March 30, 2009

Chairman Kerry Advocates A New Partnership In US-Russian Relations

 WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered a speech today titled, "A New Partnership for a New Moment in US-Russian Relations" on the United States policy toward Russia.

Below are Senator Kerry's remarks, as delivered:

We all know that in recent years, America's relationship with Russia reached its lowest and least constructive phase in two decades. The President who once looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul regrettably didn't see his plans—and in the years that followed, tanks rolled forward and democracy rolled back. Lines were crossed, opportunities were missed, and hopes for progress were dashed. Some feared we were headed back to the bad old days, and all were concerned that relations had taken a severe turn for the worse.

That was the state of US-Russian relations two months ago, as President Obama took office. Fortunately, he and his Administration quickly announced their goal to "re-set" relations with Russia and have set out in concrete ways to do so. And I can't emphasize enough the urgency on both sides to find more constructive ways to work together.

As the Administration has acknowledged, achieving better relations with Russia is not going to happen overnight. It will demand a sustained effort to contain and take the bad habits of confrontation—which seem to reemerge all too easily—and replace them with a new pattern of cooperation. But that is precisely what this moment in our relationship requires: an openness to new concepts and a willingness to move beyond old thinking that is reflexive rather than productive. We cannot—and need not—allow our differences, which are real, to define our relationship.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." Well, that's essentially what our Russia policy must do. We will stand up for principle when we have real differences, but our primary focus must be to enlist Russia whenever possible to act as the global partner that it can be in common purpose around common principle—or at least common interest.

Without question, the single most important partnership we can create—one that would contribute to our relationship as well as the world at large—is a serious joint effort to dramatically confront the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism. Nowhere is our challenge greater, and nowhere is shared leadership more vitally important than in this arena. And we inherit a tradition forged by Kennedy and Khrushchev in the crucible of the Cuban Missile Crisis, elevated by Reagan and Gorbachev in a surprising moment at Reykjavik, deepened by Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and updated for a new century by Boris Yeltsin and statesmen Senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn. I'm fortunate to serve now with Dick Lugar as the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, and I'm grateful to have served with, and to and share the podium with Sam today.

Our countries survived the Cold War because old adversaries had looked into the abyss of mutual hostility and mutual destruction, and then found ways to communicate, cooperate and even to lead together.

And yet, despite all the years of nuclear cooperation and arms control, here we are, currently staring over the edge of a different nuclear precipice: the danger of a world where new and multiplying nuclear actors decide they want nuclear arsenals of their own, but won't necessarily play by old nuclear rules. As you've just heard, that is why many of our best thinkers, like Sam, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and Bill Perry are urging America to lead the world toward zero nuclear weapons. We all understand that zero is scary to people, some people argue about stability—I understand all those arguments—but I guarantee you this: every step you take toward zero makes the world a safer place. I agree we therefore need to move in that direction. And I would add that, if this effort is ever to succeed or even get close to its possibilities, it must begin with a new level of US-Russia partnership at the heart of it.

Nothing is more urgent to our mutual security than doing all we can to prevent nuclear terrorism. When Osama Bin Laden has called the acquisition of nuclear weapons a "holy duty," then we must face the fact that the detonation of even a single terrorist nuclear device, in Washington, in Moscow or anywhere, would alter world history.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program has been an historic step in the fight to prevent nuclear terrorism, and our challenge today is to build on this foundation with greater effort and greater cooperation. In 2004, when I was a candidate for president, I proposed that over a four year period we work to secure all of the world's loose nuclear material, and I'm pleased the Obama Administration has adopted this goal as well. Our two governments must be working together at every level with the highest urgency, delivering serious increases in resources and personnel, tackling bureaucratic roadblocks in our own countries and leveraging our joint leadership to ensure that other countries take the steps they must to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. 

But our joint effort cannot stop with loose nukes alone. We ushered in the nuclear era, accelerated it and sustained it—and frankly, our indifference these past years to nonproliferation has encouraged others to pursue a similar arsenal. We therefore have a special burden—Russia and the United States—to lead the effort to end the era of nuclear threat.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, America and Russia inevitably lead by example - whether we seek to or not. For proof we need only look to our own histories. We tested and deployed the atomic bomb, and Russia raced to follow. We developed a long-range bomber to deliver the bomb, and Russia followed our lead. We tested and deployed a hydrogen bomb, and so did Russia. Both sides raced one another to launch nuclear ballistic missiles from underwater, to "MIRV" our missiles, and to find ever more battlefield scenarios to use our bombs. Each time one party upped the ante, the other simply doubled down- inspiring country after country to do all they could to join the table.

We built up our arsenals to levels that truly earned the descriptor "MAD." To have as many weapons as we do today is, frankly, mindless inertia—and, ladies and gentlemen, need I remind you, it is shockingly expensive as well as dangerous. Experts estimate that America alone has spent $7.5 trillion on nuclear weapons that we hope to never use, an amount greater than the GDP of any other country on earth for an entire year. And we continue to spend billions more on stockpile stewardship and hedges against each other's bets on warheads, delivery systems and tactical weapons.

That's why, to advance US-Russian partnership, and to reduce the nuclear threat, it is vital that we reach agreement on a legally-binding successor to the START treaty this year. With START set to expire in December, we must make it a priority to strike a deal or create a bridge before we lose the only rules we have to verify a nuclear agreement with Russia. President Obama has committed to pursuing these negotiations with the intensity they deserve, and I urge him and President Medvedev to take advantage of their upcoming meeting on the sidelines of the London economic summit to set bold and timely goals for these discussions.

I am convinced that a new treaty can take us well below the levels established by the Moscow Treaty, and do so with robust verification rules and with obligations that last more than a day. We should set a near-term goal of no more than 1,000 operationally deployed warheads—and experts affirm this can increase our national security, rather than diminish it. Obviously we must pursue such a goal in close consultation with our allies and our military, but 1,000 warheads is more than enough to deter aggression. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is already working to lay the groundwork for the United States to follow Russia's lead and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

We must also confront - jointly - the immediate challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program. An Iran with nuclear weapons is bad for Russia and bad for the world, and Russia has stated publicly that it doesn't want a nuclear Iran.

I'll tell you: I recently traveled to the Mideast and met with leaders across the region, and it's interesting that while country after country has said that Iran can't have a nuclear weapon, I believe that only Israel has made a decision as to what it might do. And I believe Iran has seen the indecision and uncertainty of those who oppose the program. The Bush Administration drew lines that it couldn't or wouldn't enforce, and globally we have never put in place a sanctions regime that has been meaningful. And so the message has been one of uncertainty, indecision, and in fact weakness. Nothing could be worse. All of the posturing of the last eight years has in fact worked against us. And so one of the urgent priorities of this Administration is to actually sit down with our allies and decide what is the red line and what are we prepared to do about it. And we are going to have to realize that Russia is going to be a critical player in making that determination.

President Obama is right to open the door to direct engagement with Iran. But it is imperative that our strategy of engagement is backed by a commitment on both sides to an effective multilateral response if negotiations fail. The world requires Russia to join a multilateral effort to persuade Iran to turn away from its current nuclear track. For all who want to avoid the dangers and devastation of a military option, Russia is an essential partner.

Russia's ongoing supply of civilian nuclear fuel for electricity remains an important incentive for Iran to do the right thing. But Russia needs to be prepared to fundamentally alter its relations with Iran if Iran continues to choose the wrong nuclear path—and Russia must make that clear in its actions as well as its words.

Given this ambitious agenda, we also have our part to play—and part of that is to make sure that our approach to missile defense does not divert us from cooperation on common interests. Many Russian leaders argue that missile defense in Europe is somehow directed at them. In fact, it is not. I have always had serious reservations regarding the rapid deployment of a largely untested missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic—and I intend for our Committee to examine this closely. But we have to move to an approach based on the real threats—threats that we actually face—and Russia and the United States should put more effort into jointly developing effective defenses against medium- and intermediate-range missiles. And Russia should also seek, for its part, to minimize the need for missile defense in Europe by helping to convince Iran to change its nuclear and missile policies.

It's important to remember that our partnership with a global power such as Russia is not limited to nuclear weapons and missile defense. The momentum that we generate on arms control can and will extend to the other critical challenges, and the opportunities for cooperation are clear.

First, we can work together to restore economic order in the world. The interest Russia has already shown in this endeavor is necessary and welcome. Russia and the United States can and should work together with other G-20 countries to establish the parameters of a new and more secure global financial order. This is an urgent, shared mission.

Second, we share the threat of terrorism. Both of our countries have suffered attacks on our own soil, and we must continue to find ways to partner in the struggle against violent extremism.

Third, it is well-known that Russia and the United States cooperated on the ouster of the Taliban. This cooperation broke down precisely when we should have built on it. A failed state in Afghanistan poses a threat not just to us but also to Russia—so Russia has much reason to work for a successful resolution in Afghanistan, just as NATO does.

Fourth, I know Russia and the United States do not always see eye-to-eye on climate change—but I'd like to offer some advice and a caution to my Russian friends: I believe that in the years ahead, a nation's willingness to confront the threat of climate change will increasingly be a defining aspect of great power responsibility. Russian officials have promised me that their per-capita emissions will never exceed those of the United States, but—at a moment when everyone must massively reduce emissions to avoid catastrophe—this simply isn't enough.

In fact, Russia could become the site of disastrous new greenhouse gas emissions from methane, which is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Experts say the total amount of methane beneath the Arctic is greater than the total amount of carbon stored in all of the world's coal. Today the methane is beneath a "lid" of permafrost, on land and underwater. But the lid is disappearing: last year, the International Siberian Shelf Study measured the highest-ever levels of methane in the Arctic Ocean, and found methane bubbles coming out of chimneys on the sea floor. There are places, on land and at sea, where lighting a match in the open air causes an explosion from free-floating methane. Alongside any thought of economic gain from climate change, Russia should consider the reality that these changes will bring with them dramatic and unpredictable new downsides as well—both domestically and in a world community that is increasingly concerned and increasingly mobilized to take action.

But while we ask Russia to act as a global partner, we must also demonstrate to Russia that there are benefits to a constructive relationship. Over time, as the relationship develops, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment can be done away with and a real Bilateral Investment Treaty could be concluded to facilitate trade. Before the Russian-Georgian war last summer the Bush Administration and Congress considered a formal nuclear cooperation agreement, and in the context of improved relations this too could quickly be revived. When Russia accepts international standards on the rule of law and ownership, then Russian membership in the WTO will be good for the US and good for the world.

So clearly, there are huge opportunities staring us in the face—opportunities for genuine partnership between the United States and Russia. Unfortunately, the relationship will also require working through disagreements. And we must acknowledge the different worldviews that drive those disagreements. If you don't, it's very hard to have an honest conversation and deal with any of these realities.

The last twenty years have been felt and lived very differently in Saint Petersburg and Moscow than they have been in Washington or Prague. In fact, the story that Russia's leaders tell is almost the mirror image of our own. Where we saw the fall of the Soviet Union as a triumph of freedom, Prime Minister Putin has called it "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century". In the 1990s, where we saw a young democracy with new personal liberties, Russians were also living through a withering economic crisis with new levels of personal economic insecurity—and frankly, their perception is that we reveled in their misery. I heard this reiterated by former President Gorbachev just a few days ago. While the view from Washington was one of Russia slowly joining the world community, Moscow saw only humiliation and rejection. And, of course, where we saw Russia's neighbors emerging from foreign domination, Russia saw western encroachment and new rivals ever closer to home.

In part, Russia is still coming to grips with the collapse of empire, a phenomenon which, historically—as far back as ancient Rome—has always been followed by disorder and conflict. Ninety years after the fact, the Middle East is still dealing with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapucinski tells a story of two Ugandan military captains from opposite ends of their country who could only speak to each other in Russian, because both had been trained in Moscow. Though the USSR struggled under the strain of projecting its power globally, this was the world in which Prime Minister Putin spent his formative professional years. And the Ugandans' story played out in various iterations across a world awash in Soviet money, Soviet weapons, and Soviet influence.

That helps to explain why, since 2004, Russia has in many ways been acting as a "revisionist" power: rejecting the terms under which it was expected to join the current world order. Instead, Russia has almost habitually opposed us, often in the name of "multi-polarity," with a newfound assertiveness that extends beyond Georgia, Ukraine, and energy policy. Russia has embraced aggressive tactical diplomacy on many other fronts as well, including offering billions in loan guarantees to small countries to buy influence and discussing potential military bases in Venezuela.

This is important: The United States should not hesitate to acknowledge Russia as the great power it was and is. Russia is the largest country on earth, with massive oil, gas, and mineral resources—not to mention the human capital of a society with remarkable intellectual achievements. Whether oil prices are at $40 or $140, Russia is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council and therefore also a member of the P5+1 on Iran, a member of the Middle East Quartet, and a member of the six-party talks on North Korea. There is scarcely an issue of global importance that would not benefit from greater cooperation with Russia. We must recognize that, while Russia is no longer the existential opponent of Leonid Brezhnev's era, neither is it the malleable junior partner of the days of Boris Yeltsin's.

We may also wish to acknowledge that, although there have been very good reasons for many of the steps we took—we also bear some responsibility for the downturn in US-Russian relations. It is important that we understand the Russians aren't acting illogically; they are reacting to what they regard—rightly or wrongly—as repeated assaults on their identity as citizens of a powerful country.

To acknowledge Russia's narrative of recent history doesn't mean acceptance of Russia's view of the region. In fact, obviously we don't accept that. For twenty years now, America, Europe, and the world have made—and will continue to make—an enormous investment in the freedom, economies, and sovereignty of the former Soviet and Iron Curtain states.

We will—and we should—continue to engage Russia on improving its record on human rights and democracy. And we continue to believe that Russia's neighbors have a right to choose their own destinies, and America and the international community will continue to support their self-determination. I've been to Georgia and met with its leaders, and I believe that Georgia has an undeniable right to its territorial integrity. We should pursue an enhanced Bilateral Investment Treaty, expanded Georgian access to the General System of Preferences, and the negotiation of a Free-Trade Agreement—and none of these initiatives should get in the way of our ability to cooperate with Russia on the larger issues I've discussed.

The Georgia war of 2008 points to another imperative: we must address the terribly misnamed "frozen conflicts"—many of which are anything but—arising from the fall of the Soviet Union. While few Americans had heard of Transdnistria or Nagorno-Karabakh, they found out about South Ossetia quickly enough when it led to war and international crisis last summer.

Russia can avert future crises and increase international confidence by working for internationally-accepted solutions to these conflicts. In this context, Russia's call for a new Euro-Atlantic Security Architecture is noteworthy, and we look forward to exploring it and fleshing out more details. Russia's recent opposition to the OSCE's mission in Georgia, however, is counter-productive. I share the concern of many over Russia's failure to fully implement the cease fire agreement, as well as the continued lack of access for international monitors in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. International monitors can prevent incidents that lead to further conflict and divert us from the larger agenda.

I also believe it was wrong for Russia to repeatedly manipulate the flow of energy to Ukraine for political purposes. Russia may have a legitimate need to obtain market prices for its gas exports, but even as Ukraine's reputation as a reliable transit country may have been tarnished, Russia's reputation as a reliable supplier also suffered. Ukraine is a country that, for all its difficulties in governing, has made remarkable progress toward democracy—and we will continue to look for ways to help them find security and prosperity.

And finally, as we consider the prospects for a new era in US-Russian relations, we must understand the economic dynamics at play in Russia—which many argue are as crucial to Russia's fall and rise as anything else. The economic news from Russia has been dramatic: a sharp decline in Russia's foreign exchange reserves and a 67% decline in Russia's stock market. We don't yet know whether today's financial crisis and the steep drop in oil prices will create opportunities for shared leadership and a softening of some of Russia's stances—or a hardening of confrontational policies in an effort not to repeat what Russia saw as Western exploitation of its weakness in the 1990s.

What is clear is that our attempts at more constructive relations will fail if we condition them on resolving our differences first. The mutual benefits that greater partnership can bring are clear and compelling—and so are the costs of letting relations drift.

In the twentieth century, America and the Soviet Union expended incalculable resources on their rivalry. We cannot go backwards, and—for all the tension of 2008—I don't believe that we will. We must re-engage and reinvigorate the better habits of our Russia policy—the ones that prevailed at moments, during the twentieth century, when our separate interests gave way to mutual responsibility and a mutual stake in sparing humanity the horrors of war.

Our challenges are no less daunting today than they were during the Cold War: Nuclear terror, global climate change, the world economy—these are the big issues that will define this century, and great nations have a responsibility to meet them. These problems won't allow us the indulgence of "old-think." It's simply too dangerous not to get this right.

When Russia, the United States, China, and Europe share so many significant challenges that can bring us together, we cannot afford to let the smaller issues pull us apart. We have real disagreements and bad habits of disagreeing, and make no mistake: it will take sustained effort and creativity to chart a better path forward.

But the days when Moscow stood on the opposite side of every global crisis have passed. We must now strive to find the same side—both of us—whenever possible in a new century full of new perils and new opportunities.

Simply put: great challenges require great nations to lead in new ways. That is America's challenge, it is Russia's challenge, too—and our success demands that we work together. Thank you.

Press Contact

Frederick Jones (Kerry) (202) 202-224-4651