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Meeting of CIS Heads of State Council

October 11, 2019, Ashgabat

The President of Russia took part in a regular meeting of the CIS Heads of State Council.

The meeting participants summarised this year’s results of interaction within the CIS in trade, the economy and the social sphere, as well as in foreign policy and security.

Following the meeting, a series of multilateral documents was signed, including the following resolutions:

On the Declaration on Strategic Economic Cooperation of CIS Member States; On the Address of CIS Heads of State to the Peoples of the Commonwealth and the Global Community on the 75th Anniversary of Victory of the Soviet People in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War; and On the Cooperation Programme of the CIS Member States in Countering Terrorism and Other Violent Manifestations of Extremism for 2020–2022.

Taking part in the meeting were President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of Moldova Igor Dodon, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, as well as Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States Sergei Lebedev.

* * *

Speech at a restricted format meeting of the CIS Heads of State Council

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President Berdimuhamedov, friends,

Just like all our partners, Russia assigns high priority to the development of mutually beneficial cooperation with its CIS partners. This cooperation helps us to strengthen regional stability and is stimulating economic growth and good standards of living for our people.

Last year, the aggregate foreign trade of the CIS member states increased by over 17 percent to over $1 trillion. This shows that our cooperation within the framework of the CIS is not hindering but promoting our relations with other countries.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Our aggregate trade? Trade of all our countries?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, our aggregate trade with our foreign partners was $1 trillion. It is a good indicator. Trade between the member states amounted to $190 billion. I draw a simple conclusion from this: our cooperation is helping us; it is not restricting but is helping to develop our relations with non-members.

These are good indicators, but we must certainly keep moving forward. We must continue to lift various barriers to trade and promote industrial and technological cooperation between us. We never stop talking about this, and we also debate and discuss this issue within the EAEU.

I this context, we support the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan, which currently holds the CIS Presidency, and today we will sign a Declaration of Strategic Economic Cooperation. We are moving in the right direction.

This comprehensive document sets out measures for encouraging ties between our enterprises and cooperation between entire industries. As our colleagues have said today, this also concerns cooperation in high-tech sectors, the development of transport infrastructure, telecommunication networks, innovative development and power generation. I believe that all of this is very important.

Yet another crucial aspect in my opinion is settlements in national currencies. What I have in view are problems that the world at large is facing today. We see this, the results of this: trade wars, various restrictions, and so on. We must certainly protect ourselves against currency risks. We should promote cooperation in the currency sphere and coordinate currency policies. If we come close to this at some point in the future, we will be able to consider the formation of a common financial market. I am confident that this will certainly help boost our common competitiveness.

We think it important not to slacken the efforts to preserve a unified cultural, scientific and educational space and to promote humanitarian contacts. Today, I had a meeting with Mr Berdimuhamedov and we talked about the fact that our cooperation in this area – the area of education and cultural exchanges – is continuing. As I see it, it is important to promote it on both a bilateral and a multilateral basis.

A number of major multilateral humanitarian projects have been completed jointly this year. Let me mention the highly successful Forum of creative and academic community representatives, a regular meeting of the CIS Healthcare Cooperation Council, and a wide spectrum of events held as part of the Cultural Capitals programme.

You must have noticed that they are trying to pinch me from time to time for what I said about liberalism. I do not have anything against liberalism. But we have traditions of our own and centuries-old cultural forms of interaction. Why shouldn’t we cherish this or promote and support this? There is no reason why we should not do this whatsoever.

We also support the dynamic activities of the CIS Network University.

I believe it is necessary to enhance and develop coordination among the CIS members in foreign policy. We have already heard a brief report today but I will take the liberty to say a few words because it directly affects Russia.

As you know, our American partners have now withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This seriously aggravates the situation in international security. That is an obvious fact. Back in 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Although that time, the situation was less complicated as they did not concoct anything or point fingers or invent reasons to blame Russia. They simply withdrew and that was it. Now they decided to be more ingenious. They made up an excuse. Although it has to do with their Asia policy rather than with Russia.

We can see what is actually happening right now around these intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. We have been constantly accused of violating something. Three months after the withdrawal, they tested an intermediate-range missile. What does it imply? It implies that they built it a long time ago. Because nobody can make a product like this in three months. It is impossible to do it in three months. It takes years. Therefore, they had been working on it. Then they withdrew from the treaty and, three months later, they tested it.

Of course, this is bad news. The Pentagon’s official representatives have already announced that the missile will be deployed in Asia. They made a public announcement. They are currently in talks with Japan and South Korea.

It is obvious who the number one target is in this case. We are not happy about it because it also concerns us. Of course, it depends on where exactly the missiles will be based but they can reach Russian territory. Therefore, these developments are not beneficial but, on the contrary, detrimental to international security.

There is still uncertainty around the fate of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, also known as the New START Treaty, which expires in February 2021. To this day, the US Administration has not decided what it intends to do about this. As far as we understand and sense, this is a subject of debate inside the Administration. Some say that the treaty should be extended while others believe that the United States must not get tied down by these restrictions. This also creates some uncertainty and stimulates an unfolding arms race, which is very bad.

You know, this has already been said, Mr Lukashenko mentioned this, I sent an appeal to the heads of many states. We declared that if we build them (and we will, now that the Americans have them), we are not going to deploy intermediate-range missiles in those regions where there are no similar US-produced missiles deployed.

Strange as it may seem, there has been no response, nothing. I think the United States is not replying on purpose and without it, its allies cannot give any response because their sovereignty is seriously limited in this respect, in this area. They simply do not have a say in this or an opinion of their own on the matter. They may have an opinion but will not express it. All this causes us great concern.

With that in mind, we welcome the proposal made by Belarus at the 74th United Nations General Assembly. The President of Belarus already said that Belarus proposed drafting a multilateral declaration on non-deployment of ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe. This proposal is fully in line with the initiatives of the Russian Federation.

With regard to NATO exercises, we need to think about our response. Recently we held drills as well – although not in the vicinity of NATO’s borders. We make sure that we hold drills deep inside the country. More than 100,000, or, to be precise, 128,000 troops were involved. Therefore, we do not welcome any attempts to build up tension near our borders. We believe it is detrimental but we will react calmly. We should further discuss our line of action.

We are grateful to our CIS partners for their support of the joint statement of CIS member states, initiated by Russia, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. We are witnessing a very dangerous trend. The US side has certain capabilities, I mean spacecraft and shuttles, which provide opportunities and advantages, including those in the military sphere, if space is militarised.

However, first of all, all this will be cancelled out and Russia will soon acquire the same competences. The fact that some weapons systems are placed in near space will have a highly negative impact on global security, even more so than the medium-range missiles deployed in Europe.

It may happen that each country will have weapons systems above them. The flying time to targets is 5, 7 or 8 minutes. And such systems are difficult to operate in space; there could be malfunctions, anything. Therefore, we are not happy about such a careless approach, to say the least.

We also consider efforts to counter the terrorism threat to be a priority area in the interaction between CIS countries. Following our meeting, we will approve a cooperation programme on counteracting terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism for the next three years. We consider it very important and it should give an impetus to our joint efforts in this area.

After their defeat in Syria, many militants are relocating to other regions, where they will want to get a foothold: to the Balkans, Southeast Asia, and, unfortunately for us, to the southern regions of the Commonwealth.

Here is what I would like to inform you about, colleagues. We see what is happening in the north of Syria due to the Turkish military operation. I will not comment on it, for we will have another opportunity to discuss this matter, but there are certain things that cannot be omitted. That is, there are areas in northern Syria where ISIS militants are concentrated. Until recently, they were guarded by the Kurdish military. The Turkish army entered these areas and the Kurds left. In fact, these are the camps where ISIS militants are detained. They can simply scatter now. I am not sure that the Turkish army can – and how fast – gain control over these areas.

According to the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, there are hundreds of militants there, and thousands of them, if we consider the CIS countries. This is a real threat to all of us. How and where will they head? Through Turkey’s territory? Through other territories? Will they withdraw to the Syrian hinterland, where there are areas that no one controls, and thence work their way to certain locations, through Iraq, through other countries in the region? We just have to understand this; we must know this and mobilise our secret service resources to cut short this emerging new threat.

This is why I think that the Commonwealth specialised agencies, specifically the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, should play an important role in carrying out this work. The Centre must coordinate operations by the national security agencies and secret services in a more dynamic way and cut short, among other things, the propaganda of terrorist ideology as well as any material, technical or financial support for the militants. Considering what I have just said, they should, of course, work in a specific and professional way to remove these threats.

Our countries are successfully cooperating to counteract crime in Eurasia and are jointly fighting trafficking in drugs, weapons and people. The CIS law enforcement agencies have created a vast legal infrastructure regulating their interaction. At this meeting, we will have to adopt yet another useful document, the Convention on Transferring Enforcement of Sentences not Involving the Deprivation of Liberty.

We believe that, generally, our Commonwealth is in demand, it works. Of course, there are issues that require additional attention.

Mr Lukashenko has mentioned our colleagues in Ukraine. Any efforts aimed at achieving peace, including in southeast Ukraine, should certainly be supported. And we, without any doubt, will do so. I think that we should support not specific politicians but policies aimed at achieving peace. However, to a considerable extent, this will depend on the people who have come to power and on their ability to implement their own wishes and the promises they have made to the Ukrainian people.

What do we see now? We have agreed on the disengagement of forces. But the incumbent president is still unable to ensure disengagement of combat units and equipment. He cannot. Nationalist armed groups have arrived there and said, “If the army leaves its positions, we will take them.” The army is not leaving. Representatives of the breakaway republics – the DPR and the LPR – have signaled two or three times that they are ready and they fired signal flares, a white flare (a white flare is a withdrawal signal). They fire them, but there is nothing on the other side, no response. And we know why: the nationalists have come there and prevent the army from leaving. They say, “If the army leaves, we will fill in for them.” So, the army is not leaving. Political will must be displayed here. This is why, I believe, we should support policies rather than certain people who are implementing these policies.

Now a few words about a very important cultural issue: the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Colleagues, friends, as you know, we have invited everyone to take part in the May 9 celebrations in Moscow to mark this significant event. I completely agree with you that this was a victory of the Soviet people, and all of us had a great deal to do with it; all of us are heirs of this victory. We cannot but be proud of our fathers, our grandfathers, because this would mean betraying their memory. This memory gives us inner strength, so it would be a mistake and a betrayal of our fathers not to talk about it or not to mark the victory as our own.

As you remember, at the previous meeting in Dushanbe, Russia’s initiative to establish a common Commonwealth medal to commemorate the 75th anniversary received your support. The Moscow Mint has set up production, and in April, the Russian Foreign Minister sent the first samples to his colleagues in the CIS. Over 300,000 medals have been minted in total, which will be sent to the member states in line with the requests we received to decorate veterans. We hope our CIS partners will support us in this noble affair.

And, of course, it is important that today we approve the appeal to the Commonwealth nations and the global community on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Let me stress that when paying tribute to the veterans and home front workers who defended the liberty and independence of our countries, we should all aim to preserve the historical truth about the events of those years and prevent attempts to revise the results of the war and justify Nazism and its acolytes in any form.

Friends, the agenda of today’s meeting also includes the appointment of the CIS executive secretary. We are grateful to all our partners who are present here today for their support for Russia’s proposal to extend the term of office of the current Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, Sergei Lebedev, for another three years. I am sure that Mr Lebedev can do even more to improve the efficiency of the Commonwealth and to expand cooperation between our countries.

As far as I am concerned, Mr Lebedev has managed to establish constructive, business-like, kind, good personal relations with each of you. He is a very experienced man and has worked here quite effectively, so I hope that you will support his candidacy and he will be able to work further.

In conclusion, I would like to thank our host for his serious attitude to his role as CIS Chairman and for what he has done to organise our meeting today.

As our colleagues said earlier, the next Chair will be Uzbekistan. (Addressing President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev) We, of course, will do everything we can to support you and we wish you success.

And more in conclusion, we have agreed with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union to hold a traditional informal meeting in St Petersburg on December 20. We invite all CIS leaders to join us, so that we can discuss current matters, exchange opinions on what to do in the coming year and make sure we are on the same page regarding relevant international issues in a friendly, informal atmosphere in advance of the New Year.

We should also consult with our EAEU colleagues. Maybe we could meet in this composition and invite the others as guests. Maybe we could meet like this, discuss current matters and then go to dinner in an informal environment. We will discuss how to organise this meeting so as not to overburden it with issues of protocol.

Thank you.

October 11, 2019, Ashgabat