Main points of the Address by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation S.Lavrov at the Stanford University, San Francisco, 20 September 2005


It gives me a particular pleasure to address such professional audience.

I am glad to greet here former Secretary of State George Shultz. I know that the University is the alma mater of my friend Condy Rice. That is why I count on an interested, friendly dialogue which would effectively contribute to the expansion of the area of convergence of interests of our countries and, thus, help strengthen our interaction in world affairs.

I am well aware of the significant role that American political academia play in the development of foreign policy of this country. We are still lagging behind you in that respect, but we are already aware of the problem and make first steps to address it. I know that the Hoover Institution has managed to preserve invaluable archives of the Russian Diaspora accumulating spiritual and intellectual heritage of our compatriots abroad. That is extremely important for new Russia, for its revival. And I will be glad to continue our contacts in Moscow.

I believe that causes of the current state of the Russian-American relations are deeply rooted in the foreign policy approaches of our countries. It is no secret that those relations do not fully satisfy either of the sides. Hence all the talk about "disappointments", about "who lost Russia", and so on. Still, it is important that disagreements between us are the honest ones, as they are based on different political and philosophical perceptions of the world. Without clarifying the latter we will not be able to fully employ the most important resource of our relations which is the high degree of trust between President Putin and President Bush.

It is true that Moscow and Washington cannot afford to be at odds over any single issue because we are tied together by so many other things. Our countries retain major strategic deterrence potentials and, therefore, bear special responsibility for the future of the world. But that is not enough for building a positive, future-oriented relationship. The peoples of the two countries and, indeed, the whole world, lose much because of that. It is necessary to actively translate the Russian-American strategic partnership into joint practical actions. We already have positive experience, including cooperation on Afghanistan, and the Middle East, our interaction within the Russia-NATO Council, a broad range of issues related to combating terrorism and proliferation, and, lately, the reform process in the United Nations which we established together 60 years ago.

The world has changed a lot over the last 15 years. But our response is still lagging behind the pace of change. The ideological confrontation is now a thing of the past but that has not made the world a safer place. On the contrary. Of immediate concern today are challenges and threats of a new generation, such as international terrorism, transnational organized crime, drugtrafficking, poverty, environmental degradation, growing demographic disbalances. The phenomenon of globalization brings us to the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to respond to them on a unilateral basis. It is just impossible to create "a fortress America" or "a fortress Europe", as it is impossible to turn the clock back or to "abolish" globalization. An effective response to all these challenges and threats to security and sustainable development is only possible through collective efforts of the entire international community.

We still lack a strategy that would unite the world. The "defrosting" after the end of the Cold War has basically done away with the block discipline and narrow, ideology-based view of things. The political and intellectual emancipation has had positive consequences in all parts of the world. At the same time, there has emerged the urgent need to join efforts to achieve common goals. Unfortunately, the 1990's turned out to be a lost decade in that regard.

It took the shock of September 11 to realize that the world has changed for everybody, not only for Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, who had experienced earlier terrorist attacts. We abandoned ideology in favor of common sense which provides the very basis of the pragmatic foreign policy of modern Russia. That became a starting point of the intellectual revival of the country. It will not be an exaggeration to say that new, democratic Russia has found itself on the side of healthy conservative forces in the world politics. Russia is not to be taken in by new illusions, such as "absolute security", that was so convincingly described by Henry Kissinger in his "Diplomacy". But now it is not only security but also prosperity that have become indivisible. That is the key to understanding our entire foreign policy philosophy.

Concerted efforts by international actors can only be based on a joint assessment of threats, joint analysis and joint decisions which, in turn, can only be a product of free and reasoned debate. There can be no forced consensus in that area, and every side should have the right to dissent, within the framework of international law, of course. There can be no categories of states with different rights. It is impossible to solve problems of individual countries without their participation.

Our history, including the recent one, has taught us to be realistic. That means, among other things, that we can cooperate in achieving only those objectives in which we believe. And we are no exception in that respect.

I have already mentioned once that there is no place anymore for Byzantine politics in world affairs. Such politics is counterproductive. It is only transparent interaction that is possible between Russia and the United States, especially with respect to third countries. Everybody understands that what we call the post-Soviet space cannot be "developed" without Russia or in spite of Russia. We are ready to search for modus operandi with other partners, but only on conditions of transparency, mutual respect and due regard for interests of each other.

We cannot support any new ideology-based approaches to global issues. During the Cold War both the West and the East - each in its own way - paid tribute to ideological madness. Today, to be in touch with the real world, we have to stop seeing it as a battlefield where the Cold War has allegedly been won or lost. The modern world dictates its own rules. Failure to accept them would mean taking the path of dangerous illusions and self-deception.

We in Russia, as nobody else, can understand today's America. Once we faced similar temptations: to immediately change the world according to our own model and to eradicate, once and for all, the roots of each and every problem. You must know this theme line of Alexander Blok's poetry, "even the impossible is possible". Now we are very well aware of possible outcomes of attempts to mix ideals with practical policies, to set ultimate goals, like "universal happiness" or "bright future", or to act on an "extraordinary" basis when authorities ignore the law for the sake of "political expediency".

The only obstacles that prevent like-minded states - including our nations - from joining their efforts in pursuit of common goals are inertia and stereotypes of the past. Universal commitment to multilateral diplomacy would not only yield optimal solutions to existing international problems, but would also provide guarantees against arbitrary actions, thus strengthening common security and removing incentives for individual states to seek their own security all by themselves, including through means that run against the interest of non-proliferation.

Neither the Cold War nor its end make irrelevant the main idea of the diplomatic method which is a quest for a compromise and the need to negotiate, to give and take. The range of negotiating parties has expanded. That is true for every part of the world, be it CIS or NATO, the Middle East or North-East Asia. "Private preserves" and "backyards" are all gone.

The Russian-Turkish relations provide a good example of the new trends. They are built on an interpretation of national interests which is free from ideological and geopolitical "deposits" of the past. That example is all the more remarkable that Turkey used to be the testing ground for the first Cold War doctrine and, at the same time, a subject of its first strategic compromise reached in the context of the settlement of the Caribbean crisis. A similar case is what is going on now in the Russian-Chinese relations: they are devoid of ideology and, indeed, of anything but national interests of the two countries and their common view of many things.

One can hear allegations that Russia is "offended", "distressed over the demise of the empire", "envious" and "sliding to self-isolation". Nothing can be farther from the truth. We cannot afford such "luxury" in the globalizing world. I think that what we observe here is a gap between the perceptions and the reality of the pragmatic and multivector foreign policy of new Russia based on national interests.

Russia is a major European power. Our European choice is predetermined by both geography and history. The great Russian literature of the nineteenth century, part and parcel of the European and global culture, to a large extent emerged as Russia's response to the challenge of Peter the Great's reforms. That lofty spiritual connection forms the basis of Russia's European identity. At the same time, Russia has interests, and quite legitimate, in the East, including the Asia-Pacific region, as well as other parts of the world.

We make no mistake about it: nobody is dying to see us in the European Union or in NATO where people believe and, perhaps they are right, that Russia's accession might bring a sure end to these organizations. And we ourselves, while consistently seeking a broader and deeper partnership with EU and NATO, would prefer to retain our own independent place in the world. Still, we can, by promoting integration processes in various parts of the continent, contribute to the formation of a true Greater Europe without dividing lines. Let me assure you that our "multivector approach" is not a strategy for putting some partners against others. Each vector is valuable in its own right, and the more we are effective on one vector, the more promising other vectors look.

Same is true for the transatlantic relations. We are interested in their strength as we are convinced that a transatlantic consensus on any issue would not a priori contradict our interest. Any agreement, be it within NATO, EU, OSCE or, say, ASEAN, makes a positive contribution to world politics. There should be no "zero sum games" here.

Russia will never give in to temptations of primitive anti-Western or anti-US sentiments. Our national tradition has never embraced what is usually referred to as bloody-mindedness. We need a more orderly world since without order and predictability in its various parts we will never attain key goals of our foreign policy.

Russia has no aspirations that would not be in line with the interests of the global community as a whole. That is why we have become a part of what we believe is the mainstream international politics where a consensus is taking shape on the ways of restoring manageability to the world development.

It would be a gross understatement to say that we stumble over the very persistent prejudices against Russia. Those prejudices have to be overcome. What else, if not the inertia of outdated approaches, can justify the continued, bizarre as it is, application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a clear case of surrealism in politics.

It is now widely recognized in the world that democracy and market economy have no alternatives, and we are no longer divided over that. There could be no doubt that the democratic choice we have made is irrevocable. We've made it on our own without any pressure from outside. Therefore, there can be no outside guarantees for these processes. Each country applies democratic principles in its own way and within its own timeframe.

Even in the West there is no common understanding of democracy. Western Europe continues to adhere to the perception of American democracy originating in the analysis by Alexis de Tocqueville who highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the American political system. Much of what he wrote about has retained relevance to this day. I'm not saying this for the sake of argument. Many Russians, for instance, are puzzled by the attachment of the United States to the archaic system of indirect - as opposed to direct - presidential election. To my understanding, Americans too have reservations over this issue.

Of course, technicalities are far from being the most important thing in the "worst form of government except all the others that have been tried". Advanced civil society alone can provide a solid foundation for democracy. And here lies the dramatic difference between the Russian and American historical experience. You've been offered unique conditions: democracy naturally evolved from the grassroots of an already fully developed civil society - the Protestant communities of settlers from the British Isles. As de Tocqueville expected, inherent contradiction between the ideals of democracy and a strong state began to manifest itself at the federal level. The balance between them shifts depending on a specific stage in the development of a society. For example, within today's counter-terrorist context it is different from what it used to be before 9/11 and the adoption of the Patriot Act.

The main problem we face in Russia is a civil society not developed enough. This ought to be understood by those of our opponents, who when criticizing us, are driven by earnest intentions rather than by the desire to play geopolitical games. We are always prepared for a straight talk on this issue. Like it or not, the state is the key agent of change in today's Russia, as well as in other countries going through a similar stage of economic development.

As for the mass media, our experience of the 90's has demonstrated that they can easily become an instrument of private or group interests to the detriment of the public interests and the democratic process itself. An objective and unbiased analysis of Russian electronic and print media shows that the authorities face much harsher criticism in Russia, than in many Western countries. This is true as well for the USA, where the long-established tradition of official patriotism has been a major self-restraint for the media.

I'm convinced that in Russia, as in other countries, the civil society issue will be resolved by economic means, through building the middle class - a process that took many a decade in the West. Meanwhile, we've been creating real-life democratic infrastructure, including incentives to encourage the development of stable political parties, which has been the aim of the transition to the proportionate electoral system and creation of fora for civil dialogue and control over the State administration, such as the Public Chamber. The number of NGOs is on the rise. The only thing that we, like any other State, will not tolerate is them being used for funding political activities, especially when the funding comes from abroad. This would obviously distort the national political process, planting a mine under the future development of the country.

Russia is not headed towards an oligarchic State. We already got close to it in the late 90's. Today, we are striving to create a normal modern State. It's only a question of time. The most important thing is that we are headed in the right direction, which is widely acknowledged. To avoid upheavals - and adepts of radical ideologies successfully fish for power in their troubled waters - the entire country should proceed on the basis of a broad consensus. Such consensus has been achieved in Russia today, and the consistently high rating of President Vladimir Putin testifies to that.

Those who try to push Russia away from the West play into the hands of those who want to impair the collective counter-terrorist resources of the international community. A series of recent terrorist attacks in London, Turkey, Egypt, Russia and elsewhere made the need for solidarity and unity in the fight against this evil as compelling as ever. It has become clear that nobody is immune to this threat. Double standards lead to double losses - at home and abroad, where terrorists can count on moral support from outside.

In Chechnya international terrorism challenged the entire civilised humanity. Extremists from 50 countries, including from the West, have been killed there over the last four years. That is why the ABC's escapade with giving its audience to Basayev, who is on UN terrorist list, is beyond our comprehension. There is only one way to interpret it - life and safety of American citizens is one thing, while life and safety of Russian citizens is quite another.

We are convinced that the ideological division of the world gives way to the threat of an intercivilizational divide. This threat is fuelled by extremists from both sides. Ideological approaches to pressing problems of global development are also an obstacle. This requires, more than ever, a great amount of tolerance and mutual respect, something which is intrinsically alien to the revolutionary method of reordering the world. President Putin highlighted this issue at the recent 2005 Summit in New York. The last thing we need now is another wall that would run through the Kremlin of Kazan, with its mosque and Orthodox church facing each other, or Istanbul or many other countries in the world, including in Europe. What we need is a united front against terror.

A new multilateral world order with equal security guarantees for all is the best environment to develop democratic processes worldwide. Any forced uniformity is harmful and destructive. There is a risk that any attempts to force these developments from outside will stir up nationalism which may well be the main threat to stability in Europe.

That said, we should not overlook the existing contradictions of globalization. There are losers in this game. Access to its benefits presents a major problem. Some have - not without reason - concluded that there is nothing more totalitarian than a faceless market. Globalization endangers national identity. This accounts for the growing resistance - in European countries among others - against this onslaught on the diversity of the world in general and cultural diversity in particular. Rampant nationalism is dangerous. At the same time, national identity and a sense of belonging to ancient civilizations, cultures and traditions are a priceless treasure of the human race and it would be disastrous to lose it. The "one-size-fits-all" approach will not do. Neither of the democratic governments would tolerate it in their country. Similarly, that is unacceptable in the system of international relations - that is, if we want this system to be truly democratic. The existential nature of the problems we are facing requires a higher level of understanding than the one reached within the framework of earlier ideological debates.

That is why I believe that the G8 have chosen the right formula of external assistance to reform processes underway in the Middle East and North Africa. It rests on agreed, comprehensible and transparent footing. This is a considerate, mutually respectful approach in support of reforms which shuns imposing someone else's recipes and poses no threat of destabilization. It is irresponsible to contrapose democracy and stability.

I believe it is relevant to look into the obscure origins of the Cold War. Was it an inevitable course of events in Europe and Asia? Interests of what forces and individual states did it serve? What was the role of decolonization which started at that time, and of the stakes running high in the arms race? I am convinced that now is the time to find answers to these questions, lest we should repeat our past and end up by being those who "forget nothing, yet learn nothing". Especially on the eve of the anniversary of the formal declaration of the Cold War, Churchill's "Iron Curtain Speech".

There are very few people among us who wish ill to America. We realize that your country has been facing the challenge of inevitable adaptation of its international role to the entirely new historical environment. The way of trial and error is difficult to avoid under these circumstances. We hope that eventually America will opt for responsible leadership with a view to forging common approaches with other leading nations, most of them being your allies of yesterday. In certain issues we, too, are your allies.

I believe that the most important thing for all of us right now is to preserve the capacity of mutual trust and good will. Should the United States isolate itself, the world would only come off a loser in the same manner as during the period of US isolationism between World War I and World War II. We - as many others in Europe - want to see America as a reliable and involved partner ready for team-work.

Referring to the nature of one of his characters, Marcel Proust wrote that he was "sewn of different pieces". This has always been true of the world in general. We shouldn't endeavor to rearrange the patchwork. The most important thing is for the threads to be strong enough to hold these pieces fast together. And by these threads I mean the United Nations system and international law.

The reform process initiated in the UN has shown that our two countries have a lot in common - much more, in fact, than might seem at first sight. The moment of truth revealed what the analysts had known before - that deep down the US appreciates the UN and its own unique place in the Organization. This is why we find it easy to believe in some "conversions". I believe that this is our chance not only to benefit from the accumulated good-will, but to generate enough of it to secure an effective strategic partnership between our countries.

Georgy Adamovich, a prominent literary figure of the Russian migr community, once said that pessimism comes from encounters with people in relation to whom there can be left no room for illusions. I am sure that this has nothing to do with either Russia or the United States. The creative potential of our country is only just starting to genuinely reveal itself again. America's potential is far from being exhausted - even given the significant record of your accomplishments. Pragmatism and businesslike approach have always been America's strong side.

I feel that between us we haven't lost our ability to surprise the world. Why not do it together? There is nothing to bring us apart. On the contrary, we share a responsibility with other partners for the world's future. In this way, leaving behind the purgatory of the 20th century, we would rise to the great future Alexis de Tocqueville predicted for our two countries. Thank you.

September 24, 2005