President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
At this, our first Security Council meeting of this year, we have on the agenda our cooperation in the security area with our partners throughout the world in general and in the CIS. I am thinking primarily of partners such as NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
This subject covers many different areas, concerns key aspects of our foreign policy and security strategy and influences the outlook for integration processes underway in Europe and in the post-Soviet area.
I would like to say right from the start that we think the choice made in favour of dialogue and cooperation with NATO was the right one and has proved fruitful. This choice has clearly strengthened the Russian Federation’s international position and has given us additional, in many ways new, possibilities for reaching our national objectives.
In just a very short time we have taken a gigantic step from past confrontation to working together and from mutual accusations and stereotypes to creating modern instruments for cooperation such as the Russia-NATO Council.
I believe it is of principal importance that we have been able to concentrate our work together with NATO on areas that correspond to Russia’s long-term interests. This concerns above all our security interests – the possibilities we have for countering terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and fighting drug trafficking and organised crime.
I remind you that in Afghanistan we were able to deal a serious blow to international terrorism and in so doing could strengthen the CIS’ southern borders. To a great extent it was the unprecedented close cooperation between Russia and NATO, Russia and individual NATO member countries, that made this possible.
I would like to note that relations between Russia and NATO have already become a real factor in ensuring international stability. As partners we are able to hold frank discussions and work out solutions for settling crisis situations. It has now also become normal practice for us to hold joint military exercises.
Today we are ready to move on to a new level of cooperation in a number of military and military-technical areas. There are plans to work through the questions of operational compatibility between Russia’s and NATO’s armed forces and joint participation in liquidating man-made and natural disasters.
It is also clear that Russia and NATO do not share the same views on every point. We remain convinced that there is no real justification for NATO’s geographical expansion. Historically our country has had and, objectively still has today, a significant and already established role in maintaining regional stability throughout the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States. We have already achieved much in this area and have gained unique experience. But it is not enough to depend on this capital alone.
We have already discussed this issue many times before. Russia’s cooperation with its traditional partners must be attractive and give our neighbours and allies tangible benefits and advantages. We must be able to offer them more effective and competitive solutions to our common problems – economic, political, humanitarian and security problems. This includes help in settling regional conflicts, protection from common threats, strengthening the borders, technical modernisation and training personnel for their national armed forces. These are not areas where we can allow ourselves to simply make use of the leftovers, as it were, and skimp and save on means and resources that are not really so substantial. We are not wasteful in this area.
I have said many times before that work in the CIS is a priority element in our foreign policy doctrine. This approach should be the principle behind the government’s work and that of all the agencies concerned. We already discussed this point at the Security Council meeting that examined Russia’s policy in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Now a few words on the reserves we can draw on to build up our cooperation with NATO. And this is in both our interests and those of NATO itself.
I think that one new area we could work in would be to establish direct working contact between NATO and integration organisations the CIS countries participate in such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. This organisation after all, like NATO, is a mutually complementary element of the global and regional security system and to combine their respective potential would have a considerable positive effect.
Overall, we need to be able to offer our NATO partners well-grounded initiatives for intensifying our cooperation and achieving concrete, practical results on an ongoing basis.
It is also extremely important not to lose sight of another point, which is that in building our relations with NATO today, we must take into account the ongoing transformations that organisation is undergoing. I am referring here to the still ongoing internal discussions between the NATO member countries on the models to follow and the prospects for further transformation.
Modern Russia has already proved on more than one occasion that it can be a reliable strategic partner, a responsible partner able to take on a significant share of commitments for maintaining regional security and stability in the world in general.
In this aim we are ready to continue actively developing our dialogue with NATO and making our relations as beneficial as possible not only for Russia but also for its allies.
Regarding our relations with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, you know the latest decisions – concerning personnel training and selling our arms at domestic Russian prices. Our partners have reacted very positively to these decisions. We must continue to study our allies’ needs attentively and react in the right way. Not to our own detriment, of course. But in some areas there is cause to establish a certain preferential regime and I think that in this area it is fully justified.
Today we will discuss these two questions that I have just set out. I would like to ask Igor Sergeyevich [Ivanov] to include on our agenda in the future the subject of our relations with our European partners in the security area. We know that serious consolidation processes are underway there in this area. Even more so than in NATO, the European security system is in a state of change and transformation and decisions are being taken. We keep up an ongoing dialogue with our partners, but for this dialogue to be productive, carefully considered, justified and systemic, we need to give it our constant attention.