Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#34 - JRL 2006-171 - JRL Home
Russia Profile
July 28, 2006
Russia Profile Experts Panel: Showdown in the Middle East
Introduced by Vladimir Frolov
Contributors Yury Fedorov, Jim Jatras, Andrei Lebedev, Sergei Shishkarev, Andrei Zagorski

As the military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah enters its third week, the international community appears divided over how to respond.

The crisis started July 12 with a Hezbollah raid into northern Israel that ended with a capture of two Israeli soldiers. Israel responded with what many believe was a disproportionate use of force, using bombers and artillery barrages to damage Hezbollahs infrastructure in Lebanon. Hezbollah reacted by launching rocket attacks against the Israeli city of Haifa.

Israels objective is to destroy Hezbollah as a military organization (although Israel says it will accept Hezbollah as a purely political force in Lebanon once the group is deprived of weapons and Syrian and Iranian military support). Israel wants cross-border attacks stopped, and has taken upon itself the task of disarming Hezbollah since the weak Lebanese government seems unwilling or incapable of doing so.

As could be expected, the United States supports the two main aspects of Israels position: the use of force is justified and there can be no negotiating with terrorists. Russia, along with the UN and several European states, has raised concerns over the magnitude of the Israeli military response. At a press conference last week with U.S. President George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin openly raised doubts about the real objectives of the Israeli operation.

The critical question is who would assume responsibility for disarming Hezbollah and policing the border areas if Israel stopped its military operations?

In another development, Iran continues to stall on its official response to the latest proposals on its nuclear program and has done nothing to stop its enrichment activities. Last week, France, Germany and the UK introduced a UN Security Council resolution threatening Iran with economic sanctions if it does not stop uranium enrichment by next month. But Russia worked to change the language of the statement, removing any automatic response and ensuring that there would be no references to the use of force.

So why is Russia finding itself increasingly at odds with the West, particularly the United States, on the most urgent international issues? How do Russias concerns over the Israeli use of force fit with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanovs statements that Russia will use any kind of force necessary to destroy terrorists anywhere? How will this position affect Russias interests in the region and its relationships with the United States and Israel?

Additionally, what are Russias intentions toward Iran now? How will Russia react if the Iranian response disappointing to the EU and the United States? More fundamentally, why does Russia continue to try and influence the situation in the Middle East, given that its influence there is marginal?

Yury Fedorov, Senior Researcher, Chatham House, London:

I have almost no doubt that the current conflict in the Middle East has been provoked by Tehran. Indeed, it was a fruitful idea to divert the G8s attention from Irans nuclear program and focus it on Israel, Palestine, Hezbollah and other traditional actors in the Middle East drama. In Strelna, the G8 leaders were so engaged with difficult discussions of the developments in the Middle East that they simply had no time to formulate a coordinated response to Tehrans rejection of the six-nation incentive package.

By provoking this conflict, Tehran has demonstrated that it has strong leverage over the region and thus can affect global politics. Also, it means that the Arab-Israeli conflict is connected to an entire set of issues related to Irans nuclear ambitions.

It seems that the main lesson to be learned from the recent developments in the Middle East is that attempts to find political solutions to the problem of Palestine, Irans nuclear development, and the political future of Iraq are doomed to failure. The reason is that the keys to such solutions are in the hands of Tehran and Damascus. They are the real sponsors of Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraqi extremists and other terrorist groups in the region. Iranian and Syrian leaders are interested in keeping these conflicts going. They understand quite clearly that if these conflicts are settled, then international attention will be focused on Iran and Syria. Under the current circumstances, the G8 states cannot do much to prevent these dangerous developments especially the realization of Irans nuclear program.

Taken as a whole, Russias plans in the Middle East are counterproductive to Russias national interests. It seems that Russian diplomacy cannot determine which countries are our long-term foes and friends. It is possible that Moscow is attempting to compensate for this weakness by maneuvering between the United States, Europe, Israel and Islamic radicals. Such a policy may result in some short-tern tactical success, but it definitely has no future. The one attempting to sit on two chairs at the same time normally falls between them.

Jim Jatras, Senior Partner, Venable LLP, Washington DC:

The responses to the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah (and its sponsors Syria and Iran) and Iran's nuclear program relate to two broader issues in the global anti-terror strategy. I would prefer to address those broader problems and let application to the specifics be inferred.

First problem: Your jihadist friend is a terrorist, mine isn't.

Russia's unduly protective attitude toward Tehran can be understood as a combination of geographic proximity and venality. Iran is Russia's reliable hard currency customer. Washingtons longstanding attachment to Riyadh is understandable only because the United States is the oil-rich nations good customer. But harder to understand is our blindness to the propagation of Wahhabist poison around the world, especially in Central Asia, the Caucasus (including on Russian territory), and the Balkans. Almost five years after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, it still seems to elude most Americans that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, not Iranians. Unfortunately, neither Washington's or Moscow's passionate attachment to its favorite jihadist troublemaker is likely to change soon.

Second problem: My response to jihad terror is justified, yours is disproportionate.

Aside from the wisdom of Americas Iraq deployment, the Russian (and European) press is all too ready to jump on every horror story datelined Iraq as discrediting the U.S. forces and, at least by implication, justifying the jihadist position. The same could be said for overblown U.S. criticism, both official and nonofficial, of Russian application of force in Chechnya. The same applies to allies and clients: the Israelis are overreacting; the Serbs should be bombed (and indeed were) for allegedly disproportionate response to Muslim terror in Kosovo.

I submit a proposition that the pattern of mutual recriminations inherent in these two problems is harmful both to Russia and the United States, as well as to what should be a united front against global terror. The following remarks are my suggestions for rectifying the situation.

For Problem One: Sadly, the Washington/Riyadh and Moscow/Tehran "special relationships" are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. It would be best for us to focus on practical ways to deal with issues like the Iranian nuclear program and Wahhabist ideological warfare without unrealistic expectations and unduly harsh characterizations. To borrow a term from the game of golf, Washington and Moscow should each allow the other a "mulligan" (an informal rule that permits each player to cheat just once during a round) with respect to its one favorite jihadist state and then just shut up about it, at least for the short term.

For Problem Two: I propose an unqualified, across-the-board verbal nonaggression pact regarding anti-jihad military and counterterrorism actions. This would apply to all operations against any jihadist movement or state. While not obligating anyone to give active support for such actions, we all should at least be able to refrain from giving moral comfort to our common enemy by denouncing governments that, in their own fallible and self-interested judgment, are protecting their own people. If some Americans think they are currying favor in the Muslim world by siding with jihad terrorists in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo, they betray their complete incomprehension of the Islamic mind. If some Russians think they can score points by denouncing Israeli actions in Lebanon and Palestinian areas and U.S. operations in Iraq, they are similarly mistaken.

Sergei Shishkarev, Deputy Chairman, State Duma Committee on Energy, Transport and Communications:

Russias response to the new crisis in the Middle East has tried to balance the countrys interests in the region between supporting Israels position in the war on terror, with which Moscow has a lot of sympathy, and Russias much broader ties with the Arab world and Iran.

Moscow is in a position to talk freely to parties on both sides of the conflict, including Hezbollahs masters in Iran and Syria, but it is unable to influence their behavior enough to stop the hostilities.

Russia has chosen to criticize Israel for its overreaction against Hezbollah raids because the magnitude of the Israeli strikes against civilian targets in Lebanon with heavy casualties among the civilians including women and children is indeed hard to justify by the need to fight terror. It could be argued that Moscow itself was blamed for excessive use of force against civilians in Chechnya, but at least that was on Russias own territory, suppressing an aggressive mutiny.

It is true that Russia, like the rest of the Arab world, understands that Israels objective in the operation is not to destroy or occupy Lebanon. In fact, Israel has not invaded Lebanese territory, but instead is waging methodical air and artillery attacks to pummel targets that could serve as a cover or a platform for terrorist operations.

Russia also understands that it is mostly Iran, and to a much lesser extent Syria, that are behind Hezbollahs attacks on Israel. That is why President Putin has been engaged in multilateral diplomacy to diffuse the crisis he met with Saudi Arabian Prince Faisal and spent a lot of time on the phone with Irans president. Russia sent its special envoy to the region long before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled there.

Moscow also remains skeptical about the Israeli and U.S. demands that the Lebanese government act to disarm Hezbollah. As Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov explained, no one really knows how to disarm Hezbollah. Russia obviously will not block the formation of a UN-sponsored multinational force in Lebanon, even if it is led by NATO. But Russia remains skeptical this is the right solution.

Irans continued maneuvering on the nuclear issue presents a more serious challenge to Russia. Up to a point, Moscow can resist the pressure from Washington and Brussels to impose UN sanctions on Iran. Last week Moscow and Beijing worked hard to water down the text of the most recent resolution, setting a tough deadline for Iran to cease all enrichment activities or face the consequences. If Iran attaches more demands to its response to the international community, Moscow will probably be inclined to support some of these, which will introduce new tensions between Russia and the United States.

Andrei Lebedev, Senior Associate, the State Club Foundation, Moscow:

After decades of vehemently opposing the West, and then following its lead, Russia is finally discovering its national interests particularly in the realm of foreign policy.

Russian investments in Israel and Lebanon are incomparable with those of the United States, and Russias foreign aid to the Middle East is virtually non-existent ($10 million to the Hamas government in Palestine). Still, Russias influence in the region should not be underestimated. Last year, Putin visited Egypt, Israel and Palestine, demonstrating the attention Russia is devoting to the region.

Its not that the Russians are more tolerant of terrorists. Actually, Ivanovs promise to chase and obliterate terrorists abroad is more akin to the Israeli and U.S. position. But Ivanov, to the best of my knowledge, never allowed for the permissibility of wiping out hundreds of civilians in the process of hunting down terrorists.

It isnt really surprising that Russia is at odds with the United States over some details of the Middle East crisis. It should be noted that some European countries approach to these details are closer to the Russian than to the American position. Therefore, its more a problem of defining national interests rather than that of forming alliances. Basically the same applies to the Iranian nuclear program.

The current situation could, indeed, widen the rift between Moscow and Washington. But then again, not even two close partners always hold the same position on all questions. If the two sides agree to disagree in the open, it would only add to Russias international prestige.

Andrei Zagorski, Associate Professor, MGIMO University, Moscow:

Time and again, Moscow finds itself defending its alleged clients inherited from the Soviet Union. Time and again, it pretends to have leverage over them, or to play the role of a broker. Time and again, Moscow pretends that, while doing so, it helps the UN Security Council. Time and again, Moscow fails to deliver on any of those promises.

This policy was pursued towards Slobodan Milosevics Serbia and Saddam Husseins Iraq. It is now pursued towards Iran and North Korea. Russia took on the same role about two weeks ago while insisting that neither Syria nor Iran are named in the G8 statement among those who support Hezbollahs terrorist activities.

It is important to stop the fighting in Lebanon that costs human lives, including those of many civilians. However, doing so without offering any solution to curb the militant extremism of Hezbollah does not help. Instead, it encourages Hezbollah to continue. Nor does it help the UN, which demands in Resolution 1559 the disarmament of Hezbollah and the restoration of Lebanese control over Southern Lebanon.

Postponing those issues until after a ceasefire does not help alleviate the situation in the Middle East.

Recent Russian diplomatic overtures demonstrate Moscows aspirations to play the role of a negotiator with the other side. While high-ranking German, French and U.S. officials went to Beirut and Tel Aviv to discuss the next steps, a Russian senior official traveled to Syria, Jordan and Israel. However, if Damascus does not intervene, as it has threatened to do, it chooses to act this way not on account of Russian pressure, but because Washington has warned Syria of a military response. Moscows promise to talk to Hezbollah through Hamas, apparently, has also failed.

Time and again, Moscow has neither the role of a broker or a defender of its clients in the Middle East. It would have a role if it would speak the same language as its partners from the G8 and support the implementation of UN decisions. It is important for Moscow to consider its real contribution to peace in the Middle East as part of the UN Security Council, a member of the G8 and of the so-called Quartet working to bring peace to the Middle East.

Will Russians join a multinational force in Southern Lebanon? Will it contribute to the UN fund for humanitarian relief in Lebanon? If it does not, what is going to be its role?




Source: www.fednews.ru

Moderator: Good afternoon. I am the head of RIA Novosti press club and we begin our meeting. Today we have the launching of a report of the Foundation for Historical Outlook on human rights in the United States. The document was prepared by human rights experts and international lawyers. The report contains the following sections: Limitations of Rights and Liberties in the Anti-Terrorist Campaign, Personal Security in the US, Human Rights Violations by Courts and Law Enforcement Agencies, Race Discrimination, Violation of Human Rights by the US in Other Countries. Our speakers will tell you all about it. The presentation is conducted by President of the Foundation for Historical Outlook, Dr. of Sciences and Chair of the State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs Natalia Narochnitskaya, Director of the Information Policy Department of the Foundation for Historical Outlook, Alexander Popov, and Director of Social and Publication Programs of the Foundation for Historical Outlook Yelena Bondareva.

Narochnitskaya: Thank you for finding time to come here and to listen to us. As my introductory article says, human rights has become an important aspect of the consciousness of present-day societies and of human life. There is not a single state in the world that does not make it a cornerstone of its state policy, at least formally, the promotion of human rights. But it has also become obvious that the world which is very diverse, which has different civilizations, which has different perceptions of what man is and what his relationships are with society, government and God and cosmos, generates different interpretations of human rights.

Nevertheless, the declaration of commitment to protect human rights has become a key international obligation which secures for a state full international recognition and full international communication. It is not surprising that these problems become the objects of speculations, double standards. They are used as a political instrument in order to bring pressure on some states while turning other states into models, and calling other states "rogue states."

The question of how distorted these standards are, how selectively they are applied, whether there are universally accepted international standards, whether they are honestly applied by international organizations which exist to monitor human rights, I think this question should be within the purview of any serious human rights organization.

It is not by chance that our Foundation for Historical Outlook set up in 2004 has never neglected this theme. We are working with various people and experts, we monitor various Internet sites. I am personally familiar with the head, for example, of the British Helsinki Group, I have met them in various countries, including Britain. It is not by chance that our Foundation has made this theme a permanent area of its activities. You may know that last year I was elected chairperson of the parliamentary commission for the study of human rights. The role of the commission -- and the commission includes representatives of all the factions in proper proportions -- is not only to record human rights violations in foreign countries but to do conceptual analytical work, to look at the foundations of various standards, to what extent human rights violations in various countries depend on flaws or blank spots in legislation or on the law enforcement practice. And as any social scientist knows, this practice is linked to the political, national, cultural, historical and philosophical mentality of nations. These things never change fast regardless of how perfect legislation may be.

In my two capacities as president of a Russian nongovernmental organization and as chairperson of the commission I took part in the latest meeting in Geneva of the Human Rights Council, a new UN structure which is an organ of the General Assembly. I listened with great attention to the speeches by representatives of various countries, some of whom were ambassadors and even heads of state. They presented a spectrum of views on these themes. I must say that the majority of speakers very accurately pointed out that all the generations of human rights, political and civil rights, the social and economic rights to which the 20th century gave a push, and humanitarian rights, the rights of the individual which are on the banners of the West European liberal and secular civilization are indivisible and they should be studied together. It is ridiculous to expect that the interpretation of human rights in some African country where people have no electricity and the main right that worries them is the right to life, shelter, access to water and food, would be the same as the interpretation of human rights in a developed European country where people are concerned with the look of their teeth and the choice of the right toothpaste. I am being a bit ironic, you understand.

Our Foundation has decided to produce regularly this kind of reports and even before the issue of our special number of "Links" - - and Yelena Bondareva and Alexander Popov will tell you more about it -- even before that, jointly with other structures, a special issue of analytical proceedings was put out. The Commission also took part in selecting materials. We have tried to present different materials to show the wide spectrum of the problems discussed -- from theoretical issues on which there are no common views to legal instruments that exist in Europe, international conventions on the rights of minorities, this and that, to specific description of the situation of ethnic minorities in various countries, how they live, what their achievements are and what negative experience can serve as a basis for further creative work in this field.

As regards our collection "Links" we tried very hard to publish it by the time of the G8 summit although we had taken up that theme earlier and after human rights in the United States we will take up human rights, for example, in Britain and all the other countries. Why do we think it is important to draw attention to the negative trends in human rights in the United States? Because, first, one must say that from the beginning the United States put individualism, human rights at the foundation of the life of the state and has achieved considerable success.

At the same time we can also see that the United States has been overly ideology-guided in their foreign policy and they have used the human rights problems for putting outright pressure, political pressure on countries which 200 years ago, for geopolitical reasons, used to be targets of that pressure as well.

That is, we see that the United States has assumed the role of self-proclaimed mentor. They have tried to label certain countries as monsters in terms of human rights, and they have done this selectively. As a rule, those are countries whose policy is outside the United States' orbit, while many other countries where life has nothing in common with Western standards have not been criticized for that simple reason that their policy has pleased the United States.

Those double standards are also a matter for our concerns. The United States having assumed this role of a flag of the Western civilization have to show responsibility, because growth of anti- American feelings caused by this not too fair political vocabulary, those anti-American feelings tends to be applied to the whole Western civilization. And we can see tensions between civilizations growing. Some commentators speak of a war between civilizations. We would hate to admit it that our future is a war between civilizations. Still, it would be not serious to say that there are no such problems. This growth of anti-American feelings is obvious. The authority of the United States in non-Western worlds tends to decline, and this also spreads to us, even though we see ourselves as part of the common Christian civilization, and we would like to draw the attention of our American partners to the fact that once they claim being a model, they should be more attentive to restrictions on rights and freedoms in their own country.

Having analyzed that big scope of materials that were available to us, we picked what we found justified and confirmed. The thing is that we do not think that there can be any flawless society in this respect. Where there is a human, there always is evil, there always are violations of human rights. But once that country wants to be a mentor, it should get its share of criticism, because the one who claims to be a model has to meet higher standards.

What is happening in the United States, along with human rights violations, such as failure to observe certain judicial procedures, abuses by police, pressure on the public opinion is also obvious, which has not been observed in the United States before.

I will crown up my introductory remarks by a quote from Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America. For some reason, this book is regarded by some people as an ode to American democracy. But those who have read it attentively will find six or seven gloomy pages in each chapter. They are devoted to that this rational system is not fit for all countries. He also claims that in the United States, against the backdrop of this proclaimed freedom of opinion, there is absence of variety of opinions. Now that 200 years have passed, the Americans tend to repeat the same. They are easily influenced. He writes that everything should be praised, that the ruling power in the United States, even though it gives people a wide field for thinking activities, but those who try to go beyond the limits will become an outcast. That individual will not be jailed, will not lose his job, but he will lose the ability to realize all those freedoms. Everything should be praised. Criticism causes nervousness. And only from foreigners or their own sad experiences the Americans can hear the truth.

So, we have decided to be those foreigners who can tell our counterparts, with whom we have dealt with global problems, to tell some truths. We are offering to your attention a special issue of Links, a project of the Foundation for Historic Outlook, a regular publication. We have prepared a translation. You can find it in English and in Russian. Those who have a chance to get it during the G8 summit could use it. It could be used both by English-speaking journalists and Russian journalists. And now I will give the floor to Yelena Bondareva, who will comment on the book.

Bondareva: The Foundation for Historic Outlook began publishing it this year. We plan making it a monthly publication. So far, we have managed to keep to that schedule. The special issue is the third issue. We publish the materials the Foundation for Historic Outlook gets as a result of roundtable discussions. This is the practice we have had for six months. Those roundtable discussions have been very substantive and effective.

One of the first roundtable meetings was devoted to foreign political issues. We analyzed the place and potential role of Russia in such a problem region as the Balkans. You can see that the topic of the first issue was Russia in the Balkans. It has received lots of comments. There was no special presentation. Yet it got into Serbia and the latest edition of the leading Serbian political magazine NIN published an interview with Natalya Narochnitskaya on the materials published in our publication.

One of the initiative voiced by the publication was a memo published, which proposed drawing up plans for moving Serbian refugees from Kosovo, whose flood will intensify as a result of any possible solution of the fate of the autonomous area of Kosovo, to the Russian Federation. Our foundation, Natalya Narochnitskaya have supported this initiative, and it is outlined in the first edition.

The second edition was devoted to two topics, two roundtable discussions, education and demography. Let me note that the foundation focused on those problems much earlier than those issues were addressed in the framework of national projects. We will continue dealing with them.

As for human rights, we plan proceeding with our work on that. At the end of this year we plan publishing a special issue which will summarize blueprints that already exist. They will be supplemented by our proposals in general terms, on the observance of human rights, including materials provided by such organizations as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International. Also, our Chinese colleagues have worked hard to prepare a document which is known in the United Nations. Along with other languages, it has been translated into Russian. We will also use it and include their materials.

And about the Links collection. This is not a usual publication because it is an expert study. One of the next issues will be devoted to the problems of ethnic relations in Russia. And we would be glad to present it to you. One of the future issues has practically been prepared. It is called "Russia's Asian Vectors: Strategic Partnership Between Russia and India." We think it is also very interesting.

Popov: Yelena Anatolyevna has told you in detail that our expert studies in the "Links" are usually based on the roundtables of experts organized by the Foundation for Historical Outlook fairly regularly. We try to keep to a certain schedule, approximately holding these meetings once every two months.

For example, we conducted a very relevant roundtable with experts whose findings have been widely circulated and were published also in Literaturnaya Rossia, the newspaper which is actively cooperating with us. The roundtable was devoted to demography. And as you have heard, we already held a roundtable on the problems of the army reform, the problems of education and the more pressing problems in the sphere of education.

We will develop this initiative. In the fall we are planning to hold roundtables on social and economic issues in this country. We will discuss projects of modernization of the economy and the social sphere and national projects.

We will hold a roundtable on the problems of Russian culture. By the end of the year we are going to wrap up our results and publish them in a collection which will be called "Analytical Annual Report."

The "Links" collection is widely distributed. Still, I take this opportunity to invite you to come to our Foundation and we would be glad to share information with you on all the more promising areas of our activities and we would be glad to give you copies of the "links" collections. We look forward to seeing you. Let us work together on our common tasks and problems.

Narochnitskaya: And to complete our presentation before passing on to questions, let me say that the main occasion that brought us here is the presentation of the "Links" collection on human rights in the US. The first part of the text of the report has been posted on our site www.stoletiye.ru. This is a registered media outlet and because the text is long, it will be post in several installments over a period of several days and it will also be on the www.narochnitzkaja.ru site in the Human Rights Commission section. And on the subject of roundtables I would like to say that the experts we invite include specialists on these issues and also serious journalists and public figures, representatives of various confessions, so as to trace the interpretation of these problems not only in the expert community, but in society at large and the two things do not always coincide.

And now we are ready to take your questions, in the first place, regarding the "Links" collection on human rights.

Q: A scandal is unfolding around Mr. Kasyanov and the National Democratic Institute one of whose directors is Madeleine Albright who have conducted training sessions for Kasyanov before his congress.

Everybody knows that that Institute has met with a mixed reaction, if you think, for example, about Timoshenko and Yushchenko. Litvinov is just crazy about it, and Bahrain recently shut down its mission at the request of the parliament. My question has to do with the rights of man and journalist. When journalists from Nezavisimaya Gazeta and other media outlets tried to find the Moscow office of that Institute they couldn't find it. The site has no telephones, nothing. The US Embassy tells us that it can only give us a US State Department report on human rights violations in Russia. Don't you think it is an unprecedented situation when the National Democratic Institute so rudely interferes in our policy? And the second question. As a State Duma deputy, could you send a letter to the Foreign Ministry or to the US Embassy to get the office of the National Democratic Institute to disclose its address, name its representatives, contact telephones and in accordance with Russian laws and the international obligations of the US to be open to the Russian press and not to operate from the underground. Because we have never faced such arrogance before.

Narochnitskaya: It is a pity that we have not met earlier, before the report was written. We would have included this episode. Everything you have said fails to meet even the loosest standards of freedom of the press. Such think tanks which call themselves national democratic or democratic institutions are a feature of American policy. Many think that it is not the US administration that supervises them but, on the contrary, these think tanks -- the Carnegie Foundation, the Foreign Relations Council and dozens of others, the Hoover Institute and so on -- provide the blood vessels of the American establishment and foster and launch politicians on their careers.

Undoubtedly, that is interference in our affairs. And we have repeatedly pointed out that freedom can never be interpreted in such a way as to make a state a test ground for political experiments and projects of other states. If anything this constitutes gross violation of the sovereignty of a nation. In the context of globalization all these problems are taking on added relevance. I think we have some legal work to do because as soon as a new category appears in the life of the world community it calls for legal definition and for a certain international regime that would protect sovereignty while not infringing upon freedom.

By the way, I would like to cite the UN Charter. The UN Charter and the Human Rights Declaration proclaim all the basic freedoms, all the generations of human freedoms. But in the UN Charter, any statement of that sort is accompanied by references to particular provisions of the Charter on the principles of the international law such as noninterference in internal affairs and sovereignty.

As for such organizations as the Council of Europe, you will not find the word "sovereignty" in its by-laws at all. That is, there is such a trend in international organizations willing to become sub-national political organizations, where there is no room for classical international law, public law, where any interference in internal affairs of a country is seen as manifestation of freedom.

I think that common sense worked and it should be calm, reserved, concept-based. Any statement on restrictions immediately puts one into a position of a whipping boy. To do something about it it is necessary for our non-governmental organizations to work. Reports of that kind are required, which would draw everyone's attention to this false, arbitrary, interventionist interpretation of the notion of freedom.

Q: Do you know anything about the reaction to this report in the West, in the United States? Has the press noticed it or not?

Second, do you intend to prepare similar reports on our neighbors -- the Baltics, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova?

Narochnitskaya: I cannot say that I know their reaction. I have the impression that during the G8 summit they tended to focus on political aspects bringing those countries together and encouraging them to deal with common problems, rather than bite each other on minor issues. We are convinced that it has not gone unnoticed. I know that it was handed to some high-ranking American officials.

As for reports on our neighbors, you are right to make this note. Human rights in the Baltics have long been in the focus of attention. This is on the surface and no fair non-governmental organization can neglect this. A very substantial share of the Russian-speaking population is stripped of elementary political and civil rights, and their interpretation of history runs counter to the findings of the Nuremberg trial. By the way, this is the legal aspect I would like to draw everyone's attention to.

As for human rights in Ukraine, there is much room for the activities of human rights organizations there as well. The right to think and speak one's native tongue is an inalienable right of an individual. Otherwise, this suppresses one's identity, personality, and this is much deeper even than restrictions of political and civil rights, when an individual as a representative of one's national culture can still express oneself in history, even if with restrictions.

Therefore, the protection of the Russian language in Ukraine, pressure on the opposition media which was so obvious in the first six months after the Orange Revolution, the closure of a TV channel, newspapers, trials, under all sorts of pretexts, against journalists and regional officials who would not support the orange revolution - - all those were in the focus of discussions by, for example, a commission that analyzed practices of the observance of human rights.

In the Collected Analytical Works No. 18, which I also mentioned, one can find some articles on ethnic Rusins, who are totally stripped of any rights as an ethnic group. This does not mean that we want to promote separatist trends there, but they deserve having their identity, because even in the Austro-Hungarian Empire had the right to go to their schools.

I think it's high time for us to draw the attention of our Western counterparts to the situation in the human rights sphere in the country where such a big friend of democracy as Saparmurat Niyazov rules. As far as I know, specialists from Turkmenistan have flooded educational institutions in the United States, invited by the Americans. For some reason, our partners overseas fail to notice how different is the public and political life in that new, so to say, democratic state from the standards they have proclaimed, for the absence of which they have denounced other countries where despite all problems there is public and political life the way we understand it .

Yes, right, this is our objective. Thank you for having confirmed yet again that it is in demand for society.

Moderator: Don't you think that had we now presented a report on human rights violations in Russia, there would have been half of the audience representing the Western media? Unfortunately, we only have one mass media outlet working for the United States here, Federal News Service. How can you explain this?

Narochnitskaya: I have noticed that the geography of visits to our website has changed somewhat. A month ago there were about five visits from the United States. It is now 18. Interpret this as you please. Naturally, this is not much, but I think that those who collect information for interpreting US policy in Russia have closely monitored that.

Personally, I have constantly received requests from newspapers and radio from the UK and America. An American correspondent has contacted me often recently. But I have noticed that after an hour- long conversation, which was attentively recorded, those materials are handed over somewhere perhaps, not the mass media perhaps. In the press you can just find one line stating that Natalya Narochnitskaya was interviewed and they pick some phrase that is not important, while the rest -- but they have interviewed me with great interest, and this takes hours. I have gradually started refusing to accept any such offer because I understand that journalists collect information materials.

Clearly, the United States is not used to anyone saying that "the emperor has no clothes" and that there are spots on the Sun, this is not part of the American political tradition. I have lived in New York for almost eight years, working at the UN Secretariat. And I could see for myself that there are certain political cliches on every issue. And no matter how free a discussion may look any moderator is a professional at not allowing the discussion to get out of a tunnel. I also had a similar experience taking part in BBC's program Question Time. You can't imagine how the moderator, an experienced journalist, an elderly commentator and a charming man -- in general, it is a sanatorium for the nerves to talk with Englishmen -- but he gagged every uncomfortable remark, Kiselyov on NTV and Pozner are nothing to be compared. With them you can at least say what you intended to say. But there, they just tell you to shut up. The members of the audience handed in their questions beforehand, and then the moderators chose the questions they liked and allowed them to ask the questions. A young man stood up and started asking his question. The moderator says: "That's not the question you were going to ask." The young man says, "But I filed two questions." "But I liked the second question more. Switch off the mike." I swear, I saw it with my own eyes. But this episode was later cut out. I have a disk. We could learn from them how to do it skillfully because ordinary people may even not notice it.

Q: Your report is fairly interesting and it contains a lot of facts, but it has nothing but criticism. Does the US has any positive experience in the human rights field? And why doesn't your report write about it?

Narochnitskaya: The report is devoted precisely to human rights violations. And in my introduction I began by saying that the United States surprises us precisely because in the popular consciousness across the world it has a champion of human rights and human rights in America are fairly broad. But when the United States proposes a purely Western interpretation of all human rights in countries and civilizations where imposing these rights destroys the basic world view and attitudes peculiar to this or that civilization while itself curbing the rights and freedoms that are inherent in the West European secular civilization, this is what raises questions. If you are a self-proclaimed mentor, you should be a model, you should be critical of yourself, leading the way even on that, not to mention the fact that if we belong to the Christian civilization, we shouldn't beat our breast and say that we are without sin. Orthodox Christians resent this kind of prophetic attitude.

One cannot deny that the United States and Western societies in general, have great achievements in the field of law, the culture of relationships between government and the citizen is much higher there. But this does not rule out a huge number of violations in the United States, abuses by police, beatings, frame-ups. All this is to be found in the United States like in all other countries. We do not claim that anyone is without sin. And the thrust of this report is against the idea that the United States is sinless and has the right to instruct the world.

I don't think anyone doubts that there can no sinless states. There is much we can learn from our Western partners and we are trying to learn. But we always say, yes, we have big problems. Russia has many sins in this field. In my opinion, they are largely connected with our common mentality and have more to do with the practice of law enforcement than with flaws in legislation which is constantly being improved. But this does not always automatically means that it is implemented.

Nobody is forcing local officials to be afraid to disappoint their boss. This is antiquated political mentality when, for example, in the Muslim hinterland the father\s word is much more important than the letter of the law because the law is written by people, while the father's authority derives from God. So, I begin by saying that serious analytical work is needed to understand why things that are easy to implement in some society meet with such problems in other societies.

It was not our aim to suggest that the United States is the biggest sinner in this field. We just wanted to show that it is not without faults.

Q: I have two questions. Does the Foundation for Historical Outlook plan any events or studies into the discrimination against women in Russia? You write that in the US women account for only 15 percent of the Congress, but in Russia the situation even worse and yet women are our only hope. The situation may change if women have some say.

Narochnitskaya: I am not a feminist, rather, I am a conservative. But I am a modern person and I believe that any talented and energetic person, whether male or female, should have equal opportunities for using one's personal talents.

But if you ask me, I don't think any special measures are needed, you know, the gender approach. I am a member of the Committee of Women MPs in the Interparliamentary Union which discusses the more outrageous cases of discrimination against women, cases that are not even registered in this country. In the early 20th century this country went to the other extreme and turned all women into comrades.

Many women today might prefer not to work and devote themselves to their families. But clearly a modern woman cannot withdraw into her shell. The question of discrimination of women is really about discrimination. Formal statistics, how many women there are in parliament, does not reflect the fact of deliberate discrimination, it reflects the social and cultural profile of society. Of course, it is changing. But I think our women themselves tend to vote for men rather than for women. And as a conservative, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I myself vote on the basis of professional and moral qualities of the candidates.

Q: I have a second question. Just yesterday it was announced that the Party of Life and the Motherland Party are to merge. Although you are not a member of the Motherland Party, you are a member of its faction in parliament. I would like to know your opinion. Reportedly, State Duma deputy Alexander Chuyev personally prepared the merger and knew about it in advance. I would like to know why the broad public was not involved in the discussion, for example, the members of the Motherland faction who are not simultaneously members of the party, or the representatives of Motherland and the Party of Life in the regions.

Narochnitskaya: This is not relevant to the topic of our press conference. So, I can choose not to answer your question. But I am really not a party member and all those election campaigns were always planned and designed without my participation.

In fact, one should be naive to believe that such things can be decided by general meetings. This is a serious issue. I think it would be premature to draw any conclusions, because there is no program yet, nothing. It is important for me to see what fundamental goals and values that alliance could have, how wide is their outlook for me to be able to defend Russia, Russians in world history.

There should be a left-hand component in any party, including an opposition party. But for me, the left are those on the right hand as indicated in the New Testament. That is, giving one clothes and food means doing that to the God. For some reason, it was only in the 20th century that they started describing what in Chapter 25 of the New Testament is described as those on the right hand. This is the terms mixed up. Let us wait a bit.

As for Chuyev, there were contrary views published on the Internet. Some said he was surprised and voiced criticism. Others referred to his statement that he had known those plans. I think he did know. Anyway, this is the way he put it himself, and I have no grounds to mistrust him. Let us wait and see.

Q: Naturally, one can sign virtually every line of your report. They are well known facts. But my question is different. Don't you think that it would be more interesting to prepare a report that would compare those things you have analyzed -- corruption, lobbyism -- the thing is that there is no fact mentioned that would not be present in Russia. It would be interesting to read a report that would compare the state of affairs in the United States and in Russia, or maybe in some other European country. Don't you have plans to do something of the kind?

Narochnitskaya: This would be the right approach, I think. By the way, this is not only an objective for our Foundation. This could also be done by the commission I represent here. The commission's goal is to compare the state of affairs in various countries and civilizations in particular spheres. But before this is possible, before moving to this analytical stage, it is necessary to collect data on various countries first. It will then be possible to compare.

I think there are lots of things we can learn from them. Besides, no one is going to say that Russia is flawless. Citizens of Russia have criticized their country themselves. It is a tradition in the Russian political culture, in the Russian Orthodox tradition to criticize oneself. And the Russian literature is close to flagellation, on the basis of which unfair cliches have spread about Russia that it has had a history of arbitrariness, despotism, lack of freedom and the like.

In the West they rather tend to be proud of their national achievements, even if their heroes are evil. But Russians still debate on Ivan the Terrible, even though six times less people were killed over his 30-year rule than in one St. Bartholomew Night.

Q: A question for you as a historian and a law specialist. One of the main human rights and rights of a nation is the right to true history. It is an open secret that our history has been distorted by the foreign mass media recently. And even our mass media outlets tend to distort it.

A question for you as a State Duma member. Is not it time to think of ways to defend domestic history by the law on the protection of domestic history? That is, there should be things that are absolutely clear.

Narochnitskaya: This is an important problem. It concerns proper interpretation of facts of history in textbooks. Specialists in education have constantly focused on it. Even in Soviet times there used to be a commission which comprised historians, a bilateral commission that dealt with the ways certain facts should be covered in textbooks, because those textbooks were used to bring up journalists, professors, political figures.

If since childhood they are told that when they had freedom in France, there was the Oprichniki rule in Russia, nothing can be done about it later. This fact remains in their minds. But Russophobia in the Western press has now surpassed Cold War standards, and there is little we can do about it.

As for the way history is covered in the mass media and in textbooks, the issue of creating a commission on textbooks has been raised many times. And every time after that chaos of the 1990s, there were those who would say that we wanted to drive them back into socialism after a brief span of freedom when one could claim that Dmitry Donskoi was not a hero, that he was really an enemy.

I think there was just one case in history when the law banned voicing doubts about history. In some countries, if I am not mistaken, there is the law reading that if you voice doubts about the Holocaust, you have to pay fines. I doubt that we should go alone this path. But there is a problem here.

Q: I would recommend you to visit the Stoletie website and go to the Builders section. In my opinion, this is the first attempt of objective coverage of our history. It speaks about the foundations, moral and patriotic traditions and foundations underlying the great history of our state -- from Rurik's descendants to our days.

Narochnitskaya: It is important to do this briefly, for wide audiences. Unfortunately, young people do not know those things. Just ask them about Andrei Bogolyubsky, when he lived. Well, they may say that he lived in the times when Pushkin lived, when Baryatinsky lived. Our website is intended for wide audiences and one can find everything there: football, pop stars and the like. As for that brief section, Builders of Russia, we just decided to give key facts for people to know what the age of Yaroslav the Wise is.

Boldyreva: Just a couple of words. Really, it is a pressing problem. It is good that it has emerged in the context of this press conference. Really, only historians can defend Russian history. And they can do this only in an alliance with journalists. But strange things are happening: the journalistic community has readily reacted to distortions of Russian history. But when a historian speaks up to refute this canard, his audience is very small and it is hard for him to make himself heard.

I have worked at the Institute of Russian History for a long time. And we have repeatedly approached various publications proposing to join forces in organizing an anti-Fomenko program. But there has been no response from the media. So, only a pooling of efforts can bring any results.

Narochnitskaya: Unfortunately, the media tend to latch on to any canard, any cheap sensation which distorts everything because it is eye catching. The number of visitors to the site shoots up. So, the responsibilities of the journalist and the citizen are inseparable.

Q: This is precisely why the issue of a law to protect history is so relevant.

Narochnitskaya: I promise I'll think about it.

Q: To go back to the thesis that human rights is to some degree an instrument of policy. How correct is Washington's use of that instrument in its foreign policy. I think it is no secret that in some parts of the world the US is upholding its own interests under the pretext of protecting human rights. What is your opinion?

Narochnitskaya: I have already spoken about it. It is becoming obvious. As a professional international scholar, I understand that any political doctrines and cliches can be used as a political instrument to varying degrees. It is a question of degree and arrogance and double standards.

So, the messianism of American political consciousness and foreign policy though has always been a feature of American history. This is connected with the religious and philosophical roots, with the American idea, it is connected with political transformation of some Calvinist ideas. The United states has a concept, and books have been written about it, and I have cited in my introduction the expression of Redeemer Nation. It is a doctrine of the divine mission. There are some anthological orators like Senator Beveridge who said that America has been ordained by God to rule the peoples of evil and savages. This is an idea that America has been chosen by God, an idea that goes back to the Old Testament. Max Weber, an outstanding sociologist, wrote that the American's messionism is much greater compared with that of an Old Testament, law-abiding and God-fearing Jew. Because he is less inclined to think about his own sins and repentance. So, there is a lot of philosophy in it. Woodrow Wilson shocked the Versailles conference by saying that America has an honorable duty to save the world.

So, if this messianism goes unchallenged, if there is an ideological vacuum in world politics, it takes the banner in its hands and some times acquires absurd forms as it does not meet with any resistance. The time has come when this messianism has to be countered with a calm and sober philosophy of healthy and respectful communication between civilizations.

Q: Part of your report on US human rights violations in other countries is devoted to an Arab country, Iraq. This was done deliberately because it is a very major thing. I would like to know your opinion: how did these violations affect the internal situation in Iraq and the Christian-Islamic dialogue?

Narochnitskaya: What the United States has done to Iraq is a fantastic catalyst of tension between civilizations. World Islam is on the rise. It has colossally grown in demographic terms. It has the oil titans of the Middle East. Its demographic potential has grown enormously. So, as a civilization Islam will play a growing role in the world. And at such a moment one would expect wise politicians, especially since the share of the human resources of the Western civilization is shrinking, to seek some kind of wise interaction. Non-Western dislike of America has now reached the same pitch as the anti-Western sentiments in the 1960s during the period of decolonization. I can see this at the session of the Interparliamentary Union which I attend as a member of the Duma delegation. I mention the Interparliamentary Union because it is the most representative organization in the world. There are deputies from African villages to major European cities, hovels and palaces, blacks and whites, Muslims, Buddhists, Orthodox believers, Christians, atheists and so on.

Western countries and America don't even dare to think about mentioning a rogue state in a resolution because every such resolution is sure to be killed. That is why there are gross violations of human rights in Iraq. There, the floodgates have been opened for inter-religious violence which has a dramatic negative impact on the entire situation in the Middle East because today Iraq, as a result of the American-led upset of the regional balance attacks all the radicals. It has opened a huge Pandora's box and undoubtedly the responsibility rests with those who launched the Iraq adventure.

I think the Untied States is in a spot of trouble itself because it is a heavy burden onits policy. And this may explain its readiness to come to terms in its relations with Russia.

Q: What is your attitude to what is happening in Kodori Gorge? Don't you get an impression, casting aside political and diplomatic rhetoric, that the United States which during the past year has been directly arming and financing Georgia whose budget is almost as big as that of the Untied States and supports the Georgian government and the President, that it is preparing a major conflict in the Caucasus and its main target is the Russian Federation. Don't you have such a feeling?

Narochnitskaya: But this is what all experts are saying. And again, you should read our site Stoletiye, it has my big interview on these larger issues.

Naturally, complicating the situation along the perimeter of Russia's borders, especially in regions which have been strategic for ages like the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, whose significance has not changed over ages and in the age of computers and oil pipelines has grown -- this is a component part of a certain strategy which has not been admitted publicly, but which is obvious to everyone. By the way, on the eve of the G8 summit, about two months before it, an attempt was made to overload our ship by stirring up tensions around the Transdniestria region, North Ossetia, Georgia and Ukraine.

We have to be ready for that and I think Russia's firmness is the decisive factor here. It is necessary to convince those strategists, make them understand that they will have to retarget their potential, shift pressure to some other spheres. Russia, in my opinion, cannot leave the region that made it a great power.

Britain, now America see this as one of the key strategic regions. This is a clear fact. Even before Lord Palmerstone, a British ship was seen in the Black Sea unloading weapons for Cirkassians. This first happened in 1935. There was a diplomatic scandal. Apologies were presented. As soon as in 1829 Griboyedov signed the Turkmanchai Treaty, as soon as the Russian position and influenced strengthened there, Caucasian problems and the Black Sea became a matter of keen attention of our Anglo-Saxon brothers and partners. We have to reckon with that. In my opinion, this is a permanent issue in global policies, and the fact that it has been stirred up now has only been due to Russia's weakness.

In my books I attract all those historic stages when Russia was a target of military attacks, was swept by domestic disorders, and the Eastern issue always emerged. That was the case during World War I, the revolution, the Civil War. I can tell you what was behind the scenes of military cooperation of the anti-Hitler coalition in that region. As for what happened in the 1990s, we could see it ourselves.

Moderator: Dear colleagues, let me thank our guests for this interesting discussion. Our press conference is over.

Narochnitskaya: Thank you for attention.