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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#3 - JRL 7221
No. 21 (376)
June 9, 2003
By Iskander Khisamov

The war in Iraq clearly showed that long-term military-political unions are a thing of the past. Now, governments join efforts only to carry out one-time missions and solve specific challenges.

Washington is a small city. For example, almost all analytical centers that help the U.S. administration formulate foreign policy are within a kilometer of Dupont Circle. Experts correspondent therefore did not have to travel far to visit the most interesting of these centers. We spoke with Americas leading political and economic analysts and Russia specialists about the results of the Iraqi war and about new configurations in international politics.

[Nikolai Zlobin]

From the interview with Nikolai Zlobin, Director of Russian and Asian Programs at the Center for Defense Information (CDI)

- So, Bush travels to St. Petersburg to make up with Putin. In the meanwhile, the American Embassy rejects the visa applications of 50 Russian businessmen and scientists, who were invited to Washington to participate in a Russian-American forum ...

- I think that, in general, our bilateral relations are noticeably degrading, and we need to speak about this candidly. The war in Iraq showed how serious our disagreements are. Nothing good will come from attempts to smooth them over. I am against the improvement of Russian-American relations. This system was constructed for the solution of very different problems -- problems from a different historical era, the Cold War. They cannot be improved. They have to be ended, cut short and forgotten. Then, we must create a new concept, a new philosophy for these relations. Over the last several years we have been trying to improve something that cannot be improved.

No one understands what -- in the grand scheme of things -- to do with each other, or why we need each other. Without a concept, we busy ourselves with tactical steps. And we evaluate the success or failure of Russian-American relations based on these tactical steps. America has no policy on Russia. America has a policy on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and Russia has a little spot in the corner of that policy. America has a policy on the fight against terrorism, and Russia plays a certain role there. America has a policy on the Middle East, and it takes Russia into consideration. But no, America has no conceptual policy on Russia.

- Nor does Russia have one...

- And thats why all we do is react to each other, to every separate action.

- And Russia reacts more, while America acts. And the fact that it acts without a concept may be worse than inaction or simple reaction to the opponents moves.

- Yes. And I can see several fundamental issues, which are not being solved. Apparently, we are approaching a situation in which unions -- whether alliances or partnerships -- cease playing any sort of role in international relations. We are still affected by the ideology of the Cold War, and we think we need to have unions; we think that, the more unions, alliances, signed agreements, etc. we have, the more influential, reliable and protected we are. But I think this situation no longer exists. And thats why I find it strange that Russia is demanding the formation of unions, the signing of agreements and the construction of blocs. Life has changed, dynamics have changed, interests have changed, and a state is unlikely to find friends who will stick through to the next crisis.

Geography no longer plays the primary role in a globalized world. Mosaic-like alliances appear instead of unitary large blocks. This allows for principally new combinations. As Rumsfeld once said: "The mission determines the coalition. The coalition must not determine the mission."

- So, while we used to have a permanent theater of directors in geopolitics, now each play is produced by a different independent theater company? One independent theater company for Afghanistan, another for Iraq, and a third one for, perhaps, Iran?

- Yes, exactly. And all of Russias foreign policy attempts to create some sort of union in Central Asia, or something with the United States, Europe or Germany, are vestiges of the Cold War Era, when it seemed that this was how foreign policy had to be developed. Now is the time of egoism in foreign policy. There was a problem in Iraq, and the Americans gathered a coalition, or an independent theater company, as you say. It already fell apart, because it is no longer needed. The problem has been solved.

- Does that mean we no longer need the United Nations (UN) or other international organizations? Is the time of egoism a time for one against all?

- We must make sense of the new situation. We need philosophers, not diplomats. No one was ready for everything to fall apart so soon. September 11th triggered a general collapse. It became necessary to question the structure of new international relations and international organizations. Everything we have today is a result of World War II, and it no longer works. Everyone understands this. It no longer works because it was created under different conditions and with different objectives and functions from those of today. With all my respect for the UN Security Council, it does not adequately reflect todays state of affairs. Japan, Germany, India, Brazil and other major players are not permanent members. I can understand the interests of Russia and France, because both nations play a major role in existing structures. But they are unlikely to play such a role in new structures. The entire system required gradual evolution, which we did not think much about, but now everything began to fall apart much faster than could be expected.

While the last world system was based on the results of the war against Fascism, the new system will have to be created in the process of the war against terrorism. And Russia must think about what role it will play and what part it will get.

Furthermore, todays international structures were created for interaction between states. What do we do today? Al-Qaeda, for example, is not a state. It cannot be summoned by the UN Security Council. It has no army to be vanquished. It has no economy, to which sanctions can be applied. And there is no one to sign a capitulation agreement with, as with Germany. There are also transnational corporations, which have more influence than many states. These also cannot be restricted or controlled through international organizations. Globalization is a process that parallels the UN, but their paths do not intersect.

In the meanwhile, today we have a choice between anarchy, disorder and instability on one side, and injustice on the other. Either injustice or disorder. Americas rules of the game today are unjust.

- This is an unfortunate and very familiar choice. Mussolini spoke of the ordine nuovo and Hitler of the neue ordnung -- the new world order, and simply, order. Now we are also speaking about a new world order and order. Could we not solve the issue of Iraq within the framework of the old system? It posed no danger and was completely smothered with sanctions and inspections.

- A different kind of logic was used here. Forget about weapons of mass destructions. It does not matter whether they were found or not. This is not a court, and no proof is necessary. It is simply that the entire region, the entire Arab East is an enemy from the point of view of the U.S., something akin to Fascist Germany. It must be vanquished and broken; the model of government must be changed to one that will not be antagonistic and share American values.

- As with Japan...

- Yes. Back then, also, no one believed that democracy could be created in Japan. People spoke of thousand-year-old traditions of monarchy, clans, secrecy, etc. But the Americans succeeded, and the entire configuration of the Far East was changed, with new processes being launched. Taiwan and Singapore appeared, because there was a model for them.

- One can argue about the nature of democracy in these countries.

- One can argue, but these countries do not pose a danger. They are responsible members of the world community and have leading economies. Washingtons plan, as I understand it, is to make Iraq a functional model of Arab democracy, even if it takes half a century. But the process itself will begin to decompose neighboring regimes from within -- Saudi Arabia, for example, or Pakistan. Iraq is simply the Arab country America has decided to strike.

From the interview with Leon Aron, Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI)

- Do you think America can succeed in democratizing Iraq?

- A priori, of course, we all want to believe that there is no corner of the world, where concepts like human rights and freedom do not apply. This requires, at the very least, immense patience, colossal spending and the risk of maintaining an army thousands of miles away from the United States. The American democracy is very impatient and has a short historical memory. It will be a true test for it.

- Reagan once said that there are things more important than peace. Now it appears that there are things more important than state sovereignty. Thats alarming.

- Youve seen what happens when international public opinion says one thing and public opinion in the U.S. says another. But even after the shock of September 11, 40 percent of Americans were against the war. Dont forget that presidential elections are coming up, and that democrats will grab onto this 40 percent. I really dont think that America is going to be overthrowing regimes left and right. As soon as the subject of Iraq and Syria came up, everyone in the White House started waving their hands -- God forbid! And there is the isolationist element, descended from George Washington, that America is a house on a hill, too pure and nave to interfere in the affairs of this filthy world.

- So the Iraqi experiment will not be continued.

- Probably not.

- Well, lets return to this filthy world, which without a doubt includes Europe and Russia. Why does the American administration have such a fierce attitude towards Germany, and especially France, while it tends to forgive Russia?

- Our public opinion is highly anti-French. You see, Russia was never considered a full-blooded ally. Its opposition is therefore not viewed as betrayal. On the other hand, Americans feel that France and Germany owe their current prosperity to the States and view their behavior as ungratefulness.

Well -- de Gaulle was rude to Churchill and Roosevelt back in 1943, when they were just beginning to help France up from its knees. They put up with it then, and now, all of a sudden they are mad? Maybe there is something else at stake? The exacerbation of international competition during an economic crisis? Rivalry between the Dollar and the Euro? Markets? Right now, for example, there is an objective to settle scores with France and remove it from the international arms market. But what does revenge have to do with anything? Americans chase Russia out of all arms markets without any revenge.

- Well, economic interests certainly diverge. Plus, we find out that smuggled Iraqi oil was traded to France, and that Iraqi money was moved through a major French bank. But there are also deeper reasons.

- The end of the Cold War did away with discipline inside the Western Bloc, and very different interests emerged -- both economic and political. Just look at how different the democratic systems and cultures are. Youve got the U.S., with its individualism, low taxes, workaholics and gun owners. And then there is Europe, with six weeks of vacation, socialized medicine, free schools, and, as for owning guns -- God forbid, what are you talking about! I think that, if one looks at the roots of the problem -- these are the roots: the very different traditions of democracy, which were thrown together by the threat of the Soviet Union, but now moved far apart.

You see, many purely national traits make Russia much closer to America. Europe has disarmed almost entirely -- neither Americans nor Russians understand how such a thing can be allowed. Our Khodorovskii recently said: It seems that if you pay Europeans enough, they wont work at all. This is something that neither the new Russia, nor America can understand. The desire to improve oneself and ones country is something that disappeared in Europe a long time ago. Maybe in part because the Europeans believe that they reached a high level along time ago, that they are the center of world civilization, and do not have to prove anything to anyone. But, for some reason, America and Russia believe that they have much to prove. Russia and America are from Mars, and Europe is from Venus.

- Isnt the construction of the European Union an ambitious project and an attempt to prove something to the world?

- I think that this is a construction of a politically correct fortress, something smooth and vague, which will block from view Russia, Turkey and any other country that offends their sight.

[Anatol Lieven]

From the interview with Anatol Lieven, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

You spent the last few months in Pakistan, which many consider the real center of international terrorism...

- I made two main conclusions. The first is that developments in Pakistan really are a key factor in the fight against terrorism. The second is that an attempt to invade and occupy Pakistan would be a catastrophe for both America and Pakistan itself. The United States could achieve certain military victories, but they would be unable to keep the situation in this complex country under control -- even in a limited manner, as in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The problem in Pakistan can be solved only through patient and wise management, and we must support its government in all ways possible. Even if a giant white rabbit becomes the President of Pakistan, we will still have to talk to him -- and use the carrot as well as the stick in our relations. Pakistan will remain a client state of the American empire -- sometimes obedient and sometimes defiant, but any move we make against President Musharraf benefits his opponents in the Pushtun tribes where Al-Qaeda is based, benefits radical Islamists and terrorists.

- Cant the Islamists come to power through democratic means? They already have a majority in many provinces, especially in northern provinces.

- No. Their influence is limited to this area of the tribes; it is much lower in major cities.

- Despite the fact that the Musharraf regime is itself unconstitutional.

- This does not matter in Pakistan. Only power and prestige matter.

- So, we have the Peninsula of Indostan, with 1.5 billion people. The two warring countries -- India and Pakistan -- have nuclear weapons. Bin Laden is hiding out there, and radical Islamists head large provinces and call for a Jihad. In the meanwhile, America pacifies Iraq, growls at Syria, Iran, etc. You know the joke about the man who was looking for his wallet under a streetlamp, instead of where he lost it, in the dark?

- Its just about doing whatever can be done. Force is applied where it is more effective to apply force. Where it is not effective, patient management is necessary, as I mentioned before.

Could we at least pressure Pakistan and India to give up nuclear weapons -- under a guarantee from the superpowers.

Thats unlikely to succeed.

[Marshall Goldman]

From the interview with Marshall Goldman, Deputy Director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

What do you think will be the economic consequences of the Iraqi War for Russia?

I recently took a group of businessmen to Russia. All of the Russians we spoke with said the same thing: You want to get access to cheap oil and lower world prices for fuel. The barrel will fall to 14 dollars, and the Russian economy will collapse. I dont think that Americans care about this that much. We have major sectors of the economy, which will not benefit from a major drop in prices. I think that Bush treats Putin better than Chirac or Schroeder because Russia is more important to him. Because Russian oil can replace Saudi oil in America. Notice -- it will be Russian, and not Iraqi, oil that will serve as replacement.

Plus, moderately low oil prices can even help the Russian economy, taking extra pressure off the ruble and reviving domestic production. Although I am still skeptical about domestic production in Russia. The reason is the weakness of small business, which should be the main source of growth. But right now it is the main target of corrupted officials. There are fewer small businesses registered in Russia today than three years ago, and thats the main problem.

Translated by Luba Schwartzman

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