Andrei Klimov, the Russian Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, held a press conference on Friday at Rossiya Segodnya’s multimedia press center, where he discussed US pressure aimed at the Eurasian Economic Union project, Russia’s strained relations with PACE, the country’s search for alternative forums for inter-parliamentary dialogue, and the shift of the world away from US-based unipolarity.
On US Attempts to Halt the Process of Eurasian Economic Integration
Speaking about the integration processes of the Eurasian Economic Union, Klimov noted that “in her own time, Mrs. Clinton, as Secretary of State, said that under no circumstances should Eurasian integration ‘in the Russian scenario’ be allowed.”
Klimov noted that since then the US has been searching for “weak links” and is willing to use “any means necessary” to “destabilize the situation in the countries that neighbor Russia,” noting that such destabilization measures have most recently been realized in Ukraine.
“They have already done what they could [in Ukraine]...the system has already been broken...the abscess has been created, the crisis is set to last a long time, and their direct control [over events] is no longer necessary,” Klimov said.
“They are trying to work via our neighbors. Now in Yerevan [Armenia] there are attempts to create unrest. There are similar attempts in Kazakhstan,” he added.
Presently, “the Kazakh people are being told by someone via local NGOs that their Russian neighbors have some not-very-good thoughts with regard to Kazakhstan. And we are also told through various ‘experts’ that we will lose more through the Eurasian Union than we gain.”
Noting the aftermath of the color revolutions and other destabilization attempts, Klimov stated that former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is presently having trouble entering the US, noting that “our Ukrainian colleagues would do well to see how the great friendship with Uncle Sam ends.”
Questions on PACE Membership
Klimov discussed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which deprived Russia of the right to vote, to participate in its statutory bodies and to monitor activities this past April due to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. He said that while Russia sees no reason to leave the organization, it is far from the only platform for inter-parliamentary dialogue, and “we should reevaluate our position within the organization.”
Klimov noted that considering “the global processes which are occurring today,” there are “a variety of inter-parliamentary institutions” to work with, adding that Russia has had “a somewhat exaggerated idea” about the importance and manner of PACE discussions.
“The world is changing, and we shouldn’t remain frozen,” Klimov said. Still, he added that Russia has made many concessions to enter PACE it the past, and from an economic perspective, and the perspective of Russian citizens working, living and vacationing in PACE countries, the organization remains an important partner for Russia.
Prospects for Other Inter-Parliamentary Platforms
Among the alternative inter-parliamentary platforms which Russia has recently been reorienting itself towards, Klimov mentioned the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEM), a platform for inter-parliamentary dialogue stretching from Europe to Asia and Oceania, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization Klimov calls “old, tested and proven.”
Klimov noted that at the most recent ASEM meeting in Rome on October 6-7, calls were made from all sides for the reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He added that Russia “can’t wait for the reform of these institutions, which at present are dominated by the West, and undeservedly so, from our perspective.”
The Senator noted that interesting proposals were made in Rome to “turn [ASEP] into something similar to PACE...to constitute an organization,” including a permanent secretariat. “Possibly something like a Eurasian Assembly will form out of this, which based on our goals, would be very beneficial [for Russia].”
Klimov noted that one of the reasons Russia is so eager to expand its participation in ASEP is the country’s size. “Russia has two dozen neighboring countries, all of them very different from one another...thus for us, formats where they are all present are objectively preferable ...[Russia is] a big country, and it’s very difficult to conduct our international affairs based on small groupings because what we are dealing with [a dispute somewhere along the country’s border] is not necessarily interesting to, for example, a small European country. In this regard, considering our potential and interests as well as our size, the Inter-Parliamentary Union is [the most comfortable forum], and we regret that we are only now beginning to understand this.”
Speaking about the upcoming meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on October 13 in Geneva, Klimov noted that Russia would bring its White Book on human rights violations in Ukraine, as well as other material from Russian political and civil organizations, and will be ready to present evidence, if necessary, that would convince the world community to come to independent conclusions based on the evidence.
Klimov mentioned other organizations which Russia has been working with, including the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum and the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, which Russia has recently joined.
On the European Economic Crisis, Financial Bubble:
At the ASEP forum in Rome, Klimov noted that he had heard figures during the course of discussions which he had found interesting; he had discovered that "the EU accounts for more than 60% of all social spending worldwide" despite having a population of only 600 million people. At the same time, the EU’s contribution to global GDP is only 15 percent. Obviously someone has to pay for the difference.
These questions are very worrisome to people who represent countries which make a much greater contribution to the creation of [global] GDP."
Klimov said that “the fact that the discussion took place in Italy only made it more relevant, considering that unemployment among the country’s youth stands at 40 percent today. Imagine such a high unemployment rate in our country. It would result in a tremendous outcry, and justifiably so... Against this background, it is understandable that when such tremendous resources are spent on social needs, the region becomes attractive to immigrants...and now in the EU there is no idea about what to do with this issue. On one hand, the unions attempt to prevent the bar from being lowered; while on the other hand, their economies haven’t been capable of dealing with the problem for a long time, and money and other financial instruments are utilized. All of this affects the world financial system’s [stability], since this bubble is set to burst sooner or later; similar processes are occurring in the United States; this is what the discussions [in Milan] were about.”
Growing International Interest Toward the Eurasian Union and BRICS
Klimov noted that among parliamentary circles and foreign business communities, interest in the Eurasian Union project and the five BRICS economies “is greater even than in our own country...Our people seem to have become accustomed to thinking on the scale of Russia, which of course is correct, and they have not yet come to understand that the Eurasian Economic Union is a new supranational entity whose decisions are binding for participating countries; there are a lot of interesting processes taking place in this regard. Our international partners seem to have observed this attentively, together with what is going on in the BRICS.”
Klimov noted that Russian delegations are asked about developments on these issues at forums throughout the world, “from Caracas to Colombo,” and also among Western leaders, “especially its business class,” adding that “the political class is also interested but tries to hide it.”
Need for and Movement Toward a Multipolar World Order
Klimov noted that Russia “today and in the foreseeable future, will support a multipolar world, toward which we are presently working with all our efforts...including through inter-parliamentary dialogues with our colleagues.” Klimov added that Russia rejects the ideas of national exceptionalism and of one power deciding for everyone.
The Senator said toward the conclusion of his meeting that currently “the US often just avoids those platforms where they do not have a dominant position...they have even left the platform organized by the countries of Latin America, which pushed them out, together with the Canadians. And if we are to speak about who is isolated, in inter-parliamentary terms, it’s the United States...Because if you observe the countries that do not have very close relations with them –even just the inter-parliamentary dialogue between the EU and the US, you will see a lot of interesting things in this regard.”