Vladimir Putin: Our nations need no longer fear one another

Taken from a speech given by the President of Russia, at the Russian embassy in Washington DC
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The Independent Online

I remember very well our first meeting with President Bush in Ljubljana. We were nervous, and that was quite natural. We said that the Cold War had been left in the past, and our countries were no longer enemies. We said that the very nature of our relations was changing, and that they were to rest upon common interests, common values and mutual respect for each other.

But, let's be frank, back then in Ljubljana, they were just intentions. We thought we had a lot of time to deliberate and to take decisions. We didn't know at that time yet what the United States would have to endure, what we all would have to endure.

Terrible acts of evil have been committed against the whole of mankind, against each other and every one of us. And I am proud that among those heroes were Russian citizens and my former fellow countrymen. I am proud of Eugeuni Kniazev, an engineer of Russian descent, who rescued almost 70 people from the building and died later in the debris.

It is of principal importance to ensure that our country's interaction in the fight against terrorism does not remain just an episode in the history of the Russian-American relations, but would mark the beginning of a long-term partnership in co-operation.

Today, we should take another look at the history of our relations. After the Second World War, relations between our two countries have gone through different times. Nevertheless, we have eventually achieved the main goal: our countries have stopped being afraid of each other. This has opened up an opportunity jointly to free ourselves from what has been horrifying to people of the entire world for decades: arsenals of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

The present quantitative level is absolutely inconsistent with either the current situation in the world or the nature of the present-day threats. I had no doubt that we would find understanding in the United States on this issue, and the statement by President Bush is a confirmation of this.

That is why Russia declares and reiterates its readiness to make considerable reductions in strategic arms. That is why we propose a radical programme of further reductions by at least three times, to a minimal level necessary for maintaining strategic balance in the world. We no longer have to intimidate each other to reach agreements. Security is created not by piles of weapons but by the political will of people, nation-states and their leaders.

Russia today is a country whose integration into the commonwealth of free and democratic nations has become irreversible. For many years, the fortunes of our nations had been moving along different paths, but if we look back at more than two centuries of our relations, one thing would strike you: at the dramatic turning points of history, in the moments of truth, when the very existence of our nations were at stake, Russia and the United States have always stood together.

They were together at the dawn of American independence. Let's remember when the Russian empress, Catherine II, politely but resolutely denied the requests of King George III to send Russian soldiers to participate in the suppression of the insurgents in the American colonies.

Our nations were together during the liberation reforms of the mid-19th century. It is symbolic that the two great statesmen, Emperor Alexander II and President Abraham Lincoln, abolished slavery in their countries at approximately the same time, and both fell victim to the hands of terrorists. It is also symbolic that Russia made its own financial contribution to the creation of the Statue of Liberty, which now rises above New York as a symbol of freedom for the entire world.

I am sure now that our destiny meets history again. We shall be friends and partners. One must act vigorously, and remember that the time can't wait.