Question. In 1999 you were appointed prime-minister and officially called Boris Yeltsin’s successor. The previous authorities secured mechanism of democratic handing over of the power, though, your political course seems often to deny the previous political course. In your view, is there any succession between Boris Yeltsin’s course and that one of you, besides some words about democratic course of reforms? Thank you.
Answer. I do not think that today’s course of the Russian President and the whole Russian leadership denies all what was done before. Wise versa, we develop the country on the same base which was created by the previous political leadership with the ex-Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the head. It is clear, that our life does not stand still as well as that we are different persons. We could have different views on different situations of today’s and future Russia. And it is clear, that if today Boris Yeltsin had been president, we would not have returned such symbols of our State system like Hymn of the Soviet Union, its melody. I know that Boris Yelstin was against it, he said it to me. He has his own opinion. Though today I am at the head of the country, I am politically responsible for its today’s state and for its future. Though, we respect the first president, listen to his opinion, take it into account while making a decision, though we act independently.
Abu-Dabi television (United Arab Emirates):
Question. Mr President, last year I asked you about the situation in the Middle East. Today, one year later, the situation is worsening every day. So, I have to repeat the question: What plans do you have to assist in settling this crisis in the region. What is your position on international peaceful consensus?
Answer. We are concerned with what happens in the Middle East. And the reason of this concern is not only that the Middle East is the region which is so near to our frontier; the reason is that the Middle East is one of the world centres, so events in the Middle East influence the situation in more remote regions of the world. We know this very well. This cannot help worrying. We suppose that settling all disputes and issues, untying Middle-Eastern knot should be carried out on the base of numerous decisions recently taken, in particular by the UN. This is, of course, the base for settling all conflicts in the Middle East. At the same time, we, certainly, condemn all expression of terrorism and suppose that the Palestinian leadership should do its best to guarantee stopping terrorist activity in the region. I would notice something else in this connection. While speaking about the Palestinian leadership, I meant, first of all, Yasser Arafat. And I would notice that it would be dangerous and mistaken to remove him from political arena, because, from the Russian leadership view, this would only cause radicalization of the Palestinian movement.
Question. Tell us, please, what is the main discrepancy between you and President Lukashenko in building Union of Byelorussia and Russia? How pointed is this controversy and what should be the base of unification of the two states? Thank you.
Answer. Actually, we do not have any discrepancies however strange you would find it. I presented my position on some questions. Alexandr Lukashenko attentively listened to me and said that in principle he shared my fears on some of them, so we agreed that about June 28, at least before the end of the month, we would meet and carry out a consultation. To support my words, to avoid making impression that I am trying to cover something, I tell you what is the question about. In general, I suppose that such questions as unification of Russia and Byelorussia should belong to the public; there should not be any hidden nuance. This concerns everybody of us – both in Russia and Byelorussia. In general, Russian and Byelorussian nations are very close, I cannot say that they are one nation, though they are sister nations in the full sense of the word. This division into different states was not only groundless, but it was harmful, both for Byelorussian and Russian nations. Apropos, I do not want these words to be understood as critics of the previous leadership, because I do not know how today’s leaderships would act in a similar situation. I only think that today we should and must act taking into account today’s reality: Belarus is an independent state, UN member country, a sovereign European country, an average country as for European criterions. As for me, unification of such close nations like Russian and Byelorussian should be carried out without any doubt, in the framework of one state. So, there must not be either the State Duma of the Russian Federation or Byelorussian parliament, either Russian government or Byelorussian one. There must be a united parliament, let us call it Union Duma or in some other way, there must be a united government and a united country. Are our partners ready to such a decision? As for the draft documents handed over to us by our Byelorussian partners, the Draft Constitutional Act of the Union State, this act should reflect the main principles. While the main principle is: sovereignty of Byelorussia, territorial integrity and the right to veto. Should we criticize this? It would be completely inadmissible. We should honour Byelorussian position. So, this is what was presented to us in the documents. If it is so, we should guarantee both to Russia and Byelorussia sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right to veto. This means that Byelorussia could say about something that it is against it. Therefore, certain decisions will not work in Byelorussian territory. So, it is senseless to write about sovereignty: Byelorussia will be swallowed up by Russia, because Byelorussian industry makes only 3 percent of the Russian one. We understand that this will happen within half a year, or within two or three years. So, while honouring Byelorussian position expressed in the documents we should guarantee this right to sovereignty. How? In the United Europe, there is such a mechanism. The European Parliament takes a decision, which is confirmed by the national parliament of the country, passed by this country’s government and turned into a law. So, this decision is being kept as an internal law of the country. And nobody can say that the big neighbour imposes its decision. Russian economy should not take decisions harmful for itself, but profitable for Byelorussian economy. If Russia does not want this, it will not take such a decision. Though, if it takes such a decision, it should follow it. In this way, this happens in Europe within last years. This is a slow movement, though it is very effective. Look, what happens now in East Europe. Some states have fallen into pieces, though they gradually enter the European Union and unit again. So, I am asking, why did they fight? The answer is easy. Because they unit now from free will. I offer the same procedure. If the question is about sovereignty, territorial integrity and so on. I say, let us secure this sovereignty and introduce some rights, like in the European Union. Everything is clear here. This is an absolutely transparent procedure, which guarantees interests both of Byelorussia and Russia. Today, we read in the document: the Union Parliament with a very wide power and unclear mechanisms of its realization. I am simply afraid of the Union Parliament, if we elect it according to these documents, passing laws, which will be neglected, sometimes in Byelorussia, sometimes in Russia, and therefore discrediting the idea of the union. To be short, there are no discrepancies, there is a working process. It is very effective. We only should stop chewing this 10-year gum and take a decision: what we want. This must be a clear legal mechanism.
Question. Soon, we celebrate anniversary of Russian-Chinese Treaty about Neighbourly Relations, Friendship and Co-operation. What is your estimation of today’s Russian-Chinese relations and what problems do you see in the bilateral relations, in particular, in trade and economical sphere. Thank you.
Answer. This is not only my opinion, this is an opinion of the whole Russian leadership, that the level of Russian-Chinese relations is as high today as it never has been. The level of trust and co-operation in the political arena. I should say that Chinese and Russian representatives to all international organizations closely co-operate with each other, almost on-line. We feel the support of the Chinese leadership, of Chinese People’s Republic while settling key questions of international life. I hope that our Chinese partners also feel our support. Much was done in economical sphere. We suppose that the level of the co-operation is not high enough, which is much lower than it should be taking into account Chinese and Russian potential. This is the subject of a special attention of the intergovernmental commission. We suppose that the level of political contacts and of military and technical co-operation should be the same as that one of relations in civil economy. We have certain plans for it and we will intensively work together with our colleagues. A very important role in it belongs to the chairman of Chinese People’s Republic, Jiang Ze Min.
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/24/43158.html