by Daniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary for Europen and Eurasian Affairs
On May 9 during a Victory Day address in Red Square President Putin said “The number of threats is not decreasing. They are only transforming and changing the guise. As during the Third Reich era, these new threats show the same contempt for human life and claims to world exclusiveness and diktat.” The following day the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Putin had the United States in mind. On the same day in Berlin, Assistant Secretary Fried gave a much more measured assessment of the relationship and the challenges ahead. In this excerpt from a speech on “Europe’s Role in the World” Assistant Secretary Fried provides a definitive statement of what the West’s policy and approach toward Russia should be. Those readers who wish to read the entire speech should go to www.state.gov and type “Daniel Fried” after “search”.—Assoc. Ed.
The Europa Forum Program
Berlin, Germany, May 9, 2007
Now let me turn to Russia, even more on our minds this week than usual. Russia and the West have dealt with one another—sometimes well, more often uneasily—since at least Peter the Great. It would be hubris to proclaim some policy to resolve overnight the relationship between Russia and the West.
We’ve had some spectacular differences with Russia recently: CFE (Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe), Estonia, Missile Defense; and persistent differences, increasingly over democracy. And more differences may arise, possibly over Kosovo, for example.
But let us be steady. It is long-term partnership with Russia that we seek, and not simply management of difficulties. Let me suggest some principles for relations with Russia through what will be a complicated period as Russia moves toward an expected transfer of power this year and early next.
One is tactical: the United States and the European Union should cooperate with Russia when at all possible; push back only when necessary; and at all times be realistic about Russia.
In this regard, encouraged by the wise advice of Chancellor Merkel, the United States is intensifying strategic dialogue with Russia, including on CFE, missile defense, and post-START arrangements. Secretaries Rice and Gates have agreed to a “two-plus-two” format with their counterparts, suggested by the way by the Russians, to consider these issues. We seek common approaches on missile defense, not rhetorical sparring.
A second principle is values based: we should be clear about what sort of Russia we want to see emerge from its unfinished transformation. We do not want a weak Russia. This does nothing for America or, I dare say, nothing for Europe. But a strong Russia must be strong in 21st century, not 19th century terms.
In this century, a strong state must include a strong civil society, an independent media, a strong independent judiciary, and a market economy regulated by independent state institutions. On this basis, a nation may build the rule of law, which makes a good life possible. A strong center is part of this healthy mix, but a strong center in a state of weak institutions, is not.
We should be realistic about Russia. This starts with the understanding that Russia even today is freer than under the Communists, and arguably freer than at any time under the Tsars.
But Russia is a great country and it can do better than that low standard.
We have a stake here, we Europeans and Americans. History suggests a link between a nation’s internal arrangements and values on one hand, and its external behavior on the other. Democracies have their flaws, but are apt to be better neighbors and better actors generally.
A third principle is that we should approach Moscow as friend and potential ally everywhere in the world, but we should not pay a price for cooperation, nor indulge Russia when it behaves as if a residual sphere of influence over its neighbors is its due.
Europe and the United States should continue to speak out honestly and if necessary frankly about the use of political and economic pressure against smaller, vulnerable neighbors, such as Estonia and Georgia.
Countries like Estonia and Georgia have their own responsibilities to build better relations with Russia, to be sure. Estonia should continue to reach out to its Russian community, not because it is pressured to do so, but because Estonia is a democracy and respects the rule of law, and such outreach is the right thing to do. President Ilves has made clear his commitment to such a positive approach.
Georgia should avoid the temptation of adventurism, and continue to work toward peaceful, responsible resolution of the separatist conflicts on Georgian territory. President Saakashvili has recognized his responsibility in this regard. We should all support Georgia as it deepens its reforms at home and, on that basis, seeks to draw closer to the transatlantic family and our institutions.
Russia has its own responsibilities, including the recognition that the countries that emerged from the Soviet empire, such as Estonia and Georgia, are truly free and sovereign.
And we—Germany, Europe as a whole, and America—have responsibilities of our own to recognize that there is no grey zone in Europe, no implicit sphere of influence for Russia, no outside veto over the fate of these newly free countries. They must be free and responsible to write their own history, for good or ill, whether with us, based on their own readiness to share our values and join our family, or otherwise.
Today is May 9, when Russia celebrates Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. That victory was heroic, purchased at a terrible price. The United States recognizes Russia’s strong feelings about it. My country will always remember its wartime alliance with Moscow and we honor the courage and sacrifice of Soviet soldiers in defeating Nazi Germany. But Russia must find ways as well to recognize that while Russians’ feelings are strong and have validity, so do the feelings of some others, especially those whose liberation from the Nazis did not mean freedom.
Relations with Russia are likely to remain a complex mix of partnership, some friction, some perceived competition, but hopefully growing partnership for some time to come. We cannot resolve all our differences in the next 20 months. But we can, perhaps, put relations with Russia on a productive, frank, and, given my country’s electoral calendar, bipartisan footing.