by H. E. Mr. Vladimir V.Putin,
President of the Russian Federation,
during the general debate at the 58th session of the
United Nations General Assembly
25 September 2003

Unofficial translation
Check against delivery

Distinguished Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to once again address this representative audience. But first of all I would like to wish fruitful work to the 58th session of the General Assembly. Work - to successfully harmonize actions by peoples and States. Work - for the benefit of peace, security and progress on the globe.

These are the goals which were laid down in the UN Charter by our predecessors. But as we see, they remain relevant to this day. These goals continue to serve as a steady and long-term foundation for the activities of the "united nations".

And while the UN structure and functions took shape in a fundamentally different, international environment, time has only borne out their universal importance. The UN instruments are not only in demand. As life itself has proven, in critical cases they are simply irreplaceable.

This is made abundantly clear by the following crucial fact. Despite strong differences about the ways of resolving the Iraqi crisis, the situation ultimately is coming back to the UN legal field.

Here the position of Russia is consistent and clear: only direct participation of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq will give its people an opportunity to independently decide their future.

And only active, practical assistance of the United Nations to its economic and civil transformation will enable Iraq to take a truly new and worthy place in the world community.

It is obvious that over the recent years the UN increasingly has had to deal with fundamentally new tasks and to grapple with different than before, but no less serious threats.

       Three years ago, speaking at the Millennium Summit, I said that terrorism is a common enemy of the united nations.

        Was Russia's voice heard at that time? Did everybody understand the seriousness of this threat? And have our joint actions been adequate to it?

The events of September 11 demonstrated that the answer is "no". Yet the style of the murderers who committed terrorist acts in Moscow, New York, Chechnya and against UN staff in Baghdad - to us in Russia this style is painfully familiar and has been for a long time. It is the same everywhere. And the fact that the inciters of terror are easily recognizable - both in the August events of this year and in the terrorist attacks of years past - only testifies to the global nature of this threat.

True, today we already hear each other. And we understand that the UN is duty­bound to become - and is indeed becoming - a basis for the global anti-terrorist coalition.

I would especially note the role of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council. Terrorism is a challenge to the security and economic future of the planet. That is why this Committee must become a real and practical instrument of effective struggle against the terrorist threat.

Let me touch particularly on the humanitarian activities of the United Nations. This sphere consumes a lion's share of efforts, time and funds of the United Nations, but not so often makes front-page news and is not always known to the citizens of the more prosperous States. However, it is this UN function that essentially continues to be fundamental and irreplaceable.

The United Nations helps millions of suffering people on the planet, victims of hunger, disease and conflicts, to survive and keep hope. This work is extremely important. It lends indisputable political and moral authority to the entire United Nations Organization. And it is here that the interrelationship between moral and political content of international activities is most evident.

Taking this opportunity, today I would like to thank all the staff members of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and, of course, numerous volunteers taking part in this noble work.

        Understanding the great value of the UN humanitarian mission, Russia regards it as a most important political task. We are contributing to its resolution and are committed to building up this contribution. Thus, over the past three years Russia has written off developing countries' debt in the total amount of 27.2 billion dollars. Now we are granting them considerable tariff preferences.

For the first time in many years Russia has become a donor of the UN World Food Programme. We know about the horror of hunger from our own history. As a result of our Civil War and forcible collectivization during the 1920's and 1930's, millions of people died of starvation in the Volga region, North Caucasus and in other parts of our country. Hunger became a national tragedy for the peoples of Ukraine as well. We consider it to be our moral and ethical duty to pursue our participation in the food aid programmes.

Russia intends to actively work toward resolving acute environmental problems. The World Conference on Climate Change which is due to open as early as next week in Moscow will be an important landmark in this context.

We also believe there is a need to create a global system for monitoring and neutralizing dangerous infectious diseases. And we consider the activities of the Global Health Fund to be a real manifestation of international solidarity in fighting the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

To be sure, the United Nations - as any system with complex organization - needs improvement. But the problems of the United Nations - both past and present - have not been just the problems of this organization per se. Each time they were produced by and continue to reflect contradictions within the very system of international relations. And above all, within the system of international law.

After all, politicians, including those represented in the UN and its Security Council, do not always have adequate and effectively working legal instruments at their disposal. The instruments that make it possible to adequately overcome the emerging international and regional crises: And in that sense international law, of course, must be a fluid, "living matter" reflecting the realities of the contemporary world.

I believe that many processes going on within the United Nations, too, are evidence of the constant changes occurring in the world. These changes dictate the logic of evolution of the United Nations.

Members of this Organization know very well that all United Nations' achievements are, as a rule, our common successes, whereas all failures are our joint miscalculations. But this knowledge entails great responsibility and commitment. Above all, we have to be extremely careful about interfering in the fabric and mechanism of the UN work.

Obviously, behind any such decision there should be not general political rhetoric and not just words about the so-called "fair" policies. It is my conviction that any attempt at modernizing the United Nations instruments should be preceded by most serious analysis and most accurate calculation.

This is primarily relevant for the main UN instruments - the instruments of international law. After all, to guarantee that they remain effective is the only way to avoid legal vacuum. As long as the norms of international law remain unaltered, as long as they are operative, it is our duty to observe them. It is our duty to ensure continuity of security guarantees for the States and the planet as a whole.

Finally, we should jointly try to understand which of the United Nations structures and mechanisms have proven effective and productive and which of them have already fulfilled their mission or have turned out to be unused. We should also remember that many of the possibilities that the U.N. has had at its disposal for a long time still have to be harnessed. We still have to learn to use many of the resources.

I would like to devote special attention to enhancing the efficiency of the United Nations Security Council. I am convinced that the depth of the still existing differences and the interests of keeping this organ functional prompt the need for stage-by-stage and rather cautious work.

We believe that today we should continue to be guided by the broadest possible agreement about all aspects of the enlargement of this organ, as well as the unconditional maintenance of its present high status and the legitimacy of agreed-upon actions.

        After all, the Security Council, according to the U.N. Charter, "acts on behalf of the United Nations." It is here, in the Security Council, that a concrete mechanism is in place for harmonizing political will, and a mechanism for the protection of the national interest of various States, and, through this, the protection of the interests of the entire international community.

True, we often hear that developed countries bear special responsibility for the destiny of the world. Such leadership, however, entails great obligations. First and foremost, it is the obligation to take into account the interests of the international community as a whole.

To be a world power means to be together with the world community. To be a genuinely powerful and influential State means also to be able to see and address the problems of small peoples and economically weak countries.

In this context, I find useful the intensified work with regional international structures within the United Nations. This is a straight path towards growing economic prosperity in various parts of the world, and consequently, towards containing potential threats and maintaining a general strategic balance.

We welcome the emergence of regional centers for coordination and cooperation in the United Europe. We are in favour of strengthening integration processes in the Asia-Pacific region. And of course, we are in favour of the growing credibility and efficiency of the work of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Russia is not the only country that" is interested in pursuing new forms of regional integration. Our CIS partners also demonstrate their practical commitment to the same goal. This, incidentally, was reaffirmed by the most recent CIS summit.

Certainly important to us is also the development of multi-faceted processes of interaction with the European Union, and with respect to security issues, a search for new forms of cooperation with NATO.

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

        We should counter the present-day threats to civilization only through those collective responses whose legitimacy is not in doubt. We need a systemic vision combining political and, when necessary, military measures. These measures should be coordinated, reasonable and adequate.

Improvement of the peace-keeping mechanisms remains on the UN agenda. The United Nations should be capable of faster and more efficient deployment of peace-keeping operations and, when necessary, peace-enforcement operations in strict compliance with the UN Charter. I should note that Russia is ready to step up its participation in operations under the UN auspices as well as in coalition operations authorized by the Security Council.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means remains a serious challenge to the modern world. The most dangerous challenge is when they get into the hands of terrorists.

The ways of eradicating these threats are well-known. These include further universilization of the existing non-proliferation regimes, the strengthening of international verification instruments, and the introduction of safe technology in nuclear production and energy. By and large, it is renunciation by States of excessive arsenals and military programmemes capable of undermining the politico-military balance and trigger an arms race.

          Today, Russia announces its obligation not to be the first to deploy offensive strike weapons in outer space. We stand for developing a comprehensive agreement on this issue and invite all countries possessing space potential to join our initiative.

The Russian initiative on building, under the auspices of the United Nations, a global system to counter new threats has already been supported by the General Assembly. We propose adopting a new resolution in the course of this session that would specify further steps in this direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

        In conclusion, I would like to remind you that the solid structure of the United Nations has withstood all the shocks of the second half of the 20 th century, it has helped to overcome the threats of global confrontation, and, most importantly, has fostered the promotion of human rights values. It has also helped to assert the principles of mutual respect and good-neighborliness among States.

The main lesson of the "UN school" is that mankind has no other alternative than to jointly construct a more secure, fair and prosperous world.

This is our duty to the succeeding generations. We have no better help in this principal cause than such time-tested instruments as the work of the United Nations, an Organization where for half a century decisions that are crucial for the whole world have been taken.

May I repeat: Russia is convinced that the United Nations should maintain its central role. This is our choice and our strategic position.

Thank you for your attention.