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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 the results of his Russian visit had been so far].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it has been an extraordinarily successful series of discussions both with President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. The President said this morning that in his judgement the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia was better today than it has been for decades and I think that is true.

Quite a few matters of substance have emerged from this particular visit. We certainly thickened and improved our economic relationship and I will have some more announcements to make about that before I go home tomorrow. Secondly, we have signed a number of agreements, a double-taxation agreement, a cultural agreement - that too is more progress. Thirdly, on military matters we have agreed mutual de-targeting of nuclear weapons and we have also agreed to hold military exercises together, Russian troops and British troops, in Russia and in the United Kingdom.

The series of agreements would have been quite unthinkable a few years ago; today we have managed to conclude them.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he saw future relations between Russian and the United Kingdom].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it will develop. I have invited the President to return back to the United Kingdom later this year, and the Prime Minister also, and I believe both of them will do so, so I think the relationship is going to increase. What we need to see in parallel is an increasing relationship between British business and Russian business. There are tremendous opportunities for increased trade and for increased mutual investment and that will be to the advantage of Russia and to the advantage of Britain, but we must open the doors politically and economically to that increased flow of trade.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why he was visiting Nizhniy Novgorod].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Nizhniy is one of the areas that have carried the reform process in Russia furthest and fastest and I want to have a look at that; there are a number of projects there. I also want to look at some projects that the British are funding out of their Know-How Fund to help the development of the reform process in Russia so I want to go there, have discussions with Governor Nemstov and others and see what is happening on the ground in terms of practical reform.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how he viewed the Russian reform process].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they have now gone a long way. I think people perhaps tend sometimes to underestimate how far the Russian reforms have gone. If one had said a few years ago that you would have had an elected President with a new constitution, parliamentary elections, I think people would have shaken their heads and doubted very much whether that could be achieved; it has been achieved. There have also been very remarkable changes in price liberalisation and perhaps above all in privatisation and the freedom to own land. Again, they are very dramatic changes.

The reform process has gone a long way, too far for anyone to go back to where they started from. I think that is now impossible and nobody wishes to do so but it hasn’t yet reached the stage where all the benefits of the reforms are yet felt by the Russian people; they are in an intermediate stage and Russia needs to push forward with what help the West can give so that it can move to take advantage of a market-based system.