Embassy informs

Vladimir Putin: Russia and the changing world

(Short version, full text at http://premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18252/)

Russia is a part of the big world, economically, culturally and in terms of information flow. We cannot be isolated, and we do not want to be isolated. We expect our openness will bring the people of Russia more prosperity and culture and will promote trust, an item that has been in short supply lately.

At the same time, everything we do will be based on our own interests and goals, not on decisions other countries impose on us. Russia is only treated with respect when it is strong and stands firm on its own two feet. Russia has practically always had the privilege of pursuing an independent foreign policy and this is how it will be in the future. Furthermore, I strongly believe that the only way to ensure global security is by doing it together with Russia, not by trying to “demote” it, weaken it geopolitically or undermine its defensive potential.

The goals of our foreign policy are strategic rather than short-term. They reflect Russia’s unique role in international affairs, in history and in the development of civilization.

We will certainly continue our active and constructive efforts to strengthen global security, to avoid confrontation and effectively neutralize such challenges as nuclear proliferation, regional conflicts and crises, terrorism and drugs. We will do all we can to help Russia obtain the latest technological advances and help our businesses achieve a decent position on the global market.

We will also seek to avoid unnecessary shocks as a new world order emerges based on the new geopolitical reality.

Who undermines trust?

As before, I think that indivisible security for all nations, unacceptability of the disproportionate use of force, and unconditional compliance with the fundamental principles of international law are indispensable postulates. Any neglect of these norms destabilizes the world situation.

It is in this light that we view certain aspects of US and NATO activities that do not follow the logic of modern development and are based on the stereotypes of bloc mentality. Everybody knows what I am alluding to. It is NATO expansion, including the deployment of new military infrastructure and the bloc’s (US-sponsored) plans to set up a missile defense system in Europe.

  A string of armed conflicts under the pretext of humanitarian concerns has undermined the principle of national sovereignty, which has been observed for centuries. A new type of vacuum, the lack of morality and law, is emerging in international affairs.

We often hear that human rights are more important than national sovereignty. This is definitely true, and crimes against humanity should be punished by an international court. But if this principle is used as an excuse for a presumptuous violation of national sovereignty, and if human rights are protected by foreign forces and selectively, and if, while “protecting” those rights, they violate the rights of many other people, including the most fundamental and sacred right, the right to life, this is no longer a noble effort. This is merely demagoguery.

It is important for the UN and its Security Council to be able to offer effective resistance to the dictate of a few countries and to lawlessness in international affairs. Nobody has the right to hijack the prerogatives and powers of the UN, especially as regards the use of force with vis-à-vis sovereign nations. I am referring primarily to NATO, which seeks to assume a new role that goes beyond its status of a defensive alliance. All these matters are extremely serious. We remember how the nations that fell victim to “humanitarian” operations and the export of “airstrike democracy” appealed in vain to international law and even simple decency. Nobody listened, and nobody wanted to listen.

It seems that NATO countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our view. The Americans are obsessed with the idea of securing absolute invulnerability for themselves, which, incidentally, is a utopia, for both technological and geopolitical reasons. But that is exactly where the root of the problem lies.

Absolute invulnerability for one nation would mean absolute vulnerability for everybody else. We cannot agree to this. Of course, many nations prefer not to raise this question openly for a variety of reasons. But Russia will always call a spade a spade and speak openly about such matters. I would like to stress once again that violation of the principle of common and indivisible security (accompanied by repeated assurances that they are still committed to it) may have extremely serious consequences. Sooner or later, those consequences will also affect the nations that initiate such violations, whatever their reasons are.

The Arab Spring: lessons and conclusions

A year ago the world witnessed a new phenomenon – nearly simultaneous demonstrations against authoritarian regimes in many Arab countries. The Arab Spring was initially received with hope for positive change. People in Russia sympathized with those who were seeking democratic reform.

However, it soon became clear that events in many countries were not following a civilized scenario. Instead of asserting democracy and protecting the rights of the minority, attempts were being made to depose an enemy and to stage a coup, which only resulted in the replacement of one dominant force with another even more aggressive dominant force.

Foreign interference in support of one side of a domestic conflict and the use of power in this interference gave developments a negative aura. A number of countries did away with the Libyan regime by using air power in the name of humanitarian support. The revolting slaughter of Muammar Gaddafi – not just medieval but primeval – was the manifestation of these actions.

No one should be allowed to employ the Libyan scenario in Syria. The international community must work to achieve an internal Syrian reconciliation. It is important to achieve an early end to the violence no matter what the source, and to initiate a national dialogue – without preconditions or foreign interference and with due respect for the country's sovereignty. This would create the conditions necessary to introduce the measures for democratization announced by the Syrian leadership. The key objective is to prevent an all-out civil war. Russian diplomacy has worked and will continue to work toward this end.

Sadder but wiser, we oppose the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions that may be interpreted as a signal to armed interference in Syria's domestic development. Guided by this consistent approach in early February, Russia and China prevented the adoption of an ambiguous resolution that would have encouraged one side of this domestic conflict to resort to violence.

In this context and considering the extremely negative, almost hysterical reaction to the Russian-Chinese veto, I would like to warn our Western colleagues against the temptation to resort to this simple, previously used tactic: if the UN Security Council approves of a given action, fine; if not, we will establish a coalition of the states concerned and strike anyway.

The logic of such conduct is counterproductive and very dangerous. No good can come of it. In any case, it will not help reach a settlement in a country that is going through a domestic conflict. Even worse, it further undermines the entire system of international security as well as the authority and key role of the UN. Let me recall that the right to veto is not some whim but an inalienable part of the world's agreement that is registered in the UN Charter – incidentally, on US insistence. The implication of this right is that decisions that raise the objection of even one permanent member of the UN Security Council cannot be well-grounded or effective.

I hope very much that the United States and other countries will consider this sad experience and will not pursue the use of power in Syria without UN Security Council sanctions. In general, I cannot understand what causes this itch for military intervention. Why isn't there the patience to develop a well-considered, balanced and cooperative approach, all the more so since this approach was already taking shape in the form of the aforementioned Syrian resolution? It only lacked the demand that the armed opposition do the same as the government; in particular, withdraw military units and detachments from cities. The refusal to do so is cynical. If we want to protect civilians – and this is the main goal for Russia – we must make all the participants in the armed confrontation see reason.

Generally, the current developments in the Arab world are, in many ways, instructive. They show that a striving to introduce democracy by use of power can produce – and often does produce – contradictory results. They can produce forces that rise from the bottom, including religious extremists, who will strive to change the very direction of a country's development and the secular nature of a government.

New challenges and threats

Today, Iran is the focus of international attention. Needless to say, Russia is worried about the growing threat of a military strike against Iran. If this happens, the consequences will be disastrous. It is impossible to imagine the true scope of this turn of events.

I am convinced that this issue must be settled exclusively by peaceful means. We propose recognizing Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium. But this must be done in exchange for putting all Iranian nuclear activity under reliable and comprehensive IAEA safeguards. If this is done, the sanctions against Iran, including the unilateral ones, must be rescinded. The West has shown too much willingness to "punish" certain countries. At any minor development it reaches for sanctions if not armed force. Let me remind you that we are not in the 19th century or even the 20th century now.

The instability that has persisted for years and decades is creating a breeding ground for international terrorism that is universally recognized as one of the most dangerous challenges to the world community. There is still the obvious potential for further anti-terrorist cooperation. Thus, double standards still exist and terrorists are perceived differently in different countries – some are "bad guys" and others are "not so bad." Some forces are not averse to using the latter in political manipulation, for example, in shaking up objectionable ruling regimes.

We are dissatisfied with how the issue of human rights is handled globally. First, the United States and other Western states dominate and politicize the human rights agenda, using it as a means to exert pressure. At the same time, they are very sensitive and even intolerant to criticism. Second, the objects of human rights monitoring are chosen regardless of objective criteria but at the discretion of the states that have "privatized" the human rights agenda.

Russia has been the target of biased and aggressive criticism that, at times, exceeds all limits. When we are given constructive criticism, we welcome it and are ready to learn from it. But when we are subjected, again and again, to blanket criticisms in a persistent effort to influence our citizens, their attitudes, and our domestic affairs, it becomes clear that these attacks are not rooted in moral and democratic values.

Russia intends to continue promoting its security and protecting its national interest by actively and constructively engaging in global politics and in efforts to solve global and regional problems. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation and open dialogue with all our foreign partners. We aim to understand and take into account the interests of our partners, and we ask that our own interests be respected.

Vladimir Putin

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