Putin Warns of 'Growing' Threat of Nuclear War That Will End Civilization

The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks through binoculars on a visit to a training ground, Eastern Siberia, Russia, September 13, 2018.
Alexei Nikolsky,AP

The following are highlights from Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference on Thursday.

ON THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR

"If, God forbid, something like that were to happen, it would lead to the end of all civilisation and maybe also the planet... These are serious questions and it's a real shame that there's a tendency to underestimate them."

"There are currently certain specifics, there is a danger... We are essentially witnessing the breakdown of the international order of arms control."

ON WESTERN SANCTIONS

"Russia throughout almost all of its history has been under some sort of sanctions... This is to do with the growth of Russia's power and its ability to compete. A new player has appeared which must be taken into consideration."

"Our economy has adapted to these external constraints... And look, there's also some advantages to this sanctions story. In what sense? It has forced us to switch on our brains in relation to many things."

ON BRITISH-RUSSIA TIES

"It is in the interests of both countries, both governments to get out of this deadlock."

"Are we interested in restoring full relations with Britain? Yes, we are interested... And we know that British (companies) work pretty actively here."

"In terms of Brexit, if it is carried through to the end, I understand the prime minister's (Theresa May's) position... There was a referendum after all. What can she do? She must enact the will of the people, expressed during the referendum."

ON MARIA BUTINA AND SKRIPAL POISONING CASES

On Butina: "I don't understand what she is supposed to confess to. She did not carry out any orders from Russian security services. Clearly she and her lawyers are fighting to get her out of jail. I don't understand why she was jailed, there are no grounds for it."

On Skripals: "It's good that he wasn't killed... Thank God, Skripal is alive."

"It's simply an excuse to organise yet another attack on Russia. If there were no Skripals, they would have come up with something else, that's clear to me. There's only one goal: to constrain Russia's growth as a possible competitor. I can see no other goals."

ON RUSSIAN CAPTURE OF UKRAINIAN SAILORS

"Provocations are always bad. A provocation aims to escalate the situation. Why do our Ukrainian partners need this development? They need to escalate the situation around the elections, to raise the rating of one candidate for the post. Did the provocation achieve its aims? In terms of raising ratings, maybe."

"An investigation is ongoing. After the proceedings it will become clear what will happen to (the sailors)."

ON GROWTH AND THE ECONOMY

"Inflation remains at levels that we welcome... We will go outside the Central Bank's 4 percent reference point somewhat."

"We can't create GDP growth for the breakthrough we need without changing the structure of our economy. That's what our national goals are geared towards... to giving the economic structure an innovative character."

"From 2021, the government is planning for 3 percent growth, even more perhaps."

ON VAT, INFLATION

"I expect that this (the increase in prices) will be a one-off... Recently, they (the central bank) decided to increase the (key) rate by 0.25 percentage points. There are pluses and minuses but this is done also to avoid an increase in inflation and prices. So in general I think that the decision (to raise VAT) was right, balanced, plus this gives additional budget revenues and possibilities to fulfil our development plans which are parts of our national goals."

ON KURILS TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH JAPAN

"The U.S. base on Okinawa has been there for decades now... We don't understand the level of sovereignty Japan has when such decisions are made.

"What will happen after a peace agreement is signed, we don't know. But without an answer to this question, it will be very difficult for us to take any major decisions."

"I am convinced - and Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe agrees - the current situation is not normal. Russia and Japan are both interested in the complete normalisation of our relations."

ON SYRIA, ISLAMIC STATE

"In terms of the victory over Islamic State, overall I agree with President Trump."

"In terms of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, I don't know what this is about. The U.S. has had a presence in Afghanistan for 17 years, lets say? And almost every year it says that it is withdrawing troops from there. But they are still present there."

"We don't see any indication of U.S. withdrawing troops as of yet but I accept that it may be happening."

ON PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS

"Everyone must remain within the bounds of the law... I repeat, they are not breaking Russian law and have the right to work and promote their business interests wherever they like in the world."

"If this Wagner Group is breaking any laws, the procurator's office must give its legal opinion."

ON SCHISM IN ORTHODOXY

"Undoubtedly it has a political rationale. Nothing good will come of it for religious freedom in general. And I'm most concerned about the division of property that will follow. It's already happening, effectively. It could... get bloody."

ON GRAIN, AGRICULTURE

"We retain and have even grown our grain export potential to 52.5 million tonnes. We will fulfil all of our responsibilities and contracts."