Vladimir Putin: “NATO is moving to Asia for permanent residence. This is definitely posing a threat to all regional countries, including the Russian Federation. We must respond and we will respond to that”

17:50 21.06.2024 •

Photo: Kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin made a state visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In conclusion of his visit, Vladimir Putin answered questions from Russian media.

Pavel Minakov: Russia and the DPRK have signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty, which envisages, among other things, cooperation in the military-technical and defence spheres. The last clause in the defence part provides for mutual assistance of the parties to this treaty in the event of an attack by a third party.

I have a question on this, but it will consist of several parts. First, in what cases is this part of the agreement to be invoked? Second, does this apply to the situation in Ukraine? Do you admit thr possibility of volunteers and soldiers from the DPRK taking part in the special military operation?

My third question is about the development of the military-technical sphere. Russia and the DPRK are the only ones who have so many sanctions imposed on them. Does Moscow intend to ignore all restrictions, including those imposed through international sanctions, and develop full cooperation with the DPRK in the military-technical sphere?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: You have a whole set of questions, so let’s break it in parts. First, under what conditions will the parts of the treaty relating to mutual assistance in the military sphere be invoked, am I right?

First, I would like to say is that for some reason analysts… well, perhaps they noticed, but I did not see and, to be honest, did not have time to look, but still let me note one thing: this treaty is nothing new. We signed this agreement because the old agreement expired, and all the clauses were the same in our previous agreement, which I think was signed in 1962. There is nothing new here.

Of course, in today’s conditions this looks especially resonate, however, we have changed almost nothing, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has similar agreements with other countries. This is my first point.

Furthermore, regarding mutual military assistance, it is written there that it will be provided in the event of an aggression, a military aggression.

As for Ukraine, the Ukrainian regime began aggression against Russia, it started aggression against the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics before they became part of the Russian Federation.

Now let us talk about how to use each other’s capabilities in this conflict. We are not asking anyone to do this, and no one has offered this to us, so there is no need for it.

What else did you ask?

Pavel Minakov: Regarding sanctions.

Vladimir Putin: As for sanctions, I have already said at a meeting with your colleagues, I believe, with heads of global news agencies. I said there that some sanctions introduced against North Korea were, to put it mildly, strange.

As you know, I was born in Leningrad. Everyone knows how Leningrad suffered during World War II. I mean the siege, when people were starved to death. As you know, my family also lost someone: my brother died from starvation during the blockade; he fell ill and died.

What is happening to North Korea now? You can think of the regime whatever you like but introducing restrictions on, say, labour migration looks somewhat odd. What will this result in? It will result in families, even those in a very difficult financial situation, not having the opportunity to earn money somewhere to feed their children. Does this remind you of anything? Is this humane?

Therefore, the sanctions that are introduced, first of all for political reasons in this case, must correspond to the current level of humanity’s development.

This is why I sincerely said in Pyongyang that we all need to think together about how and what needs to be changed in this sanction regime, and whether it generally meets the requirements of today.

Konstantin Kokoveshnikov: As a follow-up on the Ukraine topic.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, please.

Konstantin Kokoveshnikov: Good afternoon, Zvezda TV Channel, Konstantin Kokoveshnikov.

Tell us, please, how could you comment on the response of Western countries, or actually on the rejection of the conditions you proposed to peacefully put an end to conflict in Ukraine? After all, you could hardly fail to expect such a reaction.

And still, what was behind your decision to publicly announce the conditions for a peaceful end to the conflict, which were supposed to be the subject of behind-the-scenes negotiations? Or is it that your hopes for them have now finally failed to materialise?

Vladimir Putin: You know, we held such behind-the-scenes talks, and our hopes have yet to be realised.

As for the response from our so called western partners, you said I apparently wasn't expecting. No, on the contrary. I was expecting exactly this kind of reaction, at the first stage. But time will tell what will happen later.

Everything will depend on how the situation changes on the ground. I think that some level-headed politicians will think about whether my proposals are realistic enough, unbiased, and in accord with the interests of all contracting parties and all of Europe, including, if it really wants an end to the conflict in the centre of Europe. Well, we'll see. I am not sure that this attitude towards the proposals we have made will last forever. We are already hearing voices from some politicians who are saying that yes, it may be an ultimatum, yes, the demands may be excessive, but we cannot refuse them, we need to think it over and sort it out.

Isn’t what our partners presented an ultimatum? Some wordings were invented, although we have a result of our talks in Minsk and Istanbul. Why doesn’t anyone remember it? There, I have said about it a hundred times,if we agreed back then and have the signature of the head of the Ukrainian negotiating team that the agreements reached in Istanbul were, in principle, acceptable to the Ukrainian side. What has happened on the ground, on the battlefield, that allows them to advance some additional conditions that are in no way related to our agreements in Istanbul? There is nothing that could have somehow changed the position of the other side, in this case Ukraine.

This is why I don’t think that such nihilism regarding our proposals would last forever. I am sure that something will change, including our conditions that will change depending on the situation on the ground.

Pavel Zarubin: Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV channel. How long can these terms continue to apply? After all, numerous signals and statements were made at the conference in Switzerland that Russia should be present at the next conference, if it takes place. Clearly, there are a lot of nuances, but nevertheless, would Russia respond?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Yes. As I said, we were not the ones who refused to negotiate. The Ukrainian side has forbidden itself to negotiate. Not us. We are in favour of it and have never given up on it, but not on the basis of some ephemeral forms but rather on those agreements – I want to repeat this again – that were reached after almost a month and a half of difficult negotiations in Istanbul and Minsk. It is the basis on which we are ready to continue our dialogue with the Ukrainian side. It does not matter where they take place: in Minsk, Istanbul or Switzerland.

Pavel Zarubin: How long will these conditions remain in force?

Vladimir Putin: This proposals from our side are on the table. This does not depend on us when all the actors interested in negotiations will take what’s on the table and get down to negotiating. They can do it tomorrow, but it is up to them when they bother to do it. But, let me reiterate, everything will depend on the developments in real life. This is what we will proceed from. This is the principled approach we will follow.

Yekaterina Lazareva: Mr President, good afternoon. Yekaterina Lazareva, URA.RU.

I have a question on nuclear weapons. You have said recently that could be made in our nuclear doctrine. I would like to understand what circumstances make it possible. What conditions must emerge for this to happen? Do you admit that our nuclear doctrine can include a clause on the possibility of launching a preventive nuclear strike?

Vladimir Putin: You know, I think I have said that we are still thinking about what can be changed in this doctrine and how. This is because new elements are arising (at least we know that the potential adversary is working on it) related to lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons. In particular, ultra-low-power nuclear explosive devices are being developed, and we know that expert circles in the West are entertaining the idea that such weapons could be used, and there is nothing particularly terrible about it. It may not be terrible, but we must be aware of this. And we are.

This is what my statement that we are thinking about possible changes in our strategies is related to.

Yekaterina Lazareva: What about a preventive strike?

Vladimir Putin: We do not need a preventive strike yet, because the enemy will be guaranteed to be destroyed in a retaliatory strike.

Konstantin Panyushkin: Konstantin Panyushkin, Channel One Russia.

You have just said that the DPRK has not made any proposals to send soldiers and you did not make any requests to this effect. Nevertheless, as far as we understood, the treaty’s Article 4 does provide for ensuring collective security.

Vladimir Putin: In case of aggression.

Konstantin Panyushkin: Yes, in case of aggression. But in a situation when Russia is already facing…

Vladimir Putin: I have already answered this question. The Kiev regime perpetrated an act of aggression against two republics that were not recognised by us then.

Konstantin Panyushkin: But what was the decisive factor for Kim Jong-un to sign this treaty in such a challenging environment, when Russia is facing an undeclared war? And what compelled you to take this step?

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead and ask him. How would I know?

As for the gist of the matter, I have already told you that this treaty largely replicates the expired treaty. Therefore, there is nothing new about it.

Konstantin Panyushkin: But there is also the simmering Korean crisis, which also has the potential, at least hypothetically, to escalate into an all-out military confrontation. Considering these circumstances, what was the decisive factor for you to sign this treaty?

Vladimir Putin: I have said this twice already, but I can repeat it the third time. We replicated the 1960, or the 1962, treaty after it expired.

Yes, the Korean crisis is indeed simmering, but we proceed from the premise, and we do hope that our agreements with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will also serve as a deterrent to prevent this crisis from escalating into a real war.

Andrei Kolesnikov: Kommersant newspaper, Andrei Kolesnikov.

Can the use of Western long-range weapons be viewed as an act of aggression? Overall, can the shelling of Belgorod and Russian territory in general be viewed as an act of aggression?

Vladimir Putin: This matter requires further investigation, but it is close. We are looking into it. What are we dealing with in this case? Those who supply these weapons believe that they are not at war with us. As I have already said, including in Pyongyang, we reserve the right to supply our weapons to other regions of the world.

I would not rule out this possibility in terms of our agreements with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We can also adopt the same position on the question of where these weapons end up. Take the West, for example. They supply weapons to Ukraine, saying: We are not in control here, so the way Ukraine uses them is none of our business. Why cannot we adopt the same position and say that we supply something to somebody but have no control over what happens afterwards? Let them think about it.

Therefore, at this stage, our primary objective is to defend against these strikes.

Anastasia Savinykh: Mr President, TASS News Agency.

I would like to shift from the political agenda to economic matters.

How do you assess the trade and economic outlook following the talks in Hanoi, considering that the United States continues to exert dictatorial pressure on Vietnam and other regional countries?

In addition to this question, I would like to ask the following. You said today that Russia is ready to start direct long-term deliveries of hydrocarbons, including LNG, to Vietnam. What projects could Novatek undertake in this regard? Will this involve infrastructure projects or will it join production projects?

Vladimir Putin: You should ask Mr Mikhelson; he will share the details.

There are several possibilities. We could take part in the construction of relevant liquefaction facilities, or we could deliver our LNG from Russia. Both options are feasible. There are promising projects and facilities for producing liquefied natural gas here.

As for the pressure exerted by Washington and other Western countries, some countries feel its impact, while others seem unaffected. However, I want to emphasise – trust me, this is the reality – that the arrogance with which the US authorities approach this matter do not always work in their favour. In fact, it harms them in the strategic perspective, because nobody likes such arrogance, and it will not be forgiven even in the medium-term historical perspective.

We have learned how to overcome this; we really have. Look at how fast we are increasing production. Oil production has declined slightly, but it is because of our voluntary obligations within OPEC+. The goal is to maintain oil prices at a reasonable level. Overall, we are doing well. There may be some challenges, but we have found ways to deal with them.

Viktor Syneok: Viktor Syneok, Izvestia Multimedia Information Centre.

Mr President, Ukrainian diplomat Kuleba was asked in a recent interview why Ukraine was not taking any action to have a legitimate president and why it was not holding elections or following the correct procedure, although it was obvious that he [Zelensky] was illegitimate. He responded by saying that “Russia should pull out its troops and things will return to normal in Ukraine.”

What is your comment? It seems that we are more concerned about their leader’s legitimacy than they are.

And, with your permission, a second question – quickly.

Vladimir Putin: Let me first answer your first question, and then I will address the second one.

Generally, I prefer not to comment on anyone’s remarks, especially those made by second- or third-tier officials. But in this case, I cannot refrain from saying the following: If the condition for negotiations is the withdrawal of Russian forces, something that the Kiev regime is dreaming of, then, judging by all indications, this will never happen. The Kiev regime is reluctant to relinquish power or hold proper elections in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution. This means that they will delay a ceasefire indefinitely. They have a vested interest in the Russian forces remaining in those territories because they are not interested in holding elections. That is the bottom line.

What is the second question?

Viktor Syneok: I wanted to ask about your agenda in the DPRK. Did you anticipate such a large-scale and impressive reception?

Vladimir Putin: No, I did not.

Viktor Syneok: The informal part had a powerful ending, with you driving in the Aurus and saying long goodbyes at the airport…

What kind of relationship have you developed with the DPRK leader? In your opinion, what is it based on?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I did not expect that. I imagined, of course, approximately, what it would be like. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has specific protocol standards, and I am familiar with them. But I did not expect that it would be on such a grand scale. Certain things were totally unexpected – I am referring to the private programme.

What unites us? These are issues related to interstate cooperation and the development interests of the DPRK and the Russian Federation in various areas, including security and the economy.

Dmitry Laru: Dmitry Laru, Izvestia newspaper.

The Republic of Korea is already saying that the new treaty between Russia and the DPRK is a threat to their security. The media are saying that Seoul can revise its stand on lethal weapons deliveries to Kiev. Do you have any plans, and is it possible to speak with the leadership of South Korea on the phone and discuss everything in detail? What is Moscow’s current overall perception of ways to resolve the Korean issue?

Vladimir Putin: Speaking of concerns voiced by the Republic of Korea, I will proceed from what you have said. South Korea, the Republic of Korea, has nothing to worry about because assistance in the military sphere under the treaty that we have signed will only be provided in the event of an aggression against either signatory party. To the best of my knowledge, the Republic of Korea is not planning to launch an aggression against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Consequently, there is no need to fear our cooperation in this sphere.

Regarding possible deliveries of lethal weapons to the combat operations zone in Ukraine, this would be a grave mistake. I hope that it will not happen. If it happens, we will also make the necessary decisions that the leadership of South Korea will hardly welcome.

Donald Courter: Donald Courter, Russia Today.

NATO is now openly discussing the combat readiness status for nuclear warheads. How does Russia perceive this move and what impact will it have on global stability and security?

Vladimir Putin: The Russian Federation always maintains its strategic nuclear forces in a state of permanent combat readiness. This is why we are not greatly concerned about the current actions of Western countries. However, we are, of course, closely monitoring the situation, and if the threat grows, we will respond appropriately.

Alexander Yunashev: Alexander Yunashev, Life.

You have repeatedly stated that Zelensky is illegitimate, and that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is the only legitimate body. Has any of the deputies attempted to send a signal or enter into talks with you? Are we negotiating with anyone behind the scenes?

And, off the record, how much sleep have you been getting lately?

Vladimir Putin: Do you mean deputies of the Verkhovna Rada?

Alexander Yunashev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: I know nothing about this. You said that I have “repeatedly stated.” I did not say anything. I simply analysed the situation, or rather, our lawyers analysed the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine. I mentioned its articles, specifically, Article 83, which explicitly states that the presidential term should not exceed five years. Articles 109, 110 and 112 state that the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada shall assume powers, including those of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, in the event of martial law. Everything is clearly stated there.

The martial law act also states that no presidential elections shall take place. But it does not say that the president’s powers shall be extended, and this means that his term has expired.

Finally, the Constitutional Court issued a decision in 2015 stating explicitly that the presidential term shall not exceed five years. So what are we talking about? The West simply does not want to replace him today because apparently, it is not the right time. I have already said this, and I believe that it should be obvious to everyone. He will be blamed for all unpopular decisions, including the reduction in the draft age, and he will be replaced later on. I believe that this will happen somewhere in the first half of 2025.

Olga Samsonova: RIA Novosti. Mr President, good afternoon.

I know you have already been asked about this during the news conference, but the West keeps ratcheting up tensions, always escalating the situation.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, that is what they do.

Olga Samsonova: What do you think they are trying to achieve? What is their goal? Is this perhaps a provocation, daring you, trying to get a reaction?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, that is what we see. As you said, they are always ratcheting up tensions and escalating the situation. Apparently, they expect us to back down at some point. But at the same time, they keep saying they want to defeat us on the battlefield by inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. What would this mean for Russia? For Russia, it would mean the loss of its statehood. It would be the end of the thousand-year history of the Russian state. I think this should be clear to everyone. And so, the question arises: why should we be afraid? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stand firm until the end? This is formal logic 101 – I think we only had one semester of formal logic at the university, but I remember it well. I even remember the professor who taught that course.

I think those who think this, and especially those who say this, are making another big mistake.

Vladimir Putin: Let’s take a couple more questions.

Go ahead, please.

Vera Desyatova: Vera Desyatova, Vesti FM radio.

According to reports from the special military operation theatre, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are preparing a new counteroffensive attempt in the Kharkov area. Is there any confirmed information, and are our troops ready to repel it?

Vladimir Putin: Our military is preparing for every possible scenario.

As for the Kharkov theatre, I have already said this, it is no secret. Six months ago, I made it clear that if they continued to target Russian communities in the border region, we would have to create a security area, a sanitary zone, on Ukrainian territory. They continued the shelling, and we did what we said we would.

Yes, we know that the Americans and Europeans are mainly behind this. They are pushing the Ukrainians to drive our units to the state border at any cost – again, I want to emphasise this, to do whatever it takes – and they plan to present this as a major success in 2024 ahead of the planned NATO summit and later the elections in the United States.

We will see what actually happens. But this whatever it takes part – I assure you that this is how it is, I know what I am talking about – of course, if it is not based on reality, it will again take a toll on the Ukrainian armed forces. We will see.

In any case, as we understand – I did say that we had no intention to advance to Kharkov and so on, but it is still a tactical theatre, and the enemy will try to present it as a strategic success – if they succeed. Let’s see what they will actually do. But this has already entailed heavy losses. I think that, most likely, the situation will develop in the same vein.

It is very difficult to make any forecasts, because it is hostilities we are talking about, a highly volatile situation – people are being shot at, sustaining losses, you see? Therefore, it is difficult to say anything now, but my assessment is as I said.

Yes, please.

Gleb Ivanov: Gleb Ivanov, Argumenty i Fakty.

Yesterday, after talks with the DPRK leader, you said that the UN Security Council sanctions against the DPRK should be revised.

Vladimir Putin: I have just repeated this.

Gleb Ivanov: Yes, you have.

The question is: how can this be done, given that the main initiator of these sanctions is strongly against this? Can a reform of the UN Security Council be an option, as some of our BRICS friends have suggested?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Speaking about the reform of the UN and its Security Council, this problem goes far beyond the issues you have raised here.

The Security Council is the key body of the UN established after the Second World War based on its results. Of course, the global situation is changing, which calls for reforming that international institution as well. But this reform must be based on a broad consensus, as our Foreign Ministry has recently started saying. If the reform is based on a behind-the-scenes decision taken by a group of countries or one country, it will not benefit the international community, which will lose access to this mechanism of settling disputes. However hard this may be and however large the side effects, the Security Council is functioning, one way or another. This is why we stand for its reform but only on the basis of a broad consensus, as I have said.

As for revising sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I have expressed my view. I understand that this will be next to impossible to do by ordinary means in the current situation, yet we must keep working on it. We must also show that certain instruments, like in the case of labour migration, which were proposed and coordinated under US guidance some time ago, of course, are losing the effect, the essence and the humanitarian purpose for the sake of which they were introduced in the first place. Therefore, we intend to launch and carry on this work. As we say, little strokes fell great oaks. We will see what comes of it.

Let us have the last question, and this will be all.

Alexei Konopko: Good evening. Alexei Konopko from the Rossiya TV channel.

After your talks in the DPRK yesterday, the American media wrote that the US intelligence services were shocked by the speed of Moscow’s rapprochement with Pyongyang, Beijing and Tehran. Comrade Kim Jong-un also noted that the treaty was signed only several months after the idea was aired.

Can you explain this speed? Has Russia become a more attractive partner, or have third countries revised their attitude to international realities and diplomacy?

Vladimir Putin: I have no answer. It is difficult to comment on this because I do not know what the US intelligence community thinks about the current developments. It is one of the best intelligence services in the world. I think that they have all the necessary information, and we can hardly expect such a reaction from them, especially since we are openly speaking about this [rapprochement]. You do not need to work with electronic intelligence or agents on the ground to see where we are headed and how far we have progressed. We did this openly, and all the relevant elements were openly discussed.

Of course, some articles were discussed behind closed doors, but overall, they could read the treaty we signed in the 1960s, which we have reproduced almost in full. So, it is strange that this should cause surprise or that the US intelligence community was not prepared for this.

We certainly acted energetically, but in the obtaining global situation we need to strengthen the legal framework of relations with our partners, especially in the spheres we regard as important, including in light of the developments in Asia. We do see what is going on in Asia, don’t we? A bloc system is being created there. NATO is moving to Asia for permanent residence. This is definitely posing a threat to all regional countries, including the Russian Federation. We must respond and we will respond to that.

Thank you very much, all the best, and good-bye.


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