Editor's Column
Golden Collection
MFA Russia News
All Tags
Archive material
July 2020 (3)
June 2020 (27)
May 2020 (19)
April 2020 (20)
March 2020 (23)
February 2020 (21)

How to end finally the Cold War?

9-06-2009, 17:57



What the Caucasus crisis and the global financial and economic crisis have in common is that they draw a line under the 20 year period since the downfall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and determine the limits of the inertial policies pursued all these years, including in the vein of the old political and psychological thrust to "contain" Russia. Within this context, some of our partners in the West – but admittedly by far not all of them – acted in the spirit of the notorious triumphalism claiming the victory in the Cold War and anticipating a kind of Western-style "world revolution". It is precisely due to this inertia that the end of the Cold War was not perceived as complete: for many the Cold War continued at the level of ideology as a virtual project by some forces who proclaimed "the end of history" and "a one polar world" trying to translate all that into a concrete and practical policies.

As regards the new, democratic Russia, it just withdrew from the Cold War abandoning the ideology used by the Soviet Union to justify its involvement in that exercise. This was the choice made by the Russian people and the peoples of the other republics of the former USSR.

As to the issue of the "winner" in the Cold War, I believe the war was won in the first place by those states and political forces who had drawn the right conclusions from the past experience. And I would dare say that Russia was among the first of them. Of course, for us it was easier to draw such conclusions. Our illusions disappeared, in part, due to our partners´ acting in the spirit of a "tough pragmatism". Also, taking into account the situation in 1990s when Russia suddenly found itself face to face with reality, we could not but adopt an approach based on realism and common sense.

On the other hand, for the West it would have taken an intellectual effort to foresee future developments and to come up with a realistic and future-oriented foreign policy. And, indeed, there flashed some occasional glimmers of sound reasoning: suffice it to refer to H.Kissinger´s "Diplomacy" published in 1994 in which the author predicted formation of a multipolar world with the United States playing in it a role of the primus inter pares. But the actual policies were engulfed by euphoria in no way related to any serious analysis let alone forecasting. All that took place at the level of mass culture implying neither an individual evaluation of events nor individual creativity. In international affairs, there prevailed a purely consumerist approach in the spirit of "partitioning an inheritance".

I think it is obvious that new Russia could not have become a part of the Western world order as it was upon the West that lay the burden of proof as regards universality of the latter. But the West, including the United States in the first place, made conclusions that proved to be wrong. It was not in the 1990s that the Western world order was created. It already existed at the time of the Cold War, especially in economic and financial areas, while the issue of its universality arose only after the disintegration of the USSR. But nobody paid much attention to that issue. Meanwhile, the world entered a new stage of its development, the stage of transition from a bipolar "directory", when all major decisions were taken either in Washington or in Moscow, to something more free, more fair and more democratic implying a much broader agreement. That was quite in line with the prevailing globalization processes that resulted in the emergence of new centers of global economic growth and political power.

Today, we face, as the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it, the risk of "deglobalization". A similar process was manifest in the aftermath of the Great Depression with prevailing trends towards autarchy and self-reliance and attempts to find the way out through militarization of the economy which eventually pushed towards the new war. Unfortunately, wars played a significant role in the development of the Western democracy. A. Toynbee noted yet another historic trend: militarism served as a means of self-destruction of empires. One has to acknowledge that it was the militarization of foreign policy that largely predestined the Cold War with its irrational waste of all kinds of resources.

The World War II and the Cold War had one thing in common: the struggle for survival and then the ideological confrontation provided a high degree of motivation at the state and personal level that fueled the scientific and technological progress on both sides of the barricade. We can only hope that mankind will eventually put an end to that trend and will find other driving sources of technological development.

At this stage, it is not possible to foresee concrete modalities of the development of a new technological basis of the global economy. But the motivation needed to achieve a new technological breakthrough could be provided by imperatives of sustainable development and the urgent need to address a wide range of issues, including energy security and climate change, which are crucial to the survival of mankind.

With the global governance crisis that we face today, one cannot but acknowledge its comprehensive, systemic nature. I cannot agree with the contention that, in the last two decades, there existed some structured international relations. I would rather say that there was a drift of what had existed and what eventually proved inadequate within the context of new realities. Therefore, it appears inappropriate and, essentially, conservative and reactionary to talk about preserving the status quo.

Of course, all the elements of global governance structure are intertwined. There cannot be a stable world economic system in an unstable international security environment. It is that the crisis had just initially manifested itself at the level of superstructure and only now, after gaining the critical mass, has descended on to the level of financial and economic basis.

It is worth mentioning within this context that the International Herald Tribune in its article of 30 March 2009 cited experts from the London City who believed that the process of losing control over the international financial architecture created in Bretton Woods was triggered by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the ensuing American triumphalism.

It is hard to argue with historians who claim that the introduction of the socially-oriented, middle-class-anchored model of economic development was a by-product of the Cold War when ruling elites of the West European countries and the United States had to respond to the "Soviet challenge" with the socialization of the economy. Perhaps, it was the only way for European societies to develop a sustainable economic model delivering, at last, on the promise of the French Revolution regarding equitable social order. Attempts to renounce that model have lead to what President Sarcozy called "a crisis of a system that moved away from its fundamental values", including ethical principles.

It is obvious that nation states retain and even strengthen their role of a basic element of the system of international relations. The relevance of summits within the context of efforts to overcome the current financial and economic crisis is just another proof of that. The role of states is also a key subject of the ongoing discussions on ways of societal development. In the course of these discussions we might well have to "turn to the roots", that is to look at the way the issue was raised and addressed a hundred and two hundred years ago.

The confrontational structure of international relations in the Cold War period assured the leadership of the European civilization in global politics, economy and finance, though its main participants – the United States, Europe and the Soviet Union – were associated with that leadership to a varied degree and each in its own way. With the end of the Cold War that system has naturally become unstable. The extra-economic reasons for retaining the global financial architecture established in the post war period were no longer relevant.

Retaining that domination is no longer an issue today as it has been made impossible by the dramatically increased impact of the cultural and civilizational diversity on the destiny of the world. Rather, one can speak of substantiating the claim of the European civilization to leadership at this new stage of global development.

To achieve that it is necessary to restore the unity of the European civilization in all its integral parts and to reformulate the very concept of leadership which, as was noted by President Medvedev in his Washington Post article of 31 March, should be based on the aspiration and ability to find a common denominator for the interests of all members of the international community and of all major groups of states. G20 summits are an important step towards that end.

These days, many pin their hopes for the better on the new Washington administration. Under the previous administration, it was the United States, including through its policy aimed at deliberate destabilization of certain countries and even entire regions (as was recognized by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book "America and the World", 2008), that largely contributed to the accumulation of a negative potential in global and regional politics. Abandoning that policy, including attempts to contain all potential rivals worldwide would positively impact upon the international situation.

Whatever the decisions the Obama Administration might take in the months to come, the very possibility of positive changes in our relations with the United States and the West as a whole will work towards improving the general atmosphere of global and regional politics, especially in the Euro-Atlantic area. It was already under the George W. Bush Administration that Moscow and Washington established the basis for equality, but that equality was a negative one as Russia refused to cooperate on the conditions that were being imposed on it. Now, we should make it positive through practical interaction on a wide range of issues showing respect for each other. Only then we will see a qualitative transformation of Russian-American relations, including their strategic context.

Russia and the USA which continue to bear a special responsibility for the destiny of the world should play their role in the collective leadership of major world powers. A key requirement for that is the restoration of trust. Russia´s philosophy of the "new beginning" in our relations is clearly set forth by President Medvedev in his above-mentioned article.

We are satisfied with the way our relations with the new US administration are evolving. We are cautiously optimistic in this respect, and it looks like our American partners share that optimism. Mutual trust had been undermined for quite a while, and it will take time to restore it. And, more importantly, we cannot afford another false start in our relationship.

Russia is interested in cooperation but we cannot participate in international projects conceived and launched without our involvement and our intellectual contribution. Russia, just as any other major power in the world, would become a part of the emerging international system only on an equal basis.

Since this has been widely discussed lately, I would like to clarify the question of the so-called "trade offs" in Russian foreign policy. Any "trade offs" would be unprincipled. Moreover, they would undermine the credibility of Russian diplomacy, which we value no less than others. We believe that the substantive and equal cooperation on each specific issue with due respect for the legitimate interests of each other is the most effective and only possible way of doing business.

Today there are real opportunities for a fairly sustainable convergence on a solid basis of important coinciding interests of all Euro-Atlantic States in the face of the global challenges and threats, and the imperative to ensure for this region a due place in the emerging polycentric system of global governance.

There can be no return to former "spheres of influence" – the world, as I have said, is no longer a bipolar directory. Yet this does not give the right to anyone to deny, let alone undermine natural mutual gravity of nations due to a number of historic and other objective factors and based on mutual interests. Speaking of our closest neighbors, Russia is interested to see them as friendly, stable and dynamically developing States. Such an approach is consistent with the plans of these States and cannot contradict anyone´s interests. For our part, we do not demand anything from our western partners, except for comprehensible and transparent policies in the CIS area, which, above all, would be based on respect for the positions of these States and the principle of mutual complementarity of integration processes in various regions of Europe, as has been agreed upon in the Russia-EU documents.

We believe that enhancing integration in the CIS area is consistent with the general trend to strengthen the regional level of global governance within the context of disbalanced global mechanisms, including in the areas of economy and finance. It is the regional level that can provide us all with a "safety net" in case of financial and economic crises recurrence. Recent decisions to establish such mechanisms as the CIS Finance Ministers Council and the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund and High Technology Center were not accidental. These decisions are a real contribution into global efforts to stabilize the financial and economic situation.

Over the centuries Russia, along with its neighbors, has gone through multiple transformations. Each of them was due to a specific historical epoch in which our country discovered the essence of and rationale for its existence. The Russia that we are building now is a product of our time and meets its requirements. We are open to the cooperation and integration processes taking place in Eurasia and, more widely, in the Euro-Atlantic region. 

Despite the current conditions and premises, it is unlikely that the convergence in the Euro-Atlantic region will take place unless it has a clearly established political dimension. It requires a definitive resolution of the issues pending from the Cold War and the earlier period. Today, there is no shared vision of our historical era. It should have emerged as an outcome of that very peace conference – the one that brings an end to every war – and the Cold War should not have become an exception. Instead, there was a conflict of expectations, which could not be overcome at the numerous pan-European meetings, which produced a lot of political promises and declarations perfectly in tune with the so called "constructive ambiguity".

It is only now that the collective efforts aimed at overcoming the effects of the financial and economic crisis and establishing a new global financial architecture, which would prevent such shocks in the future – have provided us not only with a real opportunity but with an indispensable need to come up with a shared vision of our era. Otherwise, its absence will continue to be a stumbling block despite whatever steps we may take. Without a solid common ideological basis we will continue to be haunted by the policy of "demarcation of dividing lines" and "selective" engagement.

Very few are those who deny that NATO is going through a crisis. The latter is being addressed by means of an expansion of the Alliance accompanied by some off-the-cuff improvisation on what its new mission could be, including its "globalization".

The crisis in the Caucasus demonstrated what a dangerous and unpredictable situation could be caused by obsession with mechanical NATO expansion to the East. We can only imagine what could have happened if Georgia had been a NATO member and Russia had not have any other choice but to act in the same way as we had done last August in response to the aggression of the Tbilisi regime against South Ossetia and killings of our peace-keepers and civilians.

Another concern includes the projects to reform the Alliance which allow the use of force without authorization of the UN Security Council (as if Kosovo lessons were not enough) and to abolish consensus within the Alliance, which would lead to further fragmentation of the security space in our common region.

We take a realistic approach and understand that NATO is a key actor in the networked policy and diplomacy in the Euro-Atlantic region. We expect that all the talk about the transformation of the Alliance will not overshadow the promises, given to us with respect to equal security and inadmissibility of ensuring one´s own security at the expense of others. With that in mind and political will present, we could build up a robust security collaboration framework in the Euro-Atlantic region. It is clear that today a reliable security in our region is possible only with the involvement of both all the states and all the relevant organizations in the Euro-Atlantic area.

I assume that in the short term the importance of Russian initiative on concluding a Treaty on European Security will be determined by a more profound reflection, already begun on the situation in this sphere. In practical terms, we propose to transform all the political obligations we have taken into legally binding ones. The core obligation is that no one can ensure one´s own security at the expense of that of others. It will also be necessary to negotiate the mechanisms that would ensure universal application of this and other principles agreed before. Such an arrangement would become the most decisive step towards casting aside the ideas and practices of the Cold War.

We are not against the OSCE becoming an "umbrella" pan-European organization. However, nothing was done towards this goal 20 years ago, and nobody seems to be ready for it now. Our Western partners are not enthusiastic about our proposals to further institutionalization of the OSCE, to make it a more coherent and transparent entity acting in line with agreed rules. Counterproposals are not in sight; we are only suggested to leave everything as it is and get by with the existing "flabby" OSCE within a "patchwork" European architecture. At the same time, the very reaction to the proposed Treaty on European Security shows that few are satisfied with the present situation – which makes it necessary to start a serious discussion that we propose.

Compatibility of civilizations in Europe is a topical issue, which has been proved by recent election of the new NATO Secretary-General. Therefore, the decreased "demand" for anti-Islamic provocations in Europe is a good sign. We also welcome the openness of the Barack Obama Administration to a wider cooperation with Muslim states, including through inter-civilizational dialogue. A move to broad engagement of the entire Arab and Islamic world is a prerequisite for resolving the Afghan-Pakistani knot, as well as other problems in the Middle East. Moreover, this could also hold hopes for achieving progress in settling the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite any hitches on the ground.

In the modern world, the significance of the religious and moral components can hardly be overestimated. Dechristianisation of Europe has been noted by many observers. It would be right and proper to quote the late Patriarch Alexei II who reminded in Strasbourg that "the interrelated Christian concepts of dignity, freedom and morality create a unique code of European conscience possessing an inexhaustible potential of progress in personal and public life".

I would like to hope that these ideas would be accepted in the interests of social justice and sustainable development. If we follow these lines and opt for international law and multilateral diplomacy in international affairs, we might be able to establish a common, positive denominator for the Euro-Atlantic policy to the benefit of the entire world.

Ultimately, at the bottom of all the problems of global and Euro-Atlantic policies lie the attempts of some actors who apply an outdated coordinates to a new environment. I believe, we are about to enter a critical stage in the international relations, i.e. an era of shaping a consensus politics since no general or specific world problem can be resolved without the broadest consensus, be it a new world order or concrete conflicts and crisis situations.

In general, diplomacy will continue to gain prominence as a method of conducting affairs in international relations. However, we are facing a situation that will be much more complex than we used to deal with in the last few years. Therefore, parliamentary diplomacy as well as national expert and business communities and non-governmental organizations will play a growing part as foreign policy resources.

For quite some time, we will have to deal with processes rather than outcomes. Therefore, we should not underestimate the importance of the so-called "intangibles" – greater mutual trust, qualitative changes in the climate of relationships and the culture of dialogue. In this respect, let me reiterate, the first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama seems to be very promising.

A multipolar world implies both opportunities and challenges that, as we clearly understand, have to be addressed in a collective fashion. Now, the debates on the ways of further societal and world development, are relevant as never before. And Russia has every right to and is able to take part in these debates on equal terms with others.

  • Category: Exclusive
  • Views: 2 619 |
  • Print version |
  • Europe: from mistrust to mutual understanding
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at 49th Munich security conference, Munich, 2 February 2013
  • Diplomacy Today: Subject and Method
  • Diplomacy and Business
  • Transcript of Address by Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the Spring Part of the 61st Parliamentary Assembly Session, Strasbourg, 29 April 2010