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#10 - JRL 7219
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
No. 114
June 9, 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
By Dmitry TRENIN, deputy director, Moscow's Carnegie center

The Iraqi war served to unveil the unipolar world, what with Moscow repeatedly noting that the unipolar world threatens global security. At present the Russian leadership will have to study possible scenarios of subsequent Russian-US relations. It should be mentioned in this connection that the United States, which is the central element of the entire system of modern international relations, has also displayed its ability to act as such. We should now stop talking about a multi-polar world, all the more so as the French-Russian-German "troika" has already been "unharnessed." The United States has to choose between domination and leadership at this stage; we should try and help Washington to solve this dilemma in favor of its leading role. Russian-US partnership and cooperation, rather than efforts to counter-balance America, is the most effective way to encourage Washington's correct choice. It seems that the Kremlin has already comprehended this fact.

Russia and the United States can cooperate in such areas as energy and security; as a matter of fact, these are virtually new cooperation aspects.

President George Bush Jr. of the United States mentioned the treaty on strategic offensive reductions as an example of US-Russian strategic partnership. Well, this seems to be an obvious exaggeration. At best, we still have to establish bilateral strategic partnership. At the same time, the Moscow treaty herald the end of the traditional arms control era, rather than the beginning of some other new epoch. The old-time agenda retains the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) issue alone. However, this problem should be solved by involving Russian science and technology in the US NMD (National Missile Defense) system, rather than through the search for an "asymmetrical response." The NMD system might eventually encompass Europe and Russia alike. Russia will find it pretty hard to take part in the NMD program and to obtain favorable terms, as well. Nonetheless, this task is quite feasible, if we focus on this sphere, and if we persevere.

The agenda's other items have something to do with the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, terrorism and "problem" regimes.

The Russian leadership now refers to the proliferation of mass destruction weapons as a top priority security threat. One can hail such statements. However, Russia's behavior with regard to Iran and North Korea is the most important thing of them all.

How will Washington's Iranian policy develop? One is still in no position to answer this question. However, the incumbent US Administration might try and oust the Teheran regime well before the November 2004 presidential elections in the United States. It goes without saying that the US side will mostly focus on the current Iranian regime's opposition. However, the role being played by US support for the Iranian opposition is less obvious.

US support can help those numerous Iranian reformists, who want to mend relations with Washington, to gain power. On the other hand, though, any overt foreign support can split the opposition's ranks, also enabling the Iranian regime to accuse its opponents of high treason. Iran might, therefore, face a civil war with an uncertain outcome. Given this possible scenario, the United States might well decide and destroy nuclear facilities on Iranian territory, including the Bushehr nuclear power plant (NPP) now being constructed with Russian assistance.

Moscow has few options for decisively influencing US and Iranian behavior. At the same time, the Kremlin's stakes in this possible conflict are much higher than those during the Iraqi conflict. In the obtaining situation, our reasonable Iranian strategy could boil down to practical support for non- proliferation principles and the appropriate IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) role. Tougher control should be established over sensitive technology exports and re-exports. Moreover, the Russian nuclear sector should find alternative markets. The Iraqi experience shows only too clearly that the defense of politically risky markets is a dead bet. Russia might be interested in promoting democratic processes in Islamic Iran. However, the existence of an unstable theocracy, which strives to develop nuclear weapons, doesn't meet Russian interests.

Vladimir Putin and George Bush are to meet each other once again this September. The forthcoming summit will be devoted to fuel and energy issues, first and foremost. Russia, which boasts natural fuel and energy advantages, would like to become a long-term partner of the United States, the European Union, China and Japan. The Russian leadership should also ensure more effective and reliable communications with Washington. This will make it possible to avoid uncertainty and serious mutual misunderstandings, which were manifested during the Iraqi crisis.

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