Thursday, November 15, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 61



Russia seeks partnership with U.S., Putin says

By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin told a Houston audience Wednesday that his formerly communist nation seeks an active partnership with the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to create a new international security structure.

Speaking before a capacity audience at Rice University's Stude Concert Hall before heading to a visit at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Putin said that in the decade since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, "a lot has been done to make sure that relations between Russia and the United States are built, taking into account each other's interest."

"We are learning to take a realistic view of our respective potentials, without exaggerating or diminishing them," said Putin, speaking in Russian while his American audience listened through earphones to an English translation.

Both countries must exploit monetary, technological and human capital to strengthen the relationship, Putin said.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, left, is greeted by former President George Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker during a visit to Rice University on Wednesday.

"In particular are the capabilities and eventualities of the scientific communities. Actually, there are only two countries in the world that, from the outset, chose to develop science in all its spheres the United States and Russia," he said.

The most prominent aspect of the two countries' mutual interest in the sciences is their respective space programs and their cooperation in the construction of the International Space Station.

But Russia, still evolving into a market-oriented economy after more than 70 years as a communist nation, requires investment from American corporations, Putin said.

"Today in Russia, we have all the necessary conditions for effective investments in various fields," he said. "I can state this quite confidently."

He said Russia has experienced a relatively high, if not spectacular, rate of economic growth in recent years.

Also, the number of business activities, which require government licensing (a holdover from the communist years), has been reduced from 2000 to 104.

"Even that is too high a figure, but we intend to continue to liberalize our economy," he said.

"We have taken legislative measures to counter the laundering of illicit profits. We have had an open struggle with the black market that has been eroding the economy of the country," he said.

"Perhaps the most important thing is that we have reduced the tax burden, something that has been discussed in Russia for 10 years, and almost nothing has been done," he said. 

In January, the profit tax rate will be to 24 percent from 35 percent, and all types of preferential treatment will be revoked. The Russian personal income tax rate, a flat rate of 13 percent, is the lowest in Europe, he said.

"One of our priorities is entering the World Trade Organization," he said. "We are fully aware that this step is associated not only with benefits, but also with additional obligations.

"There are many sectors in Russia, stable sectors, that are becoming part of sustaining the overall security system," he said. Of particular note is the energy sector, since Russia is becoming a reliable and predictable supplier of crude oil and other energy resources.

There have already been bilateral successes in this area, including the completion of a Caspian Sea oil pipeline, the largest project in Russia involving American capital investment, he said.

Putin called for the removal of international trade barriers: "It would be much easier to move ahead without these unnecessary deadweight relics we have inherited from the Cold War period. No one needs a friendship and cooperation that exists only on paper. We will all have to work patiently and perseveringly," he said.

Asked about for a postwar Afghanistan government, Putin said the shared position of Russia and the United States is that the Taliban should not be represented in the country's future leadership.

"At the same time, the future leadership of Afghanistan should build broad-based support of all ethnic groups living in that country, and the support of neighboring countries, and the support of the United Nations," he said. He added that when he presented these principles to leaders of the Northern Alliance during a meeting in Tajikistan, they agreed to them.

Asked whether he felt Russia might form a working relationship with or even join NATO, Putin said, "You know, NATO was created in a certain historical period, with certain historical reasons, namely countering the Soviet Union.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't pull our efforts together, the Russian Federation and NATO, why we shouldn't do it today," he said. 

"Today coming to the fore are threats that yesterday seemed quite insignificant. We know that not just from the events of Sept. 11, but the concern we feel for the possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"NATO was not created to counter those threats in the first place. All the leaders of the Western countries know that if there is one country that can contribute largely to these efforts, it is Russia. We are prepared to go as far as the alliance is prepared to go."

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