Fort Ross Dialogue at the Commonwealth Club of California in San-Francisco has begun
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov’s speech:
I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak and share a few thoughts on Russia-U.S. relations and prospects of their development.
The format of our today’s meeting is meant to ensure a free discussion and interactive communication. It is an honor for me to have such reputable and experienced politicians as Jerry Brown, William Perry and Herman Gref as my interlocutors. As California’s Governor Jerry Brown made a substantial contribution to preserving Russian cultural-historical heritage in Fort Ross. And now he spares no time and effort to help the bilateral ties out of their difficult state.
Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly. Yes, we had to begin the meeting with voicing our rejection of those unfriendly manifestations of U.S. policy toward Russia that had taken place prior to the talks (visa denials for the Russian delegation and another round of anti-Russian sanctions).
The conversation between the ministers was candid, open. We hope that the meeting will provide an additional impetus to our dialogue.
I would like to note the recent intensification in our bilateral ties. We held consultations on strategic stability, counterterrorism and bilateral problems. We successfully continue to exchange our views on North Korea and Afghanistan. Our militaries maintain contacts in Syria. An efficient and highly professional channel of communication was established between the Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces.
We pay serious attention to economic ties, the volume of which remains to be insignificant compared to their potential. That is why Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing a Business Advisory Council which would unite representatives of big companies from both countries. Its goal would be to find ways to develop trade and economic cooperation. The U.S. administration supported the Russian proposal. Minister Lavrov and Secretary Pompeo confirmed their positive attitude to this initiative at their recent meeting.
Despite Washington’s tightening sanctions policy, the interest of U.S. companies to the Russian market is growing. U.S. businessmen are unwilling to leave Russia. On the contrary, they intend to increase their industrial and investment presence. One example really speaks volumes. The U.S. delegation at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this year was the second largest (540 people) after the Chinese delegation. We also greater participation of U.S. business circles in the Eastern Economic Forum.
Positive dynamics in bilateral trade for the third year in a row serves as another proof. It amounted to 16,1 billion dollars in the first seven months of 2019. And it is the U.S. that increases its purchases.
The U.S. still has the biggest share of direct investments in Russia. The estimated combined assets of approximately three thousand American companies in our country are around 85 billion dollars.
To overcome the negative trend in our relations, it is important to start addressing the problem of stockpiles of «irritants» in our bilateral relations. These include the arrests of Russian citizens in third countries upon U.S. requests, returning of the Russian diplomatic property, ending the «visa war», improving of the conditions for the functioning of our diplomatic missions. It goes without saying that it is time for Washington to abandon its flawed policy of pressuring other countries with sanctions. The practice has shown: it is impossible to obtain concessions from us by exerting pressure.
We believe the situation should be mended. We underscore the importance of overcoming mutual mistrust. We have been long proposing to exchange letters with guarantees of non-interference in domestic affairs of each other – just like when Franklin D. Roosevelt and Maxim Litvinov did when diplomatic relations were reestablished in 1933. By the way, back then it was Washington that insisted on the exchange. We are ready to give such assurances but have not received any positive reaction so far.
In this context we reiterate our proposal to establish a working group on cybersecurity. Professional discussions in this area will help ease misunderstandings and alleviate existing concerns.
Arms control issues have always been and continue to be at the center of our relations. We are seriously concerned about the U.S. actions leading to the collapse of the entire international security and strategic stability architecture which took decades to develop. After its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty Washington destroyed the INF Treaty. The U.S. refuses to ratify the CTBT. Military capacity of the global missile defense is being bolstered, the elements of which are proposed to be placed in outer space. Now the future of the New START is being questioned. I would like to remind you that the NPT Review Conference will take place next year. The international community will expect positive news from us on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
We have no interest in an arms race. In order to prevent an escalation of tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision not to deploy intermediate-range and shorter-range ground-based missiles in Europe and other regions until similar U.S. weapons are fielded there. We call upon the U.S. and NATO to join such moratorium.
The history of nuclear missile agreements reminds us how hard it was to reach those breakthrough arrangements. Both sides demonstrated state wisdom, political courage and understanding that a nuclear war cannot be won and must be never fought. It seems that this principle deserves to be reaffirmed today. By the way, prominent U.S. state figures show their growing support for this idea.
Here is an example – the “Wall Street Journal” article co-authored by former State Secretary George Shultz, Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Senator Sam Nunn who call for cooperation with Russia in order to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used. I would like to note that these are the words of the politicians who have learned – not in theory or from propagandist rhetoric, but rather from personal experience – that the threat of a nuclear war and nuclear annihilation is a real thing.
Next year the entire world will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Victory over the Nazi Germany. We will be glad to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump in Moscow at the festivities. Our countries fought the Nazis together and paid an enormous price for the Victory. The nations of the Soviet Unions lost 27 million lives, almost 13,5 million of whom were civilians. No matter how distant the war days are, they will remain in the memory of the nations forever.
Current attempts of some politicians and pseudo-historians to rewrite history portraying butchers as heroes are resentful and outrageous. Russia and the U.S. have a common goal – not to allow distortion of the truth.
On April 25, we will again celebrate anniversary of the meeting of the Soviet and U.S. troops on the Elbe River. This event is among the most vibrant examples of our friendship. Unity and mutual support shown during the war days remain an example of how Russia and the U.S. can join forces for the sake of peace and stability.
People-to-people contacts play a big role in preserving Russia-U.S. relations. We stand for increasing the number of mutual exchanges of our citizens within the framework of business, personal, cultural, scientific, sports, as well as just friendly and family relations.
I would like to remind that during the Soccer World Cup our country was visited not only by many state and government leaders, but also, most importantly, by hundreds of thousands of soccer fans from across the world (46 thousand U.S. fans, second place after China) who saw the real Russia – an open, friendly and modern country. The majority of guests were genuinely happy and expressed hope to come back, they personally experienced the hospitality of our people. This is a bright example of public diplomacy, which showed that all “boogeyman stories” about Russia are fake.
In this regard a recent “Boston Globe” article written by U.S. journalist and academician Stephen Kinzer is also illustrative. He shares impressions about his a two-week trip to Russia (visiting a number of cities in five different time zones, including Moscow, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude). I will quote: “Wherever I went, I was struck by how different Russia is from our image of it. The Russia I found is vibrant, self-confident, largely free and hardly concerned about hostility from Washington”. The author makes an important conclusion that Russia should be treated as a partner, not an adversary of the United States.
By the way, Henry Kissinger, a famous and widely respected U.S. politician, brought up the same idea at his recent meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia-U.S. relations cannot deteriorate forever. We all live under the same roof. The world needs strategic stability which in its turn depends on the nature and quality of the dialogue between Moscow and Washington. I would like to assure the participants of our discussions that the Russian side will further seek to develop equal, mutually beneficial relations that would meet the interests of both nations.