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#7 - JRL 7205
Wall Street Journal
June 2, 2003
A Russian's Perspective On American Power
Mr. Rogozin is the chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the Duma.

There were warm greetings and words of praise in St. Petersburg over the weekend, but make no mistake: The U.S. and British military campaign in Iraq will, for a long time to come, overshadow the development of U.S.-Russian relations, as indeed it does the postwar order of international relations in general.

It is clear today that at the time that operations began, Iraq posed no direct threat either to the U.S. and Britain, or to any other member of the "anti-Iraqi coalition." Nor has any trace of weapons of mass destruction -- the elimination of which was set as the main goal of the operation -- been found. The action undertaken by the United States and its allies can rightly be qualified as a flagrant violation of international law.

Russia certainly welcomes the ending of the campaign and gives credit to the coalition's armed forces, whose skills proved admirable even if their bosses' disregard for international law was not. But some questions of the U.S. military remain.

For one, Moscow has never been given any plausible explanation for why a convoy of Russian diplomats leaving Baghdad before it was stormed was fired upon. The U.S. command had been informed of the convoy's route beforehand and the cars had special markings. One of the diplomats was seriously wounded by a bullet. The incident has left us with a bitter after-taste.

How has the war influenced the international environment? One major consequence is the crisis within the U.N. The U.S.'s disregard for it has steadily eroded its credibility among member countries, which are tempted to conclude that cooperating with the U.N. is an exercise in naivete. U.N. inspectors carried out the Pentagon's intelligence mission of finding out if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, discrediting the world body. Would America have ventured into ground operation if it had not been confident that the risk of chemical weapons could be ruled out? I think not.

It is clear now that the law of the fist dominates the new world order. This, in turn, will stimulate states to strengthen their defenses, boosting the arms trade.

Additionally, anti-American and anti-Western national and supranational structures may be expected to team up to oppose U.S. and Western power. Secular dictators will begin seeking contact with fundamentalists and international terrorists. Islamic radicals -- who enjoy a better reputation in Iraq than the appointees of the interim administration being set up -- will also take advantage of the U.S. victory to strengthen their hand. There is a great risk, therefore, that one bad leader will be democratically replaced by another.

It is hard to imagine that the difficult job of normalizing life in Iraq can be done without the United Nations. As Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, "the Iraqi issue can be worked off the agenda without U.N. help, but such a settlement will hardly be just and effective. A world based on injustice can never be stable."

This view is, I can tell you, popular among Russian politicians. A statement recently put out by our Duma declares that the post-war settlement in Iraq and the lifting of economic sanctions against it must be made the responsibility of the U.N. Security Council.

Following the logic of international law, those who initiated and waged the war should bear the main financial burden of rebuilding the country. At the same time, political stabilization, tending to the financial obligations of the former government, as well as development of foreign economic ties, should be the concern of a broader coalition of countries.

U.N. Security Council resolution 1483 returns the Iraq situation to international legal channels. It is the result of a difficult but necessary trade-off. We welcome Washington's and London's willingness to restrain their original thirst for undivided rule in Iraq. If such flexibility had been demonstrated when the war was being prepared, I am sure the U.S. and Russia would have acted together in the Iraqi crisis.

The U.S. and Russia have a common interest in the fight against international terrorism. But the way in which the U.S. and Britain acted in Iraq has raised doubts among Russians concerning the future prospects for a broad-based anti-terrorist coalition. An effective front against international terrorism is possible only if moves by any one of the participants conform to generally accepted legal standards and are easy for partners to understand. The "Shock and Awe" operation in Iraq lacked those qualities. What is needed now is an effective bilateral mechanism of regular consultations, so that responses to international challenges can be gauged in advance. This mechanism will help us taking into account the nuances of each other's positions, minimizing harm where our views diverge. No such mechanism exists today. For it to appear, we should give up megaphone diplomacy and learn to reckon with each others' opinions.

This past weekend's summit in St. Petersburg was one more step down the road to repairing the damage done to Russian-U.S. relations over Iraq. Even so, the former level of trust -- so assiduously built in the years since the Cold War ended -- has not yet returned. It will take much longer before we know whether the reassuring utterances of summit meetings will be translated into concrete steps toward tackling complex international issues such as the threat posed by nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. This cooperation will only bear fruit if we have drawn correct lessons from the "Iraqi crisis."

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