Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: This 7,500 word opus published
Moscow newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti, outlines what the once and
future Russian president thinks of the United States and
Afghanistan, Syria, human rights, China, the Arab Spring, global
intrusions into the sovereignty of nations and many other issues.
'Russia's Place in a Changing
World,' By Vladimir Putin
seems that NATO members, especially the United States, have developed a
peculiar interpretation of security that is different from ours. The Americans
have become obsessed with the idea of becoming absolutely invulnerable. This
utopian concept is unfeasible both technologically and geopolitically - but it
is the root of the problem. … By definition, total invulnerability for one
country would in theory require absolute vulnerability for all others."
Putin as Dirty Harry: In the midst of a presidential election campaign, the results of which appear to be a foregone conclusion, the current Russian prime minister has decided that election week is a perfect time to opine on a wide swath of issues involving Russia's relations with the rest of the world.
In my past articles, I have
discussed some of the key foreign policy challenges that Russia now faces. But
the subject deserves a more detailed discussion - and not just because foreign
policy is part and parcel of any government strategy. External challenges and our
changing world compel us to make decisions that have implications for the
economy, our culture, the budget and for investment.
Whether we are talking about
the economy, media coverage or cultural development, Russia is part of the larger
world. We don't wish to and cannot isolate ourselves. It is our hope that
openness will result in a higher standard of living for Russians plus a more
diverse culture and a general level of trust - something that has become
However, we intend to proceed
in a way that is consistent with our own interests and goals, rather than based
on decisions that are dictated by others. Russia is respected and taken into
account only when it is strong and stands firmly on its own two feet. Generally
speaking, Russia has always enjoyed the privilege of conducting an independent
foreign policy, and it will continue to do so. In addition, I am convinced that
global security can only be achieved with Russian cooperation rather than by
attempting to push it into the background, weaken its geopolitical position or
compromise its defenses.
Our foreign policy objectives
are strategic in nature and don't proceed out of opportunistic considerations.
They reflect Russia's unique role on the world political map, its role in
history, and in the development of civilization.
I do not doubt that we will
continue on our constructive course to enhance global security, renounce
confrontation, and counter challenges like the proliferation of nuclear
weapons, regional conflict and crises, terrorism and drug trafficking. We will
do everything we can to see that Russia enjoys the latest scientific and
technical achievements and to assist our entrepreneurs to occupy their rightful
place on the global market.
We will strive to ensure a
new world order that meets current geopolitical realities, and develops
smoothly and without unnecessary upheaval.
Who is it that Undermines Confidence?
As in the past, I believe
that the key principles necessary for any feasible civilization include shared
security for all states, the unacceptability of the excessive use of force, and
unconditional observance of the central tenets of international law. Neglect of
any of these principles can only lead to a destabilization of global relations.
It is through this prism that
we perceive aspects of U.S. and NATO conduct that contradict the logic of
modern development, and which instead rely on the stereotypes of a block-based
mentality. Everyone understands what I'm referring to: an expansion of NATO
that includes the deployment of new pieces of military infrastructure and U.S.-drafted
plans to establish a missile defense system in Europe. If these plans weren't being
conducted in such close proximity to Russia - and if they didn't undermine our
security and global stability in general - I wouldn't even touch on this.
Our arguments are well known,
and I won’t spell them out again. But regrettably, our Western partners are unresponsive
and simply brush our concerns aside.
We worry that although the
outlines of our "new" relations with NATO aren't finalized, the Alliance
is already providing us with "facts on the ground" that are
counterproductive to confidence building. At the same time, NATO's approach
will backfire with respect to its global objectives, make cooperation on a
positive international agenda more difficult to achieve and impede any
The recent series of armed
conflicts begun under the pretext of humanitarianism undermine the time-honored
principle of national sovereignty, and create a void in the moral and legal
implications of international relations.
It is often said that human
rights override national sovereignty. There is no doubt - crimes against
humanity must be punished by the International Court. However, when sovereignty
is too easily violated in the name of this provision - when human rights are protected
selectively and from without, and when the same rights of a people are trampled
underfoot in the process of such "protection," including the most
basic and sacred right, the right to one's life - such actions cannot be
considered noble, but are rather outright demagoguery.
It is vital that the United
Nations and its Security Council effectively counter the dictates of certain
countries and their arbitrary actions on the global stage. No one has the right
to usurp the prerogatives and powers of the United Nations, particularly by
using force against sovereign states. This concerns NATO, an organization that
has assumed an attitude inconsistent with a "defensive alliance."
These issues are very serious. We recall how states that have fallen victim to
"humanitarian" operations and the export of "missile-and-bomb
democracy" have appealed for a respect of legal standards and common human
decency. But their cries were in vain. Their appeals went unheard.
Putin presidential campaign
video from Britain's Daily Mail.
It seems that NATO members,
especially the United States, have developed a peculiar interpretation of
security that is different from ours. The Americans have become obsessed with
the idea of becoming absolutely invulnerable. This utopian concept is
unfeasible both technologically and geopolitically - but it is the root of the
By definition, total
invulnerability for one country would in theory require absolute vulnerability
for all others. This is completely unacceptable. For a variety of reasons, many
countries prefer not to be straight about this, but that is another matter.
Russia will always call a spade a spade and do so openly. I would like to
emphasize again that a violation of the principle of unity and the
indivisibility of security - despite [America's] numerous declarations of
commitment to it - poses a serious threat.
The Arab Spring: lessons and conclusions
A year ago, the world
witnessed a new phenomenon: almost simultaneous demonstrations in many Arab
countries against authoritarian regimes. The Arab Spring was initially perceived
with hope for positive change. Russia's people sympathized with those who were
seeking democratic reform.
However, it soon became clear
that in many countries, events were not following a civilized path. Instead of
asserting democracy and protecting the rights of minorities, attempts were
being made to stage a coup and depose an enemy. This only resulted in replacing
one dominant force with another even more aggressive dominant force.
Foreign interference and the
use of force in support of one side of a domestic conflict gave developments a
negative aura. By using air power in the name of humanitarian support, a number
of countries did away with the Libyan regime. The revolting slaughter of
Muammar Qaddafi - not just medieval but primeval - was the embodiment of these
No one should be permitted to
use the Libya scenario on Syria. The global community must work to achieve
inter-Syrian reconciliation. It is important to achieve an early end to the
violence no matter what the source, and to initiate a national dialogue -
without preconditions or foreign interference, and with due respect for the
country's sovereignty. This would create the conditions necessary for the measures
on democratization that have been announced by the Syrian leadership. The main
objective is to prevent an all-out civil war. Russian diplomacy has worked and
will continue to work toward this end.
Sadder but wiser, we oppose
the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolutions that may be interpreted as backing
armed interference in Syria's domestic developments. In February, guided by
this consistent approach, Russia and China prevented the adoption of an
ambiguous resolution that would have encouraged one side of this domestic
conflict to resort to violence.
In this context and
considering the extremely negative, almost hysterical reaction to the
Russia-China veto, I would like to warn our Western colleagues against the
temptation to resort to this simple, previously used tactic: If the Security
Council approves of a given action, fine; if not, we will establish a coalition
of concerned states and strike anyway.
The logic of this conduct is
counterproductive and extremely dangerous. No good can come of it. In any case,
it won't help achieve a settlement in a country experiencing a domestic
conflict. Even worse, it further undermines the entire system of international
security and the authority and central role of the U.N. Let me point out that
the right to veto [at the U.N. Security Council] is not some whimsical item,
but an inalienable part of the international agreement that resulted in the U.N.
Charter - at U.S. insistence, incidentally. The implication of this right is
that decisions which raise the objection of even one permanent U.N. Security
Council member cannot be well-grounded or effective.
I hope very much that the
United States and other nations will consider this sad experience and not
pursue the use of force in Syria without U.N. Security Council approval. In
general, I cannot understand what causes this itch for military intervention.
Why isn't there the patience to develop a well-considered, balanced and
cooperative approach? This is all the more puzzling since such an approach was
already taking hold in the form of the previously mentioned Syrian resolution. All
it lacked was a demand that the armed opposition do the same as the government;
specifically, withdraw military units and detachments from cities. The refusal
to do so is cynical. If we want to protect civilians - and this is Russia's central
goal - we must bring to reason all participants to armed confrontation.
And one more point: It
appears that with the Arab Spring countries as with Iraq, Russian companies are
losing their decades-old positions in local commercial markets and are being
deprived of large commercial contracts. These vacated niches are being filled
by economic agents from states that had a hand in the change of regime.
One could reasonably conclude
that to some degree, the interest of someone else in re-dividing the market
rather than any concern for human rights has encouraged tragic events. Be that
as it may, Russians cannot sit back watch all of this with Olympian serenity.
We intend to work with new Arab governments in order to promptly restore our
Current events in the Arab
world are in many ways instructive. They show that attempting to introduce
democracy by the use of force can and often does produce contradictory results.
In such a case, elements that include religious extremists can rise up from the
bottom and seek to alter the very direction of a country's development and government's
Russia has always had good
relations with the moderate representatives of Islam, who shared a global
outlook close to the traditions of Muslims in Russia. We are prepared to
develop those contacts further. We are interested in stepping up our political,
trade and economic ties with all Arab states, including those, let me repeat, that
have experienced domestic upheaval. Moreover, I see real opportunity to enable
Russia to fully preserve its leading position in the Middle East, where we have
always had friends.
As for the Arab-Israeli
conflict, to this day, there remains no "magic recipe" for producing
a final settlement. But giving up on this issue would be unacceptable.
Considering our close ties with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Russian
diplomacy will continue to work for a resumption of the peace process, both
bilaterally basis and within the framework of the Middle East Quartet, while
coordinating with the Arab League.
The Arab Spring graphically illustrates
that global public opinion is being shaped by the most active use of advanced
information and communications technology. One might say that the Internet,
social networks, cell phones, etc. have turned into an effective tool - on a
par with television - for promoting domestic and international policy. This new
variable gives us food for thought: how do we continue developing the unique
freedoms of communication that the Internet provides and at the same time limit
its use by terrorists and other criminal elements.
The notion of "soft
power" is being used increasingly often. This implies a matrix of tools
and methods for reaching foreign policy goals without resort to force of arm
and by exerting information and other levers of influence. Regrettably, such
methods are all too often being used to develop and provoke extremist,
separatist and nationalistic attitudes, to manipulate the public and exercise
direct interference over the domestic policies of sovereign states.
There must be a
clear division between free speech and normal political activity on the one
hand, and illegal instruments of "soft power" on the other. The
civilized work of non-governmental humanitarian and charity organizations
deserves every support. This also applies to those who actively criticize the
current authorities. However, the activities of "pseudo-NGOs" and
other agencies that try to destabilize other countries with outside support are
However, Russia doesn't use
or fund national NGOs or foreign political organizations in pursuit of its own
interests based in other countries. Neither do China, India and Brazil. We
believe that any influence over domestic policy and public attitudes in other states
must be exerted in the open. This way, those who seek to exert influence will
do so responsibly.
New Challenges and Threats
Today, Iran is the focus of
international attention. Needless to say, Russia is concerned about the growing
threat of a military strike against Iran. If that occurs, the consequences will
be disastrous. It is impossible to imagine the true scope of such a turn of
I am convinced that this
issue must be settled exclusively by peaceful means. We propose recognizing
Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to
enrich uranium. But this must only be pursued in exchange for putting all
Iranian nuclear activity under reliable and comprehensive IAEA oversight. If Tehran
agrees to do so, all sanctions against Iran, including the unilateral ones,
must be rescinded. The West has shown too much willingness to
"punish" certain countries. With every minor development, the West
reaches for sanctions if not armed force. Let me remind you that we are not in
the 19th century - or even the 20th.
Developments surrounding the
Korean nuclear issue are no less serious. Violating the non-proliferation
regime, Pyongyang openly claims the right to develop "the military
atom" and has already conducted two nuclear tests. We cannot accept North
Korea's nuclear status. We have consistently advocated the denuclearization of
the Korean Peninsula - exclusively through political and diplomatic means - and
the early resumption of Six-Party Talks.
But it is evident that not
all of our partners share this approach. I am convinced that today it is
essential to be particularly careful. It would be unadvisable to provoke a rash
of countermeasures by trying to test the strength of the new North Korean
Allow me to recall that North
Korea and Russia share a common border - and that we cannot choose our
neighbors. We will continue to hold an active dialogue with North Korean
leaders and continue to develop good-neighborly relations with them, while at
the same time seeking to encourage Pyongyang to settle the nuclear issue.
Obviously, it would be easier to do this with a measure of mutual trust and a
resumption of inter-Korean talks.
The fervor surrounding nuclear
programs in Iran and North Korea brings up the question of how the risk of
nuclear weapons proliferation has emerged and who is aggravating it. It appears
that the more frequent crude and even armed interference by outside forces in the
domestic affairs of other nations, the more likely it is that hard
authoritarian (and other) regimes wish to possess nuclear weapons. If I have an
A-Bomb in my pocket, no one will touch me, because to do so would be more
trouble than it is worth. And those who don't have the bomb might have to sit
and wait for "humanitarian intervention."
Whether we like it or not,
foreign interference prompts this train of thought. That is why the number of
threshold countries which are one step from the "military atom" is
growing rather than dropping. Under these conditions, areas which are free of WMDs
are being established in a number of places, and are becoming increasingly
important. Russia has initiated discussion on the parameters of a nuclear-free
zone in the Middle East.
It is essential to do
everything we can to prevent any country from being tempted to obtain nuclear
weapons. Non-proliferation campaigners must also change their tactics,
especially those that have grown used to penalizing other nations by force without
letting diplomats do their job. Such was the case in Iraq - and its problems
have only become worse after an almost decade-long occupation.
If incentives for becoming a
nuclear power are eradicated, it will become possible to make the global
non-proliferation regime firm and universal based on existing treaties. This
would allow all interested countries to fully enjoy the benefits of the "peaceful
atom" under IAEA safeguards.
Russia would gain a lot from
this because we operate actively on global markets and build nuclear power
plants based on safe, modern technology and help develop multilateral nuclear
enrichment centers and nuclear fuel banks.
Afghanistan's likely future
is alarming. We have supported the military operation for the purpose of
offering aid to that country. But the international NATO-led military
contingent has failed to meet its objectives. Threats of terrorism and drug
trafficking have not been reduced. Having announced its withdrawal from
Afghanistan in 2014, the United States has been building military bases, both
there and in neighboring countries, without a clear-cut mandate, objectives or
duration of operation. Understandably, this doesn't suit us.
Russia has obvious interests
in Afghanistan and these interests are understandable. Afghanistan is a close
neighbor and we have a stake in its stable and peaceful development. Most
importantly, we want it to stop being the central source of the drug threat.
Illegal drug trafficking has become one of the most urgent threats. It
undermines the genetic bank of entire nations, while creating fertile soil for
corruption and crime. And it is leading to a more destabilized Afghanistan. Far
from declining, the production of drugs in Afghanistan rose by almost 40
percent last year. Russia is being subjected to vicious heroin-related
aggression which is doing tremendous damage to the health of our people.
The dimensions of the Afghan
drug threat make clear that only a global effort that relies on the United
Nations and regional organizations like the Collective
Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth
of Independent States can overcome it. We are willing to consider much greater
participation in operations to relieve the Afghan people - but only if the
international contingent in Afghanistan acts with greater zeal and in our
interests - by pursuing the physical destruction of drug crops and underground
measures inside Afghanistan must be accompanied by blocking routes for opium
transport to external markets, financial flows and the supply of chemical
substances used in heroin production. The goal is to build a comprehensive
system of anti-drug security in the region. Russia will contribute to effective
global cooperation to turn the tide in the war against the global drug threat.
developments in Afghanistan is a difficult affair. History shows that a foreign
military presence does not offer serenity. Only Afghans can resolve their
problems. I see Russia's role as follows: to help the Afghan people with the
active involvement of other neighboring countries, by helping develop a
sustainable economy and enhancing the capacity of Afghanistan's national armed
forces to counter threats of terrorism and drug-related crime. We have no
objection to the armed opposition, including the Taliban, joining the process of
national reconciliation, on condition that they renounce violence, recognize
the country's Constitution and sever all ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist
groups. In principle, I believe it is possible to build a peaceful, stable,
independent and neutral Afghan state.
The decades-long instability
that has persisted in Afghanistan has created a breeding ground for global
terrorism that is universally recognized as one of the most dangerous
challenges to the international community. I'd like to note that the zones that
engender a terrorist threat are located near Russian borders and hence are much
closer to us than to our European or American partners. The United Nations has
adopted the Center
on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation. But the struggle against this evil
is not conducted under a consistent, common universal plan. Rather, it has been
pursued in a series of responses to the most urgent and savage manifestations
of terror - after which the public uproar over such impudent acts of terrorists
expands out of all proportion. The civilized world mustn't wait for tragedies
like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York or the Beslan
disaster, and only act collectively and resolutely after the shock of such events.
I am far from denying the
results achieved in the global war on terror. There has been progress. Over the
last few years, the security services and law-enforcement agencies in many countries
have greatly improved the level of cooperation. But there remains obvious potential
for further cooperation. Double standards still exist and terrorists are
perceived differently in different countries - some are "bad guys"
and others are "not so bad." Some forces aren't averse to using the
latter for purposes of political manipulation, for example in shaking up
All available public
institutions - the media, religious associations, NGOs, the educational system,
science and businesses - must be used to prevent terrorism across the world. We
must have a dialogue between religions and, on a broader plane, among
civilizations. Russia has many religions, but we have never had religious wars.
We could make a contribution to an international discussion on the issue.
The Expanding Role of the Asia-Pacific
One of our neighbors is
China, a major hub of the global economy. It has become fashionable to opine
about that nation's future role in the global economy and international
affairs. Last year, China moved into second place in terms of GDP and is poised
to surpass the U.S. on that count, according to international experts - including
the Americans. The overall might of the People's Republic of China is growing,
and that includes the capacity to project power.
How should we conduct
ourselves in the face of a rapidly strengthening China?
First of all, I am convinced
that China's economic growth is by no means a threat, but a challenge that
carries colossal potential for business cooperation. It is a chance to catch some
of China's wind in the sails of our economy. We should seek to more actively
form new ties, combining the technological and productive capabilities of our
two countries and tapping China's potential - judiciously, of course - in order
to develop the economy of Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Second, China's conduct on
the world stage gives no grounds to talk of its aspirations to dominance. The
Chinese voice in the world is indeed growing ever more confident, and we
welcome that, because Beijing shares our vision of an emerging equitable world
order. We will continue to support one another in the international arena, to
work together to solve acute regional and global problems, and promote
cooperation within the U.N. Security Council, the BRICS nations, the SCO, the
G20, and other multilateral forums.
And third, we have settled
all major political issues in our relations with China, including the critical
border issue. Our nations have created a solid mechanism for bilateral ties,
reinforced by legally-binding documents. There is an unprecedented high level
of trust between the leaders of our two countries. This enables us and the
Chinese to act in the spirit of genuine partnership, rooted in pragmatism and
respect for each other's interests. The model we have created for Russia-China
relations has good prospects.
Of course, this is not to
suggest that our relationship with China is problem-free. There are some
sources of friction. Our commercial interests in third countries do not by any
means always coincide, and we aren't entirely satisfied with the emerging trade
structure and low level of mutual investment. We will also closely monitor
immigration from the People's Republic of China.
But my main premise is that
Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and I am convinced that China needs
a strong and successful Russia.
Another rapidly growing Asian
giant is India. Russia has traditionally enjoyed friendly relations with India,
and the leaders of our two countries have classified our ties as a "privileged
strategic partnership." Not only our countries but the entire multipolar
system that is emerging in the world stands to gain from this.
We see before us not only the
rise of China and India, but the growing weight of the entire Asia-Pacific
Region. This has opened up new horizons for fruitful work within the framework
of the Russian chairmanship of APEC. In September of this year, we will host a
meeting of its leaders in Vladivostok. We are actively preparing for it,
creating modern infrastructure that will promote the further development of
Siberia and the Russian Far East and enable our country to become more involved
in the dynamic integration processes of the "new Asia."
We will continue to
prioritize our cooperation with our BRICS partners. Created in 2006, this
unique structure is a striking symbol of the transition from a unipolar world to
a more just global order. BRICS brings together five countries with a
population of almost three billion people, the largest emerging economies,
colossal labor and natural resources and huge domestic markets. With the
addition of South Africa, BRICS acquired a truly global format, and it now
accounts for more than 25 percent of global GDP.
We are still getting used to
working together in this format. In particular, we have to better coordinate on
foreign policy matters and work more closely at the U.N. But when BRICS is
really up and running, its impact on the global economy and politics will be
In recent years, cooperation
with the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa has become a growing focus
of Russian diplomacy and our business community. In these regions there remains
sincere good will toward Russia. One of the key tasks for the coming period, in
my view, is cultivating trade and economic cooperation as well as joint
projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, investment, science, technology,
banking and tourism.
The growing role of Asia,
Latin America and Africa in the emerging democratic system of managing the
global economy and global finance is reflected in the work of the G20. I
believe that this association will soon become a strategically-important tool,
not only for responding to crises, but for the long-term reform of the global
financial and economic architecture. Russia will chair the G20 in 2013, and we
must use the opportunity to better coordinate the work of the G20 and other
multilateral structures, above all the G8 and, of course, the U.N.
The Europe Factor
Russia is an inalienable and
organic part of a greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think
of themselves as Europeans. We are by no means indifferent to developments in the
That is why Russia proposes
moving toward the creation of a common economic and human space from the
Atlantic to the Pacific - a community referred to by Russian experts as
"the Union of Europe," which will strengthen Russia's potential and
economically pivot us toward the "new Asia."
Against the background of the
rise of China, India and other new economies, the financial and economic
upheavals in Europe - formerly an oasis of stability and order - is
particularly worrisome. The crisis that has struck the eurozone cannot but
affect Russian interests, especially if one considers that the E.U. is our
major economic and trade partner. Likewise, it is clear that the prospects of
the entire global economic structure depend greatly on the state of affairs in
Russia is actively
participating in the global effort to support ailing European economies, and is
consistently working with its partners to formulate collective decisions under
the auspices of the IMF. In principle, Russia isn't opposed to direct financial
assistance in some cases.
At the same time, I believe
that outside financial injections can only partially resolve the problem. A
true solution will require energetic, system-wide measures. European leaders
face the task of effecting a large-scale transformation that will fundamentally
change many financial and economic mechanisms to ensure genuine budget
discipline. We have a stake in ensuring a strong E.U. as envisioned by Germany
and France. It is in our interests to realize the enormous potential of the
The current level of
cooperation between Russia and the European Union doesn't correspond to today's
global challenges, above all making our shared continent more competitive. I
propose again that we work toward creating a harmonious community of economies
from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which will, in future, evolve into a free trade
zone and even more advanced forms of economic integration. The resulting common
continental market would be worth trillions of euros. Does anyone doubt that
this would be a wonderful development, and that it would meet the interests of
both Russians and Europeans?
We must also consider more
extensive cooperation in the energy sphere, up to and including the formation
of a common European energy complex. The Nord Stream gas pipeline under the
Baltic Sea and the South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea are important
steps in that direction. These projects have the support of many governments
and involve major European energy companies. Once the pipelines begin operating
at full capacity, Europe will have a reliable and flexible gas-supply that
doesn't depend on the political whims of any nation. This will strengthen the
continent's energy security - not only in form, but in substance. This is
particularly relevant in light of the decision of some European states to
reduce or renounce nuclear energy.
The Third Energy Package,
backed by the European Commission and aimed at squeezing out integrated Russian
companies, is frankly not conducive to stronger relations between Russia and
the E.U. Considering the growing instability of energy suppliers which could
act as an alternative to Russia, the package aggravates the systemic risks to
the European energy sector and scares away potential investors in new
infrastructure. Many European politicians have been critical of the package in
their talks with me. We should summon the courage to remove this obstacle to
I believe that genuine
partnership between Russia and the European Union is impossible as long as
there are barriers that impede human and economic contacts, first and foremost
visa requirements. The abolition of visas would give powerful impetus to real
integration between Russia and the EU, and would help expand cultural and
business ties, especially between medium-sized and small businesses. The threat
to Europeans from Russian economic migrants is largely imagined. Our people
have opportunities to put their abilities and skills to use in their own
country, and these opportunities are becoming ever more numerous.
In December 2011, we agreed
with the E.U. on "joint steps" toward a visa-free regime. They can
and should be taken without delay. We should continue to actively pursue this
In recent years, a good deal
has been done to develop Russian-American relations. Even so, we haven't
managed to fundamentally change the matrix of our relations, which continue to
ebb and flow. The instability of the partnership with America is due in part to
the tenacity of some well-known stereotypes and phobias, particularly the
perception of Russia on Capitol Hill. But the main problem is that bilateral
political dialogue and cooperation don't sit on a solid economic foundation.
The current level of bilateral trade falls far short of the potential of our
economies. The same is true of mutual investments. We have yet to create a
safety net that would protect our relations against ups and downs. We should
work on this.
Nor is mutual understanding
strengthened by regular U.S. attempts to engage in "political
engineering," including in regions that are traditionally important to us
and during Russian elections.
As I've said before, U.S.
plans to create a missile defense system in Europe give rise to legitimate Russian
fears. Why does the system worry us more than others? Because it affects the
strategic nuclear deterrence that only Russia possesses in that theater, and it
upsets the military-political balance established over decades.
The inseparable link between
missile defense and strategic offensive weapons is reflected in the New START treaty signed in
2010. The treaty has come into effect and is working fairly well. It is a major
foreign policy achievement. In the coming period, we are prepared to consider
various options for our joint agenda in the field of arms control. In this
effort we must seek to balance our interests and renounce any attempts to gain
one-sided advantages through negotiations.
In 2007, during a meeting
with President Bush at Kennebunkport, I proposed a solution to the missile
defense problem, which, if adopted, would have changed the customary character
of Russian-American relations and opened up a positive path forward. Moreover,
if we had managed to achieve a breakthrough on missile defense, this would have
opened the floodgates for a qualitatively new model of cooperation, similar to
an alliance, in many other sensitive areas.
It was not to be. Perhaps it
would be useful to look back at the transcripts of the talks in Kennebunkport. Over
recent years, the Russian leadership has come forward with other proposals to
resolve the dispute over missile defense. These proposals still stand.
I am loath to dismiss the
possibility of reaching a compromise on missile defense. One wouldn't like to
see the deployment of the American system on a scale that would demand the
implementation of our declared countermeasures.
I recently had a talk with
Henry Kissinger. I meet with him regularly. I fully share this consummate
professional's thesis that close and trusting interactions between Moscow and
Washington are particularly important in periods of international turbulence.
In general, to achieve a
qualitative breakthrough, we are prepared to make great strides in our
relations with the U.S. But only on the condition the Americans are guided by
the principles of equal and mutually respectful partnership.
In December of last year,
Russia finally concluded its marathon accession to the WTO. The process took
many years. I must mention that in the closing stretch, the Obama Administration
and leaders of some major European states made a significant contribution to
achieving the final agreement.
To be honest, at times during
this long and arduous journey, we wanted to turn our backs on the talks and
slam the door shut. But we didn't succumb to emotion. As a result, a compromise
was reached that is quite acceptable for our country: we managed to defend the
interests of Russian industrial and agricultural producers in the face of
growing foreign competition. Our economic actors have gained substantial
additional opportunities to enter world markets and uphold their rights in a
civilized fashion. It is this, rather than the symbolism of Russia's accession
to the World Trade "club," that I see as the main outcome of the
Russia will comply with WTO
norms and will meet all of its international obligations. Likewise, I hope our
partners will play according to the rules. Let me note in passing that we have
already integrated WTO principles into the legal framework of the Common
Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Russia is still learning how
to systematically and consistently promote its economic interests in the world.
We have yet to learn, as many Western partners have, how to lobby for decisions
that favor Russian business in international forums. The challenges facing us
in this area, given our priority of innovation-driven development, are very
serious: to achieve equal standing for Russia in the modern system of global
economic ties, and minimize the risks arising from integration into the global
economy, including Russia's membership in the WTO and its forthcoming accession
to the OECD.
We are badly in need of
broader, non-discriminatory access to foreign markets. So far Russian economic
actors have been getting a raw deal. Restrictive trade and political measures
are being taken against them, and technical barriers are being erected that put
them at a disadvantage compared with their competitors.
The same holds true for
investments. We are trying to attract foreign capital to the Russian economy.
We are opening up the most attractive areas of our economy to foreign
investors, granting them access to the "juiciest morsels," in
particular, our fuel and energy complex. But our investors are not welcome
abroad and are often pointedly brushed aside.
Examples abound. Take the
story of Germany's Opel, which Russian investors tried and failed to acquire
despite the fact that the deal was approved by the German government and was
positively received by German trade unions. Or take the outrageous examples of
Russian businesses being denied their rights as investors after investing
considerable resources in foreign assets. This is a frequent occurrence in
Central and Eastern Europe.
All this leads to the
conclusion that Russia must strengthen its political and diplomatic support for
Russian entrepreneurs in foreign markets, and provide more robust assistance to
major, landmark business projects. Nor should we forget that Russia can employ reciprocal
measures against those who resort to dishonest methods of competition.
Government and business
associations should better coordinate their efforts in the foreign economic
sphere, more aggressively promote the interests of Russian business and help it
to open up new markets.
I would like to draw
attention to another important factor that shapes the role and place of Russia
in present-day and future political and economic alignments: the vast size of
our nation. Granted, we no longer occupy one-sixth of the earth's surface, but
the Russian Federation is still the world's largest nation with an unrivaled
abundance of natural resources. I refer not only to oil and gas, but also our
forests, agricultural land and clean fresh water resources.
Russian territory is a source
of its potential strength. In the past, our vast territory mainly served as a
buffer against foreign aggression. Now, given a sound economic strategy, it can
become a very important foundation for increasing our competitiveness.
In particular, I want to
mention the growing shortage of fresh water in the world. One can already foresee
the beginning of geopolitical competition for water resources and the capacity
to produce water-intensive goods. When the time comes, Russia will have its
trump card ready. We understand that we must use our natural wealth prudently
Global Support for Compatriots and Russian Culture
Respect for one's country is
rooted, among other things, in its ability to protect the rights of its
citizens abroad. We must never neglect the interests of the millions of Russian
nationals who live and travel abroad on vacation or business. I would like to
stress that the Foreign Ministry and all diplomatic and consular agencies must
be prepared to provide real support to our citizens around the clock. Diplomats
must respond to conflicts between Russian nationals and local authorities, and
to incidents and accidents in a prompt fashion - before the media announces the
news to the world.
We are determined to ensure
that Latvian and Estonian authorities follow the numerous recommendations of
reputable international organizations on observing generally accepted rights of
ethnic minorities. We cannot tolerate the shameful status of
"non-citizen." How can we accept that, due to their status as
non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in thirteen Estonians are
denied their fundamental political, electoral and socioeconomic rights - and
their capacity to freely use Russian?
The recent referendum in
Latvia on the status of the Russian language again demonstrated to the
international community how acute this problem is. Over 300,000 non-citizens
were once again barred from taking part in a referendum. Even more outrageous
is the fact that the Latvian Central Electoral Commission refused to allow a
delegation from the Russian Public Chamber to monitor the vote. Meanwhile,
international organizations responsible for compliance with generally accepted
democratic norms remain silent.
On the whole, we are less
than satisfied with how the issue of human rights is handled around the world.
First, the United States and other Western states dominate and politicize the
human rights agenda, using it as a means for exerting pressure. At the same
time, they are very sensitive and even intolerant to criticism. Second, the
objects of human rights monitoring are chosen regardless of objective criteria
but at the discretion of the states that have "privatized" the human
Russia has been the target of
biased and aggressive criticism that, at times, goes over the line. When we are
offered constructive criticism, we welcome it and are prepared to learn from
it. But when we are subjected, again and again, to blanket criticism in a
persistent effort to influence our citizens, their attitudes, and our domestic
affairs, it becomes clear that these attacks aren't rooted in moral and
No one should possess
complete control over the human rights agenda. Russia is a young democracy.
More often than not, we are too humble and all too willing to spare the
self-regard of our more experienced partners. Still, we often have something to
say, and no country has a perfect record on human rights and basic freedoms.
Even the older democracies commit serious violations, and we shouldn't look the
other way when they do. Obviously, this shouldn't be about trading insults. All
sides stand to gain from a constructive discussion of human rights issues.
In late 2011, the Russian
Foreign Ministry published its first report on the observance of human rights
in other countries. I believe we should become more active in this area. This
will facilitate broader and more equitable cooperation in the effort to resolve
humanitarian problems and promote fundamental democratic principles and human
Of course, this is just one
aspect of our efforts to promote our international and diplomatic agenda and
foster an accurate image of Russia abroad. Admittedly, we haven't seen great
success here. When it comes to media influence, we are often outperformed. This
is a separate and complex challenge that we must confront.
Russia has a great cultural
heritage, recognized both in the West and East. But we have yet to make a
serious investment in our culture and its promotion around the world. The surge
in global interest in ideas and culture, sparked by the merging of societies
and economies on the global information network, provides new opportunities for
Russia, which has a proven talent for creating cultural objects.
Russia has a chance not only
to preserve its own culture, but to use it as a powerful force for progress on
international markets. The Russian language is spoken in nearly all former
Soviet republics and in a significant portion of Eastern Europe. This is not
about empire, but rather cultural progress. Exporting education and culture
will help promote Russian goods, services and ideas; weapons and imposing
political regimes will not.
We must work to expand Russia's
educational and cultural presence in the world, especially in those countries
where a substantial part of the population speaks or understands Russian.
We must discuss how we can
derive the maximum benefit for Russia's image from hosting major international
events, including the APEC Leaders' Meeting in 2012, the G20 Summit in 2013 and
the G8 summit in 2014, the Universiade in Kazan in 2013, the Winter Olympics in
2014, the IIHF World Championships in 2016, and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Russia intends to continue
promoting its security and protecting its national interest by actively and
constructively engaging in global politics and in efforts to resolve global and
regional problems. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation and open
dialogue with all of our foreign partners. We aim to understand and take into
account the interests of our partners, and we ask that our own interests be
respected by them.
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