President Putin Interview with New York Times (Excerpts)

October 4, 2003

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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Question: Could we talk about Iran for a minute?

Do you believe Iran when it says that it has no programs for developing nuclear weapons?

President Putin: You know, I think that in the interstate relations, the more so on problems and questions of this level, we must not be guided by the considerations of: trust me-trust me not. We have no grounds to doubt what the Iranian leadership tells us. But we proceed from the assumption that if, as the Iranian leadership says, they have no plans to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, then we don't see grounds to deny to the IAEA access to all the programs of Iran in the nuclear sphere.

We have our own interests in Iran. Iran is our neighbor, we have traditions of goodneighborly relations with that country spanning many centuries. But in terms of nonproliferation problems, we have full understanding with the United States on that. And I even dare to assert that on this question as also on the question of struggle with terror, we in our view may be not only partners but also allies in the full sense of the word. We only wish to see some uniform rules, uniform and universal for all.

We constantly hear that in the United States they are introducing some sanctions in regard to particular Russian enterprises suspected of some impermissible economic links with Iran. But we have information to the effect that European and American firms are cooperating in no less sensitive areas and maybe even in more sensitive and more dangerous areas with Iran. Somehow I have not heard even once about the imposition of some sanctions against them. Why? We are prepared and we wish to fight with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We advocate strict observance of all nonproliferation regimes, the strengthening of these regimes, elaboration of uniform standards and uniform rules of conduct in this sphere.

Question: When you say that you have full understanding with the USA in this field, does this understanding include the decision taken by Russia to build and complete the nuclear reactor in Bushehr?

President Putin: We must understand what spheres of cooperation in the nuclear field are dangerous and what in that cooperation can lead to the creation of atomic weapons. We are not only listening but we are hearing our partners, including American and we regard some things as just. For instance, their professional remark to the effect that spent fuel may be enriched and then used as components of nuclear weapons. And our specialists also believe so and they confirm this. That is why we have raised with our Iranian colleagues the issue that spent nuclear Russian fuel must be returned to Russia and we are working to introduce appropriate changes into our agreements.

Like our US colleagues and partners, we also believe that Iran has no grounds not to put all its nuclear programs under the IAEA control. And our positions here fully coincide with the American. But this does not mean that we will, without having agreed on the principles of interaction in this field, curtail all our programs.

Question: In this context, considering that you are raising the question of returning spent fuel and putting the nuclear programs under the IAEA control, does the United States agree that you will complete your project in Bushehr?

President Putin: We do not think that we are obligated to ask its permission if we believe that we have the right to act the way we see fit, without violating the commitments assumed in the sphere of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

We undertook certain commitments in the course of negotiating processes on problems of nonproliferation and we abide by them. But we are opposed to the use of these "bogies" in the competitive struggle.

Question: I understand that this question that concerns the completion of the Bushehr project is fully on the agenda between you and Iran. But we would simply be interested whether Bush still objects to this or he has dropped his objections? Maybe it would be more accurate to ask whether you have been able to calm him down in this respect?

President Putin: I think that about the position of the President of the United States it is better to ask the President himself. But he is concerned with this situation. We understand what specifically worries him and we are proposing to draft uniform rules of work in this sphere, and I have already mentioned that. We have nothing against working closer together. They tell us that our companies are working, violating something, and sanctions are applied against them. And at the same time we know from reliable sources that the American and West European companies are operating in even more sensitive spheres, also nuclear, and nothing, all is allowed to them. Why? We cannot agree with all the claims addressed to us because we do not see objectivity in the approaches.

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