Russia has always felt itself to be a Eurasian country. We have never forgotten that the main part of the Russian territory is in Asia. Frankly, we have not always made good use of that advantage. I think the time has come for us, together with the Asia-Pacific countries, to move on from words to actions and to build up economic, political and other ties. Russia today has every opportunity for this.
Within a short space of time the countries in the region – above all Japan, China and the ASEAN countries – have seen tremendous changes. Russia has not been left out of the processes taking place here.
Russia’s full participation in the processes of economic interaction in Asia and the Pacific is natural and inevitable, because Russia is a kind of integration hub that links Asia, Europe and America.
Today, while preparing for the trip to Brunei to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, we are thinking above all about what concrete projects Russia can offer its economic partners in the APR.
A wide range of opportunities is open to us today: from cooperation in the energy field, the environment, exploitation of the continental shelf for the development of transport links and implementation of economic and investment projects.
For example, one can mention more than one justification for the use of Russian transport arteries by the APR countries. They are much shorter and just as reliable as the detour by sea, for example, from Yokohama to Rotterdam. The length of the route to Europe may be cut by more than half if containers are dispatched not by sea, but via the Trans-Siberian Railway. I am aware that many are worried by the state of our terminals in the Far East and the “bottlenecks” in St Petersburg. We are working vigorously to modernise them. So far, we have been doing it by ourselves. But we are ready to bring foreign investors into these projects as well.
We have favourable conditions for making a communication breakthrough in the world to bring the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions much closer together. Not everyone knows that for many Asian countries the shortest air route to North America is through Russian air space and over the North Pole. It cuts the flight time by 2–3 hours. That is a huge untapped potential for making air links more effective.
Our air corridors and even the Northern Sea Route also greatly reduce the distances between the APR countries and Europe.
At present, much of the electronics produced in Asia comes to Russia via Europe. Producers know only too well the costs and the time it takes to get these cargoes through the customs.
Perhaps the route through Siberia by our railways will remind many people of the abundance of natural resources our country has. It is a land that is very rich in natural resources. Russia is only beginning to develop them on a large scale. And we would like to invite our APR neighbours to actively cooperate with us. Russian producers are already thinking about new markets, and mining companies about more effective ways of developing the fields.
This is witnessed by the development of ambitious plans such as creating an energy bridge from Russia to Japan via Sakhalin, building gas pipelines from the Tomsk Region to western China and from the Irkutsk Region to eastern China and further to North and South Korea.
I think it is worth mentioning that Russia supplies to the region not only raw materials, but also modern technologies. The joint Russian-Vietnamese company Vietsovpetro is steadily increasing oil production in Vietnam. And a major oil refinery is being built there with the use of Russian technologies.
Russian oil companies have carried out a pilot project jointly with Caltex Pacific Indonesia that has greatly increased the recovery of oil in the fields in Sumatra, whereupon these technologies were recommended for use in all the fields in the “land of a thousand islands”. I think it is a good example for those who are forced by the shortage of oil products to resort to technologies that greatly enhance recovery from wells.
It is also important that in February this year a Russian rocket put in orbit an Indonesian satellite, “Garuda-1”. That takes our relations to a new technological level. Indonesian business circles have become interested in our developments in the use of alternative sources of energy, in medicine, computer science and a number of other areas.
These are just some examples of effective use of Russian technological expertise by APEC countries. We are ready to offer the states in the region services in space launching, remote earth sensing data for exploration of natural resources, weather service, environmental and other projects.
Russia has considerable experience and the necessary base in early warning and in cleaning up the aftermath of natural disasters. The resources of our satellites and communications channels can be used to establish modern information exchange in APEC.
Russia became a member of APEC three years ago. That gave an impetus to our cooperation. The region will always need Russia to deal with issues of preserving stability and security and ensuring the balance of interests of all parties. We are ready to cooperate with both big and small countries in the region, with economically developed countries and those which are only aspiring to reach such a level.
Russia’s accession to APEC is in keeping with our desire to be more actively involved in Asia-Pacific cooperation. Many Asian countries know us as a reliable economic partner. We want that circle of countries to increase.
The Russian initiative launched at the UN Millennium Summit on joint development of new reactor technology and the natural security nuclear cycle fully applies to the APEC states. These issues interest not only the states which already face the problem of nuclear waste disposal, but also those which can look towards strengthening their economic potential by using cheap electricity.
Russia offers modern technologies that rule out the use of enriched uranium and pure plutonium in peaceful nuclear energy. That is particularly important in view of the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons.
Many APR countries are among the fastest growing economies in the world. This year, Russia joined the group of leaders in terms of its growth rates. We expect our GDP to increase by more than 6%. I am sure that further economic growth in the APR countries and further economic growth in Russia will speed up the development of our mutually beneficial cooperation. We will actively promote Russian companies in the region’s markets.
This visit will be my second to an APEC forum. I already took part in the summit last year as the head of the Russian Government. The business-like constructive atmosphere, and readiness to reach agreements and jointly plan our common future made a great impression on me. The programme of the upcoming meeting and the schedule of my bilateral contacts in Brunei will see a continuation of such constructive interaction.
The agenda of this forum has much in common with the themes discussed at the G8 meeting in Okinawa in July. The problems of international trade and information and communication technologies were high on the agenda. It is important that the conversation which started in Japan will continue in a much broader format. During the Brunei forum we will seek to build on the July agreements.
We do not have a hidden agenda in the APR. The declared goals of Russian policy in the region are clear. Our country, which is living through profound internal transformations, is interested in an overall improvement of the regional situation, in the preservation of a stable and predictable situation in Asia and the Pacific.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of “combustible” material to fuel regional conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region. On the eve of the third millennium, terrorism, religious extremism and separatism and transnational crime have found fertile soil here. And mutual mistrust generated by years of alienation has not been fully overcome. On these issues we are persistently looking for mutually acceptable solutions at all levels, at all the organisations created for these purposes, above all at the UN.
In recent years the Russian foreign policy has been much more oriented towards the APR than before. That policy will continue. My tight schedule of meetings with the leaders of APR countries is but one indicator that we are serious about maintaining an active presence in the region. During the last six months I have paid official visits to China, the DPRK and Japan, and held important meetings with the heads of state in the region at the Millennium Summit in New York. I will shortly visit Mongolia. We appreciate the fact that the Mongolian leaders give high priority to revitalising diversified links and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia, including in international affairs. But what matters is not so much the frequency of high-level contacts as the major qualitative changes that have taken place in recent years in the relations between Russia and the APR countries.
You can judge for yourselves. Russia and China are firmly on course to build an equal and trusting partnership, which has become an important factor of global stability.
We are successfully building partnership relations with Japan. We have achieved major agreements in economic cooperation, including global projects in the transportation and energy fields.
In recent years the relations with the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) bringing together all the countries of this vast sub-region of the APR, have emerged as a distinct area of Russian policy. We have historically close relations with Vietnam. Thousands of people from Cambodia and Laos have studied at our higher education institutions. We closely study the experience of the economic development of Malaysia, Thailand and other South-East Asian countries, and we are ready to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with them in all fields.
Russia, as a responsible partner, will not shy away from contributing to the solution of complicated regional problems. A vivid example is the situation on the Korean Peninsula, on which Russia’s position is to help and assist national reconciliation between North and South, and help them to move towards peaceful and independent reunification. The Russian priority in this region is peace and stability, without which social and economic progress and the development of all the North-East Asian states are unthinkable.
Today, at the turn of the millennium, the vast Asia-Pacific region is living through a period of emergence in all dimensions: economic, political, military, social, cultural and civilisational.
We are optimistic about the future, and we are sure that the next millennium will be the time of new opportunities for the APR. And for Russia it opens new Eastern perspectives, which we will undoubtedly develop and actively contribute to turning that region into our “common home”.