Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome the members of the international Council for Cooperation here at the Kremlin today. It is with great interest that I listen to your opinions on key issues regarding the development of bilateral relations between our countries and on the situation in the world. It is very interesting to meet and talk with people whose knowledge and energy are so much in demand now, as before, at both national and international level.
Your authoritative organisation turns twenty this year, and each of its members brings unique experience and a life rich in events, a life linked to the highest state posts, and thus also to the greatest state responsibility.
In your time you have made crucial decisions at serious moments, sometimes in crisis situations. You have taken part in significant and sometimes dramatic events, including events that have had an impact on the entire world.
You represent different countries and cultures, and you have different political views and platforms, but you are all united by your belief in democracy and, I would especially emphasise, by your irreproachable personal reputations.
Today you continue to take an active part in helping to develop international cooperation, and you come up with professional recommendations on a great many of the problems the modern world faces.
Over the past fifteen years, the world and the system of international organisations have undergone radical transformation. Probably the greatest result of these changes was the end of the Cold War and virtual elimination of the threat of global nuclear conflict and catastrophe that put an end to half a century of the wearying tension of nuclear confrontation.
This system of mutual deterrence between two mutually exclusive and hostile ideologies caused great damage to the development of global economy. Just as serious was the way it drained the prosperity of millions of people on this planet. It was only through the joint efforts of many countries, and through your personal efforts, too, that change finally came.
But even this did not solve all our security problems. The world has become more diverse, but also less predictable.
We have found ourselves facing new threats and having to deal with new difficulties and challenges, above all, the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism and drug trafficking.
Half the world’s population lives below the poverty line, more than one billion people do not have access to drinking water, and twice that number again do not have electricity. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing and a large part of the world’s population feels its interests are unjustly ignored. This creates a huge explosive potential in the world.
I know that you are deeply concerned about these problems, and I agree that we cannot afford to overlook a single one of these issues. It is not possible to withdraw into your own country and let the responsibility for solving these problems fall to other countries. Today we all depend on each other, and we will only be able to deal with the global threats we face if we use global means and work together.
You know very well that there are no days off and no breaks in international relations. International life requires constant effort and rapid decisions, and not just by governments and officials. Civil society and everybody who has the will to contribute should play a part in this work.
I would like to take this opportunity to raise one other issue, that of following the rules of the game in the form of the universally-accepted principles and norms of international law that should apply equally to everyone. At the same time, we need to work together on developing and improving the system of international law. We need to ensure that it remains an effective tool for resolving the problems we face in the world today.
We are also convinced of the need to make effective use of the existing system of institutions that unite us. The United Nations should, of course, play a central part in the system. This is the only universal organisation of this kind that we have.
I do agree that we could and indeed should discuss ways of modernising the United Nations. But this should not diminish the UN’s role and its work today. I am pleased to see that responsibility for resolving the crisis in Iraq has been returned to the UN, and that other serious regional problems, particularly regulation in the Middle East, are again being dealt with above all through political means.
Esteemed colleagues, allow me in conclusion to express my gratitude and recognition for the public work you are doing. Your work is needed, and it is of use to the politicians currently in office.
You know better than anyone just how incompatible the modern world is with the ideology of confrontation and hatred. The days of hostile blocs and alliances are over. Today we need wider forms of cooperation that reach beyond the confines of military-political groupings. It is my absolute conviction that this is the road of the future. But today at this meeting I above all want to listen to what you have to say. Once more, I would like to thank you for coming to Moscow and holding this meeting in Russia’s capital. Thank you for your attention.