Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1994 - Mr Major’s Comments on Russia

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Russia, made during an interview given in Moscow on Thursday 15th February 1994.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what his image of Russia was now].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think many of the old stereotypes and images as you referred to them have been replaced by a new reality and a new understanding. As President Yeltsin said this morning, the relationship between Russia and the United Kingdom is better today than it has been for decades. One of the reasons for that is that it is closer, we know more about one another. Trade has expanded between us, political contacts have expanded between us, high-level visits have expanded, there is a much greater understanding of what is happening in Russia amongst the British and a much greater understanding among the Russians of what the British stand for.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there were disagreements between the countries].

PRIME MINISTER:

We haven’t identified many areas of disagreement today, I must say. We have identified a very large number of areas of agreement. We, for example, very strongly support the very courageous economic reforms that are currently being undertaken in Russia; they are painful, we know that, they are very difficult. It is quite difficult to move from the sort of system that Russia had before to a free-market system but it has great benefits when it is reached. At the moment, people in Russia have seen the change from the old system, they are enduring some of the difficulties and the pain of change but the advantages that will come from it - and they will come from it - are not yet apparent so the principal areas I must say are of agreement and encouragement and as far as we can help, we wish to.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how agreement could be reached].

PRIME MINISTER:

Truly, there are very few areas currently bilaterally between the United Kingdom and Russia where there are points of disagreement and where there are we are seeking to remove those points of disagreement. What is quite striking is that whereas four, five, six, maybe seven or eight years ago one would have been able to produce a very large number of disagreements between Russia and the United Kingdom, these days they are not so readily found. What is readily found is an agreement about reform, an agreement about Russia’s entry into GATT, an agreement about Russia’s entry into the Council of Europe in due course, agreement about the way to produce a final and definitive settlement that will last in Bosnia, an agreement that we reached today not to target Russian nuclear weapons at the British and the British not to target British nuclear weapons at the Russians. They are a substantial measure of agreement.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he predicted the future for Russia].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think as time proceeds we want a much greater understanding and cooperation economically. Although there has been quite an expansion in trade between the United Kingdom and Russia, really that is just scratching the surface. The potential for a much greater flow of trade between our two countries is enormous and so is the potential for a much greater flow of investment between the two countries. I think that will benefit Russia and it will benefit Britain and I think as the reforms proceed, the attraction of Russia as a place for foreign investment will grow dramatically and so will the trade relationship with the western countries as a whole, but of course Britain in particular.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked to say some words to the people of Russia].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have watched from afar with very considerable admiration as Russia has made the most remarkable political reforms over the last four or five years, very courageous reforms, very difficult. Very few people in Britain six or seven years ago would have imagined you would have had an elected President, a new constitution, an elected parliament that was televised in the fashion that you have. Equally, very few people would have imagined the remarkable economic changes you have seen here, the vast degree of liberalisation of prices, the tremendous amount of privatisation and the determination to move to a free-market system. It will take a time, it is difficult, it cannot be done without difficulties and pain, but Russia seems determined to move in that direction and we thoroughly support that.