President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear friends and colleagues,
Recent years have seen great changes, sometimes fundamental changes, take place in the world. These changes are to a certain extent linked to the rise of new, economically powerful players on the world stage. It needs to be said that Russia, too, has considerably strengthened its domestic potential and its international position.
Pursuing an active foreign policy is becoming an increasingly important component of national development for any country. Effective use can be made of foreign policy to establish new positions in the world’s division of labour and to pursue political and humanitarian objectives.
Our diplomatic efforts in this respect should be bolstered not only by successes in helping to resolve international security issues, but also by important financial and economic levers. Overall, Russia should take responsibility for socio-economic and general global development in keeping with its place and its possibilities.
I ask the Foreign Ministry, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry and the Finance Ministry to continue work on creating a national mechanism for providing international development aid. The ministries concerned have the relevant instructions.
Furthermore, we should not simply take part in work on the ‘global agenda’ but should make a real contribution to its formation. I can see from my international meetings, and I am sure that you also sense this and have heard on many occasions, that there is growing demand from our partners abroad for Russia to play a more active role in world affairs.
All of this requires us to break free of familiar patterns and models and constantly re-evaluate the situation and make the necessary adjustments. It is for this reason that I have given my support to the Foreign Ministry’s initiative to conduct a review of our country’s foreign policy, and I hope that by the end of the year you will present well-argued and comprehensive proposals.
Russia is consistent in its support for a more secure and democratic world order and for equal access for all peoples and countries to the benefits of globalisation. Of course, we are equally consistent in our support for concerted effort made by all states to carry out policies aimed at minimising the modern threats and challenges we face.
We played an active part in ensuring that documents adopted by the United Nations in 2005 for the first time qualify instigation of terrorism as a crime. Our diplomats can also take credit for the opening for signature of the Convention on Combating Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Overall, I propose that we substantially expand our international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and drugs trafficking and in peacekeeping operations and natural disaster relief work.
We can pursue this kind of cooperation through bilateral channels, through regional organisations and through our cooperation programmes with NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and other bodies. In this respect I want to note that these ‘modern threats and challenges’ are not abstract terms but are a harsh and sometimes brutal reality that we face. Combating these threats and challenges requires a constant search for original solutions and a genuinely thoughtful and creative approach.
We need to be fully aware that, despite all our efforts, the potential for conflict in the world continues to grow. After the collapse of the bi-polar world order there exists a lot of unpredictability in global development. Perhaps this is why we continue to hear talk of an unavoidable conflict of civilisations that could become a long-term confrontation on the lines of the Cold War.
I am convinced that we have reached a point today where the entire global security architecture is indeed undergoing modernisation, and you have probably noticed this for yourselves. If we let old views and approaches continue to hold sway, the world will be doomed to further futile confrontation. We need to reverse these dangerous trends and this requires new ideas and approaches.
Russia does not want confrontation of any kind. And we will not take part in any kind of ‘holy alliance’.
We support all initiatives to develop dialogue between civilisations. This is also the objective of the World Summit of Religious Leaders that will take place soon in Moscow.
I must say, too, that the causes fuelling the desire of a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction and carry out other military programmes include not just national ambitions but also the overblown importance given to force in international relations that is being foisted on us all.
In this respect, the stagnation we see today in the area of disarmament is of particular concern. Russia is not responsible for this situation. We support renewed dialogue on the main disarmament issues. Above all, we propose to our American partners that we launch negotiations to replace the START Treaty, which expires in 2009.
We consider political-diplomatic efforts and a search for compromise solutions based on international law to be the most effective working methods in the area of disarmament. If there are gaps in the legal base, we should work together with our partners to make improvements. I am thinking here, for example, of the idea to create international uranium enrichment centres.
I repeat once again that we have no intention of joining in any kinds of ultimatums that only drive the situation into a dead end and deal a blow to the UN Security Council’s authority. It is our conviction that crises can be settled by drawing states into dialogue and not by isolating them. As events have shown in the past, taking the road of dialogue offers not just hope but brings real positive steps forward.
All of the above applies just as fully to the process of settling regional conflicts, be they in Kosovo or Cyprus, the Trans-Caucasus or in Trans-Dniester. The principles for settlement should be universal and based on international law and respect for the interests of all the peoples concerned by the conflict.
Our country is directly involved in settling a number of conflicts in the CIS area. I wish to stress that we will continue to fulfil our peacekeeping mission, in spite of the open provocation that we sometimes encounter.
To be honest, not everyone was ready to see Russia begin to restore its economic health and its position on the international stage so rapidly. Some still see us through the prism of past prejudices and, as I said before, see a strong and reinvigorated Russia as a threat. Some are ready to accuse us of reviving ‘neo-imperialist’ ambitions or, as we heard recently, have come up with the accusation of ‘energy blackmail’.
We propose a different road – that of evaluating the foreign policy of any country on the basis of international law and a common set of universal standards.
It is hard to understand, for example, why the natural and transparent decision to put our energy settlements with certain of our neighbours onto a market basis should have unleashed such an outcry. It is true that we probably could have and should have acted earlier to explain our decision, and we are doing this now. But I think that even if we had taken pains to explain everything no one would have wanted to listen. But this as far as the form is concerned. Regarding the content, not one of our partners, not a single one, has raised any doubts over all this time as to the economic justification of Russia’s action.
The conclusion then, it seems, is that this flood of criticism about a purely economic issue was entirely politicised. I repeat that we will cooperate and we will compete, but on the basis of fair and honest rules that apply equally to one and all. The principle of ‘I’m allowed to do it, but don’t you try’ is completely unacceptable to Russia.
We do not divide countries into those with whom we will cooperate and those who we will oppose. Our competitors (on economic markets, for example) are also our key partners in resolving the most important international problems. Such is the nature of modern international relations in which cooperation and competition are closely interwoven.
We show through our actions that there are more benefits to be gained through friendship with modern Russia and that we are a reliable cooperation partner. We will use the resources we now have in a rational manner to protect the interests of our citizens and to protect the Russian Federation’s interests from unfair competition.
I would now like to say a few words about some of the key vectors in our foreign policy.
In my Address [to the Federal Assembly], I spoke in detail about our basic policy guidelines for our work in the CIS. I repeat that I think the time has come for a transition to the principles accepted in the world economy and in trade, principles that are based on sober calculation. I think that this transition will improve the health of our diverse ties with our partners in the CIS. Our relations with countries from outside the region now building up their positions in the post-Soviet area will also ultimately benefit from this.
After all, this approach is about precisely the kind of openness that everyone is expecting from us, it seems. And we in our turn expect this same openness from our partners, be it in politics or in the economy of this region that is of such importance to us.
We in no way call into question the right of our neighbours, the CIS countries, to act independently at home and on the international stage. It would be stupid to suspect Russia of such a thing when it was Russia that initiated giving them independence in the first place. But we must make it clear that we also have the right to choose our friends.
We see the example of a number of CIS countries where attempts to ignore the centuries-old ties that have developed between our peoples results in the threat of the emergence of weak and dependent state formations that are unable to act independently.
Our responses are therefore based on the genuine aspirations of the peoples living in the CIS, and these aspirations are for cooperation and good-neighbourly relations on an equal basis and for integration that brings greater practical benefits and impact. One of the key projects in this area is that of developing our common humanitarian space.
Russia has always been a reliable partner for the countries of Europe. We hope that our dialogue with the European Union in general and with its leading countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other EU members – will lead to the development of mutually beneficial economic contacts, the expansion of scientific and cultural ties and the removal of obstacles in the way of contact between our peoples.
We remember well the calls for the Soviet Union to remove the barriers to interaction between peoples. We remember well the iron curtain. It seems strange that anyone should try to build new curtains and barriers in today’s world. Everyone says that Europe should be free of borders, so let’s resolve this problem together if we are sincere about making this a reality.
We hope that the agreement on simplifying the visa regime signed recently in Sochi will enter into force by the end of this year and will open up new opportunities for our citizens. This is an important step towards visa-free travel.
Russia’s friendly ties with the People’s Republic of China have become all-encompassing in nature. We see our main task as being not to preserve what we have achieved thus far but to take new steps in order to further expand the partnership between Russia and China.
It is of principled importance that the pace and content of our bilateral partnership reflect the rapid development both countries are undergoing and the corresponding changes in our countries’ positions in the region and in the world in general.
We will continue to move forward in our strategic bilateral cooperation and to coordinate our activities on the international stage.
One good example of this kind of cooperation in a multilateral format is, of course, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The organisation is only five years old but is already effectively resolving important political, economic and counter-terrorist issues.
Our relations with India are distinguished by a similar approach regarding the main issues of world politics. At the same time, we must act soon to substantially increase our trade and investment and our cooperation in the energy sector and other areas, including military-technical cooperation.
Russia’s relations with the United States of America are of particular significance for strategic stability. Joint resistance to terrorism and common efforts to settle a number of key regional problems are a positive foundation that we should build on in order to resolve other pragmatic tasks before us.
Of course, there is still much to change in our relations with each other. If we want these changes to be positive, politicians from both countries must realise the axiom that partnership between countries such as Russia and the USA can be built only on equal rights and mutual respect.
Our relations with Japan fully justify our position of pursuing our political dialogue and developing our economic cooperation while maintaining our principled approach and our sincere desire to conclude a peace treaty with Japan.
The Asia-Pacific Region in general is becoming increasingly important for Russia today. It is in our interests to take maximum part in regional integration through the region’s forums and institutions, including APEC, ASEAN and other forums.
In the Middle East, over these last years we have added close and constructive cooperation with Israel to our traditional ties with the Arab countries.
Russia will continue to show initiative and play a part in Middle East peace settlement both at bilateral level and as a member of the quartet of international mediators.
The countries of Latin America and Africa are playing an ever more active part in the global processes underway, confirming that the time of exclusive ‘zones of influence’ is now a thing of the past. This opens up broad new opportunities for constructive and positive work for Russia and for Russian business.
Of course, supporting and protecting the rights of Russians abroad remains one of the priorities for our country’s foreign policy. This is a question of our humanitarian and economic national interests.
Preparations are currently underway for holding the second World Congress of Russians Abroad. I ask the Foreign Ministry to work on the programme very thoroughly. It should be as concrete as possible. The objective is to take our work with our compatriots abroad to a higher level. This objective is entirely realistic and is extremely important for our country.
This work is also important for carrying out a more extensive state immigration policy and can become an effective instrument in overcoming the demographic problems Russia faces.
Just a few days ago, on June 22, I signed a decree approving a state programme to help Russians living abroad voluntarily resettle in Russia. It is important that this programme really begin functioning without delay.
Incidentally, if anyone noticed where this initiative arose from, we thought at first that the decisions we had already taken were sufficient in this area. But it was an unexpected surprise for me when I spoke with people during the live TV linkup that some of our compatriots abroad were not happy with the way that we were organising work with them and were bewildered by our actions that made it very complicated to obtain Russian citizenship.
This is a strange situation, because Russia needs immigrants, above all, from the CIS countries, of course, where people speak Russian like their native language and share practically the same culture. You, as diplomats, know just what problems some countries face with helping immigrants adapt to their new homes. We do not have such serious problems. The only issue for us is that we need to attract the needed people to our country, law abiding people who respect our country and will settle in the places where Russia needs them. We need people to come and do the kind of jobs that will contribute to our economic development. These are all realistic goals.
Of course, the nature of today’s tasks places greater demands on everyone working in the foreign policy area.
I think that we need to seriously enhance the Foreign Ministry’s human resources potential. Measures are needed, including social guarantees, that will make diplomatic service more prestigious and make it more competitive on the domestic labour market. And, of course, we need to be bolder in attracting talented young people to this career.
[Foreign Minister] Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov reported on the financial situation for Foreign Ministry personnel today and made proposals for its improvement. The Government has been instructed to support these proposals. I expect that salaries, whether here in the Foreign Ministry or in the posts abroad, will be substantially increased very soon. I ask the Prime Minister to take the relevant decision as soon as possible, all the more so as all points have already been agreed.
Dear colleagues, we will have the chance to talk further, hear reports and continue our discussions behind closed doors. I hope for a frank and constructive dialogue.
Thank you for your attention.