The aim of the Club – to provide the diplomatic corps in Moscow with high quality independent expertise on different aspects of Russian foreign, domestic policy and economics. I have the honor to introduce the speaker - the Chairman of the Ambassadorial Club Mr. Mikhail Mrgelov.
First, I’d like to thank organizers of the Ambassadorial Club for a chance, this unique possibility which they provide organizing such events for the Russian political elite to get a better understanding of diplomatic representatives from the countries, from which we have represents, and the representatives of diplomatic corps will have a chance to acquaint themselves better with Russian political establishment.
Translating from French “la president” in English it would be better to say that I’m ‘chairman’ rather than president. And I like English variant more.
What regards the meeting with ambassadors we have met before, we have been working together in the Federation Council. We are trying to associate also with a diplomatic corps. Recently we convene Arab ambassadors following the member of the Committee of International Affairs Ramazan Abdulatipov. So we decided to introduce the system to invite ambassador to each of the hearings of our Committee for the upper chamber of the RussianParliament. We would be aware what embassies are planning to do and at the same time the ambassadors could speak to the Committee of International Affairs of Federation Council and be in the know with the latestevents. At the same time you have a chance to speak in a Committee and to hear and to be in the know andto write a good telegram.
The practice of inviting foreign ambassadors is a regular practice and we would make it a principle, to introduce a standard to a course of events. Since autumn we would be happy to welcome ambassadors on the hearings of the Committee twice a month. I hope that our colleagues in the State Duma will follow our example and would be inviting you for meetings on the regular basis.
The organizers suggested that I should discourse on the relations between Russia and European Union. I’d like to preempt by saying that I’m skeptically assessing the quality of the interaction cooperation between Russia and the EU at present stage. First, it lacks dynamics. The story of Kaliningrad is very indicative. For two bureaucracies – in Brusselsand in Moscow – wasted ten years for nothing instead of trying to resolve the issue on the technical level. So they brought the situation to the point of having it to be brought up to the international and political level. Unfortunately it’s bad both for Russia and EU. And indirectly it’s bad for international relations because it led to some sort of cooling between the European countries and Russia. And I blame both Brussels and Moscow bureaucracy for that.
Recently in the newspaper «Moscow Times» I spoke about the possible interaction between the EU and Russia and provoked Mr. Write to generate quite nervous reaction on the pages of the same newspaper. And to my mind this reaction is very indicative. Latest summit between Russia and EU was positive, but we make a very slow progress. In my view it’s too slow. A terminology of spaces, economic space, cultural space, security space, which has been cultivated by European Union we have to adopt and it looks very attractive. And in reality at the same time we can see a lot of problems. They are connected with Kaliningrad transit, visa problems, problems related to the accession to WTO and problems with antidumping procedures. So there are a lot of them.
Fortunately, we managed to agree about transformation of the Council Russia-EU into a Permanent Council on partnership which would be sitting on the ministerial level and act more speedily. But correct me if I’m wrong, that the next meeting will not occur any sooner than October-November and now it’s only the beginning of June.
So again there are a lot of problems to cut through. So the agenda is re-continue holding empty talks. So there was no need for Mr. Write to get offended. We are happy with interaction with European Union and we’d like this cooperation to be more dynamic and full with essence, with substance, with logic and would like to see it more structured and more streamlined than the way it’s organized presently.
The second point. Recently, especially if you read the media, both Russian and international media, so some of the observers point out that we, Russia, compete with Europe. If you used the terminology of Mr. Ramsfeld, we are competing with “old Europe” and “new Europe” for the friendship of the United States. This is the wrong approach. Because first historically we are in different class, in different weight categories. Economic ties between new and old world are such that there is no competition, could be no competition at all. We should not send these wrong signals to the new world and to the old world. And for the cooperation there is no need for fuss.
The third point I’d like to draw attention to. In my view the refuse of Great Britain to move over to euro in the nearest future is extremely indicative event. The public polls in the countries which want to become members of EU demonstrate high geographic dynamism of European Union. But from the economic viewpoint nevertheless European Union because of the mechanical expansion does not become any stronger. And it’s not evident in whose hands the government of Great Britain played when it decidedto delay the accession to the euro zone – in favor of Mr. Blair, in favor of his reputation in his country or in favor of the American economy, in favor of the dollar. At least we can say that both things coincided here.
And the last point. The upcoming reforms of the EU like first of all the adoption of new constitution in my view would not lighten, but complicate our relationships with Brussels. It turns out that decisions in Brussels will be made in even more difficult way than now. The tuning of the new mechanisms will take time. We are very much concerned with the problem of inertia, and I just repeat the idea with which I started. But it does not mean that we should enfeeble our efforts. Vice versa we should step up our efforts. And if we have no enough expert capabilities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of economic development we need to use services of business with their consultants, because we need to fight for the interests of our companies.
As far as the Constitution itself is concerned in the middle of May I had a talk with Giscard D'Estin. We agreed with him on the point that he would visit Moscow within next six months. He would talk to the representatives of two chambers of the Russian parliament. I send him an official invitation. I think that the discussion of the European Constitution must be held with the participation of the Russianlegislation. Because the more involvement ofRussia there will be now in the legislative construction of the European Union the easier it would be for us to interact once all these norms will take hold, will take route.
Ferenz Kontra, Ambassador of Hungary
I am Hungarian ambassador. So you mentioned visa problems. I’d like to know if your Committee ever considered how Russian visas are issued in the Russian embassies. Because inour view – ambassadors of the EU countries and the candidates – there is a lot of problems. The difficulties are so great and it is impossible to make any progress in our work in Russia.
I agree with you. In our Committee and in the Committee on constitutional legislation we are monitoring the law-application practices of the law on the status of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation. And we have created a good working relations with many consuls of foreign states here in Moscow. And we are very clearly aware of the problems that foreign citizens face when they get for Russian visas abroad and we are very well aware of those serious problems that our Russian citizens face getting visas from foreign embassies in Moscow. As far as the work in Moscow I should say that the work of many embassies has improved drastically in the recent years. I had a talk with Bulgarian ambassador and he told about the simplification of the procedures of issuing visas and so on. We worked a lot with James Warlick,the General Consul of the United States. Unfortunately, I should express sorrow regarding the work of the French embassy in Moscow.
And certainly there are problems in our embassies as well. We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs very seriously and we put very serious requirements to this Ministry. We are trying to make progress in this area. Our relations with Ministry of Foreign Affairs are friendly, but at the same time relations are very pragmatic and demanding. Naturally in the new parliamentary year which starts this fall we will discuss the visa subject. And now we are preparing a draft of the law of the RF on the honorary counsellors of the RF abroad. And during the preparation of this law we are very carefully studying the work of Russian consulates abroad.
Discussing of the draft of this law will be followed with the discussion of the practical work of the Russian consulates abroad. And we would be very thankful to you for any considerations and proposals concerning this subject. I should say that we are working very closely together with my colleagues, parliamentary members, when we make amendments concerning legislation on any country. And they in there turn provide us withthe amendments concerning our legislation. So with the Senate of the United States we just prepared a report “American legislation and Russian interests” and now we are expecting the same report generated by our American colleagues about Russia. So we should talk not only on the basic questions, but application of the law, and procedure of getting visa is undoubtedly the case of the application of the law. We are open for cooperation.
Ilian Vasilev, Ambassador of Bulgaria
Mr. Margelov it was very interesting to hear your analysis. But it’s very negative in its nature when you gave the list of the problems. And the question in this relation is the following – is there any positive agenda? For example, Euro. Is anything good, positive? We can feel that for Russia Euro, beside many other things, is a psychological barrier. Because the faith in dollar is so deeply rooted in Russia. And certainly the economic considerations are very important here, but I think it is logical, that government moves over to the 20 percent stake in its hard currency reserves. That is why I don’t think that you should paint everything with the black brush and foresee so pessimistic future to Euro only because its history is not so long. Because our country believes in Euro.
And the second point concerns WTO. Of course WTO is not the part of the agenda of Russia and European Union relations. It is more a global issue. I just like you to identify positive points in this relations and the movements in this area.
Concerning the positive agenda. In reality actually the thing that we are moving towards each other is the best positive move in this situation. Why I have spoken about the negative points in my presentation? Because I think that you can get more clear view from me, and I can be more honest, more open, if I tell you about the negative points. Because if you get the same information from my colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they will never give such clearly cut and streamlined vectors like I do. Because they answer the verbal note with the verbal note, personal note with the personal one, and here we can tell the truth. I gave you the plain truth. I’m sorry – that’s the work of parliamentary members.
And as for the positive aspects. I repeat that the moving towards each other is the major positive. Relations between NATO and Russia which I can not remove from the context of the Russian-European and Russian-American relations – is another positive thing. Everything what we are doing in the area of the strengthening of security – is another positive development. On Friday I had a talk with the head of the Committee for counteraction of drugs trafficking – Victor Cherkesov – and we spoke about the interaction with the United States and EU. And here is the huge area for our joint activity.
Euro is naturally very interesting to us. And certainly every old lady in Russia knows Tom Jefferson because of the tradition to picture his image on the dollar. Traditions are very strong. But Euro for many Russians especially the cash Euro is creating some uncomfortable things. For example to those who travel abroad. Their travelexpenses are calculated in dollars and paid in dollars and that is why those who stay in hotels in Europe loose their money when they convert dollars into Euro. This moving towards keeping money and the saving accounts in Euro. First people did not trust Euro. This is true. After the rise of the Euro people face with a question – what to do, to buy Euro or to buy dollar? There was an internal barrier which people could not overcome. And certainly the decision of the diversification of our hard currency reserves and the decision to keep some part of money in Euro is a good decision. We should move towards Euro. And the task send by the President in his address to the Federal Assembly about the necessity of achieving the convertibility of the ruble is another positive and another reason for getting us together.
As for WTO. It’s not a political issue it’s an economic issue. We are considering joining the WTO as an economic task. And we should not get ahead of ourselves and none is going to get some exclusive special conditions once we had accession to the WTO. This is clearly an economic issue.
Another positive agenda. It is not only the task of Russia and European Union to develop this positive agenda. But after presidents of Russia and the United States exchanged instruments of ratification on agreement about Nonproliferation of Strategic Potentials (NSP)
Another positive agenda I should say it’s not only the task of Russia and European Union to develop this new agenda. In fact, after the President of the United States and Russia exchanged the ratification documents of the Strategic nuclear potentials, the previous era of the relations between Russia and the world was closed. We stopped counting each others nuclear warheads. The old agenda exhausted. To elaborate a new agenda is the task for bilateral relations between all our countries, for Russia and the EU. I will be open and will tell, that we have moved over to very practical interaction with our American colleagues in the development of new agenda. President spoke in St-Petersburg on the revitalization of the contacts between the administrations of the United States and Russia. And in our relations with European Union we need to move over to energetic dynamic consultations on the agenda that we have.
Concerning Euro there exists an economic axiom. National currency cannot be stronger than national economy. According to our estimations the basic macro economical indicators of America are better than German or French.
Rauf Saad – Ambassador of Egypt
Knowing Mr. Margelovand his eloquence I think he was rather straightforward, sometimes abrupt. But nevertheless if you allow me I want to make a comment rather than a question. May be you can hear another comment in my comment. If we bypass all the strategic or tactics of what Mr. Margelov had portrayed, on my point of view, I come to the conclusion that reflects a problem in Russia that the lack of final definition of the strategic priorities. And this is in accordance to several factors. One – Russia is still in the transition from the Soviet Union as a superpower to the Russia as a big power. Second is that still to be achieved is economic might of Russia in order to compensate if you want and to be present at the international arena and the way that would guarantee the interests. Third is the multiplicity of the decision making process in Russia if you want the lack of consistency or the lack of coordination that decision making process is taking place on so many levels and you are not sure whether this multiple process would effect the final decision or not. So the structure is still being in the process including the legislative bodies on the Russian Federation. I believe that the relations between Russia and the outside world will depend very much, first, on the economic might and, second, on its relationships both with the Europe and the United States, as well as the CIS and the rest of the world.
But I just give you one of the example of the kind of confusion that Russia might have. If you compare in St-Petersburg the meeting between the Europe and the United States you’ll find that you should expect that the meeting with the United States was more effective. Why? Because you were tet-a-tet, face to face. And it’s rather closed in a way. And then you can have a kind of real discussing of the problems that they might have. As for the European Unionit was more of a ceremonial in a way. You would see that the relations between each meeting Russia is keeping an eye on the other one. So it’s the kind confusion. This confusion has been amplifiedon 9/11 and in Iraq. We are facing the situation, the whole world and Russia in particular. That situation were a great imbalance in the international system altogether. And that reflects the kind of confusion of the priorities. My expectation is that Russia like many other countries in Europe will continue to work for quite some time to come on ad hoc basis to see how things work and then they change priorities or they adjust priorities. May be in a matter of short period Russia would change its opinion regarding the EU dramatically. It depends on how a new constitution would become. May be they find that relations with Europe are much easier. May be the United States – more complicated or less complicated.
If you don’t mind I would like to comment your comment. I was talking about the tactics with a purpose. I think in this audience I must concentrate on tactics for here we have people who are involved in practical policy and that’s why we need to talk about tactics with you because you are the men of action.
As far as the absence of strategic priorities is concerned – it is true. Really we are in the transition period. And if we look at the Russian foreign policy we realize that before president Putin it was to some extent too emotional – friend Bill, friend Helmut. And it was not free of the reminiscence of the Soviet Union. So we made mistakes in our relations with the CIS countries, did not get rid of the paternalistic attitude tapping them on the shoulder.
In the last two-three years our foreign policy has made a great progress: it became more predictable and more pragmatic and more logical in its content. But still it is policy which obviously suffers from the absence of not the strategy but absence of the articulated strategy. The strategy is quite understandable – to create at the distant and close approaches to Russia a positive or neutral environment which would allow us to concentrate on the solution of the internal problems. All our foreign policy aims are inside the country.
As for the absence of this strategy put on the paper – I can agree. We need to rewrite foreign policy strategy and national security strategy as the documents. No question, we have to do it.
As for the political decision making process in our country, Mr. Ambassador delicately put it as multiplicity. It’s still the Byzantine process. We know it very well. But it becomes more and more clear, transparent and more clear for you.Which happened over the past three years.
And one more point concerning the Russian-European and Russian-American meetings in St-Petersburg. You know, once we realized that it’s easier for us to make arrangements with Americans, than with the EU. Giving all discussions and debates on Iraq, firstly, President Bush ordered to lift the freezing of financing of chemical disarmament. Secondly, The US President has got the right to take decision on financing of chemical disarmament for the next year. These are concrete things, small and concrete. But everything is built of the small concrete things. What I said was not negative, but concern regarding the deficit of positive. And the lack of positive achievements is also routed from small concrete things.
Girshner – Austria
Following the EU enlargement Ukraine, Moldavia and Belorussia are going to be new neighbors of the expanded European Union. And my question is what is your perception of the possible roles of these three countries in the future of Russian-European relations. Thank you so much.
For two years I spent my holidays in your country. It’s very beautiful land and I could not see anything more beautiful than those excellent lakes and mountains in your country.
When it comes to Ukraine, Moldavia and Belorussia first of all let me tell you that my advice is never take to your arms the Ukrainian air-defense system. But seriously speaking when it comes to these three countries they play separate independent roles. Just like Russia they are building their relations with the European Union separately. They are going to pursue their own agendas when building relationships with the European Union. Ukraine is pursuing its own program to develop its relations with the European Union. Indeed we have two Councils – Russia-NATO Council and Ukraine-NATO Council. Belorussia may be in the more difficult situation because it was alienated but now it is slowly coming back to the OSCE. Some steps were taken in order to improve relations with a Council of Europe. Speaking about Moldavia one point in time this country had been mostly welcomed in all of the European policy and security structures. But when Voronin came to power in Moldavia they all became much more cautious. Each country presents its own agenda, its own role, its own way.
Russia undoubtedly supports integration of these countries into European structures. Because we are all Europeans, we destine to be with Europe. But all countries gonna have their own “road map”. Russia will have its own “road map”.
If I get the real message of your question we are not going to stand in the way of those countries approaching Europe, achieving rapprochement with Europe.
But on the other hand we would not like to see those countries being regarded as some kind of buffer nations or buffer states from large and terrible Russia. Russia is large but not terrible.
If you have no questions let me thank our Chairman for a very compelling presentation. Thank you so much for your coming here.
Well. In our Foundation we have had a very interesting development. Professor Baranovsky at the last session of the Academy of Science was elected a correspondent-member of the RAS. And I’d like to present to you a member of our board – Vjacheslav Kostikov – ambassador of the Russian Federation.
Dear colleagues, we have raised a topic ofrelationships and balance between strategic and practical tasks in our relations, Russian relations with the European Union, European countries. This is very compelling topic to you who have been involved in practical diplomatic policy questions. By the way this is very interesting and compelling too to experts and analysts because we are tackling the question of policies. The materials that have been distributed over here we have also shared with you some kind of our visions of some of the points. So if you might get interested in our perception, if you have some questions you are welcome to approach our Foundation, to approach any of the people sitting here at the head table.
Right now we’ve had to tell you these words you see when it comes to the match of these strategic and tactical tasks we have had in our hand a very interesting but not clear enough situation when it comes to the way things are after the Iraqi war. So we have a huge topic being debated now by our experts, by our strategists, by our analysts. This is the topic related to Russia’s relations with Europe and with the United States after the Iraqi war. Our main speaker touched this topic. He has formulated a very important to my opinion thesis by saying that Russiacan not, shall not and does not want to make a strategic choice between Europe and USA. However some of our politicians now again are making an attempt to make Russiato do this kind of choice.
There exist a point of view, according to which Russia has to build strategic relations with the United States, because Europe has proved its disability. Europe is too complicated a mechanism which cannot produce concrete political actions. But Americans, even if we might not like what Americans do, but we might precede from the fact that Americans are resourceful enough to do practical things. I do notfully share this point of view, but it is a prominent line of thinking in our political community. More, because according to it, strategic challenges for Russia and for the United States coincide on many points. Americans and Russians similarly understand the danger coming from the radicalization of Islam. Americans and Russians do understand that we sometimes have to use force and preemptive force even if it does not correspond to the norms of political correctness.
As for the Europeans, they base on the multi century civilization, there strategies are based on the notion of political correctness and international law. And when it comes to the application of force or especially preemptive force this idea has been positively backed up by many of Russian analysts. By the way I draw your attention to a very interesting collision – many Russian analysts are very critical of new American strategic doctrine about the preemptive use of force. But on the other hand you see when it comes to our thinking there is always a motivation that Russia should also use a preemptive force whenever Russia would be confronted by some kind of very serious danger.
So this is one school of thinking. There is another one. We are looking to Europe because Europe does have the resources to prevent the emergence of unipolar world. So explicitly Russia regards Europe as strategic partner. Russia does not want to have unipolar world just like many Europeans. So in this respect we are not supporting the United States as Americans have not been always performing well proceeding from the international law, principal guidelines and tenets. We do not like the idea that Americans should be the nation that should know better when and where apply military force. So the policy lines which appeared during Iraqi crisis, especially when it comes to France, Germany and Russia responding to the American policy in Iraq have to be the strategic line of Russian foreign policy. These debates are rather serious. So I know that there are many people that have controversial opinion on this, they have some disagreements on this point. Unfortunately we have not come up to the consensus to cannot give the consolidated response to these questions. The question raised by the Egyptian ambassador is reflecting this kind of things.
But it’s very important for us here to pay attention to the fact that what we have a trend, an increasing trend of Russia being more and more responsible. To be really careful while tackling security question, not to try to get illusory advantages from tackling really complicated issues, including objective complex problems in the relations between Europe and the United States.Russia objectively is not interested in aggravation of trans-Atlantic controversies. We are not objectively interested in the erosion of the Western structures. This concerns the European Union and this concerns NATO. Some of you might see that my reason is somewhat paradoxical but overall when it comes to Russia’s interests we are interested in keeping violability and even strengtheningof the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. This structure allows to organize if not the whole international system, then at least part of it. This structure resists the chaos and disarray of international life. In this sense cooperation between Russia and NATO should be regarded as one of the positive recent changes, achievements.
And my last comment. I want to draw attention to the fact that some of Russian analysts believe that NATO is ready to develop relations with Russia, because NATO has been loosing its relevance, its utility, because it has been marginalized. Because NATO was not in position to respond to most important problems of international life, most important challenges, as we have seen inAfghanistan and Iraq. And now they try to reach Russia in order to develop friendship with NATO, so that Russia builds its policy on this direction, which has lost its primary importance.
This interpretation allows for negative estimation of our Western partners policy. Well, develop Russia-NATO relationships because NATO allegedly is a secondary security structure which is no longer occupying a central position like it was in the past.
Let me remind you the thesis I have formulated before and draw your attention to the fact that we objectively are interested in having this security structure capability maintained, NATO viable, also as a Russian partner.
I believe, that the objective interest of Russia, the European Union and the United States, even if Americans are not aware of it, is to strengthen the elements of international political system organization and to improve international cooperation as an alternative to disorganizationand chaos.
Thank you so much.
Thank you dear colleagues. Following the remarks of professor Baranovsky I would like to say that the most important thing on which all of the Russian politicians agree, no mater how or what kind of differences they have, is that the Iraqi crisis demonstrated that the time for harsh steps and moves in our practical policy has gone. We are not going any more to turn our planes back over Atlantic. Our leaders are not going to conduct orchestras in the capitals of the friendly states.
And the most important conclusion we draw from the whole Iraqi situation is, that the days when we were making friends against somebody are gone forever. We are outside of that puberty period of policies. The world has changed and Russia will never again make friends against some other nation.
Thank you so much.
I would like to make some comments on WTO. My position is that apparently we are not yet prepared to fully accept acquis communautaire. Butfrom economic point of view for Russia it is very important to approve the institutions that are operating under the WTO structures. You know, here in Russia we have had quite a debate. Some representatives of Russian private sector insist on some kind of autarchy here in Russia to be preserved for the sake of their business their products on the semi-closed market. They lobbied the delay of this process. But to my mind European bureaucracy has helped them a great deal. Because their firm position on gas rates means, that in Europe they likely fear competition on the part of Russian producers in the energy-consuming branches. Russian producers could compete in, say, production of metals, fertilizers, due to our objective advantages, cheaper gas rates. Thusour paradoxical joint efforts led to the situation which we today have in what concerns WTO.