Ambassador Anatoly Antonov's remarks at the Cosmos Club on the current state of Russia-U.S. relations
I appreciate the opportunity to speak in front of you and share the assessment of the current state of affairs and prospects of Russia-US relations.
Active internal political developments are taking place in the United States. The public is calming down after the emotional elections of the head of state. President Biden is seeking to fill in vacant positions in his administration. The new leader is fighting the pandemic and trying to bring the economy back on the development track.
The place of the U.S. in the world is being revaluated. Main priorities are being formulated. The new president is making foreign-policy decisions which he announced during the election campaign.
It is of critical importance that one of the first steps of Joe Biden was his support of the Russian proposal to extend the New START Treaty for five years.
In recent years we have constantly advocated for the prolongation of the Treaty. It is encouraging for us that common sense has triumphed in the policy of Washington. We are firmly convinced that the preservation of the New START Treaty is in the national interests of both the U.S. and Russia.
At the very last moment the two great powers managed to save the arms control regime from complete destruction. We had serious concerns that in light of the grave mistakes by the American Side to demolish the ABM and INF Treaties, withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty and growing uncertainty over the prospects for the CTBT’s entry into force due to the unwillingness of the US Side to ratify it – the New START Treaty could have suffered the same regrettable fate. This was fraught with an unpredictability in the relations between the two major powers, demolition of the mechanism of dialogue in the nuclear and missile sphere.
I would like to stress that the New START Treaty has an international dimension. The Treaty confirms the commitments of Moscow and Washington to fulfill their disarmament obligations under the NPT which explicitly highlights the importance to pursue such negotiations. Prolongation of New START is of utmost importance in the run-up to the NPT Review Conference expected to take place this year.
We perceive positively the signals from the White House and the State Department on the plans to restore the dialogue on strategic stability and the possibility of further dialogue on arms control.
The Russian Side is ready for cooperation on the wide range of issues. The essence of our proposals is to elaborate a “security equation” which would take into account emerging military technologies and other factors affecting strategic stability. At the same time, it is important to preserve all the positive heritage accumulated between our countries over the last 50 years.
We are now at a crossroads in Russian-American relations. Strategic stability, tranquility in the world, opportunities of the peoples of Russia and the U.S. to progressively develop the economy which determines the well-being of ordinary Russian and American citizens – all of that depends on the progress in our dialogue.
Of course, we took notice of the numerous allegations and attacks against Russia. The most harsh and aggressive claims concern the so-called “meddling” of our country in the American democratic process, hacker attacks on the information resources of the U.S. and some kind of “malign” activity of Russia aimed at countering the American forces in Afghanistan.
Russia has been designated as an adversary of the U.S. In order to counter the “Russian threat” the arms potential is being built up, military-political alliances are being strengthened. We are threatened with sanctions. We face methods of unfair competition.
Particularly unacceptable are the rebukes in the human rights sphere. Nobody has the right to teach us how to live. Just look at the hysteria that has unfolded over the situation around Navalny. First, flat demands are made that we should plead guilty for the alleged "poisoning" of Mr.Navalny with a chemical weapon. At the same time, any counter arguments we put forward and requests for fact-based information we make are brushed off without any reasonable explanation. Then the U.S. authorities impose yet another set of sanctions against Russia, never bothering to present evidence.
Let me remind you that this Russian citizen was convicted for committing an economic crime – by the Russian court on the territory of our country in accordance with the Russian legislation. We consider the absurd calls to free Mr.Navalny categorically unacceptable. In international practice, it is called interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
I would like to note that the previous administration almost 50 times introduced restrictions against Russia under various far-fetched pretexts. Two weeks ago we talked about that with members of the Council on Foreign Relations. We had quite heated discussions on some issues. Nevertheless, many experts understand the argument that it is unconstructive to resort to the language of dictate and pressure in a modern multipolar and interdependent world.
So, the broad outline of the new administration’s policy towards Russia is emerging. In essence, it is the old two-track approach. It implies cooperation with us on the issues of American interest. At the same time the concept of deterring Russia will be used as much as possible.
We believe that such approach is not the best option for the two permanent members of the UN Security Council that bear particular responsibility for international peace and security. We will try to convince our colleagues to change their minds and will also propose a positive agenda of interaction.
The presidents of Russia and the U.S. in their phone conversation on January 26 agreed that the presence of serious disagreements should not imply the absence of dialogue.
As for the baseless and categorical allegations against Russia, we consistently propose to discuss any claims in a professional manner – on the basis of facts and analysis rather than on assumptions and emotions poured out to the public sphere.
What do we want in the present circumstances? The Russian Side stands for maintaining pragmatic, equal and good-neighborly bilateral relations. We do not want to remake the U.S. and bring ideological differences to the interstate ties. We expect the same approach to us from the new administration.
It is time to stop dividing countries into the right and the flawed, the good democratic and the bad authoritarian. The post-World War II world order based on the UN Charter was built by different states and stipulates the same rights for all countries, irrespective of their internal organization. The aspiration to replace international law with some “rules-based order” determined in the Western capitals is leading to the increase of conflicts and loss of manageability of the international system.
The initiative of Russian President Putin to hold a P-5 summit stems particularly from the necessity to reconfirm the founding principles of conduct in international affairs and to elaborate the ways of solving the most pressing problems of the modern world.
It would be in the interests of our countries to unite efforts in countering the coronavirus pandemic, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, as well as in joint space exploration, environmental protection in the Arctic.
We have repeatedly proposed to the U.S. Side a list of primary steps towards normalizing the bilateral relations. They include confirming the “Reagan-Gorbachev formula” stating that a nuclear war between our countries is unacceptable and cannot be won. Beside that we could exchange written guarantees of non-interference in the internal affairs of each other, establish interaction to ensure cybersecurity and to modernize the agreement on prevention of incidents on and over the high seas. Vladimir Putin has proposed a wide program of cooperation on the issues of international information security. Our proposals remain on the table.
The Russian Side expects a deeper dialogue on the regional issues. These include Syria, Afghanistan, the situation on the Korean peninsula, the restoration of work under the JCPOA, the situation in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Today we deem it a priority practical task to resume the full infrastructure of communication on the governmental track.
It would be reasonable to consider convening a joint meeting of foreign and defense ministers. Such a setting contact would provide impetus for other channels of communication.
We are particularly concerned about the lack of normal practice of communication between our legislators.
Dialogue among non-governmental, business and academic organizations could play a useful role. The positive experience of such work was in high demand in previous years.
No one turns a blind eye to the accumulated problems in bilateral relations. It is necessary to stop sanction threats, to resolve the issues of Russian diplomatic property, restore the activities of the Consulates General, providing us with the opportunity to work again with our compatriots who have been left without our assistance on the West Coast of the United States.
Finally, I wish the Russian Embassy could work in a peaceful atmosphere, without the political situation being escalated, primarily in the visa area.
We are ready to make our steps on the way towards each other. The main thing is for the new U.S. administration to have political will.