In this article the leader of YABLOKO presents his personal point of view of Russia’s
place in the new Europe, the “convergence” of dictatorial
regimes and the “usefulness” of the role of the US as
a great super power.
Nowadays it is difficult to find a politician in Russia who will
not talk about the need to "join Europe". However, the
elite conceives it mostly as coffee and croissants on the Champs
d’Elysees, a fat Swiss bank account and a villa in Spain.
Regarding values, principles, and human rights (in, say, the North
Caucasus) Russian officials tell the world not to meddle in internal
affairs and, in general, assert foreigners know nothing about
the Russian “mysterious soul.”
In reality Russia is a European country. And no special ruling
is required to acknowledge this fact. It was transformed into
part of Europe by Lomonosov, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chaikovsky,
Mendeleyev, and many others, without whom European culture and
science would be unimaginable. We have a European political system.
We even borrowed Communism from Europe.
I am sure that if events develop in accordance with the optimistic
scenario, Russia will be a member of all the European political,
economic, and defense structures in 10 to 15 years. And in most
cases these will be qualitatively new organisations.
The principal thing is not to observe formalities, but to create
instead a climate in our country and Europe that fosters deeper
cooperation in all matters on both a European and global scale.
We must open Russia’s markets to the European Union and
vice-versa. We must create a free trade zone, and thereby also
a zone of free movement of capital and labour, and work for a
system of universal security. Lastly, we must settle problems
of a more specific nature in power engineering, transport, and
other fields. Specific steps to achieve these goals can and must
be made this year. We must draw up a schedule of events that will
further Russia’s convergence with Europe. The Russian-European
Union summit this May in St. Petersburg will offer us new opportunities.
The first step can be made via a declaration to tear down the
visa barriers dividing the single European space. Despite the
complexities related to the reconstruction of the system of the
Russian Foreign Ministry, customs, immigration authorities, and
security services, and despite the lack of understanding of even
such traditionally friendly countries as Finland, we must raise
this issue without delay. However paradoxical this may sound,
the expansion of the European Union increases the threat of Russia’s
isolation, owing to the creation of new barriers around the EU.
It is essential to activate the Russian-European anti-missile
defense system launched under the Russia-NATO 20. This move, coupled
with cooperation in building up strategic mobility transport units,
may constitute a very substantial component for joint security.
Unlike the Partnership for Peace programme, it will first of all
resolve one of the crucial problems of European security, and,
secondly help to improve the situation in out country. A Russian-European
anti-missile defense system will provide more jobs for Russian
citizens and act as a new reference point for the Russian military
establishment, facilitate attempts to effectively overcome the
cold war stereotypes and build a new system of coordinates.
A great deal still has to be done to implement these plans.
Russia is still not ready to cooperate with Europe over labor
legislation issues, social policy and protection of consumer rights.
However, the road to that goal must be embarked upon without further
delay; the obstacles are set not only by Russia, but also by resistance
from the European bureaucracy, which is reluctant to view things
We cannot neglect the fact that Europe’s borders, separating
the region from the most unstable and the most dangerous parts
of the world, run along Russia’s borders. Their defense
is an all-European concern. Furthermore, a weak and unstable Russia
would represent an eternal breeding ground for terrorist threats.
Only a Bigger Europe, which takes advantage of the territorial
and intellectual potential and all other resources of the former
republics of the Soviet Union, can complete globally on an equal
footing with North America and South-East Asia.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea… What’s next?
Strictly speaking, externally Europe’s frontiers adjoin
nations that had not sought throughout the 20th century for liberal
democratic values based on human rights. Europeans support the
principles codified after World War II by Rene Cassin in the Human
Rights Declaration and Robert Schumann in the Declaration on the
Unification of the Free Nations of Europe. The countries which
flouted these principles are located outside Europe.
That is why it is one of Europe’s and Russia’s main
objectives today to combat dictatorial regimes. So far the international
community has not learned to fight these dictatorships. It has
taken the road of isolating the countries concerned. This is wrong.
This enables the dictatorships to consolidate and fails to resolve
any problems. The noble aim of wiping out Saddam Hussein’s
dictatorial regime is limited. Once Hussein is gone, someone else
will spring up elsewhere. We already have Kim Chen Jr, Niyazov,
Lukashenko and others. But there is no technology to combat such
regimes and prevent their proliferation.
In this respect, Russia has an extremely important role; it
is also extremely important that it remains in Europe.
Joint action by Russia and the European Union may provide a
key part of the resolution of the most burning issue in the near
future – the problem of Iraq. Discussions of this issue
are in most cases confined as whether or not there will be war
and whether war is necessary.
Clearly, war is an absolute evil. The price of war is not only
accountable in money, it entails the inevitable loss of lives
and the colossal suffering of the civilian population, and, according
to many experts, a sharp escalation in terrorism all over the
world. This implies the recruitment of young people to terrorist
organizations and their involvement in various extremist actions.
This means marginalisation of the United Nations and
new attempts to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
Furthermore, if in Iraq’s case the matter no longer concerns
the search for weapons of mass destruction and the aim is to change
the regime there, then we must ask ourselves what should be done
with the other potentially dangerous rogue dictatorships. We have
had the Balkans and Afghanistan, Iraq is approaching, and then
Korea. … And so on across the world? Who will clear up the
inevitable humanitarian consequences? Who will maintain the defeated
countries? Have we the requisite political and economic resources?
Nor must we forget that there are a large number of countries
with “good” dictatorial regimes which for one reason
or another have been ignored or even supported. Unquestionably,
double standards will lead to no good.
Everything possible must be done to avoid warfare. But security
and change of the Iraqi regime remains an imperative goal. The
world must not tolerate a regime that kills its own citizens,
that has an unpredictable dictatorship and poses a threat to the
To oppose war in Iraq without offering an alternative way of
changing the Iraqi regime may sound fine, but it is foolish and
is even dangerous. The Iraqi crisis has already led to a rift
between the United States and Europe, a rift within the European
community, and a deterioration in relations between France and
Germany, on the one hand, and Britain, Spain and other countries
siding with the United States, on the other. This
is a serious victory for opponents of the anti-terrorist coalition.
Certainly, no one has the slightest sympathy for the Iraqi regime.
People’s misgivings have nothing to do with any liking for
the dictatorship. We are concerned about the unpredictable consequences
of an ill-considered act of force. The United
States, therefore, need not waste breath to explain the threat
of Hussein’s regime. It must rather explain what, how, and
with what aim in mind it intends to act. And certainly those who
consider themselves allies of the United States must not try to
flirt with Saddam and exploit the weaknesses
of the Americans.
Regrettably, the specific and innate features of Hussein’s
regime, which call for special treatment, have not so far come
under discussion. Yet it is a rare example of a lay government
in an Islamic country. Moreover, in many respects it is a Soviet
regime. Recent experience in the Soviet Union shows that it is
possible to erode such a regime and reconstruct it, without any
warfare in the sense proposed today.
We should also bear in mind that with Hussein or not, the system
of government in Iraq can only be changed to a certain extent,
as it is in many ways related to the country’s culture,
historical traditions, religion, and the very way of life. But
some changes are definitely possible, and we must try to secure
them without a war.
To achieve this goal a large international armed force should
be stationed in the region for a long period. Hussein must be
made to understand that if a political resolution is taken, military
actions will follow immediately. It is also essential to deprive
the Iraqi regime of any room for manoeuvre.
In the context of cost-benefit analysis, this course of action
would be far more effective than war. It is far more productive
to achieve the regime’s maximum possible erosion and reconstruction
through military pressure and the continuous work of a large group
of inspectors. If this method proves successful, it can be used
with other rogue states.
United States Omnipotence?
Helping the United States perceive the effectiveness and value
of such a plan of action is a worthwhile aim for Russia and Europe
as a whole. It is far more important and necessary to back this
position than engage in pointless confrontation with the United
States over the necessity of a military operation without suggesting
an alternative to war in replacing the Iraqi regime.
America’s monopoly leadership in the world after the downfall
of the Soviet Union and especially after September 11, is usually
discussed critically as a new obstacle that must be overcome.
But what would we have if America were weak? Would it really enhance
the level of security in say, Europe? Certainly not. American
impotence would be a far greater threat to stability and security
throughout the world.
The very peole who criticize American arrogance complain about
the lack of progress in resolving the Balkan and Middle East problems,
which the Americans are not handling as actively at present.
There is no denying that the challenge of omnipotence is extremely
complex. No country has so far faced such a challenge. The United
States ranks first in the world in military power, economic power
and political influence. They hold much more than just first place.
They hold a dozen first places.
There is indeed is hope the United States will cope with the
burden. America is a country that has done the world much good
in terms of freedom, human rights and human dignity. In their
history, the Americans have managed to overcome some of the most
serious problems and challenges, such as slavery, racism, segregation
The test of providence is the most arduous of all, and so far
the United States leadership cannot cope with the current status
of their country. While recognizing the historical role of the
United States, we are not obliged to agree with all the resolutions
and actions of American politicians. But Russia and the rest of
Europe are obliged to help the United States use its resources
wisely for the common good.
Such help is absolutely essential, although the United States
does not think that anyone apart from God is equal and necessary.
In fact, however, all the tokens of American omnipotence are irrefutably
valuable only under the 20th century value system. In the 21st
century, the world has encountered new realities, which call for
other means and methods in politics. The gigantic military power
of the United States may be compared with guns for big game hunting
– bears, tigers, and elephants. They were created to combat
such potential adversaries as the Soviet Union and China. Today,
however, the main threat to peace comes from the terrorism scattered
all over the world – poisonous mosquitoes against whom large
guns and powerful traps are useless.
The Americans have still to understand this change. Recently
I mentioned the mosquito hunting analogy to a high-ranking American
politician. He thought for a moment, before answering: ”We’ll
destroy the mosquitoes’ habitat.” But mosquitoes have
no habitat. To fight them we must drain the marshes where they
breed, that is, do something fundamentally different to the customary
bombardments and bombings.
Today’s challenge calls above all for international cooperation,
rapid information exchange, cooperation, special ops and intelligence
services, joint diplomatic effort, and intellectual mutual aid.
Cooperation and unity is especially important in the event of
preventive strikes. For in certain cases and in certain conditions
preventive strikes are unavoidable when dealing with regimes endangering
peace. But in such cases, agreed action and common efforts are
And such force should only be taken to overcome violent threats.
The roots of terrorism run deep. Current global economic developments
are widening the gap between rich and poor nations and consequently
the potential for terrorist outbreaks is increasing.
Certainly, terrorism is unjustifiable. It is not driven by poverty,
but rather by vicious evil. It exploits social and religious motivations
merely as a shield, as a bait for recruiting the young. However,
if no action is taken in the humanitarian and social areas, if
no broadranging steps are taken other than mere elimination of
separate terrorist centres, it is senseless fighting terrorism.
Global humanitarian programmes aimed at eliminating the breeding
grounds for terrorism must be launched without further delay.
A special progtamme to provide every child in the world with equal
access to free basic schooling could do a great deal to prevent
the involvement of youngsters in the terrorist machine.
We must not forget the long glowing flashpoints and hotbeds which
can be a source of new threats. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is a key factor in the resolution of the Iraqi problem and fight
against the threat of terrorism as a whole.
Yet another important objective of the international community
is to prevent the use of terrorism as a pretext for settling internal
political problems by any government. At present the administrations
of far too many countries are exploiting the slogan of the fight
against terrorism to resolve their internal problems. In the meantime,
anti-terrorist activity must not erode, let alone undermine, the
basic European values or violate human rights. Otherwise it becomes
No power, however militarily, financially, and generally powerful
it may be, can cope with such problems on its own.
The crucial objective for Europe in the broadest sense, and
for Russia too as an integral part of Europe, is to minimize the
terrorist threat and deal with the problem of rogue states, without
undermining European values.
This problem can only be resolved by merging the wisdom of the
Old World and e might of the New, which were and must remain an
integral whole in terms of respect for human rights.