15 july / 2008

Speech at the Meeting with Russian Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to International Organisations

July 15, 2008

Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow


I would like to use this opportunity for an open and pragmatic conversation on the main aspects of Russian foreign policy.

Like Sergei Viktorvich [Lavrov], I am confident that such a conversation can be useful. Especially now when, as the Minister has rightly said, Russia is indeed stronger and able to assume greater responsibility for solving problems on a regional and global scale. Thus for you and for all of us now I think it is absolutely clear that now the world is not just listening to Russia but looking to us for help with solving problems.

The country’s diplomatic corps is an important co-creator and a conduit for this policy. And we look forward to your active daily participation in extending understanding and awareness of the problems that our country faces today.

In my opinion such participation should consist of helping with plans for the future. The basis for these plans is Russia's Foreign Policy Concept that I recently approved. In my opinion, it is a serious and balanced document that sets out the directions for our further joint work, based on an analysis of all aspects of contemporary international life.

We encourage our partners to conduct open and honest discussions on the construction of the new global regime. We call on them to work with us on a range of issues, including in the security field. We call on them to overcome the acute problems of poverty and food shortages, combat infectious diseases, improve energy efficiency, achieve financial stability and, of course, combine efforts to prevent any armed conflict.

At the same time, having survived the Cold War, the world is still searching for a new equilibrium. In addition, the habit that it has inherited fr om the past of resorting to force in a number of areas is increasing. We have all seen the consequences.

In such circumstances it is important to maintain restraint and to evaluate situations carefully. We must continue in an orderly way to avoid confrontation in defending our national interests and to be ready for collective action both independently and with our partners.

It is absolutely essential to identify and resist the attempt of national or group interests to ignore international law. After all, this is the set of rules that has been and remains the most solid foundation for relations between nations.

In effect this is where we have good reserves to draw on. Our country’s school of international law has always been used by professionals at the highest level. And I consider it necessary to create foreign policy mechanisms that can be used consistently and regularly by our corps of international lawyers to address specific issues on the international scene.

I am convinced that with the end of Cold War the underlying reasons for most of bloc politics and bloc discipline simply disappeared. We simply do not need to return to that paternalistic system whereby some states decide for all the others. The behaviour of states in the international arena is now much more varied and independent.

But I would like to emphasise that this behaviour should not involve actions that constitute a violation of international law. This represents an unacceptable disregard for the very idea of individual security, which lies at the heart of the concept of the security of states themselves.

Unfortunately, some of the most painful recent episodes have involved precisely this sort of violation, in particular, the unilateral proclamation of independence of Kosovo and the subsequent recognition of it as a state. Legal decisions in such an instance must be achieved by reaching agreement among all parties involved in such a process and affected by these decisions.

It would certainly have been simpler for us to distance ourselves from this problem and say that, for the European Union, Kosovo is almost what Iraq has proved to be for the United States. And certainly our partners have been guided by their own sense of responsibility, their own plans for stabilisation. All this is true. But meanwhile, much more importantly, once again international law has been undermined, along with one of the fundamental principles of coexistence among states, one that affects the way Europe and the world will develop.

I am convinced that we have reached a stage in world development that requires substantive, even philosophical approaches. We need to regularly consult history or, for obvious reasons, its most negative scenarios will repeat themselves. We must draw lessons from it and stop trying to revise history to suit the prevailing political conditions.

One dangerous recent trend involves politicians who, rather than engaging their main business, i.e. working at creating harmonious international relations and solving their own internal problems, prefer to ignore academic historians and to reshuffle history itself, like a deck of cards, according to their own personal views, in order to achieve some short-term objective.

In this connection, let me draw your attention to the upcoming 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. We simply cannot accept the attempts taking place in individual countries (with the support of their respective governments) to highlight the “civilising, liberating mission” of the fascists and their accomplices.

As everybody knows, this is playing with fire. And knowing this means having a respect for history and refusing to indulge in dishonest interpretations of it.

Characteristically, it is those states that have such a passion for rewriting history in domestic and foreign policies that are at the same time the most zealous advocates of illegal acts, like the Kosovo precedent just mentioned. And those same states are the ones who have become ultra-nationalist in their policies, harassing national minorities and denying rights to the so-called “stateless” citizens in their countries.

The calculation involved here is crude and obvious, a means of gaining support for their own violations of the law. This is a very dangerous game. And we need to be vigilant in working for its elimination from international life.

For us, this task is particularly important, since in many cases we are talking about abuses against Russians and Russian-speaking populations. And protecting and defending those rights is obviously one of our responsibilities.

I have focused on these aspects because Europe today needs a positive rather than a negative agenda. We are genuinely concerned that a modern system of collective security, one that would be open to all and would ensure equal security for its participants, has not been established.

For a start we should take stock of the legacy provided by the recent past, including the Helsinki Accord and treaties between the Soviet Union and NATO. They embodied the essential principles of interstate relations, such principles as the inviolability of borders, the indivisibility of security and the illegitimacy of ensuring [one’s] security at the expense of the security of other participants in international relations.

        If these principles retain their universal importance, we have to honestly examine why they have ceased to be universally applied. We must decide whether they are adequate to the new conditions of life, or come up with something fundamentally new for the construction of a modern European architecture that would be designed for 21st-century realities. I'm absolutely convinced that this requires new approaches. The resources of previous approaches have to a large extent been exhausted.

That is why we proposed to conclude a new Treaty on European Security and to start this process at a European-wide summit. This will enable all of us again to consider in detail what steps might be taken. The first reaction that we received was at least neutral, and this is in some ways encouraging. In any case, we can see the desire to seize such a window of opportunity to make a comprehensive analysis of the situation. And I would ask you to proceed from that.

Of course, we are not trying to curry short-term favour or garner applause, but determined to engage in a collective enterprise, in a creative, practical search for constructive approaches and exchanges.

Incidentally the crisis created by the attempt to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the further modernisation of this protocol are a clear sign of the flaws in the architecture of European security. I wouldn’t want to think that it would take the treaty’s complete and final collapse to convince everyone of the non-viability of an unfair arms-control agreement or the need to create in a Euro-Atlantic area a truly open and collective security system.

We strongly affirm that the deployment of elements of the global U.S. missile defence in Eastern Europe only exacerbates the situation. And I have already talked about this: we will be forced to respond to it in kind. Our American and European partners have also been warned about this. We are convinced that national security cannot simply be maintained on the basis of good faith.

This is linked to Russian-American agreements on strategic stability. Obviously this common heritage will not be able to survive if one party is permitted to selectively destroy individual elements of this strategic regime. We cannot agree to that.

Dear colleagues, achieving our country’s foreign policy objectives naturally depends on the situation in Russia itself, and on the success of all our immediate and strategic long-term goals.

The process of enlightening our partners about the way the situation in our country is changing dramatically has a large role to play. And here I look forward to the effective assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the entire diplomatic corps.

The experience of recent years, especially in Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole, clearly shows that the modern world's problems cannot be settled by force or by plans conceived unilaterally.

We need to reform international institutions while strengthening the central role of the United Nations. Our position on this remains unchanged. The United Nations is the only thing humanity has come up with in the last hundred years to help maintain global security.

We need multilateral diplomacy for a more equitable, democratic system of relations. The same framework should involve mechanisms of collective leadership by leading states, those states that have a special responsibility for the situation in the world. And such leadership must be a truly representative in geographic terms and in terms of different civilisations. This is the foundation of the modern democratic architecture of international relations.

Such an approach should become the main criterion for work on reforming the UN Security Council and further improving the activities of the G8.

Only by working together and without double standards can we confront international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, crime, global poverty, climate change and the spread of infectious diseases.

In addition, new realities are discouraging outdated practices such as so-called national "economic selfishness" and the ongoing attempts to regulate global economic and financial systems unilaterally. Incidentally, my recent contacts during the G8 summit in Hokkaido bear witness to this.

The rapidly growing economic power of Russia, China, India, Brazil and other countries is already helping the stability of the global economic and financial system. We must remember this. This is already a serious factor in the international economy.

We must preserve continuity in the process of disarmament and arms control. It is also important to ensure the effective contractual and legal development of this process on a multilateral and universal basis, in the spirit of strategic openness.

We need to prevent the spread of an arms race into areas wh ere this kind of weapons has not previously been used, first and foremost in outer space. In the context of globalisation strategic stability cannot remain the exclusive responsibility of Russia and the United States, however important our efforts in this area have been.  Responsibility must be shared by all nuclear powers, all those who have shares in the “nuclear world". Although movement in this direction will be gradual and not easy.

Another cluster of issues concerns strengthening of the integration processes in the CIS via the Eurasian Economic Community [EurAsEC] and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation [CSTO]. Within the CIS we must improve our capacities for cooperation in the economic, cultural and educational spheres. We see that consistent work in these areas has already borne certain fruits, and it is clear that we have untapped potential for further resource integration.

Regarding wider integration processes throughout the Eurasian region, a very important role should be given to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

We must also create open systems of collective security based on the principles of the UN Charter: especially in Europe, Northeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East in general, as well as elsewhere in the world.

This is required by current circumstances. Today, we need security not directed against specific countries but against cross-border threats.

A strategic partnership between Russia and the EU could act as the so-called cornerstone of a Greater Europe without dividing lines, which would include intensive economic interpenetration on the basis of agreed "rules of the game". Including in the fuel and energy sector and the high-tech field. We are open to this, are ready for this. I have repeatedly stated this to our partners. The issue lies in goodwill and the desire to establish working economic mechanisms.

But I repeat that first we must conduct our relations in a business-like fashion and without being influenced by ideology. We have had enough of ideological investments. As you know, they occurred in a previous period and as a result we have to wheedle money out of  there through various kinds of international mechanisms; money spent to prop up corrupt regimes. This must not occur in the future, but we nevertheless require investments. The need for business-like relations that go beyond any kind of ideology was evident at the recent summit in Khanty-Mansiysk which had a very pragmatic feel to it.

And finally, another condition for successful work is strengthening Russia’s relations with China, India, Brazil, Mexico, the Republic of South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, ASEAN countries and other nations in Asia-Pacific region, Near and Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

We have to use the various available forums for developing multilateral solutions to common problems on the basis of shared interests more effectively. A good example of this is cooperation between the BRIC economies.

As a whole, we have probably passed the most difficult period. Now we are faced with the task of using the potential that has accumulated in recent years, potential that can benefit the interests of Russia, strengthen the country on a domestic front and consolidate its international position.

Dear colleagues, dear friends, I understand perfectly well that both the volume and the actual content of the challenges I just enumerated, as well as the strategic challenges our country faces, require your hard and thoughtful work. Naturally, we appreciate your experience and knowledge, and responsible attitude to public service. And the process of meeting these challenges also requires continuous improvement and support from the state.

The other day I gave instructions to finalise the draft federal law on the specifics of civil service in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The bill will be introduced to the State Duma as a legislative initiative taken by the President.

International experience shows that as a rule effective diplomatic service is founded on special legislation. My colleagues have told me this more than once. I hope that the corresponding Russian law will help all of you implement Russia’s foreign policy objectives. We will adopt such a document.