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Obshchaya Gazeta
No. 51
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

A group of outstanding Russian international affairs scholars have introduced Moscow's diplomatic and expert community to their monograph entitled Between the Past and the Future: Russia in the Transatlantic Context. Within the framework of this scientific project, headed by Academician and honorary director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of European Studies Vitaly Zhurkin, the political scientists analysed what place Russia may occupy in the world after September 11.

The new study by the Russian political scientists has evoked great interest in the Russian political establishment and the expert community. Apart from representatives of Russia's leading scientific institutions and chief executives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the presentation ceremony was attended by highly-placed officials of the Foreign Ministry, parliament deputies, and foreign diplomats accredited in Moscow.

The interest displayed by the political and diplomatic elite in Academician Zhurkin's project was partly evoked by the high reputation of the people who took part in it. Besides Zhurkin, the project's editorial board included Andrei Kokoshin, Sergei Rogov and Nikolai Shmelyov, who are well-known on the Russian political scene, as well as historian Vadim Milstein, the son of a famous intelligence officer, General Mikhail Milstein.

Yet, there was another, perhaps, more important factor that caused the interest in the book. Between the Past and the Future: Russia in the Transatlantic Context is actually the first analysis of Russia's new place in the world which has irreversibly changed after the September 11 tragic events. According to its authors, one of the consequences of the terrorist attacks on the United States was a serious change in U.S.-Russian relations, which gives grounds for "cautious optimism."

First, priorities in Washington's and Moscow's policies have for the first time coincided. At the beginning of the second Chechen war, Russia declared struggle against international terrorism one of its major goals. After September 11, the U.S.A. declared its firm resolve to counter "global terrorism." Second, the present-day antiterrorist operation is being conducted in regions where Russia has everlasting influence. Russia occupies a unique geopolitical position between Europe and Asia, the authors of the monograph say. The United States, cut off from the Old World by two oceans, simply needs a friendly Russia in the centre of Eurasia.

The authors hold that the new political configuration, taking shape between Russia and the U.S.A., may result in the formation of an alliance between the two countries. Although the Russian scholars realise very well that Russia and the U.S.A. have different weight, they nevertheless think that even an "asymmetric alliance" between Washington and Moscow could be stable enough. Even the alliance between the U.S.A. and Israel, which is even more "asymmetric" compared to a hypothetical Russian-U.S. alliance, has been marked by amazing stability for decades.

The potential of Russian-U.S. relations has not been fully tapped, one of the authors, Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of U.S. and Canada, holds. In his view, the present-day relations between Moscow and Washington, which are actually an alliance formed to combat international terrorism, should be used for broadening their cooperation also in other fields, as there is a "dangerous gap" between the good personal mutual understanding between the Russian and U.S. leaders and "inert bureaucracy" at the executive level.

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