Svanidzye: The situation around Iraq has deteriorated. Two powerful European states - Germany and France - oppose a forced overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. Another European leader - Great Britain – supports the United States. Here we are referring to the official position of the authorities in the UK; poll results demonstrate absolutely different moods of the subjects of Her Majesty, but this is Tony Blair's problem. The rest of Europe does not say of course that it is for war - this would be very unpopular - but is unlikely to quarrel with the United States. Somehow the final decision will be adopted in Washington: it looks as this decision has already been adopted. At present most of the experts are inclined to believe that a war will happen in the very near future. The following represents the opinion of our political analysts::
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the YABLOKO faction in the State Duma.
Russia opposes the war with Iraq. If there is a war, Russia should do everything it can to minimize the number of victims, especially civilian casualties. In addition Russia must ensure a change of Iraqi regime. The totalitarian regime is dangerous for us. What problem does Iraq
pose for us Russians and Russia in general? This is a close neighbour, and we cannot be indifferent to the problem as to whether this neighbour possesses weapons of mass destruction, how predictable it is and what we should expect from such a neighbour. These are really serious problems and are extremely significant to us. For example, imagine that your neighbour in a house has been manufacturing explosives. You cannot be indifferent here, as you have a family, children. In addition you neighbour is a strange person and you don't know what to expect of him. The same thing holds true for Russia: its main goal is the security of our country. What needs to be done today to prevent a war with Iraq? Analysis demonstrates that a large international contingent of troops should be stationed in this region. It will create colossal pressure on the totalitarian regime in Iraq and also control the entire transitional period. This concerns the long-term. We also have to create the conditions that would deprive Saddam of room for manoeuvre. Then he will realize that he can really lose power, money, oil, and that this regime will slowly start to transform. In other words the following combination should be applied: a large international contingent puts significant pressure on Iraq and controls the region, but direct conflict should be avoided as long as possible. Furthermore in this situation we need more experts who will work there for a longer term so as to exercise ample pressure on Hussein. Such a method has been recognized for a long time. If you don't want a war, prepare for one. Russia's response here should be absolutely clear. We should do all we can to change this regime, make it absolutely safe and friendly for Russia, prevent a war, do all we can not to be dragged into war whatever the situation, and not sacrifice civilians. If a war does break out, the number of casualties should be minimised.
Let me now turn to the issue of the economic consequences for Russia of the war in Iraq. Ifthere is an agreement between the presidents of Russia and the USA that after the conflict in Iraq losses will be compensated via a reduction in oil prices, then for some time Russia will enjoy a relatively favourable situation. However, the United States proclaimed that in 15-20 years their oil consumption will shrink abruptly. They would like to free themselves of this dependence. Russia should urgently transform itself into a modern high technology country. Russia can not live a drug addict on gas and oil.
Situation around Iraq