St. Petersburg, June 20:
Western sanctions have not crippled the Russian economy, President Vladimir Putin said in a speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“I would like to point out that at the end of last year we were warned — and you know this well — that there would be a deep crisis. It has not happened,” he said on Friday.
“We have stabilised the situation, put out the negative vibrations of the environment and are confidently passing through the period of difficulties,” Putin said.
Addressing business executives and friendly foreign leaders such as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he said that the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over the situation in Ukraine have not succeeded in isolating Russia.
“I would like to show appreciation for all our partners who, despite the well-known political problems, continue working in Russia, investing their capital, contributing technologies, creating firms and jobs,” he said at Russia’s major international business forum.
The sanctions have not been all bad, Putin said, as they have forced Russia to make much-needed structural reforms and pursue a policy of import substitution.
Conversely, Russia’s retaliatory restrictions on imports of food from the European Union have cost EU farmers up to 100 million Euros ($113 million) in lost sales, the president said.
Russian-EU trade has fallen by around 25 percent, while the value of EU exports to Russia has plunged by half, Putin said.
In a discussion with the audience that followed the speech, the Russian leader addressed the tensions between Moscow and Washington.
Responding to a question, he said that the threat of a new Cold War lies more in actions such as Washington’s unilateral decision to renounce the ABM Treaty — Anti-Ballistic Missile — which was signed with the former Soviet Union in 1972.
The agreement was aimed at limiting the number and capabilities of both countries’ ABM sites.
“This is a step that pushes all of us toward a new arms race,” Putin said, complaining that the US tries to impose its standards and decisions on Russia without regard to Russian interests.
“Don’t seek to reshape the world but proceed from something that already exists, treat each other with respect and look for common solutions to common problems,” he said.
“We will not be talked to in the language of ultimatums.” (IANS)