“Coercion to Partnership” and the Flaws of an Unbalanced World

29 december 2011

International Relations After the Soviet Union’s Demise

Alexei Bogaturov is professor and First Deputy Principal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russian Foreign Ministry. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

Resume: In the post-nuclear age, or rather beginning with NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia, military campaigns have actually turned into international political campaigns. The new strategic logic aims not to destroy an enemy state but to overpower it with a view to subordinating it to the victor’s interests politically and economically.

For the last twenty years the world system has been developing in the absence of bipolarity. Although theoretically the potential of mutual nuclear deterrence between the United States and Russia still exists, its international political value has sharply decreased. First of all, because political will to use nuclear weapons in a major war has decreased enormously in Moscow and Washington since the “Soviet times”. Secondly, because the probability of such a war is now very low. And thirdly, because the emergence of a wide range of new ways to use power over the last 20 years allows technologically advanced countries to achieve any political goals by means of pre-nuclear instruments of power.

A NEW MEANING OF WAR

The emergence of high-precision weapons, a giant leap in the development of space reconnaissance equipment, the achievement of a qualitatively new level in combat operations control, and the development of depleted uranium ammunition and other types of advanced weapons have greatly changed the nature of war. Planned and ongoing wars of the post-nuclear age have become smaller in scale and more complex in organization. Classical pre-nuclear and nuclear wars were viewed primarily as armed struggle aimed to destroy the enemy’s potential for resistance and bring him to terms.

In the post-nuclear age, or rather beginning with NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia, military campaigns have actually turned into international political campaigns. The new strategic logic aims not to destroy an enemy state but to overpower it with a view to subordinating it to the victor’s interests politically and economically. The meaning of war has changed from inflicting a military defeat on the enemy to “tailoring” it to the attacker’s needs. In the 2000s through the 2010s, the political component of war became equal with the military one and even markedly exceeded it, at least in terms of organizational, political, ideological, informational, financial, economic and other non-military resources used to achieve victory.

The military part of war per se now is not its culmination but preamble, followed by a long-drawn resource-intensive phase in which the military are unable to achieve victory on their own. As a result, on the one hand, civilian specialists of non-traditional professions are now involved in wars on a much broader scale than before. These are PR experts, religious scholars, political consultants, psychologists, sociologists and, finally, managers.

On the other hand, there is now demand for a new type of military leader – not just a talented strategist and tactician but an administrator who can equally successfully win military campaigns and build a peaceful life in a conquered country, as well as refashion this country according to a political design project that the attacking party already has at the beginning of the campaign. The present ideal commander is not a war general like Georgy Zhukov or Alexander Suvorov, but rather a reformer general like Douglas MacArthur, who not so much “defeated” Japan as tailored and laid the foundation of its new political system during the American occupation from 1945 to 1951. Today, this type is embodied by U.S. General David Petraeus, who headed the conciliation missions first in U.S.-occupied Iraq and then in Afghanistan.

The new type of war and the new type of commander are products of the new instrumental purpose of combat actions. In previous centuries, their goal was most often to establish direct control over a territory and its resources. In this century, the political goal of attack has become not so much to eliminate the enemy as acquire a partner – of course, not an equal but a junior, subordinate partner susceptible to the influence of the stronger party to this “partnership.”

Of course, unbalanced and asymmetric “partnerships” existed in former times, too. Such are the United States’ allied relations with all NATO members, Japan, South Korea and Australia. But these “partnerships” were built gradually, as partner countries grew aware of the commonality of their security problems. In addition, they were built voluntarily and through diplomatic channels.

The novelty of the 21st-century experience is the formation of such partnerships by the United States through war, by means of force. Washington (and Brussels?) wants to transform Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya into such “partners.” For now, there is not enough empirical data to judge how efficient the policy of coercion to partnership will be. But obviously it is already increasingly influencing international practices in so far as the most powerful country, the United States, contributes to its propagation.

It is hardly coincidental that the phenomenon of coercion to partnership emerged in the last 15 years. It would not have appeared if relatively weak countries had had a choice. But in the present international environment a country that the United States has for some reason found attractive as a “subordinate partner” has little chance to avoid becoming one without risking its sovereignty and security. The reason why there is no alternative is the hegemonic position of the U.S. in the global configuration, and this state of affairs is a direct result of the Soviet Union’s breakup.

In the bipolar world, the two superpowers had to display caution and wait for a favorable concourse of circumstances to win over new satellites. It was simply dangerous and risky to “grab” a country that caught one’s fancy – that country could ask for support from the rival nation. After the Soviet Union’s breakup, the risks disappeared. Some of the former “brothers in socialism” hurried to side with NATO, as it spelled economic benefits for them. It took the West ten years to incorporate their resources in the pool opened for use by the United States.

Later, it turned out that the voluntary contributions of the new partners were not enough or that the quality of the resources was not very good. Anyway, someone came to think that the Euro-Atlantic region, with all of its potential, was too small. NATO became interested in Asia. And since the idea of joining, joyfully and voluntarily, the ranks of junior American partners was not very popular among Asian countries, there emerged the need for the logic of coercion to partnership.

Of course, one can ritually speculate about the “emerging multipolarity,” “multi-vector development,” BRICS, China and, finally, a non-polar world. These are all intellectual mind games, witty observations, but, most likely, fanciful or nostalgic hypotheses of respected and talented Russian and foreign colleagues of Eduard Batalov, Charles Kupchan, John Ikenberry and some others. But the point is not theory and poles but what type of international behavior continues to dominate. And the one that does now is the U.S.-NATO type – aggressive, ideologized, based on complex superiority and rarely compromising. If the world’s structure is really changing (actually, this process is already going on), it is not very noticeable at the level of state behavior. One should not ignore structural changes, yet one should not overestimate their real value, either.

CONFLICTS THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO SETTLE

The reduced military and political competitiveness of the international environment has brought about changes in the settlement of armed conflicts, where unilateral approaches now dominate. Almost all major regional conflicts of the era of bipolarity were conflicts of attrition; in addition to direct parties to conflicts, they also involved, mostly indirectly, several large and medium-sized powers. This was the case in Cambodia, Southern Africa, Central America and Afghanistan at the “Soviet” stage of the war. Accordingly, those conflicts ended in multilateral settlement, which in some cases was beautifully described as “national reconciliation.” Except for Afghanistan, which was a special case, such reconciliation mostly worked.

Nothing of the kind happens now. There has been no settlement as such anywhere over the last 20 years. The national reconciliation in Tajikistan was, perhaps, the only case of a more or less viable settlement on a multilateral basis. Accidentally or, on the contrary, characteristically, the role played by the West in that settlement was minimal. So, it was not an “equilibrium” settlement in the full sense of the word, that is, one worked out with symmetrical involvement of Western, pro-Western and non-Western parties.

It means that symmetrical settlement has stopped working in the absence of bipolarity, while asymmetrical settlement does not work the way it did before, because it is based not on compromise (a balance of interests) but on the suppression of the interests of the weaker party by the interests of the stronger one.

This may be the reason for the marked increase in the number of frozen but never settled conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria and South Ossetia, and, to some extent, even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One can hardly describe the decisions on Kosovo, Abkhazia and Northern Cyprus as diplomatically optimal or even satisfactory. The stronger parties impose their decisions on the weaker ones, but they are unable to provide the required international political support for them. The unilateral type of regulation prevails regardless of whether it is driven by the West or Non-West. The parties involved cite different reasons to justify their actions, but the model of their behavior is equally uncompromising.

Interestingly, the durability of this kind of settlement should raise serious doubts, but the reality shows otherwise. Such uncompromising and incomplete settlement reveals relative durability. Apparently, it can already be viewed as an unrecognized norm, some new – and working – invariant of conflict settlement in the 21st century. Should we then continue trying to squeeze the settlement of such conflicts into our notions of “how things should be,” if these notions took shape in the bipolar era and if they do not meet the present realities at all?

For all the importance of formal legal procedures for settlement, in reality it is more important whether or not an empirically found solution can ensure peace and development, even if its legal confirmation is difficult or impossible – not in principle but in the foreseeable future.

The absence of the Soviet Union as a counterbalance to the West has fundamentally changed the type of settlement of international conflicts and made settlement terms less balanced, more unilateral, but, at the same time, quite durable at times. Would it not be wise then to recognize the objective nature of this change and stop wasting resources on addressing problems that have already passed the stage of “self-regulation” (as, for example, in Kashmir) or that were resolved by force, with an obvious predominance of the interests of only one party, yet resolved deeply and reliably enough (Bosnia, Kosovo, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh)?

There is one more intriguing aspect to modern conflicts. Whereas all the above situations began as local quarrels without large countries being involved, the conflicts of the 2000s arose as a direct consequence of U.S. attacks on relatively weak Asian countries. The conflicts of the 1990s look like the result of more or less spontaneous outbursts of mutual hostility and misunderstanding between neighboring ethnic groups and peoples. The wars of the 2000s were orchestrated by one country and seem to be subordinate to one logic emanating from a single center.

Their formal ideological and political motive is democratization by force. Marxist dogmas on the export of socialist revolutions pale beside the chimera that is being created before our eyes. But the ideology of forced democratization is only a cover-up. The strategic outcome of the conflicts of the 2000s looks like a not very successful attempt to consolidate part of the international periphery under U.S. aegis and on condition of it becoming a zone of predominantly American influence. The absence of rivalry for influence in that zone of international political space makes such consolidation fully dependent on the will and resources of the United States. In the absence of the Soviet Union, neither China nor Russia can – even if they wanted to – prevent Washington from configuring this space the way that suits it best.

The loose and uncompetitive international environment provokes the most aggressive part of the American establishment to seek positional advantages in the mainland of Eurasia, apparently with a view to possible rivalry with China. The settlement of conflicts involving the United States is not settlement. It is violent suppression of pockets of resistance to the expansion of NATO’s military responsibility to strategic Asian territories.

For 20 years, this suppression has been of a preventive nature. It is done in advance, under the pretext of the need to democratize the world. It can be done anywhere on the planet, if the U.S. establishment comes to think that control over a given area is essential for strengthening the United States’ global superiority, which, in the absence of the Soviet Union, the U.S. seeks to maintain for as long as possible.

It is not accidental that Washington reacts so strongly to the self-will of Iran – a strong and outspoken opponent of Americanization of the Middle East and northern fragments of South Asia. Iran, not included in the system of American “subordinate partners” and hostile to the U.S., is a gap in a prospective belt of countries friendly to Washington and stretching from North Africa to Central Asia to the border of China.

INDIA: A LONG-DISTANCE PARTNERSHIP MODEL

After 1991, Russia fell back in all parameters of international power and has never since achieved the position and status that the Soviet Union enjoyed. Non-Western countries have benefited from this change as much as the West. China and India have used the advantages they gained in the 1990s, when the United States, meeting no resistance from Moscow and in view of the marginalization of Moscow’s influence, began to give too much attention to these countries in order to prevent their new siding with Moscow against Washington.

India’s international reorientation looked especially contrasting (compared with the era of bipolarity and non-alignment). Perhaps, it was a concurrence, uniquely successful for New Delhi, of historical, economic and political circumstances. As far as we can judge, the objective course of India’s social and economic development in the 1990s brought it to a point where the country urgently needed advanced technological expertise, foreign investment and a general growth of ties with the most developed states for a further breakthrough.

The Soviet Union, even if it had not broken up, would have been unable to ensure better quality for India’s international relations. On the contrary, India’s 50-years-long orientation “more towards Moscow than Washington,” which was necessitated by the military-political situation, was an obstacle to New Delhi’s shift of attention to ties with the West. The collapse of the Soviet Union removed this obstacle, quite painlessly for India.

By around the same time, it became obvious that the “legacy” of traditional Gandhism had come to an end. There formed a bipolar political system in the country. The Indian National Congress now was led by new people who avoided breaking with the ideological values taught by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, yet they revised them without being accused of revisionism. The new politicians paid tribute to the importance of cooperation with Moscow, but they understood that it was not their country’s priority.

India successfully joined in the economic globalization. Thanks to outsourcing, Indian knowledge-based businesses began to work for U.S. corporations, thus enriching themselves, bringing revenues for overseas corporations, and increasing the Indian industrial and technological potential. Thus an economic and industrial basis was built for Indo-American rapprochement – “flesh on the bones” of the mutual political interest that emerged between New Delhi and Washington.

Another factor that contributed to this rapprochement was Pakistan, although it did this against its own will. Undermined by internal struggle between the military and civilian elites, by confrontation between the central government and tribal nationalism and separatism, and finally by struggle between the secular government and Islamic extremists, Pakistan in the 1990s and the 2000s ceased to be a mainstay of U.S. policy in South Asia.

Pakistan not simply lost its dominant position in the system of U.S. priorities in South Asia. Washington began to think of scenarios in which Pakistan could become a hypothetical opponent of U.S. policy in the region as a result of domestic upheavals (the seizure of power by religious fanatics). Moreover, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan in 1998, coupled with internal instability, created a threat of an “Islamic bomb,” which caused the U.S. to seek closer ties with India. Indian diplomacy seized the role of a privileged partner of the United States in regional affairs from Pakistan. Washington took a favorable position towards India on its de facto nuclear status and recognized New Delhi’s special positions on some international issues. Thus, there emerged a U.S.-Indian partnership, not typical of the bipolar era, which largely replaced the traditional U.S.-Pakistani alliance.

There is also another unusual aspect to it. India does not look like Washington’s junior partner. Meanwhile, the U.S. foreign-policy traditions do not recognize equal partnerships. This is one of the main reasons why efforts to build a partnership between the U.S. and Russia, repeatedly made over the last 20 years, have failed. So, the partnership between New Delhi and Washington is a very special phenomenon, in which an element of partner relations is counterbalanced by elements of India’s independence. Feeling and recognizing its increased attachment to the U.S. economy and politics, India does not allow its foreign policy to “dissolve” in U.S. foreign policy and become its yet another regional/country emanation – like the foreign policies of Britain, Japan or Poland.

From the point of view of the American traditions, while India maintains its foreign-policy independence in relations with the United States, the U.S.-Indian cooperation cannot be viewed as a partnership – only as a “long-distance” or “detached” partnership, that is, one that is not very close.

Interestingly, in its relations with the United States India has partly managed to achieve what Russia has not. Unlike Russia, India is more of a winner than a loser in its partnership with Washington. This is what makes it different from Russia’s quasi-partnership with the United States, in which Moscow loses some of its freedom of action, formerly almost boundless, each time it tries to establish closer relations with Washington. India has never had such freedom of action, so it does not feel its limitations in developing cooperation with the U.S., especially as differences between the two countries on the Pakistan issue have temporarily lost their value.

India’s “detached partnership” allows it to maintain constructive relations with Washington and, at the same time, attend BRICS meetings and participate in BRICS-related diplomatic and economic maneuvering, not very active though, without having to justify itself. The collapse of bipolarity, which has made the idea of non-alignment senseless, has not prevented India from using the new features of the global situation to its own advantage. The Indians hardly feel nostalgic for the Soviet Union, although, perhaps, they are grateful to it – not only for its historical contribution to the strengthening of India’s independence, but also for the objective expansion of the room for international maneuver, which has opened for them after 1991.

“STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP” CHINESE-STYLE

China is a different story. Unlike Russia and India, it has never proclaimed a desire to build particularly close relations with Washington. Beijing highly values freedom of action. The United States views partnership as U.S. patronage for those who accept it (for whatever reason). Partnership Chinese-style is a “partnership of symbols and distant goals”: “We are friends against some danger,” but each of us maintains this friendship the way one deems right and necessary – for as long as one’s actions do not run counter to the declared goal of friendship. This is an offbeat yet working variant.

Such was the logic of the Chinese-U.S. and Chinese-Japanese partnerships against “the hegemony of one country” (that is, the Soviet Union) from 1972 to the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1982. There were many sometimes frightening hints and statements, demonstrative and very active diplomatic maneuvering – and a zero level of actual joint action.

In the 1990s and later, the rhetoric changed. But the logic, it seems, remained unchanged. It was Chinese diplomacy that introduced the phrase “strategic partnership” into the international vocabulary. However, not a single specialist in China, Russia or the United States knows what it really means. It is only known that Beijing has bound itself with many countries – large and medium-sized – with such “partnerships.” They include the United States, Russia, countries of Central Asia, Japan, South Korea, and some countries of the European Union and Southeast Asia.

Such a peculiar attitude to partnership allows Beijing to simultaneously develop pragmatic relations with Russia, the U.S. and India – countries with which it is sometimes difficult to find common ground as regards their international priorities – without any ideological, theoretical, political and philosophical complications. But Chinese diplomacy does not burden itself with looking for common ground. China’s cooperation with each of the above countries is developing as if in parallel worlds. If there arises a conflict over the Syria issue in the UN Security Council, Beijing gives priority to a diplomatic bloc with Moscow. If it is to discuss trade preferences and investment regimes in East Asia, it interacts mostly with the U.S. and Japan. If there comes another round of disagreements over Taiwan, China again speaks of the firmness of “unified” approaches of Moscow and Beijing to territorial integrity of countries. So, it turns out that a “strategic partnership” stands for a mutual decision “to be friends for a long and happy time” without burdening each other with commitments to give practical assistance but speaking about such assistance and promising to give it, if possible and if this does not involve great expense.

It is hard to say whether this attitude of China to partnership is temporary or based on principle. Often it seems that China really likes the American interpretation of partnership as a partnership between the leader and the one led. China simply is not ready yet to lead too many countries. Beijing understood earlier than Moscow that partners that are led are a burden which must be borne by the one who seeks to be the leader (something that Russia must think of with regard to its relations with its neighbors in the Commonwealth of Independent States).

Deng Xiaoping’s “school” has taught the Chinese to weigh their desires against their capabilities. Therefore, a probable assimilation by China of the American understanding of partnership is a matter of the future. At present, Chinese diplomacy acts on the platform of non-burdensome “partnership at will and where possible.” This is what is called “strategic partnership” – in short, partnership as non-aggression.

China’s attitude to present-day Russia is closely intertwined with its attitude to the Soviet legacy. China views not Russia but rather itself as the successor to the international role played by the Soviet Union 20 years ago. There is an impression that the Chinese are even somewhat embarrassed about Russian politicians and ordinary citizens underestimating the Soviet Union’s political, economic, cultural and social achievements, at any rate those made from the 1950s-1980s.

Hence the varied perception of modern Russia. On the one hand it is viewed as the legitimate owner of the historical heritage, the value of which it cannot and does not want to duly appreciate. On the other hand, it is a state which once again is unable to become strong enough to pursue a policy worthy of a great power. How, for example, can it be as independent in international affairs as China is and, at the same time, be as attractive an economic partner as China for countries that are suspicious of Russia, above all the U.S.?

In addition, although Russia is a respected country, it can be used for the rise of China, which can, wants to and does find ways to peacefully develop Russia’s resources without entering into an open conflict with it but taking into account all the vices of the Russian state and society. Perhaps, the Chinese are embarrassed to do so, but if the Russians themselves are unable to establish order in their own affairs due to their selfishness and greed, why miss the chance to take advantage of the systemic vices of Russian life for the sake of China? These bitter thoughts are of the Russians, not the Chinese.

RUSSIA: POWER AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR REAPING PROFITS

Russia, deceived by Boris Yeltsin who himself was fooled by Leonid Kravchuk, renounced the Soviet Union in the hope of speedy enrichment by getting rid of its voluntary obligations to subsidize countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Twenty years after, the international political costs of this gambit are higher than gains.

Above all, Russia’s foreign-policy resource has dwindled and has never reached the level that existed in the Soviet Union. First, there is insufficient material basis for diplomatic work. None of the new Russian embassies in the CIS countries is equipped the way Soviet missions abroad were in technical terms and in terms of integrated security, including information security. Meanwhile, special services of many interested rival countries actively engage in intelligence gathering in all CIS countries.

Second, the organizational resource of Russian diplomacy has decreased, too. The last 20 years have seen the depletion of highly qualified personnel from the diplomatic service due to natural aging, switchover to work for a Russian or foreign business, or simply a brain-drain. Meanwhile, diplomatic work has lost its appeal for young people because it does not pay enough to afford housing and start a family – and, possibly, raise would-be diplomats.

As a result, the general level of diplomats’ professionalism has stopped growing, and many unique skills of Soviet-era diplomats – first of all, the skill of professional negotiators in economic, military and political fields – have been lost or are on the brink of loss. Economic negotiations have not become a special aspect of official diplomacy due to a low demand for it: companies seek to negotiate with foreign partners independently and often concealing the negotiations from diplomats because the issues discussed sometimes include shadow dealings.

Third, the resource of Russia’s cultural, psychological and ideological influence has suffered irreparable damage, as now it can be a paragon of attractiveness in terms of living conditions only for people in other CIS members and some Asian countries. The changes in the cultural and psychological image of Russia, which make it comfortable for people from Asia, reduce the attractiveness of the Russian way of life for people espousing Western tastes and standards.

Suffice it to mention endless rows of restaurants in Russian streets offering not Russian but Caucasian cuisine, or former municipal markets in Moscow and St. Petersburg which looked Asian and Caucasian in appearance, in sellers’ behavior towards buyers and in the range of products on sale. Or take the Moscow subway where half of the passengers are Asians. The “Asianization” and “provincialization” of behavior has affected even the more educated student environment. Instead of teaching manners befitting a civilized society to students from other regions, for example from the Caucasus (provincials gravitating towards a semi-rural way of life), Russian students themselves pick up the provincial way of interaction from Caucasians and their disdain for common decencies and cultural manners.

The behavior of gypsy cab drivers and private car owners on Russian roads is a replica of the traditional reckless driving practiced by people in the South Caucasus in Soviet times. Today, such driving is practiced in Moscow, which now looks like a “v-e-e-e-ry large” Tiflis, Vladikavkaz or Baku. (Former Moscow Mayor) Yuri Luzhkov laid a corrupt bureaucratic foundation for Moscow’s prosperity. But it was also him who started Moscow’s Asianization. Now this city is attractive to those who are greedy and poor, who do not appreciate European culture and are not going to obey the law.

Fourth, none of the three rulers of independent Russia has found a cure for its oil and gas curse over the last 20 years. It was only in the early 2010s that the Russian government declared transition to a knowledge-based economy as a priority area and made its first faltering steps towards it. The state has again concentrated immense power in its hands and regained the ability to focus resources on priority areas. However, the effectiveness of efforts to build a high-tech sector is blocked by corruption in the budget allocation system. The authorities are unable to destroy the corrupt system because it has been an inherent part of the state machinery since the times of Boris Yeltsin.

After the Soviet Union’s breakup, the provinces returned to the “feeding” system which changed little since the Russian Middle Ages. Having lost hope of enriching themselves through loyalty to the federal government, regional elites began to look for incomes in their own regions. Those who had an entrepreneurial spirit solved their problems. An ability to produce local income and hide it from federal and regional revenue services became the key to wealth and power. The provinces and provincial elites have learned to live and survive without Moscow’s assistance. Of course, the quality of life there is poorer than in the capital, but it is not so bad. In fact, they only repeated the experience of the Moscow mayor who separated the municipal economy from the federal one and who found sources of local income that exceeded budgets of many federal agencies.

In international terms, of special interest is the practice of interaction between regional and Moscow authorities and ethno-business – not only foreign but also Russian-based. The majority of Russian provincial leaders consider themselves patriots. Russian slogans are very popular in regions dominated by ethnic Russians. But things change as soon as there arises a temptation to lay one’s hands on local unreported income – for example, income from a grocery market run by Azerbaijanis, from a clothing flea market controlled by the Vietnamese, or from a Chinese community that has illegally settled in a desolate village and that has flooded the local market with good vegetables, while remaining “invisible” to the tax authorities.

Perhaps it was this practice of deriving local “cover income,” deeply rooted among municipal authorities, the police and fiscal structures, which fueled the talk about peaceful and officially unnoticed “colonization” by foreign ethnic communities of rural and urban areas in the Russian regions. The destruction of the Soviet Union was intended as Russia’s liberation from the “supranational economic yoke.” In actual fact, it opened the way for the establishment of economic power that is very far apart from the ideas of national prosperity in Russia.

It is questionable whether foreign ethnic businesses can increase the resource of Russia’s national foreign policy. It is hard to believe that the government does not see this problem. The simple explanation is that after 1991 the elites have been bent on their own enrichment through deriving income in an alliance with any business. Patriotism has no role to play in their policies. Power has become an instrument for deriving profits – this is a peculiarity of the Russian political system and one of its systemic vices.

* * *

In terms of Russian national consciousness, the main result of the Soviet Union’s breakup was the reduction of Russia’s foreign-policy potential and the weakening of its international positions. As the Russian political system is moving in a vicious circle, there are no grounds to think that this weakening can be reversed. The collapse of the world’s bipolar structure, brought about by the disappearance of the Soviet Union, threw the world architecture off balance and brought disharmony into international relations. U.S. attempts to use this historic opportunity and create a unipolar structure in the world that would serve the United States have failed. Partly it was due to Washington’s resource-intensive foreign policy, and partly due to objective reasons – the complication of global economic, cultural, ideological, migration, demographic and political processes beyond the level where they could be regulated using resources and the will of one nation, even as powerful as the United States. There must be coexisting alternatives in the world. Thus far, none of the other major powers has been able – or seeking – to offer them.

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