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Grigory Yavlinsky

If Grigory Yavlinsky were president...

Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 31, 2001, p. 6

Recently a German newspaper published a "Confidential Letter" allegedly sent by President Vladimir Putin to President George W. Bush. The Kremlin denied that Putin had sent this letter. It transpired in the end that the letter had been written by Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of Yabloko.

A letter to President Bush - FROM Yavlinsky, NOT Putin

Recently a German newspaper published a "confidential letter" allegedly sent by President Vladimir Putin to President George W. Bush.This German publication stirred up interest among European political and diplomatic circles. This is not surprising, because the author of this letter repeatedly raised some issues which are topical both in Russia and the West: the creation of a Russian-European localised missile defence system; a reduction in nuclear warheads to 1,500 for each side; the specifics of arms sales to Iran...

The trouble is that the press service of the Russian president denied that Putin had written this letter. It then transpired that Putin had indeed written to President Bush. But the text published by the German newspaper was Grigory Yavlinsky's address to European leaders. The leader of Yabloko is convinced that Russia must start constructive dialogue with the new US administration as soon as possible.
What was in the letter which has excited the whole world?

A Letter from Moscow (confidential)

Dear Mr. President,

I take this opportunity to state what Russia expects from the development of relations between our countries. I wish that we could stop creating illusions, and avoid the misunderstandings and disenchantment of our predecessors. Let's try not to pretend that we are "strategic partners" or "members of the same club". Neither you or I think that the United States is our ideological mentor, or a financial sponsor who can show us the path to democracy. There are no external forces which can lead us to democracy. At the same time, the Russian government does not consider the USA and the West as opponents. We want to develop pragmatic and fair relations with the USA. If our countries actually intend to establish a long-term partnership, I need to be convinced that you have a clear idea about Russia and its strategic priorities.

This "clear idea" entails the following:

1. The USA, Russia and Europe have a right to defend themselves from non-strategic nuclear weapons. The creation of a Russian-European missile defence system is our political goal, and one of the most important strategic priorities. Our military analysts understand that a reliable anti-missile umbrella cannot be created without using Russian territory, from Russia's Western borders to the Urals.

2. We understand that it will only become possible to create a Russian-European missile defence system if the USA and NATO support this idea. This initiative is not aimed against the USA.

3. In view of the aforementioned, I propose reconsidering the ABM Treaty, signed in 1972 by the USA and the USSR - involving Britain, France and China in this process, according to the formula 4+1. This would make it possible to reach an agreement on mutual restrictions, and modify the US national missile defence system within the framework of this treaty.

4. After defining our plans for the future, I propose discussing the current nuclear balance. As you know, we decided to reform the Russian Armed Forces, including their nuclear component. In particular, we are ready to cut our nuclear warheads to 1,500 - if you do the same. Russian military analysts think that this number of warheads would be enough to defend the country.

5. Considering the geopolitical situation of the Russian Federation, any further development of the Russian military-industrial complex is a key point for us. We intend to play an active role in creating a Russian-European missile defence system. This would be a business approach, and would demonstrate our good will and mutual confidence.

6. When discussing strategic issues, we cannot forget about the issue of arms sales to Iran. I can guarantee that I will do my best to prevent the sale of any Russian technology which could be used to create nuclear weapons. As for conventional weapons, this is in actual fact a very important arms market for Russia. Such trade does not threaten our security. We do not intend to make concessions on this issue. This is a very important source of revenue, and provides an opportunity to develop technology. I understand that some contracts may cause significant concern in the region. That is why I propose discussing the commercial and political aspects of this issue.

7. Serious dialogue between the US and Russia is impossible without discussing the problem of international terrorism. For Russia this topic is linked to Chechnya. I don't know whether you realise that the criminal groups which have appeared in this region have become a very serious threat, especially given the situation in Central Asia: the Ferghana Valley, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We would like to receive reports from you concerning their funding sources abroad. It would be advisable to cooperate with you in the diplomatic and political spheres, in a bid to stop terrorism.

8. Our strategy will always be based on the fact that Russia has the world's longest borders with some extremely unstable countries. We share borders with almost half the poorest people in the world. Paradoxically, our western borders are the quietest. We should not overlook China in our discussion. It should be noted that our main goal is to preserve stability in China. This is a priority for Russia.

I would like to hear a public statement from you that a strong and prosperous Russia is a long-term priority for the United States. If this is true, we have a mutual strategic interest in North-East Asia, which will become a foundation for our prospective economic partnership.

9. In my opinion, all these issues are very important. As long as they remain unresolved, NATO expansion should not continue. We do not oppose the expansion of the European Union; we welcome this process. We are ready to cooperate; the Kaliningrad region provides a graphic example. But the expansion of a military bloc to our borders is not in our interests.

Mr. President! I hope that your administration will turn its attention to the development of strategic relations with Russia within the first 100 days. This step will become realistic if you take our interests into consideration. I will do my best to understand your point of view, and I hope that you will understand mine. I look forward to meeting you. I think that our first meeting should be based on discussing the aforementioned issues.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 31, 2001, p. 6