Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: This 7,500 word opus published

in Moscow newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti, outlines what the once and

apparently future Russian president thinks of the United States and

NATO, Afghanistan, Syria, human rights, China, the Arab Spring, global

intrusions into the sovereignty of nations and many other issues.



Moskovskiye Novosti, Russia

'Russia's Place in a Changing World,' By Vladimir Putin


"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 problem. … By definition, total invulnerability for one country would in theory require absolute vulnerability for all others."


By Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia


Translated By Igor Medvedev


February 27, 2012


Russia - Moskovskiye Novosti - Original Article (Russia)

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.

RUSSIA TODAY VIDEO: Putin assassination plan foiled by Russian and Ukrainian Special Forces, Feb. 27, 00:03:11RealVideo

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 increasingly scarce.


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 constructive flexibility.


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.



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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 problem.


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 actions.



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 economic position.


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 secular nature.


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 unacceptable.



I'm referring to those cases in which the activities of NGOs are not based on the interests (and resources) of local social groups, but are instead funded and supported by outside forces. Large countries, international blocks and corporations have many agents of influence. When they act in the open, it is simply a form of civilized lobbying. Russia also uses such institutions, such as the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, International Humanitarian Cooperation, the Russkiy Mir Foundation and our leading universities, which recruits talented students from abroad.


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 events.


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 leader.



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 labs.


Invigorated anti-drug 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.


Predicting further 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 objectionable regimes.


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 considerable.


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 united Europe.


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 Europe.


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 Russia-E.U. partnership.


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 mutually-beneficial cooperation.


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 goal.


Russian-American Affairs


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.


Economic Diplomacy


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 process.


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 and strategically.


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 rights agenda.


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 democratic values.


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 rights.


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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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US Feb. 29, 9:22pm]


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