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Bush, Putin Address St. Petersburg University Students in Russia

Aired May 25, 2002 - 07:08   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We bring you now live pictures of President Bush and President Vladimir Putin as they come to us live from St. Petersburg University. They are going to address students, take questions. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Most esteemed president of the United States of America, Mr. George Bush, esteemed president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, ladies and gentlemen, dear students, may I, being the hostess, the president of the university, welcome you within the walls of this oldest university of Russia.

For us, it is a source of joy and an honor to welcome here the heads of state who have proclaimed -- who proclaim science and education as priority areas of the development of their countries. Science and hard education are the area where Russia and the United States are in active cooperation, and it is hardly appropriate to say how important it is to strengthen friendly ties between peoples, and first of all between young people, to whom the future belongs.

Our university has been cooperating with our counterparts in the United States for quite some time. We have direct cooperation agreements with some 17 higher education establishments of the United States.

Today in 30 joint scientific and research as well as educational projects, our both countries cooperate, and practically all the departments and all the colleges of our university take part in that cooperation.

Among such projects I would like to mention these. The creation of a center for the arrangements for research in the area of molecular biology, the project which is entitled The Prevention of the HIV Dissemination in Russia, the project for the development of the university education in the area of management, which we implement jointly with our counterparts from the Haas Business School in Berkeley.

Then the joint with the Bard College program, which is entitled the Smolnyi Institute of Free Arts and Sciences, the physics program on which we work together with the Michigan University, and then during the last 11 years, the university is holding annual Russian- American seminar on the basis of the Department of International Relations that we have here.

We rejoice at the fact that the exchange of teachers and students is not a one-way street. We welcome here American students who come here to study. Our teachers and lecturers do teach at the universities of the United States, and they lecture there.

Ten professors from the United States have become honorary doctors of our university in the last 15 years, and yesterday in the Peter's Room of this university, we awarded the same titles to two American professors, lawyers, Sidney Peeker (ph) and Jane Peeker (ph), from Cleveland Universities.

The active position of the presidents of Russia and the United States leads to profound positive changes in the world. Supporting the initiatives of our leaders, we propose to organize annual meetings entitled the Dialogue of Continents, the meetings of the representatives of the civil society of Russia and the United States for the exchange of views in the areas of politics and policy, education, science, mass media. And the St. Petersburg University is prepared to assume upon itself the duties for the arrangements of -- for such meetings.

Once again, thank you very much for having come here to visit St. Petersburg University.

Now may I give the floor to the president of the Russian Federation, who is the graduate of the legal department of the Petersburg University, Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for having me here. It's a great pleasure as always to be with young people, but especially here, since I graduated from this university, it's a double pleasure for me to be here.

But this university played a dual role in my career. The first time, when they basically gave me a present, they just gave me the degree that I earned.


That was the one important part.

The second very important facet in my life was when I worked here for the rector of the university as an assistant, helping him in the area of international contacts between and among various universities.

And what I was doing, was doing the same thing the rector was just talking about: I was setting up the initial contacts between our university and various other universities around the world.

So what we did was, we invited the president of a mid-sized college from St. Petersburg, Florida, to come here and pay us a visit, since they had the same name.

So then what I did was I talked the former mayor, Mr. Sobchak, to receive this president of this college, so he in turn invited him to come to the United States.

And this, Mr. Carter, who was the head of this college in St. Pete., arranged a visit with one of the presidents of the United States at the time, and I think his name was Bush.


After that, he invited me to come to work for him, and the rest of my career is history, as they say.

Well, to be very, very serious now, it's really a great pleasure to have business and dealings with students because students are very direct, as you know. And they also feel the rhythm of civilization as it's changing.

When we were guests of the Bushes in Crawford, Texas, we also were given an opportunity to meet with young people. I think this will become a very fine tradition.


PUTIN (through translator): And I think Mr. Bush also was waiting for this opportunity because he asked me several times about this possibility.

Well, George Bush and I don't know each other for that long. I think it's a little bit less than two years. But what we're trying to do is establish the environment which would be very conducive to having people in both of our countries meet, have opportunities to make contacts and get along better.

I don't want this to sound like a major report here, but I just want to inform you that we have just signed two major agreements between our two countries.

One of them is having to do with the reduction in strategic arms of the two countries and the other one is called an agreement on a new strategic relationship between the two countries.

As we all know, people are divided into two groups -- optimists and pessimists. And the pessimists will always find something wrong.

Optimists, however, will find in these two documents that we signed a lot of things that are very useful and beneficial.

But it's wonderful to deal with young people because, by their very nature, they're optimists and they look into the future. And that's why we're here among other things.

So today, when we were coming to the conclusion of our visit to the Hermitage, and we were running late and so we were in a hurry, Mr. Petrovski (ph), who really had very little time, said, "By the way, before we leave, I want to show you a portrait of our great czarina Catherine the Great."

And Mr. Bush, without missing a beat, said, "Oh and by the way, where's the portrait of Potemkin?"


PUTIN (through translator): So when you ask questions, I ask you...


When you ask questions, I ask you to give me the easy questions and give Mr. Bush the tough questions.


And with pleasure, I give the word to George Bush.

BUSH: Thank you very much.


Madame President, thank you for your hospitality.

Laura and I are honored to be here at this famous university. I'm particularly pleased to be coming to this university because it is the alma mater of your president and my friend, Vladimir Putin. But even more importantly, it is Mrs. Putin's alma mater.

The president was talking about a seminar on international relations. I guess this is the most sophisticated seminar on international relations that you could possibly have.

So I'll give you a quick insight as to what it's like to be involved with international relations. There we were as guests of the Putins in their private home last night.

We talked about our families. We talked about our passions. We talked about matters of life that friends would talk about.

The best international relations start when people care about the other person, when they try to figure out how the other person thinks and what makes the other person's life go forward.

We've had a lot of negotiations, of course, but the thing that impressed me the most about the president and his wife was how much they loved their daughters. That's a universal value. It's an impressive value.

When I got out of college in 1968, America and the Soviet Union were enemies -- bitter enemies. Today, America and Russia are friends. It's important for you to know that that era is long gone as far as I'm concerned.

The treaty we signed says a lot about nuclear arms. It speaks about the need for peace. But it also says the Cold War is over. And America and Russia need to be and will be friend for the good of the world.

And so it's my honor to come. I look forward to answering your questions.

BUSH: Since Vladimir went here to St. Petersburg, it only seems fair that the hard ones go to him.


Would be glad to handle your questions.


QUESTION (through translator): From the sociology department, and the question is: Everyone knows about the brain-drain problem is, and it is an open secret that the traffic of brain drain is mostly oriented to the United States. I wonder what the presidents of these two countries think about this problem?

PUTIN (through translator): I will tell you right away, he will say it's good, I say it's bad.

But if you look at it a little more deeply I will get more serious and give you some more detail. There are two methods for stopping this occurrence. First of all, close the country down once again and create such regulatory conditions where people will lose the right to move freely.

Second is, in a free economy, to create economic conditions, conditions of prosperity for all those people so that they wish to stay here and work, and I think we have to take the second path.

BUSH: First of all, there's a lot of brains in this room, and you get to decide whether there's a brain drain in Russia. I tell Vladimir all the time -- I mean Mr. President all the time, that Russia's most precious resource is the brain power of this country, and you've got a lot of it.


PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, losing audio there from St. Petersburg, Russia. But, we will tell you -- been watching a live joint appearance -- well, audio is back. But, we'll tell you about the meeting between the two presidents here, President George W. Bush, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It's been a weeklong European tour for President Bush as he's been visiting Russia doing sightseeing, but also making a lot of political accomplishments.

Two main points that both president's brought up that they are happy to have accomplished while meeting together in Russia. That is, the reduction of nuclear arms. Also, a new strategic relationship that the two feel that they have developed.

We're going to bring in White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. She's traveling with the president -- to talk a little bit about the accomplishments thus far in this meeting. But Kelly, I want to touch on this phrase that they're using, the brain drain. Let's talk a little bit about that. It's caused some laughs, but and also some serious comments from the students and both presidents.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kyra, it is interesting, because just when the two leaders were back in Crawford, Texas and they took questions from high school students, the students asked very, very good questions, talking about the issues of missile defense and others matters. And this first question, getting right off there with a very good point, concerns about lots of people getting a great education here but leaving Russia because of the conditions in this country.

And you know, you heard Russian President Putin saying that Mr. Bush might think it's good because they go to the United States, but he thinks it's bad, and he talked about how they need to create the conditions again to allow people to stay here.

I'm not sure, Kyra, are we able to get back to these questions and answers now?

PHILLIPS: All right, we'll go back and listen a little bit, Kelly, and then we'll continue our discussion.

BUSH: ... is good for America.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): From the Department of Economics. And I would like this question. We are involved in high technology exports, and my question in fact is when will the time come when the bulk of the exports from Russia would be high technology and high technology products and not the primary products, like oil and wood, as the situation is now?

BUSH: Good question.

PUTIN (through translator): It's a very professional question. And you, as an economist, understand very well that this situation did not just happen yesterday. The world market demands those products that are competitive. And the things that you mentioned -- the high- tech kinds of things you mentioned -- are in great demand in the world marketplace.

And it's a no-brainer to understand that there were the kinds of talent and the kinds of products in the old Soviet Union that, in fact, had been in demand because the best brains were directed precisely in that direction in those days.

One of these areas, for instance, is missile technology, and our cooperation with the United States in this area can be measured in the billions of U.S. dollar equivalence.

And during this summit we dedicated a substantial portion of our discussion time precisely to this issue, which I consider very important if we are to remove many of the things that are obstacles in allowing high-tech to come into Russia. And these obstacles and limitations were placed upon us back in the days of the Soviet Union, and by their very inertia continue on and on.

Therefore, many of the products come into Russia from third countries, from Europe, from Asia and not from the United States.

We think it is not good for our bilateral relations with the United States. We have to do better. And that's why a great amount of time was spent by President Bush and myself in trying to find ways to remove these obstacles.

We also spent a lot of time thinking what we ourselves have to do internally in Russia to help get rid of these obstacles.

But since we have a high-level esteemed guest in our midst, let me just direct our question to our bilateral affairs.

And that is, what we need above all for Russia is an absolutely nondiscriminatory access to world markets and to U.S. markets. And we don't need preferences. We don't need subsidies. We don't need special favors. We just want normal, simple, ordinary, fair trade relations.

BUSH: The role of government is not to create wealth. The role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur or small business or dreamer can flourish, and that starts with rule of law, respect of private property, less regulatory burdens on the entrepreneur, open banking laws so that all people have access to capital, and good tax policy.

The private ownership in Russia is a little more than 70 percent. That's a significant change. More and more people are owning small business. That's incredibly important, because that phenomena makes sure that the elites don't control the economy.

There's one piece of good news about Russian taxation, and one that I learned about yesterday -- which Vladimir and I haven't had much time to talk about -- that's troubling. The good news is that the flat tax in Russia is a good fair tax. Much more fair, by the way, than many Western countries, I might add.

I am worried when I heard that some Russian goods -- there is an export tax on Russian goods.

And the trouble with that, of course, is that no matter how good your goods are, if you price yourself out of the market, no one is going to buy. So that's a barrier.

There's also barriers coming from Western countries that we've got to eliminate. Export controls on high-tech goods are problematic, that we're now reviewing in the United States.

And very briefly, it is very important for the infrastructure to be modernized as quickly as possible so that information from around the world moves quickly, freely throughout Russia, so that an entrepreneur such as yourself are able to learn from other entrepreneurs, being connected through the Internet, which is going to be a great source of ideas and potential wealth for Russia.


PHILLIPS: If you're just tuning in with us this morning, we're bringing you live coverage from St. Petersburg, Russia. George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing students at St. Petersburg University. Just one stop along President Bush's weeklong European tour.

Yesterday, the two presidents came together and signed a landmark nuclear arms reduction deal in Moscow. Today, they're taking questions from students.

We're going to bring our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace back in. She's joining us live from St. Petersburg. She's been with the president and after Kelly we're going to talk with Toby Gati, a former National Security Council official. She served as a senior adviser on Russia in the first Clinton administration. We're going to talk to Toby in just a moment.

But, Kelly, let's begin with you and talk about no permanent trading relations -- obviously a hot topic between the two presidents.

WALLACE: Definitely, Kyra, a hot topic because Russian President Putin has faced some criticism here in Russia that he has made many concessions to the West and to the United States and the question is what is he getting in return.

In particular, how to kind of beef up this country's economy. He would like to be designated or have Russia designated a market economy by the United States. He would also like access to that world trading body, the World Trade Organization.

He wants access to U.S. markets, and access to world markets. U.S. officials are saying, number one, they're looking at what Russia is doing; it's making progress -- more work to be done; it has to go through some regulatory reforms before the U.S. will designate it a market economy.

And then there's a long process before it can get access to that world trading body. So, U.S. officials say they want and support this, but it's a bit of a road ahead. Clearly, that's very, very important for this Russian president.

And one final note here, Kyra. Clearly, these two men have developed a very strong, personal relationship. We knew that even before they came here together. They certainly developed that in Crawford, Texas.

And, you know, President Bush is someone who says that he talked about the importance of personal diplomacy. Getting to know someone and then making progress on international issues. It's obvious, watching the two leaders as they interact before those students, that they have developed a relationship that the two leaders think they can work together on and work on some of these more difficult problems between the two countries.

PHILLIPS: All right. White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, as she travels with the president.

Don't want to leave out the fact that she's live from a quite beautiful location there, very picturesque, Kelly. You're very lucky. Thank you so much.

All right, we're going to bring our Toby Gati back in now and continue this discussion about the relationship between these two presidents.

On that note, we've been talking about the treaty, Toby, and Putin got the treaty. However, there's another side here, and that is Bush didn't deliver on a number of economic issues, according to critics. Let's talk a bit about the Jackson-Vanik amendment, and also the no permanent normal trading relations.

TOBY GATI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: See, the first thing to remember is that the two presidents have talked about the end of the Cold War and arms control. What they're not talking about and the students are asking is, why is there still a Cold War in economics? Why are these restrictions still on us?

Remember, these students were eight years old, nine years old, when the Cold War ended. And, in Russia, that was a huge change. So for them, to talk about the Cold War ending now is a little bit strange because they've seen the changes -- many of them have probably had parents or themselves, maybe, have traveled to the United States.

We have high school students from Russia who spend a year here already. You have a very different world for these students, and what they're asking is why are we being treated -- Russia -- why is Russia being treated as if the Cold War still existed, and you couldn't export high tech.

Many of them probably have friends who can't get visas to the United States because we have a very, very strict visa regime. So, they're really asking for results.

And I must say that in terms of watching the two presidents, they come across very forcefully, they must make a very positive impression on the students. Certainly Putin is much more humanized than we're perhaps used to seeing him, and I think Bush makes a very positive impression, and that's extremely important because when you look at public opinion polls, what you find out is that there's a great deal of skepticism about U.S. policy.

It's not about Americans in general, who are probably still liked in Russia, but about U.S. policies and among university educated people, the skepticism and actually the negative opinion of Bush is even higher than among the general public.

So it's very important, the impression that these two leaders make, and the most important statement from my point of view was Putin's reaffirmation that he's not going to pursue an administrative type closed Russia. He wants an open Russia where Russia can compete on the world market. And, for these students, that's going to be their life.

PHILLIPS: And Vladimir Putin coming on and saying Russia can play a much bigger role here with the U.S.

Let's talk about energy. It was touched on just a little bit between the two a few moments ago.

GATI: That's right. It's very interesting. If you're asking, you know, is the glass half-full or half-empty in terms of this summit, I think the important thing to remember is in that glass is not water but oil.

And Russia has the oil, and the United States needs the oil, and so does the world market. And, this is an administration in the United States that's very comfortable talking about oil, these are oilmen, this is Texas, after all. And, Russia has a lot of oil and if Russia needs money and needs investment, this is the wonderful area for cooperation.

And indeed, the two countries can be allies, and can have a common purpose in terms of expanding the supply of oil. And, having Russia be a reliable, predictable country that is able to add to some stability in the world market as we face a lot of crisis in the Middle East.

PHILLIPS: Former National Security Council official Toby Gati. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

GATI: Thank you.





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