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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Thomas R. Pickering
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Opening Remarks, Roundtable on Russian American Relations
Russian Cultural Center, Washington, DC December 16, 2000
Blue Bar

Thank you Igor Neverov. Were I to welcome each and every one of the distinguished Ambassadors, scholars, and statesmen here today, I would have no time left for any remarks. Suffice it to say it is a pleasure to share a podium with my old friend Yuli Mikhailovich. Ambassador Vorontsov has always been a straight shooter with me, and I am sure he will be with you today.

We have a great challenge in front of us to try to sum up the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Russia relationship before they bring out the sherry. I want to be frank and fair in this special setting. For some I may be too much of one or the other. But this is an important time to strengthen our relations by stressing both qualities.

Since most of you here have written extensively on the subject, I will not attempt, as they say in Moscow, "to discover America." I would like to share with you my assessment of where the relationship currently stands, and where it might go in the next few years.

I have been through many transitions in Washington, and can say with utter confidence that the period between election and inauguration is one of the most reflective pauses this frantic city allows itself.

Even when no change in policy is contemplated, we expect every angle of a relationship to be examined in its minutia and held up to the light. When we put Russia under this microscope, there are some unavoidable -- and uncomfortable -- conclusions we must face.

First, over the past year there appears to have been significant signs of a shift in Russia's approach to its foreign policy. The win-win cooperative scenario that was the hallmark of our relationship with the Russian Federation has frayed at the margins.

The "Multipolarity" concept currently advanced in Moscow is based on a zero-sum premise -- that Russia gains if the U.S. loses, and that the U.S. "hegemon" needs to be surrounded, hemmed in, counter balanced or offset if Russia is to meet its national objectives. More worrying than the tactics of this approach is the strategic assessment that what is good for the U.S. is bad for Russia and vice versa. That view is neither constructive nor realistic, especially when we have so many areas where it is not true. Wanting to make that view true has consequences. They are bad for Russia and bad for the U.S. in my humble view.

Certainly, no one questions the right of Russia to pursue its interests. This is widely understood. Since the end of the Cold War, however, we have worked from the premise that our interests were largely mutual -- from containing the proliferation of nuclear and other sensitive technologies and weapons systems to promoting stability in the heart of Europe.

We worked toward Russia's integration into the globalized, world economy as key to its growth and economic success and a contributor to our own and global prosperity. We support Russian democracy building and economic reform. A number of recent developments call into doubt the premise that has guided us through the post-Cold-War period and raise the question of whether President Putin sees resurgence of an aggressive Russian foreign policy to be consistent with Russia's integration into a globalized world. As I have said, we are not sure it is.

We also question whether President Putin's domestic agenda is internally consistent. He has staked his reputation on an ambitious economic reform program, coupled with a recentralization of power. The so-called power vertical might have been built on respect for rule of law, transparency in the rules of business and governance, and tolerance of dissent. What we see instead is intolerance of dissent which has led to increasing media self-censorship, efforts to intimidate civil society, and questionable use of the courts and private businesses to achieve clearly political ends, including curbing the free media.

We see a tendency toward recentralization of all authority, which helps emasculate the meaning of federalism. We believe that real rule of law, protection of individual liberty, freedom of expression and governmental restraint are the hallmarks of economic success. One cannot unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the Russian people while simultaneously restricting individual freedoms or manipulating the legal system for political ends. This is perhaps a good place to reflect for a moment on the implications of the Edmund Pope case on the future of our commercial relations with Russia.

We are grateful that this situation has been resolved to the benefit of Mr. Pope and his family, and very pleased that President Putin used his executive authority to release Pope. However, it is worrying that what apparently began as a purchase of openly offered technology -- there were public advertisements offering its sale --- turned so readily into an espionage case. Russia is rich in human capital and has developed a wide range of partners in the West, especially for its technical and scientific expertise. The Pope case can and will dampen western interest and ability to work with one of Russia's best assets -- its highly educated population and its enormously vast potential in all areas of technology. Businessmen will remember Mr. Pope before meeting and negotiating in Russia.

It is true that some people have also raised the question of NATO enlargement as indicative of a U.S. role in making relations more difficult. But NATO enlargement arises out of the wishes of the Central and Eastern European states themselves. Through CFE adaptation, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council and other steps, we found ways to deal with Russian concerns, and we will continue to watch these concerns with a careful eye. But we saw the stage for moving forward set when then-President Yeltsin visited Warsaw in 1994 and told Lech Walesa that Poland had the right to determine which defensive alliance it would join.

Looking ahead, let me suggest that there will remain solid continuity in what the U.S. seeks from its relationship with Russia, even as the context for this relationship profoundly changes. The U.S. has had two overriding goals over the years for its relationship with Russia.

First, we have sought to protect our people and our allies from the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. Second, we have tried to encourage Russia's evolution into a free market democracy that respects the rights and fosters the welfare of its people. These are goals we truly believe are shared by Russia for its people as well.

Our security dialogue on strategic arms issues is enduring. We are in the middle of a process that has already brought about significant reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles, with another round of reductions within reach. We hope that dialogue will see successes in other areas as well -- from halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems to impeding the global flow of illegal drugs, and countering terrorism. Indeed, two weeks ago Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Enverovich Mamedov and I reviewed the scope of our efforts and explored where we could go next and did so in a positive and constructive way.

If we look to the future, I hope this broad security dialogue will continue to expand. Threats to the safety and security of our people will come increasingly from trans-national, non-state actors, be they criminal mafia or terrorist networks. We are only beginning to understand how to work together to counter these new threats and have much work to do. But we are working closely together in Afghanistan on the Taliban as an operational aspect of our mutually shared outlook.

On non-strategic interests, our dialogue with Russia is similar to the dialogue we conduct with every member of the international community. The advancement of freedom, democracy and effective markets are core values of the American people. The United States cannot but benefit from a Russia that is economically prosperous, stable politically and secure internationally. And this is a key point I would like to make. Americans believe that being a responsible player in the international community and being a responsible player at home are tightly intertwined.

Respect for rule of law, transparency in the rules of business and governance, and tolerance of dissent, are important in their own right. But they are also part and parcel of building economic environment at home that promotes growth and attracts foreign investment. This is true whether we are cooperating on Middle East peace, in New York at the Security Council, or around the world on terrorism, crime, and narcotics trafficking.

Let me conclude with the following thought. No one who follows this relationship as closely as you all do is surprised by the ebb and flow we have seen over the past ten years. There will always be uncomfortable issues that seem to disrupt the flow of relations -- pundits that will declare Russia lost and then found again -- economic booms and busts -- this is to be expected as we all find our way after 75 years of tense and limited relations.

The current administration has been deeply committed to engagement with Russia. The stakes for all are high, the challenges great, and the opportunities many. There are alternatives to this level of realistic engagement that emphasizes working together with the cards on the table and the table talk frank and direct. Some alternatives are naïve and illusory. Some are brutal and unacceptable.

I predict that the next administration will share this commitment to engagement because it is a reflection of reality coldly assessed and it is in our mutual interest to develop and deepen our real dialogue. I also believe that changes will come more in the tone and tactics than in substance and strategy. I also predict that this crowd here this morning will have a lot to say about how we go about deepening and enriching this dialogue and the results we expect from it.

I look forward as always to hearing from Yuli Mikhailovich and welcome your thoughts and questions.

[end of document]

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