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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

On August 9, Russian foreign and defense ministers met their U.S. counterparts in Washington the day after President Obama had cancelled his September visit to Russia. American hawks were triumphant, as were Moscow’s hawks and some like-minded figures in Europe – all rubbing their hands over yet another slip up in the Russia-U.S. relationship. Cold War stereotypes are proving really hard to kill - poisoning the dialogue between Moscow and Washington and also hampering the construction of a modern system of international relations that is capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

On August 9, Russian foreign and defense ministers met their U.S. counterparts in Washington the day after President Obama had cancelled his September visit to Russia. American hawks were triumphant, as were Moscow’s hawks and some like-minded figures in Europe – all rubbing their hands over yet another slip up in the Russia-U.S. relationship. Cold War stereotypes are proving really hard to kill - poisoning the dialogue between Moscow and Washington and also hampering the construction of a modern system of international relations that is capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

Turning a blind eye to politics and momentary outbursts of emotion, it is becoming crystal clear that the cancellation of the Russian-American summit is a severe blow, not only to bilateral ties but also to shared hopes of a stable, predictable and safe world. Although some try to present the Snowden affair as a key global problem, it is by no means fundamental to the destiny of humankind.

At the same time, nuclear weapons proliferation, growing regional conflicts, terrorism and extremism of all sorts genuinely threaten Russia, the U.S., Europe and the broader global community. It is common knowledge that, at the turn of the 21st century, the world has entered an unstable phase, with little prospect of it coming to a conclusion soon. The generators of global instability continue to make themselves felt, including through the changing balance among the global centers of power, economic inequality, resource shortages, and crisis in traditional development models. If you add to this the speedy advance of communication technologies, easy access to modern mechanisms for social and political mobilization, boosting migration processes and other current challenges, it becomes clear that there are hard times to come. The internationalization of the civil war in Syria and the political crisis in Egypt seem to be the harbingers of large-scale destructive upsets threatening the modern world.

The restoration of governance in global politics is a common task shared by all states, since the looming chaos is affecting all countries. The Russian and American leaders’ responsibility for creating a new system of international relations is particularly significant.

First, the Moscow-Washington relationship formed the axis of global politics in the second half of the 20th century. Although the Cold War is over, many of its effects continue to poison the global environment – generating mistrust, crises and conflicts. So, Russia and the United States are the key states responsible for rapidly overcoming the Cold War legacy.

Second, Russia and the U.S. are the only states able to annihilate each other, and the rest of the world, many times over in a suicidal nuclear war. Hence, the two powers hold the primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and the prevention of nuclear terrorism.

Third, due to numerous historical, geographic, economic and other reasons, Moscow and Washington find themselves almost inevitably involved in the most complex issues of the day, be it the Middle East, Afghanistan or the Balkans. The global arc of instability transects the two countries’ zones of vital interests.

Fourth, our countries are at the epicenter of numerous global problems, from energy and ecology to cyberspace and outer space. Any kind of progress in these areas is problematic without mutual understanding and cooperation.

Is the current level of Russia-U.S. relations capable of facing the tasks that need to be resolved by the two countries and the international community? The Snowden incident indicates that we are a very long way from this goal. Clearly, if relations between our two countries were at this level, able to respond to the challenges of the day and founded in a solid legal basis, then incidents like this would have been settled at a technical level with no harm done to the states’ long-term interests.

The cancellation of the summit complicates the two countries’ bilateral strategic dialogue but does not make this dialogue any less important. The leaders of Russia and America are still able to turn the page, and set about creating a solid base for bilateral relations that will be sufficient to meet the challenges of the age and that satisfies their long-term national interests. After all, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle were never exactly well disposed toward each other, but managed to cooperate both during World War II and in the postwar period.

It stands to reason that, sooner or later, Russia and the United States will work together as partners in building a new global political system for the 21st century. We hope this happens sooner rather than later, since the price of delays may well turn out to be too high.

Translated from Russian. Original text /inner/?id_4=2222#top

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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
     12 (12%)
    Stonger deterrence on behalf of the U.S. through modernization of military infrastructure in the region  
     4 (4%)
    Toughening economic sanctions against North Korea  
     2 (2%)
 
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