The writer is leader of Russia's liberal Yabloko party
In the manner of Andrei Gromyko, his Soviet predecessor, Igor
Russia's foreign minister, now repeatedly suggests that Moscow
might veto a
second United Nations resolution on Iraq. Meanwhile, President
Putin has maintained a protracted silence. According to today's
Kremlinologists, this role-play can mean only two things: either
position has not yet been decided; or, as in previous crises,
Mr Putin has
formulated it himself but is waiting for the appropriate moment
it to the world.
Sensing an opportunity either way, a host of political and commercial
representatives have rushed to the Kremlin clutching their price
lobby the president. In essence, they are urging Moscow to sell
to war in exchange for guarantees of Iraq's $8bn Russian debt,
participation in the economic and commercial development of postwar
and for access to Iraqi oil reserves for Russian oligarchs.
If the Americans say Yes to such a deal, Russia should keep quiet
its gaze, say these lobbyists. It is precisely this mercantilist
that preoccupies western analysts and journalists writing about
In fact, Russian national interests lie elsewhere. Mr Putin rightly
rejected the policy of support at a price in September 2001. That
moment when Russia at last realised that its true national interests
not in western hand-outs but in much closer co-operation with
the west and
above all with the US, in international security and the war against
In regard to Iraq, Russia's vital interests lie neither in setting
for its support for America nor in propping up the oil price.
They lie in
guaranteeing the security of Russian citizens and the stability
neighbouring regions. Our neighbours must adhere strictly and
to non-proliferation and to total and irreversible destruction
biological and chemical weapons. From this viewpoint, the need
Iraq is absolutely indisputable. As a goal for the international
it is beyond question.
Besides, if Russia wants at least to be called a democratic country,
cannot be indifferent to the existence of the Baghdad regime,
politically motivated persecution, mass repression, torture and
That dictatorship must be consigned to the past. Russia also has
a duty to
strengthen the international coalition against terrorism, to enhance
Nations authority and the effectiveness of Security Council decisions.
But does that mean war against Iraq is inevitable? No, it is
to avoid war - but only if there is a compromise between the supporters
war and its opponents that preserves the unity of the international
community and its capacity to act decisively.
That compromise could involve the long-term deployment of a powerful
international armed force along Iraq's borders. It is already
everybody that only the presence of an armed contingent would
inspectors to do their job effectively and demonstrate to Saddam
that the time for playing one member of the international community
against another has long passed.
Of course, this plan is already being implemented. It is precisely
threat of force from the US that has forced the Iraqi leader into
co-operating with UN weapons inspectors. Over time, it should
full Iraqi disarmament and regime change. History proves that
like the Soviet Union, are gradually worn down when subjected
What we need is the modern equivalent of the cold war, not a
against Mr Hussein. After all, the combination of constant political
pressure and the threat of military force have already proved
containing Iraq. Why abandon it now? This approach could also
be used to
deal with other dictatorships searching for weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea has resumed its nuclear programme, provoking a second
for the international community. And Kim Jong-il is not the last
line of unpredictable dictators.
Russia should support the containment and erosion of the Iraqi
resist a precipitous Anglo-American war. Instead it should attempt
reassemble an international coalition in a new cold war against
states seeking weapons of mass destruction. That could be acceptable
US, Britain, France and Germany. But Moscow will not succeed through
the posturing of Mr Ivanov or the deliberate ambiguity of Mr Putin.
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