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Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov’s Article ‘Russian Foreign Policy and a New Quality of the Geopolitical Situation’ for Diplomatic Yearbook 2008

The Russian state has accumulated serious foreign policy capital – it works for the country and the protection of national interests. Russian diplomacy has acquired a firm footing in successes of our internal development. The country has returned onto the world stage as a responsible state that has the ability to defend international law and its citizens. If somebody had been mistaken on that score, then our resolute actions in response to the aggression of Georgia and the gross violation by the Tbilisi regime of its international obligations should have dispelled such doubts.

In the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhaz zones of conflict Saakashvili and those who stood behind him decided to test Russian power and our peacekeepers for strength. In so doing the present Georgian regime revealed its essence by conceiving the idea of bombing the population of South Ossetia into subjection to its diktat. Right after this the same fate was prepared for Abkhazia. This did not work and could not have worked.

This gamble appears, inter alia, to have been so planned as to make us take the path of militarization and curtail modernization. Indeed, we had to respond to the crisis at the political and military level, but President Dmitry Medvedev and Chairman of the Government Vladimir Putin particularly emphasized that there would be no change of tack in either internal or international affairs.

By its answer to the Georgian aggression Russia has established a standard for responding which is fully in line with current international law, including the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and our concrete obligations regarding the settlement of this conflict, and with the principles of moderateness and proportionality. Russia’s actions pursued no aims other than those dictated by the necessity of providing effective guarantees of non-resumption of aggression against the Republic of South Ossetia and the Republic of Abkhazia. The most important element of such guarantees was Russia’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and conclusion of the Treaties of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with them. This move became inevitable when after the repression of the Georgian aggression statements began to be heard from Tbilisi that “the war is not over,” and from a number of western capitals about the intention to “restore the fighting efficiency of the Georgian army.” The last straw was the blocking in the UN Security Council and the OSCE of decisions in support of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan.

In a broader international context the harsh reality was laid bare: neither the established European security architecture nor the relationship between Russia and the United States had worked, although long before August 2008 we had repeatedly warned Washington and the Europeans about the preparation in Tbilisi of a military scenario. The abrupt awakening to reality has revealed the true situation in the world that has nothing in common with the widespread mythology and illusions.

The situation brought on by Tbilisi’s attempt to solve the conflict by means of brute military force is a mirror-like reflection of all negative aspects of the current stage in international relations, of the dangers of underassessment of which Russia had repeatedly warned, starting with Putin’s Munich speech in February 2007.

The entire development of events since August 8, 2008, has borne out the correctness of the analysis that was contained in President Medvedev’s remarks to the ambassadors and permanent representatives’ meeting on July 15 of the same year. In particular, he pointed out that the world, having got rid of the Cold War, is simply unable to acquire a new equilibrium; that conflict potential, including in areas close to Russia’s borders, is comparatively high; that a tilt toward methods of force intensifies. Political provocations, all manner of “revolutions,” a cynical practice of double standards come into play. And probably not coincidentally, those increasingly meddle in the affairs of other states for whom things do not go quite well at home. Simplistically, in the spirit of the “do as I like” logic, they tend to treat the complex dialectics between the principles of territorial integrity and the right of nations to self-determination.

In the absence of equilibrium: the crisis in the Caucasus

Somebody wanted to “unfreeze” the frozen conflicts. Now we can judge the results. Every cloud has a silver lining. The present clarity is better than any uncertainty and ambiguity. South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not strive for independence in general, but precisely for independence from the Georgia in whose leadership the chauvinist tendency toward ethnic minorities had continuously prevailed for some reason.

For us the recognition of their independence has been equally dictated by legal, moral, and pragmatic considerations. First and foremost, it is ensuring the effective security of these peoples. We defended the supreme value: the right to life, as well as the right to development.

The Saakashvili regime has committed a crime, including against its own people. The situation in its time was well described by Dostoyevsky. The only difference is that now this somebody who had got a false idea of his own importance that he was not “a trembling creature but has the right” is integrally incapable of repentance. And if you recognize this regime as democratic, that is as representing the will of the electorate, then its actions lost South Ossetia and Abkhazia for Georgia.

We are constantly told that democracies do not fight each other. Why then did the regime somebody certified as democratic take the path of war? I think it is necessary to begin with allowing the Georgian people themselves, with the participation of the opposition, with the opening of access to all the now-banned media, to clarify what actually happened and why it became possible.

We hold the Georgian people in high regard. We are convinced that their wisdom will eventually bring rulers to power who will be guided by their vital interests and not by virtual geopolitical projects developed in far distant lands and who will be able to ensure that Georgia lives in peace and good-neighborliness with all peoples of the Caucasus.

People living in conflict regions in the post-Soviet area found themselves in a “gray zone” through no fault of their own, often never becoming citizens of states resulting from the Soviet Union’s collapse. We can’t understand why those who are talking about the responsibility to protect and about security of the person at every turn, forgot it when it came to the part of the former Soviet space where the authorities began to kill innocent people, appealing to sovereignty and territorial integrity. For us, the issue in South Ossetia was to protect our citizens directly on the borders of Russia, not in the Falkland Islands.

In the actions of Russia were realized the fundamental tenets of our Constitution, the provisions of the UN Charter, and the obligations under the international agreements that were concluded at the beginning of the 1990s and established the regime for a ceasefire and the settlement of the conflicts unleashed as a result of Georgia’s attack on Tskhinval and Sukhum after the USSR breakup.

We cannot regard people as an “adjunct” of whoever’s territory that may arbitrarily, without their consent, pass under the sovereignty of a state in breach of the principles of international law, especially as the Tbilisi authorities, having proclaimed independence in 1991, referring to the Soviet Law on Secession of Union Republics from the USSR, denied the autonomies within the Georgian SSR the right to decide their own fate, as required by the same Law.

Sovereignty, of which the people are the sole source, presupposes responsibility; first and foremost – responsibility to one’s own citizens, and the assurance of their rights and freedoms, including the rights of national minorities.

The possession of sovereignty presupposes the duty of a state to refrain from any forcible action which deprives people living on its territory of their right to self-determination, freedom and independence. By giving an order to bomb Tskhinval and planning to use force against Abkhazia, the Saakashvili regime trampled underfoot this norm of international law, enshrined in the 1970 UN Declaration, and itself undermined the territorial integrity of its state.

The immediate neighborhood of Russia

For us the CIS space is not a “chessboard” for playing geopolitical games, nor an “arc of distrust.” This is a common civilization area for all the peoples living here. It preserves our historical and spiritual heritage. Our geography, economic interdependence, and cultural/civilizational commonality give all CIS countries tangible competitive advantages. And the integrative imperatives of globalization make themselves strongly felt here as they do elsewhere.

Therefore we cannot agree when attempts are being made to pass off the historically conditioned mutually privileged relations between the states in the former Soviet expanse as a “sphere of influence.” If you accept that logic, then under this definition fall the European Neighborhood Policy, Eastern Partnership and many other EU (let alone NATO) projects, on which the decisions are taken without the participation of Russia or countries to which they apply. And in discussions on Kosovo status our European partners constantly appealed to the Balkans being a “European problem,” insisting on the special, privileged interests of the European Union in the region – regardless of Serbia’s position.

Not only Russia has privileged interests, first and foremost, in relations with our closest neighbors; they also have the same privileged interests in Russia. Failing to understand it and trying to destroy what rests on our combined objective history and on the interdependence and intertwining of our economies, infrastructures, cultures and humanitarian spheres of life means to go against history.

Regrettably, many our western partners have been unable to appreciate the essentially postmodernist and ideology-free tendencies in the CIS space, predicated on a striving to use common values, the combined potential and heritage in the interests of our peoples. The Russia-Belarus Union State, EurAsEC or CSTO – these are not bloc, but integrating organizations. Relationships in them have their own civilizational specificities – here we do not oppress one another, do not twist arms, which far from all in the West can understand.

Rhetoric in recent years has also hindered seeing that Russia’s efforts stood to reduce the negative consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union to a minimum – by historical yardsticks. An objective vision of things is beclouded by past prejudices; hence we speak of the negative role of the Sovietologists stuck in the past in crafting the policy of a number of western countries toward present-day Russia.

Why should a united Europe be built from a single center and not at several sites at once? The striving to “take away bit by bit” the post-Soviet space and get it under resembles too much of the Bolshevist method – “clear the site” for new construction (“down to the ground, and then…”). The voluntary or involuntary aim of such method is to preserve the dividing line in Europe and move it ever closer to the Russian border, and we want to eliminate this line, as was agreed in the OSCE and as we, at least in words, arranged with the EU and NATO. Moreover, the line on tearing away its neighbors from Russia on the rails of creating national states of the 19th-century type promises all of Europe not postmodernist perspectives, but a return to the past with its destructive nationalism. The same standards meeting the exigencies of the 21st century, including national minority rights, ought to be universally applied across the Euro-Atlantic area – there’ll be no questions then about what century we live in.

Those negative aspects found their logical expression in Georgia’s attempt by force, that is, not in a European way, to solve the conflict in South Ossetia. Likewise categorizable are historical extrapolations into Nazism, which became the apex of Europe’s self-destruction that was prevented by the decisive role of Soviet soldiers.

By and large the sphere of mutually privileged relations has no geographical limits – useful to know for those who would like to enclose Russia in a “shell” of post-Soviet space, while artificially imposing a viscous confrontation upon us here. It comprises any country in any part of the world, including Europe, the Near and Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific Region, where they remember the friends, where they are waiting for us and where there is the readiness for close mutually advantageous and equal cooperation. A vivid expression of this approach was the outcome of Dmitry Medvedev’s visits to four states of Latin America and the Caribbean Basin (Peru, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba), as well as last year’s trips of Vladimir Putin to the Middle East and Africa. As the President noted, we’re witnessing some elements of privilegedness (for example, in the realm of strategic stability) in our relations with the United States too.

Audit of the European Architecture

The August events had far-reaching consequences, including for Euro-Atlantic politics. Indeed, as President Sarkozy said, “the cards were redealt.” Of course, the Caucasus crisis did not make the world polycentric in the twinkling of an eye. But it has shown with utter convincingness that a unipolar world does not exist. The burden of proof regarding the realizableness of this idea in practice lay with its authors. When we had to react to the Georgian aggression, there was nothing geopolitical on our minds. We were saving people. The geopolitical consequences became a natural by-product of this situation. If somebody considers that he has incurred geopolitical damage, then this is from the realm of self-defeatism: like the ball caused to go into one’s own goal.

It would be hard to highlight the flimsiness of the European security architecture more strikingly than the Saakashvili regime did. Fragmented, with a pretension to NATO-centrism, it was unable to prevent either the military adventure or the preparatory supplies for the Tbilisi regime – contrary to EU and OSCE codes, and the Wassenaar Arrangement – of an enormous quantity of offensive arms. In Euro-Atlantic politics, after the Caucasus crisis, it obviously will not be possible to carry on as if nothing happened.

Europe still has no collective security system which would be open to everyone and would provide equal security for everybody. Europe needs a positive rather than a negative agenda. For a start it would be well to have a look at whether the formerly created structures and mechanisms are today adequate to the previously collectively agreed principles or if it is necessary to think of constructing a new European architecture that firmly guarantees the inviolability of postwar frontiers and at the same time takes into account the realities of the 21st century. Let this be called “audit.”

President Medvedev came up with the initiative to conclude a Treaty which would ensure a truly universal system of collective security in the Euro-Atlantic area and to have this process launched at a pan-European summit. In this context, an honest discussion is ahead on why the Russia-NATO Council principle of the inadmissibility of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of the security of others is not complied with, along with examining the problems that have arisen in relation to the CFE crisis and plans to deploy elements of a US global antimissile system in Eastern Europe and agreeing on uniform standards in approaches to conflict settlement. In the absence of a sensible multilateral dialogue we will have to react to new threats on our own, but in line with international law and the principle of reasonable sufficiency. President Medvedev announced the relevant decisions in his Address to the Federal Assembly on November 5, 2008. But we would prefer to freeze all unilateral plans and start collective work on European security problems – of course, on an equal rather than a bloc basis.

But we are not subjecting the entire present European security architecture to a test. Its systemic defects are obvious. NATO-centrism by definition negates the creation of a truly universal collective security system in the Euro-Atlantic area, and artificially impedes honest discussions on the problems which the Caucasus crisis has laid bare.

I am certain that Europe understands this perfectly well. It is Europe, taught by its historical experience and having gone through national catastrophes, that has come up closer than others to reformulating the meaning of its existence in a truly global, collectivist vein, when all world problems are your own. National egoism no longer works.

D. H. Lawrence aptly remarked that all of Europe had lost in the First World War. There is no doubt that all of Europe and the world won in World War II. This fundamental distinction should not be forgotten. Any revisionism in the spirit of moral relativism would not only signify a betrayal of the memory of the dead, but would also seriously contribute to the mounting menace of hugely dangerous tendencies in Europe – such as neo-fascism, nationalism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.

I think that Europe, well familiar with the advantages of the denationalization of defense policy, does not need being persuaded of the usefulness of joint actions in military-political questions. The proposals submitted by Putin in July 2007 for collective counteraction against common missile threats to security remain valid, as reconfirmed by Medvedev in his appearance in the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on November 15, 2008.

It has to be admitted that a “long agenda” has formed in European politics. The idea of a new round of the pan-European process allows for examining all its “points” in a package. Few could foresee, when President Medvedev came up with this idea in Berlin on June 5, 2008, its growing relevance. The chief thing now is to refrain from any unilateral actions. They will only add to the problems in need of solving all the same.

We are open to discussion of other fruitful ideas which would bring our common future nearer. But there are none. They only say that our initiative for a new Pan-European Security Treaty is aimed at undermining NATO and at substituting the comprehensive character of security as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, by consigning the humanitarian basket to oblivion. This is absolutely not true. We have publicly explained from the beginning that we suggest inviting for participation in the Treaty elaboration not only all countries, but also all security-related organizations in the Euro-Atlantic area, including NATO, EU, OSCE, CSTO, and CIS. We by no means want to cast doubt on the agreed (including humanitarian) foundations of OSCE activity. We are simply convinced that, in what is called “military-political security,” too many explosive problems have accumulated. The first consideration is that the principle of indivisible security has been undermined in practice, and today we ought to accord top priority to this. When they attempt to label Russia as a “revisionist power” opposing status quo, they might as well ask themselves: of what status quo can there be any talk after the Cold War, against the background of the objective formation of a polycentric international system and the current global financial crisis. On the other hand, the striving – contrary to all promises – to bring NATO’s military infrastructure unrestrainedly closer to Russia’s borders, including setting up new military bases, deploying a third US GMD site in Eastern Europe, secretly attempting to militarize the Black Sea in breach of the Montreux Convention – is that really “status quo”?

“Repairs” to the European architecture need to be speeded up. The alternative to the convocation of a pan-European summit is only one – its further degradation. Political boldness is required and disputes are essential for arriving at truth. We won’t go far unless we undertake, once and for all, to decide everything in the North-Atlantic area collectively.

NATO’s further eastward enlargement creates difficulties for us and Euro-Atlantic politics as a whole. Some new members have brought an obsolete confrontational policy with them, which drags the alliance into its previous state of the Cold War era. Certain aspirant members try to surpass them in this. These countries were simply too late to join the old NATO.

The Russia-NATO Council was created on the basis of a progressive principle: each country having an equal voice; but in practice this principle never worked, all the same we had “26 plus 1.” Something has to be done with this incongruity. Regardless of the Caucasus crisis, and attempts to “punish” Russia by freezing certain areas of cooperation, discussion on this theme has all the same been imminent. The Russia-NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 failed to adopt a joint declaration because one country had refused to reaffirm the principle enshrined in the RNC founding documents, which is that no one should ensure his own security at the expense of the security of others.

We would not like to see NATO become an outlet for aggressive instincts and pro-confrontation sentiments – without any particular consequences for practical politics.

We are glad that resolving the Caucasus crisis has provided a serious subject for our interaction with the European Union in regional affairs. Essentially, a European solution to the problem was found, in consequence of which EU unity grows stronger on a sober, pragmatic basis. This is in accord with the overall trend towards the regionalization of global politics, when states increasingly assume responsibility for affairs in their regions and do not want to follow advice from afar. By the way, the acute stage of crisis in Zimbabwe was settled in this way (although agreement has yet to be reached on the government composition, which non-regional actors are again trying to prevent). Voices are increasing in favor of seeking regional solutions for the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Residual bipolarity obviously still remains in global and regional politics, primarily in the Euro-Atlantic area. It is objectively conditioned with respect to strategic stability, which so far remains to a decisive extent a derivative of Russian-American relations. But there are questions where bipolarity is being imposed artificially. This is observable in the attempt by the outgoing US administration to monopolize dialogue with Russia in surmounting the crisis that arose because of the NATO countries’ refusal to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty. Eventually, of course, all participants will have to decide the Treaty’s fate, but it is apparent that leading European countries can and should make their contribution to preparing the ground for full-scale negotiations. In European actors’ Caucasus policy, by the way, the faraway capital had also been given complete control over relations with Georgia and that’s why we believe Europe had missed the Caucasus crisis. It is good that the initiative of French President Sarkozy, supported by the European Union, remedied the situation.

The “status neutral” discussions started in Geneva on October 15, 2008, fully in line with the agreements of Presidents Medvedev and Sarkozy and now past the first difficulties, give the EU an opportunity to make its contribution to the stabilization and rehabilitation of Transcaucasia. Moreover, participation in the Geneva discussions by the American side broadens the possibilities for triple interaction – with the participation of Russia, the EU and US.

Russia and the US: A common future?

A positive program for Russian-American relations is set out in the Russian Foreign Policy Concept and in President Medvedev’s appearance in the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

In the past the US responded with the presidency of John Kennedy to the intellectual, military-political and technological challenges of that epoch. The situation repeats itself. America has to acknowledge the reality of a “post-American” world and begin to adapt to it.

All other leading countries, including Russia and the European states, have already entered the process of profound change. As to Russia, change was imposed upon us by the well-known circumstances in the early 1990s. In contrast, the United States for a long time had the possibility to choose: either recognize the need for change on a basis of sober analysis or wait until it came – as a harsh necessity.

Dominique Moisi writes in Foreign Affairs that “The new America that both Americans and the rest of the world need today is nothing more than the old America that has been lost,” and that Americans will have to stop “feeling lonely in their might.” I would add that everybody needs an America that is not afraid of change; that is in a position to see that nothing is given for ever and which is open to the world and for free debate. That is why Barack Obama’s election program instilled so many hopes not only in America, but in other countries as well. In the era of globalization, the vocation of a strong state is not national mobilization for external confrontation purposes, but the role of being a constructive generator for positive change (as was the case with the New Deal in the United States and with the reforms of Alexander II in the Russian Empire).

We wish America success on the road of change, including in international affairs. We know that the Americans will have to take their own decisions and make up for lost time. But no one doubts Americans’ capacity for pragmatism. I hope that America will emerge from the profound transformation process that was announced as the goal of the Obama administration not as a country overwhelmed by its own exclusiveness, but as a part of the whole; as a country recognizing its involvement in European history and in the general affairs and concerns of humanity.

The United States is an integral part of European civilization. And now the time has probably come to return to Europe, that is, accept the soft European attitude to the world, shaped, inter alia, during the Cold War period not without the participation of America itself.

It will take time to sort things out and decide what’s more important. A mythology of separate, bloc security in the era of globalization or – success of the antiterrorist and anti-drug struggle in Afghanistan and a joint analysis of the likely global implications of developments in Pakistan. A further fragmentation of the Balkan states, virtual projects and zero games in the Caucasus and Central Asia or – joint efforts to stabilize those regions in common interests.

Today our relations are going through a rather complicated period; there are fundamental differences in approaches to a whole array of international problems, but the chief task we face is, as President Medvedev has pointed out, to overcome the credibility crisis. Without the restoration of credibility we cannot hope to realize the existing possibilities for building constructive bilateral interaction on a long-time basis. The history of Russian-American relations knows of quite a few acute situations – there were times even worse. But eventually common sense, pragmatism and the special responsibility of our powers for the destinies of the world determined the choice at the level of practical politics.

We are ready for full-format cooperation with the United States. We are disposed to conduct affairs in a predictable and mutually advantageous vein, on the basis of equality and consideration for the interests of each other fully in line with the Strategic Framework Declaration approved at Sochi in April 2008.

As has repeatedly been stated at the highest level, nothing will force us to get drawn into a new arms race. Yes, we were distracted from our constructive agenda and we are going to have to draw conclusions, including in terms of our military building. But there will be no militarization of the country or its foreign policy.

The Russian strategic deterrence forces perform their tasks on the basis of the principle of reasonable sufficiency. The essence of these tasks may also be explained by our US partners, who for the last twenty years have not ceased modernizing their armed forces, including their strategic component. Our military expenditures constitute, by various estimates, five to 13 percent of the American. But even they are burdensome – true presumably for the US as well, especially in conditions of the current financial crisis.

We would like to reduce this burden and so we propose drawing practical conclusions from the obvious fact that in a globalizing world, international relations cannot be regulated by military force. Critically assessing the experience of the last ten years, it is just necessary to return to the general expectations of a “peace dividend” legitimately resulting from the end of the Cold War. This also concerns advancement towards the goal of nuclear disarmament, along with the preservation of continuity in the arms control process.

Obsession with the factor of military force is a sign of systemic failure in the foreign policy of any state. In principle, this point was made by Arnold Toynbee as he pointed to militarism as a means for the self-destruction of empires and by Madeleine Albright, who conceded that the main idea of the Iraq war had been to demonstrate American military power to the world.

In his time John Kennedy spoke of the necessity to pass the test of meeting the challenge of imperialism. The role of the military-industrial complex in economic and sociopolitical development is also associated with this. Under modern conditions, an arms race by no means guarantees, as was the case in the 30s, an exit from an economic and financial crisis. There are more civilized means today, which the G20 Washington Summit essentially was dedicated to.

Can Russia and the US afford or, more precisely, can the world afford further alienation between our countries, for which Alexis de Tocqueville predicted a great future? Should it be two separate futures or perhaps one common destiny?

I profoundly believe in the latter.

A society can be understood by others only to the extent that it understands itself. Russia has begun to realize anew the fundamental tenets of its existence, and taken the path of transformation. George Kennan wisely advised that such delicate processes should not be externally interfered with. Unfortunately, the continuation of the policy of containment and information wars against Russia constitutes just this kind of interference, adversely affecting our relations.

Russia and the West

The lovers of “containing” Russia, including by “clarification” of relations with us on European grounds should understand that the chief tools for the containment of Moscow were ideology and the military-political alliance commitments in the days of ideological confrontation. We have got rid of this. No one will impose them upon us again. We won’t let ourselves be embroiled with anyone, nor will we agree to the restoration of the bipolar directory in Euro-Atlantic politics.

The time has come to recall the Westphalian principles of interstate relations, basing ourselves on national interests and the common interests of the international community. The principle of combining the national with the collective interest is also enshrined in the UN Charter as a fundamental principle. It’s necessary to conclusively get rid of the load of many decades of ideologized international relations, bearing in mind not only the Cold War, but also the interwar period with its fascist-authoritarian vacillations in most European countries. It won’t be a bad thing to open archives more. In particular, regarding the Munich Agreement, whose 70th anniversary was marked in 2008 – is there really anything to hide to this day?

The logic of history prompts necessity for the unity of European civilization. Both Russia and the United States of America sprang up from it and have engaged largely in spreading it to other parts of the world. It is my belief that the fundamental characteristics of a new stage in world development will be a synthesis of different development models and the coexistence of different cultures and traditions. History will determine their balance. History as illustrated by the Euro-Atlantic region removes extremes – first the Soviet Union experiment, then liberal capitalism in the form of the ruthless Anglo-Saxon model, as most fully embodied by the American experiment. It is difficult not to take note of the fact that both these phenomena (if for the US we start counting off from the New Deal of F. D. Roosevelt) existed for 75 years each.

Today it is necessary to prove one’s capacity for true leadership in tackling global problems, be it global poverty, energy and food security or climate change. As Putin noted, speaking at the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Astana on October 30, 2008, the time has come when “solving world problems must become a part of national development strategies.” This will call for a fresh look at things, an ability to consider and integrate the interests of all groups of states.

Both Putin during his tenure as President (just read his article on the EU’s 50th anniversary in March 2007) and President Medvedev, as he spoke in Berlin, and then in Evian and Nice, convincingly substantiated Russia’s commitment to the European choice. This line has found embodiment in such pro-unity ideas relating to European civilization as the initiative for a European Security Treaty, and strategic openness, by which we mean a real involvement of the EU in discussing strategic stability issues, up until now limited to Moscow’s dialogue with Washington. By fostering real interaction in the Russia-US-EU triangle, we could radically alter the nature of the world geostrategic situation.

I am convinced that the intellectual discourse that is bound to follow in the new round of the pan-European process will not only help solve European contradictions (Dostoyevsky already wrote about them) – now Euro-Atlantic – but also facilitate arriving at a common understanding of the collective mission of our region in the contemporary world.

Like Russia, the EU appears to be striving to reformat its relations with the US on a basis of equality. So it will be about an even-sided triangle. On the politico-psychological level, at issue is a new interpretation of Atlanticism – as Euro-Atlanticism, encompassing the entire region from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Former US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz share this opinion. In their brilliant article in the International Herald Tribune, October 1, 2008, they wrote that “the fundamental interests of the United States, Europe and Russia are more aligned today than at any point in recent history.” Former British Ambassador to Moscow Roderic Lyne echoes them not less emotionally: “The need to pull together and act together has not been greater at any point since the Second World War.” The opportunity should not be lost.

Fostering equal interaction between Russia, the EU and US would be a major contribution of European civilization to shaping the collective leadership of major states of the world. The need for it was convincingly demonstrated by the convocation of the G20 summit in Washington, which not without foundation is seen as the expansion of the “financial seven” de facto. An ever larger number of countries are acquiring economic weight and clout and becoming involved in historical creativity in the formats of different forums and integrative associations, including the same G20, G8, EU, SCO and BRIC.

The contemporary world

Our view of the contemporary world and the goals and objectives that Russia pursues in it are clearly formulated in the Foreign Policy Concept, approved by President Medvedev. On this ideological basis a national foreign policy strategy has been shaped that corresponds to the exigencies of the qualitatively new geopolitical situation in the world. It is most fully articulated in President Medvedev’s Address to the Federal Assembly.

We will never agree to legal nihilism in world affairs, with the attitude towards international law as a “draft pole” and as the “fate of the weak” or with any attempts to “cut corners” to the detriment of international legality, which is the embodiment of the moral principle in relations among states. Indeed, international law is our ideology in international affairs. To use Fyodor Tyutchev’s phrase, we want “once and for all to establish the triumph of law, of historical legality over the revolutionary mode of action.”

The Caucasus crisis has shown that contemporary problems, including conflict and crisis settlement, cannot be solved by force. There is no alternative to politico-diplomatic methods involving all parties to reach agreement. Therefore we will continue within the existing formats to undertake active efforts to render all-out assistance to Transnistrian and Nagorno Karabakh settlement so as to help the sides reach agreement. I am convinced that it is quite possible to find mutually acceptable solutions. The same possibility existed with regard to the South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflicts, but Tbilisi buried it, having trampled the relevant accords.

With the end of the Cold War the prerequisites for establishing the principles of genuine freedom in the international community arose. Grounds for bloc policies have disappeared. The multivariant behavior of states on the international scene has increased. The notorious principle of “you’re either with us, or against us” no longer operates. Conditions are being created for a polycentric world in which states are driven by their national interests cleansed of ideology and by a common understanding of collective interests. Herein is the basis of an emerging new, self-regulatory international system.

We will always give preference to multilateral diplomacy. If, however, partners are not ready for joint action, Russia will be forced to go it alone in defending its national interests, but always on the basis of international law.

Firmly based on international law and the Constitution and laws of Russia, we are going to protect the life and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, to support the interests of Russian business and to develop privileged relations with Russia’s friends in various regions.

I think that sooner or later we will arrive at the recognition of the necessity to revise the entire international agenda so as to agree on its truly collective version. We don’t need to start from scratch – after all, we have a common base for that, in the form of the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. But a radical revision of the methods to put them into practice is a must, because the imposition upon everybody of a picture of world development since 1992 that was unilaterally drawn in the West and which has proved its complete invalidity, is the root cause of all current international complications.

It is in our common interest to overcome the deepening global financial crisis. Russia took an active part in the G20 Washington Summit that launched a reform process for the global financial architecture, supported at another representative forum – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima. This work has only begun and it will take time. One more G20 summit is already scheduled. Interest in such discussion is also manifest within the UN. We need to overcome the contradiction between a unilateral mode of action and the collective interests of the international community in the financial sphere as well. To be legitimate and effective, the new architecture of world finances must be open and fair, and rely upon all existing financial centers and their regional currencies, backed by real resources and by a real potential for economic growth. This also calls for strengthening the regional level of governance – otherwise the sustainability of the new system can’t be ensured.

The crisis provides a good opportunity for refocusing the attention of all major players on real problems and may become a powerful catalyst for long-term trends toward pragmatism and the demilitarization and de-ideologization of international relations. Close cooperation in surmounting the crisis could well create the conditions and critical mass of trust necessary for solving other problems.

Moreover, there are grounds to assume that the creation of a polycentric financial architecture will be the decisive element of global governance reform: everything else will fall into place, and the collective nature of the new system will minimize the possibility of any new geopolitical redivision of the world.

In the past, upon crash of an empire, the international community always strove to agree a new set of “rules of the game,” bearing in mind a particular system of collective security. The answer to the collapse of Napoleon’s empire was the Vienna Congress. The collective security system it devised for Europe was destroyed by the Crimean War, with the subsequent unification of Germany under Prussian rule and with the First World War. The West was unable to create a comprehensive collective security system in the interwar period, when the borders of Germany’s eastern neighbors were not guaranteed. The failure of the Third Reich and the defeat of militarist Japan led to the international community’s creation of the United Nations Organization, based on a polycentric vision of the world, which found reflection in, among other things, the principle of unanimity of the permanent members of the Security Council.

The Cold War with its bipolarity, bloc discipline and the ideologically motivated behavior of states pushed the UN into the background, heavily distorting the functioning of the Organization. And only now can the UN system work according to its original purpose. To this end, it is necessary to make it clear to all that there exists a uniform code of conduct for all states.

Russia stands ready for that. Setting itself the task of unfolding the potential amassed in recent years and of achieving a new quality in internal development in the interests of the country and all of its citizens, we are going actively to promote the formation and implementation of a positive, unifying international agenda.