3 октября президент РСМД Игорь Иванов выступил с публичной лекцией перед студентами и преподавателями Джорджтаунского университета США (Georgetown University). В своей лекции Игорь Иванов остановился на современном состоянии системы международных отношкений, роли России в этой системе и перспективах развития российско-американского взаимодействия в решении острых проблем мировой политики. Президент РСМД также ответил на многочисленные вопросы слушателей. Лекция в Джорджтаунском университете была организована Центром Евразийских, российских и восточноевропейских исследований Школы внешнеполитической службы им. Эдмунда Уолша (Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service).
В своей лекции Игорь Иванов остановился на современном состоянии системы международных отношений, роли России в этой системе и перспективах развития российско-американского взаимодействия в решении острых проблем мировой политики. Президент РСМД также ответил на многочисленные вопросы слушателей.
Лекция в Джорджтаунском университете была организована Центром Евразийских, российских и восточноевропейских исследований Школы внешнеполитической службы им. Эдмунда Уолша (Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service).
Выступление в Джорджтаунском университете
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it’s an honor and a privilege for anyone engaged in international relations to give a lecture at the Georgetown University. Georgetown is one of the most distinguished schools where they teach and study global affairs. Georgetown faculty has played a leading role in setting contemporary standards for international studies. Georgetown graduates have contributed a lot to shaping the modern international system.
The suggested topic of my presentation “Russian Foreign Policy in the XXI century” should be very comfortable to any speaker. When you talk about what might happen in 20, 30 and – moreover – in 50 years from now, you take absolutely no risks. Unfortunately, the situation in the world evolves in such a way that when thinking about the future we need to clear our horizons by sorting out what is going on now. Therefore, I’d like to set a more modest goal for my lecture: to give you my understanding of the current state of the international system, the place of Russia in this system and the special role of US – Russian relations in global politics today.
Today everyone talks about Syria – let me start with Syria as well. In my view, the Syrian crisis is a graphic illustration of the poor state of the modern international system at large. A bloody civil war goes on in the center of Middle East for more than two years and a half. The costs of the war in blood and treasure climb higher and higher every month, a return to ‘normal life’ becomes more and more complicated and precarious. With the conflict going on, with more blood being spilled moderates on both sides lose ground, and extremists are getting stronger. Moreover, the civil war has already turned into a regional conflict with direct or indirect involvement of a number of neighboring countries. We all know that any further procrastination in dealing with the conflict is going to be detrimental to everybody: to Syrians, to the Middle East region (countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey already feel the spillover effects of the war), to global security at large. If nothing is done by the international community in the nearest future, Syria is likely to turn into a ‘failed state’ no matter who will run the place – with a ruined economy, broken infrastructure, paralyzed political institutions and plenty of military hardware floating around.
Though Syrians themselves are to take a fair share of responsibility for the continuous bloodshed, the conflict also reflects the shameful impotence of international organizations and the international system at large.
Is the Syrian crisis exceptional? Unfortunately, it is not. There are many other symptoms of a more general problem. The modern international system has an evident deficit of governance. We keep accumulating new and new sources of regional and even global instability. Since the end of the Cold war not a single major international conflict was successfully resolved – be it the Middle East settlement, state building in Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia, security in the Korean Peninsula and so on. Some of the conflicts were ignored; others were dealt with, but mostly unsuccessfully. The history of recent international interventions – from former Yugoslavia to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Libya – suggests that those who decided to intervene had not mastered their abilities to foresee all the consequences of their actions.
You do not need to look into the crystal ball to predict a lot of security problems that we will have to handle in coming years. The current trends are not reassuring: there has been a sharp rise in the number of local and regional conflicts in the world over the past two decades. Fond hopes that the end of the longest and greatest geopolitical confrontation of the XX century would automatically lead to world peace, stronger international security and radical disarmament have not come to pass. The threat of the entire humanity perishing in a nuclear conflagration may have receded dramatically, but wars on a smaller scale are now killing a lot more people than they used to. Most experts agree that this trend will continue; we are going to see new crises, new conflicts and new casualties. And this trend means that all of us clearly fail to meet our responsibilities in maintaining international peace and stability.
Only a few years ago many analysts argued that a sharp rise in the number of armed conflicts at the turn of the century was temporary. They saw it as merely a delayed effect of the previous era, an effect that would soon fizzle out. They argued that the end of a bi-polar world had released the numerous pent-up antagonisms and frictions that were previously being kept suppressed by the rigid bi-polar system. Old ethnic, religious and social tensions have surfaced after being artificially kept under the lid for almost half a century, they said. The unprecedented rise of instability on the regional and local levels was therefore seen as a price we were paying for the rapid demolition of the old bi-polar system. A few years on, these explanations no longer hold water. The Cold War did not end yesterday, and not even a decade ago. Is two decades not long enough for tensions accumulated during the Cold War to subside? How much longer do we have to wait until the world returns to the normal state? Why does the residual potential for conflict in world politics keep getting stronger instead of becoming a spent force? Now that the world has entered the second decade of the XXI century, do we still have the right to blame our problems on the difficult heritage of the previous century?
The situation is something of a paradox. Responsible politicians in Washington, Brussels, Beijing and Moscow have very similar views of the global challenges and threats to international security. We all think along the same lines; we are being kept awake at night by the same problems, and the proposed solutions we come up with are not much different. I do not want to oversimplify things: not all our opinions can be reconciled to produce a common approach. But this way or another, we are all united by the shared challenges and threats we face. This is our reality, and it is unlikely to change any time soon. It would not be an exaggeration to say that today we have a global consensus on matters of international security – something we did not have for the most part of the previous century.
One would have thought therefore that the task of restoring the governance in the international system is a merely technical challenge. One would have thought that in a world not being torn asunder by irreconcilable differences, the shared fundamental interests of the key actors should inevitably lead to the creation of effective cooperation mechanisms. But we have to admit that such mechanisms are either absent or ineffectual. A shared security space remains a dream. The world seems to be moving towards greater unity, but the number of conflicts remains stubbornly high.
Needless to say, the transition to a new international system cannot be easy or painless. There are many independent variables at play here that complicate this transition – the changing balance of powers between old and new centers of international influence and new military technologies, global inequality and the explosion of trans border migrations, revolution in global communications and accession of non-state actors in global politics, and so on. But the independent variables cannot and should not be used as an excuse for human shortcomings and errors. The lack of vision, temptations of populism, interference of domestic politics, deep rooted institutional interests – these are just a few manifestations of the ‘human factor’ that prevent us from moving ahead.
Nobody has a magic clue to solve all international problems at once. But it does not mean that we can put these problems on a shelf. Let me share some of my ideas based on my experience as a statesman and a diplomat. I believe that we need to upgrade the whole set of global governance that would give us adequate instruments to cope with security challenges of different types. The challenges are complex and multifaceted and our responses to the challenges have to be complex and multifaceted as well. The very top of the structure belongs to the United Nations, which remains the most inclusive, the most legitimate and the most experienced international organization dealing with problems of international security. I know that many politicians and scholars in this city are quite skeptical about the United Nations. Indeed, it is easy to criticize UN – for complicated decision making procedures, for excessive and expensive bureaucracies, for inability to resolve many burning international problems. UN is not perfect, we all know that. But it only means that we should all work harder to make the United Nations more efficient, more flexible, and more adequate to meet the security challenges of the XXI century.
Where should we start this work? There are many ideas about how to reform the UN Charter, how to bring new members to the Security Council and so on. I tend to believe that this is not the right way to approach the problem. To make the United Nations more efficient and more productive we need, above all, change our attitudes to this institution. Unfortunately, the UN is often used for promoting short sighted interests of particular states or group of states. Or as a storage place, where you can deposit most complicated and hard to manage problems. Or as a PR outlet to make a nice speech and to score points within your domestic constituency. In my view, we can change UN only if its members – and, above all, great powers - will put their particularistic interests aside and commit themselves to working together in order to resolve pending security problems.
Naturally, UN cannot do it alone. An interconnected network of regional security institutions should shoulder the United Nations in building a new security regime. However, these regional institutions should seek to assist UN, not to replace it. When they start acting without a UN Security Council mandate (like it was the case with the NATO military action in former Yugoslavia) or interpret the UN mandate in an arbitrary self-serving way (the case of the operation in Libya), they undermine their own legitimacy and can, in the end of the day, generate new problems rather than produce lasting solutions to international crises. Let me underscore once again: I am not against NATO or any other US led alliance, I am only against these alliances trying to position themselves above the rest of the international community.
The same approach, in my view, should be applied to ad hoc coalitions, which get together in order to address a specific security problem or a particular crisis situation. Their evident advantage is that an ad hoc coalition can be assembled very fast and each participating party can freely decide on the scale and on the format of its involvement in such a coalition. Established security alliances, as a rule, require quite complicated and time consuming procedures before their respective member states can decide on any consorted action. But ad hoc coalitions, like regional security institutions cannot and should not try to replace the United Nations in terms of the decision making. Without a clear and unambiguous UN Security Council mandate, ad hoc coalitions’ actions, no matter how benign and benevolent they might look, turn out to be detrimental to long term interests of international security.
Finally, we should not underestimate the role of bilateral agreements between major powers in promoting regional and global security. If bilateral relations (for example, US – Russian relations or Chinese – Japanese relations) experience problems, the whole system of international security feels the negative impact; tensions and risks tend to affect other international actors. However, if these bilateral relations are constructive, stable and predictable, their positive impact on the overall system of international security is also quite significant. In the modern interdependent world security is indivisible: nobody could benefit strategically from a new confrontation between great powers.
To sum up, the emerging system of international security can be compared to a pyramid with the United Nations and its Security Council at the very top of it. The second layer of the pyramid embraces major regional security organizations and integrationist institutions. At the third layer we have ad hoc coalitions and flexible international regimes to handle specific dimensions of international security .Finally, the bottom of the pyramid consists of multiple interlocking bilateral agreements, treaties and other arrangements between states. All layers are interconnected, and each of them is plays its own specific role without trying to replace or to undermine all others.
This structure may look complicated and hard to manage. In my opinion, it can be successful only if there are fair, clear and universally accepted rules of the game to serve it. In other words, the role of international law is critical. Like in case with the United Nations, there are many critics of the contemporary system of international public law. And the criticism is in many cases absolutely justified. However, the imperfections of international law should not be an excuse to ignore it or to interpret it in a self serving and biased way. I am convinced that only working together we can modernize international law and develop it further, so that would fully reflect the new realities and new challenges of the XXI century.
The challenge of the new century is particularly serious for countries that have to undergo a dramatic domestic transformation along with changes in their foreign policies. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia has been one of such countries. I am not sure that in the West they fully understand the scale of the national drama that the Russian society had to live through. It would be only natural to see a lot of inconsistencies, omissions, illusions and sheer blunders in the Russian foreign policy over last twenty years. Nevertheless, as a person, who has been actively engaged in the foreign policy making for all these years, I have to state that we have been able to avoid most of pitfalls and mistakes along the way. In my view, a lot of Western interpretations of the Russian foreign policy are not accurate and demonstrate a lot of political bias. Let me approach a number of typical Western myths about the Russian foreign policy.
Myth number one – Russia as an isolationist state. It is often argued that the post – Soviet Russia has avoided active international cooperation, has been very skeptical about international organizations and multilateral arrangements. Moreover, it is claimed that the Russian leadership is very much concerned about globalization and would prefer to keep the country as isolated from the outside world as possible. I have to say that nothing can be further from the truth. Since the Soviet disintegration Russia acquired membership in all most significant international organizations and groupings – G8 and WTO, the Council of Europe and APEC, it signed agreements with NATO and EU, entered IMF and the World Bank, participated to creating G20 and BRICS. In fact, Russia is the only country in the world, which is a member to G20, G8 and BRICS at the same time. Of course, in all these institutions and arrangements Russia tries to promote its national interests, which might create tensions with other states. But the main function of multilateral organizations consists exactly in reconciling diverging interests and identifying common denominators. Russia has always been ready for a reasonable compromise.
Myth number two: Russia is a global spoiler. The perception is that the main goal of the Russian foreign policy is to make life harder for the West at large and for the United States in particular. Allegedly, Russian leaders create artificial problems, block important international decisions, schmooze with rogue states simple because they regard their US counterparts as enemies and they look at the international system as a zero sum game. Regretfully, such view on the Russian foreign policy is very popular in this city. But can you give me a single example of Russia’s actions as a spoiler? As a former Foreign Minister, I can state that there was no single case, when Russia purposefully tried to damage US interests or to complicate life for US politicians. Of course, sometimes we disagree with our American partners. If we do – on matters like the NATO enlargement or BMD in Europe or intervention in Syria – we try to explain our position. Isn’t it a normal practice for any responsible international player?
Myth number three: Russia is turning to the East, away from the West. It is argued that the Russian leadership has been disappointed in its cooperation with both the United States and the European Union and therefore is looking for ‘non-Western’ alternatives – China, India and even Iran and Venezuela. But are the old notions of the East and the West still valid in the world of the XXI century? Can Russia as a global power limit itself to only one geographical priority in its foreign policy? Are various foreign policy directions mutually exclusive or, on the contrary, complimenting each other?
I do not want to say that Russian foreign policy makers have been perfect all the time from the end of the Cold War. But the overall direction of the Russian foreign policy has always been toward a deeper integration into the international system, friendly relations with its partners and constructive engagement in solving common problems. However, in our interdependent world a lot depends not only on what you want to accomplish, but also on what other international actors allow you to achieve. The US approach to Russia in this regard is a very important factor.
The United States remains a priority for the Russian foreign policy. We hope that Russia is a foreign policy priority for US decision makers as well. In our view, leaders of Russia and the United States have a special responsibility for confronting this global destabilization and building a new system of international relations. First, the relationship between Moscow and Washington formed the axis of world politics in the second half of the last century, and although the Cold War is in the past, it caused numerous problems that continue to poison international politics to this day, generating distrust, crises and conflicts. Russia and the United States share the primary historical responsibility to overcome this Cold War legacy as soon as possible.
Second, Russia and the United States remain the only countries in the world capable of destroying each other, and the rest of humanity, many times over in a suicidal nuclear war. Therefore, issues such as nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the prevention of nuclear terrorism fall primarily on the shoulders of our two nations. This is an apt moment to recall that our two countries are leading players in the global arms trade, which cannot but impose serious political and moral obligations on them.
Third, for many historical, geographical, economic and other reasons Moscow and Washington almost inevitably become involved in the most pressing regional issues of the day, be it in the Balkans and the Caucasus, the Middle East or the Asia-Pacific Region. This global “arc of instability” transects areas of vital interests of the two countries.
Fourth, our two countries are caught up in many of the today's global problems. For example, unlike other states due to their distinctive regional, cultural and religious diversity, the United States and Russia occupy the first and second place respectively in the world ranking by the number of migrants they accommodate. Our countries are the world's leading energy producers. They have a very significant impact on the global environment and climate. The United States and Russia are in a position to do more than other states to confront growing cyber threats and promote effective international cooperation in space exploration.
Is the current level of Russian-American relations adequate, given the scale of the challenges we face in building a new system of world politics? Unfortunately, the answer has to be in the negative. Relations between Russia and the United States remain shackled by old ideas, archaic principles, and the mentality of a bygone age. Even the “reset” declared four years ago, for all its achievements, cannot claim to be qualitatively very different from the Soviet-American détente of four decades ago.
However, the leaders of Russia and the United States today have a unique opportunity to bring relations to a new level, to finally free ourselves from the burden of the past and confront the problems we face, and those we will face. First, we need to engage in a serious discussion of our shared vision of this new system of international relations and global security architecture. We have no doubt that the prospects for world politics look different when viewed from Moscow and Washington, but we are also confident that our two countries share similar long-term strategic interests.
The differences in specific positions should not be dramatized: they can exist even between very close allies. Nevertheless, disagreements, no matter how complex and painful, must not block the development of ties along other lines. It is essential not to interrupt dialogue even on those issues where their positions differ substantially. The existence of communication channels is always better than their lack even if the chances for formulating a common position at a given moment seem to be minimal.
At the same time, the sides could make a more active use of the new opportunities for cooperation that are opened by Russia’s admission to the WTO, long-term development programs for the Far East, Arctic development projects, and international energy projects. Something has been done here in the past several years. However, that is not enough. There is a need for large-scale projects and the more active involvement of private business and independence research centers in that process.
It is important to take cooperation along civil society lines to a qualitatively new level and new principles. Paternalism that is often manifest on the U.S. side and that meets with natural rejection in Russian society should give way to equal dialogue based on mutual respect, taking into account the specifics of historical and cultural development, and political realities. That will require efforts on both sides, aimed at overcoming bureaucratic inertia and stereotypes.
A discussion of the international system’s new architecture should be carried out at different levels and in different formats – between political leaders, as part of inter-parliamentary contacts, by professional associations and civil society institutions in both countries. But the tone should be set by those at the highest level, by the Presidents of Russia and the United States, as they make this new architecture of world politics a central feature on their agenda.
The world will not wait for Russia and the United States to speak with one voice on strategic issues of this future world order. Our countries must demonstrate their commitment and determination to cooperate on the most pressing concerns that humankind faces today. One of these problems could be the civil war in Syria. We are confident that joint efforts between Russia and the United States, combined or parallel pressure from Moscow and Washington on the major parties to the conflict – be they Syrian or external – will bear fruit. And the success of a bilateral initiative on Syria, in turn, would be a powerful incentive for Russian-American cooperation on other issues.
I have no doubt that, sooner or later, Russia and the United States will become partners in building a new system of international politics for the 21st century. But I would like to hope that this will happen in the very near future, as the price of delay may well be too high.