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Deloviye Ludi, March 24, 2003

Strategy of a Compromise

War with terrorism should not violate basic European values.

By Grigory Yavlinsky

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 strategically.

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 entire region.

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 and poverty.

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 essential.

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 simply senseless.

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.

See also:

Russia-EU Relations

Situation Around Iraq

International Anti-Terror Coalition

Deloviye Ludi, March 24, 2003

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