President Medvedev: toward better relations with America and Europe

A number of measures aimed at stabilizing the global financial system were proposed to the international community by President Dmitri Medvedev at a summit in Washington on November 15. President Medvedev also attended a Russia-EU summit in Nice.

A number of measures aimed at stabilizing the global financial system were proposed to the international community by President Dmitri Medvedev at a summit in Washington on November 15. Medvedev also made several important statements concerning domestic politics in Russia.

Medvedev arrived at the G20 summit directly from the Russia-EU summit in Nice.

Addressing representatives of the world’s leading nations, Medvedev emphasized that the financial system’s old rules are incapable of regulating the global economy. Medvedev said: “This is a 21st-century global crisis. In my view, it indicates that a number of principles in the post-WWII economic world order are no longer useful. We see that many of the international structures and systems (including security systems) created at that time have become inadequate, so we need new ideas no less powerful than the ideas of several decades ago. We shall have to rebuild the entire international financial architecture, making it open and fair, effective and legitimate.” Medvedev also proposed establishing a commission of international experts to coordinate the efforts of G20 nations in the process of regulating the consequences of the crisis.

At a meeting with members of the Council on Foreign Relations, Medvedev revealed some details of the G20 summit discussion. The moderator for the CFR meeting was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“Why have you decided to extend the presidential term in office?” Albright asked.

“That’s normal for an incumbent administration – trying to enhance your capabilities,” replied Medvedev jokingly, adding: “But I was guided by other considerations.” He went on to explain his motives: “Overall, our Constitution is a good one – it’s modern and contains the relevant selection of rights and liberties. This is a Constitution for a presidential republic, and Russia can only exist as a presidential republic. Russia is too large and too complex for any other path, with its many regions and many faiths. But this doesn’t mean that the Constitution is perfect, and the point of these changes is to establish stability for a certain transition period. I think that over the next thirty, forty, or fifty years Russia will need a stable political system: a strong parliament and a strong president. Thirty or forty years from now, we might be able to revert to terms of a different length – but that won’t be my problem.”

In response to a question about Russian-American relations, Medvedev said: “A crisis of trust has arisen of late. Russian-American relations lack that essential trust. That is precisely why we attach our hopes to the arrival of a new administration. We can make some strategic changes to the context of Russian-American relations.”

On the issue of security, Medvedev promised: “We shall not be the first to take action in response to the missile defenses in Europe. We shall act within a framework of response steps, and only if the plan is implemented in a form that is unacceptable to us. Having a global missile defense system would be better than having missile defense fragments that only serve to irritate.”

When asked about the possibility of Russia joining NATO, Medvedev said that the moment when NATO could have invited Russia to participate was missed; but this doesn’t mean that Russia doesn’t want to establish dialogue with NATO. Medvedev also described his vision of a new institution. Russia would like to have an arena where it could discuss a broad range of issues. Medvedev remarked that the OSCE “isn’t entirely suitable for that, and it hasn’t been working effectively of late. It would be preferable to have an organization that includes not only all the nations of Europe, but also NATO, the European Union, the CIS, and the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. And if we can establish that kind of forum, it could be positive. If we had had such an organization, we might have avoided the problems that arose in August in South Ossetia.”

In his Washington statements, Medvedev made every effort to emphasize that the world’s young economies should be included on an equal basis in decision-making on stabilizing the global financial system and establishing a new financial architecture. He made it clear that Russia has some very definite ambitions: not only to intervene in this process, but to play a substantial role in it. In his G20 summit speech, Medvedev proposed bringing national currencies and international regulation mechanisms into order, making corporations more transparent, tightening oversight requirements, and establishing a rapid reporting system and global anti-crisis decision-making system. Medvedev’s initiatives were included in the Washington’s summit final communique, along with other proposals.

The previous day, November 14, President Medvedev attended the Russia-EU summit in Nice; he discussed some of the abovementioned proposals with European leaders there. French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that Medvedev’s points effectively coincide with the proposals of EU leaders. “It’s good to know that we think alike,” he said.

Then again, the global financial crisis wasn’t the key topic at the summit. European leaders were more concerned about Medvedev’s intention to deploy Iskander anti-missile systems in Kaliningrad to counter US missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic – that is, if the US Administration goes ahead with these plans in the immediate future. Sarkozy said: “We should do all we can to avoid missile deployment until security foundations are laid in Europe and a comprehensive European security treaty is signed. Medvedev has said that he will make every effort to ensure this.” Sarkozy proposed that broad discussion of European security issues should be continued at the next OSCE summit, set to take place in summer of 2009.

Medvedev said that it might be a good idea to invite not only the USA (already part of the OSCE), but also NATO – so as to agree on some rules for a comprehensive treaty on European security, taking Russia’s proposals into account. He explained that his stated intentions regarding missiles were only a reaction to the US decision to deploy missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. “We should all refrain from taking steps that influence security,” Medvedev warned.

Another important outcome of the summit was the decision to resume talks on a new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). The PCA negotiation process stalled almost as soon as it started, after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia following Georgia’s military operation against South Ossetia. Sarkozy said: “We did not agree with Russia’s decision to do that. But it was a reaction to the situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone. However, I believe that the differences should not interfere with the negotiation process.”

Sarkozy said that Europe will do all that is necessary on its part to ensure that a new PCA is signed. He said he would be prepared to show support for Russia in its efforts to join the World Trade Organization.