Russia's Foreign Policy is Not the Problem

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In my view, a column by Fyodor Lukyanov titled "With Its Foot in the Door, Russia Needs to Act" on Dec. 19 misrepresents Russia's international policies on several important counts. I would like to set the record straight.

Russia's foreign policy has been increasingly open over the past few years. There has been no lack of effort on our part to engage in public debate on international affairs. This reflects the new state and mood of my country. The problem, I am afraid, lies in the fact that some of our partners do not like what they hear.

As to our principles, they are clear enough: pragmatism, multi-vector diplomacy and the nonconfrontational pursuit of national interests. We are not ambiguous or ambivalent about the goals of our diplomacy. We believe -- and this view is broadly shared by independent international observers and therefore is not unique -- that stability and security in our world in transition can only be ensured by the maintenance of the international rule of law. This is not a product of the Cold War. It constitutes the very essence of international relations and the diplomatic method.

We regret that the experience of the past 15 years has not helped some of our partners understand that a new world is not a mere extension of the Western world minus the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.

The United Nations is based on the vision of a multipolar world. Hence the special responsibility of the five permanent members of the Security Council, one of which is Russia. This world of difference, not of uniformity, is taking shape now. The UN system provides a sound legal foundation for the collective leadership and global system of checks and balances that this new reality requires.

While speaking frankly about what we think of our partners' ideas and actions, we are putting forward positive, constructive alternatives. This is true in each situation where we differ. Let's take Kosovo, for example. At the UN Security Council we proposed a detailed road map for further negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade. Nobody could explain to us why they were in a rush. Kosovar Albanians are not oppressed, and Belgrade has no say in their daily lives. Why then do the Palestinians, for example, have to wait for a state of their own? The Kosovar Albanians just have no incentives to compromise, especially in view of the open support for Kosovo independence from the United States and some members of the European Union.

If the EU wants this to be an EU family affair, Serbia within its present internationally recognized borders has first to be admitted to the EU. This would be a sensible option, since EU enlargement is already a political project. Another injection of political expediency into this process would not make a big difference. Any imposed solution outside the EU will be at the expense of the international community at large. And, after all, why should we trust the wisdom of our European partners who want us to help squeeze the Serbs the way the Czechoslovaks were squeezed in Munich in September 1938? Did it save Europe from the scourge of war at that time?

We want to cooperate with all partners willing to work on the basis of equality, respect for each other's interests and mutual benefit. It goes without saying that joint action is only possible on the basis of joint analysis and joint decisions. We believe that the newly found integrity of the Euro-Atlantic space ought to be preserved.

Instead of this prospect being realized, we are witnessing the inertia of past ideologized approaches taking hold of Euro-Atlantic affairs. If the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe is a precious cornerstone of European security, why couldn't our partners walk an extra mile to save it? Nothing has been lost yet. But it turned out that our resolve to match words with deeds has helped our partners realize that our concerns are genuine and serious.

It has to be noted that Russia must react to decisions made unilaterally. The situation would be quite different without such provocative behavior. The proposed U.S. missile defense bases in Eastern Europe are a good case in point. If the EU and NATO have nothing to do with them, then what is the point of our institutionalized ties with those structures and of their claims of having a prominent role in the European security architecture? Our detailed counterproposals, put forward by President Vladimir Putin are well-known.

All we need now are an honest debate and honest dealing, not evasion or stonewalling. Short of that, the strategic stability link between Russia and the United States will gradually be destroyed. As Rose Gottemoeller, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in a commentary in The Moscow Times recently, "the Russian military may claim the same flexibility for military development that the Pentagon claimed for the U.S. armed forces." This link cannot be sustained by the goodwill of one party. It would be natural then to restart the strategic arms control and disarmament process in a multilateral format. Diplomatic history, including the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22, provides helpful precedents of how to deal with military potentials of various sizes.

If there is a looming threat, it is not one of confrontation but of lost opportunities and a waste of time. It is one of our drifting further apart before we resume cooperation on a whole range of international issues on mutually agreed terms. The ultimate source of optimism is the fact that all nations are natural allies in the face of global threats and challenges such as terrorism, poverty and climate change.

What is totally unacceptable are attempts to imply that Russia is to blame for our partners' difficulties. We have been through tough times ourselves, but rational people have always blamed fate rather than foreign governments for the absolute folly of our own ruling elite. Let me quote Fyodor Tyutchev, who wrote at the time of the Crimean crisis, "It is impossible to ascribe to these people even the least possible share of participation in anything or to see in them anything greater than passive instruments, moved by an invisible hand."

Alexander Kramarenko is director for policy planning at the Foreign Ministry.