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December 18, 2001
Russia Between Europe and America
Russia has come to an historic crossroad
By Nikolai Ulyanov

For instance, in the opinion of Professor Viktor Sheinis at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations, in his commentary carried by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "at the end of the 20th century our country has come to an historical crossroad. One road implies persistent efforts to regain its superpower status, to build up, by all acceptable means, its ability to influence decisions regarding European and world affairs and not to spare any resources for achieving this goal."

"The other road implies to concentrate on solving our extremely complicated domestic problems in order to become an organic - first of all, in respect to its economic and political structure - society so that subsequently it would be able to enter the system of western unions and alliances on the same terms and conditions that the big European countries united."

"However, it is necessary to realize one thing: democratic Russia faces no military threat from the West. A real threat of aggression against Russia, as well as a threat to the entire world community, stems from international terrorist organizations and regimes that are irresponsible to their own citizens, that grant them (international terrorist organizations) bases, and that are trying in one way or another to acquire mass annihilation weapons. In the face of this new challenge, against which there is so far no effective means for repulsing it, Russia, the West and a considerable part of the third world states have common interests. The understanding of this can be seen quite clearly in President Putin's recent foreign political steps," Professor Sheinis writes.

The author of an article in Izvestia, Andrei Kolesnikov, believes that "if Russia preserves its present vector of democratic and market development, its gradual return to Europe is inevitable. The situation in the world today is changing so swiftly that neither European bureaucrats nor Russian officials are capable of fathoming it." "Incidentally," he continues, "already it is possible to make out attempts to give a plausible analysis of what is happening now. The scientific community was recently presented a report "Between the Past and the Future: Russia in the Trans-Atlantic Context" that was prepared by a group of very prestigious experts, among which there were Alexei Arbatov, Andrei Kokoshin, Sergei Rogov and Nikolai Shmelev. In the part that deals with Europe, emphasis is placed on the fact that Russia's foreign policy is not limited to its very complicated relations with the USA and NATO, but underscores the fact that the EU offers a whole number of advantages as a partner in the sphere of politics and security." (To say nothing of economics: according to the data of the authors, Europe's share in Russia's trade accounts for 33-35%).

Russian political scientists believe that Europe can become one of the world centers of influence only if it is united: "Separately, neither an expanded EU nor Russia will most likely be able to vie for that" and "the conclusion here seems to be self-evident," Mr. Kolesnikov argues.

Meanwhile, Russia's mutual relations with the United States in the new conditions look quite promising, in the opinion of influential U.S. Congressman Dana Rorabacher, whose interview is in today's Vremya Novostei. The fact is, according to the newspaper, that this congressman is the person who coined the term "empire of evil" that was uttered by Ronald Reagan in his definition of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s he was the speechwriter for the U.S. president.

According to the congressman, the fact that Mr. Putin extended his hand to the Americans at a moment when they were very seriously offended and very seriously injured is something that America will never forget. The congressman said that he had spoken with very many people at different levels about strategic prospects, about the fact that Russia and the USA, and perhaps India, should become long-term partners. If this idea was not accepted previously, then it is now being taken very seriously.

In Rorabacher's opinion, a new world is now shaping out and everything is changing. In the old world, the Russians were seen as enemies, bringing the threat of Communism… Russia and the Russians today are among America's greatest allies, and that the biggest potential enemy today is China since there is no democratization there.

In the American lawmaker's opinion, after September 11, nothing will ever be the same again. He believes that America's strategic stance will change, that America will have other relationships with Russia since Putin has thrown in his lot with America rather than with China.

The congressman believes that September 11 made that choice a reality. More than that, he considers that in the future, the development of democratic processes in Russia and Kazakhstan could lead to the point where oil from those countries could take the place of oil from the Persian Gulf.

In the Gulf countries, in his opinion, no steps are being taken in the direction of democracy. He hopes that the money America will be paying for Russian oil will be used for improving the life of Russians, for advancing democracy. After September 11, the vision of Russia as "our" big friend is deeply fixed in the minds of Americans. The Russians have a very good heart, and now America knows about that.

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