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Ladies and Gentlemen,
President Putin and I have had a long conversation about a whole series of issues of mutual interest to Russia and to NATO. I think these discussions have marked a major milestone in NATO-Russia relationships and I think the two of us have acquired the habit of straight talking which allows us to make our relationship the relationship between Russia and NATO, ever more relevant.
The recent horrifying attrocities in the United States I think have underlined the fact that there is far more that unites NATO and Russia than has divided us in the past few years. And on behalf of the North Atlantic Alliance I would like to offer my profound thanks to President Putin and to the Russian people for this spontaneous way in which they have reacted to the terrible attrocity which affected America three weeks ago.
And what the people of the world now expect is decisive leadership from the leaders of the democratic world at a time when their safety has become overshadowed by international terrorism and its tentacles.
For some forty years NATO and Russia sat and glowered at each other, for another ten years we tip-toed around each other but now I believe that we are entering an era where substantial and practical cooperation is going to build a unique relationship between us.
Russia is a special and a major partner of NATO and in the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council we have already established a very considerable programme of cooperation on subjects and areas that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. And today we have identified a number of new areas where NATO and Russia can work together only some of them arising out of the need to deal with the terrorist challenge which faces all of us equally.
Yesterday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation declared that the attack on the United States of America on the 11th of September should be taken as an attack on all other 18 NATO allies. The attack at the heart of the United States was not just an attack on the United States and members of NATO it was an attack on the values that unite Russia with the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance and that must make us all the more committed to acting decisively against those who bring such wanton and reckless violence into the heart of any civilised city.
President Putin (interpreter)
I would like to reiterate that the questions on the issues related to the terrorist threat were at the centre of our discussion but our discussion also went far beyond that and encompassed the entire spectrum of relationship between Russia and NATO. I must say that the discussion was very frank and very concrete. We discussed the developments in different regions of the world and also the development of relations in the partnership and intercourse between NATO and Russia. We have accumulated a wealth of experience and I think we could examine, explore the possibility, opportunity to sew our relationship at least in two directions. This includes our cooperation in purely political area and the enhancement to our cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. Secretary General did not mention it but I don't think that I would divulge any secrets here by mentioning that Secretary General NATO proposed setting up a special "working body" to examine the different dimensions of political operations among others of the qualitative changes of the relationship between Russia and NATO. I find this proposal extremely good, businesslike and we support it.
One question please.
I have a question for President Putin.
This morning the American administration submitted a list of request to all members of NATO in the fight against terrorism - have you been informed about that and what is your reaction?
I think that within such an Alliance as NATO and those within the context of Article 5, such a request is quite appropriate and quite a normal practice. And quite naturally this list was sent, distributed amongst the NATO members and was not sent to Russia because Russia is not a NATO member. But we are familiar with the contents of the list of the issues and problems. There was no secret about this list for Russia. The exchange of information in the area that you mentioned is underway as we speak between Russia and the United States on a bilateral basis. At the political level we are extremely satisfied with the way things develop while at the operational level the mechanisms that exist would require further improvement and refinement.
Final question please.
Mr President in your recent speech in Bundestag you said that you want that our new relationship with NATO be built, not on declarations but on the partnership, equality and mutual respect. We would like also to hear the reiteration of this postion here and we would also like to hear a comment of Lord Robertson on this.
Second part: Could you comment on the opposition regarding the enlargement of NATO.
I will start from the second part.
I have, as I recall, just answered a similar question from a "Le Monde" correspondent during our press conference on the results of our meeting with the European Union. Our position with regard to the NATO enlargement is known in principle and there is no change to this position. Of course we discussed it with the Secretary General of NATO. And in the light of recent developments the following considerations should be absolutely clear, clear-cut for everyone.
For example, the NATO enlargement will take place. Some new members will be adopted into that organisation. Whose security will that action enhance? Which country of Europe which country of the world and citizens of which country of the world would feel more secure? If you go to Paris or Berlin and ask a person in the street whether he or she would feel more secure after the expansion of NATO, enlargement of NATO and whether that person from the street would feel secure against the threat of terrorism - the answer most probably would be No. I think we should abandon this logic under which every time the subject matter of NATO enlargement is discussed it creates some kind of destructive, rather than, productive argument. We should abandon this. And with this I would like to answer the first part of your question.
Whether Western leaders heard our signals, signalling our great readiness to cooperate and interact. We have a feeling that those signals were heeded. We will have to see how it could be realised in practical terms. We have felt clear changes in the position and the attitude of President Bush which was made publicly and in no uncertain terms and we also feel the change in the attitude and in the outlook of all the Western partners and western community after the United States President has made his new position and new vision known. And we believe that things are moving towards the qualitative changes of our relationship. Approximately the same feeling I have gathered from my meetings with my partners in the European Union. And the practical proposals made by the Secretary General of NATO runs in same direction and represents yet another testimony that NATO is also prepared to change the quality of our partnership of our interaction. We are ready for this.
I agree with the President that there will be an enlargement of NATO next year but there has been no decision taken as to how many countries will join the Alliance.
At the moment there is no application from Russia but what there is, is a partnership that is growing in importance, in depth and in relevance and that is what we must focus on just now. It is a right of any country in the world to choose its own security arrangements and that right applies to the Russian Federation just as it applies to any other country. But today's discussion was about how we increase the quality of the unique and special partnership that NATO has with Russia and how to make it work better in the interest not only of NATO and Russia but of the wider Euro-Atlantic community as well. NATO is not interested in recreating any dividing lines in the Euro-Atlantic area. What we are interested in is building up relationships that matter, that are based on mutual respect, based on a grown-up attitude to the common problems that we face. That is what we discussed today and that is the way we will take forward the NATO-Russia relationship.