Andrei Vandenko: We’ve been hit with sanctions because of Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin: To hell with those sanctions. According to various estimates, we have lost around 50 billion but we have earned the same amount.
Andrei Vandenko: That’s quite a bit.
Vladimir Putin: Quite a bit, but it made us use our brains. We spent quite a lot of money on the so-called ‘import substitution’ programme and started to produce such items and technologies that we did not have before or simply forgot about them and lost them. We recreated all of this. And we are undoubtedly benefiting from it. It diversifies our economy. In fact, it helps us address our overriding priority.
Andrei Vandenko: But counter-sanctions give the impression that we were deliberately hurting ourselves.
Vladimir Putin: Nonsense. Counter-sanctions helped us boost the agroindustry. They freed up our domestic market.
In our country, if we look at the past years from 2000s and onwards, everyone here spoke about the agroindustry as if it was a black hole, surely you do remember. Where is it now? I don't even remember how far ahead agricultural production has leaped. I think 2.6-fold.
We have always been a grain importer but now we are the world’s top wheat exporter. We have even outperformed the United States, Canada and Australia. They produce more but also consume more. We supply more to the market.
We started to produce enough to meet our basic food needs: dairy, poultry, pork, all staples. We need to work more on vegetables and beef. And we are doing it. Nobody could have imagined that our export was going to total $25 billion last year. This year it will be $24 [billion], I think. Our arms sales are only $15 billion. Nobody would have ever thought that we would become such a major exporter. And we will increase this volume.
In this sense – and from the point of view of developing high-tech productions and in terms of agriculture development, import substitution – is it god or bad? On the one hand, it’s good, it has served us well.
Another thing is bad – it’s bad that this distorts the entire global and European economic space. This is what’s bad. Competition should be natural without any external restrictions.
But the fact is our partners also lose approximately the same. Europe has lost roughly the same, according to their own estimates. They’ve been losing even more sensitive things.
Andrei Vandenko: But there are 40 countries in Europe, and we are one country.
Vladimir Putin: You see, they are losing jobs. Right now, we have the lowest level of unemployment in history. In this sense we lost nothing. And they are losing jobs because imports have nosedived as a result of a wide range of circumstances, including sanctions.