Talking Points at the Opening Session of the 9th Fort Ross Dialogue Conference
First of all, thank you for the invitation to speak to such wide audience. The Fort Ross Dialogue forum has established itself as an all-weather platform for socio-political discussion between Russia and the United States. For many years, despite all the hardships, to which the pandemic was added this year, the conference has been a magnet for those people from our countries who wish to see positive developments in bilateral relations.
Fortress Ross is a significant milestone in our common history. The creation of the first Russian settlement in California back in 1812 not only opened the way for the development of vast territories and trade, but also facilitated the establishment of friendly contacts between peoples of the two continents. I am convinced that efforts to preserve the common cultural and historical heritage will certainly promote the unifying principles in Russian-American ties.
This conference’s agenda, as in previous years, seeks to find areas of mutually beneficial cooperation between Moscow and Washington. I have to admit that recent years were a time of missed opportunities. Our relations got into a dysfunctional rut: it seems like we are going around in monotonous circles of sanctions and counter-sanctions. Nevertheless, Russia remains open to the work to overcome the accumulated contradictions. We have repeatedly suggested specific projects to restore pragmatic interaction. I want to believe that the Russian topic will no longer be used to score political points in the American inter-party struggle and we will be able to move from fencing with words to a productive dialogue.
This year the whole world celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II. On April 25, the presidents of Russia and the United States adopted a joint statement commemorating the anniversary of the meeting of Soviet and American troops on the Elba River in Germany in 1945. At that historic moment, the officers and soldiers of our countries toasted together to the victory over Nazism and to Russian-American friendship. Just recently, by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, we have awarded commemorative medals to U.S. veterans who participated in the Northern convoys and delivered vital supplies to the Soviet Union during the war. In response, people thanked Russia in their letters to the Embassy for not forgetting about the joint feat of the allied armies.
This is an occasion to recall the many times when our countries helped each other in the face of a common threat. 2020 when the world has been confronted with an unprecedented health challenge – the spread of the novel coronavirus infection – has become no exception. By agreements of the presidents, Russia and the United States exchanged humanitarian supplies of medical equipment and essential goods during the height of the pandemic crisis. This summer the Russian and U.S. Academies of Sciences signed a memorandum of cooperation in various fields of research related to COVID-19. The initiative came from the scientists who want to exchange experience in the fight against the pandemic.
The central political theme of the Fort Ross Dialogue conference this year revolves around strategic stability issues. We all clearly see that the current situation in the world is characterized by dangerous challenges and destructive trends. These include the risk of an arms race and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, regional conflicts, environmental disasters, and outbreaks of infectious diseases. However, instead of joining efforts, we are witnessing the growth of national egoism, the desire to secure one-sided advantages to the detriment of others, attempts to divide the nations into the chosen and the outcast.
This is a road to nowhere. That is why our common duty is to reaffirm the principles of international relations laid down in the UN Charter; to outline steps to shape a world order based on the principle of the indivisibility of security and equal opportunities for development. The desire to ensure general detente was behind the proposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin to convene a meeting of the heads of state of UN Security Council permanent members.
Russian-American relations have a considerable untapped potential. Despite the overwhelming Russophobia in the United States, we are engaged in dialogue in many spheres. And with the general support of the governments of the two countries, it could be possible to initiate the stabilization of relations between our countries.
We are talking about an upward trend in trade, economic and investment cooperation, scientific, educational and cultural exchanges, as well as direct contacts between individual regions and cities of Russia and the United States. California, by the way, is a good example here. Thanks to the Fort Ross Dialogue platform, in recent years the state has established and expanded its interaction with Moscow, the Republic of Tatarstan, Vologda, Novgorod, Pskov, Tyumen and other regions. It would be great if every American state could find a Russian partner and start implementing joint projects. The Embassy is ready to assist in this.
Despite the challenging year, comprehensive support for the Fort Ross Museum-Reserve continues. With the participation of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society and the California state administration, the preparations have begun for the restoration of the Holy Trinity Chapel of 1824, the first Orthodox facility in the American West. The task is to return the belfry. I hope that in 2021 we will gather in a historic park on the Pacific coast and hear the bells ringing, just like 200 years ago.
In conclusion, I would like to express special thanks to the organizers of today's event - the Fort Ross Conservancy and personally Ms. Sarah Sweedler. Her contribution to the protection and promotion of our common heritage cannot be overestimated. Recognition of this is the Order of Friendship she received directly from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.
Today I am honored to mark the contribution of another Californian to support of Fort Ross and to the efforts to normalize US-Russian relations. We are talking about Mr. Jerry Brown, the former Governor of California who will now appear on your screens.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov has taken a decision to award to you, Mr. Governor, the medal "For Assistance in Strengthening peace." I would be glad to personally present this medal, but due to the pandemic I have to do it online. Today we will send the award to your address. Now I am pleased to give you the floor and wish the forum participants a productive work.