All Eyes On G20 Aftermath! Did Putin and Trump Hit It Off? Will There Be New Dialogue!?
— Good evening, Mr. Peskov. Everybody's curious about the G20.
— Good evening.
— It's a unique format giving world leaders an opportunity to talk with each other. How is the atmosphere of this meeting different from the previous ones? How has the attitude towards Putin changed, if it has at all?
Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary for the Russian President: You know that the Russian leader is always, always the center of attention. He always actively represents our country and takes an active part in discussing the G20's agenda. This time wasn't any different both at the G20-format, as we call it, and multiple bilateral meetings that happened on the margins over the past two days. The general attitude at this year's G20 is somewhat different from the Argentinian one. The situation in the world economy is rather turbulent. There's no crisis, and many countries demonstrate steady growth rates, but are these growth rates natural? Or is it the side effect of protectionist measures, which are being implemented by several countries, with the USA being the first of them? What side effects for the world economy can this have? How much does it devaluate the role of the WTO?
— Siluanov attended Putin's meeting with Trump. Does that mean they were discussing the economy as well? It would seem that after the sanctions were imposed, our relations don't imply mutual economic efforts. Many discussion subjects were announced, and the meeting lasted 80 minutes. Is 80 minutes enough for a G20 meeting? Was it longer than initially planned?
— An 80-minute conversation is considered very long at forums like this. However, the meeting with Trump was indeed longer than usual. On one hand, 80 minutes might be too much. On the other hand, it's not enough to get a grip on all of the details of the subjects on the agenda. Yes, the subjects were announced in advance. Yes, Trump expressed his regret that trade between Russia and the USA was far smaller than the trade between Russia and China. Trump said that we definitely needed to do something about that. Right at the meeting, he gave an order to his colleague, Mr. Mnuchin, to cooperate with his Russian counterpart, in this case it was Siluanov, to check what limiting factors were hampering the growth of trade between Moscow and Washington. Trump was giving other instructions during the meeting. The American president was concentrated on expressing his intention to step up the dialogue.
Speaking of Putin, he expressed his wish to follow the path of normalizing and developing our relationship long ago. But he's been also saying that it's, unfortunately, impossible if America doesn't take mutual steps. Now is the first time that we've heard the American president express mutuality. We'll see how it goes.
— Didn't anybody tell Trump that the fact that America had imposed sanctions against Russia impacted the trade between our countries? Since he was talking to Mnuchin, the latter could tell him how he'd been preparing the sanction set. Or was Trump surprised that sanctions lead to a decline in trade? That's something new.
— Not at all, the president was the one to mention the sanctions. But not in a way that you think he did. The president said that even though the level of trade is small, it had grown by several billion dollars during Trump's presidency, despite the multitude of sanctions he imposed against our country. The situation's odd, but that's the way it is.
— So Trump's going to propose a new set of sanctions hoping that it'll increases trade again? Did they discuss the necessity of having another meeting? On one hand, Trump was invited to celebrate the anniversary of the Victory in Moscow. On the other hand, Trump invited Putin to America. He didn't specify when but said that he'd like to see our president in the USA. Did they talk about such mutual visits and the summit?
— Putin indeed invited Trump to Moscow on the 75th anniversary of the Victory. But they didn't specifically discuss possible contacts in the future. However, Putin and Trump were confidently speaking about the continuation of contacts at the top level. At least, when they were saying goodbye, they said it wasn't for long.
— Does the Ukrainian factor still exist in the relationship between Trump and Putin, between Putin and Merkel, Macron, or the resigning Mrs. May? Or is this factor becoming less fraught? We remember them saying, «You won't get a meeting with Trump until you return those sailors home». The meeting was held, but the sailors are still in Russia.
— The sailor issue was mentioned at the meeting. It was mentioned in many meetings, in fact, including by the U.S. president and Macron. The Ukrainian factor still exists but it's become more constructive. Everybody says that we need to resume the top-level dialogue within the framework of the Normandy format. At the same time, everybody understands, and it was particularly stated by Chancellor Merkel, that there's no sense in meeting for the sake of a meeting. We all need to prepare first. That's why we expect the presidential aides to meet in July and discuss the prospects of acquiring the understanding of the specific terms and viability of the summit. Many leaders agree with Putin's idea that Kiev has a lot to clarify in terms of the conceptual approach in Ukraine's new government. It was also mentioned that another electoral process may become an obstacle, meaning the upcoming Rada elections. It might inhibit the shaping of the Ukrainian president's clear position on Donbass. Yes, this factor is on the agenda. Ukraine is a subject of discussion, but this discussion is constructive and businesslike.
— When reading the Western press, one often sees, «May sharply criticized Putin for poisoning British citizens on the streets of Salisbury. What will Putin tell her regarding the Skripal case?» The French papers publish the same thing. The Americans keep calling Trump names. It's no surprise Trump called them fake news. He told the Russian president that he was lucky that he doesn't have fake news in his country. But the president replied that, unfortunately, we also have them. I have no idea whom he was talking about. Still, what did Putin say to May regarding the Skripal case? The position of our president was voiced in his interview with the Financial Times. But what did he reply to Mrs. May? Was she satisfied with his reply?
— It's hard to say if she was satisfied with his reply. She definitely took a tough stance on the Skripal case. But President Putin explained everything that required an explanation rather clearly in terms of the Skripal case. We all know that the UK hasn't presented any kind of evidence on the Skripal case. It hasn't presented them to us, nor to its European allies, nor to its overseas allies. Otherwise, the evidence would’ve been published one way or another. We still don't know where the Skripals are, if they're still alive, and if something actually happened to them. In this case, we need to call things by their proper names. This part of the conversation was indeed harsh. It was also very frank. It was held in a face-to-face format in the presence of interpreters. But later, when the delegations joined, we enjoyed their constructive and peaceful approach of Mrs. May. Together with Putin, she talked about the necessity to palpate the mechanisms to get our trade relations out of the state of paralysis.
— Does Putin speak English or German during these meetings?
— He does, quite a bit. When he talks with Frau Merkel, Juncker, and his other counterparts, he often switches to German. He also uses English with other leaders.
— During the dinner in the evening of the first day, Putin and Trump clinked their glasses before the dinner began. Did someone say a toast?
— I'm not sure about that. Unlike you, I didn't have a chance to watch the live broadcast, so I didn't see that. Therefore, I can't comment on that.
— Is Putin satisfied with how the meetings turned out? Is Putin satisfied with the atmosphere becoming more constructive and the negativity slowly fading away?
— Well, it's not like we have less work due to the atmosphere becoming more constructive. In this case, if we speak about him being satisfied, we can say that colossal work has been done. I believe that the president must be satisfied with that. He tries to maximize the efficiency of every hour of multilateral forums like the G20.
— I presume a Big Deal between Russia and the US, which was mentioned by the American press, which includes Venezuela, Iran, Syria, and Ukraine, also isn't to be expected?
— The word «deal» is a cowboy term that we don't like very much. What we like is negotiations aimed at specific results, based on mutual benefit and respect towards each other's interests.
— Thank you, Mr. Peskov.
— Thank you and goodbye.