Vladimir Putin: Distinguished members of the Presidium,
This is not an ordinary meeting. For the first time the Presidium of the State Council will be discussing in extended format the country’s foreign policy in the presence of the heads of the relevant committees of the Federal Assembly.
There are several important reasons for that. We are witnessing an exceedingly eventful period in world affairs. We have recently seen some important international events, especially in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Suffice it to mention some fundamental decisions aimed at strengthening the EurAsEC: as you know, Ukraine and Moldova have been granted observer status. I consider the transformation of the CSTO into a fully-fledged regional organisation to be very important.
The development of integration in the framework of the CIS – economic, political, social and cultural – affects the interests of the majority of Russian regions. And I suggest that the heads of Russian regions concentrate on that aspect of foreign policy and display a maximum of initiative, enterprise and perseverance in this area.
We have revisited this theme many times noting that many regions of the Russian Federation, unlike in the Soviet Union, have changed dramatically, if only because most of them have become border regions.
Our meeting is taking place ahead of major foreign policy events. They include the regular and ever important summits of Russia and the EU and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, as well as the Russia-NATO summit in Rome. It can be said to be a watershed summit in the relations between Russia and the Western community in the security sphere. And of course one thinks about the forthcoming visit to Russia by the US President George W. Bush.
But it is not so much the tight international schedule, as the fact that these meetings will address truly pivotal international issues. These issues will go a long way in determining the development of the world situation and our country’s position in the world.
I consider that the very fact that the State Council is so closely involved in working out Russia’s international positions to be very important. The foreign policy of the country is not something that concerns one or two agencies. The broadest range of experts and the broadest range of government and civil structures should contribute to shaping it and putting it into practice.
Besides, the position of Russia and the underlying logic of our actions in the world must be transparent and understood by the leaders of the Russian regions and society as a whole. I am absolutely convinced that Russia’s activities will be effective only to the extent that you are all involved in this process and to the extent that our own actions are meaningful.
As things stand today the regions are often directly involved in implementing the government’s foreign policy, especially in the relations with our neighbours and partners within the CIS. In some cases the regions play the key role in developing trade, economic and cultural ties, and in resolving numerous humanitarian problems. It is an important area of work that has a big future. We must make active use of the potential of individual regions and coordinate their efforts within the federal districts.
Anticipating our discussion I would like to go over some key aspects of our foreign policy.
First, the strategy. Our aim is to create optimal conditions for the development of the Russian economy, to create an atmosphere contributing to Russia’s active participation in building a new international security infrastructure, in creating that structure and assuring for Russia a place in world politics and economy that matches its potential. Russia’s foreign policy is already becoming more pragmatic and concrete, geared to promoting our national interests, achieving economic growth and improving the standard of living. These goals must determine our position in all bilateral and multilateral meetings.
What concrete goals can we set for ourselves? First of all, we should make the best use of the possibility to strengthen the security of Russia and our neighbours and Commonwealth partners, possibilities opening up thanks to the new world situation. That fully vindicates the course for cooperation in the framework of the antiterrorist coalition.
At the same time, now that the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan has passed its peak, it is important to consolidate the new quality of international cooperation.
One thinks above all about Russian-American relations. The atmosphere of mutual trust and a clear awareness that our countries are no longer each other’s enemies, which was achieved during the past year, have made possible new agreements on the reduction of the strategic potentials of our countries. It meets not only the interests of Russia, but of the whole world community.
We are also creating an entirely new mechanism of interaction with NATO designed to finally reverse the inertia of the Cold War and to enable our countries to address real and not imaginary security threats.
Through difficult negotiations with the NATO countries we have started creating a mechanism of equal cooperation of the twenty states acting in their capacity as individual nations. In practice it means that we will jointly develop and, even more importantly, jointly implement decisions on an agreed range of issues.
The upcoming 9th Russia-EU summit is a major political event which fits with the overall trend of the establishment of solid links and constructive interaction with the united Europe.
We expect the Moscow meeting to give a new and substantial impetus to political dialogue with Europe. We will be talking about the development of a concept of the common European economic space, energy partnership, the recognition of Russia as a market economy and the progress of talks on Russia’s accession to the WTO. Particular attention will be paid to a comprehensive discussion on the problems of the Kaliningrad Region in the context of the forthcoming enlargement of the European Union.
New mechanisms of multilateral cooperation with our participation are created not only in the West but also significantly in the East. I am referring to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in whose framework Russia will be able to develop economic and other ties that are essential for our regions in Siberia and the Far East. I should also stress that our strategic partnership with China has played a key role in the creation of the SCO.
So, our principled course, which combines a readiness to cooperate constructively with all those who are interested in it and a firmness in upholding our national interests, is beginning to bring tangible fruit, real returns. At the same time, we should not entertain any illusions or have excessive expectations. Ahead lies intensive work to promote our national interests in an exceedingly complicated and highly competitive international environment.