Australia-Russia Relations: A Developing Partnership

Speech at New Economic School Moscow (check against delivery)

Thank you, Dr Sergei Guriev, for your welcome.

I am delighted to be at the New Economic School on my first visit to Russia as Foreign Minister.

The school has served Russia’s private and government sectors since its formation in 1992 and has a reputation as a leading research institution in the area of the economics of transition and development.

As a distinguished scholar, Dr Guriev has personally played an important role in the School’s development and, through this, in the transformation of the Russian economy over the past nearly 20 years.

I am pleased we were able to host your visit to Australia in 2008, to learn about Australia’s economic challenges and how we tackle them.

In this distinguished setting then, I’m very pleased to be able to set out Australia’s view of the developing modern partnership between Russia and Australia.


Historical underpinnings

I am honoured to visit Russia as you prepare to commemorate next month the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe on 9 May 1945.

We remember and honour the millions who lost their lives during the Second World War, a conflict which brought our two nations together.

We know that the former Soviet Union bore a particularly heavy burden with the conflict claiming some 11 million soldiers and 14 million civilians.

Perhaps less well known is that an Australian Air Force squadron was based in northern Russia, near Murmansk, for part of the war, and took part in operations, primarily against naval targets.

For many years, though, our nations stood on opposite sides of a global ideological divide.

To thrive in the 21st Century, we now know our countries have had to move beyond foreign policy based on Cold War outlooks.

The world has changed a great deal over the past sixty five years, including in recent decades through the twin forces of technological change and globalisation.

At the same time, Russia has changed enormously.

The Russian economy has recovered from the difficult period after the end of communism and, although hurt by the recent Global Financial Crisis, returned to growth in the second half of last year.

Australia is also an economy on the move.

Australia has the fourth largest economy in Asia after Japan, China and India, and the 14th largest in the world.

We have the second lowest unemployment rate when compared with Major Advanced Economies.

Our public finances are sound, with Standard and Poor’s reaffirming our AAA sovereign rating.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, Australia is projected to have a lower deficit in 2010 than any of the Major Advanced Economies.

Economic reform has set Australia on a path of sustainable growth.

We weathered the storm of the Global Financial Crisis without slipping into recession.


A new relationship

Although on opposite sides of the globe, the changes in the global environment highlight the need for much closer collaboration between our two countries.

We have a mutual interest in opening a new chapter in Australia-Russia relations.

We both seek a modern partnership based on our common interest in meeting the major challenges to global economic growth, peace and security.

On the bilateral front, we are re-invigorating our relationship and orienting it towards the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

In 2008, Australia and Russia held Trade Ministers talks for the first time in thirteen years. Australia looks forward to hosting the next round this year.

We are currently negotiating bilateral agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance.

We are also negotiating arrangements covering Antarctic cooperation, investment protection, financial intelligence, trade in meat products and agricultural cooperation.



Energy has the potential to develop into another cornerstone of our relationship.

Among the 21st century challenges and opportunities that we face, Australia and Russia, as major exporters of energy, share an interest in the future of energy policy and the related issue of climate change.

Last month, the Government tabled in Parliament its response to the Australian Parliament’s Treaties Committee report on the Australia-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement.

This reflected our confidence in Russia’s commitment to provide safeguards for the supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia’s civil nuclear sector.

Australia sees the nuclear cooperation agreement as an important component of our developing relationship with Russia.

Over time it has the potential to substantially enhance our economic and strategic partnership.

Australia has welcomed Russia as a foundation member of the Global Carbon and Capture Storage Institute or GCCSI.

The GCCSI has been one of Australia’s achievements in our action on climate change.

As a foundation member of the Institute, Russia shares Australia’s vision of the GCCSI.

We both want it to drive the global cooperation and collaboration required to realise the goal of 20 large-scale carbon capture and storage projects in operation by 2020 and the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage technology.


All civilised nations also share an abiding interest in eradicating the scourge of terrorism.

As a friend, Australia deeply feels the tragic loss of life resulting from the 29 March Metro bombings in Moscow.

Australia condemns these cowardly and indiscriminate attacks and stands with the people of Russia in opposing all acts of terrorism, for which there can be no justification.

Australia has also experienced serious losses through terrorist attacks.

As our Prime Minister has noted, any terrorist attack anywhere is an attack on us all.


Human Rights

An important part of any modern and mature relationship is openness, including about points of difference.

One of those is Georgia, where Australia supports Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Australia also values and promotes human rights.

Australia has previously registered our concern at the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Russia, including journalists and lawyers.

At the same time, we welcome initiatives to reform the criminal justice system in Russia.



Australia believes a valuable element of our modern partnership can be in education.

Education is a key means of forging people-to-people links. The number of Russian students in Australia grew by over 20 per cent last year to reach over 1200.

It gives me great pleasure today to announce that Russian students can now compete for generous scholarships that will enable them to study in Australia.

These Endeavour awards will assist Russian high achievers in business, industry, education or government.

I welcome news that Russia is also opening up scholarship opportunities for Australian students.

I trust that Russian and Australian students will take advantage of these new study and work experience opportunities and that, over time, we will see a new generation of leaders in Russia with strong ties to Australia and our shared Asia-Pacific region.

Today I want to talk more about the opportunities that Asia offers for both Australia and Russia and some of the shared goals that we have for our region.


Asia-Pacific Century

We are both part of the Asia-Pacific and this is the Asia-Pacific Century.

Economic, political, military and strategic influence is moving to the Asia-Pacific, to our part of the world.

In this century, the Asia-Pacific will become the world’s centre of gravity.

Russia and the United States remain important powers in the region.

The rise of China is a defining element of Asia’s growing influence, but it is not the only or whole story.

The rise of India is still underappreciated.

The great individual potential of Indonesia and the enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea must also be acknowledged.

On average, our region’s economic growth has been outpacing other regions for many years.

The 21 member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation represent approximately half the world’s GDP and trade.

Russia’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2012 will be an opportunity to reinforce the Asia-Pacific’s growing role in world economic affairs by strengthening regional economic integration and structural reform efforts, and by improving the security, welfare and quality of life for people in the region.

The ongoing shift in influence is, however, not just about economics or demographics.

Economic power underpins military modernisation. It contributes to political and strategic weight.

The Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s five largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, India, and North Korea.

The implications of this historic shift continue to unfold. No one can say with certainty what the new international or regional order will look like or when it might crystallise.

The relative resilience of the region amid the global economic crisis has also brought home to others that our region is and will be crucial to global economic stability and growth.

This was one of the factors behind the emergence this year of the Group of 20 as the premier forum for global economic cooperation.

Our two countries are among the ten from the Asia-Pacific region that are members of the G20.

Australia has high ambitions for the G20 and the Asia-Pacific region’s influence in it.

A recent highlight of our bilateral relationship has been our response, through the G20, to the economic crisis.

The declaration of the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation is the most important shift in global governance in decades.

It can become a political driver of stronger global cooperation and governance, responding to the range of global challenges that will confront us in this the Asia-Pacific century.

We welcome Russia’s participation in ongoing dialogue on Asia Pacific regional architecture.

Australia’s Asia Pacific community initiative, launched in June 2008, has been successful in generating discussion in the region about our regional institutions and how they might best be renewed and strengthened to serve the region’s interests into the first quarter of this century and beyond.

None of the groupings in the current architecture is comprehensive in membership, scope or purpose.

India is not a part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation.

Russia and the United States are not part of the East Asia Summit.

The Australian Government does not believe the region needs an additional institution or a further leaders’ meeting.

Instead, as Prime Minister Rudd and I said at a conference on the Asia Pacific community concept in December 2009, regional countries need to discuss how to develop and evolve new architecture from our existing regional institutions.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexey Borodavkin participated in that meeting and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Russia on the Asia Pacific community initiative.

Australia and Russia are also joining ASEM, the Asia Europe meeting, at the same time in October and we also look forward to working together in that context.

Last week’s ASEAN Summit also highlighted the growing realisation in Asia about the importance of both the United States and Russia in regional architecture. In their Hanoi Declaration, ASEAN leaders encouraged both Russia and the United States to deepen their engagement in regional architecture, including possible involvement with the East Asia Summit.


International Security

Looking beyond the region to international issues, Russia is a key player in non-proliferation and disarmament.

We valued Russia’s contribution to the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

Australia welcomes the signing, by Presidents Medvedev and Obama, of the new Russia-US Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

‘New START’ represents a significant step towards disarmament.

We welcome the leadership shown by both the United States and Russia in this regard.

It represents an important step in the lead-up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Russia’s initiatives, including establishing a Low Enriched Uranium reserve at Angarsk, which will serve as a critical supply fuel bank to International Atomic Energy Agency members under IAEA safeguards, are contributing to ensuring proliferation does not increase as countries pursue peaceful use of nuclear energy, medicine and other applications.

On Iran, Australia, like Russia, respects Iran’s right, as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

We believe that with that right comes responsibilities, including compliance with the Treaty and UNSC resolutions.

In the absence of positive engagement by Iran, Australia stands ready to support tough new measures against Iran, including additional UNSC sanctions and autonomous sanctions.

We welcome Russia’s efforts, with other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to bring further pressure to bear on Iran to comply with its obligations.



I have spoken today about the practical measures that underpin the partnership between Australia and Russia and the many opportunities that exist to do more.

It is clear that we can and should do more together.

Our countries share many of the challenges that will shape our region in the years ahead. Likewise there are avenues for collaboration to take advantage of opportunities that will unfold with the 21st century.

I see our goal as building with Russia a truly modern partnership, one that is practical, open and engaged on the global challenges that face us.

I am confident that this is an aspiration that both our countries share.

Thank you.



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