In his latest pre-election article, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin defines Russia’s niche in a “changing world”, discussing the modern challenges that Moscow faces on the international stage.
Putin stressed that Russia will establish its own interests and goals, rather than follow the decisions imposed by somebody else. As for the goals of its foreign policy, they are strategic rather than short-term.
“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,” Putin said. “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.”
According to Putin, Russia’s position regarding the emerging new world order is based on new geopolitical realities and the idea that any unnecessary turmoil must be avoided.
Who undermines trust?
Vladimir Putin stressed that international stability is impossible to imagine without indivisible security for all nations, unconditional compliance with the fundamental principles of international law or when disproportionate force is used.
"That do not follow the logic of modern development and are based on the stereotypes of bloc mentality,” he said. “Everybody knows what I am alluding to. It is NATO’s expansion, including the deployment of new military infrastructure and the bloc’s (US-sponsored) plans to set up a missile defense system in Europe…in the immediate proximity to Russia’s borders.”
He also explained that human rights, though being paramount, should not be used as a pretext to undermine national sovereignty.
“The protection of human rights, however, becomes mere demagoguery when it 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,” Putin explained.
Here, Putin rebuked NATO and its taste for the “export of missile-based democracy”. He said that nobody had the right to hijack the prerogatives and powers of the United Nations, particularly when it comes to the use of force against sovereign nations.
“It seems that NATO countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our view,” Putin said. “The Americans are obsessed with the idea of securing absolute invulnerability for themselves, which, incidentally, is a utopia, for both technological and geopolitical reasons.”
Prime Minister Putin insists that people in Russia sympathized with those who were seeking democratic reforms in the Arab countries. However, it eventually became clear that events in many of those 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,” he said.
Putin believes that the biased position of the foreign powers that were interfering in such conflicts 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 incarnation of these actions,” he said, adding that, “No one should be allowed to use the Libyan scenario in Syria.”
The international community must work to achieve an internal Syrian reconciliation, Putin stressed, pointing out that Russia is against the adoption of any resolutions at the UN Security Council that could be interpreted as a signal to armed interference in Syria’s domestic developments.
In the light of the reaction to the Russian-Chinese UN veto, which he called “almost hysterical,” Putin warned the West against the temptation to resort to a “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.”
“I cannot understand what causes this itch for military intervention” he wondered.
“It appears that with the Arab Spring countries, as with Iraq, Russian companies are losing their decades-long positions in local commercial markets and are being deprived of large commercial contracts,” he observed. “The niches thus vacated are being filled by the economic operatives of the states that had a hand in the change of the ruling regime.”
With that in mind, Putin says, it would be reasonable to conclude that the tragic events have been encouraged by someone's interest in a re-division of the commercial market, rather than a concern for human rights.
Mentioning the Arab-Israeli conflict, the prime minister regretted that the "magic recipe" for a final settlement has not been invented yet, but, he believes, it would be unacceptable to give up on this issue.
“Considering our close ties with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Russian diplomacy will continue to work for the resumption of the peace process both on a bilateral basis and within the format of the Quartet on the Middle East, while coordinating its steps with the Arab League,” he continued.
'Axis of evil': Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan
“Russia is worried about the growing threat of a military strike against Iran. If this happens, the consequences will be disastrous,” says Putin, adding that the issue of Tehran’s nuclear program must be settled by peaceful means.
“We propose recognizing Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium,” he said. “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 lifted.”
Putin used this chance to rebuke the West again saying that it 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,” he said.
Putin also acknowledged that the developments around North Korean nuclear program are equally serious.
“Violating the non-proliferation regime, Pyongyang openly claims the right to develop ‘the military atom’,” he said. “We cannot accept North Korea's nuclear status. We have consistently advocated the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – exclusively through political and diplomatic means.”
Vladimir Putin linked the urge by certain states to possess nuclear weapons with the “more frequent cases of crude and even armed outside interference in the domestic affairs” of these and other countries. Authoritarian regimes, he said, realize that until they have their own “bomb”, they “might have to sit and wait for ‘humanitarian intervention’.”
Russia’s prime minister also expressed his concerns over Afghanistan’s future.
“We have supported the military operation on rendering international aid to that country. However, the NATO-led international military contingent has not met its objectives,” he said. “The threats of terrorism and drug trafficking have not been reduced. Having announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the United States has been building, both there and in neighboring countries, military bases without a clear-cut mandate, objectives or duration of operation.”
Such developments do not suit Russia, Putin declared. One of the main reasons for this is the increase in the production of Afghan drugs by almost 40 per cent in 2011. “Russia is being subjected to vicious heroin-related aggression, which is doing tremendous damage to the health of our people,” he said.
“The Afghan drug threat can only be overcome by a global effort with reliance on the United Nations and regional organizations like the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the CIS,” he said.
According to Putin, the international contingent must undertake concrete steps in Afghanistan in order to solve the issue. These steps must include the physical destruction of drug crops and underground laboratories, the blocking of the routes of opiate transportation to external markets, the cutting of financial flows and supplies of chemical substances used in heroin production.
“I am convinced that China's economic growth is by no means a threat, but a challenge that carries colossal potential for business cooperation – a chance to catch the Chinese wind in the sails of our economy,” Putin concludes in his article. “China's conduct on the world stage gives no grounds to talk about its aspirations to dominance.”
Beijing shares Russia’s vision of the emerging equitable world order, Putin said, and Russia welcomes the fact that the Chinese voice in the world is growing ever more confident.
Vladimir Putin expressed his satisfaction over the state of Russo-Chinese affairs, pointing out that the two states have settled all the major political issues in their relations, including the critical border issue, adding that, the model of Russian-Chinese relations has good prospects.
Prime Minister Putin did acknowledge, however, that his country’s relationship with China is not problem-free.
“Our commercial interests in third countries by no means always coincide, and we are not entirely satisfied with the emerging trade structure and the low level of mutual investments. We will also closely monitor immigration from the People's Republic of China,” he explained.
With all that, he confirmed his belief that Russia needs a prosperous and stable China. “I am convinced that China needs a strong and successful Russia,” Putin added.
Putin briefly mentioned India, calling Russia’s relations with this country “a privileged strategic partnership.”
He also acknowledged the growing importance of the entire Asia-Pacific region on the world scene and confirmed that Russia is “actively preparing” for the meeting of the APEC leaders in Vladivostok, which is to take place in September on the island of Russky.
BRICS & G20
Vladimir Putin praised the progress in cooperation with other BRICS countries.
“This unique structure, created in 2006, is a striking symbol of the transition from a unipolar world to a more just world order,” he said. “BRICS brings together five countries with a population of almost three billion people with the largest emerging economies, colossal labor and natural resources and huge domestic markets. With the addition of South Africa, BRICS acquired a truly global format, and it now accounts for more than 25 per cent of world GDP.”
Putin also positively assessed the dynamics in Russia’s overall relations with Asian, Latin American and African countries, saying that intensification in cooperation with these regions in the fields of energy, infrastructure, investment, science and technology, banking and tourism is among Moscow’s priorities.
According to Putin, the growing role of these regions is reflected in the work of the G20, which Russia will chair in 2013. “We must use this opportunity to better coordinate the work of the G20 and other multilateral structures, above all the G8 and, of course, the UN,” he said.
The Europe factor
“Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization,” said the Russian PM. “That is why Russia proposes moving toward the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – a community referred by Russian experts to as ‘the Union of Europe’.”
Speaking of the European economic crisis, Vladimir Putin said that it also affected Russia’s interests, and pledged that Moscow would do its best to help.
“The crisis that has struck the eurozone cannot but affect Russia's interests, especially if one considers that the EU is our major foreign economic and trade partner,” he said. “Likewise, it is clear that the prospects of the entire global economic structure depend heavily on the state of affairs in Europe.”
“Russia is actively participating in the international effort to support the ailing European economies and is consistently working with its partners to formulate collective decisions under the auspices of the IMF,” Putin continued. “Russia is not opposed in principle to direct financial assistance in some cases.”
Vladimir Putin stated that Russia needs a strong EU. “It is in our interests to realize the enormous potential of the Russia-EU partnership,” he said.
However, he continued, genuine partnership between Russia and the European Union is impossible as long as there are barriers that impede human and economic contacts, such as the various measures aimed at “squeezing out” Russian companies, as well as visa requirements.
Prime Minister Putin points out that a lot has been done in recent years to develop Russian-American relations. However, it is not a secret that they are far from being stable, he says.
“The instability of the partnership with America is due in part to the tenacity of some well-known stereotypes and phobias,” Putin explains. “But the main problem is that bilateral political dialogue and cooperation do not rest on a solid economic foundation.”
The current level of bilateral trade, he said, falls far short of the potential of both economies. The same refers to mutual investments.
“Nor is mutual understanding strengthened by regular US attempts to engage in ‘political engineering’, including in regions that are traditionally important to us,” Putin complained, mentioning America’s AMD programs as one of the major obstacles for breaking the stalemate in bilateral relations.
“One would not like to see the deployment of the American system on a scale that would demand the implementation of our declared countermeasures,” he added.
“In general, we are prepared to make great strides in our relations with the US, to achieve a qualitative breakthrough, but on the condition that the Americans are guided by the principles of equal and mutually respectful partnership,” Vladimir Putin concluded.
Vladimir Putin expressed his satisfaction with Russia’s long-awaited accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2011. He particularly pointed out that Moscow has already integrated WTO principles in the legal framework of the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
At the same time, he expressed his regret over the fact that Russian partners and investors themselves are quite commonly discriminated against.
“We are opening up the most attractive areas of our economy to foreign investors, granting them access to the ‘juiciest morsels’, in particular, our fuel and energy complex. But our investors are not welcome abroad and are often pointedly brushed aside,” he complained, citing a few examples.
Support for compatriots and Russia culture abroad
Putin noted that the Russian state recognizes the importance of the interests of millions of Russian nationals who live and travel abroad, paying special attention to the Baltic States.
“We are determined to ensure that Latvian and Estonian authorities follow the numerous recommendations of reputable international organizations on observing generally accepted rights of ethnic minorities,” he said. “We cannot tolerate the shameful status of ‘non-citizen’. How can we accept that, due to their status as non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in thirteen Estonian residents are denied their fundamental political, electoral and socio-economic rights and the ability to freely use Russian?”
Referring to the referendum on the status of the Russian language that took place in Latvia one week ago, he was scornful of the results of the vote, addressing the fact that 300,000 of so called ‘non-citizens’ – mostly ethnic Russians – were not allowed to participate in the referendum.
Putin also recommended that the Russian state must work harder to expand Russia's educational and cultural presence in the world, especially in those countries where a substantial part of the population speaks or understands Russian.
In conclusion, Russia’s prime minister Putin promised that Moscow “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,” he concluded.