Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kerry Blasts Russia

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at the Atlantic Council's "Toward a Europe Whole and Free" Conference, April 29, 2014:

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This year marks a number of different milestones that are really worth remembering, obviously beginning with the fact that it is 65 years since Secretary of State Dean Acheson and his European counterparts came together to sign the North Atlantic Treaty. And it’s been 25 years, amazingly, since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And that wall, as we all know too well, symbolically and literally divided East and West and Europe.

It’s been 15 years, and 10 years, and 5 years since then that NATO has welcomed new partners into the post-Cold War era. And as we have expanded as an organization, as NATO has expanded as an organization, I think it’s safe to say we have also expanded democracy, prosperity, and stability in Europe, and we have opened new opportunities in order to be able to advance security even further, and we have spurred economic growth around the globe.

Year after year, importantly, NATO’s newest members have proven their mettle in ways that we hoped for but necessarily weren’t able to predict with certainty. And so today I can tell you that I’ve seen it firsthand. Governor Huntsman and others have had occasion to travel, and we know what has been achieved in Afghanistan, where our allies in Central and Eastern Europe have served alongside us and others with distinction – on occasion not just making a sacrifice, but asking their young soldiers to join in making the ultimate sacrifice. And that perhaps more than anything else can define an alliance.

In addition, over the decades-long history, I think NATO, without any question, has done more to promote security, more to promote prosperity, and more to promote freedom than any other alliance in human history.

But today it serves us well to remember the words of President Eisenhower, who said about NATO when he was talking to our NATO allies, he said, “We can take satisfaction from the past, but no complacency in the present.”

As we come together then to reflect on 65 years of partnership, perseverance, and protection, we also have to take a look – a hard, cold, sober look – at the clear threats that regrettably still exist – not because of some inherent continuous push over these last years, but frankly, because of a fairly, it appears, uniquely personally driven set of choices that are being made.

And after two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now calls us back to the role that this alliance was originally created to perform, and that is to defend alliance territory and advance transatlantic security.

The events in Ukraine are a wake-up call. Our European Allies have spent more than 20 years with us working to integrate Russia into the Euro-Atlantic community. It is not as if we really haven’t bent over backwards to try to set a new course in the post-Cold War era. And so we’ve pursued serious bilateral engagement. We invited Russians to join organizations like the WTO, the NATO-Russia Council. But what Russia’s actions in Ukraine tell us is that today Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules. And through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of Eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.

So we find ourselves in a defining moment for our transatlantic alliance, and nobody should mistake that. And we are prepared to do what we need to do, and to go the distance, to uphold that alliance. Our strength will come from our unity. And the strength of our alliance always has come from our unity over the course of the 65 years.

So together, we have to push back against those who want to try to change sovereign borders by force.

Together, we have to support those who simply want to try to live as we do or as others do. I remember being in Kyiv and a man came up to me near the Maidan and said to me. “You know, I just came back from Australia, and I had to come back here and I have to be part of this, and I have to work so that people here could live the way I saw people living in Australia.” In today’s era of mobile devices and smartphones, everybody is in touch with everybody all of the time. And that sense of aspiration and hope and possibility is something that fills the imaginations of young people all around the planet.

So together, we have to support those folks who want to live free, making their choices about their own future. Together, we have to continue our strong support for Ukraine. And we can do that through economic assistance and we can do it through support for free and fair elections, for constitutional reform, for anti-corruption and for demobilization efforts.

And most important, together, we have to make it absolutely clear to the Kremlin that NATO territory is inviolable. We will defend every single piece of it. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty must mean something, and our allies on the front lines need and deserve no less.

Now, obviously, there have to be consequences for those who want to put to test what has been the norm of international relations and the goal, if you will, of international behavior ever since World War II.

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Geneva with my counterparts from Russia, from the EU, and from Ukraine. We agreed on a number of steps that needed to be taken in order to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. I will tell you we had a very candid conversation, and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed with all of us that we needed to be reciprocal in the steps that we need to take; both sides needed to do things in order to move forward.

Well, I will tell you that I was that afternoon directly in touch with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and gave him the full download on those things that were legitimate expectations out of that, and he went to work immediately – immediately.

And so it was that from day one, Ukraine undertook to implement both the spirit and the substance of what was laid out in Geneva. He immediately agreed to help to vacate buildings, and he set out to do so, and they did vacate some buildings. They immediately began to remove barricades from the Maidan. Even now in the last 24 hours or so, they’ve vacated an entire building in the Maidan, because that was a specific complaint of Russia.

They proposed a specific amnesty bill in the legislature in order to follow through on the amnesty for protestors so that they could leave buildings with a sense of security about the justice system. They withheld their legitimate right to use their power of the state to remove people from buildings; instead stood back and canceled their CT operation over the course of the Easter weekend.

They actually took a trip – the prime minister himself – out to the region to indicate a willingness to listen to people in order to shape the constitutional reform, and in every respect began to open up the dialogues which even today they are pursuing throughout the region in order to discuss constitutional reform. That’s what Ukraine did starting on day one.

Meanwhile, I have to say to you, not one single step has been taken by Russia in any public way that seriously attempts to live by the spirit or the law of what was signed in that agreement. They have not announced publicly to their people that they need to come out of the buildings. They haven’t engaged with the OSCE in order to negotiate people out of the buildings. Every time you have a conversation, it’s pointing the finger at what the Ukrainians haven’t done, without even tallying up what they have done or acknowledging their own zero in the column with respect to what they have undertaken.

In fact, it’s fair to say they have escalated the crisis even further. There is strong evidence that I laid out several days ago of the degree to which Russian engagement exists directly in the east and has been building up over some period of time. Yet, what do we hear, regrettably? What we hear are the outrageous claims from certain people that the CIA somehow invented the internet in order to control the world, or that the forces occupying buildings, armed to the teeth, all wearing brand new military uniforms with the same lack of insignia, with the same faces in some cases of people who were identified as being in Crimea and in Georgia – they somehow want to assert to people that these people, moving in disciplined military formation to take over buildings and then bring the local separatists in to occupy the building while they move on to another building in an orderly, absolutely discernable, trackable fashion – they assert that these people are merely local activists seeking to exercise their legitimate rights.

As we have made clear, those kinds of claims are absurd. They defy any common sense. They defy the facts. And worse, they’re an indicator of the disingenuous dissembling, the policy of complete fiction that is being pursued in an effort to pursue their own goals and their own ends.

The Russians claim the government in Kyiv is illegitimate, but it’s a government that came to power with the vast supermajority of the Rada voting for it, including President Yanukovych’s own party, who deserted him because he deserted his country. And if your fear is illegitimacy, then you would step out of the way and encourage an election, which is set for about three and a half weeks from now, on the 25th of May, and you would encourage that election to take place in order to provide the legitimacy.

But instead, they’re doing everything in their power to undermine free and fair elections. They claim eastern Ukraine is too violent for monitors from the OSCE to be there; but when it comes to the armed, pro-Russian separatists – the ones who are actually perpetrating the violence – they do absolutely nothing to prevent them from taking those prisoners and hostages they’ve taken, in order to free them, and they allow them to be paraded in front of the press. And we see no evidence – no evidence at all – that Russia has actually pressured any of these groups in order to release any of these people or change course.

I say this with a certain element of sorrow, because of all of the effort and energy that has been expended to try to create a structure by which we would behave – all of us – differently, representing the best hopes and aspirations of all people on the face of this planet. That’s what all of our predecessors worked so hard to achieve, setting up a structure of rule of law and international law and multilateral mechanisms by which we try to resolve these kinds of differences.

So as a result, for all of these reasons, yesterday the United States announced again – President Obama announced – additional sanctions on more Russian individuals and entities. And we’ve also restricted export licenses for high-tech items that could be used to bolster Russia’s military capabilities.

Now these steps and other steps that we and our partners have taken over the past few months are already forcing Russia to pay a steep price for its efforts to create this instability. And I mean that. You just have to look at the ratings on the bonds, you look at the capital outflow, you look at the GDP numbers that are trending downwards. This is having an impact. And as long as Russia decides to continue to fan the flames rather than help to put them out, we stand ready – with our partners – to do what is necessary, not to necessarily punish somebody, but to find a way forward that restores this process we’ve worked so hard to honor through the years.

The Russians have a clear choice: Leave Ukraine in peace and work with us together to create a strong Ukraine, a Ukraine that is not a pawn, pulled and tugged at between East and West, but a Ukraine that could be a bridge to both, with the ability to have an open trading mechanism on all degrees, 360 around Ukraine. And whatever path they choose, I can guarantee this: The United States and our allies will stand together in support of Ukraine.

This crisis is a wake-up call for us to accelerate the other work that we’ve been doing to promote a stronger, more prosperous transatlantic community.

So to start, we cannot continue to allow allied defense budgets to shrink. Clearly, not all allies are going to meet the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of GDP overnight or even next year. But it’s time for allies who are below that level to make credible commitments to increase their spending on defense over the next five years. And if we’re going to move the trend line in a positive direction, this has to be an alliance-wide effort.

Two, if we want a Europe that is both whole and free, then we have to do more together immediately, with a sense of urgency, to ensure that European nations are not dependent on Russia for the majority of their energy. In this age of new energy markets, in this age of concern about global climate change and carbon overload, we ought to be able to rush to the ability to be able to make Europe less dependent. And if we do that, that will be one of the greatest single strategic differences that could be made here. We can deliver greater energy independence and help to diversify energy sources that are available to the European markets, and we can expand the energy infrastructure across Europe, and we can build up energy storage capacity throughout the continent.

Third, we have to invest in the underpinnings of our economic partnership. We are together, Europe and the United States, two of the largest markets in the world. And the fact is that we can seriously strengthen our economic ties and accelerate growth and job creation and serve as a buffer to any negative impacts of some of the steps we need to take if we move on both sides of the Atlantic rapidly to complete the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. That agreement will do more to change the way we do business and some of our strategic considerations than any other single economic step that we can take, with the sole exception of the energy independence.

So my friends, I’ll just close by saying to all of you that this moment – without reaching for any hyperbole because the moment is serious enough that it doesn’t require that – this moment is about more than just ourselves. The fact is that our entire model of global leadership is at stake. And if we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis, and that we can move closer to a Europe that is whole and prosperous, at peace, and free and strong.

That’s our goal, and we look forward to working with our fellow ministers and with each of these countries to achieve it. Thank you for letting me be with you. (Applause.)

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U.S. Department of State, April 29, 2014

Lavrov Blasts West

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, spoke to the First Forum of Young Diplomats of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] Countries on April 25, 2014, in Moscow:

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The situation in the world is not becoming easier, but, on the contrary, the process of formation of a new polycentric system of international relations is ongoing. This process is contradictory, there is a serious confrontation on the part of those who would not like to change anything in today’s world and would like to return to a unipolar world order model. All of this is causing global turbulence, growth of competition in various areas and in different manifestations.

In these uneasy conditions, the diplomacy of the Russian Federation aspires to act in a balanced way, firmly protecting our legal national interests rather than aspiring to confront anybody.

We aspire to promote a uniting, positive agenda, which envisages the resolution of any regional and global issues exclusively through collective work and actions on the basis of respect for international law, using the central coordinating role of the UN to the maximum. In doing this, we are guided by the new edition of the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, which was approved by the President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

Russian foreign policy doctrine is widely supported in the Russian community and is based on the key principles which have been forming in the last two decades and have proved their effectiveness in practice. First of all, these are autonomy, independence, pragmatism, openness, a multi-vector nature, which mean our wish to cooperate and agree on mutually beneficial projects with any country, which is ready to have relations with us on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

Our unconditional priority is still to deepen our interaction in all the points of the compass within the space of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on the basis of principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests. We have managed to reach good results lately. The processes of Eurasian integration are gaining momentum, primarily within the framework of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. As you know, the formation of a Eurasian Economic Union by the 1 January 2015 is on the agenda. We support the aspiration of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to participate in these integration processes, which already have specific outlines. Armenia’sroadmap is almost ready. I think that the question of Armenian involvement in the Eurasian Economic Union will be solved in the near future. Then we will be happy to see the same progress with the involvement of Kyrgyzstan. As you are aware, Eurasian structures are open to other partners from the CIS as well.

At the same time, we are not contraposing Eurasian and other integration processes, in particular, the integration work within the European Union. We are ready and interested in harmonising these processes. As the Russian President Vladimir Putin said, our strategic task is to prospectively create a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, where all the countries of the European Union, the future members of the Eurasian integration process and other states, which are located in this space, will co-exist and cooperate in a mutually beneficial way. Then there would be no unnecessary competition or dividing lines, which some of our western partners not only attempt to preserve, but also attempt to move closer to Russian borders. Then there will be no imposed false “with us or against us” choice.

We have said to our western partners many times that such an approach is dangerous. Unfortunately, our warnings came true in the events in Ukraine. They did not listen to us, when we appealed to conduct trilateral consultations with the participation of Russia, the European Union and Ukraine so as “not to tear away” the Ukrainian community and its economics, we appealed to them to stop seeking to make the European (Ukraine’s cooperation with its partners), Eurasian and Russian vectors into opposites, but to harmonise them. I repeat that they did not listen to us. This country is in deep crisis today. Russia will firmly contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict on the basis of the compromise approach, which was agreed in Geneva on the 17 April. I can say that there can be no unilateral requirements, but they are attempting to set them up for us. I mean the United States, which have the stunning ability to turn everything upside down.

We agreed in Geneva that the first step should be to stop any violence, to reject any extremism, to grant amnesty to protesters, to start the disarmament of illegal armed formations and to start a comprehensive inclusive constitutional process, so that all the Ukrainian regions participate in it with equal rights. Such a process would result in a text of the constitution, which would be acceptable for each and all the Ukrainian regions, on the basis of which presidential and parliamentary elections could be organised and authorities could be decentralised.

Instead of making their Kiev wards (the Americans have decisive influence on them – many people have obtained assurance about this many times) start implementing these agreements, primarily to unblock illegally occupied buildings (they have not been fully freed in Kiev, the Maidan is still there, they are starting to reinforce it, now they are piling concrete blocks up instead of car tyres, and nobody is going to break it up), to disarm the Right Sector and other radicals, the Americans say: everything done by the Ukrainian authorities is legitimate. The Maidan has received a “licence” from the government to stay where it is. Buildings, including administrative buildings, where city authorities and trade unions should work, are not being freed. Instead they tell us that Russia is obliged to free administrative buildings in Donetsk, Lugansk, Slavyansk and other cities of South-East of Ukraine. Moreover, representatives of the U.S. Department of State, in particular Victoria Nuland, state that on the 17 April in Geneva we agreed that separatists must free buildings in South-Eastern regions. These are lies. This could not have been written, because we promoted an approach, which ensures synchronism of processes and equal obligations of parties to free illegally occupied buildings and disarm all the illegal formations.

If we are talking about de-escalation, we should remember, who started the escalation. It was started by the current Kiev authorities, who carried out an armed coup d’état as opposition members, violated the agreement which they signed in the presence of the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, which obliged them to disarm, to start a constitutional reform and then organise elections. Instead of that, they overthrew the legally elected president, announced themselves as the authorities and have not done a thing to disarm the Right Sector and to free illegally occupied buildings. Now they are setting claims against Russia, that we allegedly signed something in Geneva, which legitimises the actions of the current regime (which are lies) and requires some de-escalation steps from the South-East of Ukraine.

Russia will insist on respect for the Geneva agreements. We categorically deny any attempts to distort them and impose an impression on public opinion that we allegedly agreed about what the United States are taking about right now in Geneva. This is not so. The propagandistic power of the United States is aimed at distortion of the picture of events in Ukraine, to belie the Russian Federation and kill those who protest against illegal actions by the authorities, who attempt to ban the Russian language, to call Russians and all Russian-speaking people enemies. The United States are demonstrating their ability to “unfairly shift the blame”, using all their powers to distort the events in Ukraine and accuse Russia (as the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said in his statement in an unacceptable prosecutor’s tone) that we have “switched on Putin’s propaganda bullhorn – Russia Today TV channel”. Firstly, it is not civilised to talk about mass media in such a way. Secondly, I cannot understand John Kerry, because the RT is a serious competitor for CNN, BBC and many other western mass media, which were sure some time ago that they were monopolists and no competition was a threat to them. Russia Today conquered a large audience in the United States, Great Britain and Western Europe, without mentioning Latin America, the Arab world and other regions. Russia will actively support this independent point of view, which is an alternative to what we are told by Western propaganda. I underline that demand for the RT is growing in the world, including in the western community. . . .

Question: In these days political analysts are saying a lot that some kind of an “ice age” has started in Russia’s contacts with western states, which followed the Ukrainian events. How has this affected Russia’s cooperation on the international stage?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, the reaction of the West to the Ukrainian events makes nobody happier. I mean primarily the people, who want to do business, cooperate in the humanitarian and cultural areas, and just to communicate with each other. This reaction means that our western partners have become absorbed in playing to a large extent. It was not us who created the crisis in Ukraine. How did it start? It started, when the legitimately elected president took the decision to postpone (not to cancel) the signature of the agreement with the European Union regarding the creation of a free trade zone to understand the economic consequences of this step, taking into consideration Ukraine’s obligations within the framework of the CIS free trade zone agreement, which was concluded in Vladimir Yuschenko’s time, primarily thanks to the insistence of Ukraine. In response to an absolutely normal decision taken by an absolutely legitimate president to think about it more and to weight everything up again, the maidan and protests were organised, which have immediately “saddled up” militants from the Right Sector and radicals. Atrocities were committed, when Molotov cocktails were thrown at unarmed police, people were burned to death, militants broke into buildings, including the headquarters of the Party of Regions, where they shot two non-political employees – an engineer and a care-taker. One was shot, whilst the other was taken to a cave and burned alive. Then there was a story with snipers-instigators, who killed policemen and protesters to raise a big wave of popular indignation. This crime has not been investigated yet, although there are many indications pointing to those responsible – there are facts, testimonies of witnesses, as well as the well-known record of the phone conversation between the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.

After that on the 21 February, in the presence of the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, an agreement was concluded, in which the opposition undertook certain obligations and which was terminated on the 22 February, because the opposition stated that Viktor Yanukovych had “fled”. Firstly, he went to Kharkov, a city in his own country. He had not fled anywhere. Secondly, an assassination attempt was being organised, his life was under threat. In these conditions, the opposition stated that the Agreement was not valid any more, that Ukraine had no president, it would appoint the acting head of the government itself and elect the government consisting of members of the coalition, and all this took place despite the first point of agreement of the 21 February saying that a national unity government should be created, a constitution should be prepared and only then elections should follow.

The first action of the new government was the announcement that the law about the status of regional languages, including Russian, would be cancelled. Members of the Svoboda faction in the Verkhovna Rada started to say that Russian and Russian-speaking people are Ukraine’s enemies, that they should be shot and killed, that they are not people, but “beings”. In response to this, as well as the attempts by militants from the Right Sector to break into Crimea, and then into the South-East of Ukraine, some regions became outraged: the Crimeans started to defend their interests and organised a referendum, which was acknowledged by the Russian Federation, the South-East requested federalisation and decentralisation of authorisations. The current authorities announced that this is terrorism and immediately after the visit of the CIA’s Director, John O. Brennan, to Kiev they announced a counter-terrorism operation having ordered the army to fight their own people. Then the US Vice President, Joseph Biden, visited Ukraine. The so-called Easter peace, which was announced last weekend, was interrupted, and the counter-terrorism operation – a punitive action, which has already led to many victims – was renewed. About 160 tanks, 250 infantry combat vehicles, other heavy machinery and aviation are fighting their own people. This is a bloody crime, and I am convinced that those who pushed the army to do this, will answer for it and will be judged.
When our western partners observe this, knowing well what is happening, despite their mass media reports, without batting an eyelid day after day they request the Russian Federation to stop interfering in Ukraine’s affairs, pull out its troops, remove some agents, who were allegedly caught in the South-East of Ukraine, where they commanded this process. Two weeks ago I already told the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that if the Ukrainian agencies had captured Russian agents, they should be shown to people, shown on TV. They replied that they do not want to put the lives of the people who captured them, under threat. I was shown some photos, which were prepared using Photoshop or some other graphic software, which show a building and some camouflaged people. At the same time, they say that only Russian special units can have such uniforms and arms. Why? Where was this photographed? How was it put together? This is not serious talk.

If we speak seriously, they address slogans at us. If you think that when John Kerry, William Hague or Laurent Fabius call me, they use other words and say something that you do not know from their public speeches, you are wrong. They use the same slogans when they talk to me: “Sergey, you must pull out your troops, remove your agents, nobody in the world believes that there are no Russians in the South-East and this is not your doing”. It is hard for me to respond to this. I am attempting to switch the talk in a constructive direction.

We are attempting to convince our partners, if the Kiev authorities really start the implementation of the Geneva agreement, remove the shameful maidan, unblock illegally occupied buildings, disarm the Right Sector and other radicals, then, as it has been announced on Russian TV, which is broadcasting in the South-East, many times, the leaders of this region will also be ready to take the same steps according to the Geneva agreement: they will free administrative buildings and disarm, if militants who terrorise them do the same. According to this document, the first step should be to stop violence. In today’s conditions this means putting an immediate stop to the use of the army against its own people. I think that this is outrageous. And there is no need to prove anything to anybody.

If we return to specific topics, which I attempt to raise in my contacts with John Kerry, I will mention one example. Pavel Gubarev is a man who was chosen as a “popular governor” in the square in Donetsk by the demonstrators, who were outraged that the new authorities sent them another unacceptable oligarch. He did not participate in the occupation of administrative buildings, he has never carried weapons, he has just made a speech at the meeting and said that according to the will of the people he was ready to work in favour of reforms and would speak in favour of the referendum on federalisation of Ukraine. This is all. He was arrested, and his wife was put on the wanted list. He is a political detainee. I mentioned this particular example at the negotiations in Geneva, because the adopted statement contained a phrase that all the participants of protests should be granted amnesty. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, under the influence of a Ukrainian delegate, proposed to grant amnesty to everybody when they leave buildings and lay down weapons. I updated my statement by saying that Pavel Gubarev has never broken into any buildings, he has never carried any weapons, and he was a purely political detainee. Finally, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, agreed with me, and said that they “should take care of this guy”. We have had several phone conversations since then, today we will have another one. Each time I ask him whether he “has taken care of this guy”. He cannot answer anything intelligible. Yesterday we received information that Pavel Gubarev is seriously ill, he was beaten and tortured. We requested the OSCE mission working there to get immediate access to him, and we addressed the same request to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The OSCE and the ICRC told us that this request would be immediately put into action. We are waiting for news today. If these organisations do not get access to him today, it means that the Ukrainian authorities are really hiding him and they have something to hide.

Probably I answered your question in a more emotional and far reaching way than you put it. It seems to me that it is time for our western partners to recognise a simple truth that they do not have a monopoly on the truth. It is impossible to hide the truth today. The attempts to do this never result in anything good. It is very hard to create a picture of the events as the West wishes to present them. But the West wishes to capture Ukraine guided exclusively by their geopolitical ambitions rather than the interests of the Ukrainian people. When you push yourself into such a situation, of course, you get irritated that nothing comes of it or results are different to what you wanted. Then you need to do something not to lose your face before your voters. All of this turns into efforts at sanctions. When leaders of the parliament are announced as having been banned, I believe that these are “democratic atrocities”, which we do not need.

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Russian Foreign Ministry, April 25, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gorbachev in 1988: The Limits of Power

Mikhail Gorbachev's December 7, 1988, address to the United Nations General Assembly prefigured the revolutions in Eastern Europe that brought the Soviet empire (though not yet the Soviet Union) to an end in 1989. Excerpts from the speech were published in the New York Times, with translation provided by the Soviet Mission at the UN.

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We have come here to show our respect for the United Nations, which increasingly has been manifesting its ability to act as a unique international center in the service of peace and security.

The world in which we live today is radically different from what it was at the beginning or even in the middle of this century. And it continues to change as do all its components.

The advent of nuclear weapons was just another tragic reminder of the fundamental nature of that change. A material symbol and expression of absolute military power, nuclear weapons at the same time revealed the absolute limits of that power.

The problem of mankind's survival and self-preservation came to the fore.
It is obvious, for instance, that the use or threat of force no longer can or must be an instrument of foreign policy. This applies above all to nuclear arms, but that is not the only thing that matters. All of us, and primarily the stronger of us, must exercise self-restraint and totally rule out any outward-oriented use of force.

That is the first and the most important component of a nonviolent world as an ideal which we proclaimed together with India in the Delhi Declaration and which we invite you to follow.

The new phase also requires de-ideologizing relations among states. We are not abandoning our convictions, our philosophy or traditions, nor do we urge anyone to abandon theirs.

But neither do we have any intention to be hemmed in by our values. That would result in intellectual impoverishment, for it would mean rejecting a powerful source of development - the exchange of everything original that each nation has independently created.

In the course of such exchange, let everyone show the advantages of their social system, way of life or values - and not just by words or propaganda, but by real deeds.

That would be a fair rivalry of ideologies. But it should not be extended to relations among states. Romantic? No, Realistic

We are, of course, far from claiming to be in possession of the ultimate truth. But, on the basis of a thorough analysis of the past and newly emerging realities, we have concluded that it is on those lines that we should jointly seek the way leading to the supremacy of the universal human idea over the endless multitude of centrifugal forces, the way to preserve the vitality of this civilization, possibly the only one in the entire universe.

Could this view be a little too romantic? Are we not overestimating the potential and the maturity of the world's social consciousness? We have heard such doubts and such questions both in our country and from some of our Western partners.

I am convinced that we are not floating above reality.

We regard prospects for the near and more distant future quite optimistically.

Just look at the changes in our relations with the United States. Little by little, mutual understanding has started to develop and elements of trust have emerged, without which it is very hard to make headway in politics.

In Europe, these elements are even more numerous. The Helsinki process is a great process. New Vigor at the U.N.

I am convinced that our time and the realities of today's world call for internationalizing dialogue and the negotiating process.

This is the main, the most general conclusion that we have come to in studying global trends that have been gaining momentum in recent years, and in participating in world politics.

In this specific historical situation we face the question of a new role for the United Nations.
We feel that states must to some extent review their attitude to the United Nations, this unique instrument without which world politics would be inconceivable today.

The recent reinvigoration of its peacemaking role has again demonstrated the United Nations' ability to assist its members in coping with the daunting challenges of our time and working to humanize their relations.

External debt is one of the gravest problems. Let us not forget that in the age of colonialism the developing world, at the cost of countless losses and sacrifices, financed the prosperity of a large portion of the world community. The time has come to make up for the losses that accompanied its historic and tragic contribution to global material progress.

We are convinced that here, too, internationalizing our approach shows a way out.

Looking at things realistically, one has to admit that the accumulated debt cannot be repaid or recovered on the original terms. The Burden of World Debt

The Soviet Union is prepared to institute a lengthy moratorium of up to 100 years on debt servicing by the least developed countries, and in quite a few cases to write off the debt altogether.

As regards other developing countries, we invite you to consider the following:

* Limiting their official debt servicing payments depending on the economic performance of each of them or granting them a long pariod of deferral in the repayment of a major portion of their debt;

* Supporting the appeal of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development for reducing debts owed to commercial banks;

* Guaranteeing government support for market arrangements to assist in Third World debt settlement, including the formation of a specialized international agency that would repurchase debts at a discount.

The Soviet Union favours a substantive discussion of ways to settle the debt crisis at multilateral forums, including consultations under the auspices of the United Nations among heads of government of debtor and creditor countries.

International economic security is inconceivable unless related not only to disarmament but also to the elimination of the threat to the world's environment. In a number of regions, the state of the environment is simply frightening.

Let us also think about setting up within the framework of the United Nations a center for emergency environmental assistance. Its function would be promptly to send international groups of experts to areas with badly deteriorating environment.

The Soviet Union is also ready to cooperate in establishing an international space laboratory or manned orbital station designed exclusively for monitoring the state of the environment.

In the general area of space exploration, the outlines of a future space industry are becoming increasingly clear.

The position of the Soviet Union is well known: activities in outer space must rule out the appearance of weapons there. Here again, there has to be a legal base. The groundwork for it - the provisions of the 1967 treaty and other agreements - is already in place.

We have put forward our proposal to establish it on more than one occasion. We are prepared to incorporate within its system our Krasnoyarsk radar station. A decision has already been taken to place that radar under the authority of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.

Soviet scientists are prepared to receive their foreign colleagues and discuss with them ways of converting it into an international center for peaceful cooperation by dismantling and refitting certain units and structures, and to provide additional equipment.

The entire system could function under the auspices of the United Nations.

The whole world welcomes the efforts of this organization and its Secretary General, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, and his representatives in untying knots of regional problems. Allow me to elaborate on this. Paraphrasing the words of the English poet that Hemingway took as an epigraph to his famous novel,

I will say this: The bell of every regional conflict tolls for all of us.

This is particularly true, since those conflicts are taking place in the Third World, which already faces many ills and problems of such magnitude that is has to be a matter of concern to us all.

The year 1988 has brought a glimmer of hope in this area of our common concerns as well. This has been felt in almost all regional crises. On some of them, there has been movement. We welcome it and we did what we could to contribute to it.

I will single out only Afghanistan. Ending the Afghan War

The Geneva accords, whose fundamental and practical significance has been praised throughout the world, provided a possibility for completing the process of settlement even before the end of this year. That did not happen.

This unfortunate fact reminds us again of the political, legal and moral significance of the Roman maxim ''pacta sunt servanda'' -treaties must be observed.

I don't want to use this rostrum for recriminations against anyone.

But it is our view that, within the competence of the United Nations, the General Assembly Resolution adopted last November could be supplemented by some specific measures.

In the words of that resolution, for the urgent achievement of a comprehensive solution by the Afghans themselves of the question of a broad-based government the following should be undertaken:

* A complete cease-fire effective everywhere as of Jan. 1, 1989, and the cessation of all offensive operations or shellings, with the opposing Afghan groups retaining, for the duration of negotiations, all territories under their control;

* Linked to that, stopping as of the same date any supplies of arms to all belligerents;

* For the period of establishing a broad-based government, as provided in the General Assembly resolution, sending to Kabul and other strategic centres of the country a contingent of United Nations peacekeeping forces;

* We also request the secretary general to facilitate early implementation of the idea of holding an international conference on the neutrality and demilitarization of Afghanistan.

We shall continue most actively to assist in healing the wounds of the war and are prepared to cooperate in this endeavor both with the United Nations and on a bilateral basis.

We support the proposal to create under the auspices of the United Nations a voluntary international Peace Corps to assist in the revival of Afghanistan. 

In the context of the problem of settling regional conflicts, I have to express my opinion on the serious incident that has recently affected the work of this session. The chairman of an organization which has observer status at the United Nations was not allowed by U.S. authorities to come to New York to address the General Assembly. I am referring to Yasir Arafat.

What is more, this happened at a time when the Palestine Liberation Organization has made a constructive step which facilitates the search for a solution to the Middle East problem with the involvement of the United Nations Security Council.

This happened at a time when a positive trend has become apparent toward a political settlement of other regional conflicts, in many cases with the assistance of the Soviet Union and the United States. We voice our deep regret over the incident and our solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

I would like to join the voice of my country in the expressions of high appreciation of the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted 40 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1948.

Today, this document retains its significance. It, too, reflects the universal nature of the goals and objectives of the United Nations.

The most fitting way for a state to observe this anniversary of the declaration is to improve its domestic conditions for respectlng and protecting the rights of its own citizens.

Before I inform you on what specifically we have undertaken recently in this respect I would like to say the following.

Our country is going through a period of truly revolutionary uplifting.

The process of perestroika is gaining momentum. We began with the formulation of the theoretical concept of perestroika. We had to evaluate the nature and the magnitude of problems, to understand the lessons of the past and express that in the form of political conclusions and programmes. This was done.

Theoretical work, a reassessment of what is happening, the finalization, enrichment and readjustment of political positions have not been completed. They are continuing.

But it was essential to begin with an overall concept, which, as now confirmed by the experience of these past years, has generally proved to be correct and which has no alternative.

For our society to participate in efforts to implement the plans of perestroika, it had to be democratized in practice. Under the sign of democratization, perestroika has now spread to politics, the economy, intellectual life and ideology. Economic Changes at Home

We have initiated a radical economic reform. We have gained experience. At the start of next year the entire national economy will be redirected to new forms and methods of operation. This also means profoundly reorganizing relations of production and releasing the tremendous potential inherent in socialist property.

Undertaking such bold revolutionary transformations, we realized that there would be mistakes, and also opposition, that new approaches would generate new problems. We also foresaw the possibility of slowdowns in some areas.

But the guarantee that the overall process of perestroika will steadily move forward and gain strength lies in a profound democratic reform of the entire system of power and administration.

With the recent decisions by the Supreme Soviet on amendments to the Constitution and the adoption of the Law on Elections, we have completed the first stage of the process of political reform.

Without pausing, we have begun the second stage of this process with the main task of improving the relationship between the center and the republics, harmonizing interethnic relations on the principles of Leninist internationalism that we inherited from the Great Revolution, and at the same time reorganizing the local system of Soviet power.

A great deal of work lies ahead. Major tasks will have to be dealt with concurrently.

We are full of confidence. We have a theory and a policy, and also the vanguard force of perestroika - the party, which also is restructuring itself in accordance with new tasks and fundamental changes in society as a whole.

What is most important is that all our peoples and all generations of citizens of our great country support perestroika. Building by Rebuilding

We have become deeply involved in building a socialist state based on the rule of law. Work on a series of new laws has been completed or is nearing completion.

Many of them will enter into force as early as in 1989, and we expect them to meet the highest standards from the standpoint of ensuring the rights of the individual.

Soviet democracy will be placed on a solid normative base. I am referring, in particular, to laws on the freedom of conscience, glasnost, public associations and organizations, and many others.

In places of confinement there are no persons convicted for their political or religious beliefs.
Additional guarantees are to be included in the new draft laws that rule out any form of persecution on those grounds.

Naturally this does not apply to those who committed actual criminal offenses or state crimes such as espionage, sabotage, terrorism, etc., whatever their political or ideological beliefs.

Draft amendments to the penal code have been prepared and are awaiting their turn. Among the articles being revised are those related to capital punishment.

The problem of exit from and entry to our country, including the question of leaving it for family reunification, is being dealt with in a humane spirit. Helsinki and the Hague

As you know, one of the reasons for refusal to leave is a person's knowledge of secrets. Strictly warranted time limitations on the secrecy rule will now be applied. Every person seeking employment at certain agencies or enterprises will be informed of this rule. In case of disputes, there is a right of appeal under the law.

This removes from the agenda the problem of the so-called ''refuseniks.''

We intend to expand the Soviet Union's participation in the United Nations and Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe human rights monitoring arrangements. We believe that the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at the Hague as regards the interpretation and implementation of agreements on human rights should be binding on all states.

We regard as part of the Helsinki process the cessation of jamming of all foreign radio broadcasts beamed at the Soviet Union.

Overall, this is our credo. Political problems must be solved only by political means; human problems, only in a humane way. Reductions in Armed Forces

Now let me turn to the main issue - disarmament, without which none of the problems of the coming century can be solved.

Today, I can report to you that the Soviet Union has taken a decision to reduce its armed forces.
Within the next two years their numerical strength will be reduced by 500,000 men. The numbers of conventional armaments will also be substantially reduced. This will be done unilaterally, without relation to the talks on the mandate of the Vienna meeting.

By agreement with our Warsaw Treaty allies, we have decided to withdraw by 1991 six tank divisions from East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and to disband them.

Assault landing troops and several other formations and units, including assault crossing units with their weapons and combat equipment, will also be withdrawn from the groups of Soviet forces stationed in those countries.

Soviet forces stationed in those countries will be reduced by 50,000 men and their armaments, by 5,000 tanks.

All Soviet divisions remaining, for the time being, in the territory of our allies are being reorganized. Their structure will be different from what it is now; after a major cutback of their tanks it will become clearly defensive.

At the same time, we shall reduce the numerical strength of the armed forces and the numbers of armaments stationed in the European part of the Soviet Union.

In total, Soviet armed forces in this part of our country and in the territories of our European allies will be reduced by 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery systems and 800 combat aircraft.

Over these two years we intend to reduce significantly our armed forces in the Asian part of our country, too. By agreement with the government of the Mongolian People's Republic a major portion of Soviet troops temporarily stationed there will return home.

In taking this fundamental decision the Soviet leadership expresses the will of the people, who have undertaken a profound renewal of their entire socialist society. The Economy of Disarmament

We shall maintain our country's defense capability at a level of reasonable and reliable sufficiency so that no one might be tempted to encroach on the security of the Soviet Union and our allies.

By this action, and by all our activities in favor of demilitarizing international relations, we wish to draw the attention of the international community to yet another pressing problem - the problem of transition from the economy of armaments to an economy of disarmament.

Is conversion of military production a realistic idea? I have already had occasion to speak about this. We think that, indeed, it is realistic.

For its part, the Soviet Union is prepared to do these things:

* In the framework of our economic reform we are ready to draw up and make public our internal plan of conversion;

* In the course of 1989 to draw up, as an experiment, conversion plans for two or three defense plants;

* To make public our experience in providing employment for specialists from military industry and in using its equipment, buildings and structures in civilian production.

It is desirable that all states, in the first place major military powers, should submit to the United Nations their national conversion plans.

It would also be useful to set up a group of scientists to undertake a thorough analysis of the problem of conversion as a whole and as applied to individual countries and regions and report to the secretary-general of the United Nations, and, subsequently, to have this matter considered at a session of the General Assembly. Future Relations With U.S.

And finally, since I am here on American soil, and also for other obvious reasons, I have to turn to the subject of our relations with this great country. I had a chance to appreciate the full measure of its hospitality during my memorable visit to Washington exactly a year ago.

The relations between the Soviet Union and the United States of America have a history of five and a half decades. As the world changed, so did the nature, role and place of those relations in world politics.

For too long a time they developed along the lines of confrontation and sometimes animosity - either overt or covert.

But in the last few years the entire world could breath a sigh of relief thanks to the changes for the better in the substance and the atmosphere of the relationship between Moscow and Washington.

No one intends to underestimate the seriousness of our differences and the toughness of outstanding problems. We have, however, already graduated from the primary school of learning to understand each other and seek solutions in both our own and common interests. Eliminating Nuclear Arms

The Soviet Union and the United States have built the largest nuclear and missile arsenals. But it is those two countries that, having become specifically aware of their responsibility, were the first to conclude a treaty on the reduction and physical elimination of a portion of their armaments which posed a threat to both of them and to all others.

Both countries possess the greatest and the most sophisticated military secrets. But it is those two countries that have laid a basis for and are further developing a system of mutual verification both of the elimination of armaments and of the reduction and prohibition of their production.

It is those two countries that are accumulating the experience for future bilateral and multilateral agreements.

We value this. We acknowledge and appreciate the contribution made by President Ronald Reagan and by the members of his administration, particularly Mr. George Shultz.

All this is our joint investment in a venture of historic importance. We must not lose this investment, or leave it idle.

The next U.S. administration, headed by President-elect George Bush, will find in us a partner who is ready - without long pauses or backtracking - to continue the dialogue in a spirit of realism, openness and good will, with a willingness to achieve concrete results working on the agenda which covers the main issues of Soviet-U.S. relations and world politics.
I have in mind, above all, these things:

* Consistent movement toward a treaty on 50 percent reductions in strategic offensive arms while preserving the ABM treaty;

* Working out a convention on the elimination of chemical weapons - here, as we see it, prerequisites exist to make 1989 a decisive year;

* And negotiations on the reduction of conventional arms and armed forces in Europe.

I also have in mind economic, environmental and humanistic problems in their broadest sense.

I would like to believe that our hopes will be matched by our joint effort to put an end to an era of wars, confrontation and regional conflicts, to aggressions against nature, to the terror of hunger and poverty as well as to political terrorism.

This is our common goal and we can only reach it together.

Thank you.

What Iran Wants

Iranian Foreign Minister  Mohammad Javad Zarif contributed this essay to the May/June 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs: "What Iran Really Wants: Iranian Foreign Policy in the Rouhani Era."

 * * *

Foreign policy is a critical component in the lives, conduct, and governance of all nation-states. But it has become even more significant in recent years as interstate relations have grown ever more complex. The inexorable rise in the number of international players -- including multilateral organizations, nonstate actors, and even individuals -- has further complicated policymaking.

Meanwhile, the ongoing process of globalization -- however conceived and defined, whether lauded or despised -- has brought its inescapable weight to bear on the foreign policies of all states, whether large or small, developed or developing.

Since its establishment by a popular revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has grappled with these challenges. The postrevolutionary foreign policy of Iran has been based on a number of cherished ideals and objectives embedded in the country’s constitution. These include the preservation of Iran’s independence, territorial integrity, and national security and the achievement of long-term, sustainable national development. Beyond its borders, Iran seeks to enhance its regional and global stature; to promote its ideals, including Islamic democracy; to expand its bilateral and multilateral relations, particularly with neighboring Muslim-majority countries and nonaligned states; to reduce tensions and manage disagreements with other states; to foster peace and security at both the regional and the international levels through positive engagement; and to promote international understanding through dialogue and cultural interaction.


Since the end of the Cold War and the demise of the bipolar world in the early 1990s, the global order has undergone a major structural transformation. But a firm new order has not yet emerged. As was the case during other transitions in the past, the fluid, complex, and uncertain state of international affairs today is extremely perilous and challenging. Previous transitions were usually complicated by military rivalries and even outright war among the dominant powers of the time. Today’s rivalries are similarly quite intense. However, due to a number of factors -- the substantially changed global environment, changes in the nature of power, and the diversity and multiplicity of state and nonstate actors -- competition these days mostly takes a nonmilitary form.
The concept of power itself, traditionally measured in terms of military might, has changed substantially. New forms of influence -- economic, technological, and cultural -- have emerged. Concurrently, changes at the conceptual level have brought the cultural, normative, and ideational components of power to the fore, making power more accessible to a larger pool of actors. Moreover, the gradual rise of multilateralism in the wake of World War II has elevated the importance of international norms and consensus.

Despite such substantial changes in the architecture of the world order, remnants and beneficiaries of the old order have tried to salvage the wreckage of the past. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the emergence in the United States of apocalyptic theories declaring “the end of history” or a “clash of civilizations” represented a hasty reaction to the enemy vacuum created by the end of the Cold War and to the rising status of Muslims on the global stage. Through a series of subsequent Islamophobic campaigns -- sometimes promoted as official state policy and perpetuated systematically in various forms and guises -- some in the West tried to depict the Islamic community as a new ideological enemy on a global scale.

But rather than experiencing a divergence, the world is now moving toward a state of mutual interdependence. Contrary to the situation in the past, the pursuit of go-it-alone policies by former hegemons or current powers has led to a state of impasse and paralysis. Today, most nation-states, regardless of their size, power, influence, or other attributes, have come to realize that isolationism, whether voluntary or imposed, is neither a virtue nor an advantage. Collective action and cooperation have become the hallmarks of the era.

Multilateralism, the collective search for common solutions to common problems, has proved its desirability and practical efficacy at both the regional and the global levels. Even major world powers have learned the hard way that they can no longer pursue their interests or achieve their particular goals unilaterally. The gradual yet growing trend of coalition-making, at the regional and global levels, both for short-term purposes and for more enduring enterprises, bears witness to the inescapability of collective action. Willful cooperation has gradually developed as a new working pattern of interaction among states; it has come to replace the once predominant and now discredited pattern of confrontation, unconditional subservience, and perpetual rivalry.

As an inevitable consequence of globalization and the ensuing rise of collective action and cooperative approaches, the idea of seeking or imposing zero-sum games has lost its luster. Still, some actors cling to their old habits and habitually pursue their own interests at the expense of others. The insistence of some major powers on playing zero-sum games with win-lose outcomes has usually led to lose-lose outcomes for all the players involved.

The much-challenged position of the United States in the world today, notwithstanding its preponderance of military power, is a glaring case in point. The actual situation in various parts of the world where the United States is directly involved, most notably in the greater Middle East and in Iran’s immediate neighborhood, points to Washington’s reluctant but unmistakable turn to the path of coalition building with other global powers and even regional actors. China, India, and Russia are engaged in intense competition, primarily with the Western bloc, in a concerted effort to secure more prominent global roles. However, major powers and emerging powers alike are now loath to use military means to resolve rivalries, differences, or even disputes.

This has led to the gradual rise of a revisionist approach to foreign policy. Nation-states, regardless of their current position and power, now seek to enhance their stature and achieve their goals through a carefully balanced combination of cooperation and competition. The deadly rivalries of the past, a function of brute force and hard power, have gradually given way to cultural, normative, and ideational forms of competition. The uncertainty produced by the current transition in global norms and behavior also has a downside. If states miscalculate their own power or misperceive the capabilities and intentions of others, it could prove extremely costly to all involved. The intrinsic riskiness of this state of affairs calls for governments to rely on more objective analysis and to make careful assessments of their own positions and capabilities as well as of the intentions and possible conduct of others.

All states can take advantage of this transitional stage to advance their positions and further their interests. Governments must make realistic calculations about their own relative advantages and vulnerabilities and, most important, articulate clear sets of objectives and plans. Over the past few decades, especially since the end of the Cold War, states that have pursued clearly articulated foreign policies have been the most successful in advancing their regional and global positions; those that have lacked an understanding of the global environment and pursued policies based on miscalculations and misjudgments have either lost their previous positions or become marginalized.


As a solid regional power in this era of intense transition in global politics, Iran stands in a unique position. Given its large landmass and unique geographic position along the east–west transit route, Iran, since antiquity, has enjoyed a preeminent position in its region and beyond. Although Iran’s civilization and cultural heritage have remained intact, its political and economic fortunes have fluctuated periodically, depending on, among other things, its governance at home and its relations with the outside world. The victory of the 1979 revolution, a popular, nationwide, antimonarchical uprising with a mixture of republican and Islamic traits, contributed to the establishment of a new revolutionary order in the country. The repercussions were drastic, and the revolution deeply affected the country’s foreign relations, not only in its immediate neighborhood but also throughout the greater Middle East and in the rest of the world.

Any objective analysis of Iran’s unique attributes within the larger context of its tumultuous region would reveal the country’s significant potential for a prominent regional and global role. The Islamic Republic can actively contribute to the restoration of regional peace, security, and stability and play a catalytic role during this current transitional stage in international relations. In light of the increasing importance of normative and ideational factors in global politics, the Islamic Republic is well suited to draw on the rich millennial heritage of Iranian society and culture and the significant heritage of the Islamic Revolution, particularly its indigenously derived and sustained participatory model of governance. Iran can use such strengths to help realize the deeply cherished national aspirations of the Iranian people, including the achievement of long-term development and regional ascendance commensurate with the country’s inherent capacities and stature.

Iran also benefits from a number of historical characteristics that could be considered unique sources of opportunity, many of which have not been properly or fully leveraged in the past. For example, Iran has remained independent from outside powers and practiced genuine nonalignment, lending it a particular freedom of action within the existing global order. Iran can also leverage its political traditions. It has successfully established an indigenous democratic model of governance, developing and maintaining a rare religious democracy in the modern world. It has an unmatched cultural identity emanating from its dynamic blend of Iranian and Islamic culture, which it can use to promote its mission and message throughout the entire Islamic world. As an ancient society with a plurality of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities, Iran also offers a model for political inclusion. And the country has achieved all of this at the center of a vital geostrategic region that has witnessed a long history of major-power rivalries, interventions of all sorts, and protracted military conflicts. Finally, Iran has also demonstrated its potent ideational capabilities and universal reach through such initiatives as President Muhammad Khatami’s “Dialogue Among Civilizations” and President Hassan Rouhani’s recent proposal for a “world against violence and extremism,” which was adopted as a resolution by the UN General Assembly last December.

Governance in the modern world is challenging for every state, regardless of its size, demographics, form of government, geographic position, level of development, or relations with the world. Iran has been an organized state since antiquity, albeit with some periods of interruption. It has thus had extensive relations throughout history, in war and in peace, with its numerous neighbors and with other contending powers. It has accumulated a rich, layered collective memory and a deep reservoir of experiences. Iran borders seven countries and shares access to either the Caspian Sea or the Persian Gulf with 11 countries; both bodies of water are of interest to the littoral states as well as to a host of outside powers. Thus, Iran inevitably has a full plate to deal with when it comes to its national security and foreign relations.

Iran also finds itself in a fundamentally crisis-ridden region. The decades-long occupation of Palestine and the ongoing conflict there has taken a destructive toll on the well-being and development of the entire Middle East. The chronic turmoil, instability, and violence in the region have grown worse in recent years due to a series of protracted external military interventions, most notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since early 2011, political upheavals in the Arab world and their generally bloody aftermaths -- dubbed by some during their initial stages as “the Arab Spring” and by others as “the Islamic Awakening” -- have introduced another destabilizing factor to the region. The trend appears likely to continue for quite some time, even though the direction of the process remains extremely uncertain.

Given this overall regional picture and the dynamics at work between local and external players -- most prominently the United States -- Iran today has to grapple with a number of major challenges in its external relations. Needless to say, the long shadow of the decades-old and still ongoing tussle between Iran and the United States, which has been much exacerbated as a result of the nuclear imbroglio, has further complicated the state of relations between Iran and a host of its neighbors. Meanwhile, there has been a recent surge in the activities of extremist and violent nonstate actors in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, with a clear and unmistakable anti-Iran, anti-Shiite platform. A well-orchestrated campaign has promoted Islamophobia, Iranophobia, and Shiite-phobia and depicted Iran as a threat to regional peace and security; extended support to anti-Iran claimants in the region; tarnished Iran’s global image and undermined its stature; armed Iran’s regional rivals; actively supported anti-Iran forces, including the Taliban and other extremist groups; and fomented disagreements between Iran and its neighbors.


It was within this international context that Rouhani won a decisive victory in the heavily contested Iranian presidential election in June 2013. He won 51 percent of all the votes cast in the first round against five conservative rivals. His political platform of prudent moderation and hope represented a significant turning point in Iranian politics. The fact that voter turnout reached 73 percent suggests that the public had moved past the lingering divisions of the June 2009 election.

Rouhani’s pragmatic positions on foreign and domestic issues proved reassuring to the Iranian electorate. Rouhani distinguished his campaign from the murky platforms of his rivals in several key respects: his clear analysis of Iran’s current situation, his lucid and unambiguous articulation of the major challenges facing society and the state, and his honest and straightforward approach to problems and possible solutions. In this way, Rouhani managed to mobilize the disenchanted segments of the population to take an active interest in the final days of the campaign and to participate in the national vote.

Rouhani’s foreign policy platform was based on a principled, sober, and wise critique of the conduct of foreign relations during the preceding eight years under the previous administration. Rouhani promised to remedy the unacceptable state of affairs through a major overhaul of the country’s foreign policy. The changes he proposed demonstrated a realistic understanding of the contemporary international order, the current external challenges facing the Islamic Republic, and what it will take to restore Iran’s relations with the world to a state of normalcy. Rouhani also called for a discourse of “prudent moderation.” This vision aims to move Iran away from confrontation and toward dialogue, constructive interaction, and understanding, all with an eye to safeguarding national security, elevating the stature of Iran, and achieving long-term comprehensive development.

Prudent moderation is an approach based on realism, self­-confidence, realistic idealism, and constructive engagement. Realism requires an understanding of the nature, structure, mechanisms, and power dynamics of the international system and of the potential and limits of its institutions. 
Rouhani’s moderation brings together a profound conviction in the cherished ideals of the Islamic Revolution with an objective evaluation of Iran’s actual capacities, capabilities, and constraints. It demands a deliberate aversion to actions that are insulting, condescending, or self-aggrandizing. It promotes self-confidence based on an understanding of Iran’s material and moral resources, including the collective wisdom of its citizenry. It values accountability, transparency, and honesty in dealing with the populace and implies a willingness to reform and improve existing policies. Rouhani’s approach entails a delicate balancing act: between national, regional, and global needs, on the one hand, and the available means, instruments, and policies, on the other; between persistence and flexibility in foreign policy; between goals and means; and among various instruments of power in a dynamically changing world. Finally, Rouhani’s commitment to constructive engagement requires dialogue and interaction with other nations on an equal footing, with mutual respect, and in the service of shared interests. It requires that all participants make serious efforts to reduce tensions, build confidence, and achieve détente.


Guided by this conceptual framework, the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic under the current administration will be based on achieving understanding and consensus at the national level and constructive engagement and effective cooperation with the outside world. Iran’s policies will be guided by the principles of dignity, rationality, and prudence. This overall strategy aims to safeguard and strengthen Iran’s national security, diffuse or eliminate external threats, combat Islamophobia and Iranophobia, elevate the country’s stature, and achieve comprehensive development.

With the Ministry of Foreign Affairs serving as the central organ for planning and executing Iran’s foreign policy, in close coordination with other government bodies, the Islamic Republic will pursue several key goals moving forward. First, Iran will expand and deepen its bilateral and multilateral relations through meaningful engagement with a wide range of states and organizations, including international economic institutions. Multilateralism will play a central role in Iran’s external relations.

That will involve active contributions to global norm-setting and assertive participation in coalitions of like-minded states to promote peace and stability. A second priority will be to defend the individual and collective rights of Iranian nationals everywhere and to promote Iranian-Islamic culture, the Persian language, Islamic values, and Islamic democracy as a form of governance. Third, Iran will continue to support the cause of oppressed people across the world, especially in Palestine, and will continue its principled rejection of Zionist encroachments in the Muslim world.

Given the pressing challenges that it faces today, Iran will also focus on a number of more urgent aims. The top priority is to diffuse and ultimately defeat the international anti-Iranian campaign, spearheaded by Israel and its American benefactors, who seek to “securitize” Iran -- that is, to delegitimize the Islamic Republic by portraying it as a threat to the global order. The main vehicle for this campaign is the “crisis” over Iran’s peaceful nuclear program -- a crisis that, in Iran’s view, is wholly manufactured and therefore reversible. That is why Rouhani wasted no time in breaking the impasse and engaging in negotiations with the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) to find common ground and reach an agreement that will ensure nonproliferation, preserve Iran’s scientific accomplishments, honor Iran’s inalienable national rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and end the unjust sanctions that have been imposed by outside powers.

Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security. Iran does not have the means to engage in nuclear deterrence -- directly or through proxies -- against its adversaries. Furthermore, the Iranian government believes that even a perception that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to the country’s security and to its regional role, since attempts by Iran to gain strategic superiority in the Persian Gulf would inevitably provoke responses that would diminish Iran’s conventional military advantage.

Therefore, the ongoing negotiations over the nuclear issue face no insurmountable barriers. The only requirements are political will and good faith for the negotiators to “get to yes” and achieve the objective established by the Joint Plan of Action adopted in Geneva last November, which states, “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” The unexpectedly fast pace of progress in the negotiations so far augurs well for a speedy resolution of this unnecessary crisis and for the opening up of new diplomatic horizons.

Iran will also endeavor to diffuse external threats by resolving outstanding issues with the rest of the world, in particular with its immediate neighbors. Confidence building and cooperation will be the cornerstones of Iran’s regional policy. That is why last year, Iran proposed the creation of a security and cooperation arrangement in the Persian Gulf area. As a responsible regional power, Iran will actively participate in combating and containing extremism and violence through bilateral, regional, and multilateral cooperation with countries in the region and beyond.

Moreover, Iran will prudently manage its relations with the United States by containing existing disagreements and preventing further tensions from emerging unnecessarily, thereby gradually easing tensions. Iran will also engage with European countries and other Western states with the goal of reinvigorating and further expanding relations. This normalization process must be based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual interest, and it must address issues of legitimate concern to both sides. Iran will also expand and consolidate its amicable ties with other major powers, such as China, India, and Russia. As the chair of the Non-Aligned Movement until 2015, Iran will reach out to emerging powers of the “global South” and will try to responsibly mobilize their enormous potential for contributing to global peace and prosperity.

The Iranian people, with their massive turnout in last year’s presidential election and their decisive choice of assertive engagement, have provided a unique window of opportunity for the new Iranian government and for the world to chart a different and much more promising course in our bilateral and multilateral relations. The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to vigorously honor its citizens’ choice, which will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on world affairs.

For this endeavor to succeed, it is imperative for other states to accept the reality of Iran’s prominent role in the Middle East and beyond and to recognize and respect Iran’s legitimate national rights, interests, and security concerns. It is equally important for other states to scrupulously observe the sensitivities of the Iranian nation, particularly regarding its national dignity, independence, and achievements. Westerners, especially Americans, need to modify their understandings of Iran and the Middle East and develop a better grasp of the region’s realities, avoiding the analytic and practical mistakes of the past. Courage and leadership are required to seize this historic opportunity, which might not come again. The opportunity must not be lost.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mexico at UN: On Middle East & Disarmament

The following is drawn from the position paper that Mexico presented to the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, which opened on September 17, 2013. The paper addresses a wide range of issues; our selections focus on its position on the Middle East and questions of disarmament:

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Peace in the Middle East is still an unresolved issue on the global agenda and it needs the utmost attention of the UN and the international community. Mexico supports a comprehensive peace that addresses the many intricacies and conflicts that affect this complex region through the use of dialogue and negotiation with full respect for international law and the human rights of all of its inhabitants.

Regarding the situation in Palestine, Mexico will continue to promote the two-State solution, Israel and a Palestinian State, both politically and economically viable, which exist side by side within secure and internationally-recognized borders, in accordance with the UN resolutions. In this regard, Mexico stresses that international law and international humanitarian law rules must be observed at all time and under any circumstance by all parties in the conflict.
Mexico has condemned the continued expansion of the Israeli settlements, as well as the demolition of Palestinian homes and the evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as acts contrary to international law that undermine the chance of  peace and affect the viability of a Palestinian State. Our country urges the parties to resume direct negotiations.

Elsewhere, regarding the delicate situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, Mexico strongly condemns the violence against the civilian population and strongly deplores the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance and by any actor. It constitutes a violation of international law and international humanitarian law, and, as such, a war crime. Mexico has emphasized the importance and urgency it is for the international community to get involved and put a stop to the violence and suffering experienced by the Syrian people during the conflict, which has lasted for two and a half years. It has reiterated that the search for a solution in Syria must conform to the principles and provisions of the UN Charter, especially those regarding the right to the use of force. Mexico supports the recent diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis, particularly the framework agreement between the United States and Russia on the elimination of chemical weapons.
Mexico is convinced that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria. Therefore, Mexico favors a peaceful political solution and fully agrees with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the need to convene an international convention in Geneva, as soon as possible, with representatives from both the Syrian government and the opposition groups, to follow up on the process begun in June 2012.

Mexico is convinced that the Security Council is the only body enabled to legally authorize the use of force in conformity with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
The prohibition of the use of force and the peaceful settlement of disputes are the core Constitutional principles that guide our foreign policy, and we must act accordingly. Mexico believes that any use of force without prior authorization from the United Nations is outside of the principles and purposes of the UN and must be avoided. . . .

On UN Security Council Reform
Mexico will continue to support the comprehensive reform of the UNSC and will continue to participate actively and constructively in intergovernmental negotiations on this issue within the General Assembly. Mexico will continue encouraging a substantive discussion based on the compromise proposal for reform of the Council that bridges the various positions and has the broadest possible agreement of the Member States.

This proposal is based only on expanding the non-permanent membership to achieve an equitable geographic representation and a reform of the UNSC’s working methods to make them more transparent, effective, and efficient. Mexico opposes increasing the number of permanent members of the Council; this would not make the UNSC more democratic, transparent or accountable.
On Disarmament and International Security

In view of the catastrophic consequences in the aftermath of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the first resolution adopted by the UNGA was on nuclear disarmament. Since there are already prohibitions against biological and chemical weapons, Mexico gives the highest priority to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
It is estimated that there are currently 17,270 nuclear weapons still in existence around the world, of which about 4,400 are on high alert, that is, ready to be detonated. The expense of manufacturing and maintaining nuclear weapons is notoriously disproportionate to what is spent on development. Total military expenditure has reached 1.75 trillion dollars annually. Just nine countries spend 100 billion dollars a year, or almost 300 million dollars a day, on nuclear weapons.

Mexico believes that nuclear weapons should be evaluated from a humanitarian perspective that takes into account both the short- and long-term global effects on the population, health, environment and development. Mexico will hold a second conference on this issue on February 13 – 14, 2014.
For Mexico, the only guarantee that the international community has against the harm, the humanitarian, environmental, food-supply, economical and developmental crises of a nuclear detonation is the total and complete elimination of nuclear weapons. It is therefore essential that 21st-century society understands the devastating short and long-term damage this type of weapon would cause to humanity, so a preventive approach may prevail and nuclear weapons are never used again.

Mexico will be attentive to proposals that give impetus to the multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, which have been paralyzed for 17 years. In 2012, at the initiative of Mexico, alongside with Austria and Norway, the UNGA created an Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament for all UN Member States, international organizations and civil society. The Group met three times in Geneva in 2013 and will present its proposals on how to advance the multilateral negotiations to achieve and sustain a world without nuclear weapons.
Mexico will present the following resolutions on this topic:

“Consolidation of the Regime Established in the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean” (Treaty of Tlatelolco). Mexico presents this resolution every three years. The General Assembly recognizes the historic contribution made by the Treaty of Tlatelolco to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime and the work done by the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Accelerating the Implementation of the Nuclear Disarmament Commitments.” This resolution is presented annually by Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa, the members of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC). This is the only resolution in which the General Assembly addresses in detail the commitments adopted by the nuclear-weapons States as part of their obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty” This resolution is presented annually with Australia and New Zealand. The UNGA calls for the entrance into force of the CTBT as a key step towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Mexico recently reaffirmed its historic position on achieving general and complete disarmament in the world by signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on April 2, 2013. This represents an unprecedented achievement in controlling arms transfers and is the result of complex negotiations begun in 2006, in which Mexico played an active role, pushing for the highest standards for regulating transfers of conventional weapons.

For Mexico, adopting the treaty is only the first step. It signed the ATT on June 3, 2013, the first day it opened for signature, making clear its commitment to fully implement its provisions. The Senate approved ratification of the treaty on September 18, and the Decree of Approval was published in the Official Journal of the Federation on September 20. Foreign Secretary José Antonio Meade will deposit the instrument of ratification in the United Nations on September 25, presenting at the same time a declaration of provisional implementation of Articles 6 and 7 of the treaty until its entry into force in accordance with Article 23 of the ATT.

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