Medvedev: Russia was kept in a hallway for 17 years, but today, we show our teeth
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday delivered a report to the deputies of the State Duma on the work of the government in 2013. The report from the head of the cabinet lasted for one hour, ten minutes and was interrupted by applause eight times.
In his speech, the Prime Minister spoke about the achievements and challenges in the activities of the government, announced the plans and forecasts for the future. The first part of the speech was devoted to the influence of possible sanctions and restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Europe on the Russian economy. As the prime minister said, the process would not affect the Russians. Medvedev also touched upon topical issues of Russia's domestic policies - labor migration issues and bureaucracy.
During his speech, Medvedev would ask himself questions and give answers to them. "Will our citizens suffer from these notorious sanctions? We will not allow our citizens to become hostages to political games," said the prime minister. According to him, it took the world long to become global and learn to agree on most important international issues and develop common rules of the game.
"Today, some of the basic values of global peace - such as, for example, freedom of movement, are being questioned," complained the head of the government, remembering how the whole world witnessed absurd visa restrictions based on professional or even gender factors.
The prime minister said that it was possible, of course, to continue to exchange "black lists," but it would be an absolute dead end. He recalled that Russian citizens had already experienced restrictions not only in terms of visas: foreign partners disabled some Russian banks from international payment systems. One can still learn lessons from these difficulties, said Medvedev. "For us, this is an additional incentive to create the national payment system, which would little depend on the international situation and operate smoothly across the country," said Medvedev.
The actions of the West will not affect Russia's defense capability, said the head of the Russian government. According to him, Russia, on the contrary, will strengthen the position on the global arms market after the imposition of sanctions. "Can our defense and security suffer? They will not suffer," said the prime minister.
"The defense sector has always been our national pride. In recent years, the defense industry has got up on its feet, and we will not let it suffer as a result of someone's hostile actions," said Medvedev.
"Russia does not depend on imports in manufacturing many kinds of military products. The ability of our country to make quality modern weapons raises no doubts with many foreign counties. Russia ranks second in the world in terms of arms exports, and we intend to strengthen our position on the global arms market," said Medvedev.
"Russia intends to strengthen her position on the market not only by building closer ties with our traditional partners, the largest of which are China and India, but also by establishing new ones - with the countries of Latin America and Africa."
The government will pay attention to industry, which may suffer because of the situation in Ukraine, said Medvedev. He assured that "certain sectors of mechanical engineering, which largely depend on international cooperation with companies in Ukraine, will receive additional support from the government."
Medvedev said that the Russian government was not going to change economic and economic policies. "I consider it wrong to rush from side to side," - said Medvedev. According to him, "artificial constraints on international projects will equally affect all participants of cooperation. "We can handle the situation on our own and we will win eventually," Medvedev assured the MPs. "In our hands, there is a necessary set of tools that allows us to develop steadily, even in harsh conditions," said Medvedev.
Commenting on the results of the work of the government, Dmitry Medvedev drew attention to positive indicators of economic growth, industrial production, lower inflation and unemployment. He pointed out the success of population policies, stressing out that "for the first time in 20 years, the birth rate in the country has grown by 20,500." He also pointed out the modernization of health care and regional systems of education, raising wages for the public sector and the pension reform.
The Prime Minister paid attention to the success of the Olympics in Sochi, as well as plans for the development of culture.
Responding to questions from MPs about Ukraine's debt for gas, the Prime Minister accused the neighboring country of systematic theft of natural gas. According to Medvedev, Russia in the near future will activate the system of advance payments for gas. "That is, the amount of gas that we will be supplying will be equal to how much Ukraine pays us for gas. In other words, it's gas vs. money," said the prime minister.
According to Medvedev, it "will be a tough, although an absolutely fair decision." "Therefore, our task is to diversify the routes of Russian gas supplies and force others to pay their bills," he added.
"The gas market is arranged in such a way that one delivers the contracted gas based on the take-or-pay principle, where long-term contracts are the main basic foundation for our gas cooperation with Europe. For us, they are valuable because they formulate supply conditions for a long period," said Medvedev, stressing out the profitability factor of such contracts.
The Prime Minister noted that Russia has always had gas problems with Ukraine. "These problems did not arise today, and, unfortunately, almost any Ukrainian leadership, no matter who the president or the prime minister was, continued the same line to misuse the Russian gas. Very often, this is, in fact, straightforward banal theft. They still continue the line not to pay for gas. This line continues today," Medvedev stated.
"The names of Ukrainian leaders have been changing rapidly, but the policy remains the same: "We wait, then pay, negotiate with them, get the Europeans involved, the Americans have come out with the so-called new gas. All this is pure bluff," said the head of the Cabinet, noting that the debt of 2 billion 200 million dollars remains, and the volume of non-payments grows.
As for restrictions on the export of Russian goods, Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia would be defending its rights, in particular, through courts and the World Trade Organization.
"For 17 years, we were actually kept in the hallway, where we argued that we deserved the right to enter the world trading community, that we meet its standards. Now we have a full right to demand other WTO member countries should observe the regulations with respect to Russian goods," said the head of the Russian government. Medvedev was talking about the negotiations about Russia's entry into the WTO that lasted for nearly 20 years and completed in late 2011.
"There is no need to be shy here. If it is reasonable and legal, we can show our teeth. "We will appeal to courts, including the authority to resolve disputes in the WTO," said Medvedev.
In early April, Kiev announced the withdrawal of a number of Russian products from sale. The black list included confectionery, cheese and fish products made in Russia. In response, Russia banned imports of dairy products of six Ukrainian companies. Afterwards, the geography of bans was expanded. On April 7, specialists of the Russian Federal Service on Surveillance for Consumer Rights announced that there was lead found in a batch of chicken sausages imported from the U.S. Russia also banned the deliveries of frozen beef from Australia, as well as finished meat products from Poland and Lithuania.
Proceeding to internal problems of the country, Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia needed a modern state machine. He offered the MPs to consider a possibility to cut the number of officials by ten percent.
He recalled that some time ago he already made a decision to reduce the number of officials by 20 percent. When serving as president, in 2010, he ordered to reduce the staff of federal, regional and municipal agencies.
The prime minister also spoke about another intense internal Russian problem - the migration policy. Medvedev said that Russia needed a diverse qualitative composition on foreign labor.
The prime minister acknowledged that migration issues often raises anxiety and even condemnation with Russian citizens. According to Medvedev, Russia needs not only highly qualified specialists. "We need innovators, but let's be honest - we need janitors too. No one wants to work as janitors here, like in any other country. The welfare level rose, and no one wants to engage into unskilled labor," he said. At the same time, all foreign workers must be adapted to the Russian society, they should speak Russian and not endorse their habits on locals, Medvedev said.
As for the development of the Crimea, it should in no way be conducted at the expense of other regions, Medvedev stated.
"Of course, the Crimea and Sevastopol mean great joy and new opportunities for the development of our country. But we must not allow a situation where the development of the Crimea will be conducted at the expense of the development of other regions. This would be the worst way to discredit the great decisions that were taken this year," said Medvedev.