The Prime Minister answered questions from television host Maria Bondareva.
Dmitry Medvedev: We have recently launched an import substitution programme for several reasons, primarily domestic ones. I would like to point out that we did not do this because of the sanctions. We did this for other reasons, although the sanctions were an additional incentive. We did this so as to create healthy production facilities in the industry, transport and agriculture, as well as to develop the digital economy and critically important sectors such as energy and the pharmaceutical industry. We launched import substitution in all of these industries so as to boost our capabilities. All Government departments are involved in this work. We have reported the first achievements; we have moved forward considerably in a number of spheres.
For example, our pharmaceutical industry is growing by 25 percent a year. This is completely unprecedented. What did we do in the past? We used foreign currency to buy pills abroad. Today we are investing in research, production, packaging and marketing. And the same is happening in an increasing number of industries.
I recently had a meeting with the Transneft CEO. He told me that 93 percent of the equipment they buy, including the most sophisticated equipment – control systems, pumps, engines, turbines and pipes – are made in Russia. The situation is the same at Rosneft and Gazprom. All major Russian companies, which are straining under foreign pressure designed to drive us into a corner, are working to convert to Russian technologies and Russian suppliers. I am sure that they can do this.
Only recently, 50 to 60 percent, sometimes up to 80 percent of food on our tables was foreign. Now we have the Food Security Doctrine. We have reached and even exceeded its targets in the most important areas. This concerns such essential products for the country as grain and, specifically, wheat. This concerns sugar, a whole range of feed supplements, and poultry. Not so long ago, we imported chickens and other livestock from abroad. Now everything is domestic. Our goal is to fully resolve the food problem regarding all animal products, meat, milk and butter. Once we succeed we can become absolutely self-sufficient food-wise, and even start realising our massive export potential. Even now, we are the largest net exporter of grain and pulse crops. Last year, we produced an unprecedented harvest of 135 million tonnes, even slightly higher. This allows us to supply crops to the largest countries’ markets.
Maria Bondareva: What about the so-called finance import substitution? It looks like the circle is closing in.
Dmitry Medvedev: As much as it is closing in, they will not be able to box us in completely so that we cannot get out. This has never happened in Russian history.
To a large extent, we are meeting our financial demands using our domestic opportunities, by looking for new financial markets. Of course, an entire range of projects has been at risk since the financial sanctions were introduced. We managed to find other financial resources and mobilise our internal capacities. But, frankly speaking, I wish none of that had happened because it is damaging to both Russian and foreign businesses. Sanctions always hit both sides.
Maria Bondareva: Speaking about the so-called Kremlin Report, which is more of an intimidating list than it is sanctions…
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, but who is the target of this intimidation attempt? I remember the Soviet period, when sanctions were adopted against the Soviet Union a dozen times. But none of them changed the Soviet Government’s positions one iota.
As for the so-called Kremlin Report, I believe that this is primarily an internal American matter. It concerns the struggle of the US establishment with President Trump, the settling of accounts between Democrats and Republicans and differences among the Republican part of the US elite. A considerable part of the US establishment is using the issue of Russia to deal with their internal problems. It is true that being on all manner of lists is a matter of concern for business. This is exactly what those who are trying to pressure Russia want. Moreover, this is not only, and not so much a problem for Russian business as for European business. These lists are compiled to show that a certain company is a kind of outcast and should be dealt with more carefully. Why are they doing this? The reasons are purely pragmatic: they want to bolster their companies’ positions in the European market (it is a fact that relations between Europe and the United States are not at their best now), to elbow our companies out and to sever economic ties that have developed between the EU and Russia, between EU and Russian companies over decades. They also want to promote their own projects. There are many examples of this, but I will cite the most glaring of them. The Americans adopt bills directed against our Nord Stream project for mundane reasons: they want to sell their LNG in Europe and to sideline us.
Maria Bondareva: Do you think there will be a new wave of sanctions?
Dmitry Medvedev: We are ready for any turn. The Russian economy has proved in the past two years that it can deal with very serious challenges, including restrictions on deliveries and in the financial sector. The publication of any new lists or decisions will not change the situation in principle. This does not mean that we are not monitoring the situation. We are making the necessary preparations. For example, we have created a special bank, which will also serve the defence industry. We have done this so that we will not be caught off-guard. Overall, I do not see any major threats to our economy, let alone our citizens.
Maria Bondareva: Do you think personally that the point of no return has been reached in Russia-West relations?
Dmitry Medvedev: There are no points of no return. There are no red lines. There is only history, which sets the record straight. There have been many different things in the history of Russia’s relations with the West, including the US and European countries. But common sense ultimately prevailed. Relations stabilised, foolish decisions were cancelled and business resumed. I am sure that this is what will happen this time too. However, it is true that we have lost much time in our relations. Business has lost money and jobs, and nobody has benefitted from this.