Vladimir Putin: Russia and the Changing World [6 of 6]

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RUSSIA AND HER OUTREACH TO THE GLOBAL MARKET

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by Vladimir Putin

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To be honest, at times during this long and arduous journey we wanted to turn our backs on the talks and slam the door. But we did not succumb to emotion. As a result a compromise was reached that is quite acceptable for our country: we managed to defend the interests of Russian industrial and agricultural producers in the face of growing external competition. Our economic actors have gained substantial additional opportunities to enter world markets and uphold their rights there in a civilized manner. It is this, rather than the symbolism of Russia’s accession to the World Trade “club”, that I see as the main result of this process.

Russia will comply with WTO norms, as it meets all of its international obligations. Likewise, I hope that our partners will play according to the rules. Let me note in passing that we have already integrated WTO principles in the legal framework of the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Russia is still learning how to systematically and consistently promote its economic interests in the world. We have yet to learn, as many Western partners have, how to lobby for decisions that favor Russian business in foreign international forums. The challenges facing us in this area, given our priority of innovation-driven development, are very serious: to achieve equal standing for Russia in the modern system of global economic ties, and to minimize the risks arising from integration in the world economy, including Russia’s membership in the WTO and its forthcoming accession to the OECD.

We are badly in need of broader, non-discriminatory access to foreign markets. So far Russian economic actors have been getting a raw deal abroad. Restrictive trade and political measures are being taken against them, and technical barriers are being erected that put them at a disadvantage compared with their competitors.

The same holds for investments. We are trying to attract foreign capital to the Russian economy. We are opening up the most attractive areas of our economy to foreign investors, granting them access to the “juiciest morsels,” in particular, our fuel and energy complex. But our investors are not welcome abroad and are often pointedly brushed aside.

Examples abound. Take the story of Germany’s Opel, which Russian investors tried and failed to acquire despite the fact that the deal was approved by the German government and was positively received by German trade unions. Or take the outrageous examples of Russian businesses being denied their rights as investors after investing considerable resources in foreign assets. This is a frequent occurrence in Central and Eastern Europe.

All this leads to the conclusions that Russia must strengthen its political and diplomatic support for Russian entrepreneurs in foreign markets, and to provide more robust assistance to major, landmark business projects. Nor should we forget that Russia can employ identical response measures against those who resort to dishonest methods of competition.

The government and business associations should better coordinate their efforts in the foreign economic sphere, more aggressively promote the interests of Russian business and help it to open up new markets.

I would like to draw attention to another important factor that largely shapes the role and place of Russia in present-day and future political and economic alignments – the vast size of our country. Granted, we no longer occupy one-sixth of the Earth’s surface, but the Russian Federation is still the world’s largest nation with an unrivaled abundance of natural resources. I am referring not only to oil and gas, but also our forests, agricultural land and clean freshwater resources.

Russia’s territory is a source of its potential strength. In the past, our vast land mainly served as a buffer against foreign aggression. Now, given a sound economic strategy, they can become a very important foundation for increasing our competitiveness.

I would like to mention, in particular, the growing shortage of fresh water in the world. One can foresee in the near future the start of geopolitical competition for water resources and for the ability to produce water-intensive goods. When this time comes, Russia will have its trump card ready. We understand that we must use our natural wealth prudently and strategically.

SUPPORT FOR COMPATRIOTS AND RUSSIAN CULTURE IN THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

Respect for one’s country is rooted, among other things, in its ability to protect the rights of its citizens abroad. We must never neglect the interests of the millions of Russian nationals who live and travel abroad on vacation or on business. I would like to stress that the Foreign Ministry and all diplomatic and consular agencies must be prepared to provide real support to our citizens round the clock. Diplomats must respond to conflicts between Russian nationals and local authorities, and to incidents and accidents in a prompt manner – before the media announces the news to the world.

We are determined to ensure that Latvian and Estonian authorities follow the numerous recommendations of reputable international organizations on observing generally accepted rights of ethnic minorities. We cannot tolerate the shameful status of “non-citizen.” How can we accept that, due to their status as non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in thirteen Estonian residents are denied their fundamental political, electoral and socioeconomic rights and the ability to freely use Russian?

The recent referendum in Latvia on the status of the Russian language again demonstrated to the international community how acute this problem is. Over 300,000 non-citizens were once again barred from taking part in a referendum. Even more outrageous is the fact that the Latvian Central Electoral Commission refused to allow a delegation from the Russian Public Chamber to monitor the vote. Meanwhile, international organizations responsible for compliance with generally accepted democratic norms remain silent.

On the whole, we are dissatisfied with how the issue of human rights is handled globally. First, the United States and other Western states dominate and politicize the human rights agenda, using it as a means to exert pressure. At the same time, they are very sensitive and even intolerant to criticism. Second, the objects of human rights monitoring are chosen regardless of objective criteria but at the discretion of the states that have “privatized” the human rights agenda.

Russia has been the target of biased and aggressive criticism that, at times, exceeds all limits. When we are given constructive criticism, we welcome it and are ready to learn from it. But when we are subjected, again and again, to blanket criticisms in a persistent effort to influence our citizens, their attitudes, and our domestic affairs, it becomes clear that these attacks are not rooted in moral and democratic values.

Nobody should possess complete control over the sphere of human rights. Russia is a young democracy. More often than not, we are too humble and too willing to spare the self-regard of our more experienced partners. Still, we often have something to say, and no country has a perfect record on human rights and basic freedoms. Even the older democracies commit serious violations, and we should not look the other way. Obviously, this work should not be about trading insults. All sides stand to gain from a constructive discussion of human rights issues.

In late 2011, the Russian Foreign Ministry published its first report on the observance of human rights in other countries. I believe we should become more active in this area. This will facilitate broader and more equitable cooperation in the effort to solve humanitarian problems and promote fundamental democratic principles and human rights.

Of course, this is just one aspect of our efforts to promote our international and diplomatic activity and to foster an accurate image of Russia abroad. Admittedly, we have not seen great success here. When it comes to media influence, we are often outperformed. This is a separate and complex challenge that we must confront.

Russia has a great cultural heritage, recognized both in the West and the East. But we have yet to make a serious investment in our culture and its promotion around the world. The surge in global interest in ideas and culture, sparked by the merger of societies and economies in the global information network, provides new opportunities for Russia, with its proven talent for creating cultural objects.

Russia has a chance not only to preserve its culture but to use it as a powerful force for progress in international markets. The Russian language is spoken in nearly all the former Soviet republics and in a significant part of Eastern Europe. This is not about empire, but rather cultural progress. Exporting education and culture will help promote Russian goods, services and ideas; guns and imposing political regimes will not.

We must work to expand Russia’s educational and cultural presence in the world, especially in those countries where a substantial part of the population speaks or understands Russian.

We must discuss how we can derive the maximum benefit for Russia’s image from hosting large international events, including the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in 2012, the G20 summit in 2013 and the G8 summit in 2014, the Universiade in Kazan in 2013, the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, the IIHF World Championships in 2016, and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

Russia intends to continue promoting its security and protecting its national interest by actively and constructively engaging in global politics and in efforts to solve global and regional problems. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation and open dialogue with all our foreign partners. We aim to understand and take into account the interests of our partners, and we ask that our own interests be respected.

This article was originally published in Moskovskiye Novosti (The Moscow News) 

in English  at http://valdaiclub.com/politics/39300.html

Concluded.

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