“We are ready to play our part”: Medvedev ahead of Obama’s visit
When I met with President of the United States Barack Obama for the first time in April, we agreed that he would visit Russia in July. Today, I want to say a few words not just about what I hope for from these upcoming talks, but also share my vision of the history of Russian-American relations and the outlook for their development.
Unfortunately, relations between our two countries have worsened over these last years. A crisis of confidence, lack of action, unwillingness to take any new steps – call it what you will, but the fact remains that, although our countries’ presidents had a good personal rapport, Russian-U.S. relations declined to a level practically on a par with the Cold War era.
The new administration headed by President Obama is showing its willingness to change the situation and build more effective, reliable, and ultimately more modern relations. We are ready to play our part.
There are problems that we simply cannot resolve on our own, acting unilaterally. This is true above all of international security: the fight against terrorism, extremism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and drugs trafficking. These are common challenges and they are our common responsibility. Our two countries have a great responsibility in this respect, for our relations will have a direct impact on shaping the state of our world over these coming decades. No matter who is president of Russia or the United States they will always bear this special responsibility for the decisions they make. They will always be responsible before their countries and the entire world.
It is my conviction that Russia and the United States do have something to offer other countries. There is therefore only one road to follow – the road of agreement.
If we look back in time, we see that history offers many examples of unity between our countries.
Diplomatic relations between Russia and the USA go back more than 200 years. This is quite a long time. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Russian government invited American engineers to work on projects to modernise and build the Nikolayevskaya (now Oktyabrskaya) railway line and the first telegraph line in our country.
In the more recent past we were united in the common fight against Nazism. The Cuban missile crisis marked a dramatic page in our relations, but we managed to take difficult, complex and responsible decisions and came through this difficult moment. Then, of course, there was the period later called the era of detente.
Today, we are united by the values of our civilisation, the values of respect for human life and human rights and freedoms.
The global crisis is a common challenge before which we are all absolutely equal.
Today, we all face difficulties that come on top of our own particular experience and current situation. In this situation, it is hard to say who is having a harder time getting through these difficulties. Russia, after all, had only just begun addressing many of its economic problems, while this is the first time in many years that America has been hit by such a serious crisis.
But now is not the time to say who is suffering more and who is stronger. Now is the time to unite our efforts. We simply must improve our relations in order to put our joint efforts into resolving the numerous problems facing the world today.
I said at the start that personal relations do not resolve everything, but at the same time, they are a factor not to be underestimated. I hope that President Obama’s visit will give him, his family, and his team the chance to get to know Russia better. I hope he will sense here our real interest in improving the relations between our countries and peoples.
Precisely for this reason, I hope that my American colleague and I will hold substantial and full-fledged talks that will produce real results. I hope that these talks will give us the chance to examine all aspects of our relations. Russia and America need new, common, mutually beneficial projects in business, science and culture. We need to move forward on the basis of a resolutely practical agenda. I hope that this sincere desire to open a new chapter in Russian-American cooperation will be brought into fruition to the benefit of our countries and the entire world.
President Kennedy, who during the Cuban missile crisis found himself having to make some very difficult decisions, once addressed to the American people words that I think are very wise: “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”