US Department of State
21 January 2003
Text: Sees U.S., Russian Interests Converging
(Jan. 17, Moscow: Alexander Vershbow at Russian Academy of Sciences)
There is a "strong trend toward convergence of interests" between the United States and Russia that gives the two countries' partnership "the potential to evolve into a real alliance," a U.S. envoy said January 17 in Moscow.
The envoy, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Alexander Vershbow, was speaking at the Political Science Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Vershbow focused his remarks on the ties binding the U.S. and Russia and the three most important recent events in the bilateral relationship: the two summits between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin; the Moscow theater hostage-taking in late October 2002; and the Houston Energy Summit in October 2002.
The United States believes that a strong NATO-Russia partnership will enable all concerned "to confront the new challenges to security that emanate from outside Europe," according to Vershbow, in particular nuclear, biological and chemical threats and potential terrorist attacks.
The summit meetings have "put the bilateral relationship on a new footing," Vershbow said. In his view, even more significant than the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions signed at the May Summit was the political declaration on the new strategic relationship: "This established a framework for long-term partnership, indeed, an alliance between the United States and Russia, including new forms of security cooperation and expanded political, economic and people-to-people links."
The importance of the Moscow hostage crisis to the relationship is that the United States "agreed with the Russian decision to take decisive action to free the hostages."
"The point to be drawn here is that the United States, like Russia, is serious about combating terrorism everywhere, not just when it affects America directly, and we will continue to condemn such despicable acts as the recent terrorist bombing in Groznyy in which so many Russian citizens lost their lives," Vershbow said.
However, he also emphasized that, "as democracies, we must be vigilant and ensure that the war on terrorism does not cause us to lower our standards when it comes to human rights, democracy and the rule of law."
The third event, the U.S.-Russia Energy Summit in Houston "could turn out to be the most important of all," Vershbow said, citing his belief that Russian oil "could potentially constitute an import alternative" to oil from the Middle East. But significant U.S. investments in the Russian oil and gas sector "will depend on Russia making clear it welcomes such investments and will do its part to create the kind of legal and business environment conducive to such investment. Rule of law, contract sanctity, and enforcement of court decisions are key."
Following is the text as prepared for delivery:
Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN)
January 17, 2003
THE U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONSHIP: ADAPTING TO A CHANGING SECURITY ENVIRONMENT
Remarks by Alexander Vershbow
U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation
The Political Science Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences
I am deeply honored to have the privilege of speaking to the Political Science Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Academy is an institution that epitomizes the greatness of the Russian nation, an Academy of knowledge and learning that was founded eight years before the father of my country, George Washington, was even born. I want to express my gratitude to Professor Fedor Mikhaylovich Burlatskiy for inviting me to appear before you today.
As political scientists, many among you have had an enviable opportunity - the chance, over the past decade, to observe and analyze at close hand Russia's unprecedented transition from the failed experiment of communism to a modern, democratic state with a market economy. Your Academy itself has undergone great changes in the past ten years. I understand that people used to say that Soviet political science "extended from Burlatskiy to Shakhnazarov, and from Shakhnazarov to Burlatskiy." Well, perhaps many other things have changed, but we're all thankful we can still turn to Professor Burlatskiy for wisdom and knowledge.
Today I'd like to speak to you about another remarkable transformation, namely the evolution of the relationship between Russia and the United States. We have gone from Cold War rivals to partners - and, in some respects, allies - working side by side, pooling resources, to face common security threats and other challenges in the 21st century. In particular, I want to talk about those ties that bind us together today, and about three separate events that reflect both the changing security situation and the evolution of our bilateral relationship. And I'd also like to offer some short perspectives on future cooperation between our two nations.
The new security environment that we face at the start of this new century presents both of our countries with new challenges and new risks, as well as new opportunities. Both countries, indeed all peace-loving countries, can choose whether our interests are better served working together or individually and separately. I think we would all agree that, where possible, our interests, to the degree that they are common, are best served by working together. Indeed, the degree of closeness between our two countries will ultimately be determined by the extent to which the national interests of Russia and the United States - in reality and in terms of public perceptions - coincide or diverge. I would additionally argue that, as we analyze the new threats and challenges we face in the 21st century, we will find that we have more rather than fewer interests in common. This suggests that our two countries' relationship will grow increasingly closer.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in the end-of-year interviews he gave to RIA Novosti and Rossiiskaya Gazeta, cited Russia's growing partnership with the United States as the single most important element of Russia's foreign policy. The Foreign Minister stated unambiguously that Russia would not have been able to eliminate the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan. For my part, I would add that the coalition could not have achieved its quick victory in toppling the Taliban regime and helping install Hamed Karzai's broad-based government without important logistical, intelligence, humanitarian and other assistance from the Russian government. Together we have helped the Afghans throw off the yoke of the oppressor. Together, along with other nations, we are helping them rebuild their country. Together, we are combating the continuing threat of Al Qaeda and other terrorists, in Central Asia and throughout the world, thereby serving the common security interests of the United States, Russia, and all nations that value stability and human dignity.
Similarly, Mr. Ivanov noted that there is no contradiction between improving relations with the United States while improving relations with the European Union. He also cited the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a means to contribute to the security of the regions to Russia's south and east. We agree. In short, improving one relationship need not be seen to be occurring at the expense of another - so long as the aims and goals of the relationship are compatible, of course. Or, put another way, we have gone beyond the old adage that one country's loss is another's gain, or that one country's enemy is the other's friend. The age of zero-sum thinking is past.
In this same context, Minister Ivanov noted the importance of the NATO-Russia Council, formed in Rome in the spring of last year, in jointly confronting the new threat of terrorism. The NATO-Russia Council is indeed off to a good start, with both sides showing a new spirit of flexibility and creative cooperation. The joint civil emergency exercise Russia hosted with NATO Allies and Partners in Noginsk, as well as the NATO-Russia seminar on the military's role in combating terrorism it hosted in December in Moscow, represent significant combined steps toward addressing the common security threats of the new century. Military authorities have completed joint assessments of the threat posed by Al Qaeda to our troops in the Balkans and to civil aviation. An agreement has been completed on search and rescue at sea. We have developed an outline for a thorough assessment of the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are investigating how we can work together on peacekeeping and integrated training of our military forces.
I continue to be surprised by the degree to which these specific, practical instances of cooperation between Russia and NATO seem to have escaped the attention of much of the Russian media, and thus the Russian people. Looking to the future, there are even bigger opportunities for our work, for example, on a common missile defense of our territories and our military forces. We may also want to think about a role for Russia in connection with the new NATO Response Force.
Most of the press coverage of the Prague Summit focused on the decision by NATO leaders to invite seven new members, including the three Baltic States, to join the Alliance. But while enlargement has a specific historical background that is familiar to all of us, it is important to see it more broadly as part of the democratic integration process. For the U.S., a vision of integration of a Europe whole, free and at peace, has been one of the main motivating forces behind our policy toward Europe and the Euro-Atlantic region, even before the end of the Cold War. The NATO-Russia Council, NATO enlargement, the enlargement of the European Union, and the creation of a common European economic space - all should be viewed through this prism.
The United States believes that a larger NATO and a strong NATO-Russia partnership, uniting like-minded states, will enable us better to confront the new challenges to security that emanate from outside Europe. I would invite you to re-read the Prague Summit Declaration: its primary focus is the need to launch a wholesale transformation process to prepare the NATO for the challenges of the 21st century, in particular the new era of nuclear, biological and chemical threats and potential terrorist attacks. It is the U.S. view that an enlarged Alliance and an expanded Russian "alliance with the Alliance" will better enable all of us to confront these new challenges.
As we know, the greatest challenge to our survival as nations today is no longer which of two superpowers has more nuclear warheads than the other, or whether the two superpowers will be able to maintain a dangerous balance through the threat of mutually assured destruction. The real risk today is the horrendous damage and suffering that a rogue state or a terrorist group could inflict on either one of our countries, or on some other nation or target. Attacks in Bali and Kaspiisk, New York and Moscow, Mombasa and Groznyy are all still recent, vivid memories. We can only imagine the devastation if similar attacks were carried out with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Cooperating to avert that unimaginable scenario must remain a cornerstone of the cooperation between Russia and the United States.
At the same time, even our definition of the word "security" is evolving. The term now also embraces transnational crimes including trafficking in drugs and humans, health concerns such as HIV and AIDS that know no national boundaries, and even damage to the environment. Security can also be defined in terms of economic security and prosperity. Indeed, most nations now develop strategies to penetrate markets rather than to control territories. As the process of globalization continues, the United States and Russia should ensure that the gap between "haves" and "have nots" does not simply widen further, creating yet more risks and dangers for our nations. We need to work together to help ensure that developing countries can also participate in creating stability and prosperity for their peoples.
Against this background, I would like to touch on what I see as the three most important events in U.S.-Russia relations over the past year, adding a few thoughts on the future. Here, in the spirit of cooperation, I am borrowing from the technique of Foreign Minister Ivanov in his end-of-year interviews. I would agree with the Minister that the most important events should include the two summits between Presidents Putin and Bush, and I would add the Moscow theater hostage-taking in late October and the Houston Energy Summit in October.
We Americans agree with Minister Ivanov that the overall security situation in the world has changed drastically in the recent past. Russia and the United States no longer threaten each other militarily, which is why our Presidents signed the historic Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions last year at the May Summit. We look forward to ratification of that treaty by the Duma and the U.S. Senate in the nearest future. At the same time, agreements on strategic nuclear arms are no longer the central focus of U.S.-Russian relations. The summit meetings between Presidents Bush and Putin have put the bilateral relationship on a new footing. They have made it clear once and for all that the Cold War is a vestige of the past, and set the tone for exploring new ways to meet the challenges of the future.
In May, Presidents Bush and Putin also signed a remarkable, if little noticed, political declaration on the new strategic relationship. This established a framework for long-term partnership, indeed, an alliance between the United States and Russia, including new forms of security cooperation and expanded political, economic and people-to-people links. Our friendship will only grow closer as we expand trade and investment, as our peoples exchange ideas and expertise, as they learn about how business is done in each other's country and about how similar their hopes and struggles and dreams really are. I would argue that this second document dealing with our strategic relationship may in the end prove even more important and revolutionary than the Moscow Treaty.
The second major event demonstrating our changing bilateral relationship in the new security environment that I'd like to discuss is the Moscow hostage crisis. My government's position on the situation in Chechnya is well-known to all of you here: while we support the territorial integrity of Russia and your right to challenge an armed insurgency within your borders, it is clear that this conflict will not be resolved militarily. Thus we continue to call upon Russia to discuss the path to a political solution with legitimate Chechen representatives. Likewise, we have consistently urged Chechen leaders to renounce violence as the means to achieve their goals.
This position only intensified our horror and outrage at the terrorist attack on the theater on Dubrovka in October. Here I would stress that the United States agreed with the Russian decision to take decisive action to free the hostages. We understood the difficult decision that President Putin had to make. We knew that even the best-planned and executed operation of this kind was unlikely to be free of casualties, although it seems clear that less secrecy about the nature of the gas used to disable the terrorists might have saved more lives. The point to be drawn here is that the United States, like Russia, is serious about combating terrorism everywhere, not just when it affects America directly, and we will continue to condemn such despicable acts as the recent terrorist bombing in Groznyy in which so many Russian citizens lost their lives.
Thus, we reject double standards when it comes to terrorism. But as democracies, we must be vigilant and ensure that the war on terrorism does not cause us to lower our standards when it comes to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. While we will vigorously use all means necessary - diplomatic, financial, and, yes, military - to defeat our enemies, we must remain true to our core values. In this respect, I would be remiss if I did not mention our concerns about official pressure that was brought to bear on some television networks in the wake of the Dubrovka theater crisis. Likewise, we remain disturbed that camps for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia were disbanded on a not entirely voluntary basis - an assessment that was confirmed by Russian human rights leaders during their recent visit. The United States has expressed concerns about respect for human rights in the conduct of military operations in Chechnya. We regret the Russian decision not to renew the mandate for the OSCE Assistance Group in Chechnya, which we believe offered an opportunity for providing the international community with a more objective view of the political and human rights situation in Chechnya.
In raising these issues, the U.S. Government is not attacking Russia for no reason. Friends and partners must be honest with each other if they wish to strengthen the basis of their relationship. We therefore will not refrain from criticizing Russian policies with which we disagree, especially when we feel that these policies run counter to our shared values and international standards of human rights and civil liberties. Our bilateral relationship has indeed matured to the point, similar to U.S. relations with the British, Spanish or French, where each side accepts advice and even criticism from the other, but the alliance remains absolutely solid. I might add that President Putin and other Russian leaders have not been shy about characterizing certain decisions and policies of the United States as mistaken. The strength and maturity of the relationship is demonstrated by the many areas of common ground that are not jeopardized by those instances in which our perceptions or interests still diverge.
The final recent event shaping U.S.-Russian relations could turn out to be the most important of all - the U.S.-Russia Energy Summit held in Houston October 1-2. Russia is the second largest producer of oil in the world (depending on the day, sometimes you are the largest!), and the summit served to explore the future possibilities for export to the United States and private-sector partnership opportunities. As I have said, I continue to believe that Russian oil exports to the United States could potentially constitute an important alternative to what many analysts consider our overdependence on oil from the Middle East. It is our hope that the contacts made and business relationships forged at the Summit will lead to significant investments by U.S. companies in the Russian oil and gas sector. This will depend on Russia making clear it welcomes such investments and will do its part to create the kind of legal and business environment conducive to such investment. Rule of law, contract sanctity, and enforcement of court decisions are key. I would point out that there are many who are looking to the future of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium as a sign of how Russia treats large foreign investors in this field. The Murmansk pipeline is yet another project that would allow both sides to reap important benefits and, we hope, some profits as well. We very much hope that the project goes forward.
Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is also an important part of economic integration, and we are hopeful that Russia's graduation from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment will be taken up soon by the newly elected Congress. I think we all recognize that greater economic cooperation has the potential to take on a strategic dimension over time that would serve both our interests.
These are just some of the especially promising areas for further development in our bilateral relations in 2003. At the same time, I would be dishonest, or at least would sound overly optimistic, if I failed to point out that 2002 ended with several discordant notes. We are baffled by the recent action to revoke the visa of Irene Stevenson, a respected NGO representative and labor activist working in this country since 1989. Also, in December, the Russian Government notified us that the Peace Corps was no longer needed here, although it graciously thanked the 700-plus volunteers who have served here since 1992. This farewell was marred, however, by accusations from a senior Russian minister that these volunteers had engaged in spying. These allegations are absolutely untrue, outrageous and even harmful to the work carried out by the volunteers not just here in Russia, but in 70 countries around the world.
These and similar actions run counter to another common interest of the United States and Russia: your continued integration into the international structures and institutions of the 21st century world. They reflect suspicions and xenophobia that remind us that there are still those who do not recognize that our countries have more that unites us than divides us, forces that want to bring us back to the days of "zero sum" thinking, that are unable to escape the habits and mindset of the Cold War, that refuse to accept Russia's democratic transformation.
As an American, however, I am by nature an optimist. I am hopeful that these will prove to be isolated incidents, noteworthy as exceptions that go against the strong trend toward convergence of interests that I see as the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship. And I am confident that most of you here today recognize this convergence as a strategic imperative for Russia, and that you will find ways to lend your own energies and influence to help us broaden and deepen our partnership in 2003.
As I said earlier, this partnership has the potential to evolve into a real alliance, something more durable than our temporary coalition during the Second World War, something based not just on recognition of a common enemy, but on shared values and on the logic of common interests, to borrow President Putin's phrase. I believe both countries have, objectively speaking, a shared interest in confronting the threats and challenges of a new century: terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, as well as other common threats such as HIV/AIDS. We also have a shared interest in extending the reach of democratic values - of freedom, tolerance, and economic opportunity - as the best guarantee of peace and prosperity. Our Presidents have shown the way in breaking with old habits and old ways of thinking. It is now up to the rest of us to do our part.