Statement by Evgeny Primakov to the UN General Assembly (1997)

Statement by Evgeny Primakov to the UN General Assembly (1997)

Mr. President,

Allow me to most sincerely congratulate you, a representative of Ukraine, with which we have friendly relations, on your election to this important and distinguished post. We are certain that under your presidency the General Assembly will be able to make significant progress.

In a little more than 800 days mankind will enter upon the 21st century. From the point of view of history this is really just a single sprinter’s lap, and it is quite natural that there is a need to look at what lies ahead of us.

A year ago, speaking from this same rostrum, I referred to the beginning of the process of a transition to a multipolar world order. The events of the past year have reaffirmed this. There has been a growth of diversity in the political, economic and cultural development of countries. There is a search at the national and regional levels for new identities. There is a growth of new centers of economic and political influence in the world together with an increase in the reciprocal involvement of interests of various states and peoples.

The horizons opening up to the international community are posing new challenges. These are:

— assertion of the ideals of interdependence and partnership in
interstate relations;

  • prevention of the emergence of new dividing lines and
    exclusive blocs;
  • strict compliance with all the principles and norms of
    international law.

I would cite as a separate issue not only the creation of conditions for the economic and social progress of all countries, but also the maintenance of the environmental balance.

It should be made clear at the outset that the transition from a confrontational bipolar world to a multipolar system cannot by itself resolve these problems. Moreover, realists are well aware that although we are moving farther away from oversimplified stereotypes of the era of ideological confrontation, the number of risks and threats in today’s world has not decreased.

There are quite a few multinational states in the world. We firmly support the initiatives intended to prevent their forced disintegration.

The formula for the resolution of such conflicts in our modern world, and, of course, in the twenty-first century, can and must be a combination of the need to preserve the territorial integrity of such states together with the granting of the broadest possible rights to national minorities. Abandonment of any of the principles of the “two-track formula” would risk both a continuation and a dangerous escalation of such conflict situations.

I also would like to call to your attention a dangerous characteristic of regional conflicts — their ability to unleash a wave of terrorism and to spread it far beyond the borders of the actual conflict zone. For example, many militants who launched bloody campaigns of terror in a great number of countries emerged from the continuing and still raging armed conflict in Afghanistan.

We strongly support the campaign against terrorism, in whatever form. Today success in this struggle can only be achieved by all states uniting their efforts to counteract this horrendous scourge. We are opposed to government backing of terrorism in any place and in any form. At the same time some UN member states should not be once and for all written off as rogue states within the international community regardless of changes in their policies or simply because of their suspected links to terrorists.

In today’s world there can be no monopolies of any state on efforts at resolving any and all conflicts. This is certainly fully appli­cable to the oldest conflict in the Middle East, where the settlement process is deadlocked. As the saying goes, “it takes two hands to clap.” Resolving the difficult Middle East conflict will require broad international efforts.

A pooling of efforts can provide the most effective way to resolve both long-standing and relatively new conflicts. Here I would like to draw to your attention the peacekeeping efforts of Russia in the CIS region. Nevertheless, we are not trying to take advantage of the situation.

Russia’s peacekeeping role is not confined to conflict settlement efforts around its borders, but is broader in nature. Our country has sent its peacekeepers to various hot spots under the UN flag, and they are participating in 9 of 17 UN peacekeeping operations. Here I would like to comment on peace enforcement actions. In particular, in the decentralized conditions of some peacekeeping operations, great caution must be exercised. We firmly believe that actions of force can only be carried out upon authorization by the UN Security Council and under its direct supervision, as provided for in the UN Charter.

As we move towards a multipolar world in the twenty-first century it is of the greatest importance to create conditions conducive to stability of the new world order. To that end there is a need to overcome the obstacles of the past and above all the legacy of decades of the massive arms race.

We have been doing our part here and are determined to continue. Together with the US we have been steadily reducing strategic weapons. Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton have reached an understanding regarding the basic parameters for the agreements in this field.

However, today conventional weapons are causing casualties in local conflicts, and often in situations in which the hostilities have ceased. Here we are fully aware of the humanitarian aspect of the problem of mines. We believe that the elimination of the mine threat, above all to the civilian population, is long overdue. We advocate active and phased efforts to resolve this problem.

A positive impact on improving the European climate has already been exerted by something which was born of a painful quest for compromise, namely the Founding Act on relations between Russia and NATO. This is a document of great international importance, and it undoubtedly will play a pivotal role in European politics. The signing of this document, however, has not changed our negative attitude towards the expansion of NATO, which, on the one hand, totally ignores current realities, and, on the other, is likely to create new dividing lines.

It is my duty to mention yet another contribution to strengthening good-neighborly relations in Europe. I am referring to the recently signed agreements between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which have made it possible for our states to make real progress in developing mutually advantageous relations on an equal footing, which have strengthened stability in the region.

I began my statement with an appeal to encourage the international community to resolve today’s problems and to look forward to the coming century. And I would like to conclude with the well-known saying, “Pessimists are only passive observers; it is optimists who change the world.” We are optimists, and believe that the UN will be able to play a positive role in the evolution of the international community.

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