Alexander Golts: New Rhetoric of Old Approachtorika


Medvedev’s latest speech in the UN, at the international conference in Yaroslavl (Russia), as well as his interview to CNN allowed separate political observers making assumptions that Russia is trying to modernize its foreign policy. What is the basis for such assumptions?

In Yaroslavl, Russia’s President announced that, first, only democratic state can be a modern state; second, further on criticism can be expressed toward a state’s domestic policy if the state might pose threats to international security. At the same time, he adds that criteria for such criticism should be defined by representatives of international community, including the country against which the criticism is directed.

It is noticeable that the UN General Assembly session has demonstrated sustainability of the idea. Some dictators mounted the platform together with the other state leaders. One could observe Muammar Kaddafi thrashing about the UN Statutes without any respect; Ahmadinejad, telling the audience about some deceitful minority which had gained power over the world; as well as listen to Robert Mugabe, the leader who had brought to the threshold of poverty the once richest African country, blaming the foreign countries for the situation. It is offered to design the abovementioned criteria in cooperation with this gang.

Second, Medvedev would agree to consider cooperation with the US in creation of a global missile defence, just on a huge number of conditions. “There exist the North Korea problem and a number of the other problems why the defence should be developed on the global level”, he said to CNN. Soon it will be clear what was meant by Russia’s President. Whether Moscow continues the never ending dispute on the degree of reality of the threats posed by Iran and North Korea, or it begins a serious cooperation with the US in order to prevent such threats. Architecture of the US’s new missile defence initiative (MDI) has created new possibilities for such cooperation. It can be assumed that in the future the US’s activities will be based to a high degree on the MDI’s capacity. The Russia – NATO military cooperation has been for some time quite successful in this direction.

Finally, in the regard of the publicizing of information on existence of a new uranium enrichment plant in Iran, Medvedev has dropped a hint that Russia would join the Western countries’ position on stricter sanctions against Iran if it refuses to cooperate with the international atomic energy control organization.

The abovementioned developments are hopeful. It can be concluded from the press reports that Americans are more than satisfied with the results of the meeting between Medvedev and Obama. The opinion is popular that decisions on both the cooperation on the Iranian issue and the planned signing of Strategic Weapons Non-proliferation Treaty were made long ago.

I am not willing to draw hurried conclusions. Medvedev’s speeches show that Russia’s foreign policy basis has not changed. The Russia’s foreign policy theory is still based on a mixture of two mutually clashing political theories: real politics and geopolitics. Besides, both theories are taken in the form they were designed in late 19th – early 20th centuries. State is a self-centred build, and its foreign policy is concentrated on realization of national interests. These interests are determined by the size of the country and its location on geographical map (implying unavoidable contradictions between the “isles” of the US and UK). While realizing its interests, a country tries to draw as much weak states as possible to its orbit of influence in order to use them later on as pawns in the global chess game. “Ideology” or values are just pretexts for interfering in a competitor’s internal matters, trying to weaken it.

It is not a too difficult task to integrate this theory in globalization process. Globalization which allowed the major players concentration in their hands of a huge economic resource is considered as a threat of predomination of the single country – the US. Russia’s sovereignty and its national interests in such situation may be protected by popularizing of the idea of “multi-polarity”. From that, a conclusion follows that any decision on global level should be made only reaching a consensus between the “poles”, which, in fact, is impossible.

Officially terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons are regarded as global threats. But the fact is ignored that these threats come from one or several so called “poles”. The real threat lies in the circumstance that globalization has resulted in marginalizing of tens of millions of the world population (most of the Middle East). On the one hand, because of the existing level of development of their country, they react inadequately to the world events, being concerned that the modern civilization endangers their religion, traditions and values. On the other hand, radical citizens of these countries are using on a broad scale achievements of the modern civilization turning civil airplanes in missiles and Internet – in a weapon for fight against the Western civilization.

The same problem around non-proliferation of weapons: the North Korean and Iranian regimes are trying to protect their specific “values” bay blackmailing the rest of the world with the use of nuclear weapons. In this case the “multi-polarity” has objectively lead to solidarity between Moscow and the “marginals”, thereby gaining allies for its weapons supplies and political support.

Furthermore, the discomfort from globalization, caused for Russia by the Western countries’ policy, drawing still more states to their orbit, is “verbalized” in military terminology. Russia, according to Medvedev, is the only European country speaking about crisis of security system on the continent (besides, offering the example of Russia – Georgia military conflict, which however had been initiated mostly because of the very Moscow’s openly provocative policy). Russia’s President once more proposes designing of a European Security Agreement as a solution to the problem, which would be a legal reflection of the “security indivisibility” and a fixed promise not to guarantee one’s own security at the expense of security of the other countries.

The issue lacks solution because no objective criteria of security are known. For North Korea, for example, threats appear when the “imperialist adversaries” deny aid to the unwelcome regimes. In its turn, Russia insists that the NATO enlargement process is nearly the only threat to its security (the situation of such threat is imitated in the Russian – Belarusian military exercise “West 2009”).

While discussing this theme, no objective criteria, such as the number of NATO units, combat readiness, organizational issues, etc. are considered. In his interview to CNN, Medvedev states seriously: “let’s not forget that NATO is a military block, and its missiles are aimed at Russia”. Probably nobody had reminded the President that the missiles, which could be launched in the direction of Russia were destroyed, according to the respective Soviet – American agreement, more than thirty years ago.

The new NATO Secretary General has proposed a potentially effective approach to defining of security problems, offering cooperation in threat assessment activities. But there still exists a possibility that Russia again tries to prove that the main threat comes from … its talk partner.

Such approach can be observed in Moscow’s position on the issue of strategic offensive weapons. Over the period of many years, Moscow has tried to persuade the international community that with the installation of elements of missile defence systems in Europe, the US intends to spoil the strategic balance. Now the US has rejected the project (at least in the form planned by the previous Administration). The Kremlin has demonstrated its seeming satisfaction. But right after that, Medvedev has expressed new claims against the US. From the UN podium, he announces: “Having not resolved the missile defence problem and continuing development of strategic offensive weapons (without nuclear warheads), it is impossible to achieve a real progress in the sphere of disarmament”. If previously Russia considered deployment of the missile defence system elements in Europe as the main problem, presently objections are raised against the US missile defence conception as a whole. The issue of strategic offensive arms without nuclear warheads is now regarded as the obstacle to talks. Strategic carriers are obviously meant by that (bombers, submarines) to be equipped with conventional charges, thereby excluding them from the list of strategic carriers for the planned talks on changes in the strategic offensive arms elimination agreement. Otherwise, in order to reach at least a conditional balance, the US would be forced to eliminate a considerable part of its still operable carriers because of the rapid ageing of Russian nuclear arsenal.

As we see, Russia’s security conception is to a high degree subjective notion. But the claim for “indivisibility” of legal security is the Russia’s wish to gain the right to veto (which would apply also to North Korea – the principle of consensus) any Western initiatives aimed at opposing potential threats.

What do we have now? Russia’s President is obviously continuing strictness of his predecessor’s position, although making inconclusive attempts to adapt it to the existing reality. Similar to the situation when being the convinced communist, Khruschev once tried to adopt the Stalin’s foreign policy dogmas to the then existing reality. As we know, such foreign policy thaw on most occasions leads to more frost.