Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
First of all, I cordially thank our Italian friends and the Italian Prime Minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi, for their hospitality and the excellent organisation of this meeting.
I can imagine how difficult it was to do what has been done within such a short space of time. The importance of this meeting is hard to overestimate. Until recently such a meeting of the leaders of Russia and the NATO countries, bearing in mind its format today and its quality, would have been unthinkable. But today it has become a reality. It is a reality that has been made possible through hard joint work and a readiness to conduct a committed and absolutely open dialogue.
As has already been said here, twenty influential states have become aware of their common basic security interests in the fast changing international situation. They have become sufficiently aware of the need for greater interaction and of the global nature of new threats. Above all, the threat of international terrorism.
On September 11 last year terror claimed thousands of human lives in New York and other American cities. And more recently, on May 9, the day of the Great Victory over Nazism, terrorists in the Russian city of Kaspiisk did not spare even women, old people and children. They desecrated the memory of those who gave the world freedom and hope.
We remember that more than half a century ago humankind paid tens of millions of lives for the criminal shortsightedness and procrastination of political leaders in uniting their forces in the face of a common enemy. The task we face now is of a comparable scale historically. The current threat comes in a different guise, that is true. It has different habits. But it is no less dangerous to the destiny of mankind.
That is why all the institutions and forms of international cooperation are being scrutinised for relevance and effectiveness in the face of the new challenges.
We know that it will be a difficult test. It will take time, as the Secretary General recently wrote to me in a letter. I absolutely agree with that. It will take patience and strong political will. But that is the only way if we are to create a truly effective architecture capable of securing both our common interests and peace and security, which are indivisible.
Being realists, we remember that the relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance have a spotty history. We have traversed a long path from confrontation to dialogue, from confrontation to cooperation. And we understand very well that the signing of the Rome Declaration only begins the building of a fundamentally new relationship. Indeed, I can confirm what our distinguished host, the Prime Minister of Italy, has said, namely, that we discussed it at length with President Bush in Moscow.
But I must say that the decision to put relations between Russia and NATO on a new footing has met with understanding among millions of Russians. I believe that the people of Western Europe, the US and Canada will also regard this move as evidence that we are ready to assume the burden of responsibility for maintaining peace and stability on the planet.
The starting point here is a clear understanding that neither nuclear missile potentials nor the obligations of the Cold War can be a guarantee against modern threats.
We have adopted a declaration which clearly defines the principles of interaction and establishes a mechanism in the shape of a new NATO-Russia Council, and already the initial areas of joint efforts have been identified. So we expect that the Rome document will not be a statement of intent, but a solid foundation for our joint constructive work.
Russia wants to see it as a working document. What is of fundamental importance is that cooperation in a new format of “twenty” will rest on the solid foundation of international law: the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the European Security Charter. In this way we fit the new Council into the network of mutually complementing efforts of the world and regional security organisations.
For Russia, given its geopolitical position, the deepening of equal interaction with NATO is one instance of its multi-vector approach to which there is no alternative and to which we are firmly committed. We cannot imagine ourselves outside Europe, as we have told some of our colleagues just now. But we believe it is equally inconceivable to underestimate the role of the time-tested mechanisms of cooperation in the CIS and Asia.
Only a harmonious combination of actions in all these areas opens broad opportunities for creating a common security space from Vancouver to Vladivostok. I think that the participants in the meeting share that opinion.
Today we are holding our very first meeting in the format of “twenty”. We hope that our relations with NATO will expand and the quality of these relations will improve, and that this complicated and important work will be based not only on mutual respect but on an active search for more common ground. That alone can transform the logic of common interests into the logic of joint actions. And I think it is one of the main tasks of the NATO-Russia Council.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the new reality of our relations directly reflects the new level and quality of mutual understanding. I believe that the efforts we have exerted together for the sake of peace will continue. We have no alternative.
I would like to warmly thank all those who have gathered here at this roundtable of accord and mutual understanding. We know that today’s meeting would have been impossible without your goodwill and the awareness of all of you of the importance of what is happening. Without this the result we now have would have been impossible to achieve. I would like to assure you that Russia is aware of the magnitude of its responsibility.
Thank you for your attention.