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July 11, 2012 (TSR) – Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed on Monday a meeting of Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives. Putin outlined in his speech Russia’s main foreign policy priorities and clarified the tasks Russian diplomats will have over the coming period, taking into account the current international agenda and the processes underway in Russia itself.
Along with Russian ambassadors and permanent envoys, also taking part in the meeting were staff from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Moscow offices, the officials of the Presidential Executive Office, members of the Government, and representatives of ministries and agencies involved in international cooperation. Such meetings of Russia’s ambassadors and envoys abroad take place once every two years.
Putin declared July 9 as day of mourning and all flags were on half mast to honor the victims. The meeting thus began with a minute of silence in memory of those killed by the floods in Krasnodar Territory.
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Colleagues,
As you know, today, Russia is observing a national day of mourning for those killed in the south of our country and in the road accident in Ukraine. This is a great tragedy, a great misfortune. I ask you to stand and honour the victims’ memory with a minute of silence.
(Minute of silence.)
I greet today the senior members of Russia’s diplomatic service. Our first meeting took place in 2002, when we celebrated the Foreign Ministry’s 200th anniversary. The decade that has passed since then has shown how useful and needed these regular and substantial discussions are. It is you and the people working under you who promote and defend our country’s interests abroad on a daily basis, defend Russia’s position, and help to increase its influence on the processes taking place in the world.
The diplomatic service’s current priorities were set out in the Executive Order On Measures to Implement the Russian Federation Foreign Policy of May 7, this year. The fast-changing situation in international relations makes it more imperative than ever to improve the work of the Foreign Ministry and other agencies involved in this area. What is important now is to provide rapid and professional analysis of events taking place and make timely forecasts. But let me add here that it is not enough to simply be passive observers and ‘follow developments’, as the traditional bureaucratic parlance has it. You need to be more active in trying to influence the situation in circumstances when Russian interests are directly concerned, pre-empt developments, and be prepared for all possible turns of events, even the most unfavourable scenarios.
International relations are growing more complex in nature all the time, and this is something you sense in your day-to-day work. Sadly, international relations today cannot be said to be balanced and stable. On the contrary, they are becoming tenser and more uncertain, and, regrettably, there often seems to be less place for trust and openness.
The international community is still a long way away from building the foundations of a universal and indivisible security system. Everybody supports the idea in theory, but when it comes to putting it into practice a number of our partners want to ensure their own security first, forgetting that in today’s world we are all interdependent. Most of today’s threats and challenges are transnational in nature. They are all well-known: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking, environmental pollution, shortages of food and fresh water.
We are forced to admit that no reliable solution for overcoming the global economic crisis has been found yet. Indeed, the prospects are looking more and more worrying. The debt problems in the Eurozone and its slide towards recession are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the global economy’s unresolved structural problems go. The traditional powerhouses of global development – the USA, the EU, and Japan – are seeing their leadership erode, but the absence of new development models is putting a brake on global growth. There is increasing competition for access to resources, and this provokes abnormal fluctuations on the raw materials and energy markets. The traditional Western economic powers are being weakened by the crisis, which has exacerbated social and economic problems in the developed economies, and by the multi-vector nature of global development today. We can already see this for a fact now.
Colleagues, this is no cause for joy. We should not take delight in this turn of events, and much less feel malicious glee. On the contrary, we cannot but worry over these developments, because the consequences of these tectonic shifts in the global economy are not yet clear, nor are the inevitable shifts in the international balance of power and in global policy that will follow.
We are all the more worried when we see attempts by some actors in international relations to maintain their traditional influence, often by resorting to unilateral action that runs counter to the principles of international law. We see evidence of this in so-called ‘humanitarian operations’, the export of bomb and missile diplomacy, and intervention in internal conflicts.
We see how contradictory and unbalanced the reform process is in North Africa and the Middle East, and I am sure that many of you still have the tragic events in Libya before your eyes. We cannot allow a repeat of such scenarios in other countries, in Syria, for example. I believe that we must do everything possible to press the parties in this conflict into negotiating a peaceful political solution to all issues of dispute. We must do all we can to facilitate such a dialogue. Of course this is a more complex and subtle undertaking than intervention using brute force from outside, but only this process can guarantee a lasting settlement and future stable development in the region, and in Syria’s case, in the country itself.
Collective effort with the emphasis on peaceful negotiations and the search for compromise solutions should become the imperative in general in international life today. This applies to all of the world’s sore points, including the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes, Afghanistan, and other regional and sub-regional problems.
Over the upcoming years, Russia will host summits of some of the world’s biggest multilateral organisations and forums, such as APEC, the G20 and G8, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and BRICS. Russia’s presidency of these groups and forums will give us not only the chance to boost Russia’s influence on the international stage, but also to be more energetic in promoting the indisputable priority of political and diplomatic means of resolving the various serious problems in the world.
We continue to stand firm by the principles of the United Nations Charter as the foundations of the modern world order, and will do all we can to ensure that everyone respects the principle whereby in cases where outside intervention is necessary, only the UN Security Council has the power to make such decisions. Adding unilateral sanctions to such decisions is counterproductive in effect.
Russia’s foreign policy has always been independent and it will remain so. We follow a consistent policy based on continuity and the unique role our country plays in world affairs and in global civilisation’s development, a role that has taken shape over the course of centuries. Russia’s policy has nothing in common with isolationism or confrontation and is based on integration in global processes. Russia must have a dynamic, constructive, pragmatic and flexible range of diplomatic instruments at its disposal, in particular as concerns promoting our country’s economic interests, which is a particularly important and far from easy task.
We are forced to admit that we often lose out here to many of our foreign partners, who know how to lobby their business interests in more competent and resolute fashion.
We have been talking about the importance of economic diplomacy since the start of the 2000s. It was something we discussed at our first meeting, but little change has been achieved since then. Of course there have been steps in the right direction – I can see them myself – but there has not been any radical change yet.
Russian business continues to run up against unjustified restrictions on foreign markets. This is particularly noticeable now, when metastases from the crisis have spread throughout the global economy and protectionism is becoming the norm. I had the pleasure and honour just recently of discussing this issue directly with my G20 colleagues. There is a lot of discussion on the issue, but unfortunately we have yet to see any effective instruments for fighting protectionism. We are to take a more vigorous stand. Russian business needs our persistent diplomatic support.
Of course, business itself should keep the Foreign Ministry and its offices, including our diplomatic missions abroad, informed of its plans, and our diplomatic missions should be more active in helping our companies in operating in foreign markets and in carrying out promising economic initiatives. All cases of discrimination against Russian goods, services and investment should meet with a suitable response. We must not allow unfair competition, and in any case, should be energetic in fighting and responding to such practices.
We should not be shy about promoting our defence industry’s goods abroad. Our partners such as the USA, France, Israel, and others have long since made such activity part of their state policy and pursue it very effectively and energetically.
It is important to make use of the opportunities opened up by Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. We realise that there are risks involved, but there are advantages too, and we must make good use of the new opportunities before us.
Let me stress again that deepening the integration process in the CIS is the core of our foreign policy and is our strategic objective. It is Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, of course, who together form the driving force of this integration, having already formed the Customs Union and now starting to work together within the common economic space. We will continue to move towards establishing the Eurasian Economic Union, which will take us to a deeper stage of integration and give us a common market of 165-170 million consumers, common economic legislation, and free flow of capital, services, and labour.
We regret greatly that fraternal Ukraine has not joined us in this process. The most independent and objective expert analyses show that Ukraine would indisputably stand to benefit from joining this group, as indeed would the whole integration process. It would be advantageous for all in economic and social terms, for Ukraine itself, and for the entire group.
As I just said, the grouping of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus gives us a common market of around 170 million consumers, but adding Ukraine would take us to 210-220 million consumers. The synergy effect would be tremendous. But we fully realise of course that matters such as integration and joining integration organisations are the sovereign choice of Ukraine’s people and Ukraine’s state headed by the current leadership. We will respect these choices and will look for all possible forms of cooperation, try to find the best and most suitable means of working together so to keep our cooperation from fading and ensure its active development.
Russia will continue to strengthen its positions in the Asia-Pacific region. The global crisis has affected this region too of course, but overall, it continues to build up its economic power, has kept up its growth rate for the most part, and is becoming a new centre of global development. I believe that our participation in the integration processes underway in this region will boost socioeconomic growth in Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Strategic and practical cooperation with China is a major priority. We will continue to pay particular attention to deepening all forms of cooperation with our Chinese partners, including coordination of our efforts on the international agenda. The same applies to the other fast-growing Asian countries that are rapidly acquiring political weight, and above all, of course, to India, our longstanding partner and friend.
We will continue our policy of expanding our cooperation with Latin America and Africa. These directions in our foreign policy were still not getting enough attention a few years ago.
Of course we will work in all areas to develop our traditional ties with Europe. I remind you that more than a quarter of our foreign trade is with Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. The EU-Russia summit in June reaffirmed the priority nature of our strategic dialogue. Incidentally, through additional contributions to the IMF, Russia is taking part in providing financial aid to the Eurozone economies currently in crisis. But at the same time, we think that our cooperation with the EU does not measure up to its full political and economic potential.
As I have said before, Russia and the EU could set far more ambitious goals than those we have today. We could build a common market from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a market worth trillions of euros. Let me stress that life itself, especially in today’s turbulent global economy, demands that we move in this direction.
There are also more down to earth tasks that we must resolve in order to achieve greater rapprochement. In particular, we are to simplify the visa regime and ultimately abolish visas altogether. Russia is ready now to take this step, and in our meetings with EU businesspeople we hear more and more often from our colleagues that European business would also like to settle this matter and the sooner the better.
I had a substantive discussion with President of the United States Barack Obama in Los Cabos recently. We reiterated our desire to build on the progress we have made over recent years and develop a constructive, predictable, and mutually advantageous bilateral cooperation model. As the world’s biggest nuclear powers, Russia and the USA play a vital part in resolving many global and regional problems, and at a time when international relations are so complex, on-going and trusting dialogue between our two countries becomes even more important.
The USA, as we all know, is in the middle of an election campaign, and it is very tempting at such times to notch up some points by making hardline statements and playing on old ideological stereotypes and phobias that it is high time we abandoned. We see what is going on. We do not dramatize the situation, but we are aware of it. It is long since time to give up such practices as a means of settling domestic political problems if all they do is worsen the international situation or harm international relations.
We cannot but feel concerned when we see attempts to replace the anti-Soviet Jackson-Vanik amendment with an anti-Russian law, or upset the strategic balance by building a missile defence system. We have voiced these concerns on many occasions and at various forums.
Colleagues, our diplomats are well versed in the traditional and familiar methods of international relations, if not masters in this field, but as far as using new methods goes, ‘soft power’ methods, for example, there is still much to reflect on.
Let me remind you that ‘soft power’ is all about promoting one’s interests and policies through persuasion and creating a positive perception of one’s country, based not just on its material achievements but also its spiritual and intellectual heritage. Russia’s image abroad is formed not by us and as a result it is often distorted and does not reflect the real situation in our country or Russia’s contribution to global civilisation, science and culture. Our country’s policies often suffer from a one-sided portrayal these days. Those who fire guns and launch air strikes here or there are the good guys, while those who warn of the need for restraint and dialogue are for some reason at fault. But our fault lies in our failure to adequately explain our position. This is where we have gone wrong.
We have not made full use of the Russian language and the opportunities it offers as an official UN language and a language used in many countries. I know that the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Agency for the CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation, and the Russian Geographical Society have plans in this respect, and I ask you to be more active in carrying out these plans and ideas.
Let me stress the point that Russia’s embassies and consulates must be ready round the clock to protect the rights and interests of our citizens and compatriots abroad. You must respond to people’s needs immediately, providing all necessary help and support. Respect for a country is determined in large part by the way it looks after its citizens, who for whatever reason have found themselves in unexpected or difficult circumstances in a foreign land. The role played by our compatriots permanently living abroad should also be rethought. Many of them want to be of use to their historic homeland, want to support Russia, but our diplomatic missions sometimes, to put it cautiously, underestimate this desire and the possibilities it offers. I think we also should take another look at making it easier for former Soviet citizens and the direct descendants of people born in the Soviet Union or even the Russian Empire to obtain Russian citizenship.
Colleagues, we place demands on our diplomats, but we are also looking after your financial welfare. As you know, I have instructed the Government to draft a policy document for strengthening the Foreign Ministry’s financial and human resources. This document will be approved. I have also signed an executive order on instituting a flag for the Foreign Ministry. A number of particularly outstanding diplomats have been awarded state decorations, and I offer these colleagues my sincere congratulations.