By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
During the last meeting of the Russian President with participants at the 19th Valdai Conference, we asked on behalf of the DDP what he would like to say to the simple, average western citizen. Here is his answer and the dialogue which followed with the coordinator of this event:
Our message to the ordinary citizens of Western countries – both the United States and Europe – I would like to voice the main idea – campaign for higher salaries and wages – this is the first point. Second, don’t believe that Russia is your enemy or even opponent. Russia is your friend and for decades, we have been doing everything in our power to strengthen our relations and we intend to do so in the future.
In this context, I remember a joke that I recently told my colleagues. An acquaintance of mine from Germany told me this joke a short while ago. Here’s a family, and a son asks his father: “Dad, why is it so cold here?” The father replies: “Because Russia attacked Ukraine.” The child asks: “What do we have to do with it?” Father: “We imposed sanctions on the Russians.” The son: “What for?” The father: “To make them feel bad.” The son: “Are we Russians then?”
I would like to say that all problems – and I am addressing in this case the people in the European countries and in the United States – that all problems that arise in this context are not linked with Russia’s actions. They are rooted in the systemic mistakes of your political leaders, the political leadership of your countries – in the energy and food sectors and in monetary policy that led to an unprecedented growth of inflation and a shortage of energy resources. Russia has nothing to do with all this. This is a result of systemic mistakes by the leaders of your countries. It is necessary to conduct a realistic analysis of what is happening and seek changes in economic policy.
As for international politics, it is always, of course, a decision of sovereign states but it should certainly be based on the opinion of voters, ordinary people in different countries. But ordinary people should know – and I will end with what I began – Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States.
And we know that we in Russia have very many friends there. We will build relations with the so-called collective West, relying on this part of the population in the European countries and the United States.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, and does your call to fight for higher wages also apply to Russian citizens?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it does.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Excellent. Everyone has heard it.
Vladimir Putin: I must say this is one of the key issues the Government must deal with, and trade unions are doing it regardless of anything, regardless of any special operations.
A tough dialogue is underway in the trilateral commission between representatives of employers, trade unions and the Government. This dialogue is ongoing.
We see that our citizens’ nominal incomes are growing yet real incomes have somewhat decreased. Taking into consideration the condition of the Russian economy, we can and must resolve these issues. I hope we will be able to solve all the issues in this sense and in this key in accordance with the plans of the Russian Government.