The Russian Council for International Affairs was established on presidential order in 2010 to promote cooperation between Russian and foreign think tanks in the area of international relations.
Mr Medvedev met on the sidelines of the conference with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland.
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Speech at a conference organised by the Russian Council for International Affairs, Euro-Atlantic Security Community: Myth or Reality?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It was with great interest that I accepted the invitation to take part in this conference. There is a very high level of representation here. As far as I know, experts from nearly 20 countries have come here to discuss the very relevant task of building the Euro-Atlantic security community. I want, first of all, to welcome all of our guests to Moscow and Russia.
Let me start straight away by answering the question before us: is the Euro-Atlantic security community a myth or reality? I think that it is still a myth for now, but a myth that must become reality; and this is something we can all take part in.
Constructive and unbiased dialogue with scholars and experts is essential in order to help those whose job it is to think about the future of their countries and peoples and who feel real responsibility for our world’s future make the right practical decisions. In today’s world of fast-paced globalisation these are not just polite words, but have become an axiom.
The Russian Council for International Affairs was established two years ago. We supported this initiative and I think we were right to do so. I hope that the civil society representatives, scholars, diplomats, and military people on the council feel the real demand we have for their views and contribution.
Speaking frankly, Russia most certainly seeks to build a Euro-Atlantic security community in which all feel safe and comfortable and equally protected. This endeavour has clear global importance, and no matter how hard this road, Russia will follow it together with other countries, with our international partners. We will not abandon this road or adopt a wait-and-see position, but will act.
Security does not come just all of its own accord. Guaranteeing security is a task requiring effort and input by all countries. We still have much work to do to overcome the crisis of confidence. As you know, the crisis of confidence was named as the main reason for the global economic crisis that swept the world in 2008. The crisis years have brought us their share of dramatic events, but have also taught us much (by ‘us’ I mean the international community and countries’ leaders). Above all, we have learnt to listen to each other in critical situations, which simply did not happen before on economic issues. The crisis served as a serious warning to us all and convinced us of the need for fundamental changes to the system of international economic relations. We have not made all of these changes yet, but we are advancing along this road. Indeed, in some areas we are moving faster than I imagined possible when we first met at the end of 2008 in the USA in a not very optimistic mood.
We must do the same in foreign policy, work together to resolve the modern world’s problems and join our forces on a fundamentally new basis.
”I remain convinced that security can only be indivisible and equal. Attempts to bolster one’s own security at the expense of others destroy the very idea of building a community of countries and undermine the basis for cooperation“.
I remain convinced that security can only be indivisible and equal. Attempts to bolster one’s own security at the expense of others destroy the very idea of building a community of countries and undermine the basis for cooperation. Even more serious, they raise the spectre of new dividing lines, create tension and instability. The problem is not just that such oases of security are not viable and cannot last in a globalised world, but that their collapse could bury in its ruins the entire existing security system and ultimately, the system of international law.
More than ever before, the Euro-Atlantic region demands a solid partnership. We share many things and we need each other overall. We have many common problems. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, natural and manmade disasters, financial and economic instability, international terrorism, organised crime, and drug trafficking are all problems that require us to stand closely together. Certainly, these threats existed before too, but in a globalised world they become all the more evident and all the more dangerous.
We have plenty of the conditions we require for building partnership and enough experience of good-neighbourly cooperation. We have helped each other in many different situations. We in Russia have not forgotten, for example, the difficult situation we had with the wild fires that struck our country the year before last. We are very grateful to our European partners for the great help they gave us then.
We help each other in evacuating embassy staff from conflict zones, combat piracy at sea together, and work jointly to fight transnational crime and terrorism. We have organised information exchange on terrorist groups.
We have accomplished a lot over these years, including together with the European Union. We have simplified visa rules, and are working on the Partnership for Modernisation programme, which I think is an important undertaking. I hope it will continue and that other countries will get involved too. We have joined efforts too, to overcome the enormous number of hurdles that were in the way of Russia’s joining the WTO. Western business is now finding a more comfortable environment in Russia, or, at least, has seen our rules become clearer and easier to understand. This does not mean that all problems have been resolved, but there is a sense of greater closeness now, and this is a convincing signal we can send to all involved in security.
Not so long ago, military might was the universal measure of a country’s strength. We all hope that these times are now a thing of the past. Countries today are strong above all through their openness and their readiness to work as partners. I will go further and say that helping our partners is one of our priority national interests, because a world in which mutual support reigns is a secure world.
Acting in this light, we are developing our integration within the Commonwealth of Independent States and are working together closely with our allies to strengthen cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Let me say that we see this organisation not as an isolated group, but as an effective regional mechanism for countering the common threats we face. Actually, I would recommend that our partners in NATO think about expanding and deepening their ties with the CSTO. I think the time for this is ripe. This is in our mutual interest, in our common interest.
”In our relations with NATO it is time to free ourselves of the phantoms of the past and mistrustful instincts that on both sides are clearly hindering our attempts to build a full-fledged partnership“.
Today, we have made decisive progress and reached a new stage of economic integration within the Eurasian Economic Union that is in the process of formation between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
I think that in our relations with NATO it is time to free ourselves of the phantoms of the past and mistrustful instincts that on both sides are clearly hindering our attempts to build a full-fledged partnership.
The time has come for rapprochement and joint decisions aimed at building a more stable and fairer world order.
I remember the NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon in November 2010, where it was stated convincingly that security of all countries in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible and that the security of NATO and Russia is interlinked. I am ready to sign my name to these words today, too. The meeting was positive in spirit overall, and open in its discussions of the different issues. Our position is that Russia’s relations with NATO form one of the cornerstones of security in the Euro-Atlantic area and play a big part in shaping strategic stability at the global level.
At the same time, of course, we cannot organise cooperation between Russia and NATO without resolving the issues that concern our countries’ fundamental interests. The test of how ready the United States and other NATO members are for genuine partnership with Russia is really very simple: to what extent will they take our interests into account, above all regarding the European missile defence issue.
Reliable military technical and geographical-based guarantees that a deployed missile defence system would not be directed against Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces are of principle importance for our country. Missile defence forces and the system overall should fit the stated purpose of countering possible missile threats from beyond Europe, and I stress this point – beyond Europe. No one has yet explained to me clearly why we should believe that the new European missile defence system is not aimed against us. On the contrary, we are always being told, ‘This system is for you, not against you. Use it too’. But how are we to use it? Whichever way you look at it, it upsets nuclear parity. I can tell you frankly that no matter how good my relations with my colleagues and no matter how deep Russia’s relations with NATO member countries, we have no choice but to take this issue into account and respond if the circumstances call for it.
The dialogue continues now and no doors are closed. I ask you to remember that this was not our decision. We did not come up with this idea and are not the ones carrying it out. To be honest, many European leaders tell me privately in the corridors that they do not need this system, but that, ‘we have the principle of Atlantic solidarity, and so will go ahead with it, even though we’d rather not spend the money on it’. Well, we do not need this system either.
There is still time, though it is starting to run short. I believe it is in our mutual interest to work swiftly on finding a mutually acceptable solution, but any agreements here must be genuinely mutually acceptable. I have no doubt that we can agree, all the more so as recent years furnish many examples of successful cooperation. Indeed, I am rather proud of the results we have achieved. One of the biggest was the conclusion of the New START Treaty, based on the principles of equality, parity, and equal and indivisible security for both parties. Incidentally, the preamble, as I recall, states the link between missile defence and strategic offensive weapons. If anyone has forgotten, I recommend that you open the treaty and take a fresh look. I believe that if we take the same approach to the missile defence issue we will certainly find a solution.
”Reliable military technical and geographical-based guarantees that a deployed missile defence system would not be directed against Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces are of principle importance for our country“.
We have solid cooperation in all aspects of ensuring reliable nuclear security. We have prepared thoroughly for the upcoming summit in Seoul. I will be there and I hope that the summit will mark a new stage in strengthening and expanding cooperation in physical nuclear protection, preventing potential nuclear terrorism threats, and preventing the emergence of black markets for nuclear materials and trafficking in such materials.
Russia pays close attention to the security and protection of nuclear materials and related installations. I will talk about this in Seoul, explain the steps we have taken in this area, and discuss possible forms of contact and exchange of experience with our partners.
The task of strengthening the foundations of international relations is the basis of another of our proposals, namely, the idea of a European Security Treaty. In the draft version of this document we tried to set out the basic principles for security in interstate relations in the Euro-Atlantic area. These principles are conscientious compliance with international obligations, respect for countries’ sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence, and the renunciation of use of force. This treaty would give us the conditions we need to develop effective cooperation mechanisms that will enable us to respond adequately to security threats and challenges.
This initiative is not directed against anyone, and I am sure that it would consolidate us, build confidence between us, and add stability to our relations.
Colleagues, I hope that this conference will give a new boost to concrete discussion on how to improve the European security architecture and help to answer a number of very important questions. Answering these questions will help us to reach agreement on the most difficult issues and this will ultimately help to change the security paradigm.
Equal rights are a cornerstone of international law, and imply equal responsibility and also equal obligation for making a real contribution to ensuring security. The norms and principles of international law are the universal and time-tested instrument of interstate relations. Methods for regulating and governing international processes can be viable only if they comply with and use the principles of supremacy of the law, and of countries’ sovereignty. The United Nations plays an indisputable role and has indisputable influence here as the organisation in which we have vested the responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. This does not always happen in practice. We are to close any loopholes for bypassing the Security Council and using force without its consent, and such attempts happen regularly in various guises. The arguments given are simple: that we were unable to reach agreement in the UN, and so it, or the policy of particular countries, is flawed, and we will therefore take action on our own initiative in the interests of a better world and of democracy. But where do we see the supremacy of international law in such arguments?
I note in particular that we have seen an increase of late of people seeking to use force as a means of resolving problems. We hear not just experts but officials make statements of an ultimatum nature complete with threats of outside armed intervention. I think this is very dangerous and quite simply unacceptable. Some want to hurry to make Syria a modern democracy, and some want to sort out the Iranian nuclear programme as quickly as possible. We are also very concerned by many of the events in the world, including the issues I just named. But behind these various statements and actions, we often see a flawed logic and psychology of war.
”The task of strengthening the foundations of international relations is the basis of another of our proposals, namely, the idea of a European Security Treaty. This initiative is not directed against anyone, and I am sure that it would consolidate us, build confidence between us, and add stability to our relations“.
No matter what the good intentions motivating attempts to impose one’s view or one’s freedom on those who disagree, they are not compatible with the principles of international relations. Let us try to listen to each other more attentively and without prejudice, and be more attentive about taking into account the history and cultural and religious specificities of different countries and regions. Most important is not to let propagandistic attacks undermine or suppress the supremacy of international law, or else international relations will descend into a spiral of anarchy and arbitrary action.
Today we urgently need competition of ideas on how to bolster the cooperative foundations of international relations, and common efforts in this area to act as a counterweight to the race for geopolitical supremacy. This kind of race for supremacy always reproduces an outdated approach to conducting international affairs and brings only short-term success. We often see how relative such victories turn out to be in the end. Today’s advantage won is lost tomorrow, faded away, but the cost and the price to pay in terms of destroying and undermining regional and global balances and trust are very high.
We have made our contribution to this competition of ideas with our European Security Treaty, but we are ready to discuss other ideas too on how to ensure indivisible security. We never put on blinkers and do not take the attitude that our idea is the best and that we should not therefore discuss any other proposals. This is not the case. But we have yet to see and hear these other ideas. What we hear is that there is NATO and this is sufficient. Those who are not in NATO are often perceived as latent enemies or as international losers, and this is not a good thing.
Let me say a few words about the new security dimension. Today, we are witness to persistent attempts to make mass manipulation of public opinion a tool in international relations. This sees a country or group of countries instil their own aims and objectives in the consciousness of others as a kind of unquestioned political truth, with other points of view rejected. We all should be more tolerant and learn to listen to each other better.
I believe that any initiatives and action, even if they have the majority’s support, must not violate international law and democratic decision-making procedures. Syria’s case is illustrative in this respect. A very active media campaign unfolded with respect to Syria. I will not now discuss the nature of these events, but what is clear is that this media campaign had little to do with the task of ending the violence as rapidly as possible and facilitating the national dialogue that we all want to see there.
”We are to close any loopholes for bypassing the Security Council and using force without its consent, and such attempts happen regularly in various guises.“
But if we concentrate on professional and serious discussion rather than propaganda efforts, the international community is capable of working out a common approach to settling this conflict. This is evident in the agreement on the five principles reached with the involvement of our country’s foreign minister and his colleagues from the League of Arab States, and in the approved statement issued a few days ago by the chairman of the UN Security Council in support of Kofi Annan’s mission. I stress that the provisions of this document are in line with the proposals that Russia has been making right from the start.
With regard to the Syrian issue, I note too, the role the expert community plays in providing objective and unbiased analysis of international events. Of course, we are all grateful to journalists for giving us timely information and for their self-sacrificing work in sometimes very dangerous situations. They deserve our praise. But truly in-depth and professional analysis must come from the experts, the professionals who have comprehensive knowledge and rich experience, including diplomatic experience and experience in resolving crisis situations. We therefore think it so important to listen regularly to your voice, assessments and conclusions.
Colleagues, we hear more and more often today about security as a multidimensional concept that includes a humanitarian dimension too. The Euro-Atlantic region faces many human rights challenges today. They include basic racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. They include too, issues regarding national and ethnic minorities, refugees and displaced persons, and migrants. The list goes on. These problems affect all of our countries to some degree, all of the Euro-Atlantic countries. We can address them effectively only through constructive and equal cooperation using the full spectrum of regional cooperation mechanisms including the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Russia is ready for this cooperation and consistent in calling on all of its partners to join in.
We see these issues as intrinsically linked to spirituality, moral values, and historical traditions, and cannot accept their separation. We oppose attempts to impose upon sovereign countries recipes for solutions to these problems. We cannot accept a selective approach to assessing the human rights situation. This approach is usually based on double standards and ultimately devalues the basic principles of international relations and of the classic concept of democracy itself, inculcated in us in the schoolroom and in university classes.
How are we to see the mantras repeated by particular countries that consider themselves the main exporters of democracy if, say, in the Libyan and now the Syrian cases, countries whose internal political lives are governed by completely different norms are chosen as models to follow for democratic development? You either have democracy or you don’t. Does it not sadden you too, to look at what is going on?
”Today, we are witness to persistent attempts to make mass manipulation of public opinion a tool in international relations. I believe that any initiatives and action, even if they have the majority’s support, must not violate international law and democratic decision-making procedures.“
We are to cast aside this kind of opportunistic thinking and realise just how deep and serious are the changes taking place in the world. Only in this case we will be successful in building a united Europe, a Europe without dividing lines, and it is this that is our real task. We in Russia want this very much. The time of separation and division has passed now, fortunately, and there is no going back to it. Our peoples’ will and their desire for unity is the guarantee of this.
More than ever before, the state of international security depends on human potential in Europe as a whole. Russia treasures immensely its human wealth. We are a multi-ethnic country, a very complex country with a system of values shaped over the centuries and developed and enriched through interaction with other European cultures. We realise too, that our historic and spiritual commonality are at the foundation of the European identity, and these are not empty words.
In conclusion, I want to say that we are open to dialogue and a search for mutually acceptable decisions on all security issues in the Euro-Atlantic region. I hope very much for your contribution to reaching these truly historic objectives.
I wish you all success and thank you for your attention.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Desmond Brown on his 60th birthday. Thank you for being here with us today. Instead of celebrating your birthday in a more traditional setting, you have chosen to spend this day discussing global issues. Thank you for this, and I wish you good health.