Putin Talks Syria, WWIII and U.S. Sanctions in Annual Phone-in

The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual phone-in on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a live nationwide broadcast call-in in Moscow, Russia June 7, 2018
Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual phone-in on Thursday:

Russia: 'We're moving in the right direction' - Putin at 'Direct Line' Q&A

ON THE PROSPECT OF A THIRD WORLD WAR

"The understanding that a third world war could be the end of civilisation should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilisation."

"The threat of mutual destruction has always restrained participants of the international arena, prevented leading military powers from making hasty moves, and compelled participants to respect each other. U.S. withdrawal from treaties on anti-ballistic missiles is an attempt to put an end to strategic parity, but we will respond to this."

"We believe that the unilateral introduction of all kinds of sanctions does not resolve problems, it only worsens them."

ON SYRIA

"Firstly, the use of our armed forces in the battlefield is a unique experience, a unique tool by which to improve our armed forces. No amount of military exercise could compare with the use of force in combat conditions."

"Yes, we know that the use of force in battlefield conditions is also associated with loss of life But this was an important, a noble mission, aimed at protecting the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens."

"Let me remind you that thousands of militants left Russia and the countries of Central Asia – with whom we do not have hard borders – and gathered on Syrian soil. It was better to deal with them there, to get to work there, so to speak, and liquidate them there, than let them come back here, weapons in hand."

"Major military operations, particularly involving Russian armed forces, have ended. There isn't even a need for them anymore."

"Our soldiers are there (in Syria) in order to secure Russia's interests in this critically important part of the world, which is so near to us. And they will stay there, for as long as it is in Russia's interest for them to do so."

"As yet we do not plan to withdraw these forces. But I direct your attention to the fact that I did not call these bases by any other name – I called them bases. We are not building long-term military structures there and if we need to, we could withdraw our military personnel very quickly, without incurring any financial losses."

ON BALTIC STATES

"When it comes to the position of our compatriots in the countries of the Baltic, we are constantly talking about this, bringing it to the attention of the governments of the Baltic states, including Latvia The measures that we take to protect the interests of our compatriots must be such that they do not actually worsen their situation."

ON OTHER STATES' APPROACH TO U.S. SANCTIONS

"This is an important part of the negotiation process with the leaders of France, Germany, also with our Austrian friends, where I was visiting just now, and with the representatives of many other European countries, let alone Asia. They don't just say this privately now, they are talking about this publicly."

"It appears, our partners thought that this would never affect them, this counterproductive politics of restrictions and sanctions. But now we are seeing that this is happening." 

ON THE ECONOMY

"Overall, we are moving in the right direction. What is the basis for saying this? We have started on the trajectory towards robust economic growth in Russia. Yes, this growth is humble, small, but it is also not a fall. Growth was at 1.5 percent last year."

"Not everyone feels this personally but overall, this is an objective statistic. That's how it is, it is the truth. Export in technical equipment is growing, which shows that some structural changes are going on in the economy. Export of agricultural produce, at 20 billion last year, was higher than defence exports, which were at 15 billion."

On GLOBAL SECURITY

Putin speaking about global security says third world war will be end of civilization, that should restrain us from dangerous steps. Also, says, "pressure on Russia from West will end when west understands it is counter-productive." 

Putin added the U.S. withdrawal from arms controls treaties threatens that parity.

ON TAXES

"Based on our preliminary calculations, we may in the next six years spend 17 billion roubles, but to achieve the goals that we have discussed, we will need an additional 8 trillion roubles. And it is clear where we are going to find them."

"Firstly, it is through the growth of the economy itself, that's the main source of additional resources. It is also the more effective use of existing resources, adjustment in some senses of our macro-economic plans and of course adjustments to our tax policy."

"Stability of tax policy must be absolutely guaranteed for the next six years."

"Many suggest changing the personal income tax. We thought about this for a long time. At first glance, progressive personal income tax seems and looks to be fairer But reality is more complicated than theories and formulas."

"We had such a tax – a tax on revenue. This is a serious strain on the economy overall and in the end on citizens, because it inevitably leads to a rise in inflation. All this convinced us that introducing this was also not expedient."

ON THE NEW GOVERNMENT

"The thing is, the development plan which we have been discussing in recent years, it was being prepared by the previous government during at least the past one and a half years. I know full well that if we were to replace the entire government 100 percent, and bring in totally new people we would have lost at least two years, and we do not have those two years."

"But it was also necessary to keep those, who made the decisions for our country's progress. And to personalize responsibility for what has been done so far and for what is coming up soon."

"I think that we have an optimal make up of government for today."

ON GASOLINE PRICES

"What is going on right now, it is unacceptable, it is wrong. However, it must be admitted that it is the result of inaccurate regulation, that was brought in recently in the sphere of energy, in energy resources."

"By the autumn of this year, additional measures should be introduced which will stabilize the situation on the market. I am basing this on the fact that the government will be monitoring this carefully."

RUSSIAN ENERGY MINISTER NOVAK

"Agreements have been reached at the government level with all companies to increase the production of oil products and on deliveries to the domestic market to not permit a deficit."

"Additionally, we have worked out a series of measures aimed at stabilization. I am referring to the possibility of introducing export tariffs by the Russian government on deliveries of oil products for export. A law has been prepared on this and we will be ready to present it to parliament in the near future, and will ask parliament to support it."

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER KOZAK

"We are introducing the possibility for government to raise export tariffs on motor fuel and to make it equal to tariffs on oil exports. We really hope we will now have to put it to use."

Putin response: "I will support this."

ON THE SOCCER WORLD CUP

"With regards to the infrastructure, these 11 stadiums. Of course, we spent a lot of money on this and it is imperative that all of this infrastructure, I completely agree, it must work and above all work towards the development of sport on a large scale, including children's sport."

"I would like right now to address my colleagues in the regions, to ask them to not allow, under any circumstances, for flea markets and the like to appear at these stadiums, as appeared in other sport-related buildings in Moscow during the middle of the 1990s."

"I think our Russian Football Union must play an active part in this and develop a new generation of sportsmen and soccer players."

"Even though our national team has not demonstrated strong results recently, but the number of fans of this beautiful sport here is massive, it's in the millions. We will rely on the fact that our soccer team will score a big win, so to speak, and will show its best qualities."