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Russian Prime Minister: We Are 'Approaching a Second Cold War'

7:08 AM, May 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Dmitry Medvedev: If the Ukrainian market is stable and if Ukrainians fulfil all of their obligations, Europe will receive what it is entitled to in full. But we can't ignore the fact that Ukraine stands between Europe, the European Union, and Russia. Our task now is to calm the situation around Ukraine. This task includes agreeing on gas supplies to Ukraine. If we succeed, everything will be fine. I would like to note, though, that North Stream is a guarantee that - for Europe - everything will remain as before. If we are able to commission the South Stream in the next few years, then strictly speaking we won't need to ship gas through Ukraine, although we realise that Ukraine needs that. But if we get that done, the Europeans will have guaranteed access to gas at all times regardless of who's in power in Kiev.


On the effect of sanctions the Russian economy:


Dmitry Medvedev: You know, to put it simply, no one is happy about sanctions, since they are always a sign of tense relations. We don't support the sanctions. Moreover, you've probably noticed that we have not commented on them a great deal or responded to them harshly, although we probably could cause some unpleasantness for the countries that are imposing these sanctions. But it's bad for international economic relations, for our relations with Europe and the United States.


Let's be honest, these sanctions are a sharp knife for European business, and American business doesn't need them either. The only ones who want sanctions are politicians, who use them to reinforce their convictions and to demonstrate their power. For example, our American colleagues and President Obama need to show the Congress that America doesn't fear the Russians, that if anything happens they can hurt us. They need to show that the US President can take tough decisions, or rather that he is doing everything the Senate accuses him of not doing. This is what the Americans are doing. The situation is somewhat different for Europe.


On how he feels Obama has dealt with the situation:


Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I believe that President Obama could be more tactful politically when discussing these issues. Some decisions taken by the US Administration are disappointing. We have indeed done a lot for Russian-US relations. I believe doing so was right. The agreements that we reached with America were useful. And I'm very sorry that everything that has been achieved is now being eliminated by these decisions. Basically, we are slowly but surely approaching a second cold war that nobody needs. Why am I saying this? Because a competent politician knows how to make reserved, careful, subtle, wise and intelligent decisions, which, I believe, Mr Obama succeeded at for a while. But what is being done now, unfortunately, proves that the US Administration has run out of these resources. And the United States is one of the parties to suffer from this.


On MasterCard, Visa and SWIFT suspending some of their services in Russia:


Dmitry Medvedev: This is a question I would like to speculate over for a little longer, if you don't mind. In fact, a great number of our people are used to using foreign payment systems, mainly Visa and MasterCard, but also American Express. Other electronic payment systems are also widely used.


Now let me speculate over what happened. I will not be focusing on the sanctions and political decisions, which are considered an act of Parliament or an act of God in Anglo-Saxon law. Let's look at this issue from another perspective. I am an ordinary holder of an international bank card - to be more precise, a Russian card issued by a foreign payment system. By the way, there are around 200 million cards of this type in this country - more than the population count. I would like to stress that I do not have a relationship with a foreign state. I have a relationship with the bank that issued my card. And it never occurred to me that my payments depend on the political stance of a foreign state. Therefore, I would like to note that in the context of our law - and, I'm sure, also US and EU law - what Visa and MasterCard did was a direct violation of their contract with Russian clients - not a bank, but concrete individuals who trusted these payment systems. If I were a lawyer, which I'm unfortunately not at the moment, I would have gladly spent my time and effort to take these payment systems to court.


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