On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the 7th Russia Calling! Investment Forum organised by VTB Capital and answered some questions.
Question: Over the weekend, US President Obama called into question your leadership over Syria. He said that you are propping up an ally rather than going after ISIS. He also said you are running down the economy here. Can I ask you, how do you respond to President Obama’s comments and what would you say to international investors who are dissuaded from putting money into the Russian economy because of such remarks? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You know, as we say in Russia, everything has been thrown into one pile. What does the situation with ISIS in Syria have to do with investments in Russia? Although, of course, everything in the world is interconnected. There is no direct connection, but ultimately, of course, everything is interconnected.
First of all, I do not want to debate with anyone right now, but I will note that we are not striving for some sort of leadership in Syria. There can only be one leader in Syria: the Syrian people. We strive to make our input in the fight against terrorism, which is dangerous for the United States, Russia, European nations and the entire world, without any exceptions.
I will point out that all our actions, as I have said before, are in strict compliance with the UN Charter and international law – unlike our colleagues from the so-called international coalition led by the United States, which is acting without UN Security Council resolutions and without invitation by the Syrian authorities. Over this time (operations by international forces headed by the United States – or if we put it simply, the actions by the US – have been underway by over a year), they have engaged 11 nations in bombing, with over 500 strikes on Syrian territory, spending half a billion dollars, and that’s only officially, to train Free Syrian Army fighters to fight against ISIS. We know the result: there is none, there’s no result.
Now, it has been reported that the Free Syrian Army is being supplied with ammunition via aircraft. Where is this Free Syrian Army? If they simply discharge or dump the ammunition and weaponry somewhere from the air, how can we know that it won’t all get into the hands of ISIS, as this happened during training of the Free Syrian Army personnel and arming it – what are the guarantees? After all, this was just done, this just happened, and just now, the United States admitted that the action failed. And now, they are simply throwing ammunition somewhere. To whom? This is not a rhetorical question.
Now, we often hear that our pilots are bombing the wrong targets, not ISIS. First of all, we briefed US leadership in advance, although the United States has never done this. We were the first to do this out of respect and a desire to establish a working relationship. Now they tell us, “No, first, we are not ready to cooperate with you, and second, you are bombing the wrong targets.” We said at the military level, appealed and asked, “Give us the targets that you are 100% certain to be terrorists.” The replied, “No, we are not ready to do that.” So then, we thought about it and asked another question: “Then tell us, where shouldn’t we be bombing?” No response there either. So then, what should we be doing? This is no joke, I did not make this up, this is what happened. Just recently, we said to the Americans, “Tell us the facilities we should strike.” There was no response. How can we work jointly then? Do you have an answer? I don’t have one either, yet.
I think that some of our partners are simply confused and do not have a clear understanding of what is really happening on the ground, nor what goals they want to achieve. But we will insistently work to ensure that the efforts in the fight against international terrorism are joint efforts, and the result is clear, expected, and aimed at fighting international terror, to eliminate this threat for all of us.
As for investments, as I already said, I do not feel the two are related, but when I was just telling you about how these events occurred; I had said from the very beginning that nobody ever warned against such actions. Whereas we did. This speaks to the fact that we want to work together, and whoever wants to work with us in the spheres of security, counter-terrorism and economics is welcome.