November 14, 2009

What Russian Army gets next year: Excerpts from Medvedev Speech

Next year the transition of Russia's Armed Forces to a qualitatively new level should be complete, and we will have created a modern, efficient and mobile army, trained and equipped to protect us and our allies from any threats.

One of the most challenging and fundamental problems is supplying our troops with new systems, new sorts of weapons and military equipment. There is no need to embark here on some sort of abstract discussion: we simply need to acquire these weapons. In the next year we need to provide the Armed Forces with more than 30 ballistic land- and sea-based missiles, 5 Iskander missile systems, about 300 modern armoured vehicles, 30 helicopters, 28 combat aircraft, 3 nuclear-powered submarines, 1 corvette-class battleship and 11 spacecraft. All this simply has to be done.


Another important issue is providing the Armed Forces with modern automated control centres and information systems. Before 2012 we need to replace outdated analogue communications equipment with digital systems, and give priority in equipping with these modern communications means to the troops of the North Caucasus Military District.

Once again I would like to draw your attention to the need for the latest sorts of arms which will ensure our superiority over any enemy. We must also have an effective system of orders for military goods and maintain a strictly observed balance between the supply of arms for national defence needs and supplies abroad. I should stress again that the heads of the defence industry enterprises should substantially improve the quality of their products and reduce their cost.

By the end of this year we will have set up military-educational institutions of a new sort, three major military training centres, in Moscow, the Moscow Region and St Petersburg. They will play a crucial role in training the younger generation of officers, officers who will be not only professionally trained but educated in the values of patriotism, military honour and moral rectitude.

As part of the effort to raise the prestige of military service and officers' status in society, we are planning to open seven presidential cadet schools. The first one will open next year in the Volga Federal District, and the others will open over the next three years in other federal districts.

The army will gain professional sergeants and highly qualified junior command personnel. They will assist officers in educating and training soldiers to improve their combat skills.

Providing servicemen with permanent and service housing remains our priority. The Russian government managed to increase the funds allocated this year for this purpose by more than one-and-a-half times. The Russian Ministry of Defence and other law enforcement agencies have to uphold their commitments concerning the construction and purchase of apartments. Our goals of providing permanent housing in 2010 and service housing by 2012 must be achieved.

Before 2012 we should adopt a special law on military pay. A new system of payment for military service and material incentives should significantly improve the lives of our soldiers.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

November 12, 2009
The Kremlin, Moscow Printer-friendly version


PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Citizens of Russia,

Deputies and members of the Federation Council,

Two months ago, in my article Go, Russia! I announced the principles for a new political strategy. In today’s Address to the Federal Assembly I want to outline the first specific steps for implementing this strategy. I will tell you about the immediate tasks ahead.

The foundation of my vision for the future is the firm conviction that Russia can and must become a global power on a completely new basis. Our country’s prestige and national prosperity cannot rest forever on past achievements. After all, the oil and gas production facilities that generate most of our budget revenue, the nuclear weapons that guarantee our security, and our industrial and utilities infrastructure – most of this was built by Soviet specialists. In other words, it was not we who built it. It is still keeping our country afloat today, but it is rapidly depreciating both morally and physically. The time has come for today’s generation of Russians to make their mark and take our country to a new, higher level of civilisation.

Last century, at tremendous cost and effort, an essentially illiterate country was transformed into what was at that time one of the world’s most influential industrial powers, a leader in creating advanced technology in the space, rocket and nuclear fields. But the closed society and totalitarian political regime made it impossible to hold onto this lead. The Soviet Union, sadly, remained an industrial and raw materials giant and proved unable to compete against post-industrial societies.

In the twenty-first century, our country once again needs to undergo comprehensive modernisation. This will be our first ever experience of modernisation based on democratic values and institutions. Instead of a primitive raw materials economy we will create a smart economy producing unique knowledge, new goods and technology of use to people.

Instead of an archaic society in which the leaders think and decide for everyone we will become a society of clever, free and responsible people.

Instead of chaotic action dictated by nostalgia and prejudice, we will carry out an intelligent domestic and foreign policy based on purely pragmatic aims.

Instead of the Russia of the past we will build the Russia of the present – a modern and forward-looking young nation able to take a worthy place in the global economy.

I published my proposal to reflect on how we can overcome our chronic backwardness, dependence on raw materials exports, and corruption, how we can prepare ourselves for the fierce competition on global markets, and create the best possibilities for ensuring that each of us can make full use in practice of our knowledge, opportunities, and experience without depending on higher-ups. In other words, I proposed that we reflect on the steps we need to take right now to improve the quality of life in Russia and make our country one of the world’s leaders.

I received numerous responses and letters of all sorts during the public discussion that followed, and spoke with people of all different political views and professions on ways to develop our economy, education and science, and make our system of government, and our political and judicial systems more effective.

I thank everyone who took part in these open debates on the new political strategy: those who share my views, and those who propose different solutions. We all have at least one thing in common: we know that change is essential and that what kind of country we will hand down to our children and grandchildren, and what place it will hold in tomorrow’s world depend on us alone.

Many of your ideas were taken into account during the work on the Presidential Address, the work on its proposals, which offer the blueprint for Russia’s consistent and systemic modernisation.

Colleagues,

The need for change has become especially clear over these past months. The global financial crisis has affected everyone, but Russia has experienced an even severer economic downturn than most countries. We should not lay the blame on the outside world alone, however.

We need to recognise that we have not done enough over these last years to resolve the problems we inherited from the past. We have not freed ourselves from a primitive economic structure and humiliating dependence on raw materials. We have not refocused our industry on consumers’ real needs. The habit of living off export earnings is still holding back innovative development. Russian business still prefers to sell goods produced abroad, and our own goods’ competitiveness is disgracefully low.

The crisis has certainly made it harder to resolve these problems. It has forced us to concentrate our efforts on dealing with its negative impact by drawing on the substantial reserves that we had built up with such hard work. The large-scale package of anti-crisis measures made it possible to stabilise the situation by the middle of this year.

Our priority was and is to support people in difficult circumstances. Budget revenue has fallen but the authorities will continue to carry out social commitments in full. This will be the case in the future too.

This concerns pensions above all. Pensions were indexed on a greater scale than had been planned. Over the next three years, the average pension will increase at least 1.5-fold, and in 2010, all pensioners will receive an income not lower than the subsistence minimum. You know how important this is for our elderly people.

One of the key tasks that we simply must resolve is that of providing war veterans with housing. The federal budget allocates around 46 billion rubles this year for this purpose, and this will make it possible to provide more than 34,000 veterans with better housing conditions. I have issued an additional instruction to earmark funds for providing all veterans with apartments, regardless of when they made their requests for better housing conditions. This is our duty.

The maximum unemployment benefit has been increased more than 1.5-fold, and we are carrying out large-scale job support programmes. Around 2 million people have already taken part in these programmes. This helps us to prevent a sharp rise in the number of unemployed. We will continue to promote job support and job creation programmes, especially for the more than 1 million people around the country who are at risk of being laid off. We need to pay more attention to modern professional training, organisation of public works, creating both temporary and permanent jobs, and providing targeted support for people, including for relocation or opening their own businesses.

One particularly important area for our efforts is normalising the situation in single-industry towns. There are several hundred such towns and cities in Russia. They are home to more than 16 million people and produce a large volume of goods and services. Over the coming months we need to take urgent measures to prevent a serious fall in living standards in these towns. This is a task for the authorities at all levels, and for the company managers in these towns. Over the next 6 months the Government will approve a programme for supporting these towns’ development, and will adopt comprehensive programmes for the towns and settlements in most difficult circumstances. In these locations we need to put in place conditions that will enable people to make use of their skills in all different areas and create incentives for private investment. If for whatever reason the economic prospects are very slim or are absent altogether we need to help people move to places where they will have better prospects for life and employment, all the more so as we have plenty of regions in need of additional labour. I think that many people will be able to find new jobs on their own, but at the same time, I expect the local and regional authorities and the employers to take a responsible and attentive attitude towards specific people’s needs. The federal authorities also have to organise the necessary support.

We have been providing direct support during the crisis, direct subsidies to Russian companies, and this money comes to more than 1 trillion rubles now. In the future, we will provide such support only to businesses that have clear plans for raising effectiveness and carrying out high-technology projects. Ineffective companies either have to go through a financial cleanup procedure or leave the market. Protecting them by setting up high trade barriers cannot continue forever. Production can develop only when we have real competition. Russian consumers need to have access to inexpensive quality goods. The task for Russian companies is to learn how to produce them.

I note in particular the successful implementation of the state programme for agriculture sector development. As a result, agriculture is showing higher growth than any other sector, even during the crisis period. We will continue our rural support policy. We have all the right conditions for making agriculture one of our economic growth leaders for the years to come, and this in turn will improve the quality of life in the countryside.

Of course, the best anti-crisis policy is to encourage private demand. Some steps have been taken in this direction, but this is still not enough. I instruct the Government to draft additional measures for supporting consumer loans and expanding housing construction.

There have been many proposals for increasing investment in infrastructure. This is understandable. Infrastructure in our country suffers from a lack of financing. But so long as basic order has not been brought to this sector and construction is carried out using vastly exaggerated cost estimates I think that spending more money on these projects would be a luxury we cannot afford. I instruct the Government starting next year to introduce new procedures for tenders in this sector, including using electronic technology, and to bring the technology and costs of building roads and other infrastructure sites into line with world standards. We should examine the possibility of using the relevant European Union norms in order to draft more rapidly our own construction regulations, because this is something that has been dragging on for too long here.

We have paid a lot of attention to supporting the financial system over these last months. The banking system is in a satisfactory condition today, taking the crisis year into account of course. Lending is starting to grow again and the amount of overdue debt has stabilised. Now that inflation has come down and the currency market has stabilised interest rates are also gradually starting to fall. The Central Bank is now playing in full its part as lender of last resort. But from the innovative development point of view the financial sector is still weak. It has insufficient capitalization and is not able to provide a full range of needed services to our people and companies. The Government should present a programme of specific measures for improving the financial system and making it able to meet the demands of our economy’s modernisation.

I think that overall, the Government, the Central Bank, and the regional authorities, with the support of legislators at all levels, have succeeded in stabilising the situation in the economy and social sphere.

But I hope that everyone here realises that this revival on the markets is still very weak and unstable. The most dangerous thing now would be to start telling ourselves that all is well. We need to continue carrying out our anti-crisis programme and be ready to act fast to take additional measures.

Deputies and members of the Federation Council,

We have a duty to heed the lessons of recent events. So long as oil prices were growing many, almost all of us, to be honest, fell for the illusion that structural reforms could wait and that what was important now was to make maximum use of the high prices. The priority was on pushing ahead the old raw materials economy, while developing unique technology and innovative products was the subject of only random individual decisions.

But we can delay no longer. We must begin the modernisation and technological upgrading of our entire industrial sector. I see this as a question of our country’s survival in the modern world.

I hope the time is not far off when Russia’s prosperity will depend on our successes in developing a market for ideas, inventions and discoveries, and on the ability of our state and society to find and encourage talented individuals capable of critical thinking, and rear young people in a spirit of intellectual freedom and civic activeness.

What are the main factors in this development, as I see them? The Russian economy must make people’s real needs its focus, and people’s needs today are primarily about ensuring their safety, improving their health, and guaranteeing access to energy and information. This determines our priorities for economic modernisation and technological development. These are the key tasks for placing Russia on a new technological level and making it a global leader. These priorities include introducing the latest medical, energy and information technology, developing space and telecommunications systems, and radically increasing energy efficiency.

A special presidential commission has approved specific projects in all of these five areas and has drawn up detailed timetables for their implementation. Work is already underway on their practical implementation. I hope for the active participation of all the state organisations, the business, scientific and expert communities.

I will go into a little more detail on each of these main modernisation areas because I think them vitally essential for our country.

The modernisation area of top importance for our people is developing medical technology, medical equipment, and the pharmaceuticals industry. We will provide people with quality and affordable medicines and also the latest technology for preventing and treating diseases, especially the diseases that are the biggest causes of sickness and death in our country. There is no need to say just how significant this is given the demographic situation Russia faces.

We have already drawn up a list of strategically important medicines that should be produced here in Russia. This includes the most expensive medicines, in particular medicines for treating cardiovascular diseases and cancer. We will need to produce more than 50 such medicines so that everyone who needs them will be able to receive timely treatment. Also we will soon dramatically increase production of our own medicines for treating the most common diseases such as colds and flu.

I think that Russian companies have the ability to produce medicines and technology that would find demand on the global market. For this we need to work more actively on developing partnerships with leading foreign developers and producers, who can contribute to organising advanced medical research in Russia itself.

We will also use the public procurement mechanism to encourage domestic production of medicines and technology. Within five years, Russian-made medicines should account for at least a quarter of the medicines market here and for more than half of the market by 2020. This is our goal.

I have also given the instruction to prepare and submit to the State Duma a draft law setting out regulations for medicines’ supply and sale and, extremely important, their safety demands. We have a duty to protect people from fake and counterfeit products on this market.

Along with the introduction of new prevention and treatment procedures we also need to pay particular attention to motivating and giving people the conditions to pursue a healthy lifestyle. I received a lot of feedback to my article and these words were on precisely this issue: “The measure of personal success should be a person’s health rather than the amount of money earned. Getting young people into the habit of playing sport would help resolve serious problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism and lack of adult supervision.” It is hard to argue with these words.

I note that in August this year, Russia registered its natural population increase for the first time in the last 15 years. This growth is still only small – just 1,000 people – but still, it is an increase nonetheless. This result was achieved above all thanks to the National Project on Health and the new demographic policy we have been implementing. We will continue our efforts in these areas. We have every chance of ensuring that our population grows rather than declines.

Of course, we also need to think about the natural resources that we can preserve and pass on to future generations. This is why I think that increasing energy efficiency and making the transition to a rational resource consumption model is another of our economy’s modernisation priorities. We can resolve this task only if each of us reflects on our personal responsibility for energy saving, as people are now doing throughout the globe. This is something everyone is thinking about elsewhere in the world.

What needs to be done? First, we will launch programmes to produce and install individual meters. People in our cities and towns today are essentially paying for worn-out and therefore costly utilities infrastructure. People should pay only for what they actually consume.

Second, we are beginning a transition to energy-saving light bulbs. People will save a considerable amount of money by replacing old equipment.

Third, starting next year, we will begin carrying out projects to make city districts more energy efficient. Utilities networks will be modernised and a system of payments for services will be introduced that takes more into consideration families’ consumption and income levels. We will introduce energy service contracts that will make substantial savings possible. The energy efficiency programmes will be implemented first of all in the public sector, where there is plenty of work to do. I call on all of the country’s regions to take part in these projects.

Fourth, we need to increase production not only of minerals, but also become a leader in developing innovation both in traditional and alternative energy.

One of the most glaring examples of ineffective energy resource use is the flaring of gas extracted alongside oil. This pollutes the environment and sends tens of billions of rubles up in smoke. The Government has discussed the issue on many occasions and has promised to put an end to this disgrace. We really do need to take fast and decisive action, and no objections from the production companies should be accepted. This has become a popular issue. During the meeting I held with the Federation Council, Nikolai Ryzhkov asked me to look into the problem of wasting the gas extracted alongside oil. I don’t know if he is present now or not. He is here. I hope that we can work together then to oversee that this task is fulfilled.

One of the most promising areas is to make use of the widespread bio-resources we have, above all timber, peat, and industrial waste, as energy sources.

Our scientific research and production organisations will focus on developing innovative technology such as developments based on superconductor technology that is particularly relevant for our extensive territory. We continue to lose huge amounts of energy during its transmission around our country. Superconductor technology will radically change electricity production, transmission and use.

Programmes for developing nuclear energy have been made a separate area within the modernisation project. By 2014, we will have new-generation reactors and nuclear fuel, for which there will be demand not just in Russia but on foreign markets as well. Developments in the nuclear field will be actively applied in other areas too (above all in medicine, of course), for production of hydrogen fuel, and also for creating propellant devices capable of ensuring space flights even to other planets.

We will play an active part in the international project for developing thermonuclear fusion as the future lies with these technologies. As one of the ‘elite club’ of countries developing nuclear technology we will work together with our foreign partners to open access to what is a practically unlimited energy source.

The fourth strategic direction is developing space technology and telecommunications. Our country was traditionally one of the leaders in these sectors but today is only in 63rd place in the world for its level of communications infrastructure development. This is very bad. Obviously, without change in this area we will not be able to progress, and this is why we need to give people throughout the entire country broadband Internet access over the next five years, and carry out the transition to digital television and fourth-generation mobile phone communications.

The national infrastructure network should guarantee access to modern telecommunications in any corner of the country and at reasonable prices. Prices for these services should be lower for people in Siberia and the Far East. Priority should go to the services that most of our country’s people really need, above all communication with the unified emergency service and help in emergency situations. This is vitally important.

High-speed optic cables will be laid across the country, highly productive equipment will be installed, and the considerable number of existing lines will see their potential put to full use. This will make it possible to guarantee the exchange of ever increasing information flows between the country’s regions and between different countries. Russia, which extends across 11 time zones, is set to become a key link in the global information infrastructure.

Incidentally, on the subject of time zones, it has been the custom here to take pride in their number, which seemed to us a vivid symbol of our country’s greatness. This is indeed the case, but have we ever stopped to think seriously about whether dividing our country this way makes it harder to manage it effectively and leads to the use of excessively costly technology? Other countries’ examples (the USA and China) show that fewer time zones can work perfectly well. These are both large countries. We should examine the possibility of reducing the number of time zones. Of course, we would need to look into all the possible consequences of such a decision. This also concerns the expediency of daylight saving. Here too we need to compare the savings made and the inconveniences the practice causes. Whatever the case, we need to make this analysis. I hope that the specialists will give us objective responses, and I stress the word objective, to these questions.

Another of our priorities will be the use of space technology, including the GLONASS system, of course. This technology will give our people the possibility of using modern navigation systems in their cars, help to guarantee transport safety and security at technically complex facilities, improve coordination between accident prevention, emergency situations and natural and man-induced disasters relief. It will also give rise to new technology for providing highly accurate digital cartographic information.

The introduction of modern engineering solutions and development of new-generation spacecraft will enable us by 2015 to reach world standards in the capacity and service life of the telecommunications satellites we put into orbit. Not all is so good in this area at the moment. These new satellites’ technological capacities should enable us to see the whole world and help people in all countries carry out scientific research and work and communicate more effectively with each other.

Finally, our fifth priority is to develop strategic and information technology. Russia needs to make full use of the potential of supercomputers and supercomputer systems linked by high-speed data exchange channels. With their help within five years we could start designing new planes and spacecraft, cars and nuclear reactors. Sophisticated technology that has not gone through supercomputer simulation and not been digitalised, so to speak, will find itself without demand on the market within a few years. If we want to be competitive in this area we have to start working hard.

Furthermore, starting next year, various state services will be accessible via electronic communications channels too. This concerns, in particular, qualification exams and issuing driver’s licences, registering real estate on the cadastre register, and receiving bibliographical information from state libraries and archives. In two years time, more than 60 key state services will be available in electronic form. This is our objective.

A pilot project will begin on introducing social cards for people. Such cards will ensure easy access to state services and facilitate participation in medical and social insurance programmes. In the future, these cards could be combined with electronic cards giving access to banking products, including making obligatory and voluntary payments. Implementation of electronic technology will be convenient for people and will also be a powerful tool in preventing corruption.

One of the responses I received to my article [Go, Russia!] which came from the town of Serpukhov noted that the introduction of this sort of technology, in particular the electronic government, will do a lot to reduce the corruption problem, free people from queuing, and save them time and money. This is clearly the case.

The five strategic directions for technological modernisation that I have named are certainly all priorities, but the list of state tasks does not end here. The government must take active steps to implement development programmes in other economic sectors too, focusing particularly on increasing added value of goods produced in the country. This is a key task.

I will name several systemic steps we need to take as part of implementation of this general strategy.

First, we need to modernise the state owned industries. The public sector share in the economy has never gone below 40 percent, and during the crisis the state has seen its role increase, of course. This trend has been seen around the world, but from the long-term point of view there is nothing good in this.

We need to understand what kind of state sector structure best suits our strategic goals. I am instructing the Government to draw up resolutions for optimising the extent and effectiveness of the state’s participation in businesses’ operation. This concerns the future of a number of assets that have strategic status at the moment. By 2012, we need to accomplish the relevant programme and bring our state sector into line with the optimum parameters set for some foreseeable future, as nothing lasts forever. I stress that this is something we need to undertake very carefully so as not to waste assets that belong to our entire nation.

But it would be senseless too to hold onto a huge amount of assets with no hope of modernising them.

Regarding state corporations, I think that this legal form of enterprise has no future overall in the modern world. The corporations with a lifetime set by law should wind up once their purposes are accomplished, and those operating in a competitive business environment, should be eventually transformed into joint stock companies under government control. In the future, they should either remain in the public sector in cases where necessary, or should be sold to private investors.

We also need to carry out an independent audit of [state] corporations and of large companies with state participation, introduce modern corporate governance models in them, and peg the pay of their managers directly to performance results in cost-cutting, energy efficiency, raising labour productivity and introduction of new technology and innovation.

Optimising budget spending is a constant priority for the executive authorities. The Government needs to develop and introduce a system of measures creating long-term incentives for raising the quality of state services and ensuring responsibility for effectively spending budget money and producing more efficient results in general.

It is absolutely unacceptable that Russian taxpayers should have to pay more for this or that service than people in the leading developed countries.

Second, we will establish a comfortable environment in Russia for world-class research and development. French scientist Louis Pasteur hit the nail on the head when he said that, “Science should become the country’s highest incarnation, because among all the world’s nations, whichever people is ahead of the others in thinking and intellectual activity will always be the leader.” These are fine words.

Our country has always had an abundance of innovative, progressive and talented people. They are the pillar holding up the innovative world, and we need to do everything we can to make these specialists want to work here in their own country. This requires us to establish effective mechanisms for supporting them, and also for attracting to Russia Russian and foreign scientists of repute, and entrepreneurs with experience in commercialising new developments. This is a complex business. We should simplify the rules for recognising degrees and diplomas awarded by the world’s leading universities, and also the rules for hiring the foreign specialists we need. Such people should receive their visas swiftly and for a long period. It is we who have an interest in bringing them to Russia rather than the other way round.

Incidentally, many of the people commenting on my article said these same things, noting that our compatriots, Russian scientists working abroad, could form an important part of the expert community and help to organise international expert evaluation of Russian scientific projects, and if we offer the right conditions, could simply return here to work.

I am instructing the Government to expand the system of grants on the basis of tenders for those developing new technology. Development institutes should search for and select promising projects from all around the country and provide financial support for innovative enterprises, including the small innovative businesses that the law now allows universities and scientific establishments to set up. Of course, they should share the risks in these ventures with private investors.

This is something our people are also talking about. I will voice an idea that was sent in from the Republic of Altai and proposes that modern universities set up business incubators. These sorts of ideas have been suggested in the past too. Such university-based business incubators would give graduates the chance to learn how to turn their scientific ideas into profitable business projects. I think this kind of idea deserves our full support.

I stress that not only the state but also our major companies should play their part by placing advance orders for the results of the research carried out. You could say this is all part of their social responsibility. A large share of projects should go through an international expert evaluation and be carried out in partnership with foreign centres and companies.

The deadline for the Government to make all the organisational and financial decisions needed to accomplish these tasks is the first quarter of next year. I bring it to your attention that itemised allocation of state funds for these purposes should primarily reflect the technological development priorities we have set.

Finally, we need to complete preparation work on the programme for establishing a prominent research and development centre in Russia to focus on support for absolutely all of the priority areas. This is a project to create a modern technological centre, something on the lines of Silicon Valley and similar foreign centres. It would offer attractive working conditions for leading researchers, engineers, designers, software programmers, managers and financial specialists, and it would produce new technology able to compete on the global market.

The third systemic step that we need to take is to change our laws and public administration system in such a way as to put our entire economy on an innovative development track.

We have said on many occasions that procedures for investment in Russia should be as convenient as those of our competitors, and the control and supervision, including the products certification mechanisms, should not create extra barriers for investors ready to put their money into innovative solutions.

I am giving the Government a two-month deadline to draw up proposals on introducing new procedures for obtaining the approvals and permits needed to launch investment projects. This work should make it possible to get projects underway more rapidly, within a fraction of the currently required time. If we take this step, it should take no more than 3 to 4 months to complete the whole approval process for sites not classified as ‘hazardous’. At the moment, it takes 18 to 24 months, and in big cities the approval process can often drag on for years.

The regional authorities should have the power and responsibility for coordinating this work. Officials who systematically delay the approvals process and demand payments other than those explicitly stipulated by the laws should face administrative and other penalties and, if necessary, be fired.

Fourth, our tax system and also our laws on mandatory insurance contributions should be adapted to our modernisation demands.

In the first quarter of next year, the Government will present draft laws on establishing favourable conditions for innovative activity, including, but not limited to, the introduction of a five-year favourable transition period regarding the increase of mandatory social insurance contributions. We need to define very clearly at the same time who will be entitled to preferences.

Overall, our tax system clearly needs improving. The discussion on what taxes and what rates we should pay is not closed. Of course, the crisis has hindered decisions on reducing the tax burden, but we will soon need to come back to these issues, and we will most certainly do so.

Colleagues,

It is clear that we cannot carry out our strategic plans without real change in society. Only if we strengthen our political system and legal institutions, our country’s internal and external security, consolidate our social stability and develop modern education and culture, the culture in the broadest sense of the word, will we be able to achieve success.

Through our joint efforts, not only will our living standards show real improvement but we ourselves will change too. We need to overcome the widespread view that responsibility for sorting out all problems lies with the state or with whoever else, but not with each of us personally. Personal success, encouragement of initiative, a better quality of public discussion, and zero tolerance of corruption should become part of our national culture, an intrinsic part of who we are.

Achieving these goals requires us to start at the beginning – by educating new individuals right from the school classroom. As prominent economist Vasily Leontiev said, “Education fulfils one of humanity's most basic needs and is a social investment that generates future material production growth. It raises the present generation’s living standards and at the same time helps to raise the income of future generations.”

In my Address last year, I presented the proposal and gave the instruction to draft an initiative – Our New School. This has been done, and I will set out this initiative’s basic proposals now.

The modern school’s main aim is to develop each pupil’s potential and help form them as individuals ready to take their place in a high-technology and competitive world. The discussions on my article produced a huge number of comments on school education, a lot of people write about this subject because it is something that concerns us all. What people are saying is that school education should teach children to independently set and achieve serious objectives and be able to react to all kinds of different circumstances in life. What is this initiative’s essence and what immediate steps will it involve? I remind you that we have declared 2010 Year of the Teacher, and first of all, we plan to draft and introduce new education standards and consequently expand the list of documents evaluating and attesting to each pupil’s success. The final national school exam will be the basic document in this respect, but will not be the only means of verifying the quality of education.

Furthermore, we will introduce monitoring and comprehensive evaluation of students’ academic achievements, skills and abilities. We need to pay particular attention to students in the senior classes, where the curriculum should be tied directly to the choice of fields in which to specialise at the universities.

Second, schools should become creative and information centres offering a rich intellectual and sporting life. An architecture tender will be held for selecting new design projects for building and reconstructing schools. This should have been done long ago. The new projects will go into use around the country starting from 2011. The task is to build ‘smart’ buildings, modern buildings, in other words, offering all the technology needed for pupils to learn, build up their health, and enjoy good-quality decent hot meals. All schools should have access not to ordinary but to broadband internet.

Starting next year, we will introduce new standards for physical education classes – at least three hours a week, taking into account children’s specific personal circumstances in all cases. In general, in all areas we need to take into account children’s individual circumstances and modern scientific knowledge about children.

One particular objective is to create a barrier-free school environment for children with disabilities. A five-year state programme – Open Environment – aimed at resolving these problems will be adopted in 2010.

The third thing we must do is give our schools more independence, both in elaborating individual educational programmes and in spending funds. Starting next year, schools that do well in the competition within the national project, Education, will be granted independence and they will become autonomous institutions. Mandatory reporting for such schools will be drastically reduced in exchange for their making available the information on the results. Headmasters of such schools will sign contracts that will provide for special contractual working conditions based on the performance results.

Fourth, we need legislation to make public and private education more equal in the legal sense, to give families bigger choice of schools and give students access to the best teachers through distance learning and supplementary education. This is especially important for ungraded and remote schools, those in Russia's outlying districts.

Fifth, we have to undertake a complete overhaul of the teacher training system. We will be introducing mandatory refresher courses and advanced training using the best Russian universities and schools as the basis. Funds for professional development should allow ro choose among a range of educational programmes, and teacher training institutes should be gradually transformed either into major basic centres for training teachers or into faculties of education at universities. We will seek to invite those who are able to provide a better quality of specialised education for senior students to teach in our schools. This will include skilled professionals who have no formal teacher education. Those who choose to work in schools will be able to take short-term specialised courses. At the same time we will introduce a special system of incentives and new mandatory certification requirements for teachers.

I am counting on this initiative (Our New School) to be more than just another administrative project, of which we have many, but rather a programme to which our whole society will dedicate itself. This is something that we all need.

Along with the family, the school is the basic social institution, which shapes individuals, inculcates the national and global cultural values in the younger generation, and nurtures civilised citizens. And an innovation economy can emerge only in a specific social context as part of an innovative culture based on humanistic ideals, creative freedom, and a desire to improve the quality of life. Enshrined in our national culture, this ethos determines the successful development of the individual and the nation as a whole. For this reason we are devoting considerable attention to the development of culture and extending work in this regard on several fronts.

First, we must do everything we can to support the creation of infrastructure needed for normal cultural development, particularly in Russia's regions, in its provinces. In small cities, towns, villages, those places lacking in modern cinemas, large libraries, theatres and exhibition centres, we need to actively promote information technology. This must be the basis for cultural modernisation. New technology will provide access to culture for millions of our fellow citizens and, most importantly, for our young people.

We also need to take a closer look at the special emphasis, after-day-programme educational institutions in the provinces. They are in a difficult situation. We must provide basic education in music and dancing, teach the fundamentals of drawing and painting, and make theatre accessible to all children, in whatever remote corners of the country they live.

Second, we need to work hard to protect the uniqueness of our country's culture in all its diversity, to help preserve the rich ethnic traditions of Russia's peoples, and at the same time develop and improve Russian language programmes, which serve as the basis for communication and unity in our country.

In one of my meetings with teachers they rightly pointed out: “It’s time that we stop getting caught in minor details and start to deal with our country’s real problems, and we have plenty of those.”

Third, we must take great care to support innovative and experimental trends in the arts. In addition to preserving our traditions and protecting our extraordinarily rich cultural legacy, the government should encourage those who are exploring new paths in their creative work. It should be borne in mind that what we call the classics today was often created by those who flouted the canon, through the rejection of conventional forms and breaking with tradition. This spirit of innovation should be encouraged in all spheres of our cultural life.

It is the government's job to create the necessary environment for the development of civil society. People who are not indifferent to what is happening around them should benefit from every opportunity to realise their noble aspirations.

We will continue to support non-profit, charitable organisations that help resolve complex social problems. Corresponding amendments to legislation will be designed to simplify the operation of non-profit organisations that are engaged in charity work and help vulnerable social groups.

What will be done in this respect? First, we will introduce the concept of socially oriented non-profit organisations. Those who receive this status will be able to count on the government's direct support. The authorities will be able to provide such non-profit organisations with financial, information and consulting support. But this is not all: what is no less important, they will receive tax incentives and governmental and municipal orders. It will be possible to transfer property to non-profit organisations for them to use in their work.

We intend to eliminate any tax on the material assistance provided by charitable and non-profit organisations to children without parental support, as well as to the disabled.

There is another suggestion. Services rendered by non-profit organisations in caring for the sick, the disabled, the elderly, and social services for orphans and children without parental support, will be exempt from VAT.

Neither will any income tax be taken from grant-supported projects such as health programmes, promotion of popular sports and physical education.

Another change in legislation that we have been talking about for years now concerns the creation and replenishment of special-purpose capital of non-profit organisations. This will become possible through donations of securities and fixed property (this conversation has been going on for some years now), and environmental protection will now be on the list of activities for which special-purpose capital can be used.

Third, we will finalise and adopt rules governing charitable activities. In particular, their objectives will include: the social rehabilitation of orphans and children without parental support, providing legal assistance, promoting scientific and technical creativity of children and youth, philanthropy and volunteering.

Fourth, the term “donation” laid down in the Civil Code should be supplemented to indicate that works or services can be performed or rendered free of charge.

All these measures will support those who are already engaged in socially useful work as well as, I hope, attract more people. Along with this there should not be any loopholes that allow one to skulk behind such activities for tax evasion purposes – this is also obvious. I repeat: we will support only those who selflessly devote their time and effort to others.

The growth of civic consciousness and development of civil society is only possible in a developed political system.

Today we are talking about modernisation – this is the essential aspect of my Address today – about our desire to be modern. We must remember of course that modernity is a fluid notion. It is not a final stage of progress at which point you can rest and relax, as we say – quite the contrary. A truly modern society is the one that seeks constant renewal, continuous evolutionary transformation of social practices, democratic institutions, visions of the future, assessments of the present, the one engaged in gradual but irreversible changes in technological, economic and cultural spheres, the steady improvement of the quality of life.

However, changes for the better occur only when there is an opportunity to openly discuss problems that arise, an opportunity for fair competition between ideas on how to resolve such problems, and in places where people appreciate social stability and respect the law and at the same time are willing to assume responsibility for the situation in their own village or town, and realize that only an active position can set the heavy machine that is government bureaucracy in motion.

Under the Constitution the sole source of power in our country is the people. In practice, economic, social and foreign policy is developed following complex interactions between various social groups. It is the duty of the government, of any democratic government, to take into account the legitimate interests and opinions of all citizens of Russia, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political or other beliefs. The ability to fulfil this duty is the main criterion for the effectiveness of government.

Our society's political diversity is defined by the structure of our multi-party system. Today we can say that the multiparty system has evolved throughout the Russian Federation. It has become a stable, functioning, national political institution, the most important tool for ensuring the fundamental rights and freedoms of our people, including their exclusive right to power.

The political parties currently operating in our country have passed the test of time. As they fought for votes and voters' trust they have become stronger, and become truly popular. They have an organisational structure, personnel and intellectual capabilities: all that is necessary for work in a country Russia's size. Their programmes reflect the entire spectrum of society's political views.

At the same time, many aspects of political life have been subject to public criticism. There have been problems regarding the organisation of elections, low levels of political culture, and a lack of alternative proposals on specific issues of socio-economic development.

We must continue to work together to improve the quality of popular representation and create additional conditions for free, fair and civilized competition between parties.

Already this year, a parliamentary majority supported a number of my legislative initiatives designed to address such problems. In practice we have reduced the so-called barrier parties must overcome to enter the Duma to 5 percent. Parties now have the right to nominate candidates for regional governors, and have also been given guarantees of equal coverage of their activities in state-owned media. I would like to thank the Federal Assembly for supporting these initiatives.

What am I proposing today? In the next phase I propose to focus on strengthening democratic institutions at the regional level. Following consultations with representatives of non-governmental organisations and political parties I think the following things are necessary:

First, we need to introduce a single criterion for establishing the number of deputies in the regional legislatures of the Russian Federation. Today it is completely arbitrary and it sometimes leads to results that are hard to justify. For example, many millions of people in an economic powerhouse like Moscow are represented by 35 elected members in the city's Duma, whereas the Great Khural of the Republic of Tuva [the Republic's bicameral legislature], where the economic output of the region is unfortunately much less impressive than it is in Moscow and there are 30 times fewer people, has 162 elected members. There should be a flexible procedure for the gradual alignment of these imbalances. Representation should be more functional.

Second, all parties represented in regional parliaments will have the opportunity to form factions. Everyone should receive guarantees that their representatives will be able to fill in deputy vacancies on a permanent basis and in leadership positions.

Third, where this has not yet been established, any party that receives more than 5 percent of votes in the regional elections should be guaranteed representation in the regional legislature.

Fourth, parties not represented in the Duma, but with a faction in the regional legislative assembly, should be exempted from having to collect signatures to participate in regional elections in their respective territories. The same principle can be established for municipal elections.

One another thing: I think that in future we should dispense with the idea of collecting signatures as a method of determining whether a party can stand in an election.

Our laws are already quite exigent when it comes to formation of political parties. They require the parties to have a minimum number of adherents as expressly set out in the regulations and operate in most regions of the country. So additional tests concerning popular support and organisational abilities are not required.

Fifth, it would be useful for legislatures at all levels to devote at least one meeting per year to hearing and discussing reports and proposals from parties not represented in the legislature.

Extra-parliamentary parties should also be able to participate on a continuous basis in the activity of the central and regional electoral commissions.

Sixth, it's time to finally bring some sort of order to early voting in local elections. Laws on the election of the President and State Duma deputies strictly limit the time frame for this procedure and clearly define in what cases it can be used. Using precisely these rules as a basis, we need to make the appropriate adjustments to federal and regional legislation. I also think we need to examine the use of absentee ballots and to take whatever measures are necessary to prevent electoral abuses and violations in this regard. We also need to give all parties equal opportunity concerning the use of municipal buildings for pre-election campaigning.

Seventh, I recommend that all regions of the Federation enact laws to assure equal coverage in the media for parties represented in regional parliaments. Mechanisms for the implementation of such safeguards must be adapted to the media market in each region, its particular social and cultural characteristics, but this must be done.

The legislative assemblies in those regions of the Federation where this has not been done can use the State Duma as their model, where the most important meetings are broadcast on the Internet in real time. I propose that the State Duma arrange to have all public plenary meetings broadcasted, without exception. I think that this experiment will be of interest for the Federation Council and possibly the Constitutional Court.

Eighth, I propose to supplement the statutes and constitutions of Russia's regions with articles requiring heads of executive authorities to report to local parliaments on an annual basis, by analogy with Russia's own Constitution.

Ninth, this year there has been some inter-party debate as to whether we need to switch over to a system when only those on party lists can run for elections to representative bodies at all levels. Incidentally this idea was expressed by representatives of both the ruling party and the opposition parties. We have not yet come to a consensus on details. I am proposing that we go to work on this. We need to continue with this discussion, and then I will make my decision.

Tenth, we will continue and intensify work on technology designed to ensure political competition. This is a very important thing in the world today. During the discussion in the run-up to this Address, someone spoke to this issue, a journalist from the Stavropol Region who sent in the following comment: “The present arrangement of the electoral process is part of Russia’s national infrastructure, like its roads, its electricity, its postal service. Take away this element of national infrastructure, and you end up with a whole layer of a Russian citizen’s life being profoundly affected.”

Government plans to promote broadband Internet in Russia's rural areas will open up new prospects for transparent public debate on any topic, and provide comprehensive information on developments in our country and the world at large. The introduction of electronic counting and information processing at polling stations will help to combat abuses and violations during election campaigns. It should also make the electoral system at the regional level more transparent. I would like to commission the Cabinet, the Central Election Commission and our regional authorities to prepare a programme for accelerating the technological modernisation of the electoral system.

As the guarantor of the Constitution I will continue to do everything possible to strengthen democratic institutions in our country. At the same time I would like to emphasise: the consolidation of democracy does not mean weakening the rule of law. Any attempts to use democratic slogans to destabilise the situation, the government, and to split society will be prevented. The law is the same for all – for both the ruling party and the opposition. And freedom, as we know, entails responsibilities. I hope this is clear to all in this hall.

At the beginning of next year we can discuss these issues at a meeting of Russia's State Council. I am inviting representatives of all political parties to participate in this important endeavour.

Deputies, members of the Federal Assembly,

In my article I referred to corruption as one of the main obstacles to our development. It is clear that the fight against it must be waged on all fronts: from improving legislation, the law enforcement and judicial systems, to inculcating intolerance to all manifestations of this social evil, including domestic ones.

In Russia we often say that there are few cases in which corrupt officials are prosecuted. I want to cite a few figures. In just six months of this year we have reviewed more than 4,500 cases of corruption convicting 532 officials of government authorities and local self-government bodies, and more than 700 law enforcement officers. These figures unfortunately show the extent to which corruption has infected our society. However, simply incarcerating a few will not resolve the problem. But incarcerated they must be.

To successfully combat corruption, all spheres of government must become more transparent, including the activities of public authorities, courts and other judicial bodies. That is the aim of the relevant laws which will come into force next year: the transparency of government and accessibility of information about the activities of the courts. These laws will also establish a mechanism for posting information on the activities of the courts on the Internet. The published texts of judicial decisions will allow us to gain a clearer idea of the work done by the courts, problems in legislation and judicial practices. I am confident that this will contribute to overcoming legal nihilism.

We are also planning to establish courts of appeal in courts of general jurisdiction. At the first stage which starts on January 1, 2012, this will be done for civil cases.

How will such an appeal be different from what the current system allows? As everybody knows, an appeals court considers the complaint regarding the court's decision in full: that is, by examining and evaluating both the factual circumstances of the case and its legal implications. In this case an appeals court should either confirm the decision of the lower court, or arrive at a new verdict – and this is the fundamental difference – on the merits of the case.

Such a test of judicial decisions should enhance their legitimacy and validity. And it's important to note that this will not drag out the process required for examining such cases.

In order to fully support the appeal process, including the second stage for criminal cases (from January 1, 2013), we will need to increase the number of judges and allocate appropriate resources in the federal budget.

I want to emphasise that a properly functioning judicial system is possible only when judges have a reasonable caseload. The number of judges per thousand people brings us close to European standards, but in Russia every judge has several times as many cases as their European colleagues. We shouldn't forget this either.

The quality of the judicial system largely depends on the law enforcement situation, which is far from ideal.

We need to take some very strong measures to cleanse the ranks of police and special services and rid them of the unworthy. These people should be brought to justice.

Those who work in these agencies will be obliged to provide information about what they own and what their family members own. We must do everything we can to improve discipline, rigorously conduct internal investigations, and strive to make moral and psychological qualities of our staff fit the highest professional standards.

At the same time, we must remember that the majority of law enforcement officers are honest people. They risk their lives every day. They are at the front-line of the fight against crime, they protect the foundations of the constitutional order, and we must improve their financial security. Their work must be respected by society as is the case in the rest of the world.

Let me dwell on another important aspect. Our criminal law and its application need to be brought up to date. Criminal penalties, both the ones prescribed by the law and those imposed by the courts, should be commensurate with the seriousness of the crime and in this way better protect the interests of society and of the victim.

In criminal law we should make greater use of so-called administrative preclusion, that is, prosecute only in the case of repeated administrative offences. We must make greater use of fines as punishment for minor offences, minor crimes and non-violent crimes. And if fines are impracticable, then offenders should have to work to serve their sentences, and this should be officially registered as a separate type of punishment.

By the way, it is a good idea to use such measure of restraint, such sanction as bail. The amount of bail for certain categories of crimes should be increased.

I support the bill currently being considered by the State Duma aimed at excluding from criminal responsibility any taxpayer who has fulfilled his or her obligations and paid the appropriate fines and penalties. Such people should not be subjected to additional checks by law enforcement agencies.

Now for what I consider to be our most serious, domestic political problem, the situation in the North Caucasus.

Terrorist crimes against government officials, members of the clergy and law enforcement agencies destabilise the situation and prevent normal economic and social development in the region.

We will engage in an uncompromising struggle against international terrorism and we will destroy the gunmen. Soldiers and prosecutors going about their work in the North Caucasus region will receive special government attention. Presidential orders and Cabinet directives will provide them with additional benefits and social support. And we will continue to pay attention to this.

I have already said that the situation in the North Caucasus would not be so acute if there was some real socio-economic development. It is obvious that the source of many problems lies first and foremost in economic backwardness and the fact that the majority of people there lack normal life prospects. Let us speak frankly: the level of corruption, violence and cronyism in the North Caucasus republics is unprecedented. Therefore, we will give priority attention to resolving the socio-economic problems of our citizens there.

This year, two federal target programmes for the development of southern Russia and the Chechen Republic have been allocated over 26 billion rubles. By the end of the year the Cabinet should adopt another federal programme to support the development of the Republic of Ingushetia from 2010 to 2016 with funding of at least 32 billion rubles.

As you can see, the sums available for the entire North Caucasus region are significant. However, the effectiveness with which they are spent leaves much to be desired. Moreover, part of these funds is stolen quite shamelessly by officials. And this at a time when unemployment and therefore mass poverty in the Caucasus has reached alarming levels.

This problem is particularly acute in Ingushetia where more than half of the economically active population is unemployed. And it is also dire in the Chechen Republic where the figure is more than 30 percent.

I would also point out that this region has the highest share of young people in Russia, those between 15 and 20 years old. And for quite obvious reasons it is more difficult for young people to find work. In the Chechen Republic the proportion of unemployed young people is more than 40 percent.

In some areas of the North Caucasus the number of refugees and displaced persons has reached 20 percent of the local population. And the lack of a permanent job is just one of the many problems that these people face.

The conclusion is clear: additional measures are required to successfully address the problems of the region. We need to develop entrepreneurship and to increase investment. Up till now we have failed to create favourable investment climate in most of the North Caucasus republics, but that situation must change. In this regard, I have instructed the Cabinet to draw up within six months a list of investment projects that will receive targeted support.

Such projects can be implemented in energy and construction, tourism and the health resort network, agriculture and small business. We need to consider the possibility of tax breaks and other financial mechanisms to encourage increased investment. These will be part of the incentive for entrepreneurs to start business here. I also urge anyone who was born and raised in these regions, but for whatever reasons is now working in other parts of the country, to help with the development of their native land.

Another problem is the system of temporary labour migration. Experts have already pointed out that one of the factors limiting economic development in the North Caucasus is the low quality of education, especially university education. In this regard, we must take steps to train and retrain teachers, at both universities and schools. I am instructing the authorities to organise internships in major universities in Russia and abroad and to use the presidential management training programme for this purpose.

Finally, I think it's important to develop and implement clear criteria to measure the effectiveness of actions taken by federal authorities to deal with problems in the North Caucasus. I am asking the Cabinet to establish these criteria by January 1, 2010. And there has to be a single individual who will be personally responsible for the situation in the region. Of course it has to be someone with enough authority to effectively coordinate work in this area. Such a person will be named soon.

The North Caucasus is a region that has been historically inhabited by people of many ethnicities. And today it is especially important that people work systematically in their families and at school, at the local and regional levels, to create good ethnic relations and a mature civil society. This is especially important when it comes to the education of the younger generation. I think that young people from different ethnic groups and faiths should have the opportunity for collaborative learning and joint leisure. For this reason I support the idea of creating a pan-Caucasian youth camp, where young people from different republics can study, touch base and relax together.

To finish with this subject, I would like to say that we will do everything possible to improve people's lives in the North Caucasus. And we will deal with those who hinder us.

Dear deputies and members of the Federation Council,

Next year the transition of Russia's Armed Forces to a qualitatively new level should be complete, and we will have created a modern, efficient and mobile army, trained and equipped to protect us and our allies from any threats.

One of the most challenging and fundamental problems is supplying our troops with new systems, new sorts of weapons and military equipment. There is no need to embark here on some sort of abstract discussion: we simply need to acquire these weapons. In the next year we need to provide the Armed Forces with more than 30 ballistic land- and sea-based missiles, 5 Iskander missile systems, about 300 modern armoured vehicles, 30 helicopters, 28 combat aircraft, 3 nuclear-powered submarines, 1 corvette-class battleship and 11 spacecraft. All this simply has to be done.

Another important issue is providing the Armed Forces with modern automated control centres and information systems. Before 2012 we need to replace outdated analogue communications equipment with digital systems, and give priority in equipping with these modern communications means to the troops of the North Caucasus Military District.

Once again I would like to draw your attention to the need for the latest sorts of arms which will ensure our superiority over any enemy. We must also have an effective system of orders for military goods and maintain a strictly observed balance between the supply of arms for national defence needs and supplies abroad. I should stress again that the heads of the defence industry enterprises should substantially improve the quality of their products and reduce their cost.

By the end of this year we will have set up military-educational institutions of a new sort, three major military training centres, in Moscow, the Moscow Region and St Petersburg. They will play a crucial role in training the younger generation of officers, officers who will be not only professionally trained but educated in the values of patriotism, military honour and moral rectitude.

As part of the effort to raise the prestige of military service and officers' status in society, we are planning to open seven presidential cadet schools. The first one will open next year in the Volga Federal District, and the others will open over the next three years in other federal districts.

The army will gain professional sergeants and highly qualified junior command personnel. They will assist officers in educating and training soldiers to improve their combat skills.

Providing servicemen with permanent and service housing remains our priority. The Russian government managed to increase the funds allocated this year for this purpose by more than one-and-a-half times. The Russian Ministry of Defence and other law enforcement agencies have to uphold their commitments concerning the construction and purchase of apartments. Our goals of providing permanent housing in 2010 and service housing by 2012 must be achieved.

Before 2012 we should adopt a special law on military pay. A new system of payment for military service and material incentives should significantly improve the lives of our soldiers.

Dear colleagues,

Our relations with other countries should also be focused on the task of modernising Russia. We must not simply be full of hot air, as they say. We are interested in capital inflows, new technologies and innovative ideas. We know that our partners are counting on a rapprochement with Russia to realise their own priorities.

Therefore, our foreign policy must be extremely pragmatic. Its effectiveness should be judged by a simple criterion: does it contribute to improving living standards in our country?

In my previous Address, I spoke at length about our foreign policy priorities, priorities which remain the same today. We still advocate stronger multipolarity, a concept which is becoming increasingly widespread throughout the world. 10 years ago, or even five years ago, could we imagine the leaders of so many different countries sitting at one table and discussing financial, economic and in effect domestic issues? But that is exactly what happens at G20 summits.

It was these processes I had in mind when I wrote in my article that we are already working together to reform the global financial architecture and security system, to modernise them effectively so that they can take into account the interests of an increasing number of countries and establish equitable relations in international politics and economics.

Of course, this creates new challenges for us all. We must therefore change our approach and think more about how to engage in teamwork. We are ready for this, including with respect to complex issues of international politics, such as the problems of Iran and North Korea's nuclear programmes, instability in Afghanistan, a Middle Eastern settlement, and naturally other problems as well.

We have the universal mechanism of the United Nations to help us develop a collective approach. In recent years and perhaps for the very first time since the end of the so-called Cold War, the United Nations has once again started to gain momentum. And we will actively encourage it to strengthen its position.

In the field of security we are now focussing our main efforts on a European security treaty. Legal, or rather the international legal formalization of the principle of indivisible security in Euro-Atlantic territory is imperative for us, as is the development of enforcement mechanisms related to this commitment. We are sometimes accused of having come up with this against NATO. This is not true: we absolutely do not conduct our foreign policy "against anyone". But we are not a member of NATO. This is true, and several other states are not members of that bloc either, but tough decisions must already be taken in order to strengthen security in Europe. We need a new, efficient platform. If we had such an effective institution that would have been able to halt an aggressor, then Georgia would not have had the nerve to start a war against South Ossetia.

In conclusion I would like to draw attention to the need to increase coordination as we defend Russia's interests in foreign policy, economic, cultural and educational spheres. Diplomatic work in the interests of the country's economy, precisely its economy, must be subject to special checks. This work should be conducted not only in the form of specific assistance to Russia's companies abroad and efforts to promote national brands of goods and services – though this is very important – but it should also be designed to increase the volume of foreign investments we attract and, most importantly, the influx of new technologies.

I am instructing the Cabinet to develop clear criteria for assessing the results of foreign policy activities designed to meet challenges associated with modernisation and technological advances.

Our Foreign Ministry must review this work on a systematic basis and, depending on its results, prepare a programme for the effective use of foreign policy elements for long-term national development.

Dear friends,

Next year we will celebrate the 65th anniversary of Victory and honour our veterans – the saviours of our Fatherland, heroes who defended our freedom, who lived through the war and raised our country from the ruins.

We all consider them to be great people, but they are great not only as actors in a grand historical drama. For us they are close relatives in the direct and literal sense of the word. We share the same blood with those who won and are therefore all descendants of winners, and for that reason I believe in a new Russia. We must remember and respect our past and work hard for a decent future.

We shall overcome underdevelopment and corruption because we are a strong and free people, and deserve a normal life in a modern, prosperous democratic society.

We chose our own path. Our fathers and grandfathers won at that time. Now it’s our turn.

Go, Russia!

Official US Air Force Document Reveals the True Intentions Behind the US-Colombia Military Agreement

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4917

November 5th 2009, by Eva Golinger

An official document from the Department of the US Air Force reveals that the military base in Palanquero, Colombia will provide the Pentagon with “…an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America…” This information contradicts the explainations offered by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the US State Department regarding the military agreement signed between the two nations this past October 30th. Both governments have publicly stated that the military agreement refers only to counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations within Colombian territory. President Uribe has reiterated numerous times that the military agreement with the US will not affect Colombia’s neighbors, despite constant concern in the region regarding the true objetives of the agreement. But the US Air Force document, dated May 2009, confirms that the concerns of South American nations have been right on target. The document exposes that the true intentions behind the agreement are to enable the US to engage in “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies…and anti-US governments…”

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia authorizes the access and use of seven military installations in Palanquero, Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, Apíay, Cartagena and Málaga. Additionally, the agreement allows for “the access and use of all other installations and locations as necessary” throughout Colombia, with no restrictions. Together with the complete immunity the agreement provides to US military and civilian personnel, including private defense and security contractors, the clause authorizing the US to utilize any installation throughout the entire country - even commercial aiports, for military ends, signifies a complete renouncing of Colombian sovereignty and officially converts Colombia into a client-state of the US.

The Air Force document underlines the importance of the military base in Palanquero and justifies the $46 million requested in the 2010 budget (now approved by Congress) in order to improve the airfield, associated ramps and other installations on the base to convert it into a US Cooperative Security Location (CSL). “Establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s (Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”

It’s not difficult to imagine which governments in South America are considered by Washington to be “anti-US governments”. The constant agressive declarations and statements emitted by the State and Defense Departments and the US Congress against Venezuela and Bolivia, and even to some extent Ecuador, evidence that the ALBA nations are the ones perceived by Washington as a “constant threat”. To classify a country as “anti-US” is to consider it an enemy of the United States. In this context, it’s obvious that the military agreement with Colombia is a reaction to a region the US now considers full of “enemies”.

Counter-Narcotics Operations Are Secondary

Per the US Air Force document, “Access to Colombia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the Counternarcotics capability.” This statement clearly evidences that counternarcotics operations are secondary to the real objetives of the military agreement between Colombia and Washington. Again, this clearly contrasts the constant declarations of the Uribe and Obama governments insisting that the main focus of the agreement is to combat drug trafficking and production. The Air Force document emphasizes the necessity to improve “full spectrum” military operations throughout South America – not just in Colombia – in order to combat “constant threats” from “anti-US governments” in the region.

Palanquero Is the Best Option for Continental Mobility

The Air Force document explains that “Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of…operations areas…its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the US military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the US ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by providing access to the entire South American continent with the exception of Cape Horn…”

Espionage and Warfare

The document additionally confirms that the US military presence in Palanquero, Colombia, will improve the capacity of espionage and intelligence operations, and will allow the US armed forces to increase their warfare capabilities in the region. “Development of this CSL will further the strategic partnership forged between the US and Colombia and is in the interest of both nations…A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”

The language of war included in this document evidences the true intentions behind the military agreement between Washington and Colombia: they are preparing for war in Latin America. The past few days have been full of conflict and tension between Colombia and Venezuela. Just days ago, the Venezuelan government captured three spies from the Colombian intelligence agency, DAS, and discovered several active destabilization and espionage operations against Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The operations - Fénix, Salomón and Falcón, respectively, were revealed in documents found with the captured DAS agents. Approximately two weeks ago, 10 bodies were found in Táchira, a border zone with Colombia. After completing the relevant investigations, the Venezuelan government discovered that the bodies belonged to Colombian paramilitaries infiltrated inside Venezuelan territory. This dangerous paramilitary infiltration from Colombia forms part of a destabilization plan against Venezuela that seeks to create a paramilitary state inside Venezuelan territory in order to breakdown President Chávez’s government.

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia will only increase regional tensions and violence. The information revealed in the US Air Force document unquestionably evidences that Washington seeks to promote a state of warfare in South America, using Colombia as its launching pad. Before this declaration of war, the peoples of Latin America must stand strong and unified. Latin American integration is the best defense against the Empire’s aggression.

*The US Air Force document was submitted in May 2009 to Congress as part of the 2010 budget justification. It is an official government document and reaffirms the authenticity of the White Book: Global Enroute Strategy of the US Air Mobility Command, which was denounced by President Chávez during the UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, Argentina this past August 28th. I have placed the original document and the non-official translation to Spanish that I did of the relevant parts relating to Palanquero on the web page of the Center to Alert and Defend the People “Centro de Alerta para la Defensa de los Pueblos”, a new space we are creating to guarantee that strategic information is available to those under constant threat from imperialist aggression.

Original document in English: http://www.centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/original_in_english_air_for.pdf

Traducción no oficial al español: http://www.centrodealerta.org/documentos_desclasificados/traduccion_del_documento_de.pdf

November 13, 2009

India's Strategic Defense Transformation: Expanding Global Relationships

Added November 03, 2009

Authored by Lieutenant Colonel Brian K. Hedrick.

SOURCE: Strategic Studies Institute United States Army War College

Brief Synopsis

India’s transformation to modernize its military, obtain “strategic partnerships” with the United States and other nations, and expand its influence in the Indian Ocean and beyond includes a shift from an emphasis on the former Soviet Union as the primary supplier of defense articles to a western base of supply and an increasing emphasis on bilateral exercises and training with many of the global powers. The author explores the nature of this transformation, offers insights into the history of Indian defense relations, and suggests implications to U.S. foreign and defense policy. Much has been written regarding India’s relations with its neighbors, especially Pakistan and China. The author adds a new perspective by taking a global view of India’s rise as a regional and future global military power through its bilateral defense relations and the potential conflict this creates with India’s legacy as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.

India’s interests have changed over the past 2 decades from a position of nonalignment to one of having specific strategic interests that lead it to a path of “poly-alignment.” This path appears to be following four specific, but intermingled, courses:

1. Become a regional power across the Indian Ocean basin and secure agreements from partners in this region that support this goal, while building up expeditionary navy and air force capabilities. At the same time, India continues to modernize its army to deal with potential threats from its immediate neighbors and internal insurgency groups.

2. Develop “strategic partnerships” with countries perceived as leaders of a global, multipolar order, and seek modern military capabilities from many of those countries. This includes modern weapon systems as well as the technology and licensed production associated with those weapon systems.

3. Secure or maintain ties with smaller countries globally, many of which are members of the nonaligned movement, that can provide support in international fora as well as provide potential markets for India’s own emerging defense industry.

4. Maintain a position of leadership in the Non- Aligned Movement and publicly present itself as “nonaligned” despite its actual alignments. Many of the recent changes in India’s global defense relationships represent a vast departure from past policy and practices. Given that the Congress Party and its United Progressive Alliance coalition received a strong electoral mandate when it was reelected in May 2009, these changes are likely to continue and perhaps will lead to bold moves to further develop and deepen strategic relationships around the world. As India cements its expanding defense relationships through the purchase of major defense platforms and the associated technology transfers and co-production agreements, it will define the course of its long-term relationships for the coming decades. All of this presents a mixed bag of significant opportunities and challenges for bilateral defense relationships.


DOWNLOAD NOW

India strengthens border, irks China

Drimi Chaudhuri
Kolkata/Beijing, November 13, 2009
First Published: 23:50 IST(13/11/2009)
Last Updated: 01:36 IST(14/11/2009)





India continues to beef up its defence along its border with China in Arunachal Pradesh, despite protests and warnings from Chinese analysts and the Chinese media.

The Indian Air Force now plans to upgrade six air-strips near the border to make movement of troops and equipment to the region easier.

Hindustan Times had reported on Thursday that the Indian Army was planning to deploy a new 15,000-strong division in Arunachal within four weeks.

On Friday, Zhao Gancheng, director of the South Asia Research Division of the Shanghai International Affairs Research Institute was quoted in the state-run Global Times, as saying: “Indian officials have tried to convince us the border is
peaceful. But now the fact (of India’s reported border deployment) betrays the words.”

China has for long claimed almost all of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.

The six airstrips are all within 40 km of the border. Following the renovation, much bigger and heavier aircraft than before will be able to land there, defence sources said.

“Reactivating these airstrips is an integral part of the modernisation of Air Force infrastructure,” said an IAF official.

The measures were taken to counter similar efforts by China on the other side of the border, defence sources added.


IAF unperturbed by reports of China selling jets to Pak


New Delhi, Nov 13 (PTI) Unperturbed by reports of China selling 36 advanced fighter jets to Pakistan or plans to launch an intelligence satellite, the IAF today said there was "nothing to worry" as Indian armed forces were capable of protecting country's interest.

"Do not worry and do not make people worry. Our country is strong enough. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are capable of looking after the interest of our country," IAF Chief P V Naik told reporters here on the sidelines of an aerospace medicine seminar.

He was responding to queries if the Chinese selling J-10 fighter jets to Pakistan and their plans to launch an intelligence satellite soon was a worry to India.

"When a sovereign country interacts with another country, there is no issue over selling weapons. It is up to them," he said on the fighter jet sales.

Baloch Woman's Interview with BBC Urdu Radio Program

Obama should speak up for India in Beijing

By Brahma Chellaney



http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/340ebc32-cfc4-11de-a36d-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1



Published: November 12 2009 20:03 | Last updated: November 12 2009 20:03


The economic rise of China and India draws ever more attention. But the world has taken little notice of the rising border tensions and increasingly visible differences between the two giants.



With Barack Obama, US president, headed to Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s tour of the remote north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh provoking an angry Chinese response, the China-India-US triangle and Tibet have emerged at the centre of escalating tensions.


China has resurrected its long-dormant claim to Arunachal Pradesh – almost three times as large as Taiwan – and stepped up military pressure along the 4,057km frontier with India through frequent incursions.



Beijing seems to be drawing the analogy that Arunachal is the new Taiwan that must be “reunified” with the Chinese state.


Tibet, however, has always been the core issue in Sino-Indian relations. China became India’s neighbour not by geography but guns – by annexing buffer Tibet in 1951. Today, Beijing is ready to whip up spats with western nations that extend hospitality to the Dalai Lama. But India remains the base of the Tibetan leader and his government-in-exile.
The key cause of the more muscular Chinese stance towards India is the US-Indian tie-up, unveiled in 2005.


Since then, the official Chinese media has started regurgitating the coarse anti-India rhetoric of the Mao Zedong era, with one commentator this week warning New Delhi not to forget 1962, when China humiliated India in a 32-day, two-front war.



Yet the Obama administration is reluctant to take New Delhi’s side in its disputes with Beijing. Washington has also shied away from cautioning Beijing against attempts to change the territorial status quo forcibly.



Mr Obama is committed to the partnership with India as part of which New Delhi has placed arms-purchase orders worth $3.5bn last year alone. But he has also signalled that any relationship will not be at the expense of fast-growing ties with Beijing.



Washington now intends to abandon elements in its ties with New Delhi that could rile China, including a joint military drill in Arunachal or a 2007-style naval exercise involving the US, India, Australia, Japan and Singapore. Even US naval manoeuvres with India and Japan are out. Washington is charting a course of tacit neutrality on the Arunachal issue.
As his secretary of state did in February, Mr Obama has started his Asia tour in Japan and will end in China – the high spot – while skipping India. But playing to India’s well-known weakness for flattery, he will honour it with his presidency’s first state dinner later this month.


Left to fend for itself, New Delhi has steered clear of confrontation with Beijing. It has sought to damp down military tensions and cut off all information to the media on the Himalayan border situation, including Chinese intrusions.



But faced with attacks at home for being “soft” on China, the government has asserted itself politically. It rebuffed repeated Chinese diplomatic appeals and allowed the Dalai Lama to travel to Arunachal. It also announced an end to the practice of Chinese companies bringing thousands of workers from China to work on projects in India.
But India cannot afford to be isolated. With Mr Obama pursuing a Sino-centric Asia policy, and with China-friendly heads of government in Australia, Japan and Taiwan, New Delhi’s diplomatic calculations have gone awry. But the hardline Chinese approach reinforces the Indian thinking that engendered Chinese belligerence: that India has little option other than to align with the US.



New Delhi has to manage its relationships with Beijing and Washington wisely so it does not lose out. Meanwhile, the US cannot ignore the pattern of Sino-Indian border provocations and new force deployments similar to what happened 47 years ago when China, taking advantage of the Cuban missile crisis, routed the Indian military in a surprise invasion.


When Mr Obama is in Beijing, his message should be that any military adventure will prove costly and trigger the rise of a militaristic, anti-China India. Mr Obama should propose a US-China-India initiative and encourage his hosts to begin a process of reconciliation and healing in Tibet.



Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, is the author of ‘Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan’