Vladimir Putin met with Donald M. Kendall, co-founder and former CEO of PepsiCo who served as chairman of its Board's Executive Committee from 1986 to 1991, to award the Order of Friendship to him. "I am glad to greet Donald Kendall in the Kremlin and present a state decoration, the order of Friendship, to him," said the Russian president.
He recalled that 45 years had passed since PepsiCo's products came to Russia. "Your company has won a firm standing on the Soviet and Russian markets," said Putin. He noted that PepsiCo's operation on the Russian market was complete free of any political considerations.
"You have always been a reliable commercial partner, but we also see you as a friend of our country, a man who loves and knows the culture and history of Russia," said the Russian president. "Your work helps to develop interaction between the people of Russia and the U.S., which is a major contribution to the development of modern relations."
According to Don Kendall, good relations between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. are more important now than every before. No relations between Soviet and U.S. leaders were as important as relations between You and the U.S. president are, he said. I know that they are very good.
He noted that he had been involved in the development of Russo-American relations long ago and first came to Russia when Vladimir Putin was 7 years old. I was a co-chairman of the U.S.-USSR Trade and Economic Council and an adviser to President Nixon, said Kendall. Hence, I knew what others didn't. Nixon once said, We should not build a wall around the USSR; we should build cooperation in trade, culture and tourism with it.
Putin pointed out that he has good relations with the current U.S. president. "We may differ in attitudes and assessments of situations, but we have the main thing - mutual trust," he said.
The Russian president asked the honorary head of PepsiCo to assess the current state of Russia-U.S. relations. "You know the situation from the inside and we would like to hear your opinion of bilateral trade and ways of correcting it," said Putin.
Don Kendall asked the Russian president to support the idea expressed by prominent Russian musician Valery Gergiyev. He suggested creating a commission of Russian and American figures of culture, the arts and business that would promote cultural, business and tourist relations between the two countries.
Putin replied that Gergiyev brought the idea to him. "I will do everything I personally can to boost the idea," said Vladimir Putin. "However, I would like it to become an element of the development of Russia-U.S. relations."