Russian Ambassador gave an interview to Daily News reporter


Russian Ambassador gave an interview to Daily News reporter

On the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Thailand the Daily News correspondent met with the Ambassador of Russia to Thailand and discussed the Russian-Thai cooperation and the current international affairs in which Russia plays a major role.

Question: The year 2017 is a very important year for the Russian-Thai relationship because it is the year of the 120th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In this regard I wonder how important is the celebration of this date for Russia?

Answer: Thailand was the first country in the Southeast Asia that Russia established diplomatic relations with. Moreover, it is very important that relations between our two countries began with the friendship of the two monarchs: King Rama V Chulalongkorn and the Russian Emperor Nicolas II. It laid a solid foundation for the relations between Russia and Thailand which since then were characterized by mutual trust and readiness to come to aid in difficult moments. That is why if we compare relations of Thailand or Russia with any other third country we will see the difference. In that sense Russian-Thai are special.

This specificity is everywhere. One of the spheres of bilateral cooperation, where there of relations grow in practice and where relations at the human level are built, is tourism. The number of Russian tourists visiting Thailand is constantly increasing. Just imagine: from 2005 to the present day, the tourist flow from Russia to Thailand on average reaches from 800, 000 to 1 million people every year! More and more Thai tourists are interested in visiting Russia too, although their number is still relatively small.

Russia welcomes guests cordially. In addition to Aeroflot, which is the Russian national air carrier flying directly between Bangkok and Moscow on a daily basis, there are other regular and charter flights connecting many Russian cities to major Thai airports, including Phuket airport and U-Tapao airport in Rayong province. In total, more than 70 flights are carried out between Russia and Thailand every week! The notion that Russia and Thailand are divided by a huge distance is deceptive. These are just figures. In fact, our countries are very close.

120 years of relations between our countries - this is also, it would seem, just a piece of time. But behind these figures are the numerous historical events that Russia and Thailand have experienced together and which have become the foundation for the reliable relations that link our countries today.

Question: Could you please give some examples of successful bilateral projects...

Answer: I would like to start with bilateral meetings at the high and highest levels that took place in recent years. In May 2016, on the sidelines of the Russia-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Prime Minister of Thailand General Prayut Chan-o-cha. Earlier, in April 2015 Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev paid an official visit to Thailand and in May 2016 the two Prime Ministers held talks in St. Petersburg. In addition, the heads of our Governments meet twice in the framework of international events. It turns out that for a short period of time our Prime Ministers communicated four times – a good score.

Now let’s talk about trade and economic cooperation. Last year, trade turnover between our countries amounted to $ 1.9 billion, and for the first five months of this year - from January to May - increased by 80% compared to the same period last year. If this trend continues, then trade between Russia and Thailand could grow to $ 2.5 billion. Imports of Thai natural rubber have been growing faster than other articles of Russian imports: the volume of its supply increased by 97% for the first five months of this year. Then follows the import of Thai jasmine rice, which during the same period grew by 41%. These indicators are consistent with the goal set by our countries’ leaders to increase the supply of agricultural products from Thailand to Russia.

As for Russian exports to Thailand, a significant place is occupied by oil and oil refinery products. In the first five months of this year, the volume of oil exported to Thailand increased by 3.3 times compared with the period from January to May 2016. An agreement is being implemented to purchase three Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, equipped with the Fly-By-Wire computer control system, by the Royal Thai Armed Forces. Two of them have already been commissioned by Thailand.

Russia plans to open an Honorary Consulate in the province of Suratthani soon. It will become another representation of Russia in Thailand in addition to the existing missions - Embassy in Bangkok, Honorary Consulate for Chonburi and Rayong provinces and Honorary Consulate in the provinces of Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga. This year the quota for Thai citizens studying in Russia was increased from 26 to 34 through the provision of new Russian government scholarships.

Question: It seems that Western sanctions do not have a negative impact on Russia ...

Answer: The use of economic sanctions against Russia demonstrates the unfriendly policy pursued by the Western countries towards Russia - a policy aimed at creating political, economic and social problems for my country. However, as a result, Russia received a powerful stimulus to initiate a search for new sources of economic development eliminating our dependence on the West. This contributed to strengthening our country’s self-reliance. For example, despite sanctions, Russia has become the world’s largest exporter of wheat. The inflation rate fell to 4%. Experts suggest that GDP growth rate this year may be 1.5-2% and at least 3% by 2020. This once again shows that sanctions are not a problem for Russia, but are a problem for those countries that have introduced them. Of course, the sanctions caused a lot of inconvenience, but we quickly rebalanced our policies to strengthening relations and expanding cooperation with friendly countries. Now no one has any doubt that Russia can exist independently, without reliance on countries that introduced sanctions against us. Some time ago, the President of Russia signed a decree extending restrictions on imports of agricultural products from the Western countries, which became a response to their sanctions, until the end of 2018.

Question: Western countries accuse Russia of interfering in their internal affairs and refer to this explaining the decision to extend and tighten the sanctions regime against Russia. Will increased pressure alter Russia's foreign policy course?

Answer: Russia has repeatedly warned that the policy of sanctions will harm both sides. It is likely that in the long run Western countries themselves will suffer greater losses. It is especially true for the sphere of energy and agriculture. We have never begged to ease or revoke sanctions. Russia is a self-sufficient country. But we are ready to restore cooperation with the West.

Russia has never interfered in internal affairs of any foreign country. Therefore, there is no need to adjust Moscow’s foreign policy in accordance with the desire of others. We conduct an independent foreign policy in accordance with our national interests.

This position was once again confirmed during the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit held on July 7-8, 2017 in Hamburg. We did not do anything illegal, no real evidence of Russia’s interference in the course of the presidential elections in the US has ever been produced.

Russia firmly adheres to the norms and principles of the international law. All accusations of Russia’s violation of international law do not stand up to scrutiny. In particular this pertains to the Ukrainian crisis, which is often used to blame Russia. The Minsk Agreements clearly prescribe the plan that all parties involved in the conflict, namely Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in the East of Ukraine, must comply with. Russia is not a party to the conflict, which must be settled through negotiations between the conflicting parties.

As for the G20, Russia actively participates in the work of this association and is committed to multilateral agreements on cooperation in various fields. This applies to security, migration crisis, international trade, Paris Climate Pact etc.

I would like to note the importance of the agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Southwest Syria between Russia and the United States which already entered into force and which was supported by Jordan. We consider this an essential step towards restoration of peace in Syria. Until now, Russia and the United States have not cooperated constructively on the Syrian issue, and there are still many issues that cause disagreement.

Russia is open to interaction with any partners on the international stage. This is an additional testimony that all the attempts to isolate our country have not been successful. During the recent G-20 Summit Vladimir Putin held the largest number of bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries, even if their policy towards Russia is not entirely flawless. This is not an exaggeration - the media watched every step of the Russian leader: whom he spoke with, whom he shook hands with whom he made an eye contact with. The Russian President was clearly the center of everybody’s attention.





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