President Vladimir Putin:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome to the Kremlin today the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Russia and I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my vision of the political and economic situation in our country and the foundations of its foreign policy.
I would like to say from the outset that our political course has long since been clearly set and defined and remains unchanged today: our course is that of democratic development and our priority is to guarantee in law and in practice human rights and liberties and to create the conditions for all of our citizens to realise their potential. Along with our work on these paramount tasks we are also working consistently to modernise our economy, and this is reflected in our many positive economic results, in the investment climate in the country and in the macroeconomic situation.
Russia’s growth rate remains high and we expect it to exceed seven percent this year. Direct foreign investment alone has increased from $4.4 billion in 2000 to $13.7 billion in 2006, and it showed a 2.5-fold increase over the first half of 2007 compared to the same period last year.
Russia is continuing its successful integration into the world economy. Our foreign trade is growing with every passing year. In 2000, Russia’s foreign trade totalled $150 billion, but by 2006 it had tripled, and this year it will come to more than $550 billion. This consolidates Russia’s position as one of the world’s 15 biggest exporters and importers. In terms of the size of its economy, Russia is one of the world’s ten biggest economies.
These results are ample evidence that Russia today is a stable and predictable country, a country that is open to constructive cooperation with foreign partners.
I would like to mention one important point in this respect. Today’s meeting is taking place on the eve of a significant event in our country’s life – the parliamentary election. The outcome of this election will have a direct bearing on social and political stability in the country and on the pace of social and economic development, and thus also on our country’s place in the world.
Russia has gone through a good many election campaigns over these sixteen years of democratic development. We know the value of authentic democracy and we want to hold honest elections that are as transparent and open as possible, without organisational failures and problems. I am confident that this upcoming election will be of precisely this kind.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think it would be no exaggeration to say that a moment of truth is upon us in global politics. It is time to make a decisive break with a past in which ideology split and divided the world. It is time to abandon the policy of dictates and the concept of superpowers. Unfortunately, practice shows us that these past attitudes still linger on today.
We cannot forge ahead until we agree on new and clear rules and principles for cooperation in international affairs, universal principles that are accepted and recognised by all. But if we are to achieve this we first need honest debate and direct dialogue. Without this we will not succeed in developing meaningful and realistic solutions to the urgent issues facing the world in this era of globalisation. It was precisely this kind of discussion that I called for when I spoke at the Munich conference in February.
Objective development trends today, including the emerging multi-polarity and increasing role of multilateral diplomacy show that strategic stability can no longer remain an exclusive sphere.
Strategic stability needs to become a sphere that is open to all countries interested in working together in the interests of common security. This was the logic behind our proposals on the missile defence issue, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Despite all the twists and turns of global politics, the choice is really quite simple: either each country looks to itself, or we work together and act collectively.
We have long since made our choice. We believe that it is only by working together that we can come up with suitable responses to the challenges of today, chief among which remains international terrorism.
Russia felt the effects of this threat long before the events of September 11, 2001. After facing large-scale aggression by international terrorists in Chechnya and Dagestan, Russia initiated what became the UN Security Council’s first resolution on combating international terrorism, unanimously adopted in October 1999. This resolution set out the principles that serve as the foundation for our common fight against this scourge today.
I repeat once more that Russia wants to strengthen the collective and legal dimension in international relations. I am convinced that there is not a single regional problem in the world today that can be resolved using force, using the sword, to speak figuratively, whether it be Kosovo, Iran, Sudan or any of the other problems we see in the world around us.
International missions can succeed only if the emphasis is not on military force but on other modern factors that influence global processes.
Russia wishes to develop ties with everyone showing reciprocal interest, whether in bilateral or multilateral format.
Our cooperation with the CIS countries is most certainly a priority for us. Here, as in other regions, integration demands are becoming evident with full force.
We do not see this region as a ‘chess board’ upon which geopolitical games are being played out. Peace, tranquillity and prosperity in this region are vital for the normal democratic development of all the CIS countries. I note in particular that the approval of the Concept for the CIS’ continued development gives all participants realistic and advantageous guidelines for work in today’s conditions.
Russia has consistently spoken in favour of strengthening the role of the United Nations. We are convinced that adapting this universal organisation to today’s world will make it more effective and, just as important, will bolster its potential (above all that of the Security Council) to respond to new threats and challenges.
Our country intends to increase its contribution to the G8. The G8 has become an important institution for international cooperation today and our work through this group enables us to strengthen our position as a donor country on the international stage.
As part of the priorities it set for its presidency of the G8 in 2006, Russia took on additional financing commitments over the coming years in education and combating infectious diseases and energy poverty. These commitments represent a total of around $600 million. Our contribution to relieving the debt burden of developing countries now comes to around $12 billion.
The European Union is an important partner for Russia. We understand the difficulties the EU is going through and we are confident that life will put everything in its place. In any case, we have a very good ‘safety net’ in the form of the Russia-European Union roadmaps on the four common spaces, the mechanisms for sector-based dialogue, and, most importantly, intensive bilateral relations that benefit both sides.
Russia has plenty to offer modern Europe. We are ready to share our unique and centuries-old experience of cooperation between different ethnic groups, cultures and religions and to play a constructive role in ensuring compatibility between civilisations in Europe.
Russian non-governmental organisations are also showing increased interest in this work. We hope that our NGOs will be able to work in North America, in the United States and in other countries in as comfortable an environment as that which we provide for their counterparts working in Russia.
Only through collective efforts can we resolve one of the problems of great relevance for Europe today – that of preserving the uniqueness of Europe’s cultures. The different ethnic minority communities living in practically all countries have a particular role to play in this respect. Many countries have already established solid mechanisms for protecting the legal rights of their compatriots abroad. We support the same policy with regard to the Russian-speaking population abroad and this will remain our policy in the future.
An indication of Russia’s growing international authority and its increasing qualities as a partner came in the decisions to hold the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit in Yekaterinburg in 2009, the APEC summit [in Vladivostok] in 2012, and the Winter Olympics [in Sochi] in 2014. We will ensure that these events meet the highest modern standards and we will do our best to create comfortable conditions for our partners.
We are carrying out our policy of mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide variety of forms. I would like to mention in this respect flexible formats for cooperation such as the dialogue mechanism established between Russia, China and India, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and our growing partnerships with the integration organisations in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude by saying that we have done everything we can to free Russia from internal upheaval and place it firmly on the road of evolutionary development. And, I am forced to repeat, we will not allow any external interference in this process.
Our country will work consistently to promote a positive and unifying agenda for modern international relations. This is the main signal that I would ask you to send back to your capitals.
Thank you for your attention.