Putin’s Austria Visit Established One Thing: Peace in Europe is Only Possible if Russia is Included
The main international news of the day is Vladimir Putin's working visit to Austria. This is the Russian president's first foreign visit since he began his new term. Even during the Cold War, Austria has always had a special relationship with our country. Vienna remains loyal to this tradition to this day. As Putin stated, «Austria is Russia's trusted partner in Europe.» Today, this partnership is the topic for negotiations between our leader and the chancellor, Austria's president, and its business leaders.
Our correspondent, Pavel Zarubin reports from Vienna with the results of the meetings.
The Russian flag is waving in the heart of Vienna on the ancient residence building and the Austrian side has prepared a rather large cloth. A long red carpet has been rolled out for Putin on the square in front of the Hofburg residence. This is the Russian president's first foreign visit to a EU country after his re-election. A motorcycle cortège, an honor guard, and a military band. The Austrian president's office staff climbed up onto the windowsills to watch the arrival of the Russian president.
Putin's ambitious mission in Austria is planned to the minute. A series of negotiations have been scheduled first with the president, then the federal chancellor, and another with business leaders. The tone of these high-level negotiations is, quite notably, extremely positive. Austrian journalists tried to make the presidents revisit the Western media's favorite topic, stating that Russian-EU relations could be better if it weren't for Moscow's policies.
— We're under the impression that Russia has issues with credibility.
Vladimir Putin: «I'm going to disappoint you, but I disagree. I don't believe we have any credibility issues. This is the problem of those who want to make the situation with Russia appear this way. We're open and ready for cooperation. We had a dialogue with Europe about the economy, concerning twenty different industries. Now it's practically over, and not by our doing, we didn't initiate the end of this interaction. However, we're open and ready for further cooperation».
Austria is ready for that, too. Today, Russia's Gazprom and Austria's OMV have signed a gas supply agreement, valid until 2040. Currently, the anniversary of the first gas contracts is celebrated. This is a big anniversary for Russian-European relations. For exactly 50 years, Russian gas has been supplied to Austria's Baumgarten and six other countries. For all of these years, a constant, reliable supply has been maintained despite any and all political and economic turmoils. 45 billion cubic meters of gas are pumped through this hub to Europe annually. And the specialists who work here know why the continent needs Russia's Nord Stream 2.
Harald Stindl, CEO of Gas Connect Austria: «Russia has always been reliable, has always abided by the terms of the agreements. ''Nord Stream-2 is important for all of Europe. Our demand keeps growing, but the energy production is decreasing. Thus, this is a great, sensible project».
Europe calls this project beneficial and sensible, but the US is openly calling for its abortion. However, according to the Austrian president's statement, Vienna understands everything.
Alexander Van der Bellen, President of Austria: «Some American politicians accuse the EU of relying on Russian gas too much. However, they fail to mention that American LNG is 2-3 times more expensive than Russian gas. Thus, such a switch-over makes little sense. This is why the cooperation between Gazprom and OMV has stable foundation».
The USA's disapproval and anti-European sanctions which Washington is introducing, cause irritation. Austria's high-ranking leaders are calling for the immediate end of anti-Russian sanctions. Russia doesn't raise the issue of sanctions itself, as has been mentioned many times before. This was indirectly confirmed by Austria's foreign minister in her interview to Vesti.
Karin Kneissl, Foreign Minister of Austria: «We didn't discuss this topic. This decision is made by the countries' leaders. We didn't discuss this issue during the negotiations».
Austrian journalists raised the topic of the sanctions at the press conference.
Vladimir Putin: «Sanctions, any politically motivated constraints, and protectionism are all in the same category. All of these methods to resolve political issues are ultimately unable to achieve the desired result. I want to assure you, that Russia has overcome all difficulties caused by outside constraints. We've reached stable economic growth. It's modest but stable. Thus, when I talk about the initiators and the recipients of these actions that we call 'sanctions,' they harm everybody, so I believe it's in everyone's best interest to end them. Us included».
Russian people have come out in full force to greet the Russian president at the palace.
— Russia – our sacred state!
— Thank you for Crimea, Putin!
«Thank you for Crimea, Vladimir Vladimirovich. In two weeks, I'll be flying to Sevastopol again, it's my hometown, I was born in Crimea. However, I fled from Ukrainian Crimea 23 years ago».
According to Russian residents of Vienna, Europe's attitude towards Russia is changing. At the press conference, the Austrian president said he grew up in a Russian-speaking family.
Alexander Van der Bellen: «I'm always confused when people say 'Russian and Europe' because Russia definitely belongs to Europe, it's a part of it. We all know that we need Russia to have peace in Europe».
- Considering the current international situation, do you think there's any potential for an increase in further economic relations? If so, in which industries should we expect it?
Alexander Van der Bellen: «Of course, there's still great potential. Russia is an enormous market with over 140 million people. Personally, I'm under the impression although trade declined, it's now increasing again».
Vladimir Putin: «Over 500 Austrian businesses operate on the Russian market. 146 million people live in Russia, 170 million if you account for the Eurasian Economic Union. Which includes Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia. This is a truly vast market, which is rapidly growing».
Austria's Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is a consistent advocate for the normalization of relations between Russia and the EU. Burning international issues were discussed with him.
Vladimir Putin: «We note Austria's willingness to join humanitarian efforts to support the people of Syria. I've said this many times before, and I'd like to use this opportunity to repeat myself. If Europe wants to decrease the flow of migrants to Europe from this region, including Syria and neighboring countries, they need to help people return to their homes, help them reestablish their lives in their own countries».
Sebastian Kurz, the Chancellor of Austria: «As a superpower, Russia is of great importance in Syria and in Eastern Ukraine. Russia has great responsibilities, and we hope that your country will do its part to ensure that people live in peace».
A few minutes ago, Putin and Kurz talked to a young pianist. For the Russian president's visit, she composed a musical creation that combines 'Moscow Nights' and 'Viennese Waltz.'
Pavel Zarubin, Aleksandr Medvedev, Aleksandr Korostelev, Andrey Putra, and Aleksandra Terpugova. Vesti, Austria.