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Krasnaya Zvezda
No. 18
January 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

The Civil Debates club has discussed the role of Russia and the world on the eve of the Middle East war. Even though the name of the subject points to the inevitability of the war, the participants in the session differ on this issue.

Vyacheslav NIKONOV, head of the Policy Foundation, said that there are no options, as those who have read the Bush address see that the war will begin very soon. It can be prevented only if Saddam Hussein dies or resigns, which is impossible. As for the Old World, we should see that there are two Europes - the Anglo-American one, which the bulk of NATO members will most probably join, and the German-French one, which is acting on its own principles but will probably join the USA in case of war.

Oil prices will first grow and then fall, but it is impossible to make more definite forecasts in view of the factors of Venezuela and the Arab neighbours of Iraq. Nikonov believes that Russia should join the winning group and make the decision before the first missile strikes Baghdad.

According to Vitaly TRETYAKOV, director general of the Independent Publishing Group, hypothetically, the best option for Russia would be to wait and see what happens. But a great power cannot do this and so it should choose the tactic of manoeuvre.

It would be best for Russia if the USA got stuck in the Muddle East. But if the war ends quickly, Russia should find a way of returning to Iraq and restoring its position there. As for the Bush policy, its main element is the attempt to test the world for readiness to bow to the USA.

Sergei MARKOV, director of the Institute of Political Studies, stated tacitly that the war was most probably inevitable but might not begin in February. If it is launched after all, victory in it will be won at excessive cost, as a war launched for domination will bite off a big chunk of domination. As for oil prices, after the war they will be established not by market laws but by the stroke of a pen in the Bush cabinet. Geidar DZHEMAL, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia, believes that the USA will have to go to war under any conditions, as it cannot back off now. It will need to extend "the aggression area" and it will use Europe for the purpose. Russia should join forces with Paris and encourage China to take the right decisions.

As Gleb PAVLOVSKY, president of the Effective Policy Foundation, said, the truth is that Russia has no allies in the Middle East, Iraq or Western Europe. He predicts the appearance of new strong players in the area after the defeat of Iraq. Syria will grow stronger and Iran will become untouchable. If the USA decides to "deal" with the latter, this would provoke a global war. In this situation Russia's policy should be extremely realistic.

Political scientist Sergei KURGINYAN does not think there will be a war and is convinced that if the US administration has a list of targets, Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia are next. Russia can support the USA if it is at least promised Ukraine, since it can deal with the North Caucasus single-handedly in this situation.

But it must not trot in the US wake.

The general impression of the debates is that the experts still do not know what to do if the USA begins the military operation against Iraq. Moreover, they cannot agree even if there will be a war at all, because the Americans have other scenarios for attaining their goals. On the other hand, it is perfectly clear to everyone that future developments in the region and the rest of the world will depend on US actions.

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