Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
Russia maintains relations with Iran, Iraq and North Korea. It is not a secret for our partners, including the United States. Our relations with these countries do not contradict in any way our international obligations, including those within the framework of antiterrorist coalition.
I know that in the United States these countries are often defined as "Axis of Evil". I used to be much involved in the Soviet propaganda machine, later I worked in an American consulting company. Therefore I understand that directly defining the enemy facilitates many goals, particularly in the sphere of public relations. However, I believe that politicians and especially lawmakers should not allow themselves to over-simplify the situation. Simplification can be a serious sin when long-term decisions are at stake. And it's about the taxpayers money too, since in the end it is the taxpayer who will finance our conclusions.
On February 14, 2003, the UN Security Council was urgently convened at a Foreign Ministers level to address the most crucial challenge- to settle the Iraq issue. It is the in UN and the Security Council framework that all states have an opportunity to seek solutions to the problems pertaining to interests of global security on the basis of equality and fairness.
The purpose of the antiterrorist partnership is to overcome the remaining consequences of the Cold War, which, to a great extent, was the source of international terrorism. An attempt to settle all the problems at once and by force can lead to a new cold war - this time with the whole world.
History shows that totalitarian regimes can transform themselves while they are being involved into the world economy. Regimes may change and their leaders may leave. Now since Russia and the United States are not strategic rivals any more we have got a unique chance to promote the establishment of a new world order with no threat to both our own future and the future of other nations. Is it worth losing this chance by starting a war with unknown consequences?
We share Washington's concerns about the risk of Iraq's remilitarization. But is an attack truly an adequate response to such a threat? Today the antiterrorist coalition relies on the consensus of the UN Security Council. We believe we should treasure this consensus. It will let us gain transparency in Iraq without threatening international stability.
Iran is an important regional parmer of Russia. This country plays significant role in Asian affairs as well as in the Muslim world. Our experience of cooperation particularly in Tajikistan and Afghanistan confirms that this country is able to take a constructive part in resolving conflict situations. We encourage more active engagement of Iran in the international affairs, with a special emphasis on such areas as counter-terrorism, drug trafficking, disarmament, nonproliferation and export control issues.
We know that there are certain concerns in the United States about our cooperation in the nuclear field. These concerns have reached such a level that our scientific institutions are permanent subjects of sanctions. However we do not believe that there is a reason for such concerns. Nuclear program of Iran is in its germinal stage and Teheran is prepared to demonstrate maximum transparency in its nuclear activities. Iran is ready to contribute to the program enhancing efficiency of the IAEA guarantees. Russia supports it in every possible way. As to military cooperation, Russia only sells defensive weapons to Iran. There is a number of unsettled controversial issues in our relations with Iran, as well as with other neighboring countries of the former USSR, particularly the division of the Caspian Sea basin. Settlement of these issues is a priority for Russia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The top priorities of Russia's foreign policy are pragmatism, economic effectiveness and addressing national issues. Thanks to this Russia today is gaining a new position in the world. In order to achieve that we had to waive the whole system of obsolete stereotypes. And although this process is not simple and not completed yet, benefits of such an approach are doubtless. After all refusal from mythology of confrontation between the two superpowers allowed to change drastically the Russian-American relations in the last one and a half years. Not hidden ambitions but principles of economic effectiveness form the basis of our relations with countries which were too hurriedly labeled as members of an "Axis of Evil". These relations do not threaten anyone's security. We would like to maintain and strengthen our positions on these markets, to secure a number of important exports items which means maintaining income sources for our state treasury- still too small to meet our country's obligations. But that is not all. We would like to make our enterprises work at full capacity including those in the defense industry which often influence strongly the well-being of the whole cities in Russia. That is the heritage of the economy of socialism which will echo for quite a long time. To obtain a clear picture of how difficult this situation is let me remind you of the US military bases in the states from where many of you were elected. I think you would agree that shutting down these bases often endangers future of thousands of families involved in their maintenance. Who of you will lightheartedly agree to drive them to unemployment and poverty?
I would like to remind you of the National Security Assistant to the President Condoleezza Rice's well known words: "The threat for the national security of the United States is not in Russia's strength, but in its weakness". I have no reason to argue with Dr. Rice in this regard. We also think likewise. Russia's weakness is not an option. That is why we are striving for a competitive economy, a strong and modem state. Only a strong one is able to actually protect its freedom. I don't think I should convince Americans of that. It means, that interests of the United States and Russia at least do not contradict each other. Constant and effective dialogue between our leaders, supported by consultations at all levels, allows us to predict and prevent the emergence of strong contradictions. That is why I am pleased to address you today. That is why we hope to hold in the near future in Moscow joint hearings on bilateral relations together with our colleagues from the US Senate. As for "discussions", they are absolutely normal thing between partners.