A Time to Cast Stones

15 june 2008

Timofey Bordachev - Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics, and Director of the Eurasian Program at the Valdai Club Foundation. He holds a Doctorate in Political Science.

Fyodor Lukyanov is Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Resume: Russia’s gradual but irreversible return to the global economy and politics opened up new opportunities – and simultaneously set new requirements and structural restrictions to the national foreign policy. Russia emerged a full-fledged player in global politics in the first years of this century and displayed a conduct completely proportionate to that politics.

Foreign policy is apparently one of the most colorful and widely discussed aspects of Vladimir Putin’s two terms as Russian president. Regardless of any subjective assessments of the course that he set in 2000-2008, everyone acknowledges that a qualitative change has taken place in the country’s international positions during his presidency. Russia’s activity has intensified and its presence in the international arena has become much more noticeable.

It is hardly possible to analyze Russia’s foreign policy at the beginning of this century in isolation from the general tendencies of international relations. These tendencies set the frame and conditions – very stringent at times – for a country’s foreign policy. The international system functions along principles that are mostly unchangeable, but it enwraps countries in an atmosphere of tougher or milder competition and sets the interests of one country against the other. It displays dynamic diversity and constantly puts countries in the face of ever more hitherto unseen challenges. Producing a reaction to them is a method of survival for a sovereign state, and these reactions often determine the participants’ internal development and the style of their conduct at the international level.

The foreign policy actions that the Kremlin took between 2000 and 2008 show up in a different light if they are placed in a global context and are not viewed from the traditional viewpoint of relationships between Russia and separate international partners.

An opinion poll done at the BBC’s request in December 2007 showed that almost half of the respondents (45 percent) in G7 countries and 47 percent of those polled in another 30 countries had a favorable assessment of Putin’s influence on relations between Russia and the rest of the world. Unfavorable assessments were made by 40 percent and 28 percent of respondents respectively. The same poll taken in Russia revealed an overwhelming endorsement of the president’s foreign policy, with 86 percent supporting it and only four percent objecting to it.

Assessments of the impact that Putin’s presidency has had on global peace and security reveal a still greater difference, as 47 percent of those polled in the G7 summed it up as bad, compared to 38 percent who thought the opposite. The corresponding indicators in the 30 other countries stood at 43 and 33 percent. As for Russia, 76 percent of the respondents here praised the Kremlin’s role and only four percent called it negative.

A poll taken by the Levada Center in January 2008 showed that 60 percent of Russians believe that the country has been following a rational course in the international arena (compared to 41 percent in 2005), while the percentage of those who think that Russia’s policy is confined to reacting to sudden circumstances has dropped to 21 percent from 40 percent over the past three years. Encouraging indicators grew sharply over the twelve months from January 2007-January 2008.

Sociology registers fluctuations in public opinion, while the mass media seeks to shape it. Assessments of Putin’s foreign policy heritage that have been expressed in public are more often than not very emotional and over-ideologized. Everyone admits that at the beginning of the new century the Kremlin veered off the road that Russia had started down after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some observers are happy with that, while others predict a rebirth of the ‘Evil Empire.’

The disappearance of the bipolar system meant the emergence of broad prospects for the side that had won the ideological fight. But in spite of wide-ranging ambitions, the major international players proved unable to stabilize the situation after 1991 and let the system develop along its own rules.

The only thing that the most advanced layer of humankind was able to accomplish over the decade and a half that has elapsed since the end of the Cold War was to spread the European Union’s and NATO’s realm over a dozen or so countries that did not play key roles in international politics; to drive both organizations into a profound identity crisis; and to become mired in the muscle-ridden democratization of the ‘Greater Middle East.’ Now everyone is free to search for the sources of building up own strength independently.

Russia’s gradual but irreversible return to the global economy and politics opened up new opportunities – and simultaneously set new requirements and structural restrictions to the national foreign policy. Finally, the nature of Russia’s activity after 2000 and especially after 2003 was determined by the dynamics of its own economic and political development.

Russia emerged a full-fledged player in global politics in the first years of this century and displayed a conduct completely proportionate to that politics.

ENTERING A ZONE OF TURBULENCE

There were two factors that determined the content of Russian foreign policy in the period of 2000-2008 in practical terms.

First, internal development trends mostly forced the government to focus on a search for answers to the newest challenges.

Second, the general condition of the international system, which has hit the billiard balls of the interests of major world countries against one another more and more forcefully. The broad spread of anarchy is not a new historical phenomenon at all, but unlike in previous historical eras, the disappearance of clear international rules, which is taking place right in front of our eyes, has been magnified by objectively broadening economic interdependence.

Signs increasingly appeared in the first years of the century that the international system was entering a “zone of turbulence.” By way of capitalizing on this metaphor, which the U.S. political scholar Leon Aron used to describe Russia-U.S. relationship, one can say that the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was the biggest “air bump” of them all. This action, which ran counter to international law and the logic of rational behavior as well, made it clear as day that one could hardly count on the emergence of a more or less stable world order.

In full correlation with the quality of the international environment, Russia assimilated a build-up of its own relative strength as a principle of foreign policy to an ever-growing degree. One should especially consider the moral and physical resources for this, which Moscow had accumulated by the middle of this decade. This turn of events inevitably bred confrontational elements in the country’s conduct, especially noticeable in the regions and spheres of activity where it still had competitive advantages – in the energy sector, in governing the crucial institutions of international security, and in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

Moscow tried moving as forward as possible in all areas accessible for expansion. It also adopted a new common practice of dropping the dogmatic veneration of the principles it had formerly accepted. Since Moscow was not restricted by the frameworks of military and political blocs with Europe or the U.S., the intensification of its foreign policy was forced to take the form of saber rattling and ostentatious innuendoes against the North-Atlantic vis-à-vis.

At the same time, Russia could not ignore a growing mutual penetration in the economy and culture. As it tried to cope with a huge mass of opportunities brought up by globalization and to keep aftermaths of the latter under control, the Russian government copied much from its partners in the West and the East. The concentration of economic instruments of foreign policy under the direct or tentative control of the state came as a reaction to their growing role in international politics and broader global processes of reorganizing private-state relations.

Involvement in those processes became unavoidable for Russia as it switched over to a market economic model and as its openness to the world kept growing. Amid the rather messy international environment, it was hardly worthwhile to expect support and empathy from partners. The state was able to tap answers to some of the challenges of globalization inside the country – and it bumped into a structural requirement to spread this practice to areas outside its political borders. This immediately generated contradictions with other parties to international relations.

This is quite possibly why Russian foreign policy has become hyperactive rather than successful in the literal sense in recent years. Furthermore, the state has demonstrated a lack of readiness to use ‘soft power’ in competitive struggle – cross-border or completely nongovernmental instruments, which no one knew about at the dawn of the 1990s when the foundations of Russia’s new statehood were in the inception phase.

Judging from the platforms of the main U.S. presidential candidates, there are no signs that the world is going to become any more stable in the years to come. Washington is not changing its orientation toward securing global leadership, while the external conditions for this have worsened and the U.S. is past the peak of its opportunities. It is equally questionable – and in saying this we draw on the public statements and actions of Old World politicians – that countries will quickly learn to control cross-border processes efficaciously and without damaging their own basic functions. It is possible to stabilize separate regions and sectors of the economy (although the success in this sphere is still moderate enough), but the pot of world politics will continue to simmer for an indefinite period ahead.

Thus a transition from the Cold War model to a new status quo of some kind – the character of which is yet to become clear – continues, and in this situation it would be risky for the Russian state to begin to “gather stones together” in an attempt to build a new system of relations with its outside partners. There is a great risk of being peppered with stones thrown by those who still continue to toss them. It is important, however, to know when it is the right time to start gathering stones together.

RUSSIA AND THE UNGOVERNABLE WORLD

In each specific situation one or more group of countries in the international arena plays a decisive role that either helps to stabilize the situation or jolts it. But by and large, international processes are uncontrollable. Unlike in previous historical periods, neither separate countries nor ‘concerts of powers’ (calls for their revival were often heard in the 1990s and the early 2000s) have the ability to act as conductors on the global scale.

Implementing the New Global Order project had become impossible by the beginning of the new millennium even within the limits of a Greater Europe – widely viewed as the territory from the Atlantic Ocean to Vladivostok and from Svalbard to Mount Ararat. Russia and Ukraine – two crucial elements of the European security system – found themselves outside the framework of NATO and the European Union, the international institutions to which Western Europe and North America attached key significance. As a result, the scale of their expansion, which some experts, including Charles Kupchan, described as a unique opportunity to stabilize a new quality of the international system after 1991, appeared to be insufficient for solving such a momentous task. NATO and the EU engulfed countries whose influence on the system of international relations was indecisive at best.

The situation was further aggravated by the impossibility of making the UN a center of global power. The UN was founded in conditions of tough confrontation between two poles of power and had the goal of coordinating national interests in fairly simple and clear conditions. Now it cannot be readjusted to meet the demands of either an imperial or a multipolar world. The UN’s life as an institution of global political governance is clearly rolling toward an end, although this fact will not affect its future existence as a cluster of many useful specialized international agencies.

The attempts to impose a ‘soft’ model of hegemonistic stability in the form of the so-called ‘unipolar world’ where the U.S. and NATO would assume global responsibilities produced equally meager results. It turned out to be impossible to build the imperial order that many dreamed of throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. The current world has about 200 social entities and some five billion inhabitants, and even the only remaining superpower does not have the ability to maintain order in all of the corners of the empire.

A lack of ability to launch offensives by one of the sides immediately leads to growing pressures – forcible or peaceful – from others. As a result, as Thierry de Montbrial indicates, the U.S. – a potential hegemon – continues to lose its superiority, all the more so that new players are entering the international arena.

The entire period of 2000-2008 is evidence of a growth in pressure coming out of China – one more key player that is building up its economic and, partly, military power. Beijing has not shown any interest in joining communities of nations, in which membership could hurt the opportunities for China’s own sovereign course. Meanwhile, the latter course has the exclusive goal of accumulating power and influence on the global stage.

China’s unrelenting persistence produces a great impression on other parties in international relations, and this has become a factor that “measures the condition” of the international environment, especially if one considers China’s size in the world’s economic and financial sectors. And even if Beijing is not planning to start taking explicitly aggressive actions, the swelling of its military power and formation of a zone of political and economic dominance makes one suspect that China is preparing itself militarily.

Possible responses to the “Chinese challenge” (frequently overstated) range from full-scale deterrence to engaging it in various structures to coordinate interests. For example, the George W. Bush administration initially took a tough stance against Beijing, then quickly mitigated its approach. One way or another, the very growth of China’s ambitions in various parts of the world has added more heat to the already glowing atmosphere of general competition.

A cautious rapprochement with the Celestial Empire, which Moscow had turned into an element of its foreign policy by the middle of this decade, was inevitable as the Kremlin could not afford to distance itself from a neighbor as strong and potent as China. Yet all attempts to become the leader in that dialog – and Russia will scarcely agree to a non-leading role in Asia – have so far been rejected politely, while China’s “friendly expansionism” requires novel and far more sophisticated methods of counteraction than could be used toward the West, with which Russia has a historical and cultural relationship.

The last year of Vladimir Putin’s first term saw a marked transition from efforts to embed Russia into a structure of international relations formed with disregard for its will to a system based on the new rules of the game – a powerful and rigid promotion of Russia’s fundamental interests. By late 2002 and early 2003, it had become clear that Washington and leading Western European countries were by and large inclined toward conducting a self-reliant policy.

The commitment of Europe’s major powers – France and Germany – to their own vision of a “correct” world order ran into a still firmer conviction from the U.S. that truth was on its side. This brought about the notorious trans-Atlantic split in the UN Security Council regarding the necessity of a military operation against Iraq. The dominance of national priorities over collective ones showed up during the constitutional crisis of the integration process that broke out in the European Union in 2005 and 2006.

Russia drew itself into a discussion instigated by France over Iraq in 2002 and 2003 in the apparent hope of consolidating its positions, above all in Europe. Although Moscow’s zeal for gaining strength was still combined then with the acceptance of restrictions inherent in a multilateral approach, hopes for forging a steady trilateral (Paris-Berlin-Moscow) European format, one capable of widening the embrace of European integration and placing it in a new dimension, vanished very quickly. One could see clearly fairly soon that each member of the triangle pursued its own goals and had no interest in mapping out a common agenda. Russia, too, adopted the principle of “everyone’s a solo player” quickly enough.

The U.S. not only became the butt of harsh criticism after its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq encountered nationalism of an irrepressible force, as John Mearsheimer, an important personality in the school of structural realism, puts it. The Americans also had to face the fact that their own material resources were diminishing. The fundamentally faulty approach of the so-called Neo-Cons – who were part of the American establishment and who from the very start wanted to install the U.S. as the uncontested leader – led all others to clear-cut conclusions. One could see more and more clearly that not a single country by itself or a political bloc can aspire to absolutely dominate or efficiently govern the international system.

This conclusion unavoidably stimulates other members of the international system – irrespective of their internal structure or political orientation – to beef up their relative strength measured against other countries and to employ all possible instruments and resources. In other words, a growth of general anarchy makes countries more aggressive and competitive.

As the competition gets tougher, each country tries to accumulate all of its aggregate capabilities – military, economic, demographic and others. In the broadest possible sense, the so-called ‘YUKOS case’ that came right on the footsteps of the invasion of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition was a manifestation of exactly this tendency (which naturally does not rule out other motivations related to Russia’s internal structural specificity).

A shift toward tougher state control over foreign investment – which is more and more noticeable in the EU, Russia and to some extent in the U.S. – can be viewed as another testament to the willingness of leading countries to put themselves in “combat readiness.” Protectionist sentiments in the industrially developed part of the world were propelled by political reasons in the first place, as well as by the political and economic rise of new players, including Russia, since it stimulated market competition, both on the newly emerging and the already divided markets in equal measure.


THE SEAMY SIDE OF OUTER PROCESSES

Objective processes in the international arena overlap tendencies that have prevailed in Russia itself, either owing to their innate reasons or to the impact of outside challenges. A discussion on what role the government should play in the economy, politics and public life determines Russia’s political layout.

The cataclysms that Russia has gone through in the past twenty years or so have brought into the spotlight the issue of whether the state and its institutions are capable of stabilizing the situation in society and performing their basic functions. The destruction of the Soviet political and social model – where the state had an absolute monopoly – pushed living standards downhill and ignited ethnic and social strife. Along with this, the new Russian authorities acted within the realm of viewpoints that prevailed in advanced countries in the early 1990s, with an emphasis on free market mechanisms, and they were suspicious about the idea of government regulation.

The real goal behind the privatization of Soviet-era assets was more to break down the former system of life than to create a class of efficient owners. This goal was achieved and the previous model was eradicated. More than that, Russia laid the foundations for a market economy regulated by the mechanisms of private-state partnership. Yet by the end of the 1990s the viability of the state itself was questioned.

The political excesses of privatization – which resulted in key lumps of property falling into the hands of a narrow circle of people – predestined the inevitability of the state’s revenge. As the new century was approaching, the state started to regain control over political and economic power. The man in the street supported the process of centralizing economic management, as he perceived the rising role of the state as a more reliable method of protection against the threats to security in a broader sense, which multiplied exponentially during the previous decade. One proof of this can be found in a poll that the ROMIR research center conducted in January 2004. Almost 65 percent of the respondents believed then that the state must interfere in the economy and 85 percent said that strategic industries must go over to state ownership.

It is noteworthy that those desires fitted into a general tendency toward strengthening the ‘national champions’ in Europe (where France is the best example) and large-scale mergers of private corporations in different countries to the effect of boosting their global competitiveness.

The specific business activity of Russian economic flagships which arose out of the ruins of the Soviet economic system exerts a dual impact on political processes. From the very start, Russian mineral resource majors have been working not on the domestic market, but on the global market amid strong competition. Their growing international competitiveness requires logistical consolidation, which in itself negatively affects the competitive environment inside Russia.

Economists have also pointed out another contradiction: Russian corporations, which so anxiously watch the tightening grip of the state inside the country, are extremely interested in a very strong state that is able to support their external expansion when the situation concerns international business. This objective is explicitly dubious and scarcely achievable. The mounting role of the state in domestic and international economic affairs has become a political reality and, as a consequence, the flagships of the national economy have been organically integrated in the kits of foreign-policy instruments.


DEGRADATION OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

‘Competition’ evolved during Putin’s presidency into a notion that is most typically used to describe the world around us. It is found as necessary in the president’s annual state-of-the-nation addresses to parliament and in statements made by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other high-ranking officials. Vladislav Surkov, the chief ideologist of Russian politics, links ‘competition’ directly to ‘sovereign democracy,’ which he views as the basic concept. “Sovereignty stands for openness, rapport with the world and participation in open struggle, and I’d say sovereignty is a political synonym for competitiveness,” Surkov writes.

The prevalence of competitive motives in defining tactics toward partners inevitably pushes the Russian government – and, frankly speaking, the leaders of other powers as well – into a situation where it has to solve “the prisoner’s dilemma” every single day. (In game theory, the prisoner’s dilemma is a non-zero-sum game where the players have to decide all the time whether it is more beneficial to cooperate with or to betray one another – Ed.) The broader the spectrum of issues presenting mutual interest and the higher the institutionalization of relations – evidence to which is found in Russia’s interaction with the Euro-Atlantic community countries – the more frequently such decision-making is required.

The mistrust that reigns among “prisoner states” has led to the ignoring of reciprocal initiatives that Russia and Western countries had come up with in recent years in a bid to achieve military/political and economic compromises. Simultaneously, the erosion of the world order with its origins in the Cold War is heading for a finale, as the last institutional foundations of that order are corroding. Moscow had tried to act as a status quo power until a certain moment in an attempt to keep at least some parts of the Soviet Union’s political heritage, but after it gained enough strength, the country dashed into a revision of international rules itself.

Russia made public in 2007 its renunciation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) – a Cold War-era fossil – and toughened its stance against the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Prior to that, emphasis was made during the greater part of Vladimir Putin’s presidency (roughly until July 2006) on the consolidation of this country’s positions in the world through engagement in various multilateral formats. The entire approach to foreign policy hinged on the idea of Russia’s integration into the community of advanced countries. Meanwhile, Russia’s understanding of integration, its forms and conditions changed over time and, except for rare occasions, was based on the importance of Russia getting stronger.

The G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July 2006 can be viewed as the peak of Moscow’s intense attention to international institutions. Although the format of the conference hosted by Russia did not envision the discussion of anything serious, its symbolic significance alone made the spending for its preparations worthwhile. That moment also coincided with the peak of Russia’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization, the highest intensification of interest toward the signing of a new basic agreement with the European Union, and the stepped-up activity in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Still, the cooperative approach failed to meet Moscow’s expectations and there were a number of reasons for this. First, the Western partners had unequivocally adopted an instrumental approach to international institutions and rules. No one could leave unnoticed anymore the U.S. and Europe’s inclination to using Russian integration endeavors as a tool for getting one-sided benefits.

The other side of the story is that counterparts in the West and the East stuck to this line of conduct due to a general change in the global situation and not out of trivial petty calculus. This process is objective in some part, as external circumstances change quickly, while the institutional structure still gives off glimmers of the Cold War. For another part, the changes are lubricated by actions by the world’s major powers with the U.S. in the lead, as the latter has long made all the strategic decisions and is acting on the ‘loose hands’ principle.

Russian diplomacy has ultimately adopted that principle, too. Moscow is disappointed with the meager capabilities of international regulations – either universal or effective within individual organizations – for promoting its national interests. An opinion took shape in Russia de facto in 2007 that the existing rules should be revised with account of a new layout of forces, or else no one should insist on their binding force.

The moratorium on the CFE treaty, which we mentioned earlier, the tough stance on the status of Kosovo that thrust the problem of determining it outside the UN Security Council format, the nomination of an alternative candidate for the post of the IMF Managing Director along with demands to reform the organization, a slowing down of the talks on WTO membership, and a virtual denial of the OSCE’s powers fall in line with that approach. On the whole, there is an impression that Russia regards multilateral institutions as inefficient, and since other leading powers do not show any readiness to impart new functions to them, Moscow does not plan to overburden itself with obligations either.

The spirit of competition wields ambiguous influence not only on old institutions, but also on the ones that are still in the phase of formation. Although the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is important for the diversification of Russian foreign policy, its development is perceived as a veiled form of competition between Moscow and Beijing for influence in Central Asia and far less as a forum for the joint resolution of the region’s problems.

Ad hoc coalitions that have proved to be highly productive in recent years – the special formats set up to resolve well-specified issues like the six countries negotiating the Korean nuclear problem or the five countries focusing on the Iranian nuclear program – are regarded as an alternative model, which Russia has begun to turn to.

In contrast to that, measures for engaging institutions that currently exist have not produced any noticeable progress. For instance, the OSCE conference convened at Russia’s demand in the spring of 2007 to discuss the CFE treaty’s prospects brought about nothing. Efforts to add a pan-European dimension to missile defense discussions and to involve Russian and U.S. partners from NATO and the EU into them have been unsuccessful too, as most member-states of those organizations are interested in a bilateral resolution of the problem by Moscow and Washington and do not want to share responsibility for it, not even partly.

The degradation of institutions has affected the pillar of order in the Western world – NATO. The alliance continues to function successfully from the formal point of view, growing and building up its presence in the zone of influence of its former enemy, but in effect it shows signs of a profound conceptual crisis that could be seen vividly in September 2001 when the U.S. rejected proposals from the European partners and preferred to solve the problems of its own security without relying on the alliance.

Further attempts to brace NATO’s combatant spirit and even to give the bloc a global dimension bump into reluctance from Western Europe to take part in combat operations outside the traditional zone of responsibility (and no military threats are in sight there). U.S. and NATO officials air sounds of alarm over a possible defeat in Afghanistan – the only armed conflict where the bloc is involved.

A number of participants in international relations view a multipolar world as a blessing, as they link many evils of the past few years to attempts by a single power to establish global domination. However, they ignore the fact that multipolarity arising amid a dilapidation of global institutions does not mean a reverting to stable multilateral formats. There are grounds to expect an escalating confrontation of “everyone against everyone” and the cropping up of fly-by-night alliances for solutions to specific problems.

The erosion of the clear structure of international relations stirs up general nervousness, and the reaction by leading Western nations to Russia’s symbolic gesture in the summer of 2007, when an expedition to the Arctic Ocean put the Russian tricolor on the ocean floor at the geographic North Pole, served as a graphic indicator of this. Not one Russian official even hinted at the possible international legal effects of such a gesture, yet it produced an outburst of emotions under the slogan “Rebuff Russian expansionism!”

Simultaneously, all countries concerned began instantly to unfold a variety of programs with the aim of guaranteeing their sovereignty in the Arctic, since huge contradictions exist in that region not only between the West and Russia, but also between NATO members.

On the whole, mutual suspicions and mistrust have increased, which can be seen, among other things, in the willingness to tap an abutment point in the surrounding chaos and to bring back the good old format of systemic confrontation. The adherents of this “regularization” most typically clutch at an ideological justification that sets “liberal capitalism” against the “authoritarian” one. They also claim that the Russian and Western sets of values are incompatible.

Political scientist Sergei Karaganov has said that this testifies to the lack of readiness on both sides to strike a “big deal,” which seems only natural from the point of view of rational logic, i.e., the improving of conditions for EU corporations to have access to Russian energy resources and thus build a platform for a Russia-EU strategic union. Nor are the parties ready to solve other – and frequently no less crucial – issues on the bilateral agenda.


THE STATE AND ITS QUALITY

The system dooms the countries to a tough competitive struggle that can reduce to zero the beneficial results of the unavoidable mutual economic and cultural penetration or mutate it into an instrument of control over losers who have failed to adapt to the reality of globalization. That is why the Russian state faces a crucial challenge to meet the requirements for quality that multiply and get more complicated each day.

Generally speaking, the state moved in line with global tendencies during Vladimir Putin’s presidency and reacquired a greater part of the levers of economic, social and political control that had slipped out of its hands in the previous decade. But along with the new successes in that field, questions arise about the efficiency of using these newly obtained levers, as well as about the adaptability of the government machinery and its sensibility to society’s needs.

It is obvious that the current toughening of competitive conduct of states – with Russia’s intense involvement in them – combines with the ever-growing mutual penetration. Of course, there is no arguing that states continue to regulate most cross-border processes (with the exception of acts of God, such as pandemics or global warming). The control embraces spheres like the Internet, or the movement of capital. For instance, the government is physically able to control the work of web servers located on its sovereign territory.

And yet globalization in the economy, politics and – partly – in culture also poses a challenge to the state. As for the global financial markets that were initially controllable by the financial and economic authorities of major countries, they have become complicated to the extent that now they are falling out of any effective control.

Globalization does not change the rules of the game qualitatively (ideas about a decay of sovereignty, which were very popular a decade ago, look quite naïve now), but it forces countries to search for new instruments to execute their functions – redistribution of material values and legitimate use of violence. That is why the quality or – let us put it this way – sophistication in the use of sovereign rights and duties becomes a prerequisite for survival in the anarchic world of the 21st century and a new field for competition between states.

Russian consciousness still operates with an embedded idea that the state is a sovereign dispensing national interests and choosing methods to defend those interests. Globalization greatly complicates the external and internal environment, as it transforms sovereignty, but never wipes it out. To remain efficient, along with keeping hold of the helm of power and forming the political environment, today’s state admits to a large degree of self-regulation, above all through reflection and coordination of various interests in the field of the public good, in the civil sector and in private enterprise.

Last updated 15 june 2008, 15:34

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