Vladimir Putin: Distinguished colleagues,
This meeting is attended by the representatives of the Federation Council and the State Duma. I think such a broad format will allow us to discuss the key aspects of our foreign policy strategy and current foreign policy practice, as well as the priorities in this sphere that face the law-makers.
To work out and implement a single line in international affairs requires close coordination between the executive and legislative branches. I believe that such meetings can help us to perfect an effective mechanism of interaction and of agreeing positions and producing new imaginative ideas, and I look forward to hearing these ideas from you.
Today parliamentary work has become an inseparable part of our ties with foreign countries and international organisations. Our participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a vivid example. Russian legislators, working against heavy odds, have managed to argue and uphold our position and convey it to the European public. And you claim much of the credit for the fact that Russia is perceived as a reliable ally and a partner open to cooperation.
I would like to say a few words about the results of the Russian-American summit. Today we can speak about a qualitative change in the relations between our countries, and I am referring above all to the increased level of mutual understanding and confidence.
I think that those who see our interaction only as a tactical rapprochement prompted by the recent developments in the world are profoundly mistaken. We are talking about a programme of long-term partnership. This is our common position and we have set it down in the joint statement on the new Russian-American relations. It has been to a large extent prompted by changes in the world, not by our wishes, but by the fact that the world has changed and this cannot be ignored. It has to be taken into account if we want to create a favourable climate around the Russian Federation, a climate in which we will be able to develop our productive forces, our economy, which is our number one task.
Much attention was devoted during the talks to countering international terrorism. In spite of the successful actions against the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, the fight against the terrorist threat is only beginning and it must be pursued until the terrorists, wherever they are, and wherever they are hiding, are liquidated.
We intend to promote Russian-American interaction in all areas, including in creating a legal framework for combating terrorism. In this connection serious challenges face the legislative branch. I have to say that my meetings at the US Congress too have shown that there is a large field for joint work and that the mood among your American colleagues is positive. There are some problems which we will discuss a little later, they are natural problems, but on the whole I note a positive mood.
The future political set-up in Afghanistan was also discussed. Our countries have similar approaches to the problem. It is necessary to seek to form, under the UN aegis, government bodies broadly representative of all the political and ethnic groups in the country. We on our side stressed that the representatives of the United Front must play a key role in the negotiating process to create new power bodies in Afghanistan.
Among major international issues, particular attention was paid to the future development of interaction between Russia and NATO. I would like to stress again that Russia is not going to join the queue to be admitted to NATO. In terms of its economic, scientific-technical, human, military and territorial potential, Russia is a self-sufficient state capable of ensuring its defence. But in the changed conditions in the world we, I repeat, are committed to positive and constructive cooperation not only with all the countries, but with all the international organisations, especially in the security sphere. And we are ready to bridge the gaps between our positions and those of NATO in many areas and move as far as the North Atlantic alliance itself is ready to move, with due account of our national interests. The US President was very perceptive of our ideas of creating new mechanisms in a G-20 countries format for joint making and implementation of decisions. He is ready to discuss these issues with the NATO allies, which I think is a very positive factor.
I have a generally positive assessment of our conversation on the economic aspects of Russian-American relations. The US leadership intends to actively contribute to the development of trade, economic and investment links with Russia.
Let me note that this approach is a marked departure from the Administration’s initially very skeptical approach to the issues of government support of business cooperation with Russia.
The fact that George Bush and the US Congress have confirmed their intention to take the necessary steps to finally lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment with regard to Russia, the readiness to accelerate the recognition of Russia as a market economy and to conduct negotiations on our accession to the WTO in a positive way without putting forward extra demands, and the readiness to take into account the economic interests of Russia in dealing with regional problems – all these are politically important facts.
On the whole I consider the summit to have been a success and I assess it positively, even though differences on a number of issues remain, one can say that the relations between Russia and the US are going through a period of serious positive transformation. Of course, it is far from completed and much work lies ahead. We shall see how it will proceed, but I would just like to stress again that we are interested and we will work towards its positive development.