The Coming Visit of President G. Bush: What Should Be
After September 11, 200, Russia's foreign policy abruptly changed.
Despite the policy carried out in summer 2001, symbolised by Kim Jong Il 's travel by armoured train across Russia, despite the
opinion of the so-called political elite, Vladimir Putin unreservedly
supported the USA in their fight against Ben Laden's terrorists
and the Taliban.
The first reaction to developments in New York and Washington,
coupled with the decisions adopted by the Russian President within
a fortnight of September 11, represented a serious change in the
value system applied by the Russian authorities. On September
24, at a meeting between President Putin and the leaders of parliamentary
factions and the Presidium of the State Council, one of the participants
advocated support for the Taliban, while 18 participants proposed
that Russian remain neutral in the fight between Americans and
terrorists. Only two participants said that Russia should participate
in the anti-terrorist coalition. Efficient and multilateral support
for the US anti-terrorist efforts in Afghanistan was attributable
to the independent decision-making of the Russian President.
Such a decision has its own inner logic. The Taliban regime,
connected with the terrorist groups in Central Asia and the Caucasus,
posed a direct threat to Russia's security. This may represent
the first time in history when our country was offered an opportunity
to resolve at least one of its multiple problems by diplomatic
means, while using the military force of another state.
However, tactics are not the only thing. The decision in September
and subsequent decisions may serve as the basis for the establishment
of a strategic line based on the retention and implementation
of a potential opportunity for Russia's survival as a modern sovereign
state in the 21st century. Here I am clearly referring to the
self-evident and unambiguous move of our country towards the West.
Traditionally relations between Russia and the West have evolved
as part of the model existing in the 18th century. Western countries
entered into provisional agreements with our country, exploited
our military potential, but at the same time always maintained
their distance and tried to restrict and contain Russia. Unfortunately
the past ten years have yielded very little change.
Western politicians have perceived and still perceive Russia
as a country from another world. Depending on the situation it
can be friendly or hostile, but it always remains strange to them.
Characteristically, despite the informal meetings between friends
Boris and Helmut, Europeans consistently implemented the policies
to push NATO expansion in the East. This was demonstrated most
clearly in the policies of the American administration, irrespective
of the occupant of the White House -Republican or Democrat.
By waging everything on relations with the group in power, a
"strong hand" in the Kremlin capable of keeping the
country under control, they never believed in the country. The
Kremlin team was perceived as the only force capable of leading
Russia along the path of democratic reforms both during Gorbachev's
and Yeltsin's reigns. Disappointment in the narrow group of "reformers",
who monopolised the right to democracy and the market, was transformed
into disappointment in Russia.
After September 11 and the change in Russia's foreign policy
a logical question emerged: what has changed in the attitude of
the West towards Russia? So far nothing much. Behind the facade
of speeches and actions by representatives of the West we can
perceive the former mistrust, incomprehension and fear.
It should be recognised, however, that there are reasons for
such mistrust. I would like to stress here that in my view this
problem does not directly concern the Russian population. They
hardly differ from Europeans or Americans. We have the same concerns
-our children's future and the health of our parents, work, home
and security. Even our main problem - poverty - is an understandable
notion, although it has been to a large extent been overcome and
defeated in the West. There is another problem.
Unpredictability represents a political demonstration of the
internal problems of the Russian authorities and elite. Changes
in foreign policy did not have an impact on the course to build
up a "manageable democracy" within the country. Russia
lacks real freedom of speech. There is no mass media capable of
systematically transmitting to the majority of the population
a view on most key problems in the country, which would represent
an alternative to the position of the authorities. Elections,
in particular regional elections, have been transformed into a
formal ritual of appointing a pre-selected candidate. Courts use
the law as a tool to enforce a political order.
This means that any group in control of a censored media, controlled
elections and obedient courts can very quickly turn the country
wherever it wants - towards nationalism, militarism or Pinochet
capitalism. It will be able to apply considerable pressure on
or even remove a lawfully elected president, if he stands in the
way of such a turn. For the simple reason that he does not personally
control the bureaucrats in charge and does not call the tune with
Russian business, especially big business, is literally tied
to the authorities via its past and present. Over ten years we
have witnessed the emergence of an economic model where it is
impossible to achieve significant results without special relations
with the authorities. It still functions today, and there is no
place for independent people there, let alone for the middle class.
The political elite resembles a thirteen-year-old teenager with
all the multiple complexes you expect at this age. He feels humiliated
by the whole world, especially the grown-ups (their role is certainly
accorded to the West), who do not understand him, teach him how
to live, restrict his freedom and give him too little pocket money.
Time passes, but the elite does not "grow up", because
a society raised in lies does not grow up at all, just as trees
never grow without sunlight.
Finally, the developments in Chechnya also make Russia unstable
and unpredictable. The situation has reached a deadlock. The only
way out would involve a conference on political regulation of
the situation there, based on the Russian Constitution and Russian
laws, that will sooner or later take place in Moscow involving
all the interested parties and chaired by the President of Russia.
But there has been no movement in this direction.
In view of such developments, we should not be surprised that
other countries would like to exploit us wherever possible, and
do not want to regard us as allies or even serious partners.
Does this mean that the West should wait until Russia matures
and is able to manage its problems on its own, whereupon it will
call the West and say: "I am ready, will you accept me?"
No. This will never happen, and there is no time to wait. In view
of developments, the West should first and foremost recognise
Russia as a country belonging to the Western community today.
And Russia should be taken on board warts and all, just as it is
To accept Russia, the West must accept at least two theses. First,
the West should recognise the existence of a very important priority
for Russia - the security of our present borders separating Russia
from the most unstable, dangerous and unpredictable regions in
the world. Secondly, the West should realise in principle and
be practically prepared for the possibility that Russia will join
all the economic, political and military European structures within
15-20 years as a fully-fledged member.
The first step in that direction could involve the signing of
a document on a military-and-political union between Russia and
the USA during President Bush's visit to Moscow. In terms of form
this could be an agreement, a memorandum or treaty. Most importantly
this should be a qualitatively new development, compared to polite
cooperation within the framework of NATO or an agreement covering
only armaments issues. This should constitute a joint declaration
of a common understanding of freedom, democracy and human rights
as fundamental principles in the world in the 21st century, common
priorities and threats, mutual guarantees of security in case
of terrorist or military aggression.
The signing of such an agreement is realistic. Negotiations on
concluding a political union with the USA have been conducted
for more than six months in Washington, London and Berlin.
Russia - USA - Europe
Does this mean that Russia will protect the USA from Mexico,
and the USA will protect Russia from China? - the reader may ask
with a grin. It does sound funny, but if you laugh like this,
you can lose your future. It is high time to understand that the
situation should be regarded in compliance with the phenomena
of the new era rather than the last century.
Certainly, the USA is the strongest country in the world: it
is the only superpower with a really impressive defence capability
and it is unlikely that someone would challenge it in the traditional
military sense. However, the US armed forces, as well as that
of the USSR, were oriented towards a certain type of war: to provide
defence against large and very large beasts - bears, lions, crocodiles
The events of September 11 demonstrated that modern security
problems are connected with lethal poisonous gnats, rather than
large beasts of prey. Due to mental inertia, it is quite difficult
to understand that this is a qualitatively new situation. One
American strategist agreeing to such a "gnat" example
told me: "We shall eliminate their nests." He does not
know that gnats have no nests, that they live and propagate in
marshes and that you can only fight them by drying up the marsh.
The fight with the present terrorist threat differs from the military
science of the last century, just as irrigation differs from a
bear or lion hunt.
It is impossible to achieve such a task without Russia's help.
In addition to purely military tasks - and today Russia unfortunately
has a restricted or even symbolic ability to resolve such tasks
(and here Americans will obviously have to act on their own) -
it is necessary to provide the following: diplomatic support and
sanctions against the harbourers of terrorists, provision of intelligence
information, aid in control over financial flows and detection
of the sources and means used to finance the terrorists, guarantees
of non-proliferation of different types of weapons and technologies,
depriving terrorist organisations of even the possibility to use
the territory of a country, and many other things. Finally, political
support is also very important. Military actions alone, deprived
of such support, are futile and never-ending. Even if you have
a large house-flannel and the most modern mop, it is better to
close off the water tap than endlessly wipe the floor.
In addition to direct aid in the fight with terrorism, if the
USA signs a union with Russia, it will finally be able to eliminate
OPEC's monopoly on the global oil market and, consequently, put
an end to its energy dependence.
New improved mechanisms will be created that guarantee non-proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction.
The position of China in the system of international relations
will stabilise - China will remain a superpower, but will not
be able to qualitatively change the geopolitical situation in
Asia and the Pacific, which will finally lead to an improvement
in US-China relations.
In addition, Western politicians cannot fail to understand that
Russia's weakness presents a threat to international security.
The weaker Russia is, the more terrorism we will face in the world,
and vice-versa. At present terrorist structures have been ousted
from their customary hide-outs and have to become accustomed to
new territories. Russia has all they are interested in - territory,
all kinds of weapons and means of production, the necessary materials
and, what is especially important, highly-qualified specialists
who were even trained during the Soviet period. They are extremely
poor and absolutely disoriented morally and politically. If you
add here the degree of corruption in Russia, it will be clear
that if this process begins developing (and it is possible that
it has begun developing already), it will be extremely difficult
to handle. Can one imagine the price that Russia, the USA and
Europe will have to pay in the fight with terrorism if this happens?
Certainly Russia is also interested in containing the terrorist
threat. However, this is not the only issue. The course of foreign
policy marked after September 11 is obviously beneficial to Russia:
moreover it is the only possible course from the viewpoint of
the long-term interests of the country. Long-term military-and-political
partnership with the USA implies:
- the security of our long borders and preservation of the
country's territorial integrity, i.e. preservation of Russian
- consolidation of Russian sovereignty in Siberia and the Far
East, surge in investment for the development of eastern territories;
- opportunities for Russia to achieve leading positions in
world energy production and for Russian science and hi-tech
industries to participate in implementation of the most advanced
and promising projects;
- clear orientation of the Russian armed forces to integration
in the military system of the West, which would considerably
facilitate the creation of a modern army;
- elevation of Russia's status in the world.
A fully-fledged union with the USA and the West can play a factor
in the consolidation of real democracy in Russia and improved
implementation of the country's potential. This may be the only
way to guarantee a normal end to Russian reforms that have been
conducted in such a way over the past ten years that they would
appear to have completely exhausted the Russian people's energy
for reforms. Bureaucratic reshuffles in most state structures
will become inevitable, as officials are simply unable to conduct
policies oriented towards union with the West.
In addition to the proper interests of Russia, the USA and Europe,
there are also international problems that cannot be resolved
once and for all without close cooperation between these three
forces, such as the situation in the Balkans, the Palestine-Israel
conflict, problems in relations between India and Pakistan, environmental
problems, international crime and the drug trade, and problems
connected with unpredictable totalitarian regimes.
I don't mean here that Russia will be able to play a role of
superpower in the resolution of all these problems and consider
the whole world as in the sphere of its vital interests. No. Simply
Russia can facilitate resolution of these problems, if it tries
to help, and can aggravate them, if it acts counter-productively.
The tragic developments in Yugoslavia in 1999 continued until
Yeltsin said "Enough" to Milosevic, whereupon the Yugoslavian
army left Kosovo. By that moment the beginning of the NATO's ground
operations was already on the agenda. This was avoided: I am sure
that with the help of Russia it would have been possible to prevent
the bombings of Yugoslavia and deaths of innocent people. Instead
of the follies in Rambouillet in autumn 1998, the political decision
should have been developed in Moscow with Yeltsin. This was possible.
In general the list of strategically important results of the
Russian-American union looks very impressive. In my view the risk
is worth taking. Many people understand that.
This is possibly the most unexpected fact. Without a Russian-American
agreement on strategic partnership and the creation of a strong
and clear-cut system of relations with the USA, Russia's integration
into Europe is impossible. This may not be nice to know, but admittance
into the European club is impossible without implicit consent
Certainly, the USA is not Europe: in many cases they have different
cultural, ethical and political orientations and even principles.
But they share fundamental values forming the basis for a stable
union. The European countries will always regard as a priority
their long-term stable relations with the USA, despite inevitable
contradictions, first of all in the economy. These conflicts are
not serious:, they resemble the inevitable family quarrels of
spouses who have been living together for a long time. Therefore
there can be no real integration of Russia into Europe, while
our relations with the USA remain unresolved. The Russian-American
treaty on strategic partnership is a pre-requisite for the European
countries and their governments for the beginning of a real political,
military and economic rapprochement with Russia, which represents
a kind of landmark showing that we are not strangers, they have
nothing to fear and that they can start opening the door.
I would like to focus on the following: agreements with the USA
and even a treaty in some form of a union will not guarantee automatic
decision-making on Russia's accession to the European Union -
while this is a prerequisite, it is only the start. We also need
to see abrupt changes in [Russia's] domestic policy similar to
those in foreign policy. The abolition of silent political censorship
at the leading television channels and in other mass media, and
end to manipulation and falsification at elections at all levels,
the provision of real independence of justice, a real fight with
corruption, a separation of business from power and creation of
a competitive environment… In general this implies the
replacement of the old Stalinist -Byzantinian methods of ruling
the country by modern, transparent and liberal-democratic methods;
the state and whole system of decision-making should be based
on the priorities of protecting and observing human rights. Only
this will represent a real movement towards a future union with
This in no way means that the European countries and structures
should immediately stop criticising restrictions on the freedom
of speech or developments in Chechnya. Such criticism is not an
indicator of hostility and does not serve as its main criterion.
The absence of such criticism, despite the lawlessness in Chechnya
and attack on freedom of speech only serves to confirm that Russia
is being treated as a country from another world that should be
ruled with an "iron fist".
Russia will never be like Germany or Poland, it will never resemble
any European country. Moreover, Russia will never be like America.
We are in some ways better and in some ways worse. However, real
mutual understanding and partnership are possible only on the
basis of a common value system that is applied in both foreign
and domestic policies. A common system is as necessary for efficient
partnership, as multiplication tables and methods used to work
out the time.
Are We Witnessing Another "Detente"?
A union with the West is definitely the intention of President
Putin. In the current circumstances, his political will is enough.
He has support and in general the backing of public opinion.
Since September 11 Russia has transmitted very clear signals
to the West. Military bases have been removed from Cuba and Vietnam.
The reaction to America's withdrawal from the ABM treaty was calmer
that could have been expected given the stereotypical approach
to Russian-American relations: in the past this would have been
enough for someone to turn their plane back in the midst of flight
over the Atlantic. The plans of Baltic States to join NATO do
not provoke loud declarations. The Russian President has conducted
his line very calmly and convincingly towards the signing of a
pithy and legally binding document during negotiations on a reduction
in strategic weapons. There was no hysteria when the Americans
said that they had no plans to sign any binding agreements or
when they declared their intention to store the dismantled warheads.
Vladimir Putin does not think that the presence of the American
troops in Central Asia and Georgia is a tragedy. It was clearly
stated that coordinated military operation against Hussein's regime
would not become the pretext for termination of Russia's membership
in the anti-terrorist coalition.
All this has been done despite the position and opinion of virtually
all the presidential circle - many bureaucrats from the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, the military, politicians. This is definitely
a gesture by the Russian President to the Western world.
This gesture was noticed. Now the Americans understand that they
should not push this hand away and think about reaching strategic
agreements. This evidenced, for example, by the decision that
was adopted, expressing readiness to sign a binding treaty on
the reduction of strategic weapons. Moreover, Deputy Secretary
of State John Bolton, during his visit to Moscow, issued declarations
that made it possible to believe that long-term strategic and
military partnerships could be established. The negotiations of
Igor Ivanov in Washington and Georgy Mamedov in Geneva on the
threshold of the May summit were quite successful.
Russian-American rapprochement, coupled with the establishment
of a stable partnership, is supported by influential and authoritative
people in Washington, such as Henry Kissinger. A politician who
could never be accused of warm feelings towards our country, supports
today the idea of a strategic union between Russia and the West,
as a pragmatist recognising that this idea meets best the present
interests of the West.
And what about Europe? It can be stated with confidence that
Great Britain and Germany support and will welcome the signing
of a strategic military-and-political union between Russia and
the USA. Europe is in general interested in fundamental and serious
integration with Russia, but understands that this is impossible
without the regulation of relations between Russia and the USA.
Obviously, once such an agreement has been signed, the rates of
rapprochement between Russia and Europe will grow.
It is difficult for Europeans today to focus on Russian affairs
- they have enough problems of their own. The situation with coordination
of actions within a united Europe is absolutely unclear: how will
a common foreign policy be determined, how will new applicants
to the European Union be integrated, how they will be adopted
and how decision-making will be performed in general. The positions
of the national states differ considerably: there is no single
centre for the urgent adoption of decisions that are binding on
all European Union member-states. The more serious the external
challenge, the more painful these problems become.
While Europeans are resolving their problems, we have to implement
a pre-condition - create stable relations with the USA. If Putin
and Bush take this seriously, then at least two of their European
colleagues - Blair and Schroder - will do all they can to support
the establishment of this Russian-American union.
Certainly, this will not be easy. Both Russia and the European
countries will face problems caused by the new international status
of the USA. Objectively the USA today is in a very difficult situation.
It is very difficult to be the only superpower and at the same
time a stable partner. The provision of security in the 21st century
is a long-term joint venture, where participants should work together
not simply because they like each other, and not even because
they belong to one and the same civilisation, but because the
problems they confront cannot be resolved in any another way.
To create such a venture, learn to be the elder, but a partner:
this is the main challenge that the USA has to meet at the beginning
of the new century. History demonstrates that the USA can meet
the difficult challenges of the time. There was slavery. There
was the Great Depression. There was segregation. In each case
a wise answer to the challenge was found. There is hope that such
an answer will be found today too.
However, it may be transpire that nothing serious happens. In
general all the possibilities for a strategic rapprochement of
Russia and the USA and the Western world that appeared after September
11 are very fragile. These sprouts should be treated with care,
and it is easy to eliminate them. The inertia of confrontation
that accumulated over the past century and even earlier, is such
that it is much easier to go backwards than move forward: everything
is prepared for a regression-stereotypical thinking, behaviour,
The easiest thing is to replace the serious modern political
process by the well-known Soviet politics of detente: the counting
of warheads, carriers and proclamation of the "victories
of Soviet-Russian diplomacy in the fight for peace between Russia
and the USA." Do you remember "detente"?
Detente as a foreign policy concept in current conditions is
absolutely senseless. This a rational, but technical issue that
is incomparable in terms of importance with the logics of political
values. Therefore, if negotiations on May 23-26 end with an agreement
on disarmament, on NATO, on "Jackson-Venik" and common
declarations, this would mean that the potential opportunities
from September 11 will be lost and that everything will revert
to its previous form: to the type of agreements signed in the
Implementation of the new opportunities is the personal responsibility
of the leaders of Russia, the USA and European countries.
Vladimir Putin carries the heaviest burden of responsibility,
as in Russia's case, not only security but the very existence
of the country is at stake. Putin criticises the government for
lacking a strategic approach to the economic course, proposals
that would make it possible to narrow the gap with industrially
developed countries. This is right, but our main chance to overcome
this gap lies in Putin's hands.
The significant difference between the foreign and domestic policies
of the Russian authorities cannot exist for long. There are not
that many options. Either domestic policy will correspond with
the foreign policy course aimed at rapprochement with democratic
countries, or, on the contrary, the decisions adopted after September
11 will turn out to be a temporary zigzag subject to amendments.
In the first scenario Russia will gradually be transformed into
a European country from the viewpoint of democratic procedures,
development of the economy and living standards.
In the second scenario the customary logic for an authoritarian
armoured train will once again become the symbol of foreign policy
It is necessary to understand that President Putin cannot be
absolutely certain that a document on partnership will be signed,
must have doubts as the extent of its implementation and as to
the real extent of Russia's support towards the West. This is
why he doesn't burn bridges and retains his previous entourage
in case of the need to retreat. The specifics of domestic policies
of the Russian authorities demonstrate the direction that this
retreat will take if the alliance with the West doesn't happen.
Obviously, there are no prospects for Russia in this direction,
but there is no other way for a President who would like to retain
power if the alliance fails.
Where the President will find himself and what will his power
base be in the case of a retreat, will the events Foros be repeated
(Ed. the place where President Gorbachev was kept under arrest
during the putsch)- this issue will arise.
However, today there still is a chance. President Putin can make
the most important choice and open the door to Europe for Russia
and just the window.
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