“Lithuanian courier”: Dear Mr. Ambassador, our interview comes on the eve of Day of Russia. As you know, many in the West, including in Lithuania, foretold the imminent collapse of the Russian economy as a result of the sanctions imposed. How now feels Russia?
Alexander Udaltsov: the rumors of the death of the Russian economy have been greatly exaggerated. Russia withstood the test of strength and dignity out of a short stagnation. Now the situation in our economy is already much better than in the previous three years — it is fully adapted to the new reality and entered the growth phase. The Russian Ministry for economic development, the increase of GDP at the end of this year may reach 2%. In the first quarter of 2017, the inflow of foreign direct investment reached 7 billion USD, and this will notice the best indicator for the last three years.
Moreover, it is important that along with the growth of industrial production and agriculture in 2017 began to grow and consumer demand. The level of unemployment in Russia is now only 5.5%, and by the end of the year could fall to a record low below 5%. The current level of inflation in our country today is again a record of less than 4%, in annual terms — the lowest figure in the history of modern Russia.
A few days ago was held the XXI St. Petersburg international economic forum, the interest of which constantly grows in the world: it is attended by over 14 thousand people. During the forum was signed nearly 400 agreements for a total amount of 2 trillion rubles, which is approximately 32 billion U.S. dollars. I note that the biggest the forum the delegation of the USA — 560 people, representing 140 companies.
All of this suggests a growing interest in cooperation with Russia, recognizing its real possibilities.
Notice that the forum was sent an official invitation to the Lithuanian Ministers of economy and Finance, which unlike the UN Secretary-General, several heads of States and governments, foreign Ministers, industry leaders and bankers are unable to find the time to attend this important event.
— Move on to the Lithuanian-Russian relations. What way have they changed recently? How would you rate their current level?
Unfortunately, no positive changes in relations between our countries for several years is not observed. Some hope for their withdrawal from the stagnation that was associated with the election of new members of Parliament’s approval of the new government of the Republic of Latvia, unfortunately, also did not materialize. On the contrary, we regret to record even the growth of anti-Russian degree in politics of Lithuania. The efforts of the official Vilnius actually interrupted all contacts at the international level, our cooperation is stymied. Recall that recently the Russian foreign Ministry through its official representative described the course of the Lithuanian authorities in relation to our country as hostile.
Here’s a picture of just the last few weeks — there were just two (!) “gathering” non-system Russian opposition, but rather mismatched opponents of the Kremlin with the participation of Khodorkovsky, Kasparov, Kasyanov, Kara-Murza and others, the international conference devoted to the situation of the Crimean Tatars, three years after the “occupation” of the Crimea, where the soloist was the Chairman of the banned in Russia “Majlis” R. Chubarov, the construction of a fence on the border with the Kaliningrad oblast, a final decision about the closure of yet another Russian school in the capital of Lithuania. Not to mention the depth of Russophobia, as well as the next annual report of the Lithuanian intelligence estimates of threats to national security, larded as usual, spy and other horror stories trying to blame our diplomats in the conduct of intelligence activities.
As a diplomat with 44 years of experience I can say directly — any active diplomat, including Lithuania, can be considered a spy. For example, he comes out of the gate of the Embassy, looking, work the factories, transportation, what happens on the streets, talking to people and reporting their observations to his capital. Well, what is not a spy?
Watching the actions of the Lithuanian authorities come to the conclusion that they are settled in the Russian Wonderland, and more recently was considered by the West specialists in our country. It seems that if in the framework of the EU competition was held at the anti-Russia, official Vilnius could successfully compete for the prize.
Over the last three years the trade turnover between our countries has decreased in 4 times. However, in the first quarter of this year there has been some positive development — after a long three-year slump, the volume of Russian-Lithuanian trade turnover rose by 12.6%, however, this occurred mainly due to substantial increase in supplies to Lithuania Russian energy, so unloved by the leadership of this Baltic country.
2012 is not going bilateral intergovernmental Commission that could routinely solve a number of practical issues that, incidentally, happens to many other European countries. I note, incidentally, that her co-chair on the Lithuanian side is the Minister of foreign Affairs. Not working and the Council on long-term cooperation between regional and local authorities of the Kaliningrad region and the Republic of Lithuania, which the Lithuanian side, by the way, is headed by the Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs.
It is significant that in neighboring Latvia Minister of foreign Affairs as co-chair of the intergovernmental Commission was recently replaced by the Minister of transport, and it immediately went — were functional working groups in Pskov recently held a meeting of the inter-regional group, and this fall it is planned to hold meeting of intergovernmental Commission, which should come after a three year break.
As a result, “the punishment of Moscow” Lithuania in the end punishes itself — losing the unique Russian market, stimulates the reorientation of the transit of traffic from our country, creates a contrived difficulties with the supply of the country, etc.
Slips and expansion of the bilateral legal framework. The Lithuanian side actually stalled the approval of a number of important documents. In particular, we are talking about the intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in combating crime, especially its organized forms, on interregional and border cooperation, on the direct railway communication, and many others. Communicated to the finals even those contracts, interest conclusion which showed primarily Lithuania itself. In particular, since April last year (!) the foreign Ministry of the Republic of Lithuania is coordinated by the Russian side the draft intergovernmental agreement on the settlement of some border issues in the Curonian lagoon and the Neman river on the question of the navigation of vessels of third countries.
We can argue — successfully completed the process of demarcation of the Russian-Lithuanian state border. This is true, but this process took more than 11 years. To suspend this work was pointless: Lithuania’s border with Russia is the external border of the EU and NATO.
However, I will repeat again — we are open for wide and comprehensive cooperation in all fields and areas. I would like to see the same spirit and have our Lithuanian partners.
— As you know, Lithuania is positioning itself as the main defender of the policy of Kiev. Are there, in your opinion, the prospects of lifting sanctions on Russia, which Western politicians linked to the fulfillment by the Russian party of the Minsk agreement?
— The bundle is absolutely incorrect. We have repeatedly drawn attention to the futility of linking the lifting of EU sanctions against our country with full implementation of the Moscow Minsk agreements. The reason for the failure of these agreements — their open sabotage by the Ukrainian authorities. It regularly organizes armed provocations on the contact line. This is done in order that under the pretext of crisis to continue not to perform their part of the political agreement on the Minsk agreements. Numerous facts in this respect are constantly fixed in his weekly reports by observers from the Special monitoring mission of the OSCE.
However, the alternative to the Minsk agreements. According to them, Kiev has to provide Separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts special status and enshrine it in the Constitution, to declare Amnesty, to remove the crossing regime at the line of contact, to lift the blockade of Donbass, to conduct a social and economic rehabilitation of the region to intensify efforts for the release and exchange of hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of the principle “all for all”.
As for the Western sanctions, we assume that they always can not continue, and if they do, then we will have to appropriately restrict access to our market of those goods which we can produce ourselves.
On the issue of sanctions draws attention to one interesting detail, namely the approach of Lithuania. It seems that the official Vilnius like to position themselves as almost the engine for the sanctions policy of the West. Everywhere the leadership of this country trumpeting the need to not only continue the restrictive measures, but even tightening them. One gets the impression that the lifting of sanctions could become a national catastrophe for the Republic of Lithuania.
Let’s face it, we have used these sanctions to ensure that our retaliatory steps not only we do not hurt, but rather helped. What, in fact, happening.
For example, in recent years significant progress has been made in the field of agriculture. Recently published data according to which the share of imported food products in Russian stores reached a record low — now it is only 23% of the total number of goods. In some branches of the food industry, the share of products of domestic production reached almost perfect performance. So, almost completely we were able to substitute the imported bread, dairy products, sugar, cereals, various meats, fish, eggs, pasta.
As the saying goes, a blessing in disguise.
— What would you say to the Lithuanian opponents of the construction of the Belarusian NPP?
— I would like to note that the Belarusian nuclear power plant will undoubtedly be built and will start to work in deadlines.
The project, which she constructed one of the most modern in the world, meets the most stringent international norms and IAEA recommendations, which was confirmed as the results of the validation missions of the Agency and EU representatives who visited the station.
The first in the Republic of Belarus nuclear power plant is equipped with double protective shell and the melt trap that is guaranteed to eliminate the ingress of radioactivity into the environment. Applied to the project solutions meet post-Fukushima requirements, plant reliability, its resistance to external influences and internal failures.
Let me also remind you that on this project we build a few nuclear power stations in the country, as well as in Hungary and Finland. And by latest no complaints in our address. Cooperation in this matter is held in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. In addition, the Russian Federation has operated VVER-1200 “generation 3+” to sixth power unit of Novovoronezh NPP.
Notice that the experts of the IAEA at the end of the mission worked in Belarus in January 2017, said that all possible threats in the design of the station was taken into account. Before entering the station planned mission of the Agency. The Belarusian side is currently preparing a national report on the stress tests, which will be presented in 2017.
So I can assure you that Lithuanians have nothing to worry about, and the excitement which is raised around the construction of the Belarusian NPP, is purely political in nature.
However, it’s not even hiding the President of Lithuania, which openly called station of the geopolitical project of Russia.
A few days ago organized a trip for foreign ambassadors accredited in Belarus and Lithuania, on the specified nuclear power station, where we were in the most detailed way acquainted with the construction process and all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plant. Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia in Minsk among the participants, I note, was not. Lithuania defiantly on the same day near the border with Belarus, was organized for the heads of foreign diplomatic missions your event and the mouth of the speaker Pranckietis tried to convince them of the necessity to suspend the construction and to join the boycott generated by it is energy.
Would like, to no one in Lithuania was left with no doubt — the question of suspension of the NPP construction is not. This, by the way, in fact, confirmed and recently visited Vilnius, the European Commission Vice President maroš Šefčovič.
And another story from the energy sector. Lithuania vs and the project “Northern stream — 2”. It is also geopolitics?
— “Nord stream-2” is not directed against any States and is of a purely commercial nature. Moreover, we are ready in one way or another to continue the relationship with all our partners, including with Ukraine as transit countries.
With the increase in gas consumption and falling production in Europe, “Nord stream — 2” is a completely natural and highly marketable project. Moreover, the current pipeline “Nord stream” connecting Russia and Germany, in fact, fully loaded — comes to 150 million cubic meters of gas per day.
The project meets the highest environmental requirements and we expect that the Lithuanian experts will give their realistic assessment of the impact on the environment, prepared in accordance with the Espoo Convention, and will not hinder its further development.
— Move on to the Kaliningrad region. In Lithuania constantly talking about the aggressive militarization.
— If this refers to the location of mobile missile complexes “Iskander” in the Kaliningrad region, the Russian side has never concealed this fact. Units of missile troops repeatedly thrown and will be thrown under the plan of combat training of the Armed forces of Russia, including Kaliningrad oblast. This happens on Russian territory, does not contradict any international agreements or arrangements.
There are other steps in this area. So, in the coming months will significantly increase the intensity of the outputs of warships of the Baltic fleet.
But the main question is what dictated our actions. And the answer is obvious — an unprecedented buildup of military presence of NATO near the borders, as they say here, “aggressive Russia”. It first drew the “zone” to our country, forcing us to take retaliatory steps. Once again — Russia’s actions for strengthening the defense are balanced response to the expansion of NATO, the development of military infrastructure in the border with Russia States, accommodation in tents for their troops.
Notice another important point. Part of the mythology of NATO about the threat from Russia is hypocritical thesis of some weakness of the Alliance, but the numbers speak for themselves. Total military spending is only for European countries — members of NATO are more than 250 billion euros, which is more than even the total military budget of Russia and China.
However, we believe it is important to emphasize that we remain mindset to search for ways to normalize Russia-NATO relations, despite the unwillingness of NATO to seek a way out of this is the fault of NATO difficult situation.
— In continuation of the military theme in September this year, the planned joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises “West-2017”. Vilnius does not hide its concerns about their conduct. How she, in your opinion, justified?
— As you know, joint exercises of armed forces of Russia and Belarus “West-2017” held alternately in the territories of the States every two years. This year they have to go in September on the grounds of the national armed forces of the Republic of Belarus. The event of operational and combat training involves no more than 13 thousand soldiers of the two States. Thus from Russia it is planned to use up to 3 thousand soldiers and officers and about 280 pieces of equipment.
Exercises will be conducted in strict compliance with the Vienna document 2011, calling for greater openness and predictability of military activities of States parties of the OSCE.
“West-2017” is not a threat to the sovereignty of third countries and hysteria pumped around maneuvers are an attempt to gain political dividends and to justify a charge the country has a military psychosis. The coming maneuvers are purely defensive in nature and primarily settle the tasks of strategic deterrence.
I would like to turn to note that NATO only during the first half of 2017 spent in this part of Europe 12 (!) exercises of different level. It is noteworthy that every year, their intensity and the number of participants is constantly increase.
Here are a few recent examples.
So, 8-25 may this year on the territory of Estonia held the greatest scientists of the national armed forces with the involvement of units from 14 NATO countries and partner States “Spring storm -2017”, which involved about 9 thousand soldiers. The event was held in the vicinity of the border with Russia. Used combat aircraft of the armed forces of Poland, Spain and the USA, the heavy military equipment of the land forces of USA, UK and France.
From 5 to 24 June in the waters and airspace of the Baltic sea are NATO exercise “Baltops-2017”. Are involved more than 40 vehicles, 50 aircraft and helicopters and up to 4 thousand soldiers. In addition, from 28 may to 24 June on the territories of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia held the doctrine of NATO countries and partners “sabre strike — 2017”, which is attended by 11 thousand troops from 18 countries.
Of course, we cannot and we will not silently watch, such a calling, and a dangerous show of force on our borders.
— As you know, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have continued to claim for years of occurrence of the Baltic States into the USSR. Are there any prospects of this business?
In my opinion, it is rather the political question of the Baltic countries themselves. I can assure Lithuanian colleagues: none of the Russian officials on this senseless and futile venture will not be discussed, especially in the context of “occupation.”
Let me remind you that by the time of the entry of the Soviet Union Lithuania was an agrarian country in which 74% of the population was engaged in agriculture. For industrial production, it is 3 times lagged behind srednekamennogo level and was one of the last places in Europe for quality of life.
However, this small socio-economic potential of the country was almost completely destroyed during the great Patriotic war. When part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania had the opportunity to develop their national economies on a large scale, than allow the volume of the produced national income. This contributed not only to rapid restoration of the destroyed during the war, but the creation of industrial production again.
For 1940-1990 in the development of the economy of Lithuania was approximately 65 billion US dollars of capital investments. As a result, there was established the chemical and petrochemical industries, built the largest enterprises — majenski refinery, chemical plant Kadinsky, Jonovski mineral fertilizer plant, Ignalina nuclear power plant.
Thus, it is clear that a possible formulation of the question of the Lithuanian party on compensation by Russia as a successor of the Soviet Union, the damage allegedly caused to the Republic of Lithuania in the years of its entry into the USSR unlawful and even absurd. On the contrary, Russia as the largest Republic within the former Soviet Union, making a major contribution to the overall budget, have the right to put the Republic of Lithuania, the question about the payment to us of funds raised, by the way, at the expense of other Union republics and redistributed in favor of Lithuania, as well as due to the supply of Russian energy resources, mineral raw materials at prices significantly below world prices, worth more than 72 billion US dollars.
— How would you rate the situation of the Russian minority in Lithuania?
Nothing positive in the position of the Russian minority in Lithuania in the last years is not observed, rather, is its further deterioration.
The Lithuanian authorities are conducting a targeted offensive against the Russian-speaking education. In may this year in Vilnius is closed another school with instruction in Russian “Sanamente”. 212 children are forced to find a new place to continue his studies. Last year the same fate befell the school “Centro”. And all the years of independent Lithuania was closed more than 50 Russian schools.
The Russian side is very concerned about this planned offensive official Vilnius on the right of national minorities to education in their native language. Constantly appeal to the relevant international organisations and will actively continue to do so that they pay close attention to the unfavorable situation in the sphere of Russian education, which developed in Lithuania.
As we are concerned with the reduction of the information space in the Russian language. Under false pretenses regularly stops rebroadcasting our channels. Just ended the validity of another ban, this time in respect of the channel “TV the Center”. Moreover, the Lithuanian Seimas “marked” the first day of this summer with the adoption of another law which provides that program in the official languages of the EU shall be not less than 90% relayed and disseminated in each offer customers a package of TV programs. This decision, obviously, fits into the General trend to “clip” the Russian media.
By the way, international organisations have repeatedly drawn the attention of the official Vilnius on the discrepancy of such “prohibitive” line the right to free access to information.
— I would like to end our interviews on a positive note. Still, are there any moments in the development of Lithuanian-Russian relations, which give hope for optimism?
— Of course, such moments are there and among them I would first of all related contacts between people. Suffice it to say that in the past year by as much as 25% (!) increased the volume of issued proposalsto and Consulate in Klaipeda visas to citizens of Lithuania for a visit to Russia. Note the continued high demand on the part of Lithuanians to travel to our country for tourism purposes. We are talking first of all about Moscow and St. Petersburg, but cognitive interest of Lithuanians in these two cities, of course, is not limited.
In turn, Russian tourists prefer to travel to Vilnius during the “long” weekend, for example, may or new year holidays. On average, tourists stay for two or three nights. It is noteworthy that, despite the repeal of Lithuania train in Russia, by the way, is completely incomprehensible for us in 2016 still increased slightly (0.7%) the number who visited this Baltic country Russian tourists.
Actively developing cultural ties. In Lithuania regularly and at constant sold out touring Russian pop singers, bands, theatre troupes. In turn, Moscow has for many years successfully employed an outstanding Lithuanian theatre Directors R. Tuminas and M. Karbauskis, who heads two leading Moscow theatre named after Vakhtangov and Mayakovsky.
The main thing — people on both sides of the border are configured for mutual communication and cooperation, not enmity, on which they set up by local authorities.
And the last one. Politicians come and go, but a wise, experienced, pragmatic Lithuanians, I am sure, are tired of the implanted in the country of psychosis and will understand, how them to cohabit with those or other countries and peoples as to benefit from its geographical position. And the Russians always with an open heart and soul will respond to this urge.