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Official website of the President of Russia

Transcripts   /

Speech at International Conference The Modern State and Global Security

September 14, 2009, Yaroslavl

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, delegates,

I want to welcome you all to Yaroslavl, a city whose history goes back 1,000 years. The city’s founder, Yaroslav the Wise, is known for having issued Russkaya Pravda – our country’s first code of laws that formed the legal foundation for Russian statehood’s development over many long years. Prince Yaroslav was a good lawgiver who sought to embody in his policies legal methods and truths fitted to the circumstances, objectives and understanding of those far off times.

Yaroslavl’s coat of arms portrays Russia’s best-known animal – the bear – a creature that symbolizes both strength and prudence. I think that both of these qualities can be useful today in helping us to build a fair, balanced and stable world order and giving millions of people a decent life.

The social and economic systems and conditions in which we live are highly complex and are becoming more so with every year. The same applies to political and legal theory. More and more often we find ourselves having to mobilise our greatest intellectual strength to agree political programmes and make operational decisions. Politics is essentially becoming an increasingly complex and science-intensive matter. There is no place here for all that is unreasonable, for the dangerous illusions of nationalism or the archaic prejudices of class struggle. They must give way to intelligent and rational politics and state pragmatism. Utopian projects for global supremacy, no matter what name they come under – global caliphate or well-intentioned hegemony, military adventures with noble justifications, trampling on peoples’ rights and freedoms, unlawful action of any kind – all of this should stay in the past, though I realise that it is easier to speak this than to actually do it. I am sure that the future belongs to politics that work through open discussion, investigation and comprehensive analysis of the problems before us to come up with carefully thought-through and mutually agreed methods of policy implementation. The future belongs to intelligent politics.

This is what has brought together today intellectuals, scientists, analysts, experts, practical specialists, politicians and state figures from many different countries, as well as young civil servants and municipal workers from our country – those who in the future will decide our country’s development. We have much to say to each other and much to learn from each other.

I would like to say a special thanks to the Spanish prime minister, Mr Zapatero, and the French prime minister, Mr Fillon, for taking part. Your participation gives this conference particular significance. I think there are many ways to describe the essence of what we are to discuss today. To quote my colleague Mr Zapatero, for example, he said, “We need an international order in which different voices are at once distinct but also in harmony with each other.”

The theme of this conference is The Modern State and Global Security, that is, harmony and cooperation between different cultures, communities and countries for the sake of our common security. We see more and more often how problems arising in one or several countries become global in nature, and often this happens overnight. Incompetence or simple lack of desire to address one’s own problems ends up harming not just one’s own country but a huge number of others too. Ineffective state institutions give rise to international conflicts.

We all saw last year how the careless, to put it mildly, financial policy pursued by one country’s government caused a global economic crisis that has affected practically every country represented here today. There are other examples too. Climate change is affecting our planet, and not all countries are equally to blame for this. The countries most to blame for these changes are countries who are leaders in production, and alone with this, those who are most enlightened and environmentally aware. What conclusion can we draw from this? This all indicates that this is an issue on which we need to reach agreement. 

Epidemics, technological disasters, social instability, extremism, terrorism, illegal immigration, piracy, organised crime – these are problems that arise when states, for whatever reason, fail to fulfil their functions and obligations. These problems are a threat to everyone without exception. I therefore think that countries should know as much as possible about each other and have the right to critically assess not just each other’s foreign policy but also domestic policy, and perhaps draw attention to shortcomings in this policy in cases where they could lead to problems of an international scale or where they ignore universal ethical norms and humanistic principles. 

But at the same time, it is clear that no one can simply impose the criteria, standards and rules for such evaluations. No one has the right to dictate these rules in unilateral fashion, not even the most powerful countries, the most respected countries. If we want these rules to be accepted and effective we need to draw them up together through a process of free discussion involving all the actors in international politics. The well-known Latin principle that what concerns everyone equally requires everyone’s approval is very fitting here. At the same time, the rights of nations should not be used to create isolated, non-transparent, closed-off political regimes and build all kinds of iron curtains that hide problems and, as a rule, abuses. 

What should the modern state look like? What kind of legal and organisational structure should it have? How should states go about developing themselves? How should they develop their own institutions in order to be effective, comfortable for their own citizens, and secure for their neighbours, in order to be not a source of threats to other countries, while at the same time being strong and stable and able to help their neighbours if need be? In my view (not everyone might agree with me perhaps), the modern state is above all a democratic state. I would therefore formulate this conference’s main question as follows: what standards do we need in a modern democracy in order to guarantee global security and sustainable development?

A number of Russian publications published my answer to this question just last week. I will not repeat what I wrote there, but I want to stress once more the point that modern democratic institutions should be built in such fashion as to be able to reach public development objectives without having to resort to force, use pressure and coercion, and intimidate and seek confrontation with each other. The regulation mechanisms we use should be based on tolerance, calm, the culture of dialogue, development of every individual’s creative potential, bringing individual, public and state interests closer together, and doing the same for the interests of different societies and countries. Modern political systems need to be open, flexible, and sufficiently advanced to be able to keep up with the times and the fast-changing nature of the social and cultural processes underway. They need to be able to defend state sovereignty and support the structures of civil society.

These are the most general principles, the most fundamental, but I think they should be our guidelines in developing the standards for democratic policies. Of course, accepting these standards does not mean making everything uniform and impersonal. On the contrary, mutually approved criteria and approaches to state-building will help us to preserve the great diversity of political cultures, management models and social traditions (we are all different, after all), visions of the future and democratic experience. Goethe in his time wrote that nations could not be identical in their thinking, but they should all know and understand each other.

Modern democratic standards can be discussed at all manner of forums and in all manner of formats. I hope that Yaroslavl, which is hosting this conference for the first time, will become one of these venues for discussion.

Dear friends, the global economic crisis has overturned ideas trendy at the end of the twentieth century on the declining role of states in the globalisation era. But in the end, it is not trans-national corporations or international organisations that are taking responsibility for the fate of millions of people in the world. It is governments that are carrying out anti-crisis programmes and taking market stabilisation and social protection measures, and this is what is helping the global economy to return to normal. 

The crisis has aggravated a number of social problems. Unemployment has risen practically in all the countries represented here. This has led to falling incomes and left hundreds of millions of people around the globe worse off. It has become a serious trial for young people just starting out on their road in life. It is the duty of every country affected by the crisis to take the necessary decisions.

I met just before with the French and Spanish prime ministers, and we discussed the decisions we will take in the nearest term, including at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. That we need to take these decisions is clear. This is not our right but our duty, and we must do this in order to ensure that in another two or three years our countries are not struck by a wave of upheaval even more dramatic than we face now. We therefore need to change. We need to come up with modern models for regulating our financial relations.

Governments that are unable to maintain employment, and thus their peoples’ living standards, at reasonable levels are responsible for the emergence of mass-scale illegal immigration. Illegal migrants usually head for the wealthy countries, adding to these countries’ welfare burden and putting a burden on their law enforcement organisations too. Reducing employment and illegal immigration is one the subjects discussed at today’s conference. I think we could also set up a special expert group on this issue.

The agenda includes overcoming the whole range of consequences the economic crisis has had, getting the global economy growing again, and minimising risks of sharp fluctuations in the global economic situation. As I have said on past occasions, this requires the reform of the international financial and economic institutions. What we need is real reform, not its imitation, as is proposed in some cases today. Of course, the big countries also need to carry out more responsible economic policies. I hope that everyone has realised this need now.

States must be responsible towards their citizens and towards each other. They must be effective in guaranteeing social and global security. This is what we need today. They must be committed to democratic values and progress and able to create the mechanisms for productive cooperation and peaceful resolution of disputes. These are our priorities today.

I therefore hope to see discussion continue on the proposal for the Treaty on European Security that I put forward last year. We are ready for substantive dialogue with our partners in Europe. We will continue to promote and explain our proposal. This document is not directed against anyone. On the contrary, it is a document that will help us to coordinate the wishes of all the different countries sharing the European continent.

In conclusion, I want to thank once more all of our guests from Europe, America and Asia, everyone who has found time in their busy schedules and taken this opportunity to come here to Yaroslavl. I hope that this kind of meeting will become a regular event, because I think it could help us come to understand each other better.

States all differ in their nature, but at the same time, they are all created by people. Their highest goal is to serve their people and guarantee their citizens’ right to a decent life, to justice and security. This is what is most important.

September 14, 2009, Yaroslavl