|The New U.S.-Russian Relationship |
The New U.S.-Russian Relationship
The United States and Russia can look forward to "a close and mutually beneficial partnership -- and perhaps, an alliance ... that provides lasting security and well-being for both countries," said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow November 23. Speaking at the Moscow State International Institute for International Relations, Vershbow acknowledged continuing differences despite "the spirit of warmth and trust that now exists." Source: Washington File (EUR309) U.S. Department of State. November 28, 2001.
"But disagreements between partners do not alter the common values and beliefs that unite them," he said. "Indeed, the unprecedented nature of the new threats, and the mutual interest we share in defeating those who seek to destroy our civilization, allow us to view other issues in the broader perspective of our new partnership."
In Vershbow's view, the most significant accomplishment of the recent summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush was the agreement to reduce dramatically each country's arsenal of nuclear warheads.
Differing points of view on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the urgency of developing missile defenses matter less than the determination of both presidents to develop a new strategic framework for the long term, he said, adding, "The new framework should enable our two countries to meet future threats together, including through collaboration on missile defense."
Regarding Russia's relationship with NATO, Vershbow noted that Bush and Putin "declared that Russia and NATO are increasingly acting as allies against terrorism and other new threats, and that the NATO-Russia relationship should reflect this alliance.
"Our common task is to devise new mechanisms for cooperation, coordinated action, and joint decisions that can integrate Russia more closely in NATO's work."
He said he believes that the NATO Allies will be "increasingly prepared to engage Russia as a full and equal partner" as a result of cooperation in the war against terrorism. Such engagement would mean "working with Russia from the earliest stage -- that is, before NATO members have taken their own decision. The goal should be implementation of a common strategy that NATO and Russia have developed together, just as the NATO Allies do now. For this to be effective, Russia needs to develop the ability to work toward and achieve consensus."
Vershbow also cautioned that recent battlefield successes in Afghanistan do not mean that the war against terrorism is over.
"We will not rest until we have defeated al Qaida and other terrorist networks -- and our highest priority will be to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
"This will be a long, difficult struggle; but it is one that unites Russia and the United States and one which we are determined to win."
Following is the text of Vershbow's speech as prepared for delivery: (begin text)
Moscow State International Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), November 23, 2001.
The New U.S.-Russian Relationship, by Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (as prepared for delivery)
I last spoke at MGIMO two years ago when I was the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. This was just after the Kosovo campaign, and our relations were still somewhat tense. It's a great pleasure to return here today, just one week after our two presidents held their historic summit in the United States, with U.S.-Russian relations on the upswing.
I studied Russian and Soviet Affairs in the early 1970s and first served here as a diplomat from 1979 to 1981, during the height of the Cold War. As I look around this audience today, I think that I can safely say that for most of you, the Cold War is only a dim memory. You are less encumbered than my generation by the prejudices and habits of the past. You are more open to new ideas in international affairs and innovative approaches to our diplomatic relations. Your work as diplomats and experts in international relations will help shape Russia's future during the coming century.
I am interested in hearing your thoughts about our two countries, and, for my part, I would like to share with you some observations about U.S.-Russian relations, having returned a few days ago from last week's summit.
The meetings between Presidents Bush and Putin last week marked a dramatic redefinition of the relationship between our two countries as we begin the 21st century. By their words and actions, the two leaders made clear that Russia and the United States now share a determination to enter this new century o
n the basis of common interests and a shared commitment to the values of democracy, the free market and the rule of law.
They stated unequivocally that the Cold War is behind us. In its place we can look forward to a close and mutually beneficial partnership -- and perhaps, an alliance -- between Russia and the United States that provides lasting security and well-being for both countries.
There is no question that the terrorist attacks of September 11 lent urgency to both sides' efforts to build a stronger, more solid partnership between the United States and Russia. After missed opportunities and false starts, our two countries have finally taken the necessary steps to overcome the legacy of the past and to understand each other as partners, and not as rivals.
The terrible events of September 11 were an attack on the entire civilized world, and helped bring our two nations closer. President Putin was the first foreign leader to speak with President Bush after the attacks and to express his sympathy and solidarity. And he backed that up with an unprecedented offer of political, military and intelligence support. Moreover, the Russian government and ordinary citizens of this great country extended the hand of friendship to the United States after one of its darkest days. We now realize more than ever before that the new challenges of the 21st century demand that the United States and Russia stand together, not apart.
This does not mean that there are no differences between us. Our national interests will not always coincide and our viewpoints will diverge on significant international issues. But disagreements between partners do not alter the common values and beliefs that unite them. Indeed, the unprecedented nature of the new threats, and the mutual interest we share in defeating those who seek to destroy our civilization, allow us to view other issues in the broader perspective of our new partnership.
The meetings last week between our two presidents in Washington and Crawford confirmed that our two countries have embarked on a truly new relationship. I participated in many of the meetings that took place and I can testify to the spirit of warmth and trust that now exists.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the Summit was the agreement to reduce dramatically our arsenals of strategic nuclear warheads -- and to do so without the years of negotiations that used to precede such decisions during the Cold War. President Bush declared that the United States will reduce to a level between 1700 and 2200 warheads over the next decade (down from over 7000 today). President Putin announced that Russia will make comparable reductions. In the coming months, we will codify these reductions, to include measures for verification.
The Summit also highlighted our cooperation to prevent or counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This includes continued efforts to improve the physical security and accounting of nuclear materials so that terrorists and those who support them can never acquire such weapons. Of special importance was a joint statement on "bioterrorism" -- very timely after the recent anthrax incidents in the United States. Russian and American officials and experts will work together to prevent terrorists from acquiring biological weapons and on related health measures to protect our populations.
We continue to have different points of view about the ABM Treaty and the urgency of developing ballistic missile defenses. But we have agreed to keep working on the issue. The Treaty prohibits the testing that the United States must conduct in order to develop effective, but limited missile defenses against rogue-state threats who are acquiring the technology for long-range ballistic missiles. Whether or not we find a solution to the short-term question of the ABM Treaty, both Presidents made clear their determination to develop a new strategic framework for the long term. The new framework should be more in keeping with our new relationship and take account of the changes in the strategic situation since the ABM Treaty was signed 29 years ago. The new framework should enable our two countries to meet future threats together, including through collaboration on missile defense.
The two Presidents devoted considerable time to Russia's relationship with NATO. They declared that Russia and NATO are increasingly acting as allies against terrorism and other new threats, and that the NATO-Russia relationship should reflect this alliance. Our common task is to devise new mechanisms for cooperation, coordinated action and joint decisions that can integrate Russia more closely in NATO's work. We both are determined that Russia -- as a democracy -- should be part of a Europe that includes all democratic nations and that respects the sovereignty and independence of all nations. As a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, I can assure you that the United States is committed to improving and strengthening the NATO-Russia relationship. Today's talks by the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, with President Putin have advanced that goal.
I believe that the NATO Allies, as they tackle new threats such as terrorism, will be increasingly prepared to engage Russia as a full and equal partner. This would mean working with Russia from the earliest stage -- that is, before NATO members have taken their own decision. The goal should be implementation of a common strategy that NATO and Russia have developed together, just as the NATO Allies do now. For this to be effective, Russia needs to develop the ability to work toward and achieve consensus.
The new partnership between the United States and Russia goes beyond agreements on nuclear weapons and stronger relations with NATO. It encompasses trade, assistance, space cooperation, law enforcement and a whole range of matters affecting the well-being of the citizens of the Russian Federation and the United States. At our Embassy, I coordinate the work of 28 different U.S. Government agencies, all working on some aspect of the bilateral relationship.
Presidents Putin and Bush have pledged to improve contacts and exchanges between our people, to increase prosperity through trade and investment, and to strengthen further the integration of Russia into the world economy. An important element of our efforts to forge closer economic ties is our support for Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization. The United States is committed to working with Russia to accelerate its accession to the WTO, based on the conditions that other member countries have had to meet. Most important, in this regard, is that Russia improve market access for other countries' firms and products, and provide a level playing field for all firms, Russian and non-Russian. President Putin's government has committed itself to an impressive legislative agenda of structural reforms, including those to bring Russia's laws into conformity with WTO standards, and we urge this process to continue.
The successful trade mission led by Secretary of Commerce Don Evans last month demonstrated the renewed interest on the part of U.S. companies in doing business in Russia. And the new strength of our economic relations was reinforced by the recent completion of the Caspian Pipeline, the largest U.S.-Russian joint investment to date, which delivers oil from the Caspian Sea region to international markets. We look forward to other U.S.-Russian projects, including the Sakhalin I oil and gas project, and joint ventures in the high-technology area. To support Sakhalin I -- which could represent $12 billion in capital investment and 10,000 new jobs -- and other Far East projects, the United States intends to request permission to open a branch office of our Vladivostok Consulate in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
To further develop our economic relationship, a private-sector Russian-American Business Dialogue, established last July, will present recommendations to our governments early next year concerning ways to eliminate obstacles to future trade and investment, strengthen the rule of law, and increase commerce between our two countries.
At the Washington Summit we agreed on an additional initiative to help an area of Russia's reform program that is lagging behind the rest, namely, banking. The Russian-American Banking Dialogue will begin meeting this winter in order to support efforts to reform the banking sector in Russia, to sustain economic growth, and to give more Russian individuals and businesses -- especially small and medium-sized businesses -- access to private capital.
The United States and Russia speak with a common voice today not only about political issues and the need for economic progress but also about the principles and values that form the basis of our societies: human rights, religious freedom, free speech and independent media, and the rule of law.
In this context, we welcome the launch of a Russian-American Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue. This new initiative will help build a competitive media sector in Russia and improve the conditions necessary for media to flourish in Russia as a business. This dialogue will bring together information executives, journalists and NGO representatives who will work together to develop ways to put independent media on a solid financial basis while upholding the highest journalistic standards.
The gravest threat today to our national existence, to our economic prosperity and to our freedom is, of course, from terrorists who have declared war on the civilized world. The heartless attacks in New York and Washington on September 11 that took the lives of so many innocent people -- not only Americans but also hundreds of citizens of other countries, including Russia -- have no justification. These terrorist attacks had nothing to do with a clash of civilizations or religions -- in fact, they were attacks against civilization and religion.
The United States and Russia now stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a united front against all forms of international terrorism, including the use of biological agents. And we agree on the need to undertake joint efforts against nuclear proliferation, organized crime and drug trafficking. Together we will defeat all those who would undermine the foundations of civil society that all of us now cherish.
Both our countries are committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan when hostilities cease and the Taliban has been completely defeated. We support efforts by the United Nations to make possible a multi-ethnic post-Taliban government that respects human rights and exports neither terror nor drugs.
Recent dramatic gains on the battlefield do not mean that the war against terrorism is over. And indeed, that war will not end in Afghanistan. This is a long-term struggle to eradicate global terrorism wherever it exists. In President Putin's words: "We have to fight the war against terrorism do kontsa (to the very end)." We will not rest until we have defeated al Qaida and other terrorist networks -- and our highest priority will be to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
This will be a long, difficult struggle; but it is one that unites Russia and the United States and one which we are determined to win. Russia and the United States -- working together as close partners with other freedom-loving nations of the world -- have the opportunity to make the decades ahead an era of peace and progress.
This is the challenge for all of you here today -- a new generation of Russians growing up in a new era of freedom and democracy. It is up to you to work together with your counterparts in America, Europe and in other countries to build a world safe, free and prosperous for the generations that will come after you.