Putin Delivers Ringing Endorsement of the Belt & Road Initiative, Saying It 'Has a Very Bright Future'
At an April 27 press conference at the close of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, the first question that Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked was: "The Belt and Road is a very ambitious project—to the extent that it raises concerns in some. China is not a country that makes plans only for years ahead—it makes plans for decades proceeding not from billions but from trillions of dollars. This leads to the question, is this China's project or is it beneficial for other participants? Is it beneficial for Russia?"
Putin's response was categorical, and included important indications of his close cooperation with Xi Jinping in conceptualizing the advance of the BRI over the six years it has been in existence:
"China is a vast country.... Therefore, of course, China has plans for its development, and they are immense and ambitious; when China implements anything it uses a highly pragmatic approach to achieve its tasks. China is our strategic partner; this is obvious from all indicators and parameters.... Just like us or any other country, they are governed by their national interests."
Putin then specified China's unique approach to promoting its national interest:
"China implements this in a civilized and delicate way, making sure proposals for common development meet the interests of the vast majority of international participants, if not all. Generally speaking, China has offered nothing new; what it is doing is actually making attempts to reaffirm the principles set out by the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, and many of our colleagues are mentioning this backstage like they did at the last meeting. What is China's goal? Stability....
"So how should China respond when it faces certain restrictions and attempts by some countries to stop its development? What should China do? It must strengthen the fundamental tenets of global economic relations, and create conditions for promoting its products. How can this be done? By developing transport infrastructure, port facilities, air, rail and motor transport, and building roads. This is exactly what China is doing."
Putin elaborated on how the concept of the BRI has evolved:
"This was how it all started, but later it became obvious both in terms of China's growth and for us as well, that this would not be enough. We needed to strengthen the fundamental tenets of international economic relations. Is Russia interested in this? Of course, it is. Considering the high volume of trade and the fact that it is growing, we are certainly interested in benefiting from the transit potential of the Trans-Siberian Railway and Baikal-Amur Mainline, and we intend to invest heavily in them, as well as in motor transport and roads. We have earmarked trillions of rubles for infrastructure development. Why are we doing this? In order to make effective use of our country's transit potential and to be able to engage in mutual import and export operations."
"I am very grateful to President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang for their consistent efforts to improve China's trade patterns with Russia. Does this meet our interests? Absolutely. I think that this initiative has a very bright future ahead of it, since almost all of us are interested in this, as I have already said."
The complete transcript is posted in English on the Kremlin website.