QUESTION: This interview is a historic moment for Al-Jazeera. Mr President, the United States has called your decision to recognise the independence of the two republics regrettable. Britain has categorically rejected it, and NATO and the OSCE have declared that it does not conform to international law. We have heard the arguments and reasons you gave to justify this decision, but what interests us is how far you are willing to go on this issue, which it seems is now turning into a rather large-scale confrontation.
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: We do not want any confrontation. As for how far we are willing to go, what we are talking about here is a fairly standard if rare international procedure, that of recognising a new state, a new subject of international law. We have decided on this step for the reasons I spoke of earlier: to prevent killings and genocide, to give the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia the chance to realise their right to self-determination after 17 difficult years, after failed attempts to calm the situation and essentially restore Georgia’s territorial integrity. Prior to this decision we took no steps aimed at recognising these two entities as independent states. On the contrary, we tried to help glue Georgia back together. But this latest aggression and this genocide unleashed by the Saakashvili regime have put an end to these plans. We had no choice but to take this decision. As for confrontation, our goal is not to stir confrontation but to calm the situation and help these two peoples who have decided to acquire statehood. These are our objectives.
QUESTION: Mr President, you have spoken negatively about President Saakashvili on a number of occasions and called him unfit for the office of President. Is there not at least in part a desire to destabilise the Saakashvili government and achieve his resignation or a change of regime in your actions?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Our actions are based solely on sober calculation: we want to help people in misfortune today, and there is no other motive in our actions.
As for Saakashvili and his regime, it is true that we do not like him. It is clear that he did not just make a mistake but committed a crime. But this is a crime he must answer for before the Georgian people and the international community.
QUESTION: Many are saying that the situation has escalated to a point now where it has caused irreparable damage to relations between Russia and the West. Many are now talking about a possible resumption of the Cold War. Are you worried that the situation could worsen yet further and reach the point where things get out of control?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Of course we do not like this talk of a Cold War. We do not want any escalation. On the contrary, we want to calm the situation. Our actions aimed against Saakashvili’s aggression were undertaken precisely to calm the aggressor on the one hand and give life and a good and reasonable future to the peoples of these two unrecognised entities on the other hand. As for tension, it is within the power of the West, within the power of the countries who think that tension is growing, to reduce it. All they need to do is recognise the real state of affairs instead of creating hysterics out of virtual situations. They need to take pragmatic action and think about the future. I think it is in the West’s interests to build full and friendly relations with the Russian Federation.
QUESTION: In this context we can look at what steps the West might take. In December, they can decide to accept Georgia and Ukraine into the NATO cooperation plan. We can also see the signature of the agreement between the U.S. and Poland and the Czech Republic on deployment of missile defence system components in this context. Seen in this light, these steps do not look at all like a move towards de-escalation. How will you respond if NATO decides to take in Georgia?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Ultimately, this is NATO’s affair. We have tried to build a partnership with NATO. NATO has tried to re-examine this partnership of late. I said yesterday that if this is what they want, let them go ahead. We can say goodbye to each other. It will not be a tragedy. As I said, NATO has greater interest in this cooperation than the Russian Federation. If NATO does decide to open its membership plan to Georgia we will not be happy, of course, and this certainly would increase the tension.
As for Ukraine, it would be good to first of all ask the Ukrainians themselves what they want. Ukraine has not even held a referendum on the issue. On the missile defence issue, the decision to deploy a radar station and missiles on Polish and Czech territory, this is yet another step adding to the tension. We cannot see it as anything other than a step aimed against Russia, no matter what the motives advanced by the NATO member countries.
They say there are countries somewhere out there that represent a threat, but this is all a load of nonsense. These missiles are to be stationed alongside our border and they are a threat to us - that is certain.
This will of course create increased tension. We have to respond somehow to this situation, and naturally enough we have to take a military response. But I think that NATO is aware of this. This is their choice. We are not the ones deploying missiles.
QUESTION: There was a sharp drop on the stock market after your statement today. The market index in Moscow has taken a steep tumble. Are you worried about foreign investment pulling out of Russia? Russia is not seen as a reliable country for investment now. Your economy depends solely on high oil prices. Does this worry you? Don’t you think Russia needs good relations with the West?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Russia does need good relations with the West – this is without any doubt. And the West needs good relations with Russia. We live in a global economy.
Events on the markets in New York hit Tokyo the next day and then make themselves felt in Moscow too. We are all interconnected.
I hope therefore that our American partners will concentrate less on sorting out international relations and more on strengthening their own economy, because the American economy plays a key part in many economic problems, and the fact that important institutions such as Fannie May and Freddie Mac are in such a state that it’s time to declare default is a situation that would have serious consequences for America and for other markets. These are the issues that require attention, including through efforts we can make together.
As for capital flight, military campaigns always have a negative effect on the markets, but the events on our stock market are more to do with the processes underway on international financial markets. I have studied the analyses and they show that the changes and the drop in value on our stock market arise primarily from the situation on the global economic market, the state of affairs in global finances and on the global stock indexes.
Of course we will work on strengthening our own economy. We want foreign investment, and there can be no doubt about this. We cannot build a developed country on energy prices alone, but I think that all countries need to follow a responsible economic policy. I think this is a very important conclusion. We all depend on each other.