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14 Oct, 2009 15:28

Clinton delivers diplomatic message to Moscow students

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has admitted that there are people in the US government who are still living in the past and do not believe in efficient cooperation with Russia.

At a lecture at Moscow State University – which wrapped up her visit to the Russian capital – she did note that both countries should work together to find solutions to the challenges the world faces today in order to shape a bright future.

Reiterating her earlier statements, the US Secretary of State said her country is ready to cooperate with Russia on questions of disarmament and missile defense.

“We are very open to transparency and to cooperation. When it comes to arms reduction treaties or missile defense – we have invited Russia’s top military experts and scientists to come to our command and control centers to ask every question that they have and we want to do the same because we want a common understanding,” she declared.

Clinton continued, “We have people in our government and you have people in your government who are still living in the past. They do not believe that the US and Russia could cooperate to this extent. They do not trust each other and we have to prove them wrong.”

“Our goal is to be as cooperative as we can,” she proclaimed and added that it would be very positive outcome if some day in the future the US and Russia announce “a joint plan on missile defense… to protect what we hold dear – our homelands and those we have so much in common.”

In the morning on Wednesday, before going to see the Russian students, the American Secretary of State visited independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy.

In a live interview to the radio station Hillary Clinton said the US has no plans to deploy elements of missile defense system in Georgia, Russia’s neighbor.

“I have no reason to believe at all that anything would be deployed in Georgia, I have no reason to believe that,”
she said. “We would like to have a joint missile defense program to protect our people, your people, our European friends and allies, to put as broad a missile defense system so that we can guard against short and medium range missiles that might have nuclear weapons.”

An American missile defense system is meant to protect people from the ambitions of countries such as, probably, Iran, and organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Secretary said.
Clinton believes that the US and Russia are no threat to each other.

Commitment to a world without nukes

Addressing the students, the US Secretary of State stated that an American-Russian partnership “helped to prevent the spread of nuclear arms,” and that both countries are committed to reducing weapons stockpiles and cooperating in the fight against terrorism and continuing to build on what has been done.

Hillary Clinton said that the American administration and Russian government are taking concrete actions to move towards a world without nuclear arms and “getting there is a long and hard journey.”

“We negotiate to reduce our nuclear stockpiles to increase greater verification and thereby build greater trust between the two nuclear superpowers. We are working together on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, to persuade Iran not to seek nuclear weapons and to prevent terrorists from obtaining access to nuclear weapons.”

In her earlier interview to Echo Moskvy radio station she reminded her audience that, even during the worst years of the Cold War, both countries never gave up efforts to curb nuclear arms and communication was always there.

She also named the date – December 5, until which the US is hoping to complete work on the new Strategic Arms Reduction treaty and noted that it coincides with the plans of the Russian side.

On Abkhazia and South Ossetia

One of the issues that remains a stumbling block between the US and Russia is the stance towards the actions of Georgian authorities, as well as South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Clinton stressed that all the sides of the conflict should refrain from provoking each other.

“It is very important that neither Georgians, nor Southern Ossetians nor Abkhazians do anything provocative and we have told that to the Georgians. I am confident that the Russian government has told that to the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia… to make sure there is no more conflict,” said Hillary Clinton. “If there are problems they should be put within the diplomatic arena to avoid military action whatsoever.”

The United States is calling for the deployment of international observers to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is one of the main points of discord between Moscow and Washington.

Another sticking point is US support for the Georgian army.

On her last day in the Russian capital, Hillary Clinton said America intends to continue helping the Georgian people to protect themselves.

Freedom of press

Hillary Clinton also mentioned the concern of the American administration over the freedom of press in Russia.

"I mentioned the killings of journalists and I said that it is a matter of grave concern not just to the United States, but to the people of Russia, and not just to the activists, but to the people who worry that unsolved killings are a very serious challenge to order and to the fair functioning of society. And that we did not believe that enough was being done to make sure that no one had impunity from prosecution."

Past, present and future

Clinton said she sees a very positive future for the US-Russia relations but “of course, there will be disagreements along the way – as there should be.” She stressed that it’s the task and responsibility of both countries “to continue to work towards greater understanding and a more durable partnership.”

Hillary Clinton said she believes that “we can begin to work together in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.”

“Let us begin the conversation that we very much hope will lead to a sense of partnership and joint commitment,” she said. “There is no reason for us to doubt that the world needs the US and Russia joined in a common cause and seeking common ground.”

In addition to the existing terms “hard power” (referring to military and defense) and “soft power” (diplomacy and cultural contacts), Hillary Clinton recently coined a new term – “smart power”. Explaining to the audience the meaning of the term, Secretary Clinton said that “smart power is about bringing the best people have to offer to the forefront of making policy.”

“They would say ‘do not trust the Russians, do not trust the Americans, you cannot work with them’ – I do not believe that! So let’s get smart about that. Are we always going to agree? No, we are not. Are we always going to see the world in the same way? No we are not. But let’s be smarter than our past,” she declared.

In her radio interview Clinton particularly stressed that President Obama is interested in a joint effort with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as an open and effective counterpart. There is a spirit of goodwill and an excellent energetic potential that the two countries can do much together now, which they could not do before, Clinton added.

Hillary Clinton would also like to meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, but he is currently on a visit to China, but she looks forward to meeting him in the future.

As such, the Clinton tour is seen as the US trying to win the hearts and minds of Russians across the country, not just officials in Moscow.

“The first results make us optimistic, but we should wait for the next results within bilateral cooperation. If we are able to sign a new nuclear reduction treaty by December – it will be a good step,” believes Anton Khlopkov of the Center for Policy Studies.

Prior to the address in Moscow State University, Hillary Clinton took part in the unveiling of a monument to American poet Walt Whitman on the campus.

Before heading back to Washington, Clinton is expected to fly to the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, where more than half the population practices Islam, and its capital Kazan, where she will meet with the president and get shown around the city.

“What's particularly attractive to me about Kazan is you have a Mosque and an Orthodox church side-by-side in the capital there, and the larger Tatarstan is predominantly Muslim, but people live very well together in an interfaith way,” Clinton said.