our agent. Naturally, he was driven into a corner which it was very difficult for him to get out of. So, eventually all that developed into a continuous, endless flow of additional sanctions. How did he balance things? He kept declaring a wish to get along with the Russians but said he had been the toughest ever on Russia, etc. This balancing prevented any actual progress from being made. There was nothing but sanctions. On the one hand it was Nord Stream, on the other certain companies and people, the whole thing continued and, in the end, even the talks on the strategic element, strategic stability, fell apart. The Americans withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies. The Americans, the previous administration, in fact derailed the extension of the New START and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty until an agreement is reached. This means that in fact productive dialogue failed to get arranged.
I don’t know how things are going to be with the new colleagues. Yet again I have recently published an opinion piece on the issue and relayed my ideas. Mostly, I said there will hardly be any substantial change, since it looks like our negotiating partners - both the new administration and President Biden - believe it would be unreasonable at this point to, let me say this carefully, normalize relations with the Russian Federation, which we think is wrong. President Putin has said so many times and, naturally, I share this opinion.
Q.: And who do you maintain contact with in the new U.S. administration? Are any contacts planned?
A.: Maintaining contact is a very broad way to put it.
Q.: Well, do you know anyone?
A.: In fact, we just like any other country work with the administration, the president, the leader of the state elected by the people. We do not care whether America is led by a Democrat or a Republican; this person simply needs to be a legitimate figure, a legitimate president. I know Biden personally, we have met. One of the meetings, I clearly remember this, happened at the invitation of Silvio Berlusconi. He once invited us – I was president then – to a dinner. So, he said that he wanted to invite Joseph Biden as well. Well, OK, invite him. We sat down and spoke. He gave the impression of a polite and normal person. However, human dimension and political stance are two different things. He gives the impression of a polite, normal person. But the human and political dimensions are different things. I do not know other members of the Biden administration personally but Russia knew many of them well as staff members of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Frankly speaking, these people are not amicably disposed towards Russia, absolutely not.
I do not know how they will behave now, but we may expect their principles to be unchanged.
Q.: Are there any contacts planed at the level of the Security Council, or is it too early?
A.: As for the level of the Security Council, everything depends on the president's decision. If the U.S. president decides this should be done, he, naturally, can give such orders to his national security advisor and other advisors, because they have a slightly different system, and you know how everything is arranged there. Contacts will be made if such orders are given. If not, there won't be any. It's up to them. We have never hidden anywhere. Russia's position to this end has always been rather open. Even if we have absolutely different position, if we completely differ on some issues, we are ready for communication, we are ready to sit at one table and discuss something. Don't impose anything on us, but we will discuss this.
Q.: You have now spoken about events at the highest political level in the United States, but at the same time civil actions, including protests, have been seen for a year. These include BLM and things that occurred ahead of the election and after the election ahead of the inauguration, in particular the events in the Capitol. In your opinion, is the civil protest in the United States some kind of civil impulse, or is it something controlled, a controlled destabilization? What is your assessment?
A.: This is the activity of the world government. Illuminati or someone else.
Q.: A little bit of conspiracy theory?
A.: Yes, yes, yes. But to be serious it is easy to understand that the problems of the U.S. political system are inside the system itself. This is a powerful system. I have repeatedly assessed it and have recently spoken on the subject. They have vast experience of the development of democratic principles in that country. But they also have huge problems. So, everything that is going on there is the consequence of these problems.
This movement, you have mentioned, BLM which means Black Lives Matter, is to a certain extent born of unresolved problems that at a certain period of time were used in the political struggle between the Democrats and the Republicans. Initially, this was a peaceful protest, then it grew more fierce, especially after the well-known incident, the death of [George] Floyd. Naturally, this to a certain extent was controlled from inside. This means that obviously there were politicians trying to use these processes to erode the U.S. system from the inside. But this is hard to do. I have just said it recently that this system is very stable. That is why it has again got relatively balanced in the wake of the election, even despite all these existing differences.
There are some other contradictions. They are related to the regulatory basis, on which the elections rely and which constantly creates a source of destabilization due to the frequent election of presidents supported by a minority, etc. Previously, our colleagues were absolutely calm about it.
I always give as an example the conversation which I once had in the U.S., in Washington, with former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. I told her then, 'You have a rather imperfect multi-level electoral voting system which will sooner or later fail, and you, as they say, will have had your fill it.' She said straightforwardly: ‘Nonsense, we have had this for 200 years. We have got used to it, everything will be fine.'
But it turned out that things are were not so fine. First there was the failure in 2000, when only the Supreme Court dotted all I's, and now a full-scale drama surrounds it. Obviously, this is a point of domestic conflict. It is not accidental that major U.S. figures have started talking about the need for dismantling this election system. At least, Hillary Clinton has recently said so, and some other major figures have said the same. So, these are internal problems of the United States.
Q.: But what impression does this give in an external observer? Does it infringe upon U.S. authority in the world? When a viewer sees on a picture how guys in horned hats are running in the Capitol, a question arises, are the things that perfect?
A.: Everything is imperfect there, this is what I am talking about. The events in the Capitol are in fact not a drama, but a tragedy because people died. Beyond any doubt this tarnishes the bright image of American democracy, and I think everyone understands this. And we cannot view it any differently, we condemn such actions, and everyone, including the president, has said there is no excuse for that.
But on the other hand we understand very well that it is to some extent instant karma for the Americans for traditionally supporting various protests, so-called color revolutions, which led to the illegitimate, illegal change of power in other countries, they found that absolutely normal if it was in the interests of the U.S. And when such things started to happen inside their country, naturally this was qualified as a state crime and hundreds of criminal cases were opened, a huge number of people was arrested, and obviously they are trying to take the situation under control, rather harsh control. So, to a certain extent, it's something that backfired on the Americans in the form of such protests. Of course, there can be no cause for gloating here. It just means that one should pursue honest policies outside one's country as well and not try to change administrations using illegitimate ways, organize some Maidans [demonstrations and civil unrest aimed at ousting incumbent authorities] and then applaud illegal changes of power and the fact that those who come to power, for example, are trying to make friends with the Americans. As a rule, nothing good comes out of it.
Q.: My question is about the New START, but if you allow me, I would like to clarify something on American politics. During one of your visits to Washington, your counterpart Barack Obama, if I am not mistaken, even refused to take you to the Senate, saying that there are 'dinosaurs' sitting there and that they would leave soon and then we would go.
A.: Not exactly so. He was afraid to go there himself, and he openly told me: 'Listen, I won't go there with you for two reasons (I remember we were riding in a car at the moment): first, they don't like Russians in the Senate, and second, they don't like Obama in the Senate'. I tell him: 'Well, okay, so go about your business then.' And I went there and met there with all those old people, including those very 'dinosaurs', some of whom have already passed away, and yet we calmly spoke for an hour, and perhaps each side agreed to disagree.
Q.: So, does it mean that they now like Obama in the Senate and do not like Russians?
A.: It's hard for me to say how much they like my former counterpart Barack Obama in the Senate, although the Democrats have gained a majority, and so perhaps they like him better now. As for their attitude toward our country, I think it's about the same. No surprise they keep coming up with various idiotic prohibitive initiatives, adopting different laws, and issuing all sorts of scary stuff.
Q.: If I am not mistaken on April 8, 2010, in Prague, you signed the New START with Barack Obama himself. How do you assess the extension of this treaty which has now passed the Russian parliament? Do I understand rightly – you have partly answered the question about prospects of Russian-U.S. relations – that prospects of strategic interaction with the Biden administration are not very good?
A.: Time will tell. I'd rather we not get ahead of ourselves. Perhaps, we will see a miracle and our partners from overseas will realize the importance of the strategic dialogue. Especially since the first steps are actually pretty encouraging. But such a lot of time was spent on reaching an agreement with the Americans on the extension of the New START, which we signed with President Obama.
And it seemed that this was right, important, and needed by all... 'No, let's get other countries, including the People's Republic of China, involved in this work.' The People's Republic of China does not want to participate, keeping in mind that their nuclear potential is incomparable to the nuclear potential of the Russian Federation or the United States. This means we cannot make them do this. "Well, let's get then involved in this dialogue' – this failed. Then, new various conditions followed – 'Add this to that, add that to this...' But there is less and less time left, and at one time I was practically sure that this all would derail and be the end of the treaty.
The fact that the new administration has expressed the wish to coordinate everything so quickly and to extend [the treaty] for another five years by means of the exchange of notes is an encouraging sign, this is good. Obviously, this administration partly feels it is a successor of the Barack Obama administration, and it does not want to change banners in this respect. But I believe this is a win-win situation. First of all, this is a victory for strategic stability dialogue, as well as for all countries that watched Russia and America spellbound to see whether they would be able to agree on this matter. If there had been no agreement – we are all adults and understand that that this does not mean that a war would break out right tomorrow – a very important element on which the foundation of international security and the so-called strategic parity, strategic stability is based would have been taken out. And when an element is taken out, everything could happen.
Q.: I also have a question on the American agenda, which is a bit strange given its wording. I would like to ask about the Nord Stream. It may seem that the United States and the Nord Stream are far away from each other. But those idiotic prohibitive initiatives, you have mentioned, as far as I understand are related to the Nord Stream as well. Will we complete the construction of Nord Stream in this situation, when calls for new sanctions and for new restrictions against the pipeline projects are aired? In general, is there a need to complete it, given the new reality that has emerged in the world?
A.: What reality?
Q.: Reduction of air transportation, reduction of people's movement and so on.
A.: I have no doubt that the construction of this gas pipeline will be completed, because everyone needs it. We need it and Europeans, including Germany, need it. Our colleagues from Germany openly tell us this, basically. If they take a solid stance, if they do not sacrifice part of their sovereignty, which has never happened in history before, if they do not yield to the American position, then its construction will beyond any doubt be completed. Moreover, it is 90% complete, and huge money was invested in it. Let me stress once again, all countries need it.
As for the position of the American administration, we do not know it completely, but as far as I understood, the new secretary of state, Mr. [Antony] Blinken, had said that pressure on this Nord Stream 2 of ours should continue and that the refusal of its implementation should be sought. So, from this point of view, the priorities of the American administration have not changed. But you know, I always assume that economic reasons often outweigh this pure politics when decisions are made. And economic reasons are an absolute both for Europeans and, of course, us. So, I think everything will be done. It is all about time now. Probably, we’ll have to be patient a little longer.
Q.: And can we use any court mechanisms to protect our project?
A.: We can. But I think, although I always advocate judicial consideration of issues because of my education, the position of the state and business leaders is much more important here. They should have their say here. But of course it is possible to go to court if there are reasons for this. But it is necessary to understand what court. This can be a national court, this can be a contract court. One should have a look at where these disputes are considered. Probably, theoretically, it is possible to go to a U.S. court, but this will be very time-consuming, and we are not sure that the U.S. court would take an unbiased position in this respect.
Q.: And what about domestic situation in the United States, a colleague asked this question? What is surprising and has become a new factor of global politics, I am speaking about social networks. It is clear that they were used before, but social networks started to raise their voice stating their position, I mean primarily their management, and influence politics. And there are no norms and laws that would govern the interference of social networks in politics. Are you afraid of this factor? Do you think that there should be some kind of control, some kind of regulation? And what is your attitude to the blocking, again by a private company, of the account of the U.S. president against who there were no legal consequences or any claims?
A.: I have already spoken to this end. But I will once again repeat my position, because I think this is a very important issue now.
You see, every country has traditional media that are registered as media. And America has them as well. All of you sitting at the table represent either classical or more recent Internet media, but nevertheless these are media. How do all of you work? You work on the basis of laws on media. They define the boundaries of what is allowed and what is not. This happens in every country, including the United States. But whenever we speak about social networks, such laws, including U.S. laws, their legendary amendments, do not apply to them. In fact, they rely on corporate laws in their operation while bringing tens or even hundreds of millions of people into the orbit of their activity. This at least gives food for thought, and what will be next?
You mentioned this Donald Trump case. This is a blatant and incomprehensible case. The U.S. president, the man who had not been charged on any counts - there are rumors but these are just rumors, there are some procedures ongoing so far - was cut off from his voters amid the absence of legislative regulation of the activity of those networks. Please note that he had 85 million subscribers on Twitter and plenty of subscribers on other networks. I do not know, there were various calculations, nearly 200 million. Please note that it was the incumbent president of the world's biggest economy, a very important state. Why have they made such a decision? Just because they thought it was the right thing to do. Why did they think so? Because they sympathize with the Democrats. But should this reflect on their impartiality? Actually, this should not.
I will tell you about one interesting case, which has happened just recently. I watched an acquaintance of mine get registered on Twitter. In the course of registration, people are always asked what they are interested in, what they would like to see, and what information they would like to receive. As I recall, he mentioned museums, theater, and art, exactly that. He was offered a list of persons he was recommended to subscribe to, given the Russian origin of the account applicant. Who topped the list? Alexei Navalny.
So, why am I talking about this? Isn't that a political stance? I believe this is an absolutely politicized, absolutely cynical stance, which, above all, is associated with interference in internal affairs of another state. But who did make this decision? I would understand such decisions being made, for instance, by the U.S. administration, considering that this is a political body. But this is a corporate decision. I was at the Twitter headquarters, I registered there myself, when we had what is called better times. In general, I have quite a number of subscribers there, too. Actually, I did not register there as a state official, and it is not even related to my real job. But, they thought it right to do so. And they did the same in respect of the countries with which they have strained relations. They did nothing of the kind in respect of their own politicians.
So, why am I saying this? In this sphere, obviously, is seeing very complex and alarming trends which our colleagues in Europe also pointed out, because they too do not want to be cut off from social media at some point for this political reason or that, to be manipulated by big corporations. No one wants it. We don't want it, the Europeans don't want it. It seems to me, a significant part of the U.S. population does not want it either, yet it is still happening.
On this, rules should be agreed, otherwise this will create serious tension sooner or later. It is for a reason that we adopted laws to this end.
Q.: Are they sufficient, or does Russia need to adopt any additional laws in addition to global regulation rules?
A.: It seems to me they are sufficient so far. If social networks demonstrate unfriendly behavior, refuse to publish Russian information, or take a certain, clearly unfriendly stance towards the country, we will be able to influence them. There is Roskomnadzor, there are consultations with the Foreign Ministry, there is Prosecutor's General Office which at a certain period of time could make a number of decisions, including the decisions to slow down traffic or suspend operation. However, suspension is a very harsh, drastic measure, while slowing down of traffic is a potentially workable measure. It's just that, we would like to avoid that, and I am sure that the issue is being considered in other countries, as well.
Q.: If you do not mind, let's continue speaking about networks. You said that we could threaten to slow the speed of traffic, but if we take these fantasies to the extreme, could the United States disconnect the Internet in Russia? And do we have a plan of action for such a situation?
A.: Of course, we have a plan of what should be done under such circumstances.
As you know, the Internet emerged at a certain time, and undoubtedly the key rights to control are in the United States. Potentially, if something extraordinary happens, if someone completely loses one's head, this might happen. Precisely because the key to this little chest lies overseas. Well, there are constant talks, 'And we will disconnect Russia from SWIFT now!' This is not pure Internet, this all is a supplement to the banking activity, but we are always intimidated with this. We have even had to create our own system to transmit information if this really happens, so that we are able to exchange electronic messages. The same may potentially happen to the Internet, and we will have no access to key elements of this network in that case. That is why we adopted the law on the Russian segment of the Internet in order to have it controlled autonomously, as the Internet is the means of governance of the entire country and fulfillment of a huge number of social functions. We could not have left this without control, and this is why we have such a law and it will take effect if necessary. We should be realistic though: obviously, even if it takes effect, it will create big problems. It will take a certain amount of time to adjust it. But, in principle, it will be possible to resume or create the autonomous operation of the Internet's Russian segment.
Q.: Is everything technologically ready?
A.: Technologically, everything is ready. Every decision has also been made on the legislative level but, let me stress once again, this is not easy and we would very much like to avoid that. Frankly, I do not see any such signs so far, because, for obvious reasons, this is a two-edged sword. First of all, for obvious reasons, this may prompt certain actions on our part. Secondly, our friends, both true and so-called friends, are still actively using the Internet, in particular, to relay their stance, and this will mean they waive the opportunity to relay this stance.
All social networks work here, we have just discussed this with you, we have not blocked anyone or decreased the speed of anyone.
I will remind you that in some countries, for example the People's Republic of China, these social networks do not work, but they have their own social networks, they are working well, there is a huge number of subscribers since there are a lot of Chinese, China's population is huge. And they easily cope with this, they communicate on their social networks. When you come to China, look into your social networks, they work. Why? Because there is a Russian [SIM-]card in the phone, but as soon as you switch on hotel Internet connection, Wi-Fi does not work. Because everything is blocked, this is the firewall.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, I would like to go back to big international politics, but first, if you allow, a clarification about social networks, just to close this topic. You spoke about Trump being blocked. You write and publish things on social networks, including Western ones. Do not you think that after this episode, if they dislike what you write they could just block you?
A.: Of course, they can block me. No doubt. But this is also a two-edged sword.
Q.: Does this influence what you write?
A.: No, it does not affect it, because this is how we are checking them. They have made a number of such decisions with respect to my colleagues. Not me, though. But we have certain citizens who occasionally publish there what they do not like, so they block it on the basis of their internal corporate policy. This is the problem. For example, if blocking or any other decision, the labeling of unverified data were to be carried out in accordance with the law, we might not like it but you can't argue with that– 'this is the law, we must do this.' Well, we, too, will pass our laws and also treat you likewise. They are acting on the basis of internal regulations, on the basis of corporate documentation, on the basis of user agreements. And that is not quite fair after all, given that, frankly, the capitalization of all these companies measured in hundreds of billions of dollars is correlated to the number of subscribers, yet they make decisions for subscribers without consulting them.
I am saying this because everyone should be polite, understand that large companies influence their subscribers as well, but subscribers to a certain extent make the capitalization, which means income of these large companies.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, about big politics. Please tell us, at what stage is the idea of holding an offline summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council? Are preparations underway? Perhaps, you are preparing some materials, negotiations at the level of the Security Council? And in general, is this summit in demand? The leaders would meet, discuss something, then everyone would go to his, so to speak, corner and then nothing would change. And again in general, how useful are these formats? The G20 – the leaders meet, discuss things. Does anything change? G8 – do we want it to be G8 again, or do we not? How promising are such big annual summits?
A.: At first it seemed to me that very often it is some kind of a conversation room with no far reaching consequences. But later I partly adjusted to opinion. When the 2008 crisis broke out, the G20 was formed, and objectively the G20 helped to overcome crisis then, although this is a format of discussions at a big table.
As for the P5, I believe this is a good idea. There are no preparations at the moment, but the issue has been discussed in general in the phone call between [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden. The American colleagues said they would consider the issue, so let them do so. At least these are countries that have a crucial influence on global processes, these are the countries that won WWII, and these are permanent members of the UN Security Council. This kind of summit would make sense.
As for other formats, they can be useful and they can be of very limited use. Although in my opinion it is always more useful to meet rather than not to meet. I have already spoken about the G20, that it showed its usefulness at a certain period of time. Probably, today the G20 is not the place that encompasses all interests, because there are other formats, BRICS, the SCO, there are our integration unions such as the [Eurasian Economic Union] EAEU.
That is why objectively the best platform for discussing questions – although it is a difficult platform – is the UN, because there are all [countries] there. It should be cherished, like the apple of your eye, instead of trying to replace it with various kinds of surrogates, such as a community of democratic nations.
The G8 (in this case G7) is obviously not a representative body. A number of major countries are not there. We are taking no part in it, as we were blocked at a certain point. Now, we are not exactly willing to come back. This is not so much because we are offended, bear a grudge or believe that the whole thing is unnecessary as because this kind of debate has a low level of legitimacy. Well, they have discussed economic issues, but some major players have no part in the G7 - these are India, China, and we are also a fairly serious player on the global economic stage. But we have no discussions with them, so what's the point?
Let me remind you that Russia had never taken part in discussions of purely economic topics in the G8. Our colleagues believed that we were still a novice and preferred to discuss those issues in their G7 and to leave the G8 for political problems. This is how we were invited. So, if the truth be told, I do not see any prospects for the G8 the way it used to be.
Q.: Are there prospects of signing a peace treaty with Japan? And is not high time to begin this story from scratch? In general, does the pandemic give an opportunity to look at the situation from a different angle?
A.: It is hard to begin from scratch in any sphere. There are certain principles, in this case, the strict ones, on which our Japanese colleagues rely and which prescribe the discussion of all islands and the formalization of their sovereignty. However, we have solutions to those strict principles due to our constitutional amendments: we have no right to discuss the transfer of sovereignty over Russian territories. Formally, the subject of negotiations is gone.
Yes, new [Japanese] Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga said that he would like to resume the negotiations, and probably this will become possible in some time and our president will meet and discuss things with him. But, for obvious reasons, there are norms, so to say, including our key document, the Constitution, according to which we do not trade in our sovereignty and cannot make any decisions on this issue. But what can be done, and have always told our Japanese colleagues that sovereignty is not the only question - one can't be absolutely stubborn and obstinate, the question is how to use these territories together. As for this issue, please, the stance has always been clear: let us set up joint ventures, carry out economic activities to the benefit of both Russia and Japan, and step up exchanges. So, this means that the broadest range of economic opportunities can be used here. But our colleagues are so far unwilling to agree to that: they have a firm stance, and they stick to it.
Q.: So, in your opinion, they have not yet understood the new Russian reality, have not they?
A.: Our Japanese friends - they have ancient history – you know they are tough guys, they have a certain doctrine, certain education. And the thing is not about they failed to understand. I discussed this with them many times as well – their prime ministers have changed quite often – but with all of them, with each of them. They understand everything, they are pretty smart, profound people, but they have internal principles, which, as they believe, are based on the national consensus and which prevent them from acting differently. Hence, they keep repeating this mantra. Although I think they realize the impossibility of reaching an understanding on such principles.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, I would like to go back to the post-Soviet space. The situation in Belarus has settled down somewhat, [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko promised constitutional reform. Do you think it will last for the whole period of his presidency? How does this correspond to the further construction of the Union State? Is there sense in waiting a little until they sort things out and then resume activity, or is it possible to do it simultaneously?
A.: It's the internal affair of Belarus. We have always worked on the assumption that the constitutional process announced by Alexander Lukashenko should take place according to an internal scenario. They cannot be pressured here, they should decide themselves on the formats and on what decisions to make, what decisions these will be. We are only watching what is happening, and, of course, we would not like any destabilization in Belarus, despite the fact that a whole range of countries are now actively working on it, they are working hard to interfere in Belarusian internal affairs, offering various remedies, etc. We are not doing such things. Let them decide themselves.
As for integration processes, I still stand by the previous positon and assume that we have a common position, which naturally goes that integration is mutually beneficial. We need closer integration and we need to use the entire potential of the union treaty, the elements for bringing the potentials of our economies closer, uniting them. These are very different issues, including a common currency. We should be moving towards this. And the movement can go at various speeds.
Our Belarusian colleagues once reproached us for pressuring them, for wanting to do things faster. No, we are not pressuring them, we just believe it's in our interests. The situation there is somewhat different now, but I am certain that integration should continue because there is no alternative to it.
This is not even politics. This is just human relations between the peoples of Russia and Belarus. First of all, this is our special fraternal relations. And this is not just a figure of speech, this is not bombast. That is how the things are. Secondly, these are pragmatic considerations. The Belarusian economy is fully tuned to the Russian economy. This is simply true. This means they are supplying a significant part of their goods here. Nobody is waiting for them anywhere else. Hence, close integration between the economies, important decisions in the sphere of regulation is the interests of the two countries.
Q.: Staying with the post-Soviet topic, I would like to go to Karabakh. Quite a lot of issues remain as to what will happen there. But the first question is as follows. Do you think that it is possible to answer the question who won the Karabakh war in the fall of 2020 in one word?
A.: When everything started there, I spoke immediately on this topic. I said that there was no alternative to a diplomatic and political settlement in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. That is truly so. I clearly remember that in 2016, when they had a bitter dispute as well, I flew there to reconcile Azerbaijan and Armenia. It did not last that long as the last one – almost a month and a half – but nevertheless. A roadmap was prepared then but unfortunately the countries did not use it. Everything resulted in a new conflict, a lengthy one with a lot of victims, and it is very good that thanks to the work of the Russian president... And that work was very fine. I watch this work one day, to put it plainly. Vladimir [Putin] held hours of discussions with all participants in the conflict. This is not his job, to be frank, and the conflict could have lasted until today. This is enormous work for which it seems to me Azerbaijan and Armenia should be very grateful to the Russian president. So, after the acute stage ended – if I am not mistaken that happened on November 9 – the situation calmed down in general, and that is the main thing. People are no longer dying, there are opportunities for development. The presidents of the three countries met in Moscow on January 11, because the havoc in which people live, in which they found themselves as a result of the hostilities is most painful, apart from the victims of course. And now there are opportunities for developing economic cooperation, naturally, along with keeping certain parameters of work, including the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation.
Q.: And what will happen with Karabakh’s status? When the issue be resolved?
A.: As for the status. If you only knew how much time I spent discussing this issues with then colleagues in this dialogue... In my view, it is absolutely obvious to everyone these days that the status issue really hasn’t been settled, but it cannot be discussed now, because to electrify this field at all, I mean debates on status, would produce a powerful discharge. This can't be done now. The parties' positions are very different, and discussions are ongoing even inside Armenia. I will remind you that, after all, Armenia hasn't recognized Karabakh's independence. Some keep forgetting this for some reason, but this is exactly how things stand. Therefore, the status issue should be postponed until later.
Q.: What is your assessment of Turkey's role in this conflict? Is not Russia afraid of Turkey's role in this conflict and of aspirations of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, which are ascribed to him at least in South Caucasus?
A.: You know Turkey is our neighbor and a very important partner. And it is very close to Azerbaijan. It's impossible not to take this factor into account. We have productive dialogue with them - the president of our country constantly talks with President Erdogan on this issue.
A decision was made to create a special center involving the Turkish and Russian troops for controlling general state of affairs. And it is also an element of general stabilization. But I would not see it as an element of long-term policy or make any conspiracy theories here. We just have to take into account the reality that exists in our region, and the reality is that this issue needs to be discussed with the Turkish partners now as well.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, it is surprising and unthinkable either in 2019 or last year that colleagues would not ask you about Ukraine. But the question was not asked. If you allow me, I will ask about Ukraine. Have you formed an opinion of incumbent Ukrainian President [Volodymyr] Zelensky as a politician and a person? Is it possible to solve the Donbas issue, or, regrettably, will the situation in Ukraine and Donbas remain, so to speak, frozen or smoldering? Maybe there are some positive things?
A.: I am not acquainted with President Zelensky personally. Well, in the end the Ukrainian people elected President Zelensky, and he is accountable to them. I've seen him, but that was when he did other things, I mean his previous occupation. He did it quite well.
As for his current position, it has disappointed me, to say the least. He came as [former Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko's antipode, saying he would do this and that, and what is most important, he said he would be able to settle the situation in the southeast of Ukraine. He has done nothing of that and is sticking to the previous rhetoric, which is sometimes even more radical than his predecessor's. In particular, he announced equal responsibility of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for unleashing WWII, which is absolutely unacceptable and is completely cynical, especially for the counties that once were parts of the single country, such as Ukraine, Russia, etc. In my view, this is absolutely horrendous.
He blurted recently that, in principle, the entire nation could rise up to fight Russia, to fight our country, so to speak, in the field. It seems to me this is partly because he lacks some diplomatic experience. But on the other hand, this is also because some quarters affecting the situation inside Ukraine, which are the nationalistic quarters above all, are blocking any chance to move along the way of the Minsk process.
It is not without reason that they are saying and their president is saying it would generally be good to scrap the Minsk agreements, but that cannot be done as it would lead to the lifting of sanctions from Russia. That is, they are doing everything they can to torpedo this process that was launched. If it is scrapped now, there will be nothing. And that's the worst thing.
There is no alternative to the Normandy format using the Minsk Agreements. If they [the Ukrainians] realize that, then at least some positive development of the situation is possible in any case. This primarily applies to Ukraine itself, in the interests of southeastern Ukraine. But they do not want to do it because of such internal problems, plus there are various advisers on this matter, including overseas.
That is why it is better for them to keep the situation tense, do nothing and use this mobilization trend to justify all failures and mistakes inside the country. It is always easier to say: 'You see, there is an occupant country and that is why we failed to do that' 'And why has this failed?' 'This has failed because the Russians got meddled' 'And here?' 'And here, they are to be blamed as well.' And that can always be done. Keeping the population of the country in such tension, and suggesting this line be maintained in the future.
This is sad, but let me stress that Ukrainians themselves must make a decision.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, earlier when we spoke about social networks, you mentioned Navalny. No one developed this theme. What do you think about the whole Alexei Navalny situation? What are you prepared to say?
A.: I will tell you what I think about Navalny, or citizen Navalny... The first thing can tell you. Same as before, I view Navalny as a political chancer, a person who is using adventurist methods to try to make his way into power for personal gains, and there is no other way of putting it. But now his activity has grown much more cynical and unbridled than it was just a few years back.
The second thing about citizen Navalny. As I understand, he has said lately that he is in good health. Ah well, he is in good health, thank God for that, so any arguments on this matter will probably be inappropriate in the future. But if the argument remains - and my colleagues from the Foreign Ministry and law enforcement agencies have repeatedly said so - the Russian side should receive information about his health, considering that no such information has been shared with us. If it is received, it will be possible to make certain procedural decisions.
Thirdly. In regard to the participation in various kinds of illegal rallies. In my opinion, this is a completely cynical stance, considering the situation in the country and the world at large, which makes any large gatherings dangerous: they may lead to the infection of numerous people. Nevertheless, people are being pulled into streets for the sake of achievement of selfish political goals. In my opinion, this is unacceptable; however, the legal assessment of the entire situation should be given by law enforcement agencies.
And finally the fourth one, as actually regards his future and the claims of the penitentiary system has to him. These claims should be resolved in what is called a proper procedural manner, i.e. in court. Naturally, the court is entitled to make any decision it deems to be adequate and fair under the circumstances. So, in this respect, we should wait for a court's judgment.
By the way issues related to an attempt to involve minors in such activities are even more dangerous.
So, they say they are not involving anyone, but they shouldn't spin a line. I can see from social media that a huge number of underage people want to manifest themselves in this context, which is quite understandable, this is what the period is, everyone has radicalized views and expresses their position. That's okay by itself. Do as you please. If you speak of social media activity, there are no questions, you can express any stance this way. But if people, including minors, are pulled into streets in the epidemic period for the purpose of an unsanctioned rally, this is totally inadmissible.
Q.: This year will see State Duma elections. A question for you as the chairman of the largest party, the party in power. Firstly, does the chairman of the ruling party worry about this protest activity? What result do you expect United Russia to show at the elections? To keep the constitutional majority? Maybe, to enhance representation in the State Duma? Or on the contrary, it is not that crucial now?
A.: Let's begin with protest activity. It does not concern me at all if this protest activity is conducted within the framework established by law. It is absolutely normal when people voice their civil position. People have the right to tell the authorities everything they have on their mind. They have the right to be discontent with the activity of the authorities. They can decide to vote for any party and to express their position. This is a normal, legal method of manifesting one's civil stance. This is absolutely normal.
As for the United Russia, which I head, I believe that United Russia has every chance to gain the majority, but that would require a lot of work. As to the constitutional majority, perhaps, this is also possible but in order to do so United Russia needs to gain the affection of a great number of people. Potentially, this is possible, we have done that before, and people have put such trust in us. The current situation is different because we are going through the pandemic, and, to my mind, United Russia should focus its attention not so much on the campaigning, although laws of the political genre still exist, they remain in place, as, largely, on completely different things, which United Russia is now doing, on the assistance to people, on the ordinary, normal assistance.
It is for a reason that we have held and are holding volunteer events, they have taken place just recently. In fact, this is absolutely honest everyday work. You know, people who are engaged in volunteer activity, they least of all care about results of United Russia at elections. When a person goes to a hospital, to the red zone in a hospital, he is unlikely to think about the points have been picked up. It is likely to be absolutely different forms of motivation, this is a personal position. And that is why one should say big thanks to them. But honestly, no other party but United Russia does so. I hope that people of our country notice this activity of the party.
Q.: Mr. Medvedev, under the law you enjoy the right to become a life-long senator. Your comments on this? Will you exercise this right? Have you made such a decision?
A.: Basically, I think I am rather a young politician and rather a young man in general. Probably, this is not quite right, but every person always feels this way. You spoke about life-long senatorship. Indeed, such an institution has emerged here, but let's think about the notion itself. This is the job that, according to the constitution and other laws, is given to a former president for life, until the end of his days. It seems to me that such decisions should be made at a slightly different age, after weighing all the circumstances that a person may have in his life, but according to the constitution, there is such a right. I am now addressing other issues, and it seems to me that this is currently more important than to implement this idea.
Q.: Do you often communicate with President Putin? How does it happen? Videoconference? Or is there personal communication? It seems to me that previously you did sports together.
A.: You know, life of everyone, the president, myself, and other my colleagues, has of course changed, that is why a lot of contact takes place either by videoconference call or by phone. But sometimes there is personal communication. This is very important as well. So, this way and that, for obvious reasons. I said that the pandemic has affected us all regardless of positions and ranks. The amount of personal communication has reduced.
Q.: If you allow me... Since the pandemic has affected us all, we have been observing certain rituals since March, whether we like it or not...
A.: What rituals do you mean?
Q.: Putting on a mask, washing our hands for a certain number of seconds...
A.: Ah well, this is not a ritual. This is a protective measure. And you cannot go anywhere without sanitizer now.
Q.: So, will this all remain part of our lives? In your opinion, for how long? Will these pandemic-related things remain only in Russia or throughout the world? In your opinion, when will we return to normal life, to what how it was before March 2020?
A.: I would like to see us return to normal life as soon as possible. What should be understood by normal life? This is, after all, a great freedom of communication and movement.
As for protection measures, probably they will stay in place for some time. Although let me remind you that in some countries, wearing masks was popular for various reasons long before the pandemic broke out. Probably, some control procedures may remain in the future. But I would like to speak about another thing. It seems to me that the pandemic has brought to our lives to some extent hard-won changes. You know, there is the law of the negation of the negation in dialectical materialism. Some of you may have once read books on this topic, and remember the essence of this law. According to this law, changes in society and life itself undergo several stages, and societal relationships return in the future to the initial point but at a new level, when something is eliminated and something is maintained. This is called the social development spiral. It seems to me that this is fully applicable to the pandemic. Some of the things we use now will definitely stay in the future. And this is simply right in all senses of the word.
We understand that communication through electronic devices will remain. The achievements of civilization, including the ones used more widely in the past year, will remain. There is no doubt that online shops have begun to supply more varieties of goods, and this will stay in the future. Is it bad? Probably not.
This partly applies to education as well. Yes, of course schools and universities must restore the option of offline education, but online education will partly stay in place, as this is comfortable. I gave the example of foreign professors, of those who, for example, are far from this or that university or any other place. This also applies to online work and online corporate and managerial decisions.
You know, when it all started, when hosting certain meetings I always found myself thinking: 'It is bad that the pandemic is on, that people fall ill, it is hard in general, but if there had been no pandemic, I would have gathered people as well – so what would have changed?' Nothing, I concluded. Especially when we speak about meeting attended by people – and our country is vast – coming from other places. I remember hosting meetings at the government. Governors are sitting, about five or seven of them, some of them flew for eight hours to get to the meeting. So, he took part in the 90-minute meeting and went back. Well, probably there was some sense in this, but he could have done the same right from his workplace.
This applies not only to the government administration, but businesses as well. I talked with people who work for various companies. 'You know, our management decided that we will not return part of operations to the previous state, this job will remain online. But this is comfortable for all, for the employer and employees. Fine, let it stay. The pandemic has to a certain extent accelerated a wide range of areas of work and human activity. And I am absolutely sure that as a result of the collective fight against the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, mankind will have many new medicines. I also assume that a breakthrough in a certain area will occur, as it happened after WWI when antibiotics were in fact not only invented but also their wide usage began. And I think that something similar may happen in this sphere - and not only in this sphere but also in [the area of] biotechnologies and in the area of cybersecurity I in a large number of fields where work has now been accelerated.
I think our life should get back on the previous track, but a large number of achievements that are useful for mankind should remain. Thank you.
Q.: Thank you very much.