NEW RUSSIA AND ITS EMERGING RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN
Counselor Vladimir O. Rakhmanin
It is really a pleasure and honor to be here in such a memorial city, which solemnly keeps and enriches traditions of the past
The idea of this forum, as I read it in the invitation, to provide modern scholarship on the international problems in this period of the "Portsmouth Peace Treaty" and explore its relevance to current issues involving the northern-pacific region sounds very appealing and attractive to me, of course. I would like, first of all, to thank the people of Portsmouth for their interest to host this distinguished forum. And at the same time I would like to thank Mayor Foley for her support and attention, as well as the Japan-America Society and Russia Society for providing an opportunity to have such a significant and symbolic event here. And let me be more personal, and compliment particularly the dynamism and energy of Charles Doteac, without whom this endeavor would not be possible.
Let me tell a small story demonstrating and showing how the life of Russian diplomats and Soviet diplomats in the United States is going on. This is my second visit to Portsmouth. The first time I came herein the summer of 1992, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the new Russia was introduced to Washington, a good friend of mine invited me to come to Portsmouth and to participate in a conference on Star Island, very close to Portsmouth. I drove all the way from Washington, because I would like to give an opportunity to my family to see the United States and especially New Hampshire and this area. And when I got to Portsmouth, the first thing that I saw when I got to the ferry was a huge submarine, military submarine, and I realized immediately, this is the wrong place for me to be! I was so frightened, because I am a 100% civilian person, but at the same time I can understand that if I saw huge military ships or planes, it's the wrong place for the Russian diplomat to be. And when I get to Washington, I was thinking that I would be immediately sent out of the country for just violating all the possible laws. But I was lucky, as I am lucky being here again, because the day I start my travel trip to Portsmouth was the first day when the United States government lifted all the restrictions on the travel of Russian diplomats. So that's when I understand the difference. And it's really -- the times are changing, and that was the demonstration of how the times are changing.
And at the same time now, during these changes of times, we may talk openly and sincerely about very sensitive issues. And to tell the truth, the Portsmouth Treaty is still a very sensitive issue for the Russian people, because it was signed by a defeated Russia. Let me give you an illustration of how the Portsmouth Treaty was perceived in the former Soviet Union. I'll give you two sentences from the Soviet encyclopedia about the Portsmouth Treaty. And it reads as follows: "During peaceful negotiations as well as during the war, Japan was receiving active political and material support from the USA. During that, US diplomacy was serving its own imperialist interest, trying to gain leading positions in Manchuria." End of citation. This is how this Portsmouth Treaty was perceived in the Soviet Union. Today, to the contrary, we may put our emphasis on the effective diplomacy that was provided here in this hospitable city of Portsmouth, and the possibilities that this example provides us for the future.
But let me leave the history for much more experienced and objective historians than I myself, and talk about today. Russia nowadays is undergoing tremendous changes of historic proportions. It is really a transformation of the whole society, and I will say that the historic importance of this whole transformation is that for the first time, the individual entrepreneurship and individualism are getting on the surface from the underground of the old traditional Russia. Russia is trying to understand the sense of individualism, in comparison with communalism. It is a very important change, and an historic change. But, of course, these kinds of changes cannot go without difficulties, and through this change, Russia became more vulnerable. Industrial decline is obvious. There are a lot of social, psychological and cultural difficulties. But people remain optimistic, because Russia is really searching for a new and better identity of itself. Really, Russia is trying to regain its identity proceeding from its glorious past, but with more emphasis on individualism, respect for human rights, freedom and democracy. Russian civilization gave the world such great names as Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, and in the Soviet years, Gagarin, Sholokhov, Shostakovitch, Prokofiev, and many others. I think while talking about Russia, it's much better not to look only into the short period of Stalin's repressions, but concentrate on the future of Russia. And I personally am sure that Russia will be revived, Russia will be back on track again, and will bring new intellectual giants into the world civilization.
I insist that Russian history is not only the years of the Cold War, Stalin repressions and gulags, and totalitarianism and KGB. That was a history, but that was not the best history. Let's also look for the better history of Russia. Perceptions of Russia still existing in the West as "bad and dumb" strongly contribute to the rise of not benign nationalism in my country. In general, I regard the Russian peoples' patriotism as benign nationalism. It is not nationalism in a bad sense. It's the search for the new Russian identity. Unfortunately, sometimes populist politicians try to exploit this tendency for their political ends and then this benign nationalism is turned by them into anti-Westernism and chauvinism. Perceptions of Russia as "weak", as "bad", as "dumb" provide good arguments for these types of politicians to say to the people - "You see? The West does not respect Russia. The West wants Russia to be weak. We should be against the West. The West is our enemy."
I believe that there is no political future for these politicians in Russia. Russia will be different, but I think it is necessary for the West to be sympathetic towards Russia, in today's conditions, try to understand its difficulties, and be patient. It is correct - Stalin chose isolationalist policy. Let's not push Russian people back into isolationalism. It depends not only on Russian domestic political developments, but on the attitude of the outside world. And, of course, in this regard a very important role belongs to the United States. The Russia-U.S. summit in Washington, which finished just a few weeks ago, from our point of view demonstrated that partnership between our two countries is alive, and has great potential for further development for the benefit of mankind. No one on this planet possesses the knowledge of the ultimate truth; only common wisdom, common efforts, and respect for each other may bring us to a better future. It is quite natural that such great countries as Russia and the United States might have some differences. But the point is that these differences should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation, not through confrontation and mutual blames. This summit was different from the previous summits. Boris Yeltsin was not asking for help. Yeltsin came and, talked about economic partnership, and it was well understood here in the United States, by the Administration. Yeltsin was talking about increase of U.S. private investments in the Russian economy. The Russian President recognized that Russia should walk its part of the road and should create better conditions for the foreign investments. And organizationally important was the meeting between President Yeltsin and President Clinton, and five major U.S. companies' CEOs.
Another point of this summit which, to my mind, is very important-Russia and the United States demonstrated once again their mutual responsibility for the future of the world. Russia and the United States possess a lot of nuclear weapons, and the leaders of the two countries committed themselves to further progress in nuclear disarmament; to continuation of their respective moratoria on nuclear weapons tests; to strengthen the regime of control and physical protection of nuclear materials in their countries. So I would say that this summit, and the dynamics of Russia-U.S. relations, demonstrated that mutual accommodations are necessary between these two countries, that mutual accommodations are bringing good results.
Now I would like to talk about Russian policy in Asia and the relations between Russia and Japan. This topic is very dear to me, personally, because since 1980 I was involved in Russian-Asian policy. And, since my early childhood, I was very close to China. My father spent fifteen years in China, all in all. I spent my early years in China, and the Chinese flavor surrounded me in my home for many, many years. And I became a big admirer of Asia, a big admirer of China, of Japan, Korea and other countries. That's why talking about Russia in Asia, and especially after such thoughtful remarks by Professor Perry, is really a pleasure for me.
The importance of Asia for Russia is growing, and it's growing geopolitically, economically, politically. Two-thirds of Russian territory lies in Asia. Russia is a bridge, not a buffer, between Europe and Asia. The symbol of new Russia, or the old new Russia, is the eagle with two equal heads-one looks to the East and one-to the West. I believe that there is a strong possibility that Russian Far East and Siberia contribute a lot to the overall Russian economic development, if they establish proper ties with dynamic Asian economies.
A long-term objective of Russia in the Asian Pacific is to create a system of multilateral security, which would have an open character, and would not be based on the traditional balance of powers and military blocs.
A very important country for Russia in Asia is, of course, China. The longest border is with China, the very sensitive history of our relationship explains the special importance of this country in Russian foreign policy. The leaders of Russia and China agreed to have a constructive partnership between each other, a constructive partnership directed into the twenty-first century. China is also a very important economic partner for Russia, second trade partner after Germany. There is a strong potential in cooperation between Russian Far East and Chinese Northea3t. ; We have very good cooperation on international issues, exchanges on domestic economic reforms. And important to say is that the border issue is almost resolved between Russia and China, with two small exceptions.
Korea is another important part of Russian foreign policy. In today's press you might see that Russia would like just simply to have a say in Korean affairs, and that's why Russia is allegedly so active there. But 1 would say it is a full truth. Of course we would like to have a say in the resolution of a nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. But at the same time, it is Russia, not the U.S., who is the neighbor of Korea. If conflict happens in Korea, Russia will be exposed directly. That's why our stakes on the Korean peninsula are so high, that's why we would like to promote peaceful resolution of this conflict. With DPRK we would like to have decent good neighborly relations, which are not based on ideology, but on pragmatism. And we continue to develop these relations. We still believe in the virtue of dialogue, not pressure. We obtain new confidence in our relationship with the Republic of Korea. A good illustration of this new confidence is the development of military to military relationship and establishment of a hot line between the Kremlin and the Blue House, the President's house in Seoul. We have very close consultations on the Korean issue. But we still feel that the potential of economic cooperation with South Korea is far from being exhausted.
And the last, but not the least-Russian relations with Japan. The very strong and very wise presentation of my colleague Kodera-san gave me a lot of food for thought, and a lot to comment on. And I am lucky to be the last one to talk! The long history of Russian-Japanese relations has witnessed not many periods of normal, peaceful co-existence and cooperation. Instead they have frequently been dominated by alienation, mistrust, and sometimes by outright hostility that ended in destructive armed conflicts and wars. Today's perception of Japan in Russia is still very controversial, and it is not only the territorial issue that irritates people, but sometimes other issues and Japanese behavior in international affairs. Heritage of the past is not easy to overcome.
But at the same time, Russian people highly appreciate the culture and working ethics of the Japanese people, Japanese traditions. In 1987, the Kabuki theater performed in Moscow. The first surprise fear me was when I tried to buy a ticket and could not--sold out. I tried to get the tickets, and I got them from the Japanese Embassy, from my friends in the Japanese Embassy. And When 1 came into the theater, I saw the huge lines of people, handing and waiting to get the extra ticket. After the performance was a standing ovation.
Talking about hard feelings of Japanese people towards what the Soviet Union did to Japan, I would say that it was really a terrible experience, what was done to Japanese prisoners after the Second World War. President Yeltsin personally apologized for that. And let me mention the citation from then Prime Minister Hosokawa, why said that Yeltsin's statements may be regarded as creating the basis for spiritual reconciliation between the Russian and Japanese peoples. I think it's very important.
But now times are changing, and finally Russia and Japan start moving towards better days. The goal of my government is to have a partnership relationship with Japan: economic partnership, military partnership, political partnership, whatever. We may call it strategic, we may call it pragmatic, we may call it constructive, but it's partnership. We do not see each other as political adversaries. For the first time, for many, many years, we share common values -freedom, democracy, supremacy of law, respect for human rights, common approach to the main international problems, objective need to broaden economic cooperation, recognition of the principle of legitimacy and justice as a basis for solution of the existing problems. We highly appreciate the support that the Japanese people and leadership provided to Russian. reforms, both material and spiritual.
The good point is that now Russia and Japan are capable of resolving sensitive issues not through blaming each other and confronting each other, but through talking to each other. For instance, a very sensitive issue for Japanese people of dumping of Russian liquid, radioactive waste, in the sea near Japan. Russian and Japanese officials started talking, and they agreed; let's cooperate, let's find funding, it's not the bad will of the Russian people and evil intentions of Russian people to dump nuclear wastes into the Sea of Japan. It's the problem of finances. If we do not want to have another Chernobyl in Vladivostok or Nakhodka, let's find a solution. And the solution was found.
A very important and positive development in our relationship with Japan is the development of military to military dialogue. We have joint exercises with Japan to rescue the people in the sea in case of emergency. Of course, the latest developments, our cooperation in overcoming the consequences of the earthquake on the Kurile Islands was also very important. And it's not only symbolically important, it is practically very important for the establishment of confidence and trust between our two countries.
My understanding is that ways to settle the problem of indebtedness, on the commercial transactions of Russian organizations and enterprises, due to Japanese companies, have been outlined, and continue to be elaborated. And through these understandings, a few major contracts have already been signed between; Russian and Japanese firms on exploration of oil and gas.
Probably the most interesting and sensitive issue, this is the territorial issue. I am glad that my Japanese colleague "breaks" the linkage between the territorial issue and cooperation between our two countries. Its very wise of him. But seriously, I think that we are really moving from the formula - territorial dispute first, cooperation second; trying to understand each other better; comprehend other's objective circumstances. Once visiting Japan, the architect of Russia's perestroika, Alexander Yakovlev, said: "When you try to climb the tree, do you start from the top or from the bottom? Usually, from the bottom. So the confidence, trust and understanding are the bottom of this tree, and resolution of the territorial issue is the top of the tree."
The Russian side stands for a balanced development of relations with Japan in all areas, as well as for constructive and multidimensional cooperation, the implementation of which would create conditions facilitating the solution of such a difficult and sensitive problem, as is the territorial problem. We are not giving up discussions with Japan on that. But speaking undiplomatically, I would argue that the domestic situation in both countries does not allow us to make bold diplomatic initiatives in this regard.
As usually happens in diplomacy, when the political will is ready, the practical solution should be also ready. And let's have these kinds of semi-official forums for developing the ideas, for developing the solutions for difficult diplomatic problems. That might be the future of these forums. And I would like to thank you all for your kind attention. Probably I took too much time and too much of your attention. I would be happy to answer your questions in a formal or informal way.