Vladimir Putin: Let me say first of all that it is a great honour for me to be speaking in this historic hall and to be a guest of this world-famous scientific centre. Especially since some of my outstanding fellow countrymen have earlier visited the French Academy.
It is of course a great pleasure to me to listen to you and to have a chance to speak myself. Let me say from the start that the French political tradition has always been to Russia a vivid example of how the government can be perceptive of the position of the intellectual elite. Fortunately, in your country that tradition has not been interrupted as frequently and as tragically as in my country.
It is not at all times that the ideas of Russia’s philosophers and thinkers could influence the development of the state and society. Meanwhile Russia has always sought to borrow from European experience. This was particularly true in the era of Enlightenment, when Russian rulers began to seriously study the culture and political traditions of western countries. France was among those countries. We know from history that your Royal Academy of Sciences and other academies were visited by Peter the Great, and scholars tell us that he was far more interested in scientists and scientific and technical achievements than official ceremonies.
This audience will of course know that upon his return from France the Russian emperor made the final decision to establish a Russian Academy of Sciences. Subsequently many French scientists became members of that academy. I am not going to list the numerous names of famous Russian and French scientists who over the centuries provided a connection between our academic schools. And today your experience is one of the models for Russia and undoubtedly a very attractive model in the context of our ongoing reforms in education and science.
I would like to say a few words about how I see the present state of Russian-French relations whose roots go deep into history and to which this enlightened audience has a big contribution to make. I believe that our political partnership has traditionally been a stabilising factor in Europe. We were often allies in the creation of peaceful alliances and in the military and political association against the threats that arose. Both Russia and France are equally convinced that world problems are much better solved on the basis of the principles and norms of international law. Not least because it is equally in tune with both Russian and French political thought.
I would like to go back to one of the earlier speeches. The speaker here said that there can be no order and stability without a harmony between laws and customs. It is furthest from my intention to launch a discussion, but I think many would agree with me that the law always lags behind real life, life is always ahead. The law is still in the works, but life has already raced ahead. But it is also true that unless we follow these rules there will be chaos. Our task is not to break the laws but to change the rules in a timely manner yet follow these rules both inside our countries and in the international scene.
I think you would agree with me that Russian-French relations have always been something more than just cooperation between two states or communication between two peoples. There are ample grounds for speaking about a unity of cultures that are in tune with each other and mutually enrich each other. And if this constitutes a privilege, then our privileged partnership owes a great deal to the humanitarian component.
In our days the similarity of our worldviews helps the two countries to effectively cooperate at the UN Security Council, in the G8, the OSCE and other partnership mechanisms. It helps us to closely cooperate in tackling pressing international problems, proposing and promoting constructive approaches that derive in many ways from the traditions of European political philosophy.
Scientific links between Russia and France have always been a powerful engine of economic and industrial progress in our countries. These new times present our countries with new challenges and they can more effectively be met if we join forces. I believe that the highest dividends would accrue from pooling our research efforts on the cutting edge of scientific and technological progress. I am aware that several dozen such themes are being jointly developed by our academies and that these innovation projects already serve the development of business in both countries and the interests of our economies.
I see great prospects for the interaction of the French institutes with the centres of scientific innovation in Russia. Indeed, the most topical and important areas of cooperation have already been identified.
They are above all aerospace, energy, environment, biological and information technologies. I am sure that strategic partnership in these areas will help our countries to make the best of the advantages offered by world globalisation and to minimise its negative consequences.
Language is particularly important, of course, for the preservation and development of a people’s cultural identity. This is a truth well known to the French Academy, one of whose original tasks has been to create a literate and clear French language. We in Russia seek to preserve the purity of the Russian language and watch its evolution.
I believe that a key joint task should be mutual support of the international positions of the Russian and French languages. Language is also the main instrument of mutual enrichment and interpenetration of cultures, ideas and knowledge.
I also believe that work to make our education systems more competitive and develop fundamental sciences is extremely important. Knowledge in the modern world is the main resource of development and the development of relations among countries.
But we all understand that all these plans will remain on paper unless solid conditions for cooperation are created. That is why it is so important to expand scientific and cultural exchanges, to facilitate the movement of students, young scientists and specialists of the two countries.
Dear friends, I cannot help touching upon another very important topic. It is our joint struggle against the common enemy of the 21st century, international terrorism. I won’t dwell on it, but I think you will agree with me that in the 21st century an intellectual and moral vaccine against terror and permissiveness is just as vital as the vaccines against mortal diseases developed in the 19th century by Pasteur and Mechnikov.
In conclusion I would like to stress that the experience of your state and of our state equally attests that the best antidote to wars and bloody revolutions is enlightenment and reformism, strictly objective knowledge and progress initiated by democratic society and put into practice by democratic government.