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Russian Foreign Policy Independence An Implicit Imperative

Sergey Lavrov - Russian Foreign Minister. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jan 22, 2007
The field for international confrontation is objectively becoming narrower as the standoff between the blocs is progressively overcome. Globalization of potentialities and challenges to security and steady development is making it clear that the world community can resolve today's key problems only by concerted effort. This results in reduced demand for unilateral leadership, and devalues allied commitments based on ideological and cultural affinity.

At the same time, the world has not become a safer place to live in. The main reason is in the cost we pay for globalization - the growing gap in development engenders social, economic, ethnic, and religious conflicts. Recurrent unilateral use of force is also creating a feeling of insecurity. Disarmament stagnation is increasing the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The lack of a clear vision on the future world order was largely caused by Russia's weakening after the break up of the Soviet Union. Its other source is a syndrome of Western "victory" in the Cold War, which is rooted in the black-and-white perception of the world, a desire to revive old dogmas and to re-militarize international relations.

Therefore, it is only logical that Russia's consolidation has become a catalyst of positive changes. Now it is capable of taking part in the development and implementation of the global agenda on a par with other countries. Not a single more or less important international problem can be resolved without Russia, or against its interests.

For the first time in the past 15 years, a competitive environment is taking shape in the market of ideas of global arrangement adequate for the current stage of the world's development. The degrading situation in Iraq and Afghanistan graphically illustrates the inferiority of the unilateral use of force and attempts to monopolize the settlement of conflicts.

The system of international relations is unstable and becoming increasingly imbalanced. Bloc-based, ideological motives cease to function, while the new ones have not been established yet. Under the circumstances, many countries are beginning to revise their interests. Development of new global centers of influence and growth, a more even distribution of development resources and control over natural wealth are laying the foundation for a multi-polar world arrangement.

A combination of these and other factors paves the way to a new stage in world development. Its main difference from the previous one is that the current world order is determined not so much by the waning inertia of bloc-based confrontation as by contemporary realities. Under the circumstances, the awareness of the community of all states in the face of the challenges and threats of the 21st century is being transformed into a trend towards asserting collective and legal principles in world politics.

This conclusion is supported by the analysis of the foreign policy review prepared by the Foreign Ministry on President Vladimir Putin's instructions. The review confirms that Russia made the right choice in 2000, when it chose pragmatism, multi-vector diplomacy, and firm albeit confrontation-free upholding of national interests.

Russia has left many countries behind in learning from the Cold War lessons and in giving up ideology for the sake of common sense. This is why Moscow is able to take an unbiased view on international realities and to suggest unconventional solutions to the most intricate problems.

Russia is open to constructive dialogue and equitable cooperation with all states without exception. With many countries, including our CIS neighbors, China, India, Egypt, Brazil, and the G8 group of industrialized countries, we have already established or are developing a strategic partnership. The forces interested in a powerful, independent Russia are gaining strength.

Needless to say, the notion of a state's might and greatness has a new definition of "soft power", which implies an ability to be part of a team, readiness to promote a positive agenda on the entire range of international problems, and a capacity to preserve one's own cultural and civilizational identity with due respect for the world's versatile cultures and traditions.

Russia's foreign policy independence is an implicit imperative. Far from every country can afford this in the modern world, which is undergoing globalization. But for us this is a key issue, a question of our sovereignty. This country or its foreign policy cannot be controlled from the outside.

We are not trying to please everyone but simply proceed from our own clear pragmatic interests. Let's bear in mind that Russia was particularly keen on pleasing others during the reign of Nicholas I and in the last Soviet years. We all know what the outcome was.

There is no reason to conceal or dramatize the existing contradictions with our partners. We have a great deal to do together in the future. This includes cooperation in the UN and the G8, Russia-EU partnership, and the NATO-Russia Council, settlement of crises, and bilateral agendas. What are the obstacles to this cooperation?

Regrettably, some countries find it extremely difficult to conduct affairs with Russia on an equitable basis. This is not our fault. But this fact is turning into a major problem for global politics, because it is designed to preserve a certain status quo - that is, the privileged position of individual countries in the developing international system.

This has nothing to do with envy or offense. First, all claims to leadership should be supported by actions and add value to the "common good." So far, unilateral responses have not facilitated the settlement of problems; instead, they have created new ones. As a result, problems are mounting up in international relations .

Moreover, the very nature of global challenges and threats requires a global response. Meanwhile, we are being offered some kind of Soviet style collectivization instead of concerted action.

It goes without saying that those in charge of "collective farm recruitment" do not threaten with force. Instead they say that otherwise everyone stands to lose. Understandably, we find this logic unacceptable, all the more so as there are positive examples of real collective and equitable multilateral efforts, which show that our vision of the modern era is correct.

This is supported by the resolutions of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg on international energy security and the Middle East. In the first case, global energy policy rests on a fair balance of interests of energy producers and consumers. In the second case, the sides reached conceptual agreement that the problems of the region are rooted in lack of settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects.

Finally, while undergoing unprecedented changes, Russia simply cannot take part in the efforts to preserve the current transitional status of the international system.

We can afford less than others to risk the growing confidence in our foreign policy, which, in turn, is a major factor in the overall predictability of global development. We insist only on well-grounded debates, which would be open and free, and without preset outcome. In politics, like in everyday life, it is very important to hear and consider what others have to say. Furthermore, in a number of cases this ability could help save lives and material resources, which are wasted as a result of irrational policy. There should be no room for fatalism or fanaticism, which Winston Churchill attributed to the stubborn reluctance to change the subject of conversation.

We are resisting the attempts to make us accept as a fait accompli a policy on certain issues, which has already proved to be insolvent even in the eyes of the electorate of the countries concerned. If Russia makes mistakes, it pays for them itself. Meanwhile, sometimes we are called upon to support a faulty line which creates problems for the entire world community. We do not claim to know the absolute truth, but the success of our foreign policy is passing the test of time.

We are hoping that our American partners have not had their final say on Iraqi settlement. It is high time to involve the UN, all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and leading regional organizations in the effort to support genuine national reconciliation of all Iraqis.

Realistic adjustment of the coalition's course in Iraq would help Washington and Tehran to pursue their objectively common interests in that country. This could pave the way for normalizing bilateral U.S.-Iranian relations, which would in turn create a favorable background for the resolution of Iran's nuclear predicament. This would mean progress in settling the problems of the Middle East, and in strengthening the non-proliferation regime. These objectives cannot be achieved with "zero game" logic.

Today, it would not be possible to find those who claimed just four years ago that "the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad." Practically everyone, including the anti-Iraqi coalition members, agree on the need to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which takes us back to the results of the summit in St. Petersburg.

Any attempts to obviate this fundamental reality, including efforts to play the card of inter-Muslim and inter-Arab conflicts, would have the most destructive consequences, not to mention the risk of landing in the same boat with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, that is, in a situation which existed during the time of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The same forces which once stubbornly tried to win international recognition of the Taliban now want to pacify it. The Iraqi experience suggests addressing the problem of sanctions. At one time, haphazard sanctions and using them, contrary to UN Security Council resolutions, to change the regime have created the groundwork for the situation in Iraq today.

In principle, as an instrument of the UN Security Council, sanctions may be useful because they facilitate settlement of a problem through negotiations. When programmed for the use of force, sanctions become a smokescreen for power politics. Unilateral sanctions in circumvention of the UN Security Council can only undermine chances for settlement, antagonize partners, and weaken the unity of the world community. We believe that only bona fide multilateral efforts can lead to political and diplomatic settlement, if they are not accompanied by any preconditions.

Needless to say, any transgression of international law, not to mention crude violations of its fundamental standards, such as the immunity of diplomatic missions, will lead to deplorable results. A desire to pursue an anything-goes policy inevitably backfires and can only breed chaos, where it will be pointless to argue who is "Jovi" and who is "bovi."

NATO and EU expansion has given food for thought. Despite the difference in the character of these two organizations, the consequences of politicizing expansion are largely similar - facts show that expansion was a political project from the start. Both the European Union and NATO are losing flexibility and ability to achieve their fundamental goals. Some may welcome this expansion, while others would see it as a prelude to NATO's self-liquidation and the weakening of the European project. Neither meets the interests of Russia, which is ready to face reality and promote the positive development of pan-European cooperation along the existing lines. Any arrangement is better than chaos. We think that a comprehensive approach to the problems of the Euro-Atlantic region is the best choice. Large-scale cooperation on the entire range of topical issues could be conducted in a three-lateral format - between Russia, the EU, and the U.S., all the more so as it is already being practised in the UN Security Council, by the G8, the Quartet of international go-betweens in the Middle East, and the Six on Iran's nuclear program. Importantly, this format would remove mutual suspicions as regards relations between any tandems in this triangle. No doubt, this approach would substantially improve the general atmosphere in the region and the rest of the world.

It would be a pity if a confident Russia by inertia triggers off a Cold War-style response for lack of other ideas. I am convinced that neither a remake of the Cold War, nor a Cold Peace are sensible choices for the world community if only because choices have no longer to be made behind closed doors and in the narrow circle of the select.

Sometimes, Russia is accused of trying to live in several cultural dimensions. But it has always existed at the juncture of civilizations by virtue of its geography and history. Our historical destiny is rooted in a diversity of cultures and civilizations, which should be reflected in globalization. Russia is going to facilitate the solution of this problem at home and abroad - by pursuing a vigorous, open and predictable foreign policy.

This article originally appeared in Moskovskiye Novosti on January 19, 2007.

Source: RIA Novosti

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