Russia begins to protect its national interests

From a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the 15th meeting of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, held on March 17, 2007.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti) - From a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the 15th meeting of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, held on March 17, 2007.

Global developments, Russian diplomatic moves of the past few years, and the speeches made by President Vladimir Putin on foreign policy issues, notably in Munich, clearly demonstrate that the Russian political leadership has a well thought-out and tested foreign policy strategy.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union seemingly made Russia a candidate for another territorial and political re-division, a situation it had faced in the early 18th century, when the problem was solved through an accelerated modernization of the country. This time, we are fighting the challenge with radical political and economic reforms. Today, as in the early 18th century, we are emulating the European model, although national traditions are not being disregarded. As a result, Russia has regained its foreign policy independence.

A unipolar world has not been and cannot be created, because the available military, political, financial, economic and other resources are not sufficient to build an empire in today's conditions of globalization. For some time, though, the myth of a unipolar world influenced the mentality and behavior in quite a few countries, which believed the myth and invested political capital in it. But the practice of the past six years has demonstrated convincingly that attempts to disregard the reality of a multipolar world invariably fail. Current problems cannot be solved with the use of military force.

The choice of pragmatism, a multi-vectored policy and a firm but non-confrontational protection of national interests in foreign affairs has proven to be a wise course.

The current paradigm of international relations is based on competition in the broad meaning of the word, including with regard to values and development models. But competition is not synonymous with confrontation. This is a new situation because the West is losing its monopoly on globalization, and this is probably why current events are presented as threatening to the West, its values and lifestyle.

Russia is opposed to attempts to split the planet, even if in a civilized manner, into so-called civilized humankind and the rest of the world, for this is a sure path to global catastrophe. This is why the top issue now is to overcome the intellectual, psychological and all other residues of the Cold War in contemporary world politics. Russia will not tolerate attempts to put it at loggerheads with the Islamic world. I am convinced that the choice of Russia and other leading countries, including those that constitute a single civilization such as India and China, in favor of a unifying policy will become the main factor working against the division of the world.

Russia has also offered a comprehensive approach to solving the problems of the Euro-Atlantic region. Russia, the European Union and the United States can adopt a policy of broad cooperation on all issues of mutual interest. This format would dissipate unnecessary mutual suspicions with regard to any of the three sides in such a triangle. Russia is not going to drive a wedge into transatlantic relations because differences over Iraq have already done the greatest imaginable damage to them. What we really do not want is for transatlantic ties to strengthen at Russia's expense.

As for Russian-American relations, the current crucial stage in the evolution of the global security architecture is bringing us closer to the main task of defining the modality of our relations in international affairs, a modus operandi without which we will be unable to progress, as we know now. This is what President Putin has invited all our partners in Munich to discuss.

Russia does not claim special rights in international relations. But there are no reasons to believe that it can only be a guided party. The required minimum for us is full equality, including in analyzing dangers and making decisions. Russia is beginning to protect its national interests in full, probably for the first time in its history, using all of its competitive advantages.

Russian and American political analysts are talking about an inevitable "pause" in the development of bilateral relations owing to the upcoming election cycles. I believe this would be a bad choice. We would not like the United States to retreat into itself because of the Iraq catastrophe, but to take part in renewing its partnership with Russia on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

We see good opportunities for a positive evolution of Russian-American relations in joint work on the implementation of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the initiatives of our presidents on the safe development of the global nuclear power industry, and on allowing all countries wishing to make use of the benefits of nuclear generation to access those technologies on the condition that they comply with their non-proliferation commitments.

One more proof of our ability to make compromises is the signing of a bilateral Russian-American protocol on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. Our intensive dialogue is focused on the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the settlement of regional conflicts and, of course, strategic stability. When we cannot agree on mutually acceptable solutions, "nominal agreement" appears to be an option. We do not deny the United States the right to make independent decisions, but such a move implies acting at your risk and material peril.

Confrontation is not unavoidable in our relations with the U.S., which means that there cannot be a new Cold War because there are no objective prerequisites for it.

Anti-Americanism is dangerous and intellectually deficient. At the same time, we should address the origins of the problem, i.e. the current actions of the U.S. in international affairs. However, the fact that the U.S. administration is following the lead of neoconservatives should not influence our fundamental attitude to the United States.

We are opposed to "strategic games" in Europe aimed at creating a potential for confrontation without good reason, and at attempts to structure European policy on the "friend-or-foe" principle. This goal is being facilitated by the implementation of American plans to deploy elements of the national anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) system in Europe.

We can view such plans only as a provocation on the scale of European and global policy, especially because that unilateral project has a collective alternative, the European theater defense system involving NATO and Russia.

The deployment of an American ABM system in Europe is not acceptable to Russia and is affecting its relations with NATO. Why should we cooperate with it if the bloc is turning from a collective security organization into a screen for unilateral measures that compromise Russian security?

We are also concerned that the structures and instruments we have inherited from the past, such as NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), are becoming mechanisms for reproducing bloc policy in current conditions and are being used against Russia. Who stands to gain from this?

I am convinced that this situation will not last long. A failure to complete the reform of the European security architecture could cause people to lose touch with reality and provoke a real split in Europe that will last decades.

At the same time, Russian foreign policy is fully in accord with the current stage of the country's internal development, as demonstrated by the broad accord in Russian society on the main foreign policy issues. We want for the world what we want for ourselves: an evolutionary development without shocks.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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