Putin invites Russia to engage in 'extensive dialogue'
In the run-up to Russia's presidential election prime minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin published an election campaign manifesto that runs to over seven pages.
"Russia in focus - the challenges we must face", published on Putin's campaign website and in the Izvestia daily, is in part his response to those who took to the streets in December, in Russia's biggest political protest in two decades.
Putin noted the "desire of part of the elite to take a leap towards revolution," a tendency seen throughout Russian history, and he warned against "haste and destruction without creation."
"Today, there is talk of various ways to renew the political process. But what are we being asked to agree on? On ways to organize leadership? To transfer it to "the best people"? And then what? What will we actually be doing?"
He called for broader discussion and dialogue with politicians, adding that Russian citizens should be given the opportunity to discuss policy substance, ways to improve lives and the socio-economic direction the country takes.
Putin stressed raising quality of life and living standards as being key to his presidential strategy, comparing today's Russia with the peak of Soviet social policy in 1989. He sees poverty as a blight on the country's reputation - about one in 10 Russians live in poverty - and called on a bolstered civil society to take more responsibility to combat inequality 'organic to a free market economy'
He praised the rise of the middle class, saying that the nation is entering "a new social reality."
"The middle class must continue to grow, to become a social majority in our society and to expand, made up as it is of those on whom the country depends, such as doctors, teachers, engineers and other skilled workers."
Educating and providing professional opportunities for the middle class will be fundamental to Russia's transition towards an information- and innovation based economy. At least 25 million new jobs for the middle class, which are in short supply at present, must be created, according to the PM.
Global financial turmoil indicates a "tectonic shift", which will put an end to a post-Soviet world based on a single center of power. The power in question, according to Putin, is failing to provide global stability. Leading nations should also be more responsible and trustful of international organizations like the UN, G8 and G20.
The premier warned global security is threatened by "destructive forces," which find allies in countries interested in "exporting democracy" through military force. "With the best intentions international law and state sovereignty is being trampled upon," but Russia has to find a dignified way of facing this challenge.
Putin believes Russia has completed its recovery from the post-soviet difficulties and that "All preconditions for moving forward have been created."
He underlined his role and that of his team in "taking Russia out of the deadlock of civil war, cracking down on terrorism, restoring the country's territorial integrity and constitutional order, boosting the economy and securing one of the world's fastest rates of economic growth over the last ten years."
Many problems remain, however, but according to the PM "we are capable of turning them for our good."