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Speech by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sergey Lavrov at MGIMO University
on the Occasion of the Start of a New Academic Year
September 3, 2007
This text was originally published at
Translation from Russian was provided by MID.

Streaming video of this event is available here.

Esteemed Anatoliy Vasilyevich, esteemed Aleksandr Nikolayevich, colleagues and friends,

I cordially congratulate the heads, faculty and the entire staff of our two higher diplomatic schools, post-graduates and students, particularly freshmen, on the beginning of a new academic year. You have the difficult entrance examinations behind you, and student years, perhaps the happiest stretch of life, ahead of you. You are going to learn many new things, to be introduced to the basics of professional skill and to acquire a life experience. Successful study will open to you the broadest opportunities for interesting, imaginative work.

Today alumni of our departmental institutions of higher learning can be met in the Presidential Administration, in the Russian Parliament, in the Apparatus of the Government, in many international organizations, in solid business and financial entities. This is evidence of the high, deserved authority of the institutions themselves and of the great demand for personnel they train.

Among the questions of concern to Russian public opinion and then also to our international partners is what kind of foreign policy Russia needs and what kind of Russia the world requires.

It took Russia quite a lot of time and effort to overcome the costs of a profound and complex restructuring of the country and learn to determine independently the pace and depth of change in the framework of its choice in favor of the basic values of democracy and market, without which a modern society and state aspiring to effective growth and a worthy place in the world just cannot live. From the start of the 2000s, the foundation began to be laid that has enabled us to pay off the debts, restore competence to state authority, strengthen the territorial integrity of the country and turn it into one of the world's ten leading economies.

From this vantage point we look at the world today, feeling our responsibility - together with other states - for its future. Responsibility presupposes an ability to draw lessons from history, including recent history, analyze our own and others' mistakes and act so as to avoid their repetition.

A distinguishing feature of contemporary international relations is the political and intellectual emancipation of many sovereign states, which are beginning anew, outside of the previous Cold War context and quite independently, to comprehend their role in international affairs. This process is characteristic of Russian foreign policy as well, but not only of it. Egon Bahr, a leading SPD theorist, has thus described the gist of what is happening: "Europeans are beginning to define their own interests and act according to their own analysis."

As in the West, mutual emancipation takes place in the post-Soviet space, becoming a major element of the shift here to normal interstate relations founded on national interests, on the universal rules of international law and on market economy. This occurs with the deep-going, cultural and civilizational commonality of the CIS states being preserved, which gives grounds to speak of a strengthening of the common humanitarian space of the Commonwealth.

Neither do Russian-American relations stay aloof from the general tendency of emancipation. This consists of, first and foremost, deliverance from hostility and the ideology that fed it. There remains between the US and Russia an interlink inherited from the past in the form of our common responsibility for the maintenance of strategic stability. But it is already obvious that the resources of the past are insufficient for the construction of present-day, sustainable and forward-looking relations. Globalization prompts the necessity of creating relations of positive interdependence, and first of all in the sphere of economy.

On the other hand, the conditions of freedom dictate the necessity of collective leadership by the key states of the world. This may be called a "concert of the powers of the 21st century." We have a historical experience indicating that freedom in international relations is not a freedom of some states from others, but their freedom to come to an agreement on a rational basis of coinciding interests, as is already being done in a number of cases among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and in the Group of Eight and in other formats at present. It is clear, however, that in the era of globalization the number of global problems requiring joint approaches also grows, as does the number of power centers influencing the solution of these problems.

Hence the acute necessity of new, flexible forms of collective leadership, based on mutual consideration for interests and on an awareness of responsibilities for the destinies of the world. It is already being done that way in the G8, where a dialogue is institutionalized with traditional partners - China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

It wouldn't hurt the part of the world customarily known as the Euro-Atlantic region to have a triple understanding - between the US, Russia and the European Union. Interaction in this format already takes place on certain issues. The problem of Kosovo has now been added to them. I agree that such a "troika" could "steer the global boat into untroubled waters."

Within this "triangle" there are things on which Europe is closer to the US, but on a number of strategic issues it has more similarity with Russia. Take the theme of use of force and other forms of coercion, as also attitude to international law.

Despite differences in the "troika," we must seek to arrive at the maximally possible common denominator. Anyway, if some people think that it's impossible to do without a concept of containment, then this kind of "triple concert" is the best, and most importantly - anonconfrontional and noncost form of mutual containment. Perhaps it is time to think of a new definition of Atlanticism that does not exclude Russia.

As at any stage of its development, the world is again in need of equilibrium. In the present-day conditions equilibrium is an integral element of strategic stability which excludes a temptation for one of the sides to use nuclear arms in order to achieve its foreign policy goals. Enough to recall that when equilibrium was upset in 1959 by the deployment of American Thor nuclear missiles on the territory of Turkey, Moscow responded by stationing its missiles in Cuba. The formula eventually found to settle the Caribbean crisis speaks convincingly of just this cause-and-effect link of those events.

Russia has now borne a considerable share of the burden of equilibrium maintenance in European and world politics for 300 years. When we moved away from this responsibility, which happened after the Crimean War and in the period between the two world wars, this was accompanied by a deep-seated ill health of European politics and tended to lead the continent to catastrophe. There is but one formula of equilibrium in international affairs - peaceful coexistence, reliance upon international law, collective security, and the politico-diplomatic settlement of conflicts.

These basic principles are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

Russia will continue playing its balancing role in global affairs. It will never be a part of new "holy alliances" against anybody. We are aware of the civilizational dimension of our responsibility under the new conditions - notably the need to actively promote the maintenance of harmony in intercivilizational relations. This manifests itself in the successful development of cooperation within another "troika" (Russia, India, China), in the mutual interest for dialogue in the BRIC format and in the deepening of Russian ties with the OIC, the LAS, the African Union, ASEAN, MERCOSUR, and other associations of developing countries. Ranking in the same array are the activities of the SCO, which ensures harmonization of the interests of the states in the vast Eurasian region.

In the conditions of globalization the luxury of "glittering isolation" is impermissible. Life always speaks in favor of collective actions within the agreed-upon "rules of the game." The truly global character of the new challenges and threats with which humanity has been confronted and which now come to the fore in world politics calls for a global response, that is "by all together," on lines of general human solidarity.

We face the challenges which cannot be personalized or associated with particular states.

This philosophy lies at the core of the nonconfrontational foreign policy of Russia. We are not adversaries with the US any more, and so there can be no grounds for a new Cold War.

Normalization of our relations, that is their return to normal, is possible only on the basis of equality, consideration of the interests of each other, mutual benefit, and the giving up of ideology and messianism as foreign policy tools.

What we are threatened with is a separate existence of the Russian and American factors in world politics. This would meet neither the interests of our countries nor those of the world community as a whole. As the meeting at Kennebankport has shown, we have no systemic contradictions. And herein lies the earnest that our relations have a future.

I can only agree with those who hold that, with the end of the Cold War, our countries "have at last become enabled not only to concentrate on solving the most vital problems of today, but also to do so jointly."

The feeling still resides in many that our countries, and others as well, engaged in the past in things they should not have preoccupied themselves with. To the ideological postulates real problems (such as global poverty) were being sacrificed, problems that, rather than being tackled, were only made deeper. Now, in addressing them, it is necessary to set realistic, achievable tasks, to figure out all our joint actions and to think the long haul.

But for this purpose it is necessary to give up superficial diplomacy. It is necessary to return to the real system of coordinates of contemporary world development, to move away from all that's superficial and insubstantial, connected inter alia with the difficulties of psychological adaptation to the new geopolitical situation.

Russia has always demonstrated an understanding of the problems of its international partners.

But that understanding is not tantamount to concord with unilateral steps for dealing with these problems.

So what has to be the starting point for movement towards concerted actions? Here we likewise do not invent anything. In confirmation I shall refer to the opinion of Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: "Openness and honesty are the only recipe for finding mutual understanding." Russia is ready for such joint work. President Vladimir Putin expressly said so in Munich. For a start it is necessary to acknowledge that truly honest disagreements separate us. And, of course, there should be no hidden agendas, innuendoes, the notorious "constructive uncertainty," which does not at all remove the existing differences, but only serves as a palliative to mutual understanding and consensus.

It should also be understandable that for all the nonconfrontational nature of Russian foreign policy some "red lines" do exist for us: this is when a real threat emerges to our national security or to the existing international legal order. In this case we surely cannot but respond and uphold our positions fully. Among such questions are the plans to deploy bases of a US global missile-defense system in Europe and settlement in Kosovo. Russia is not haggling - and our international partners must understand this. Apart from the principle, the vitally important interests of practical politics are also affected in these questions.

Russia has been and will continue to be opposed to all that would assert in the new conditions unilateral or bloc approaches toward international affairs and would undermine the principle of equal security. This concerns not only MD problems, but also the NATO enlargement and the dead-end situation with the CFE Treaty.

Russia does not fear a policy of containment against itself. We will be able to respond to it, even though this is not our choice. But we sincerely regret that some of our partners are unable to get out of the maze of a zero-sum game.

A pity because the politico-psychological assumption of containing Russia requires bloc automatism, an instinctive negative reaction to all that Moscow does and suggests, including the upholding by us of our lawful economic interests.

And that will again lead world politics away from tackling real problems, undermine trust and reduce the space for cooperation in international affairs.

In this connection the current state of our relations with Britain attracts the attention of many people. There is nothing tragic here.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of convincing proofs of Lugovoi's guilt London has made a choice in favor of a noisy propaganda show.

And once in the "Litvinenko case" a Shakespearean theme is set, then it is relevant to quote the place from the immortal tragedy of the Great Bard, where Hamlet addresses Guildenstern:

"'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me."

It is unlikely that the British side, several years ago taking a decision to grant political asylum to the odious personages, seriously counted on securing for itself the possibility of "pushing the buttons" in the Russian internal political process. But as a result London has turned out to be a voluntary or involuntary accomplice to intrigues and provocations against Russia.

On the whole, the example of certain of our European partners illustrates one more common problem for many countries: it is easier to concern oneself with the affairs of others than one's own.

Russia is an open country. In particular, it is open for business. We welcome all who would like to take part in the extensive modernization of our vast country. But any attempts to politicize economic matters - directly or through proxy countries - would be counterproductive.

With the end of the Cold War we have acquired the full freedom of concerning ourselves with our own internal affairs, the modernization of our country and the development and strengthening of our positions in the world in full accordance with the rules of international law.

We have our own, fact-based analysis of the problems existing in the world, and on this ground we are ready to speak with all, ready to listen to others and try to persuade them, but will also ourselves always be open for persuasion. This presupposes a serious and frank discussion. World politics is not a classroom where all are under the rule of the notorious Gogolean teacher, a "great lover of quiet and good conduct."

I think that we act the European way, from a position of pluralistic political culture which must by definition be tolerant of debates.

Attempts at "containment" and the pursuit of "harassing actions" against Russia hardly fit in with this culture.

We see no other ways to strengthen trust, which must by rights become a supertask of European and world politics. FRG Chancellor Angela Merkel in her speech on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the EU said: "Building trust takes decades. And overnight it can be undermined." If there will be trust - all the rest will just come along.

Trust costs us dear. But its lack is even more costly - in the intellectual, politico-psychological and, of course, financial respects. For example, MD could be turned from an instrument of undermining trust into a project helpful in strengthening it. This is, strictly speaking, the exact meaning of the Russian proposals put forward by Vladimir Putin at Kennebankport. I can only agree with Henry Kissinger that they give a realistic vision of how we are to realize our "parallel strategic interests" and would create "a precedent for overcoming other global challenges." We would not like to see it all reduced to yet another lost opportunity.

Perhaps we all need a pause in time for reflection. But then one should not hasten and make decisions that will set a confrontational character to the development of events - be it MD, Kosovo or the further expansion of NATO.

Probably no one would like to start from scratch in the important matter of building a European security architecture meeting the requirements of our time. Anyway, if somebody is going to ensure his security single-handedly, then it is hard to believe that this is possible across the entire spectrum of threats.

Of course, we are watching the current discussion on foreign policy issues in the US. Voices can also be heard there in favor of "new thinking," a "common understanding of how to counter the new generation of challenges," a "new vision of leadership in the 21st century," "common security," the showing of a "measure of humbleness," and the necessity of "persuading other governments" and holding "honest debates."

This goes hand in hand with the acknowledgement that the world "has undergone revolutionary changes" and that proper conclusions will have to be drawn from this. Brent Scowcroft has aptly formulated one of them: the very nature of "power" has been changing in a radical way.

Increasingly, power is determined by a capacity for collective actions.

Russia can from its own experience understand what geopolitical solitude is and what it means when you, driven by the best motives, want to change the world and others either do not understand you or do not accept your methods.

I am convinced that the world needs a competent Russia which is in a position, first and foremost, to take care of itself. A Russia which would be a provider of security. A Russia helping to maintain balance in European and global politics and making its intellectual and practical contribution to tackling all the problems facing mankind. This is the Russia that we are creating today. To derail this process is no longer possible. First of all because the Russian themselves will not allow this to happen.

We are, of course, tracking the foreign media reaction to the swift revival of our country as a leading state of the world. We understand that certain political circles in the West were unprepared for such a development of events and have no action options. But this does not mean that one needs to invent another myth about a "Russian threat." All that we are doing is done within the strict bounds of international law.

According to the results of the public opinion poll carried out in June in key western countries by the firm Harris Interactive, Russia is not being perceived as a threat to peace. And then also in Russia itself 84% of those polled by the American company Pew Research Center support the foreign policy course of the country.

We understand that that support is not given once and for all. We daily have to justify it by practical actions and be on the level of the high standards set by the President. And here a lot will depend on the development and streamlining of our diplomatic service and of its cadre potential.

The overwhelming majority of the diplomatic workers at the Ministry have graduated from MGIMO or the Diplomatic Academy. This year alone we accepted 82 graduates of the departmental tertiary education institutions for jobs in the Central Apparatus of the Ministry and its agencies abroad; of them 37 have diplomas with honors.

To those of you who will follow this example and choose the diplomat's career for themselves I want to say: on this road you will not have unclouded weekdays with serene days off. On the contrary, the fate of a diplomat is a restless life with endless movement from place to place, a constant exertion of all your energies, with unexpected turns and changes, and the need to always keep pace with the times. This is a difficult, but exciting and always required profession. I can guarantee you one thing: you won't find it boring.

The so called "diplomatic module" is being organized at MGIMO this year. It is assumed that the newly created special groups will consist of students orienting themselves towards work at the MFA after graduation. The Ministry associates its particular hopes with this new form of training young specialists and, of course, will take a direct part in the work of the module, where senior diplomats from the Ministry will act as lecturers, as well as specialist practitioners participating in the development and implementation of the foreign policy course of the country.

Allow me to wish all those present a good start in the new academic and research year, success in your studies and creative accomplishments.

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