November, 14, 2001

Speech by President Putin of Russia before the Representatives of the American Public and US Political Figures November 13, 2001, Russian Embassy in Washington


Dear friends,

I am very glad to see and to welcome you all here on Russian territory. The Ambassador has just told me that, first, it is the pride of our Embassy because there is no other hall in Washington like this one, and second, that this hall has never seen such a representative delegation, such a representative assembly. So, I would first of all like to thank you for gathering here, for taking time off your affairs and coming here to visit us. Thank you.

I remember well our first meeting with President Bush in Ljubljana. We were nervous, and this was quite natural. But the important thing was that we were ready for dialogue. The dialogue did take place. It was a very important conversation for us and for our countries. We said then that the Cold War had receded into the past, that our countries were no longer adversaries of each other.

We said that the very nature of our relations was changing. They should be founded on common interests, common values and mutual respect.

But let us be frank. At that time in Ljubljana these were merely intentions. We thought that we had a lot of time ahead for reflection and for making decisions. We did not know what America was to experience and what all of us were to experience.

It is two months since the monstrous terrorist acts in New York and Washington, but I, like all of us, I think, still see before my eyes the frames that recorded that tragedy. An unheard of evil act had been perpetrated against the whole mankind, against each and every one of us.

And, as happened in human history more than once, the larger the scale of the misfortune the stronger human solidarity and mutual help manifest themselves, the greater the heroism and courage of the people who were caught in the eye of the catastrophe. I am proud that Russian citizens and our former fellow-countrymen were among them.

I am proud of the Russian engineer Yevgeny Knyazev who rescued about 70 people from the building before he himself died under the debris.

Special words of thanks must go to Russian journalist Yuri Kirilchenko who was helping to rescue people at the World Trade Center until he fell, stricken with a heart attack.

We have no right to forget about the victims of these terrorist acts, it is our duty to take care of those whose lives are still in danger, those whose lives are threatened by terrorism.

Today we know that not a single state in the world, not a single people in the world is secure against this threat. Russia was one of the first countries to confront modern terrorism. We were using our own resources to combat it. Today a broad coalition of countries has been formed which is ready to stand up to this threat.

The terrorists hoped to intimidate us, to take advantage of the contradictions between states, to split the world and the world community. But instead they were faced with our cohesion and our solidarity, I should say, unheard of solidarity in modern conditions. Likewise, their hopes that our thirst for revenge would make us like them and use similar cruel methods have not been justified: the anti-terrorist coalition is not fighting any state or people. It has no other enemies except the terrorists themselves.

The terrorists tried to drive a wedge between the Christian and Muslim worlds, to kindle a "conflict of civilizations". But this has not happened. Today all the states belonging to the Islamic world condemn terrorism.

Our common enemy is beyond nationality, beyond religion and beyond civilization. This is obvious to Russia: we have unique historical experience. For centuries both Christian and Islamic cultures have been coexisting in harmony and developing on the territory of Russia.

Proceeding from this experience we can say confidently that there is no more pressing task than cementing unity in the struggle against terrorism. What is needed above all is concerted actions of law enforcement, customs and financial bodies, and the special services and coordination of information policies. That calls for an entirely new level of interaction between the leading powers. What is needed is a full-fledged and permanent working alliance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations is called upon to play the key role in strengthening the unity of the world community. That organization is and will be as we, members of the organization, want it to be.

First of all, it is necessary to seek unstinting compliance by all the states with the UN Security Council resolutions aimed at undermining the material base and infrastructure of terrorist activities. We propose to speed up the drafting and adoption of a Comprehensive Convention Against Terrorism and an International Convention Against Nuclear Terrorism. Finally, all the states should accede to previously adopted international agreements on combating terrorism and bring their national legislations in line with them.

I am sure that we will succeed in creating an atmosphere of zero tolerance of terror in the world. But we can only achieve this if the "terrorist international" -- and it has emerged in the past few years -- is countered with a "an international of law and legality".

Besides, the social and economic roots of the new threats and challenges demand special attention on our part. They include the gap between wealth and poverty both within states and on the world scale.

If the Afghan peasant can only rely for his livelihood on the meager pay he gets from an opium poppy trader it means that the terrorists and criminals of every stripe will be able to manipulate huge financial flows in the future.

So, we welcome and support the efforts being exerted by the UN, the G-8 and other forums to combat poverty. Poverty that often drives people to commit crimes.

Dear friends,

It is a matter of fundamental importance that the interaction between our countries in the struggle against terrorism should not remain a mere episode in the history of Russian-American relations, but should mark the start of long-term partnership and cooperation. Today we should look back on the history of our relations. To quote the great Russian thinker and historian Vladimir Klyuchevsky, "History is not our teacher, but our overseer. It does not teach us anything, it merely punishes us for ignorance of its lessons."

After the Second World War the relations between our countries have had their ups and downs. But eventually the main achievement has been that our countries have stopped being afraid of each other. It has enabled us together to get rid of what for decades has stricken fear into the peoples the world over, the arsenals of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons. Their quantitative level today is totally at odds with the current situation in the world and with the character of modern threats.

I had no doubt that we would meet with understanding on the part of the United States on this issue and the statement by President Bush today confirms that fact. That is why Russia declares that it is ready to make deep cuts of strategic armaments. That is why we are proposing today a radical program of further strategic offensive arms cuts, at least by three times, to a minimum level required to maintain the strategic balance in the world. We no longer need to scare each other in order to come to terms. Security arises not from weapons and mountains of hardware, it is created by the political will of states and the leaders of these states.

Yes, the world has still a long way to go before international relations are built solely on trust. This is regrettable. But this is why it is so important today to rely on the existing foundation of treaties and agreements in the sphere of disarmament and arms control.
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I think this is a favorable moment for tapping fully the immense potential of cooperation between Russia and the United States in the settlement of regional conflicts. One manifestation of that potential is joint participation of Russia and the US in the search for a solution to the Middle East crisis. Such interaction is badly needed today to achieve a just and enduring settlement inside Afghanistan. I am absolutely sure that in the face of common threats and challenges "co-sponsorship" over regional issues must become the main formula of Russian-American cooperation.

We should also understand what model of security is the best for the European continent. Intensive work with our European partners is required. We need a new level of interaction to enable us to make joint decisions.

As for the relations between Russia and NATO, we intend to follow the path of promoting equal cooperation with that organization. To go -- and I would like to stress this -- as far as the North Atlantic Alliance itself is ready to go and as far as it will be able, of course, to take into account the legitimate interests of Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Russia today is a rapidly changing country which has made an irreversible historical choice. The problems we are tackling have to do with ways of forming a mature democratic state and a modern and effective market economy. Today Russia is a country whose integration into the community of free democratic countries has become irreversible.

The destinies of our peoples are different in many ways. For many years they have followed different paths. But if one looks back on the more than two hundred years of our relations one thing immediately leaps at you: at sharp turns in history, at so-called "moments of truth" when the very existence of our states was sometimes in the balance, Russia and America always stood together.

They were together at the dawn of American independence when -- let it be remembered -- Russian Empress Catherine II politely but directly and firmly refused the request of King George III to send Russian soldiers to take part in putting down an uprising in the American colonies.

Our countries were together in the era of emancipation reforms, in Russia in the middle of the 19th century it coincided with the era of the Civil War in the US. It is symbolic that two great statesmen -- Emperor Alexander II and President Abraham Lincoln -- abolished slavery in their countries at about the same time, and both fell at the hands of terrorists, by the way. It is symbolic that Russia has made its financial contribution to erecting the Statue of Liberty in New York which today is a symbol of freedom all over the world.

Finally, our peoples were together during the Second World War.

I am sure that today, when our "destiny again meets history" we will be not only partners, but we may well be friends. It is necessary to act vigorously remembering the call of a character from Jack London's novel. "Time does not wait," he said.

Thank you.