September 25, 2001
Remarks by the Russian President Vladimir Putin in the German Bundestag
Distinguished Mr. President,
I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity to speak in the Bundestag. This is the first such opportunity for a Russian head of state in the entire history of Russian-German relations. And this honor granted to me today only reaffirms the mutual interest of Russia and Germany in dialogue.
I am moved by this chance to discuss Russian-German relations, the development of ties between my country and united Europe and international security problems here, in Berlin, a city with a difficult fate, a city which happened to become the focus of confrontation with almost the entire world on more than one occasion in the modern history of humanity, but also a city in which never, even in the darkest periods, did anyone succeed in stifling the spirit of freedom and humanism that had been nurtured way back by Wilhelm von Humboldt and Lessing.
Nor was that done in the grim years of Hitler tyranny. Our country deeply reveres the memory of heroic anti-nazi fighters.
Russia has always had special sentiments for Germany, and regarded your country as one of the major centers of European culture - a culture, to the development of which Russia has also made a significant contribution, a culture which has known no borders and has always been our common asset and a factor of bringing peoples together.
That is why today I will take the liberty of delivering the main part of my message in the language of Goethe, Schiller and Kant, in the German language.
(Follows translation from the German.)
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
I have just talked about the unity of European culture. However, in the past that unity did not prevent two horrible wars from being unleashed on the continent, two world wars within one century. Nor did it prevent the building of the Berlin Wall, the formidable symbol of the deep division of Europe.
The Berlin Wall is no longer. It was destroyed. And today it would be relevant to recall why that became possible.
It is my conviction that the sea change in Europe and on the expanses of the former Soviet Union would have been impossible without the main preconditions, namely, without the events that took place in Russia ten years ago. These events are important to understanding what precisely took place in our country and what could be expected from Russia in the future.
The answer is simple, as a matter of fact. Under the impact of the laws governing the development of information society, Stalinist totalitarian ideology could no longer oppose the ideas of freedom and democracy. The spirit of these ideas was taking hold of the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens.
It was the political choice of the people of Russia that enabled the then leaders of the USSR to take decisions that eventually led to the razing of the Berlin Wall. It was that choice that infinitely broadened the boundaries of European humanism and that enables us to say that no one will ever be able to return Russia back into the past.
As for European integration, we not just support these processes, but we are looking to them with hope. We view them as a people who have learned the lesson of the Cold War and the peril of the ideology of occupation very well. But here, I think, it would be pertinent to add that Europe did not gain from that division either.
It is my firm conviction that in today's rapidly changing world, in a world witnessing truly dramatic demographic changes and an exceptionally high economic growth in some regions, Europe also has an immediate interest in promoting relations with Russia.
No one calls in question the great value of Europe's relations with the United States. I am just of the opinion that Europe will reinforce its reputation of a strong and truly independent center of world politics soundly and for a long time if it succeeds in bringing together its own potential and that of Russia, including its human, territorial and natural resources and its economic, cultural and defense potential.
Together we have already taken the first steps in that direction. The time has now come to think about what should be done to make sure that a united and secure Europe becomes the harbinger of a united and secure world.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
We have done a great deal in the security sphere over the past few years. The security system that we have built over the previous decades has been improved. One of the achievements of the past decade is the unprecedentedly low concentration of armed forces and armaments in Central Europe and the Baltic. Russia is a friendly European nation. Stable peace on the continent is a paramount goal for our country, which lived through a century of military catastrophes.
As everyone knows, we have ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Tests Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, and also the START-2 Treaty. Regrettably, not all the NATO countries have followed our example.
But once we, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, have started to discuss security, we should first and foremost understand from whom we are to defend ourselves, and how. In this context I cannot but mention the catastrophe in the United States on September 11. People the world over keep asking how that could have happened and who is to blame. I will give you answers to these questions.
I think we all are to blame for what happened, and first and foremost we, politicians, to whom the ordinary citizens of our nations have entrusted their security. And this happens first and foremost because we have so far failed to recognize the changes that have happened in our world over the past ten years and continue to live in the old system of values: we are talking about partnership, but in reality we have not yet learned to trust each other.
In spite of a plethora of sweet words, we are still surreptitiously opposed to each other. Now we demand loyalty to NATO, now argue about the rationale behind i ts enlargement. And we are still unable to agree on the problems of a missile defense system.
Over long decades of the 20th century the world was indeed living under conditions of confrontation between the two systems, confrontation that pushed humanity to the brink of annihilation on more than one occasion.
That was so fearsome and we grew so accustomed to live with that anticipation of catastrophe that we are still unable to understand and appreciate the changes taking place in today's world. We seem to be missing the fact that the world is no longer divided into two hostile camps.
The world has become far more complex, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
We do not want or are unable to understand that the security structure built over the previous decades that was effective in neutralizing former threats is no longer able to cope with new threats of today. Too often we continue to argue over issues which we think are still important. They probably still are.
But at the same time we do not recognize new real threats and turn out to be unable to foresee terrorist attacks - and so ruthless terrorist attacks at that!
Hundreds of innocent civilians died in the bombing of residential houses in Moscow and other large Russian cities. Religious fanatics, having captured power in Chechnya and having turned ordinary citizens into their hostages, mounted a brazen large-scale armed attack against the neighboring Republic of Daghestan. International terrorists have openly - quite openly - declared their intention to establish a fundamentalist state on the territory between the Black and the Caspian Sea - the so-called khalifate, or the United States of Islam.
I would like to stress right away that talking about any "war between civilizations" is inadmissible. It would be a mistake to put the equation mark between Moslems in general and religious fanatics. In our country, for example, the defeat of the aggressors in 1999 was predetermined by the courageous and tough rebuff of the residents of Daghestan, a Russian republic the population of which is virtually 100 percent Moslem.
Shortly before my departure for Berlin I met with the religious leaders of Russia's Moslems. They came up with the initiative of convening an international conference on "Islam Against Terrorism" in Moscow. I think we should support this initiative.
Today we are coming up against not so much the aggravation of the well-known international problems as the rise of new threats. Russia is taking practical steps to put up, together with some CIS nations, a real barrier in the way of the traffic of drugs, organized crime and fundamentalism from Afghanistan via Central Asia and the Caucasus into Europe. Terrorism, national intolerance, separatism and religious extremism everywhere have the same roots and bear the same poisonous fruit. That is why the methods of fighting these problems should be universal as well.
But first agreement needs to be reached on the fundamental matter: we should not be afraid of calling a spade a spade. And it is extremely important to understand that evil deeds cannot be used to achieve political objectives, however noble such objectives may seem.
Naturally, evil must be punished, and I agree with that. But we should also understand that no retaliatory strikes will replace comprehensive, purposeful and well-coordinated struggle against terrorism. I absolutely agree with the US President on that.
I think our partners' readiness to joint efforts in countering real rather than illusory threats will demonstrate how serious and reliable they are as partners. These threats are quite capable of spilling over from the distant frontiers of our continent to the very heart of Europe. I talked about that on more than one occasion, but after what happened in the US there is no need to prove anything.
But what are we lacking today for cooperation to be efficient?
In spite of all the positive achievements of the past decades, we have not yet developed an efficient mechanism for working together.
The coordinating agencies set up so far do not offer Russia real opportunities for taking part in drafting and taking decision. Today decisions are often taken, in principle, without our participation, and we are only urged afterwards to support such decisions. After that they talk again about loyalty to NATO. They even say that such decisions cannot be implemented without Russia. Let us ask ourselves: is this normal? Is this true partnership?
Yes, the assertion of democratic principles in international relations, the ability to find a correct decision and readiness for compromise are a difficult thing. But then, it was the Europeans who were the first to understand how important it is to look for consensus over and above national egoism. We agree with that! All these are good ideas. However, the quality of decisions that are taken, their efficiency and, ultimately, European and international security in general depend on the extent to which we succeed today in translating these obvious principles into practical politics.
It seemed just recently that a truly common home would shortly rise on the continent, a home in which the Europeans would not be divided into eastern or western, northern or southern. However, these divides will remain, primarily because we have never fully shed many of the Cold War stereotypes and cliches.
Today we must say once and for all: the Cold War is done with! We have entered a new stage of development. We understand that without a modern, sound and sustainable security architecture we will never be able to create an atmosphere of trust on the continent, and without that atmosphere of trust there can be no united Greater Europe! Today we must say that we renounce our stereotypes and ambitions and from now on will jointly work for the security of the people of Europe and the world as a whole.
Today, thank God, Russia is talked about in Europe not only in the context of oligarchs, corruption and Mafia. However, there still is a substantial lack of objective information about Russia. I can say with absolute confidence that the key goal of Russia's domestic policy is first and foremost to ensure democratic rights and freedoms, decent living standards and safety for the people of the country.
However, distinguished colleagues, let us look back at some events of the recent past. Russia took the painful road of reform. The scope of the tasks we had to address is without parallel in history. Naturally, mistakes were made. Not all the problems have been resolved, but today Russia is a quite dynamic part of the European continent. Moreover, it is dynamic not only politically, but also economically, which is especially encouraging. Political stability in Russia is ensured by a number of economic factors, not the least by one of the world's most liberal taxation systems. Our income tax is 13% and profit tax 24%, and this is real. Last year our economic growth was 8%. This year we expected to get just 4%, but most likely we will have about 6% -- say, 5.5-5.7%. We will wait and see.
At the same time my conviction is that only large-scale and equal pan-European cooperation will make it possible to achieve qualitative progress in resolving such problems as unemployment, environmental pollution and many others.
We are set on close trade and economic cooperation. In the nearest future we intend to join the World Trade Organization. We count on international and European organizations' support for our bid.
I would like to draw your attention to things which you as members of parliament will undoubtedly be able to appreciate better and which cannot be dismissed as propaganda. As a matter of fact, our nation has gone through a revision of priorities and values.
Spending on social needs tops the 2002 consolidated budget. And I would like to stress specifically that for the first time in Russia's history spending on education has exceeded defense expenditures.
Permit me to say a couple words about Russian-German relations. I would like to dwell separately on this matter. Russian-German relations are as old as our nations. The first German tribes appeared on Russian territory in the late first century. In the late 19th century Germans were the ninth most numerous ethnic group in Russia. But what is important is not just the numbers, but the role played by these people in the development of the country and in Russian-German relations. They were peasants and merchants, intellectuals, military men and politicians.
The German historian Michael Stuermer observed: "Russia and America are divided by oceans, while Russia and Germany are divided by a great history." I would say that history, just like oceans, not only divides, but also unites. The important thing is to correctly interpret this history.
As a good neighbor in the West, Germany often symbolized for the Russians Europe, European culture, technical intellect and entrepreneurial wit. Small wonder that in the past all Europeans were known as Germans in Russia, and the Europeans' settlement in Moscow was known as the German Village.
Naturally, the cultural influences of the two peoples were reciprocal. Many generations of Germans and Russians studied and continue to enjoy works by Goethe, Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy. Our peoples understand each other's mentality very well, as is amply evidenced by the marvelous Russian translations of German authors. They closely replicate the text and keep the pace of the narration and the mood and beauty of the original. One example is the translation of Doctor Faustus by Boris Pasternak.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There are different pages in our history, some of them rather painful, especially those relating to the 20th century. But in the past we often acted as allies.
The relations between the two European nations were every now and then reinforced by marital unions between dynasties.
Generally, women had a special role to play in our history. let us recall, for example, the daughter of the Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hessen-Darmstadt, known in Russia as Princess Elizabeth. Following the assassination of her husband, she founded a nunnery, and during World War I she nursed wounded soldiers, both Russians and Germans. In 1918 she was executed by the Bolsheviks, but recently she was rehabilitated and sanctified for everyone to honor. A monument to her stands in the heart of Moscow today. Nor should we forget Princess Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst, who made a unique contribution to Russian history. Ordinary Russians called her Mother, but she went down in history as Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
Today's Germany is Russia's leading economic partner, our most important creditor, one of the principal investors and a key interlocutor in discussing international politics.
I will give you one example: last year trade between our countries hit an all-time record of 41.5 billion marks. This compares with the Soviet Union's aggregate trade with both German states. Can we be happy with this and sit back and relax? I don't think so. Russian-German cooperation still has sufficient potentialities for development.
I am convinced that today we are turning over a new page in our bilateral relations, thereby making our joint contribution to building a common European home.
In conclusion I would like to say the words that were once used to characterize Germany and its capital. I would like to apply this idea to Russia and say: of course, we are at the beginning of the road to building a democratic society and a market economy. There are barriers and obstacles on that road that we are to surmount. However, if we leave aside objective problems and occasional ineptness of our own, we will see the beat of Russia's strong, live heart. And this heart is open to true cooperation and partnership.