#14 - JRL 7066
February 18, 2003
Experts: U.S. Must Not Act Like a Cowboy in a Saloon
By Natalia Yefimova
While there is little Russia can do to stop U.S. military action against Iraq, Moscow should position itself as a "responsible partner," pushing Washington to abide by international law and avoiding rash moves that could jeopardize Russian interests in a postwar Iraq, foreign policy and security experts said Monday.
There is no need to view the United States as a potential enemy, Iosif Diskin of the Institute of Socioeconomic Problems told a round table.
"It is not in Russia's interests to pursue a confrontational strategy in its relations with America. ... We must not haggle; we must seek a balance of interests based on international law," Diskin said.
Russia's main diplomatic goal has been upholding the authority of the UN Security Council, one of the few international institutions where Moscow wields considerable influence.
If Washington acts unilaterally, "the United Nations will effectively be trampled to bits," Federation Council Senator Anatoly Korobeinkov warned.
Another important aim for Russia is to bolster the close ties it has established with Western leaders since the 2001 terrorist attacks and to use these relations to advance its national interests in trade and international affairs, political analyst Sergei Markov said.
Most of the speakers agreed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses an international security threat. But they felt this did not justify, in Markov's words, Washington's "behaving like a cowboy in a saloon" and could set a dangerous precedent.
"Today they get rid of Saddam, tomorrow [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il. ... It is a flagrant violation of international law," said Fyodor Ladygin, who headed the Foreign Intelligence Service in 1992-97.
If the United States firmly decides to oust Hussein, it will do so, but what is important is the aftermath, State Duma Deputy Alexei Arbatov said. Arbatov pointed out that restoring and policing Iraq in the postwar phase is when Washington will need the most help from its allies. He and many of the other experts also warned that getting rid of Hussein by force would fuel a new wave of radical Islamic terrorism.
Meanwhile, a delegation of several dozen scholars, journalists and lawmakers, including Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, arrived in Iraq on Monday for a three-day visit meant to highlight Moscow's opposition to military action, Interfax reported.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reiterated the official position that war is a last resort and the Iraq crisis can still be resolved peacefully through the work of international weapons inspectors.
Itar-Tass said the UN has accepted "in principle" Russia's offer of a reconnaissance plane to monitor Iraq, and they will discuss details later this month.