MOSCOW (Alexander Konovalov, President of Strategic Assessments Institute, for RIA Novosti) - To reply to the question about Russia's expectations of the June G8 summit in Georgia, USA, we should determine the role which the G8, a club with a vaguely defined status and mission, is playing and can play in global politics and economy. This role is highly significant. It is determined by globalisation and the fundamentally new nature of political and economic risks and threats. No country in the world, however rich and industrialised, can stand up against these threats single-handed.

The G8 has quite a few serious drawbacks. To begin with, it is a virtual organisation and hence its legitimacy is questionable. It cannot make binding decisions and does not have a mechanism to ensure their application. On the other hand, formal institutions often merely seal vital decisions in big-time politics and big business made at golf or tennis clubs. But such informal decisions should be made at the sufficiently high level. G8 summits offer a unique opportunity for direct contact between top leaders.

Another vital element of these summits is that the new threats to security call for immediate reaction and high standards of co-ordination of the leading countries. Regrettably, such traditional institutes as the UN or NATO cannot ensure this. So, G8 summits, thought they cannot make binding decisions, can reach agreements that will outline the vectors of global development for the future.

What problems will the G8 leaders discuss in Georgia and what position could Moscow take on them? The situation in Iraq specifically, and the struggle against international terrorism as a whole, will certainly be at the top of the agenda. The Russian leadership has said and keeps saying that the military operation in Iraq was a mistake. Today, it has many more arguments to prove its point.

At the beginning of the war, the US tried - uselessly - to convince the world that it was a logical continuation of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. But it was apparent that the regime of Saddam Hussein, though cruel and inhuman, was not connected with global terrorist networks. Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Yuri Fedotov recently expressed concern over the transformation of Iraq "into a bridgehead of the terrorist threat and a breeding ground of terrorism."

To elaborate their stand on Iraq, the leading countries of the world should be aware of changes that have happened in the country since the beginning of the Anglo-American operation. When they sent their troops to Iraq, the coalition forces had one military adversary - the army of Saddam Hussein. But today the US is fighting at least three military adversaries there.

The most dangerous of them is international terrorism, which flocked to Iraq across its open borders. The US army, which has been thrown from its protected home bases to the Iraqi deserts and cities, is an easy target of nearly daily bloody attacks carried out by international terrorists.

The second adversary is the Iraqi Shias. The US is facing not just the 3,000 fighters of the al-Mahdi army commanded by Sheikh Moqtada Sadr, an ambitious young leader who is fighting for influence in the Shiite community and is dreaming of an Islamic state in Iraq. The enemy includes also much larger groups of Shiite fighters who received military training in Iran.

And the third adversary is the Sunni groups formed presumably of former officers of the Iraqi army who have not been employed by the new authorities.

In short, Washington has fulfilled the nearly impossible task of rallying Sunni and Shiite Arabs in the struggle against the US presence.

By removing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Americans lifted the lock of blood and fear, with which the dictator kept together the ethnically and religiously diverse country. And now they will have to fulfil this task by applying other instruments. It was believed that democratic institutions, above all free democratic elections, would be the glue for the state structure. It is clear now that this plan has failed. There will be no real transfer of power on June 30 and no withdrawal of coalition forces, although the troop levels might be significantly cut.

If free democratic elections were held today, they would bring to power the most radical Shiite groups simply because Shiites make up the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population. If foreign troops were withdrawn now, the country would be plunged into a destructive civil war that would split the state and considerably strengthen the positions of international terrorism, which would assume control of the rich country in a strategic region of the world under any scenario. Since Iraq is closely connected with Iran and Turkey, this would destabilise the situation in a region far beyond Iraq's borders.

In this situation, Russia and other participants in the forthcoming G8 summit should think about minimising damage. It should be clear to all that troops will have to be pulled out of Iraq and power will have to be transferred to the Iraqis. And so the leading states of the world, including Russia, should elaborate a plan of political actions, determine the role of the UN in it, and do their best to establish Iraqi statehood quickly.

Another crucial problem that will be certainly discussed at the summit is the threat of WMD proliferation, which is becoming especially alarming in view of the strengthening of terrorist organisations. Russia and the West largely agree on this issue, but there are some details that may set them apart. One of them is Russia-Iran nuclear co-operation and the persistent desire of the US to involve Russia in its Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to strengthen export controls over chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Russia is the only G8 state that has not joined the initiative so far.

Russia's caution is logical. The US views Iran and North Korea as the main threats. Russia thinks the situation in Iran can be controlled by IAEA mechanisms, especially after Iran joined the 1997 protocol on surprise nuclear inspections. As for the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, Russia is categorically against helping them acquire nuclear weapons, especially since this would increase the probability of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons and their components and could eventually destroy the system of nuclear arms control.

However, it would be inadmissible to reduce the problem of nuclear proliferation to the acquisition of such weapons by Iran and North Korea. The nuclear weapons threats can be divided into two blocks. First, the level of threat depends on who owns the weapons and the owner's awareness of his responsibility. And the second is the fact of existence of nuclear arms. The Americans spotlight the first block, striving to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of "bad boys."

This must not happen, of course, but we should also remember that the logic of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is based on the voluntary pledge of the signatories not to own nuclear weapons. Under Article VI of the treaty, the five nuclear powers agreed that complete elimination of nuclear weapons is the best guarantee against their proliferation. These states confirmed their resolve to liquidate their nuclear arsenals in May 2000. In other words, nuclear weapons are a threat because they exist. However, at present the nuclear powers cannot harmonise a joint strategy for the liquidation and prohibition of nuclear weapons.

And lastly, the G8 leaders will no doubt discuss economic problems. An alarming trend has developed recently: G8 countries are more willing to spotlight the economic problems of others and less willing to discuss their own economic problems.

On the one hand, it seems only logical that the eight leaders assume at least some of the responsibility for global economic problems. On the other hand, they should remember that there are economic instability and risks not only in non-G8 countries. Moreover, there are reasons for economic concern in the G8 countries themselves, which should worry the eight states and other countries.

Consequently, the authority and influence of G8 will largely depend on the ability of its members to discuss their own economic problems openly and elaborate a co-ordinated strategy to solve them.

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