Russia and the Changing World
By Vladimir Putin
article was first
27 Feb, 2012
September 18, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" -
In my articles I have already mentioned the
key challenges that Russia is facing internationally today. Yet this
subject deserves a more detailed discussion and not only because
foreign policy is an integral part of any national strategy.
External challenges and the changing world around us affect our
economic, cultural, fiscal and investment policies.
Russia is a part of the big world, economically,
culturally and in terms of information flow. We cannot be isolated,
and we do not want to be isolated. We expect our openness will bring
the people of Russia more prosperity and culture and will promote
trust, an item that has been in short supply lately.
At the same time, everything we do will be based
on our own interests and goals, not on decisions other countries
impose on us. Russia is only treated with respect when it is strong
and stands firm on its own two feet. Russia has practically always
had the privilege of pursuing an independent foreign policy and this
is how it will be in the future. Furthermore, I strongly believe
that the only way to ensure global security is by doing it together
with Russia, not by trying to “demote” it, weaken it geopolitically
or undermine its defensive potential.
The goals of our foreign policy are strategic
rather than short-term. They reflect Russia’s unique role in
international affairs, in history and in the development of
We will certainly continue our active and
constructive efforts to strengthen global security, to avoid
confrontation and effectively neutralize such challenges as nuclear
proliferation, regional conflicts and crises, terrorism and drugs.
We will do all we can to help Russia obtain the latest technological
advances and help our businesses achieve a decent position on the
We will also seek to avoid unnecessary shocks as a
new world order emerges based on the new geopolitical reality.
Who undermines trust?
As before, I think that indivisible security for
all nations, unacceptability of the disproportionate use of force,
and unconditional compliance with the fundamental principles of
international law are indispensable postulates. Any neglect of these
norms destabilizes the world situation.
It is in this light that we view certain aspects
of US and NATO activities that do not follow the logic of modern
development and are based on the stereotypes of bloc mentality.
Everybody knows what I am alluding to. It is NATO expansion,
including the deployment of new military infrastructure and the
bloc’s (US-sponsored) plans to set up a missile defense system in
Europe. I could have ignored the subject had not they been playing
their games in the immediate proximity of Russia’s borders,
undermining our security and upsetting global stability.
We have presented our arguments more than once,
and I will not repeat them in detail here. But unfortunately our
Western partners ignore and dismiss them.
We are concerned because, even though it is not
yet clear how our “new” relationship with NATO will work, they are
creating facts on the ground. This definitely does not promote
trust. Furthermore, this kind of conduct has a negative effect on
global issues, as it prevents us from developing a positive agenda
in international relations and stalls the process of readjusting
them in a constructive vein.
A string of armed conflicts under the pretext of
humanitarian concerns has undermined the principle of national
sovereignty, which has been observed for centuries. A new type of
vacuum, the lack of morality and law, is emerging in international
We often hear that human rights are more important
than national sovereignty. This is definitely true, and crimes
against humanity should be punished by an international court. But
if this principle is used as an excuse for a presumptuous violation
of national sovereignty, and if human rights are protected by
foreign forces and selectively, and if, while “protecting” those
rights, they violate the rights of many other people, including the
most fundamental and sacred right, the right to life, this is no
longer a noble effort. This is merely demagoguery.
It is important for the UN and its Security
Council to be able to offer effective resistance to the dictate of a
few countries and to lawlessness in international affairs. Nobody
has the right to hijack the prerogatives and powers of the UN,
especially as regards the use of force with vis-à-vis sovereign
nations. I am referring primarily to NATO, which seeks to assume a
new role that goes beyond its status of a defensive alliance. All
these matters are extremely serious. We remember how the nations
that fell victim to “humanitarian” operations and the export of
“airstrike democracy” appealed in vain to international law and even
simple decency. Nobody listened, and nobody wanted to listen.
It seems that NATO countries, and especially the
United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security
which is fundamentally different from our view. The Americans are
obsessed with the idea of securing absolute invulnerability for
themselves, which, incidentally, is a utopia, for both technological
and geopolitical reasons. But that is exactly where the root of the
Absolute invulnerability for one nation would mean
absolute vulnerability for everybody else. We cannot agree to this.
Of course, many nations prefer not to raise this question openly for
a variety of reasons. But Russia will always call a spade a spade
and speak openly about such matters. I would like to stress once
again that violation of the principle of common and indivisible
security (accompanied by repeated assurances that they are still
committed to it) may have extremely serious consequences. Sooner or
later, those consequences will also affect the nations that initiate
such violations, whatever their reasons are.
The Arab Spring: lessons and conclusions
A year ago the world witnessed a new phenomenon –
nearly simultaneous demonstrations against authoritarian regimes in
many Arab countries. The Arab Spring was initially received with
hope for positive change. People in Russia sympathized with those
who were seeking democratic reform.
However, it soon became clear that events in many
countries were not following a civilized scenario. Instead of
asserting democracy and protecting the rights of the minority,
attempts were being made to depose an enemy and to stage a coup,
which only resulted in the replacement of one dominant force with
another even more aggressive dominant force.
Foreign interference in support of one side of a
domestic conflict and the use of power in this interference gave
developments a negative aura. A number of countries did away with
the Libyan regime by using air power in the name of humanitarian
support. The revolting slaughter of Muammar Gaddafi – not just
medieval but primeval – was the manifestation of these actions.
No one should be allowed to employ the Libyan
scenario in Syria. The international community must work to achieve
an internal 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 to introduce the measures for
democratization announced by the Syrian leadership. The key
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 UN
Security Council resolutions that may be interpreted as a signal to
armed interference in Syria's domestic development. Guided by this
consistent approach in early February, 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 Russian-Chinese veto, I
would like to warn our Western colleagues against the temptation to
resort to this simple, previously used tactic: if the UN Security
Council approves of a given action, fine; if not, we will establish
a coalition of the states concerned and strike anyway.
The logic of such conduct is counterproductive and
very dangerous. No good can come of it. In any case, it will not
help reach a settlement in a country that is going through a
domestic conflict. Even worse, it further undermines the entire
system of international security as well as the authority and key
role of the UN. Let me recall that the right to veto is not some
whim but an inalienable part of the world's agreement that is
registered in the UN Charter – incidentally, on US insistence. The
implication of this right is that decisions that raise the objection
of even one permanent member of the UN Security Council cannot be
well-grounded or effective.
I hope very much that the United States and other
countries will consider this sad experience and will not pursue the
use of power in Syria without UN Security Council sanctions. 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, all the more so
since this approach was already taking shape in the form of the
aforementioned Syrian resolution? It only lacked the demand that the
armed opposition do the same as the government; in particular,
withdraw military units and detachments from cities. The refusal to
do so is cynical. If we want to protect civilians – and this is the
main goal for Russia – we must make all the participants in the
armed confrontation see reason.
And one more point. It appears that with the Arab
Spring countries, as with Iraq, Russian companies are losing their
decades-long positions in local commercial markets and are being
deprived of large commercial contracts. The niches thus vacated are
being filled by the economic operatives of the states that had a
hand in the change of the ruling regime.
One could reasonably conclude that tragic events
have been encouraged to a certain extent by someone's interest in a
re-division of the commercial market rather than a concern for human
rights. Be that as it may, we cannot sit back watch all this with
Olympian serenity. We intend to work with the new governments of the
Arab countries in order to promptly restore our economic positions.
Generally, the current developments in the Arab
world are, in many ways, instructive. They show that a striving to
introduce democracy by use of power can produce – and often does
produce – contradictory results. They can produce forces that rise
from the bottom, including religious extremists, who will strive to
change the very direction of a country's development and the secular
nature of a government.
Russia has always had good relations with the
moderate representatives of Islam, whose world outlook was close to
the traditions of Muslims in Russia. We are ready to develop these
contacts further under the current conditions. We are interested in
stepping up our political and trade and economic ties with all Arab
countries, including those that, let me repeat, have gone through
domestic upheaval. Moreover, I see real possibilities that will
enable Russia to fully preserve its leading position in the Middle
East, where we have always had many friends.
As for the Arab-Israeli conflict, to this day the
"magic recipe" that will produce a final settlement has not been
invented. It would be unacceptable to give up on this issue.
Considering our close ties with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders,
Russian diplomacy will continue to work for the resumption of the
peace process both on a bilateral basis and within the format of the
Quartet on the Middle East, while coordinating its steps with the
The Arab Spring has graphically demonstrated that
world public opinion is being shaped by the most active use of
advanced information and communications technology. It is possible
to say that the Internet, social networks, cell phones etc. have
turned into an effective tool for the promotion of domestic and
international policy on a par with television. This new variable has
come into play and gives us food for thought – how to continue
developing the unique freedoms of communication via the Internet and
at the same time reduce the risk of its being used by terrorists and
other criminal elements.
The notion of "soft power" is being used
increasingly often. This implies a matrix of tools and methods to
reach foreign policy goals without the use of arms but by exerting
information and other levers of influence. Regrettably, these
methods are being used all too frequently to develop and provoke
extremist, separatist and nationalistic attitudes, to manipulate the
public and to conduct direct interference in the domestic policy of
There must be a clear division between freedom of
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 where the activities
of NGOs are not based on the interests (and resources) of local
social groups but are funded and supported by outside forces. There
are many agents of influence from big countries, international blocs
or corporations. When they act in the open, this is simply a form of
civilized lobbyism. Russia also uses such institutions like the
Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad,
International Humanitarian Cooperation, the Russkiy Mir Foundation
and our leading universities who recruit talented students from
However, Russia does not use or fund national NGOs
based in other countries or any foreign political organizations in
the pursuit of its own interests. China, India and Brazil do not do
this either. We believe that any influence on domestic policy and
public attitude in other countries must be exerted in the open; in
this way, those who wish to be of influence will do so responsibly.
New challenges and threats
Today, Iran is the focus of international
attention. Needless to say, Russia is worried about the growing
threat of a military strike against Iran. If this happens, the
consequences will be disastrous. It is impossible to imagine the
true scope of this 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 be done in exchange for putting all Iranian
nuclear activity under reliable and comprehensive IAEA safeguards.
If this is done, the sanctions against Iran, including the
unilateral ones, must be rescinded. The West has shown too much
willingness to "punish" certain countries. At any minor development
it reaches for sanctions if not armed force. Let me remind you that
we are not in the 19th century or even the 20th century now.
Developments around 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.
However, 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 inadvisable to try
and test the strength of the new North Korean leader and provoke a
Allow me to recall that North Korea and Russia
share a common border and we cannot choose our neighbors. We will
continue to conduct an active dialogue with the leaders of North
Korea and to develop good-neighborly relations with it, while at the
same time trying to encourage Pyongyang to settle the nuclear issue.
Obviously, it would be easier to do this if mutual trust is built up
and the inter-Korean dialogue resumes on the peninsula.
All this fervor around the nuclear programs of
Iran and North Korea makes one wonder how the risks of nuclear
weapons proliferation emerge and who is aggravating them. It seems
that the more frequent cases of crude and even armed outside
interference in the domestic affairs of countries may prompt
authoritarian (and other) regimes to possess nuclear weapons. If I
have the A-bomb in my pocket, nobody will touch me because it's 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
suggests this train of thought. This is why the number of threshold
countries that are one step away from "military atom" technology is
growing rather than decreasing. Under these conditions, zones free
of weapons of mass destruction are being established in different
parts of the world and are becoming increasingly important. Russia
has initiated the discussion of the parameters for 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 conduct,
especially those that are used to penalizing other countries by
force without letting the diplomats do their job. This was the case
in Iraq and its problems have only become worse after an almost
If the incentives for becoming a nuclear power are
finally eradicated, it will be possible to make the international
non-proliferation regime universal and firmly based on existing
treaties. This regime would allow all interested countries to fully
enjoy the benefits of the "peaceful atom" under IAEA safeguards.
Russia would stand to gain much from this because
we are actively operating in international markets, building new
nuclear power plants based on safe, modern technology and taking
part in the formation of multilateral nuclear enrichment centers and
nuclear fuel banks.
The probable future of Afghanistan is alarming. We
have supported the military operation on rendering international aid
to that country. However, the NATO-led international military
contingent has not met its objectives. The threats of terrorism and
drug trafficking have not been reduced. Having announced its
withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the United States has been
building, both there and in neighboring countries, military bases
without a clear-cut mandate, objectives or duration of operation.
Understandably, this does not suit us.
Russia has obvious interests in Afghanistan and
these interests are understandable. Afghanistan is our close
neighbor and we have a stake in its stable and peaceful development.
Most importantly, we want it to stop being the main 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 is leading
to the destabilization of Afghanistan. Far from declining, the
production of Afghan drugs increased by almost 40% 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 it
clear that it can only be overcome by a global effort with reliance
on the United Nations and regional organizations – the Collective
Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
and the CIS. We are willing to consider much greater participation
in the relief operation for the Afghan people but only on the
condition that the international contingent in Afghanistan acts with
greater zeal and in our interests and that it will pursue the
physical destruction of drug crops and underground laboratories.
Invigorated anti-drug measures inside Afghanistan
must be accompanied by the reliable blocking of the routes of opiate
transportation 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 the effective cooperation of the
international community for turning the tide in the war against the
global drug threat.
It is hard to predict further developments in
Afghanistan. Historical experience shows that foreign military
presence has not brought it peace. Only the Afghans can resolve
their own problems. I see Russia's role as follows – to help the
Afghan people, with the active involvement of other neighboring
countries, to develop a sustainable economy and enhance the ability
of the national armed forces to counter the threats of terrorism and
drug-related crime. We do not object to the process of national
reconciliation being joined by participants of the armed opposition,
including the Taliban, on condition they renounce violence,
recognize the country's constitution and sever 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 instability that has persisted for years and
decades is creating a breeding ground for international terrorism
that is universally recognized as one of the most dangerous
challenges to the world community. I'd like to note that the crisis
zones that engender a terrorist threat are located near Russian
borders and are much close to us than to our European or American
partners. The United Nations has adopted the Global
Counter-Terrorism Strategy but it seems that the struggle against
this evil is conducted not under a common universal plan and not
consistently but in a series of responses to the most urgent and
barbarian manifestations of terror – when the public uproar over the
impudent acts of terrorists grows out of proportion. The civilized
world must not wait for tragedies like the terrorist attacks in New
York in September 2001 or another Beslan disaster and only then act
collectively and resolutely after the shock of such cases.
I'm far from denying the results achieved in the
war on international terror. There has been progress. In the last
few years security services and the law-enforcement agencies of many
countries have markedly upgraded their cooperation. But there is
still the obvious potential for further anti-terrorist cooperation.
Thus, double standards still exist and terrorists are perceived
differently in different countries – some are "bad guys" and others
are "not so bad." Some forces are not averse to using the latter in
political manipulation, for example, in shaking up objectionable
All available public institutions – the media,
religious associations, NGOs, the education system, science and
business – must be used to prevent terrorism all over the world. We
need 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 this issue.
The growing role of the Asia-Pacific
One of our country's neighbors is China, a major
hub of the global economy. It has become fashionable to opine about
that country's future role in the global economy and international
affairs. Last year China moved into second place in the world in
terms of GDP and it is poised to surpass the US on that count,
according to international – including American – experts. The
overall might of the People's Republic of China is growing and that
includes the ability to project power in various regions.
How should we conduct ourselves in the face of the
rapidly strengthening Chinese factor?
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 – a chance to catch the
Chinese wind in the sails of our economy. We should seek to more
actively form new cooperative 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 about 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 the emerging
equitable world order. We will continue to support each other in the
international arena, to work together to solve acute regional and
global problems, and to promote cooperation within the UN Security
Council, BRICS, the SCO, the G20 and other multilateral forums.
And third, we have settled all the major political
issues in our relations with China, including the critical border
issue. Our nations have created a solid mechanism of bilateral ties,
reinforced by legally binding documents. There is an unprecedentedly
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 of Russian-Chinese relations we have created
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 parties by no means
always coincide, and we are not entirely satisfied with the emerging
trade structure and the low level of mutual investments. We will
also closely monitor immigration from the People's Republic of
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,
which the leaders of our two countries have classified 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 partnership.
We see before our eyes 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 in the "new Asia."
We will continue to prioritize our cooperation
with our BRICS partners. This unique structure, created in 2006, is
a striking symbol of the transition from a unipolar world to a more
just world 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% of world GDP.
We are still getting used to working together in
this format. In particular, we have to coordinate better on foreign
policy matters and work together more closely at the UN. But when
BRICS is really up and running, its impact on the world 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 of our business community. In these regions there is
still sincere goodwill towards 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 and technology, banking and
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
world's financial and economic architecture. Russia will chair the
G20 in 2013, and we must use this opportunity to better coordinate
the work of the G20 and other multilateral structures, above all the
G8 and, of course, the UN.
The Europe factor
Russia is an inalienable and organic part of
Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of
themselves as Europeans. We are by no means indifferent to
developments in united Europe.
That is why Russia proposes moving towards the
creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to
the Pacific Ocean – a community referred by Russian experts to as
"the Union of Europe," which will strengthen Russia's potential and
position in its economic pivot 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
worrying. The crisis that has struck the eurozone cannot but affect
Russia's interests, especially if one considers that the EU is our
major foreign economic and trade partner. Likewise, it is clear that
the prospects of the entire global economic structure depend heavily
on the state of affairs in Europe.
Russia is actively participating in the
international effort to support the ailing European economies, and
is consistently working with its partners to formulate collective
decisions under the auspices of the IMF. Russia is not opposed in
principle to direct financial assistance in some cases.
At the same time I believe that external financial
injections can only partially solve the problem. A true solution
will require energetic, system-wide measures. European leaders face
the task of effecting large-scale transformations that will
fundamentally change many financial and economic mechanisms to
ensure genuine budget discipline. We have a stake in ensuring a
strong EU, as envisioned by Germany and France. It is in our
interests to realize the enormous potential of the Russia-EU
The current level of cooperation between Russia
and the European Union does not correspond to current 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 the 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 start operating at full capacity, Europe will
have a reliable and flexible gas-supply system that does not 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 the 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 EU. Considering the growing instability of energy suppliers that
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 projects. 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
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 EU on "joint
steps" toward a visa-free regime. They can and should be taken
without delay. We should continue to actively pursue this goal.
In recent years a good deal has been done to
develop Russian-American relations. Even so, we have not 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 do not
rest 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
Nor is mutual understanding strengthened by
regular US attempts to engage in "political engineering," including
in regions that are traditionally important to us and during Russian
As I've said before, US plans to create a missile
defense system in Europe give rise to legitimate fears in Russia.
Why does that system worry us more than others? Because it affects
the strategic nuclear deterrence forces that only Russia possesses
in that theatre, and 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. We are ready
to consider various options for our joint agenda with the Americans
in the field of arms control in the coming period. 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 in
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 building 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. In
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 would not 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
In general, we are prepared to make great strides
in our relations with the US to achieve a qualitative breakthrough,
but on the condition that 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, which had lasted for many years.
I must mention that, in the finishing stretch, the Obama
administration and the leaders of some major European states made a
significant contribution to achieving the final accords.
To be honest, at times during this long and
arduous journey we wanted to turn our backs on the talks and slam
the door. But we did not 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 external competition.
Our economic actors have gained substantial additional opportunities
to enter world markets and uphold their rights there in a civilized
manner. It is this, rather than the symbolism of Russia's accession
to the World Trade "club", that I see as the main result of this
Russia will comply with WTO norms, as it meets all
of its international obligations. Likewise, I hope that 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 foreign 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
to minimize the risks arising from integration in the world 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 abroad. 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 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 conclusions that Russia must
strengthen its political and diplomatic support for Russian
entrepreneurs in foreign markets, and to provide more robust
assistance to major landmark business projects. Nor should we forget
that Russia can employ identical response measures against those who
resort to dishonest methods of competition.
The 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 largely shapes the role and place of Russia in
present-day and future political and economic alignments – the vast
size of our country. 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
am referring not only to oil and gas, but also our forests,
agricultural land and clean freshwater resources.
Russia's territory is a source of its potential
strength. In the past, our vast land mainly served as a buffer
against foreign aggression. Now, given a sound economic strategy,
they can become a very important foundation for increasing our
I would like to mention, in particular, the
growing shortage of fresh water in the world. One can foresee in the
near future the start of geopolitical competition for water
resources and for the ability to produce water-intensive goods. When
this time comes, Russia will have its trump card ready. We
understand that we must use our natural wealth prudently and
Support for compatriots and Russian
culture in the international context
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 on 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 manner – 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 Estonian residents are denied their fundamental
political, electoral and socio-economic rights and the ability 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
On the whole, we are dissatisfied with how the
issue of human rights is handled globally. First, the United States
and other Western states dominate and politicize the human rights
agenda, using it as a means to exert 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, exceeds all limits. When we are
given constructive criticism, we welcome it and are ready to learn
from it. But when we are subjected, again and again, to blanket
criticisms in a persistent effort to influence our citizens, their
attitudes, and our domestic affairs, it becomes clear that these
attacks are not rooted in moral and democratic values.
Nobody should possess complete control over the
sphere of human rights. Russia is a young democracy. More often than
not, we are too humble and 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 should not look the other way. Obviously, this work should not 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 solve 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 activity and to foster
an accurate image of Russia abroad. Admittedly, we have not seen
great success here. When it comes to media influence, we are often
outperformed. This is a separate and complex challenge that we must
Russia has a great cultural heritage, recognized
both in the West and the 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 merger
of societies and economies in the global information network,
provides new opportunities for Russia, with its proven talent for
creating cultural objects.
Russia has a chance not only to preserve its
culture but to use it as a powerful force for progress in
international markets. The Russian language is spoken in nearly all
the former Soviet republics and in a significant part of Eastern
Europe. This is not about empire, but rather cultural progress.
Exporting education and culture will help promote Russian goods,
services and ideas; guns 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 large 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 Olympic Games 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 solve global and
regional problems. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation
and open dialogue with all 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.