June 7, 2004
A President Who Listened, on the death of former President Ronald Reagan:
I believe it was not an accident that during his visit to Moscow in the summer of 1988 President Reagan said, in reply to a reporter’s question, that he did not regard the perestroika-era Soviet Union as an evil empire.
I think that the main lesson of those years is the need for dialogue, which must not be broken off whatever the challenges and complications we have to face. Meeting with Ronald Reagan in subsequent years I saw that this was how he understood our legacy to the new generation of political leaders.
The personal rapport that emerged between us over the years helped me to appreciate Ronald Reagan’s human qualities. A true leader, a man of his word and an optimist, he traveled the journey of his life with dignity and faced courageously the cruel disease that darkened his final years. He has earned a place in history and in people’s hearts.
Nov. 30, 2007
A Responsible Leader, on President Vladimir V. Putin and the problems that were facing Russia:
I am concerned about disturbing developments in inter-ethnic relations and the xenophobia and intolerance that the government does not always respond to promptly. Similarly, the authorities are not doing enough to fight organized crime and to prevent the killings of journalists.
These and other problems can be solved. But to succeed we must pursue a democratic path. We need effective opposition, real elections, accountable government, and a greater role for Parliament and the judiciary.
We also need understanding from our foreign partners. Confronting Russia with unfair criticism and unwarranted demands is not conducive to good relations with the West. It could leave a lasting impact on the minds of the Russian people, giving them a negative attitude toward the West for a long time to come.
March 4, 2008
Time to Modernize, on the future of Russia:
Our people are more democratic than you think, despite the vicissitudes of Russia’s history. This nation endured 250 years of Mongol domination, followed by serfdom under the tsars and decades of life without freedom under the communists.
But our people can learn from their past. They will make the right choices — what to accept and what to reject. This will take time, but Russia has only one future — democracy.
June 4, 2009
Don’t Make It Worse, on a nuclear test by North Korea, while he was visiting the Demilitarized Zone:
The latest news from the region is alarming. North Korea has said it no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the fighting between North and South Korea. It has launched at least six missiles since the second nuclear test. It may now be preparing to test an intercontinental missile. American and South Korean troops have been put on their highest alert in three years. Responding with the retaliatory logic of the Cold War could put us on a slippery slope, with unpredictable consequences.
The art of politics is not to turn a problem into a threat and a threat into an armed conflict. This becomes clear when one visits the region and talks to the people who are directly affected by this situation. They are right when they say we must leave no stone unturned in seeking to resume dialogue — one that one day may solve this and other problems in the region.
July 17, 2009
Reset Reviewed, after a visit by former President Barack Obama to Russia:
In his keynote speech, he said the United States wanted to work with Russia bilaterally as well as together in third countries. That point was noted here, for there is a great deal of lingering mutual mistrust as to the two countries’ intentions, particularly in what is called “the post-Soviet space.” Changing such attitudes will be difficult, but a start must be made somewhere.
As I see it, one area where the United States and Russia could engage each other in a useful dialogue is relations in Europe. This could help flesh out the idea, put forward by President Dmitry Medvedev, for a new pan-European security treaty. Indeed, the structure of security in Europe can be designed only if our two nations are among its architects. A serious dialogue is therefore in order.
As part of his visit to Moscow, President Obama made a special effort to engage a broad cross-section of Russian society. He showed an ability to listen and sought to persuade his listeners that our two nations have shared interests and compatible values. I hope the president’s contacts with the Russian public will contribute to a better understanding of the environment in which our country is making its transition to democracy.
Dec. 9, 2009
We Have a Real Emergency, on climate change and the need for global action:
The global environmental crisis is at the heart of practically all the problems now confronting us, including the need to create a global economic model grounded in the public good.
It is directly linked to security issues and to increasingly dangerous ethnic and international conflicts; to mass migrations and displacements of people, which are already destabilizing politics and economics; to growing poverty and social inequality; to the water crisis and energy and food shortages.
Excuses and pretexts for not taking action on the environment, and assertions that there are more important problems, are simply no longer credible. If we fail on this problem, we’ll fail on all the others.
April 9, 2013
Doing Business With the Iron Lady, on the death of the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher:
“I know you as a person of conviction, committed to certain principles and values,” I told the “Iron Lady.” “This commands respect. But you should keep in mind that you are sitting next to a person of the same sort. And I must tell you that I have not been instructed by the Politburo to convince you to join the Communist Party.”
Mrs. Thatcher laughed, and the conversation became normal.
Oct. 25, 2018
A New Nuclear Arms Race Has Begun, on former President Donald J. Trump’s to withdraw from a nuclear proliferation treaty:
The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international treaties and accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and security following World War II.
Yet I am convinced that those who hope to benefit from a global free-for-all are deeply mistaken. There will be no winner in a “war of all against all” — particularly if it ends in a nuclear war. And that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. An unrelenting arms race, international tensions, hostility and universal mistrust will only increase the risk.
Is it too late to return to dialogue and negotiations? I don’t want to lose hope. I hope that Russia will take a firm but balanced stand. I hope that America’s allies will, upon sober reflection, refuse to be launchpads for new American missiles. I hope the United Nations, and particularly members of its Security Council, vested by the United Nations Charter with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, will take responsible action.
Faced with this dire threat to peace, we are not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.
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