Chirac addresses new Russia
During a visit to Russia September 26-28, French President Jacques Chirac heaped encouragement on that country's efforts toward democratization and economic reform and pledged Paris' support for the full integration of Moscow into the global economy. During his third trip to Russia this year, Chirac twice addressed Russian students to underline the key role passed to them as "spearheads" of the country's democratization. The support of Russia's "new" generation was the main theme of the French president's visit to Russia. Chirac and Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced the creation of a French-Russian University of the 21st century to be developed at the existing French College in the University of Saint Petersburg.
Chirac also assured Yeltsin of France's full support of Russian attempts toward achieving full integration into the world economic community. The French president said he is now regarding Russia as a full member of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries, which includes the United States, France, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Canada. He added that France would back Russia's bid to join the Organization Economic of Cooperation and Development and later the World Trade Organization.
Chirac, who was accompanied on his visit by some 20 French business leaders, said he and Yeltsin had agreed to try and double bilateral trade in the next two years. "Russia has invested great effort in its reforms, which are now irreversible and which have led inevitably to a market economy," Chirac said. France ranks eighth among Russia's trading partners.
"The agreement on cooperation and partnership between Russia and the European Union is now in operation and will lead swiftly to a zone of free exchange," Chirac said. Trade with the European Union countries accounts for about 40 percent of Russia's foreign trade.
Yeltsin awarded Chirac Russia's highest honor, the order "for services to the country," and thanked him for helping to resolve last May in Paris a dispute between Moscow and its old Cold War adversary NATO. Yeltsin himself, until now, has been the only recipient. "Franco-Russian relations have reached the level of a privileged partnership," the Russian president told Chirac after presenting him with the award.
The two presidents also touched on European security issues and the Joint Permanent Council set up by NATO and Russia.
Finally, Chirac illustrated his enthusiastic support for Russia's integration into Europe and trust in Russia by announcing that France's strategic nuclear missiles will no longer be aimed at Russia.