Our party's programme states that our ideal is a united Russia, a strong and prosperous country. The party is guided by a genuine desire to do good to as many people in Russia as possible. This same aspiration guides the President. Russia's unity is the main political condition for achieving our goals, and this is where we started our work. The experience of the previous years shows that Russia's unity will be stronger if the country has a strong President relying on a parliamentary majority, on mass political forces and the broad support of society.
President Putin is not a member of United Russia, so it is not quite correct to say that United Russia is the party of President Putin. However, during last year's election campaign, the President unambiguously showed his support for United Russia. Incidentally, the head of state is not necessarily a leader of the ruling party in other countries. In Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and other countries, the heads of state are monarchs who do not belong to any party. In Germany, Italy and Austria, the presidents do not belong to any party either and represent the state as such. In France, the president is generally not a party but a "coalition" member.
Moreover, in the countries where the president is elected by direct vote, his party membership becomes less important, just as the programme, which is often similar to many other candidates when it comes to the crunch, and is eclipsed by his personality, and people's recognition and support. In this respect, United Russia is certainly President Putin's party. United Russia actively supports the President in his reforms, the new government formation and the de-bureaucratisation of the authorities.
The first results have been positive. I can see this in how the government's interaction with the State Duma is organised. For the first time in the ten years of new Russia's statehood, the government has become the main initiator of legislation. The draft laws are designed to reform our socio-economic sphere and seek to form a competitive economy in Russia and improve citizens' prosperity. Naturally, we observe legal formalities in our co-operation with the government, but I do not sense any bureaucracy replacing the substance with style.
More comprehensive conclusions about the government reform will be possible in a few months when Russia's annual macroeconomic indices are made public.
They have so far been very good: economic growth, for one, stands at no less than 7%.
Real progress has been made on the Chechen problem. There are two main aspects here. The first one is socio-economic restoration, the creation of decent living conditions for the local population and Chechnya's integration into Russia's economic and legal field. This process is picking up pace every year, and military methods are naturally unworkable.
The second aspect is combating terrorism, trying to take advantage of the Chechen problem. In this respect, military methods are inevitable. The main principle is to make military operations in Chechnya purely targeted at terrorists without affecting the interests of peaceful civilians.
These two aspects are becoming more distinct with time. The first aspect is becoming more important, whereas the second is moving to the background due to the neutralisation of terrorists. As you know, there is no military action in Chechnya today, and no full-scale military operations are conducted. Therefore, further work to solve the Chechen problem will require economic measures, above all.
Las year, when the Chechen Constitution was adopted at the referendum, the solution to the Chechen problem was based on a strong political foundation. One can say that the core of the political settlement in Chechnya has been implemented, and it is now time to pursue economic restoration while suppressing the remaining seats of the terrorist threat.
United Russia shares PresidentPutin's position on topical international problems. At the Sea Island summit, President Putin confirmed Russia's firm position on the basic principles of international relations. Armed intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state, without the sanction of the UN Security Council, is unacceptable.
After the events in Iraq, it is important to return the situation into the framework of international law as soon as possible. Undoubtedly, any US efforts in this area will always be backed by Russia. Incidentally, this was confirmed at Vladimir Putin's meeting with George Bush in Sea Island when the results of the UN Security Council vote on the Iraqi resolution were announced.
In broad historical terms, I would not deny the Middle East the right to democracy. The problem is that the way to this democracy can be difficult and long. I have nothing against the democratic ideals behind the Greater Middle East plan, but the implementation of these ideals can hit some serious obstacles that could dash all the good intentions. At any rate, it is impossible to democratise the Middle East quickly, within three or four years.
EU nations and EU bodies participate in the settlement or discussions of the Middle East crises due to their authority and influence in the world. They could hardly hide behind "European provinciality" and assume an isolationist position in these issues, even if they wanted to.
It is worth mentioning that Russia is subject to terrorist attacks not because it participates in the Middle East settlement. Terrorism seeks weak spots in modern civilisation and hits them. Chechnya was Russia's weak spot. I would not like to forecast the weak spots of Western Europe, and I hope it has none. However, I believe that no threat can be averted from an isolationist position.