Speech by Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States of America Dr.Anatoly Antonov at the University of Pennsylvania
I am grateful to the leadership of the University for the invitation to speak and an opportunity to share some thoughts on the current state and future of Russia-U.S. relations.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of “fake news” being spread about Russia. One can hardly come across another capital city in the world, besides Washington, that produces more false information about Russia and its foreign policy. A clear example is how my country is viewed on the Capitol Hill. We are being accused of nearly all domestic and external problems of the U.S.
It is worth mentioning that the endless anti-Russian campaign lacks consistency. On one side, Russia is being portrayed as a weak country, incapable of being a serious partner of the U.S., on the other – so powerful, that it can change the results of U.S. presidential elections.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has recently ended. Over the course of 22 months no evidence was found in support of “collusion” between President Trump and Moscow. We haven’t seen any real proof of our alleged interference in the U.S. elections. As for last year’s accusations made against 25 Russian citizens – they are laughable. How could two dozen people, no matter who they are, affect the outcome of elections at all?
We have no illusions that the number of U.S. politicians, who oppose improving relations with Russia, will drastically decrease. But I want to believe that with the refutation of allegations of so called “collusion”, the amount of “breaking news on Russia” in U.S. politics will come down and we’ll be able to take joint steps with Washington to stabilize bilateral relations.
Their current state does not meet the interests of our nations and countries – permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is clear that our countries still have serious disagreements. But Moscow always proceeded fr om the assumption that in order to maintain peace Russia and the U.S. can and must find common ground. As the largest nuclear powers we bear a special responsibility for security on the planet. That is why we need to act carefully, seeking mutual understanding and compromise, reconciling our differences and avoiding confrontation.
Regrettably, we have not been able to achieve tangible progress. Our readiness for a candid and professional conversation on all contentious issues finds no positive response. Moreover, Russia is defined as an “adversary” in several U.S. laws and doctrines. It feels that with sanctions, information attacks and attempts to isolate Russia certain politicians are striving to force us to capitulate and abandon our national interests. I am certain, that everyone in this audience knows that Russia always enjoyed the privilege to pursue an independent foreign policy over the course of its thousand-year history. We will continue to take proper measures to strengthen our sovereignty. We certainly do not do it at the expense of the security of other countries, including the U.S.
Let’s leave aside the roots of the current crisis in the Russia-U.S. relations. I’ll say just one thing. During the 90-s of the last century, which were difficult times for my county, we trusted the outside world too much, counted on the help and readiness of other countries to build a single and indivisible security with no place for the weak and the strong ones, the chosen and the rejected ones, where everyone would have equal rights and responsibilities.
However, a victorious and paternalistic approach prevailed. Desire to build relations with my country not as with an equal member of the global community, but rather depending on our readiness to change our domestic life according to the Western standards and follow the U.S. path in foreign affairs.
What eventually happened was well-described by an American writer and journalist fr om San Francisco Chris Kanthan: “The Globalists did trap the bear in 1991 when the USSR failed. However, rather than befriending the bear, they caged it and then starved, tortured and humiliated it for the next eight years. That’s when the bear tore down the cage and fought back”.
I would like to point out that from historical standpoint the fundamental interests of our countries have almost never clashed. Let’s leave aside the time after the October Revolution, when it took years for the U.S. to recognize a young Soviet Republic. Even the “Cold War” was a conflict of ideologies rather than a clash of basic national interests. I must emphasize – we have no territorial claims to each other.
The Russian Empress Catherine the Great supported the U.S. in its struggle for independence. Emperor Alexander the Second and Abraham Lincoln called each other “good friends”. Our country took the side of the American president during the U.S. Civil War.
We fought side by side against Nazism. World War II was the biggest and bloodiest military conflict in human history. So much depended on the outcome of the war for the first time ever – the very possibility to live a free life for entire nations. Never before has the price for the victory been so heavy. The peoples of the Soviet Uni on had to sacrifice, according to different estimates, around 27 million lives, from which 13,5 million were civilian losses – more than the population of some countries. No matter how distant the war days become, it will forever stay in the memory of nations. On April twenty-fifth we once again together commemorated the historic encounter between the Soviet and U.S. troops on the Elbe River, which is on of the most powerful symbols of our brotherhood-in-arms.
These important examples remind us that the periods of good relations between the two countries only benefited our nations, as well as the interests of international security.
The world faces serious challenges in international security and strategic stability. The situation is aggravated by unresolved regional conflicts, the increasing role of force in global affairs. The international law is being grossly violated, instead of which some kind of a “rule-based order” is being imposed, the parameters of which is determined by a sel ect few. There are also attempts to undermine the role of the UN Security Council, to create coalition of states “on certain interests”. Many say that a new arms race has begun.
Today everyone looks at Moscow and Washington once again. We hear warnings from rational politicians against the collapse of disarmament and arms control system. Matters of particular concern are the prospects of non-proliferation of the WMD and means of their deliver.
The history of nuclear and missile agreements reminds us of how hard it was to strike those break-through deals. Both sides showed state wisdom and understanding that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. It seems that this principle deserves to be reaffirmed nowadays. By the way, there is growing support to this idea among prominent U.S. state figures.
A recent example – the “Wall Street Journal” article co-authored by former State Secretary George Shultz, Secretary of Defense William Perry, and Senator Sam Nunn, calling for cooperation with Russia in order to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used. I’ll note that we hear those words from people, who personally experienced the threat of a nuclear war. Therefore, we must take a serious approach to finding ways of peaceful coexistence.
I’ll take the next minutes to discuss several “pressing” arms control issues. But before that I’ll ask you a simple question – why do we need arms control?
My understanding is simple: arms control, including disarmament, creates a favorable and predictable atmosphere between major powers; positively impacts the international situation; eases tensions in the world, saves resources that could rather be used for peaceful purposes, to benefit prosperity of the people.
Unfortunately, the U.S stance to reconsider its attitude towards the system of international agreements on strategic stability leads to regretful consequences.
For instance, U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty made Russia pursue development of entirely new arms. Nowadays these systems raise a lot of concerns in the U.S. Although, we’ve been warning about possible consequences resulting from Washington’s one-sided steps. We’ve kept saying that we won't sit idly by watching attempts to disrupt the strategic balance.
Huge sums of money are being spent to develop the global missile defense. Despite analytical evaluation that our new strategic weapons can penetrate any missile defense system. A continuation of spending money by the Pentagon to pursue this goal will only harm American taxpayers.
Another example is the INF Treaty. The existence of the Treaty that is of key importance to European Security is under threat.
I must stress the fact that it is not the case of “Russian and American withdrawal” from the Treaty. We’ve never been raising and do not raise the issue of withdrawing from the agreement. On the contrary - we’ve been consistent in our attempts to preserve the INF Treaty. Only after Washington suspended its obligations under the Treaty on February 2nd, our country, considering the U.S. violations of the Treaty, was forced to take a reciprocal action. However, we haven’t taken any steps on actual “withdrawal”, including sending a corresponding notification.
In this regard I would like to remind about the actions the Russian Federation has taken in order to preserve the INF Treaty. Since 2007 we have been suggesting to make the Treaty multilateral. We’ve been discussing our concerns over Washington’s compliance with the Treaty within the INF Special Verification Commission, without making them public. In order to dispel U.S. complaints over the 9M729 missile we were ready for unprecedented transparency measures, which reached far beyond our INF obligations.
What did we get in return? Our suggestions made in order to preserve the Treaty were rejected. Our concerns over unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), target missiles and Mk 41 launchers deployed as part of the U.S. missile defense in Europe, were simply ignored. Washington decided to take a hard-edged stance and talk to us through ultimatums. Such course of action is unconstructive, unacceptable to us, and it cannot give positive results.
I reiterate – we are not interested in escalation of tensions. On February 2, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear – Russia will not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind – neither in Europe nor anywhere until United States weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.
Meanwhile, our response is outlined in a way that will not draw the Russian Federation into a costly arms race. By the way, according to the 2018 NATO Secretary General’s Annual Report, NATO states spent almost 1 trillion dollars on defense (987,5 billion dollars, from which 281,7 – European countries, 684,4 – the U.S.). Therefore, Alliance’s defense budget was at least 20 times bigger then Russia’s defense spending (about 46 billion dollars).
With respect to the INF Treaty situation, the future of another important agreement also becomes questionable – the New START, which expires in 2021. On many occasions we voiced our readiness to extend the Treaty for another five years. However the U.S. Administration keeps saying that the issue is still under consideration.
Meanwhile, the extension of the New START is not a simple technicality that could be resolved in a couple of weeks. Serious issues must first be settled. First, the U.S. side must fully dispel Russian concerns regarding conversion procedures the U.S. has employed to meet the accord’s limits.
It’s linked to the fact that the U.S. side has reached the set limits not only by actually reducing the arms, but also by converting a certain number of them in a way the Russian Federation still cannot confirm their incapability of employing nuclear weapons, as it is specified by the Treaty.
The fate of both treaties concerns not only Russian and U.S. security. It reaches down to the core problems of international security. Should the treaties be preserved, it would be proof that Russia and the U.S. adhere to their nuclear disarmament obligations under the NPT provisions.
Dear friends, there are plenty of problems with strengthening arms control regime, non-proliferation and disarmament. The Russian side stands ready for serious substantial negotiations on all amassed issues. But the conversation has to be frank, respectful, transparent and professional, with no “megaphone diplomacy”.
It’s easier to create a crisis situation, than to solve one. Persistent efforts, political will and realism are required to mend Russia-U.S. relations. A lot of ground, and, above all – trust, will have to be rebuilt from scratch.
We try to establish a positive agenda, focus on the areas wh ere our interests overlap and wh ere we can achieve tangible results. We resumed our dialogue on counterterrorism. A deconflicting mechanism between our militaries successfully works in Syria. There is also dialogue on political aspects of the Syrian settlement. We maintain contacts on Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula. Of course, there is practical cooperation in outer space which is obviously more successful than our interaction on Earth.
A few more examples of our fruitful cooperation. In December, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked the CIA in his conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump for providing intelligence information that helped to prevent a large-scale terrorist attack in Saint Petersburg. On our part, the Russian side notified the U.S. intelligence services that the Tsarnayev brothers were planning a terrorist attack in Boston. Unfortunately, the outcome was different. We can also recall constructive cooperation during the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia.
I would like to remind that during the Soccer World Cup our country was visited not only by leaders of many countries and governments, 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 return, they obtained their personal experience of the hospitality of our people. This was a triumph of public diplomacy, which showed that all “boogeyman stories” about my country are fake.
In conclusion I would like to quote President John F. Kennedy, namely a few sentences from his famous speech of June 10, 1963 regarding relations with the Soviet Union: “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal”.
Dear friends, indeed we live on the planet that even though continues to seem immense to its inhabitants, in reality it becomes somewhat smaller considering the rapid development of transportation and communication technologies. Russia-U.S. relations cannot stay on the decline forever. We all live under the same roof. The world needs strengthening of strategic stability, which, for its part, depends on the quality of dialogue between Moscow and Washington. We need to step back from confrontation, look for compromises and ways to reconcile. The goal is to develop equal, mutually beneficial relations that would meet the interests of both Russians and Americans. We are ready for such work.
Thank you for your attention.