Reelecting Putin enhances position of Russia in the world [Archives:2004/723/Reportage]

March 25 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
On the occasion of the latest Russian presidential elections, which were once again won by Vladimir Putin, Yemen Times held the following interview with H.E. Alexander Zaspkin, the Ambassador of the Russia Federation in Sana'a:

Q: The Russian presidential elections held on 14 March 2004 showed that the vast majority of registered voters cast their votes for Vladimir Putin. How do you explain this astonishing support for President Putin?
A: The main reason, in my opinion, is that during the first presidency of Mr. Putin, real action began to take place to resolve major problems of concern to the Russians including achieving political stability, enhancing security and improving the economic situation in order to improve the living condition of the population, in addition to the interest of President Putin in social development and strengthening the armed forces. Russia also played an effective role in the international arena, the improved the situation in Chechnya. President Putin does not hide the existing difficulties and talks about the problems facing the country with great transparency and this is what the Russia people understand.

Q: Is the Russian citizen going to notice in their daily lives the directions of major reforms offered by President Putin?
A: Undoubtedly, the working agenda must be implemented. Mr. Putin said, “It is important to possess clarity about what we have to do and how to do it”. The President, through special measures concerning the formation of the Government and the appointment of qualified cadres made before the elections, seeks to activate governmental authorities and to expedite the administrative reforms related to the social and economic development of the country.
With regards to the internal and external priorities for Russia in the coming period, President Putin has committed to support the development and maintenance of our democratic achievements through enhancing pluralism, civil society and freedom of the press. Important priorities of Russia in the coming period include: the modernization of government activities and authorities; fighting corruption and illegal incomes; securing the development of a stable economy for the prosperity of the Russian people; resolving social problems; enhancing the capabilities of the armed forces; and continuing to revitalize the multi-directional flexible foreign policy aimed at the development of joint partnerships and the search for solutions to outstanding international issues satisfactory to all sides.

Q: Please tell us about the developments in Chechnya.
A: The tendency to normalize the situation in Chechnya is clear. The election is another indication of that, where an unprecedented turnout was recorded, which indicates support for the existing policy in Chechnya. The next period will witness continuing efforts to resolve the number of duties related to enhancing the national chain, parliamentary elections, the formation of a Chechen government, strengthening the legal base and local authority and building an economic and social renaissance. The continuation of the fight against terrorism and terrorists will continue until the complete elimination of their criminal activities inside the country. There is no possibility of a truce within that.

Q: Could you elaborate on the mainstream of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the future, especially following of appointment of a new Foreign Minister?
A: Russia believes that resolving the most important issues of concern to the international community could not be achieved except through the collective efforts of all its members, based on a major role for the United Nations within the framework of a multi-polar world, and observing obligations to international conventions. This means the development of constructive partnership relations between Russia and a large number of countries to find joint stances. In this regard, the priorities of Russia include: enhancing strategic stability; the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; settlement of regional disputes, fighting terrorism and other threats and challenges.
Achieving the above goals coincides with the central national interests of Russia. The role and place of our country of the world represents a connection point between the West and the East, as a dialogue bridge between civilizations, cultures and religions and as a model of good cooperation between peoples and religions.
As for as the appointment of Sergi Lavrouf as Foreign Minister, President Putin takes into consideration the experience he has gained in the United Nations and the support of the Former Minister Igor Evanov, who is now the head of the Russian National Security, to create an effective mechanism for foreign policy of the Russia Federation.

Q: How will these principles be achieved in the Middle East?
A: As I previously stated, Russia joins in the efforts to resolve the problems of the Middle East headed by the settlement of the Arab-Israeli issue, which could not be achieved except through a perfect plan “Roadmap”, agreed to by the international community and in the preparation of which Russia actively participated. Thus, we will continue our strong contact with the related bodies, primarily within the four-party mediators, to contribute to establishing a Palestinian-Israeli dialogue to discuss the Roadmap principles, according to the obligations of both parties. We object to unilateral steps and barriers, which only complicate the efforts to restore the peace process.
The other issue is Iraq. It is known that Russia always supported a political and diplomatic settlement, including the clarification of the weapons of mass destruction issue. Unfortunately, events developed to scenario of using force. Russia supports the efforts of the Iraqi authorities towards stability, securing Iraqi lands, resolving social and economic problems and rebuilding Iraq on a democratic basis. We believe that the acceptance of the Iraqi Transitional Administration Law is the important step in the right direction, especially if we take into consideration the importance of establishing a legal base suitable for Iraq in the current conditions. We will continue the development of cooperation with Iraq based on the traditional cordial relations between Iraq and Russia.

Q: Nowadays, in discussions about the US project, “The Big Middle East”, European suggestions have been presented, especially by France and Germany. What is the Russian stance from this project?
A: Despite the active discussion of the ideas of the Bush and European Administrations, “The Big Middle East” has not been officially presented. It seems this is not by coincidence. Once international discussions begin on the major issues, details will be considered according to the opinions of related bodies. Therefore, talking about the big picture will be premature at this juncture. We do not even know about it geographically. Of course slogans such as “Freedom and democracy”, “Human Rights”, ” Economic Prosperity” are very attractive to any people or any citizen, but the importance is how and by what means these goals are achieved.
The Russian side has presented a number of preliminary suggestions, which cannot be neglected, prior to expressing readiness to participate in the discussion of the American and other ideas.
But before talking about achieving stability and economic prosperity in the region, we must first settle the existing conflicts in it. Second, reforming projects in all regions of the world cannot be imposed. The countries of the big Middle East must determine what assistance they want. The broad definition of democracy and its accomplishment relates to the characteristic and traditions of peoples. We know that Arab leaders are exerting great efforts to crystallize acceptable methods for Arab countries' reforms. This is an important matter and we must confront it responsibly.

Q: Back to elections and the consequent changes in Russia, how will they be reflected in Yemeni-Russian relation, in your opinion?
A: As an immediate result of the visit of President Saleh to Russia in December 2002, a cordial personal relationship was established following their talks in Kremlin. Recently, practical results were obtained in political dialogue development, cooperation in the military and technical fields, in health and in education. We have to admit that the commercial and economic relations are still at a low level despite the noticeably higher interests of Russia companies. We suppose that the two Governments could take measures to correct this situation and it is expected in the coming few months that enhanced contacts among different ministries in the two countries will be established, and that contact between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the two countries will be improved. As far as the Embassy of the Russia Federation in Sana'a is concerned, the Embassy is ready to contribute in all useful initiatives presented by the governmental authorities, businessmen unions and concerned companies.