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Rossiiskaya Gazeta
December 30, 2002
Continuation of the interview with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
Author: Vitaly Dumarsky
Source: Rossiiskaya Gazeta, December 30, 2002, p. 4
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]



Question: What are you dissatisfied with about the last year?

Igor Ivanov: I'll mention three episodes again.

Number one. We have not implemented all our ideas within the framework of the Commonwealth. Not that we have not done anything at all, or have been standing in the one place. Some progress has been made, and quite substantial in some instances. The European-Asian Economic Cooperation, a real structure of economic cooperation, has become more robust. The CIS Collective Security Treaty as been transformed into an international organization. All the same, we would have preferred more by way of specific results. In other words, this is a direction that I think should merit more attention on our part in 2003.

Number two. We should have tried to accomplish more in our relations with the European Union. Once again, certain progress may be reported here, but once again we would have liked more. I see objective and subjective factors here. Objective ones have to do with expansion of the European Union itself. The final decision to expand was made in December 2002, and it was preceded by a serious discussion that impeded activeness of the European Union in all other directions. All of that had an effect on reforms within the European Union itself. To be more specific, it concerned matters of security and foreign policy, where certain internal complications could be felt too. And yet, we cannot blame the other side alone. It stands to reason to assume that we have not been sufficiently energetic ourselves.

Number three. We cannot help being worried by regional conflicts along the perimeter of the Russian borders. First and foremost, the matter concerns Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester region. We have been trying and doing the best we could, but I cannot say that we have accomplished much. This is a serious factor complicating our activeness in the Caucasus and within the framework of the Commonwealth in general. We should be more creative and innovative in seeking answers to all these questions.

Question: Revision of the Foreign policy conceptual plan is discussed every now and then. There is the impression, however, that the events following September 11, and formation of the counter- terrorism coalition in particular, have already revised it.

Igor Ivanov: I'm convinced that the conceptual plan was necessary. It helped us build a clearer, more understandable, and more predictable foreign policy.

At the same time, conceptual plans are not dogma. Life changes and new unexpected things creep up. It does not mean of course that conceptual plans should change every year. There are other forms for fast response to changes - presidential appeals and other documents that enable the country to amend this or that direction of foreign policy.

And of course, revision of the conceptual plan becomes a must at a certain stage. As I see it, it may happen in the wake of every presidential election. The national leader should present his foreign political ideas - and internal political ones - for the next four years.

As for the counter-terrorism coalition, it has been formed impulsively to a certain extent, as a reaction to the tragic events. We are facing a serious choice now. Either the coalition becomes a union of the states that share Washington's opinions on the principal matters and support the United States (and there are certain attempts to present it as such a union), or it becomes an alliance of equal states who work together and together come up with solutions and approaches to problems.

Needless to say, we support the second idea. And it leads us to the definition of the multi-polar world the conceptual plan contains. Call it whatever you want. The essence is what counts. September 11 and other cataclysms endangering the world afterwards - all of that made the international community feel the necessity for unification. All because of the natural fear of being left alone, face to face with terrorism.

A coalition like that has been formed. I do not think it will ever become an organization with its own charter or mechanisms. It is rather a philosophy, a philosophy of solidarity in the face of threats. Will this philosophy be molded into some practical forms of cooperation? This is a focal point of struggle nowadays. That is why we are so reserved with regard to the unilateral acts that collide so seriously with the philosophy of modern international life. Our solution, for example, took the form of the Middle East Four. We hope that this experience will be used in other crises and conflicts.

Question: Returning to the foreign policy conceptual plan... Are there any fundamental, basic elements that should remain fixed despite all other changes?

Igor Ivanov: Sure. In the first place, foreign policy should ensure security of the country. If there is no security, if a country is constantly threatened by something external, then everything else retreats into the background.

In the second, favorable foreign conditions should be established for economic and social development. I mean the conditions that allow the country to concentrate its potential and resources on domestic problems. Our country is self-sufficient to a considerable extent. It means that concentration of internal resources may ensure significant economic and social progress.

In the third place, protection of rights and interests of citizens is, of course, a must. This is lobbying - in the proper sense - of our economic interests, for our businesses abroad, it is promotion of our culture, and protection of the rights of our citizens abroad.

These are the three major postulates, as I see them. They may change places, they may be formulated in a different manner, but they should remain unchanged.

Question: What do you expect from 2003?

Igor Ivanov: We should build up the positive tendencies formed in 2002. First and foremost, I mean what we began our conversation with - the spirit of solidarity in the international community. Dramatic problems do remain - Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Korean Peninsula... What really counts is prevention of the conflicts that may lead to these kinds of consequences, that may undermine the international community. We should push all these processes into the channel of political settlement instead.

It goes without saying that we will view as a priority the task of fortification of mechanisms and institutions on the territory of what used to be the Soviet Union. I mean the CIS, the CIS Collective Security Treaty, the European-Asian Economic Cooperation, and relations with Belarus.

Needless to say, we will continue our efforts with regard to global problems as well. We will try to preserve and develop constructive processes in the war on international terrorism and in the matter of fortification of strategic security.

I hear now and then the opinion that perhaps Russia should not be involved in all of that. That it should perhaps concentrate on what concerns Russia and its interests directly. The world we live in is integral and intertwined. Security cannot be divided by national borders.

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