Vladimir Putin addressed the plenary session of the second Russian Energy Week Energy Efficiency and Energy Development International Forum.
The forum is taking place in Moscow on October 3–6. Its main theme is Sustainable Energy for the Changing World.
The forum will be attended by representatives of the largest international companies and organisations, and leading experts. About 60 business events will be held within the framework of the official programme.
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Excerpts from transcript of plenary session of the second Russian Energy Week Energy Efficiency and Energy Development International Forum
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues.
I am very happy to welcome the participants and guests of the Russian Energy Week. This time, we have a record number of participating experts, people interested in power engineering – nearly 10,000, or more precisely 9,500 participants. You came here to hold an open and trust based discussion on the issues of the global energy agenda.
Russia is one of the most powerful players on the global energy market. We are among the leaders in oil and gas production and export, as well as in terms of power generation and coal mining. It is highly important for us to keep track of global energy trends in order to use our competitive advantages efficiently and, together with other countries, create a common energy space and a common energy future.
We believe that progress in global energy, as well as the stable energy security of our entire planet, can only be achieved through global partnership, working in accordance with general rules that are the same for everyone, and, of course, through conducting transparent and constructive dialogue among market players which is not politically motivated but is based on pragmatic considerations and an understanding of shared responsibilities and mutual interests.
The balance of supply and demand in the oil market reached owing to the agreement with OPEC reaffirms the correctness of this approach.
Russia will continue promoting dialogue of oil-producing countries to ensure the stability of the oil market and create conditions for the sustainable development of the sector and implementation of long-term investment plans. Indicatively, the demand for oil will be growing in the foreseeable future, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also growing in Europe and of course, in America.
I think Russia’s responsible partnership approach stands out and is understandable to everyone. Russia is implementing it in the gas market as well, providing an example of reliability and predictability. Our advantage is not limited to the tremendous deposits of natural gas. We also have delivery systems and the pipeline infrastructure, which together with low cost ensures the stable positions of pipeline gas in the market.
At the same time, as we know, trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG) is also increasing. In the past decade its consumption almost doubled.
Russia is an active participant in the LNG market. We are putting into operation new producing and processing capacities, carrying our strategic plans for the development of transport infrastructure, including the Northern Sea Route, and building an ice-breaker fleet that will allow us to organise year-round transit of ships, including gas carriers, in the Russian Arctic.
One more major area of the world’s energy sector is the coal industry, which has been demonstrating positive dynamics again. Just a decade ago few people believed in the prospects of this energy carrier but now we are seeing a steady growth in the demand for coal, first and foremost in the Asia-Pacific region. It is very important for Russia to consolidate and enhance its presence on this dynamic market.
We have already made a number of strategic decisions in this area. We are expanding the capacity of the Baikal system and the Trans-Siberian Railway, building up seaport infrastructure and working to make coal mining more effective and safe. And, of course we will pay special attention to eco-friendly technology of its transportation and consumption, including in electricity generation and other areas.
We will continue upgrading heat generation in Russia on a large scale and introduce digital solutions in the national power grid. We see these measures as a response to global challenges that are facing the electricity generation industry as a whole.
Accelerated demand for electricity in the world is forecasted for the next 20 years. Experts believe its consumption will double by 2040 while the demand for primary energy – oil, coal, gas and other sources – will grow by about 30 percent. Such trends are opening up opportunities for increasing both the exports of electricity and its production technology.
We have one more priority: to preserve the lead in such high-tech sector as the nuclear power industry. Today, Russia is actively building 25 energy units at nuclear power plants in 12 countries. In all we have 36 such energy units in our portfolio. We will be consistently working to increase the number of export orders in the nuclear power industry, complying with the highest requirements of environmental and industrial security
A separate ambitious task for the future is the development of renewable energy sources, especially in remote, difficult-to-access areas of this country, such as Eastern Siberia, and the Far East. This is opening a great opportunity for our vast country, the world’s largest country with its diverse natural and climatic conditions.
Friends, in conclusion I would like to tell you the following: sustainable and steady development of the energy industry is a key condition for dynamic growth of the world economy, enhancing living standards and improving the wellbeing of all people on our planet.
Russia is open to cooperation in the energy industry in the interests of global energy security and for the benefit of the future generations. And we certainly rely on active dialogue on these subjects and cooperation.
Thank you for your attention.
Plenary session moderator Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, thank you very much. While you were making your way here, I informed everyone in the room that you were meeting with the OPEC Secretary General. I’m not sure if that was a secret or not, but it’s no longer a secret.
I want to start with the price of oil in the oil market. The question everyone wanted to know from you and from the OPEC Secretary General and Saudi Arabia last year at this gathering was how long you were prepared to maintain the cuts in production. A lot has changed over the last year. The question now is how much more oil is Russia prepared to add to the market. If you think about this time last year and now, the price of oil, a barrel of oil is more than 50 percent what it was last year, from about $55 a barrel to $85 a barrel today. A lot of people would argue that shows the success of Russia’s partnership with OPEC. That said, there is one other head of state, President Trump, who says that the price of oil is too high. Is Russia going to pump more oil to lower prices?
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: You asked in the first part whether Russia is ready to keep production at the same level.
Ryan Chilcote: Last year the question was how long is Russia prepared to maintain cuts. Now the question is how much oil is Russia going to give to the market.
Vladimir Putin: As for reducing the production and keeping it at a low level, and so on, these are all instruments. They are not a goal in itself. The goal is to balance the market. When we agreed, with our friends and colleagues from OPEC, to reduce production, this is exactly what we had in mind. The goal was to reduce excessive reserves and balance the market. After all, this matter is not about the income of oil companies or an opportunity to pocket money, it is to do with the health of the industry.
It is necessary to provide resources for investment goals, investment projects. This was the bottom line. If the market is unbalanced this will inevitably lead to a reduction in investment, and eventually create a shortage in the market and trigger a sharp price hike.
Our position has been very responsible. The market had to be balanced and we achieved this goal in cooperation with our OPEC colleagues.
Indeed, we have now met with the Secretary General and spoke about our cooperation in detail. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that probably for the first time in history all participants in the agreements honoured their commitments in full. I believe Russia made a commitment to reduce production by 30,000 barrels, and we did this, just like all other participants in this agreement.
The market is now balanced. The current growth of oil prices is by and large not a result of our efforts but triggered by attendant circumstances, expectations of decisions on Iran – incidentally these decisions are absolutely illegal and harmful to the world economy. The fall in oil production in North Africa is also linked with political circumstances – a civil war and so on. The reduction in Venezuela is also taking place for domestic political reasons and in connection with the restrictions it has introduced. This is what it is all about.
As you said, President Trump considers this price high. I think he is right to some extent but this suits us very well – $65–$70–$75 per barrel. This is quite enough to ensure the effective performance of energy companies and the investment process. But let us be straight – such prices have largely been produced by the activities of the US administration. I am referring to expectations of sanctions against Iran and political problems in Venezuela. Look what is happening in Libya – the state is destroyed. This is the result of irresponsible policy that is directly affecting the world economy. Therefore, we must work closer with each other, not only in the energy industry but also in the political area so as to prevent such setbacks.
As for increasing production – we have already increased it by 400,000 barrels as we agreed with our partners. We can raise it by another 200,000–300,000 barrels per day if need be.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, is it right for the President of the United States to be so actively trying to manage the price of oil? We’re coming up on elections in the United States, he’s concerned about the price of gas. A gallon of gas in the United States costs almost $3. Traditionally, voters punish the party in power when prices rise ahead of elections. Is he doing the right thing, or actually should he step out of the oil market and let the market dictate what happens?
Vladimir Putin: I have already said this and want to repeat it again: we had a very good meeting with the President of the United States in Helsinki. But if we had talked about the issue we are discussing now, I would have told him: Donald, if you want to find out who is guilty for the increase in prices, you should look in the mirror. That’s the truth.
We have just spoken about the geopolitical factors behind the price hikes. They exist and really play a role in the market. It is better not to interfere in these market processes, not to try and get some competitive advantage by using political instruments and not to try to regulate prices as the Soviet Union did. This does not end well. After all, when talking about our negotiated actions with OPEC we do not use non-market instruments. We are merely matching supply and demand in the market, no more than that. Everything else today has to do with geopolitical factors that influence prices.
As for gas prices, they are calculated on the basis of oil prices. Oil prices are produced by the market whereas gas prices are linked to oil prices. Gas prices fluctuate depending on oil prices with a small time lag of five to six months. That is all.
What is happening in the United States? The United States is one of the world’s biggest producers of both oil and gas. We know everything about new technology that is being countered by environmentalists. I agree with them, this production is often carried out using barbarous methods we do not use.
Who is trying to exert pressure on the administration? I do not know. Let us talk about the energy industry. Please do not involve me in domestic political processes and squabbles in the United States. It is for you to figure out or else we will be accused again of meddling in the domestic political life of the US.
Ryan Chilcote: When I spoke about the price of gasoline in the United States, a gallon of gasoline, I meant the price of petrol, of “benzin,” not “gaz.”
Vladimir Putin: As you understand, this is the price of the end product and this applies to oil products. This price is not simply formed from the primary price of oil or gas if we are talking about gas fuel. State policy also exerts an influence on the final price for consumers.
And what about taxes? Why do some European countries double prices on our gas before it reaches the final consumers? This is all state policy.
So it would be best not to point your finger at energy producers all the time. You should figure out what economic policy is being pursued in a country and what is being done to make sure the product reaches the customers at affordable prices. That is all.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, let me ask you about this EU initiative. What do you make of it?
Vladimir Putin: (commenting on the EU initiative to protect European companies in connection with US sanctions against Iran) It is a bit delayed but better late than never. It is delayed because quite recently the President of France speaking, I believe, in New York directly announced the need to enhance the economic sovereignty of the European Union and reduce its dependence on the United States. This is certainly right.
And how can it be otherwise if, as I have already said, someone is trying to gain competitive advantages in business by using political instruments? I think nobody will like this but this is happening and we are seeing this today.
This is why Europe is thinking about some new opportunities in connection with these circumstances, for instance about dollar-free settlements that incidentally will undermine the dollar. In this context – I have said this many times but would like to repeat it again – I believe that our American partners are committing a huge strategic mistake and undermining confidence in the dollar as today’s only reserve currency. They are undermining confidence in it as a universal instrument and are really biting the hand that feeds.
This is strange, even surprising, but I think this is a typical mistake made by any empire when people believe nothing will happen, that everything is so powerful, so strong and stable that there will be no negative consequences. But no, they will come sooner or later. This is the first point.
And the second point, Europe wants to fulfil its international commitments – this is how we understand our European partners – in this case, as regards Iran’s nuclear deal, and sees in it, as we do, an element of stability in global affairs, in global politics, which, in one way or another, is reflected in the global economy, as we have already noted.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, I’d like to go back to Iran for a second. One of the things that the United States would like to see Iran do is to obviously withdraw from Syria. The US national security advisor just last week said that the United States is going to now stay in Syria as long as Iran and its proxies are there. Russia has been very clear. Russia says that the US military’s presence in Iran is illegal. What can you do about the US being in Syria?
Vladimir Putin: There are two options available to remedy the situation.
The first is that the United States must obtain the mandate of the UN Security Council to have its armed forces on the territory of another country, in this case Syria, or receive an invitation from the legitimate Syrian government to deploy its troops there for whatever reason. International law does not allow the presence of any country on the territory of another country for other reasons.
Ryan Chilcote: What can Russia do to change the US’ position? The US says it’s going to stay, that Iran has to leave, and the US will stay until Iran pulls out of Syria. So what can Russia do?
Vladimir Putin: As we are all well aware, in this particular case the United States (just read the UN Charter to see that my point is correct, and this is not news to anyone) is violating the UN Charter and international law by its presence on the territory of another country without the authorisation of the UN Security Council, without a corresponding resolution and without the invitation of the government of that country. There is nothing good about it.
We have been operating on the premise that we nonetheless cooperate with our US partners in fighting terrorism and ISIS in Syria. But as ISIS gradually ceases to exist in Syria, there is just no other rationale, even outside the framework of international law.
What, in my opinion, can be done and what should we all strive to achieve? We must strive to ensure that there are no foreign troops from other countries in Syria at all. This is what we need to achieve.
Ryan Chilcote: Including Russian forces, of course.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, including Russian, if the Syrian government so decides.
Ryan Chilcote: You just struck a deal with President Erdogan on Syria. Do you think that that’s going to hold?
Vladimir Putin: How is that related to oil?
Ryan Chilcote: It’s in a very sensitive geopolitical area.
Vladimir Putin: Maybe it is related, since Syria also produces energy resources and influences the market situation one way or another.
In this sense, yes, we need a stable Syria, no question about it. I am not even talking about other aspects related to international security and fighting terrorism.
This is a very good deal (between Russia and Turkey in this particular case), because it prevented more bloodshed. As you may recall, it includes our agreement to create a demilitarised zone 15–20 kilometres deep, a de-escalation zone near the city of Idlib, known as the Idlib zone. I would like to note that along with our Turkish partners we are now working to implement these agreements. We can see it and are grateful to them for their efforts, and we will continue to work with them on this matter with the support of Iran.
Ryan Chilcote: Let’s return to energy, or at least more directly to energy, President Putin, and talk about Nord Stream 2. That’s the pipeline that Gazprom wants to build between Russia and Germany. Again, the President of the United States has said his opinion about this. He says that Germany is effectively a hostage already of Russia, because it depends on Russia for so much of its energy and gas supplies, and that it’s vulnerable to “extortion and intimidation” from Russia. What do you make of that?
Vladimir Putin: My response is very simple. Donald and I talked about this very briefly in Helsinki. In any sale, including the sale of our gas to Europe, we are traditionally the supplier, of pipeline gas I mean. We have been doing this since the 1960s. We are known for doing it in a highly responsible and professional manner, and at competitive prices for the European market. In general, if you look at the characteristics of the entire gas market, the price depends on the quantity and on sales volumes. The distance between Russia and Europe is such that pipeline gas is optimal. And the price will always be competitive, always. This is something all experts understand.
We have a lot of people here in this room, in the first row, who could easily be seated next to me, and I would gladly listen to them, because each one is an expert, so each of them can tell you that. And so Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial project, I want to emphasise this, warranted by rising energy consumption, including in Europe, and falling domestic production in European countries. They have to get it from somewhere.
Russian gas accounts for around 34 percent of the European market. Is this a lot or a little? It is not insubstantial, but not a monopoly either. Europe certainly can and does actually buy gas from other suppliers, but American liquefied gas is about 30 percent more expensive than our pipeline gas on the European market. If you were buying products of the same quality and you were offered the same product for 30 percent more , what would you choose? So, what are we talking about?
If Europe starts buying American gas for 30 percent more than ours, the entire economy of Germany, in this case, would quickly become dramatically less competitive. Everyone understands this; it is an obvious fact.
But business is business, and we are ready to work with all partners. As you know, our German partners have already begun offshore construction. We are ready to begin as well. We have no problems with obtaining any permits. Finland agreed, and so did Sweden, Germany, and the Russian Federation. This is quite enough for us. The project will be implemented.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, did you want to jump in here?
Vladimir Putin: (following up on the remarks by CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Ben van Beurden) We understand the realities and treat all our partners with respect. We have very good, amiable long-term relations with all our partners, including the company represented by my neighbour on the left. This company is working in the Russian market and working with great success, but we understand everything very well and understand the realities. We are carrying out the project ourselves. We do not and will not have any problems here. That is to say, they may arise, of course, but we will resolve them.
Some things are beyond the realm of political intrigue. Take supplies to the Federal Republic of Germany. Not everyone knows that the decision was made there to shut down the nuclear power industry. But that is 34 percent of its total energy balance. We are proud of the development of the nuclear power industry in the Russian Federation, although the figure for us is just 16 percent. We are still thinking about how to raise it to 25 percent and are making plans. Theirs is 34 percent and everything will be closed down. What will this vacuum be filled with? What?
Look at LNG [liquefied natural gas ] which is sold by our various competitors and partners. Yes, LNG can and should be in the common basket of Europe and Germany. Do you know how many ports built in Europe are used for LNG transfer? Just 25 percent. Why? Because it is unprofitable.
There are companies and regions for which it is profitable to supply LNG and this is being done. The LNG market is growing very fast. But as for Europe, it is not very profitable, or unprofitable altogether.
Therefore, in one way or another we have already seen Nord Stream 1 through and its performance is excellent. Incidentally, our gas supplies to Europe are continuously growing. Last year, I believe, they amounted to 194 billion cubic metres and this year they will add up to 200 billion cubic metres or maybe even more.
We have loaded practically all our infrastructure facilities: Blue Stream to Turkey, Nord Stream 1 is fully loaded. Yamal-Europe is fully loaded – it is almost approaching 100 percent, while the demand is going up. Life itself dictates that we carry out such projects.
Ryan Chilcote: President Trump’s position on American LNG exports is perhaps a little bit more nuanced. His point is that instead of buying Russian gas, even perhaps if it’s a bit more expensive, the Germans and other European allies of the United States, because the United States is paying for their defence, should be buying American gas even if there is, I guess the argument suggests, a little bit of a higher price for that
Vladimir Putin: You know, this argument doesn’t really work, in my opinion. I understand Donald. He is fighting for the interests of his country and his business. He is doing the right thing and I would do the same in his place.
As for LNG, as I have already said, it is not just a little more expensive in the European market but 30 percent more. This is not a little bit more, it is a lot more, beyond all reason, and is basically unworkable.
But there are markets where LNG will be adopted, where it is efficient, for instance in the Asia-Pacific region. By the way, where did the first shipment of LNG from our new company Yamal-LNG go? Where did the first tanker go? To the United States, because it was profitable. The United States fought this project but ended up buying the first tanker. It was profitable to buy it in this market, at this place and time, and it was purchased.
LNG is still being shipped to the American continent. It’s profitable.
It makes no sense to fight against what life brings. We simply need to look for common approaches in order to create favourable market conditions, including, for example, conditions conducive to the production and consumption of LNG in the United States itself and securing the best prices for producers and consumers. This could be achieved by coordinating policy, rather than just imposing decisions on partners.
As for the argument, “We defend you, so buy this from us even if it makes you worse off”, I don’t think it is very convincing either. Where does it lead? It has led to the Europeans starting to talk about the need to have a more independent defence capability, as well as the need to create a defence alliance of their own that allegedly will not undermine NATO while allowing the Europeans to pursue a real defence policy. This is what, in my view, such steps are leading to.
This is why I am sure that a great many things will be revised. Life will see to that.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, let’s get back to geopolitics. When you were talking about oil – and when everyone talks about oil and disruptions on the market, they don’t just talk about Iran, they talk about Venezuela – you mentioned Venezuela at the beginning of our conversation. Last year, I interviewed President Maduro, the President of Venezuela, here. Venezuela is an ally of Russia. Russia has a lot of oil interests in Venezuela. Oil production in Venezuela is not going well, and politically, things are going very poorly, as you know. Millions of people are leaving the country. There’s hunger. There is a lot of talk in the United States, and not only in the United States, in Central and South America, that perhaps it’s time for President Maduro to go. Do you agree with that?
Vladimir Putin: This is up to the people of Venezuela, not anyone else in the world.
As for various means of influencing the situation in Venezuela, there should be no such thing … All of us influence each other in one way or another, but it should not be done in a way that makes the civilian population even worse off. This is a matter of principle.
Should we rejoice that life is extremely difficult for people there and want to make things even worse with a view to overthrowing President Maduro? He was recently targeted in a terrorist attack, an assassination attempt. Shall we condone such methods of political resistance too?
I think this is absolutely unacceptable. This and anything like it. The people of the country should be given a chance to shape their destiny themselves. Nothing should be imposed from the outside.
This is what has emerged historically in Venezuela. What has emerged historically in the Persian Gulf has emerged there, and the same in Europe, America and Southeast Asia. Nobody should go in there like a bull in a china shop without understanding what is taking place there, instead thinking only that the bull is one of the largest and smartest animals. It is necessary to take a look and give people a chance to figure it out. I have a very simple outlook on this.
I would like to return to the previous question. After all, we are dealing with energy. I would like to confirm what my colleagues said here about Russia’s energy resources and potential. They are indeed enormous. Truly enormous. We are in first place in gas reserves. I believe we have 73.3 trillion cubic metres of gas. The Yamal peninsula was mentioned here but NOVATEK will carry out one more project, Arctic 2, on a neighbouring peninsula. It is about the same size and with the same investment. The first tranche in this project is $27 billion, and the second tranche is about $25 billion. I believe all this will be carried out.
We have the world’s largest coal reserves – 275 billion tonnes. We are third in oil reserves. Third in the world in oil reserves. We are the world’s largest country by territory. If we take a deeper look we are bound to find many other things. So, we are indeed lucky.
But we were given this not by the Lord alone. Past generations of ours developed these lands. We should never forget what was done by our predecessors, and we will continue to build on it. We will work with our partners. Incidentally, almost all major energy companies work in Russia.
Ryan Chilcote: When we were talking about the EU initiative to try and allow trade between EU countries and Iran, I couldn’t help but remember that Russia itself, faced with sanctions, is thinking about a plan to wean itself off of the dollar. This is something that many countries have tried and failed. Why does Russia think that it can succeed in this?
Vladimir Putin: You used the past tense or is the translation inaccurate? Faced. Have the sanctions been lifted? Did I miss something?
Ryan Chilcote: Russia is facing with sanctions.
Vladimir Putin: Okay then. You know, sometimes I think that it would be good for us if those who want to impose sanctions would go ahead and impose all the sanctions they can think of as soon as possible. (Applause.) This would free our hands to defend our national interests however we deem most effective for us.
It is very harmful, in general. It hurts the ones doing it. We all figured this out long ago. That is why we have never supported and will never support illegal sanctions that circumvent the United Nations.
Ryan Chilcote: Since you brought up the subject of sanctions, as you know after the Skripal poisoning, Russia is facing even more of them, perhaps as soon as November. What is Russia prepared to do to change the trajectory of relations with the United States and the West?
Vladimir Putin: We are not the ones introducing these sanctions against the United States or the West. We are just responding to their actions, and we do this in very restrained, careful steps so as not to cause harm, primarily to ourselves. And we will continue to do so.
As regards the Skripals and all that, this latest spy scandal is being artificially inflated. I have seen some media outlets and your colleagues push the idea that Skripal is almost a human rights activist. But he is just a spy, a traitor to the motherland. There is such a term, a 'traitor to the motherland,' and that’s what he is.
Imagine you are a citizen of a country, and suddenly somebody comes along who betrays your country. How would you, or anybody present here, a representative of any country, feel about such a person? He is scum, that's all. But a whole information campaign has been deployed around it.
I think it will come to an end, I hope it will, and the sooner the better. We have repeatedly told our colleagues to show us the documents. We will see what can be done and conduct an investigation.
We probably have an agreement with the UK on assistance in criminal cases that outlines the procedure. Well, submit the documents to the Prosecutor General’s Office as required. We will see what actually happened there.
The fuss between security services did not start yesterday. As you know, espionage, just like prostitution, is one of the most ‘important’ jobs in the world. So what? Nobody shut it down and nobody can shut it down yet.
Ryan Chilcote: Espionage aside, I think there are two other issues. One is the use of chemical weapons, and let’s not forget that in addition to the Skripal family being affected in that attack, there was also a homeless person who was killed when they came in contact with the nerve agent Novichok.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, since we are talking about poisoning Skripal, are you saying that we also poisoned a homeless person there? Sometimes I look at what is happening around this case and it amazes me. Some guys came to England and started poisoning homeless people. Such nonsense. What is this all about? Are they working for cleaning services? Nobody wanted to poison… This Skripal is a traitor, as I said. He was caught and punished. He spent a total of five years in prison. We released him. That’s it. He left. He continued to cooperate with and consult some security services. So what? What are we talking about right now? Oil, gas or espionage? What is your question?
Let’s move on to the other oldest profession and discuss the latest developments in that business. (Laughter.)
Ryan Chilcote: A lot of what we’ve discussed today goes back to Russia’s relationship with the United States, and so I’ll ask you just a couple of questions about that and we can move on. The US says you personally ordered the 2016 interference in the elections – I know you deny that. You have said you wanted Trump elected. What do you want to see in 2018 from these midterm election
Vladimir Putin: In Russia or the United States? What are you asking me about?
Ryan Chilcote: What would you like to see happen in the 2018 midterm elections in the United States.
Vladimir Putin: What I want – and I am completely serious – is that this nightmare about Russia’s alleged interference with some election campaign in the United States ends. I want the United States, the American elite, the US elite to calm down and clear up their own mess and restore a certain balance of common sense and national interests, just like in the oil market. I want the domestic political squabbles in the United States to stop ruining Russia-US relations and adversely affecting the situation in the world.
Ryan Chilcote: I’ll ask this final question on the political front. In Helsinki, you said that you wanted President Trump to win because he favours better relations with Russia. But in fact, as Russia itself says all of the time, relations between Russia and the United States seem to get worse every day. Wouldn’t it be better for Russia to have a president in the United States that is not politically compromised by the widely held perception that this country helped him get into the White House?
Vladimir Putin: Firstly, I do not believe President Trump was compromised. The people elected him, the people voted for him. There are those who do not like this; those who do not want to respect the opinion of the American voters. But this is not our business – this is an internal matter of the United States.
Would we be better off or worse? I cannot say either. As is known, there are no ifs in politics. Maybe it would have been even worse, how are we to know? We must derive from what is, and work with that. Good or bad, there is no other President of the United States; there is no other United States either.
We will work. The US is the largest world power, a leader in many spheres, our natural partner in a variety of projects, including global security, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, climate change, as well as the environment. We have a lot of common problems which overlap that we have to work on together.
We presume that sooner or later the moment will come when we will be able to restore full-fledged relations.
Ryan Chilcote: President Putin, I know you need to get a meeting with the Austrian Chancellor, so I’m going to wrap this session up with you, sir. The title of our conversation today is Sustainable Energy for a Changing World. You’ve been driving Russian energy policy for nearly 20 years now. What changes in the world, or what change in the world, would you identify as the biggest concern for you, and what gives you the most optimism when it comes to what we’re seeing.
Vladimir Putin: If you allow me, I would stick to the subject. The questions that you asked concern me as well.
Indeed, we are apparently witnessing global warming, but the reasons for this are not entirely clear, because there is still no answer. The so-called anthropogenic emissions are most likely not the main cause of this warming. It could be caused by global changes, cosmic changes, some changes in the galaxy that are invisible to us – and that’s that, we don’t even understand what is actually happening. Probably, anthropogenic emissions influence the situation somehow, but many experts believe they have an insignificant effect. This is my first point.
Secondly, I already said this, and I can remind you once again. Everyone blames the United States now. As you see, we have many problems and unresolved matters with the United States, and the US President and I approach many international affairs differently and evaluate our bilateral relations differently. But we still have to be objective. There was a time I saw President Bush refuse to sign the Kyoto agreements. But we still found a solution. I think the same will happen in this case. Well, Trump believes that the Paris Agreement is unprofitable for his country for a variety of reasons. I will not go into details now, he must have talked about this many times, and we know his position.
But I think, we should not antagonise the relationship with the US, because without them it would be impossible to reduce the influence of anthropogenic air pollution on the global climate even a little bit. Therefore, one way or another we need to involve the US in this discussion and this joint work. As I understand, President Trump does not object. He says that he dislikes some provisions of the Paris agreement, but he is not opposed to working with the global community on this matter.
Now, as regards the pollution and the future of the global energy, in order to fight the heat, we need no less energy resources than to fight the cold. Secondly, my colleagues were right, millions of people do not have access to energy resources, and we will never prohibit the use of the contemporary blessings of civilization, it is just unreal. The economy and the industry will keep developing.
Of course, in Russia we also join the best international practices, so-called energy efficient technology that has a little bit of influence on the environment, and we, of course, will continue this.
But I also agree with our Saudi colleague. These alternative sources are very important, but we will not be able to go without hydrocarbons in the next decades. People will have to use them for many decades to come. We mostly speak about oil, but coal is what is used most.
We are speaking about the need to use electric cars, but where will the electricity come from? From the socket? Okay, from the socket, but how did it get there? First we need to burn coal to produce electricity, while gas remains the most environmentally friendly energy resource. So we need to take a comprehensive approach to all such matters.
Ryan Chilcote: Patrick Pouyané posed a challenge to you. He said it would be good if Russia used less coal. Are you prepared to accept that challenge and reduce consumption of coal here in Russia and production?
Vladimir Putin: We have signed the relevant Paris agreements and taken up our responsibilities. We have implemented the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol, and now the Paris Agreement will replace it. We have taken up all necessary responsibilities and will adhere to them. The question is not about reducing the usage of coal for domestic needs, we are not the largest emitter, the US and Asian countries emit much more. Here, we are not the leaders. We sell a lot of coal, but also not more than anyone else and we only help cover the demand. The question is not about us, but about modern technology that uses primary energy resources.
Let us go back to the last question, could you please repeat it?
Ryan Chilcote: Well, the title of the panel is Sustainable Energy for a Changing World. You’ve been driving Russia’s energy policy for nearly 20 years now. What changes, or what is the change that gives you the most hope and what do you think the biggest challenge that you see amongst the changes is for energy?
Vladimir Putin: Concern is caused by uncertainty. In politics, in security, and in the economy. Volatility, in other words. This is it. And the number of uncertainties is growing. This is what causes concern – the unpredictability of the situation.
Ryan Chilcote: Are you talking about your colleague, the President of the United States?
Vladimir Putin: Not exactly. He certainly makes a significant contribution to this unpredictability by virtue of being the President of the largest world power, but not only him. I am talking about the situation in general.
Look at the rise of extremism – where did it come from? Why is this problem so acute today? Why is this extremism turning into terrorism? Doesn't that concern us? This is what we need to understand – where it all came from.
I will not go into details because we have a limited amount of time. But this is happening in many spheres. In the economy – the same thing. This growing uncertainty in all fields is what causes concern.
Now, what causes optimism? Common sense, I think. No matter how hard it is, people, humankind have always found ways out of the most difficult situations, guided by the interests of their countries, their peoples, and it is the goal of any government to ensure the well-being as well as the growth of the welfare of its people.
I think that sooner or later, and the sooner the better, the realisation will come that we need to get away from controversy as soon as possible, in any case, away from trying to resolve this controversy with unacceptable tools and ways that go beyond international law. It seems to me that it is necessary to strengthen the leading role of the United Nations, and on this foundation, move on.
Ryan Chilcote: And on that note, please join me in thanking and congratulating our participants in today’s panel and, of course, our host today the President of Russia.