Medvedev's speech at a meeting of the US Council on Foreign Relations

AFP Photo / Dmitry Kostyukov
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev believes there’s a good chance to fully restore relations with the US under Barack Obama.

“Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to speak today at the Council on Foreign Relations. I am grateful for the invitation to visit the Council and for the initiative to hold this meeting. Naturally, I would like to begin by congratulating all those present, irrespective of their political position on the election of the new president of the United States of America.

”We in Russia believe the choice of the American people to be a choice in favour of change. We welcome the election of Barack Obama and hope for him to take consistent steps in order to overcome the problems that have built up in our relations, Russian-American relations, over the past few years.

[Tackling the economic crisis]

“It is clear that any changes are hard to achieve, particularly in a period when the entire world is engulfed in a huge financial crisis that so far does not lend itself to any final analysis. Any transformation in a period like this is particularly difficult and painful, but such times dictate the need for change.

”We in our country understand this, and I am sure that the realization of these changes produced the result seen not so long ago. There is no doubt that what has happened in America, I mean the elections, is an internal affair of the United States. But the United States is a super-influential nation and for this reason we always analyzed what was happening in America, and we understand the importance of all internal political processes and the influence of those processes on the world environment.

“The world is in a very difficult situation. Quite clearly, it has proven to be unprepared for responding to the most difficult challenges of modern times. At any rate, the system of financial regulation proved absolutely anachronistic and unfit for producing a rapid and adequate reaction to the difficulties that have occurred.

”A meeting of the world’s 20 most influential economies took place in Washington today. Let me tell you utterly frankly that I couldn’t believe that it would ever be held as early as this, several months ago. But the crisis not only has negative points, but also occasionally certain positive ones.  And one of these positive aspects is the opportunity to audit the existing financial system at the most representative level and to create a new financial architecture.

“I must confess I am pleased with the results that have been achieved in Washington today. First, we succeeded in co-ordinating a declaration that includes, in my view at any rate and I hope in that of my colleagues, the other heads of state, the main principles and rules, by which the world can build its financial relations, the global financial system in years to come.

”I cannot promise that a new Bretton Woods sprung up in Washington today. But it is quite clear that a step has been made towards the creation of such a system. And it is of much importance both for removing the problems existing in the economy of the United States of America, in the European Union, and the Russian Federation.

“Russia is a part of the global economic system; problems that exist in other countries did not avoid us, and we, regrettably, are paying the same high price. This is why our interest in this summit was considerable. And let me repeat it once again, its results are quite positive. They consist primarily in that we have made a first, but very important, step towards creating the outline of a new system.

”We agreed to hold another meeting within a relatively brief period of time, in late March, in one of the countries – probably Japan or Britain – in order to sum up the results achieved over several months, and possibly to look at the documents that would have been prepared. The global players, the biggest economies, have never met so regularly.

“But the legitimacy of any international system depends on how fit it is for making a rapid response to challenges and threats and the system that is being prepared today, the system we discussed today, must comprise early warning mechanisms. Hopefully we will manage to create them. This is possibly the hottest and most important news today, especially for those who participated in the G20 summit.

[Strained Moscow-Washington relations]

”But a theme of no less importance is a long-term theme, I mean Russian-American relations. First, let me say a few words about our bilateral relations. They are very substantive, very profound, and far from simple. It must be admitted that a crisis of trust has emerged lately. There is no trust in the financial world either. And this finds expression in other spheres.  I believe that the Russian-American relations  too currently lack the trust that is necessary for these relations. It is for this reason that we associate such hopes with the coming of the new administration.

“There is no doubt that the current administration also did much to create the foundation of modern Russian-American relations. Let me mention the so-called Sochi Declaration that reflected what had taken place in Russian-American relations over the past eight years. But, regrettably, this is not enough. In many respects, we failed to find a common language. It is sad, but it is a fact. And I believe that we are quite able to create a fundamentally new basis for a true partnership between Russia and the United States. After all, we have very many themes in common.

”I mean the stabilization of the global economy, nuclear disarmament, securing continuity in arms control. This is why there is such a painful perception, in our country at any rate, of certain unilateral projects that exist in the military-political sphere.

“We always proceeded from the assumption that all the most-difficult solutions to the most-complicated problems should be sought on a truly collective basis. There are enough cases in point. Let me mention Afghanistan, the situation in connection with the Iranian nuclear program, the nuclear problem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and finally the fight against terrorism.

”We had a unique chance to create an absolutely new foundation for relations after September 11. This does not mean that all chances were lost, but, at the very least, many things that could have happened never did happen. It is quite clear that co-operation between our two countries is much more important than the obtaining of any unilateral advantages. I at any rate understand it precisely this way. And it is for this reason that we are able to change the strategic context of Russian-American relations.

“There are issues on which we will have to adopt decisions rather quickly.  As early as last summer we made our proposals on the joint assessment of missile threats in Europe and on collective counteraction to those threats. We remain open to dialogue. More than that, I can tell you again in this room that we will not be the first to respond to European AMD. We will only take action in the way of retaliatory steps and only in the case where the programme continues in a way that is unacceptable for us. We made our proposals, and we are open to discuss other possibilities too. At any rate, as I see it, it is better to have a global anti-missile system, where the Russian Federation also participates, than to have some incomprehensible fragments that bring no one satisfaction and can only incite and create problems.

”The aim of ensuring stability in Europe is one idea that I formulated immediately after being elected to the position of President. I mean the idea to create a European security treaty, a so-called pan-European treaty. I would like to specify right away that we are not regarding it as an alternative to the existing security systems in Europe. No, it is a method to concentrate our efforts, given the understanding of the fact that there remain in Europe such global entities as the EU, the North Atlantic bloc, the OSCE… In Europe there is the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (ODKB). These are some organizations that operate in Europe. But in my view, the time has come to concentrate our collective efforts, particularly in the face of some very serious challenges that confront us economically, politically and militarily.

"We hope that all European states, the U.S. and Canada will join in the work on this project. At any rate, this theme seems of much interest to me.

“Let me make a full stop at this point, and I hope to answer your questions. Thank you.”