THE KREMLIN WEBSITE, April 14, 2010
EXCERPTS: Meeting with Representatives of US Public, Academic and Political Circles, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV:
The world is living through a time of deep-reaching transformation today, faces big challenges, and is searching for new development models. To be honest, the same could be said of any period in humanity’s development. We consider it very important, of course, to build a world of common and complementary interests and interdependent approaches. The world will be a more harmonious place if, instead of confronting each other, its different parts learn how to complement each other and build a foundation for common development.
Democracy, human rights and the market economy form the basis not only of national development today but also represent a common set of international values. The dialogue between Russia and the United States is an important part of these values. I am truly happy to see that our cooperation is now producing concrete results. I would go further and say that I am happy that over this last year and a bit we have succeeded in changing the climate in Russian-American relations. This does not mean that there are no longer any problems in our relations and that these relations are absolutely perfect, but the climate has improved and we are seeing the results now. It makes me very happy indeed to be a part of this change.
Last week, President Obama and I signed the new START Treaty, and it seems fitting to mention this again now, all the more so here in Washington. This is a real step forward, no matter what the analysts say with regard to the results obtained, whose side the balance is on, or whether this is a real achievement or just good publicity for two politicians. In my view, this treaty is a positive thing.
Russian-American relations have a complex history. As is often the case, we have many extremes in our relations, with everything from the tightest of embraces to outright hostility, but instead of focusing on the differences between us we should build long-term pragmatic relations – and I stress this word, pragmatic – for the future. We need to give these relations a common base, of course – the values of democracy and economic freedom, and our common goals in the fight against global threats.
Our countries have different histories and our peoples often differ in their interpretation of events. The USA has been developing a market economy for almost two centuries now, while our country, in the twentieth century at least, went through a series of severe trials, economic upheavals and experiments. I therefore believe very strongly that Russia now requires several decades of calm and stable effort to build an effective political and economic system. Only then will the differences that exist, even at the level of our mentalities, become a thing of the past. Only for this to happen, we must not lecture each other on how to live, but need simply to keep talking to each other, maintain regular, direct contact, and not try to paint the situation in this or that tone of our own.
No one is more aware of our country’s problems than we ourselves. They include corruption, technological backwardness, and an unhealthy way of life. But we only began changing our social system 20 years ago, and I want to stress to you thatthis system is deeply rooted in traditions that cannot be changed overnight. This system was shaped by traditions reaching back centuries. These traditions have become firmly entrenched in habit, and they are often a hindrance to our progress, but at the same time, they are also a kind of self-defence mechanism that society uses to hold itself together. We understand how we can go about addressing these problems, including by drawing on our friends’ experience. We need to build up a partnership on the whole range of different issues. And we in turn are willing, of course, to give the United States a shoulder to lean on where necessary - and this support is indeed necessary on a whole number of issues.
All countries make declarations about democratic principles, what matters however, is not the declarations, and not even changes to the law, though improving legislation is one of the tasks on our agenda today, but what really matters above all is real implementation of democracy, real democratic practice. Practice, as we know, is a criterion for truth in general, and political and legal practice show up all the merits and shortcomings. It is important to keep this in mind, to focus on practice, and then we will see progress in fighting corruption, will be able to remove from office individuals who prove themselves unfit for their jobs, and most importantly, may possibly ensure the proper feedback between the authorities and the general public. I think that all state officials, regardless of their position, from the President right down to municipal heads, should make this feedback a priority, and make use of modern technology in this work. I personally try to do this, and I think that others should make this a part of their work too. We have a huge variety of tools today at our disposal in this work. Sometimes it seems to me that, in the past, heads of state and government were often hostage to their aides, who sorted the documents and decided which files would end up on the desk. They were the ones who decided what the leadership did or did not see. We all know that aides are human too, and of course they wanted to put the best light on things, show up their own work in a favourable light. But everything has changed today. No matter what people write to me, or to President Obama, we can always switch on the computer, go on the internet and see what is actually going on. This is not to say that the internet always tells the truth while aides always lie, but at least the internet provides another source of information, circumventing the aides and taking us straight to the heart of the information environment. I think this is something very important, and we have yet to realise its full impact.
Colleagues, we will work with the United States on all of the big global problems such as preventing terrorism and drugs trafficking, trans-border crime and piracy. We work together on settling regional conflicts and we are trying – without much success so far, it is true – to fight climate change. We place particular emphasis on enhancing multilateral mechanisms for regulating international relations, and above all the United Nations, the organisation that serves as the foundation for these relations and that is the only truly universal forum that we have. We also have the Group of Eight and the Group of Twenty, of course, and we will continue working through them too. Naturally, we will continue working on overcoming the global economic crisis, because it is not yet clear how the future will shape up. I think the situation is not entirely clear here yet, and the same is true of elsewhere around the world. There are various scenarios, and so we will soon continue examining this subject together at the G8 summit in Canada, and in the G20.
We are working on regional issues, regional security. I draw the attention of everyone present to one of the initiatives I put forward shortly after being elected president, namely, the European Security Treaty. I make separate mention of this point because I want to stress that this treaty is not directed against any organisation and has no hidden agenda, is not some kind of cunning Russian trick to weaken NATO or the OSCE. We are simply seeking to add to Europe’s security system a more effective legal instrument.
The Iranian nuclear programme is another of the subjects we discuss often, and I imagine you will probably ask about it too.There is talk now of imposing sanctions on Iran, and the reasons for this are eminently clear. Iran has not responded to the compromise offers that have been made. We discuss these issues and these sanctions together in the six party talks. I last discussed this problem with President Obama in Prague, when we met to sign the START Treaty (Joint Understanding of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms). This is not to say that sanctions are a particularly useful thing. What’s more, they do not always achieve the desired results and end up punishing the ordinary people which should not be accepted. Sanctions would need to guarantee the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and only then could they be considered effective.
The talks about Iran with Mr Obama and my other colleagues are a part of our agenda. We do that regularly and on a full basis. This means that Iran is a problem to some extent and what is important that we find evidence of what their nuclear program is. As any society, they do have the right to develop the civilian nuclear program, but the problem is how they convince the international community that it is civilian. And lately we did not bring any improvement to the situation, it has aggravated, and Iran ignores the questions addressed to it. They keep saying small phrases and make small suggestions, so we deal with this together, talking about the future.
I would not favor sanctions because sanctions is a repression, an imposing of some actions. But if nothing happens, we will have to deal with sanctions. The question is, what kind of sanctions are these? Many times I have answered these questions, what kind of sanctions we need. I do not favour paralyzing, crippling sanctions which make people suffer in a humanitarian sense. This is immoral and it creates negative results, negative feedback, and I have grounds to believe that some people need this. They are waiting for a real clash of positions, but sanctions must be smart. And the question is, how we understand this word, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable? Sanctions must be universal. They must be discussed with the main participants of the international process on this subject, and the sanctions must be aimed at one result. That’s why the position upon sanctions depends not only on the United States, Europe, Russia, but also on China, Latin America.
In this case only, these decisions, if it is needed, are able to give results in talking about the Middle East, and what can happen over there if the nuclear program is implemented and a nuclear conflict arises. That would be a gigantic catastrophe.
We all can imagine what can happen in the Middle East if just one terrorist act happens there, if nuclear arms are used. The Middle East is called the Middle East because it is small enough for bombings to happen in one place, for it to start spreading all over the world, and that would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe and huge exodus of people from different countries. And the worst thing is that it will trigger the nuclear arms race.
Many colleagues from the Arab world say that if Iran gets nuclear arms, they will have no scruples without having them as well, and this will enlarge the nuclear club, and then no summit will help. If all of those countries have nuclear arms, that will open a new page in the history of humankind which will be very sad.
We are jointly helping the people of Afghanistan to transform their country into a stable and sustainably developing state and ensure peaceful life there. We are working together on the political front, on political settlement, strengthening the government of Afghanistan, helping the police force, cooperating on transit traffic. I think that all of this is contributing towards our common objectives. True, too little has been done so far to fight the drugs trafficking coming from Afghanistan. Perhaps this is because America itself is much less directly affected by this drugs trafficking, unlike Europe and the Russian Federation. This flow of drugs is coming straight into our country, and so whatever the case, we need to make progress in this area.
Well, I have been talking about Afghanistan as our common concern, and every country has its own history, and sometimes it is very sad. Our country has also its history of work in Afghanistan back in Soviet times, and that was a very hard page of our history.
I’m not sure that our society is ready to once again open that page, but that doesn’t mean that we would like to stay on the sidelines. And we have agreed upon all aspects of cooperation on Afghanistan starting with military transit and humanitarian, social and economic projects, restoring of its economy.
We should cooperate in this realm, but what is more important today is giving an opportunity to the Afghanistan political system to develop because we understand that America cannot be there all the time. It cannot be lasting forever. It’s a very hard burden.
But if America leaves Afghanistan and the alliance leaves this place, then how will the political system live in Afghanistan? The political system must become independent. It must gain some momentum, and that’s what has to be our common aim.
When I meet President Karzai, the first thing I ask is how the political process is going because this is absolutely important, and this is the thing which the Soviet Union failed to do. No matter what values we brought there, but our country tried to create a political system. We failed to do that, and Afghanistan rejected this political system and this political experiment.
So today’s aim is that the modern political system of Afghanistan would be created, and an effective government would appear there, and then we may say that our aim has been done.
The situation in Kyrgyzstan is difficult. Once again, Kyrgyzstan is living through a stage of a legitimate development, and unfortunately I believe that the responsibility for that is born by the Kyrgyzstan’s authorities themselves who hadn’t taken effort earlier to consolidate the civil society, to agree with the opposition, to settle the numerous conflicts underway, and to organise normal economic development.
Once the former Kyrgyzstani president was outcast and forced to leave the country, one of the reproaches he received was economic crimes, corruption.
A couple of years later, we see the same slogans and the same people there, only they switched places, which is quite sad because Kyrgyzstan is a close neighbor of ours, and least of all we would like to see Kyrgyzstan turning into a failed state.The risk of Kyrgyzstan falling into two parts, the northern part and the southern part, is still there, and it is important to prevent bloodshed. Around 100 people have been killed already.
Now the question is not about who started the whole thing, though certainly an investigation should be held to see who triggered all those problems. The most important thing is to prevent a civil war now, and I believe that Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of a civil war now. All the forces in Kyrgyzstan should realize their responsibility towards the Kyrgyz nation and Kyrgyz people, and towards the future of the Kyrgyz state.
We all understand perfectly what a civil war means today. If, God forbid, it started, it will immediately attract terrorists and extremists of all kinds because in the course of such conflicts the best possible conditions are created for radical movements. In this case, instead of Kyrgyzstan, an Afghanistan of some years ago can emerge, a different Afghanistan before the military operations there. So our task now is to help our Kyrgyz partners to find the calmest possible way to overcome the situation.
How can we do that? We need to soothe down the people. We should form a government that would be viable. And some political leaders will need to assume important decisions as to their future, a decision that should be motivated by the interests of the Kyrgyz people and not by their personal political ambitions.
EQUATION WITH OBAMA:
We don’t e-mail each other with President Obama, but it is a good idea indeed. That would be the fastest possible way to talk to each other because until we coordinate our communications with our assistants, then we communicate in writing, it takes a lot of time. In this case, we could just have a couple of iPhones, and we could just exchange text messages or e-mails. I am quite familiar with that, as well as President Obama, as far as I understand.