Back to the Concert

16 november 2002

Vyacheslav Nikonov, Doctor of History, President of the Polity Foundation,  Deputy Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Russia in Global Affairs journal.

Resume: A concert of powers in which European nations performed throughout the 19th century provided for peace and tranquility on the Continent for almost a hundred years. Today, in an era of overall domination by one country and collapse of the former international architecture, it is time to recall the principles of that Concert. But now the Concert will have to be played according to global scores of the new millennium.

Vyacheslav Nikonov — Doctor of History, President of the Polity Foundation, Deputy Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Russia in Global Affairs journal.

 Vyacheslav Nikonov

Megascenarios for world development in the 21st century are not terribly diverse. The first among them, held to be the mainstream in present-day political thought, is reduced to forecasting American domination for the foreseeable future. U.S. preponderance over all other powers, certainly as concerns the main components of might, is unprecedented. The United States can cope with anything. Arguments to prove American omnipotence become even more convincing when presented with the kind of emotion that always underlies lofty patriotic upsurges, like the one that has swept the United States following the 9/11 tragedy.

In American political quarters any other country is usually discussed not so much from the point of view of potential cooperation, as with regard to its ability to challenge U.S. might or to throw doubt upon the possibility of unilateral action. The rest of the world has perceived the concept of U.S. hegemony as something quite convincing, though not always as a cause for elation.

It is, in many ways, within this framework that the second scenario emerged; a scenario that is associated with anticipation of chaos in international relations and one which has become especially widespread among the left and anti-globalist circles. Humankind faces the prospect of environmental calamities, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a deadly clash of civilizations, of the North and the South. But there will be no one to grapple with these global challenges, for the only superpower that can provide world leadership will be preoccupied with its own egotistic interests that will have little or nothing in common with those of the rest of humankind.

It would seem, however, that there is a third scenario in prospect, too. The world is moving, and will keep moving, towards greater consolidation and governability, rather than increasing unilateral trends and chaos. That is, to the rather forgotten Concert of Powers that provided a century-long peace for Europe from 1815 to 1914.

It will be recalled that the European Concert (let me call it the First Concert here) was born of joint efforts of Russia and Great Britain. The Russian Czar Alexander I, in a benevolent move, suggested that application of force should be relinquished and any conflicts arising should be resolved through arbitration by the great powers. The British Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, however, transformed the idea of the Russian Emperor into a more pragmatic concept based on a balance of power [1]. At the Congress of Vienna, following the downfall of Napoleon’s empire, a sort of diplomatic oligarchy of the victorious powers emerged, in which Russia, Britain, Austria and Prussia undertook to pool their efforts to maintain international stability and status quo. With France soon returning to the “European club” (it was France that had been the target when the Concert was formed), the quartet turned into a “pentarchy,” and, with accession of the Kingdom of Italy, into a “hexarchy,” “the big six” (G-6) of the time. In the late 19th century, the French historian Antoine Debidour described the Concert of the period: “These states have not always lived in full accord. Bitter conflicts have erupted at times between some of them. Some of these states gained in strength and acquired greater influence than before, while others suffered a decline in one way or another and lost their former authority. But not one of them lost its strength to such an extent that the others could destroy it or expel it from the community. All of them continue to exist, time and again ensuring tranquility, equally, by their rivalry and their accord” [2]. In the period of the First Concert, the main strategies of the victor countries were cooperation in the area of security and economic engagement [3].

In my opinion, today, in the conditions of globalization, the Concert will be performed on the global stage with participation, at least, of the U.S.A., Europe, Russia, Japan, India, most probably China, and some other countries.

Naturally, this assumption will evoke plenty of criticisms, chiefly associated with the fact that the First Concert was built on a balance of forces. There can hardly be any talk of balance in a situation where, as they say, “the United States has no rival in any critical dimension of power. There has never been a system of sovereign states that contained one state with this degree of dominance” [4]. How can powers with different clout get along in a Concert? And what can Russia, weakened and thrown back to its boundaries of the 16th century, have to do with a Concert?

Meanwhile, there are reasons to believe that creation of a new Concert is possible. First: even though America is the only superpower today, a certain balance of forces does exist in the world. The U.S.A. is not capable of exercising global regulation unilaterally and will de facto be moving towards more cooperative approaches.

Second: Russia, discarded as it is by many today, remains an important factor in the world system, and can and will, therefore, play a significant and independent role in it.

Third: conditions for a “century-long peace” among great powers are in no way worse than they were in Europe in the 19th century. And the world has already started its long-term movement towards Global Concert, the composition and format of which are yet to be identified.

The U.S.A., The Sole Superpower, But Not The Only Power

The key significance for a hegemonic power is, of course, its economic resources. As a result of the economic boom of the 1990s, the U.S.A. has increased its share in the world economy to 30 percent. This is a very big share. But the figure is less impressive for a more adequate indicator – purchasing power parity, which is put at 21 percent. To be sure, there were countries in world history at a higher or comparable level. In the mid-18th century, China accounted for 32.8 percent of the world production volume, and India in its boundaries of the time (that is, together with Pakistan), for 24.5 percent. Britain held leadership, with 22.9 percent, in 1880, and the United States moved to first place, with 23.6 percent, by 1900 [5]. It isn’t today, but right after World War II that the United States reached its high point in terms of economic might (up to 40 percent) relative to other countries. Today, apart from America, there are other major economic players in the world. The European Union has almost caught up with the U.S.A. in aggregate GDP, while some of the EU countries are ahead of America in standard of living indicators. No doubt, after the expansion of the EU, with countries in Central and Eastern Europe joining, the Union will move to the fore. China’s GDP has trebled in the past 20 years and continues to grow at a rate of 10 percent, surpassing Japan’s indicator. Fast growth has also resumed in post-Soviet countries.

Meanwhile, the situation in the American economy is not very impressive. Continual prosperity has not materialized. Over the past decade, American society has been consuming too much, importing and borrowing too much, and saving too little. Within the two-and-a-half years of stock exchange crises, recessions, and unprecedented corporate scandals and bankruptcies, the U.S. stock markets have lost up to $7 trillion dollars in capital drain. Foreign investments in the U.S. economy in the second quarter of 2002 fell to an all time low since 1995 [6]. When in New York, in July 2002, after a long interval, they switched on the clock recording the size of American public debts it showed a sum of $6.1 trillion dollars which, moreover, was climbing at a rate of $30 a second [7]. The dollar suffers from fevers, and its exchange rate depends on joint currency interventions by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan. Of course, no economic difficulties have ever (at least in the post-World War II period) forced the U.S.A. to give up any of its principal plans in foreign policy. But it is equally clear that the U.S. share in the world economy will be shrinking rather than growing.

America’s military machine is unprecedented. Possessing as it does a giant striking force and unparalleled target precision, it has no equals either at sea, in the air, or in space. But the American ground force (1,384,000 men) is not the most numerous. It is noticeably smaller than that of China (2,470,000) or the aggregate European forces, and only a little bigger than those of India (1,303,000), North Korea (1,082,000) and Russia (1,004,000). In the nuclear arms component, the U.S.A., at least quantitatively (with tactical nuclear warheads counted), lags behind Russia [8]. It is quite possible that the plans of European policies in the area of defense and security, which at present are viewed rather with tongue in cheek, may develop into something more serious. This is the more probable considering the return of the European Union’s main driving force, Germany, to the international military arena in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

But even dominant defense might does not ensure quick achievement of desired political and military results. Can Desert Storm be said to have been that victorious if a new tornado threatens to break out a decade later? After Kosovo, one of the leading Republican Congressmen inquired, “If this is victory, then what in this case is defeat?” It was Russia (and Victor Chernomyrdin personally) that relieved the U.S.A. and NATO from the deadlocked Yugoslav situation, which put into question the ability of the superpower and the alliance it led to act as sole European arbiter. After the quick victory over the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Eastern Afghanistan came a long period of hostilities in other parts of the country, the terrorists’ flight into Pakistan, the shaky situation of the central and local Afghan authorities, an upswing in drug trafficking, mass migration, and humanitarian catastrophe. Meanwhile, bin Laden is apparently alive and kicking. On top of this, in order to achieve military success, the U.S.A. should move in ground forces (something it avoids doing for fear of heavy casualties). The U.S.A. should also be prepared to assume responsibility for restoring the country. However, the money to help Yugoslavia and Afghanistan is allocated chiefly by other countries.

America’s military superiority today is akin to that of Britain’s in the 19th century. Britain at that time dominated the seas (the then sea, air and space) but was weak on the ground, feared “mass retaliation” by any other great power, and cared for its own financial interests. This, however, was no handicap for Britain to play solo in the First Concert.

A hegemonic power that doesn’t want to be at war with all and everyone has to bribe, persuade, use financial, diplomatic and other means. The U.S.A., however, has for many years delayed its payments to international organizations. America is at the bottom of the OECD list in allocating resources, per capita of population, for aid to developing countries (and most of this money is sent directly to the Middle East). In the 1990s, the U.S.A. was closing its embassies and consulates in many countries. The sole superpower proved unable to prevent the emergence of two new nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. It lacks the resources to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, or to protect its own territory from strikes, the most destructive in all U.S. history.

Aspiration for world hegemony in the U.S.A. today is stronger than ever. America has changed considerably, but not to such an extent as it can change its own nature. It was and remains a rather self-centered country, not particularly outward looking to the world around. American political culture has a considerable isolationist stratum within it. This society can hardly maintain for a long time, for decades, an internationalist spirit that is not inherent in it. A new 9/11 would be required to keep up the fighting morale in the U.S.A..ublic opinion would not go along with a unilateral drive. In September 2002, 64 percent of Americans supported efforts to oust Saddam Hussein, but only 30 percent favored going in without allies [9]. Besides, it should be kept in mind that the American two-party system is a real factor. As long as the inertia of “rallying around the flag” keeps its momentum and George Bush’s popularity ratings hit top notch, the Democrats tone down their opposition, but this situation cannot last indefinitely.

The strategy of world hegemony implies performing the role of not only world policeman, but also world manager. However, the essence of the present-day U.S. policy does not involve assuming above all responsibility for global management. The core of it is to ensure its own freedom of action, freedom from responsibility for anything that represents no immediate interest from the point of view of security or electoral support. But most of the world problems have no connection to any direct threats to U.S. security or interests of the American electorate. The concept of “humanitarian intervention” has and will be applied selectively: not at the points of worst violations of human rights but in the regions where the U.S.A. has some other interests at stake. America’s aspiration is not so much to be the orchestra conductor as to ensure the opportunity for solo parts.

As for the role of the U.S.A. as moral leader, this is something that has obviously not shown any growth recently. “The leader loses in aspirations for moral superiority if he ignores major international agreements” [10], and this is often the case with the United States. Amnesty International last year noted that the record of the U.S.A. was top of the list “of the greatest disappointments in human rights in the past 40 years” [11]. That same year, the U.S.A. lost its seat in the UN Human Rights Commission. Furthermore, domestic security measures taken in the past months by America have evoked numerous doubts.

America’s information domination is vast, but an interesting paradox arises amidst conditions where information flows are increasing exponentially. With information overflowing, perception is blunted. English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the power elite today, but remains only a second world language, with three times fewer people speaking it (479 million) than Chinese (1.2 billion). Some time in the future, it may even become a third language, since the numbers of those speaking Hindi are growing rapidly (437 million in 2001) [12]. And it is by no means certain that it is the American lifestyle that is winning over the world and not European.

The present strategy of the American leadership renders doubtful the U.S. ability to lead even its allies. The United States and Europe cannot reach accord on a number of issues. The U.S.A. has not signed or has not ratified such documents as the Kyoto Protocol or agreements to ban nuclear testing, biological weapons and anti-personnel mines. There is no unity in views on the National Anti-Ballistic Defense and the Middle East. The U.S.A. and Europe have differences in their views regarding the situation of the Afghan POWs in Guantanamo, the International Criminal Court, and the issue of the death penalty. There are also differences in the areas of trade relations, European defense and security policies, and the problem of Iraq. All of a sudden, anti-American sentiments have intensified in Japan. It looks like contradictions between the U.S.A. and its closest allies today are in no way less than between the U.S.A. and Russia, India and even China. This, apart from everything else, indicates a possibility that allied and bloc systems may not necessarily become a really serious impediment to Concert.

There is awareness in the United States that a policy of unilateral actions may be detrimental to the country’s own interests. Joseph Nye, in his book on the subject, The Paradox of American Power, regarded almost as a classic, justly noted, “The danger posed by the outright champions of hegemony is that their foreign policy is all accelerator and no brakes. Their focus on unipolarity and hegemony exaggerates the degree to which the United States is able to get the outcomes it wants in a changing world” [13]. There is also an understanding based on historical experience that overloading and overexpansion of an empire may lead to internal anemia, to creation of “turbulent frontiers” [14], “self-encirclement” [15], and demise from “its own hubris” [16].

For all the obvious indications of a unilateralist trend in the rhetoric and actions of the Bush Administration, there are quite concert-inclined elements discernible in the U.S. policies. For the first time in many years, the U.S.A. has fulfilled its obligations to the UN and repaid all its debts. Eighteen years after America left the UNESCO, President Bush announced resumption of membership. Anti-Chinese moods have noticeably cooled in Washington. Revolutionary positive changes have occurred in Russian-American relations. The United States has for the first time recognized the Palestinians’ right to their own independent state – much to the satisfaction of Europeans. In the run-up to the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, the Bush Administration lifted anti-dumping duties from 116 metal products that are mostly manufactured in the European Union [17]. Contrary to its earlier intention, the U.S.A. did not withdraw from the international peacekeeping force in the Balkans and agreed to a certain compromise regarding the International Criminal Court. The United States no longer sponsors Al-Qaeda, no longer helps the Taliban, no longer considers the Chechen terrorists as freedom fighters, and does not provide arms for the Kosovo Liberation Army. The very nature of newly emerging threats to America’s security, coupled with scandals flaring up around major corporations, has required a new portion of government regulation that subverts the libertarian “Washington consensus,” the cause of allergy for many countries with a greater degree of regulation and social orientation of the economy.

The United States is probably not the worst example in the ranks of major countries which Charles de Gaulle once called “egotistic monsters.” It would be interesting to see how other nations would behave had they been as powerful as America is today.

America is the sole superpower, but not the only power. It cannot cope with everything, the less so all at once. A certain balance of forces does exist in the modern international system. Henry Kissinger wrote in his Diplomacy, “Of course, in the end a balance of power always comes about de facto when several states interact. The question is whether the maintenance of the international system can turn into a conscious design, or whether it will grow out of a series of tests of strength” [18].

A Concert in which one of the instruments is louder than the others is quite possible. At the time of the Congress of Vienna, Russia was Europe’s military superpower: in Debidour’s words, “Alexander I was at that time all-powerful” [19]. The European Concert survived quite successfully throughout the 19th century, with Britain’s overwhelming superiority in most components of strength. Moreover, as follows from the theory of hegemonic stability, developed above all by Robert O. Kohane, the international system may only function efficiently if it is maintained in a workable condition by hegemonic powers. At the same time, in Kohane’s opinion, domination by one great power was neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for preserving world stability [20].

A Global Concert is in the interests of the U.S.A. itself. It provides the right to be heard and a sense of protection for other countries, which means it makes it possible to regard America not as a threat to stability, but as guarantor of the world order.

Russia as Indispensable Power

Russia paid a high price for stopping the Cold War, pulling down the Berlin Wall, and stepping down from the imperial plane. We have received economic catastrophe and, instead of assistance as had been expected, condescending smiles from the “victors.” The attitude of the West towards Russia was rather in the manner of that of the victorious great powers towards post-Napoleonic France. As Talleyrand wrote, “The Allies wished to leave France with only a passive role; it had to be not so much a participant in events as a mere spectator. The fear of it had not yet disappeared, its strength was still causing alarm, and they all hoped to achieve security only if Europe would be incorporated in a system directed solely against France” [21]. In the 1990s, the West went about arranging and expanding its system acting mainly either in disregard of Russia or against its interests. And Russia, following the euphoria caused by prospects of cooperation with the West, started, from the mid-decade, paying back in kind. But this happened not out of any inexhaustible “imperial nostalgia” [22], as Zbigniew Brzezinski would have it, but due to the not unfounded impression that the motive force of the West’s policy was doctrinal Russophobia, a desire to encircle and isolate Russia. There have been ample indications of this, from expansion of NATO to the bombing of Yugoslavia in spite of Russia’s desperate protests. Besides, the Russians themselves throughout the past decade indulged in self-humiliation, became all nostalgic about the country lost, and exaggerated the weaknesses of the country newly acquired.

Russia is not the USSR. It is smaller and weaker in many parameters. But it still retains its positions, and is even strengthening them in some areas.

Disintegration of the USSR set in motion a process of formation of nation-states, which has obviously been underrated in the West. Never before 1991, had there been on this planet such ethnically based sovereign countries as Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenia, and – the Russian Federation. Always a multiethnic community (or empire, whatever you prefer), Russia (the USSR) was a country where Russians were the lesser part of the population, and which was governed mostly by non-Russians (the Romanov dynasty, starting with Catherine II, was in essence German, Stalin was a Georgian, and Khrushchev and Brezhnev came from Ukraine). Now, for the first time, the Russians constitute not just the majority, but the overwhelming majority (up to 85 percent) of the population. This phenomenon has required not only a painful (and yet to be completed) quest for national identity, but also set the stage for the formation of a qualitatively new national consciousness. The resulting growth in national awareness may consolidate society more strongly than the Communist dogma or the old formula: “Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Popular Spirit” of Russia under the czars.

Russia does not possess one-sixth of the world’s land, the way it was with the USSR, but even with its one-eighth it remains the world’s largest country. Population-wise, it occupies sixth place on the planet (145 million), and the Russian language is fifth in terms of number of users (284 million) [23]. Russia’s cultural, economic and political influence are factors to contend with across the post-Soviet space. Russia is not one of the two superpowers. But it has retained the status of one of the great powers, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with the right of veto, and is decisive in legitimizing whatever actions to be taken by the world community or individual countries.

The situation in Russia’s economy is far from perfect, but in recent years its rate of growth has been clearly higher than the world’s average. In five years, according to estimates by the Brunswick UBS Warburg’s directors, labor productivity in Russia has increased by 38 percent, while America’s 13 percent, by comparison, looks rather unimpressive [24]. The GDP, which is mainly estimated according to the ruble/dollar exchange rate and therefore looks comparable to that of the Netherlands, when calculated by the parity purchasing capacity of the ruble, amounted to $1,085 billion dollars for the year 2000. This brings Russia to ninth place in the world, ahead of Brazil and Canada. The forecasts are that by the size of its economy in 2015, Russia will outstrip Britain, Italy and France, and move to sixth place in the world [25].

In Soviet times, not one of this country’s enterprises featured on the Fortune-500 list of the world’s largest companies. There are several of them on this list today, even though the capitalization level of all Russian companies is underrated. In the Soviet period, the country’s foreign debt was growing, while in 2001 alone it went down by $13.2 billion and now amounts to a comfortably payable sum of $130.1 billion [26]. Russia has noticeably improved its credit history. The USSR was importing grain, while the Russian Federation this year has exported grain to Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Bulgaria. The market environment, even if imperfect, does work.

Russia possesses the world’s largest mineral resources and is a major player on the world energy market. In 2001-2002 (April to April), Russia produced 15 percent of all crude oil from exporting countries, lagging only a little behind Saudi Arabia (16.1 percent) and twice the level of third-placed Iran (7.4 percent) [27]. With exports of natural gas added, Russia has become the largest supplier of energy resources in the world. On top of this, it is the only country that can play on the side of OPEC or against it, participating officially at conferences of both exporters of liquid fuel and consumers as well (G-8), and playing the role of “petroleum referee” [28]. The West is increasingly conscious that Russia is a lot more stable and reliable partner in energy matters than Arab producers. And after the U.S.A. refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it now depends on Russia whether this document will come into force.

Russia retains a vast, even though largely residual, military potential. Russia is a nuclear superpower, one of the two countries that can blow up the whole world in a twinkling. Throughout recent years, the Russian Federation has been the world’s second largest arms exporter and the main supplier of modern arms to two great powers, China and India. Russia’s stocks of tanks and armored vehicles are considerably greater than those of the U.S.A.. In the components of military might where America dominates, air force, navy and space, Russia is in second place [29]. Former Soviet superiority in space is a thing of the past, but even so, there are 43 Russian military satellites in space today. This is more than the total number of satellites orbited in all history by any country, except for the U.S.A. and also Japan (72 space satellites) [30]. The international space station built and maintained with Russia’s most active participation represents a good symbol of Concert.

It transpired at the turn of the century that solution of a whole number of regional problems depends on Russia. By way of trial and error, the West has already established that democratization in Belarus or stabilization of the situation in Central Asia and the southern Caucasus cannot be achieved without Russia, the less so contrary to its interests. The transport lines in Eurasia in one way or another depend on Russia. Incessant attempts to create alternative channels, bypassing Russia, to transport energy resources in actual fact reflect Russia’s already existing decisive role in this area. Russia is a most important element in the European security system, which is emphasized by the special format of the Russia-EU and Russia-NATO relationships. Russia is regarded as the only “fair broker” in inter-Korean relations, and hardly any resumption of North-South dialogue or the launching of economic reforms in North Korea would be possible without Russia’s efforts.

Moscow’s role is just as unique in the Middle East, where it enjoys the trust of both the old friends, the Palestinians, and the new ones, the Israelis. The obvious improvement of Russian-Israeli relations has changed the nature of Russia’s ties with the West. The Jewish lobby in Washington, once traditionally harshly anti-Russian, is now pressing for repeal of the Jackson-Vanick Amendment and defends Moscow’s policy in Chechnya. For its part, Russia takes a more pro-Israeli stance than the European Union or even the U.S.A.

Russia plays a paramount role in the world community. At the same time, it is objectively destined to come out as an independent player, a separate center of force not to be dissolved in any international amalgamations. In the foreseeable future Russia will not be integrated in the main Euro-Atlantic structures, while in Asia it simply has nowhere to integrate. Unlike numerous countries, the Russian Federation will preserve its sovereignty. And, even if by force of its geographic situation, it is destined to be a global player.

The tendency to treat Russia as a defeated third-rate country began to subside already before the 9/11 tragedy. And after this day, a feeling has been mounting in the West that Russia is in many respects an “indispensable power.” Thomas E. Graham, chief expert on Russia in the U.S. National Security Council, points out that “ignoring Russia is not a viable option. Even in its much reduced circumstances, Russia remains critical to the United States’ own security and prosperity and will continue to do so well into the future” [31]. Moscow has proved to be a highly valuable participant in the anti-terrorist coalition. Its stakes and experience in the region of Afghanistan are greater than anyone else’s, and it rendered substantial help to the U.S.A., supplying intelligence information and arranging air passages for U.S. combat aircraft and access to bases in the former Soviet republics.

A number of U.S. foreign policy priorities have been revised, which set off what I would call a revolution in Russian-American relations. Andrew C. Kuchins, director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment, writes on the subject, “On the U.S. side, the basis for a new U.S.-Russian partnership rests on reconfiguring U.S. foreign and security policy goals, which include (1) successfully conducting the war on terrorism, (2) a new urgency to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, (3) peacefully managing the rise of China as a great power, and (4) achieving a stable, global energy supply…No one would seriously question the weight of these items or that they can be pursued effectively without Russian cooperation. In fact, no country except Russia could possibly bring as much to the table on these goals” [32].

On the Russian side, the conceptual basis for rapprochement was provided by the pragmatic Putin Doctrine aimed at the country’s revival through integration into the global system, which, in turn, depends above all on cooperation with the West. As Vladimir Putin has stated, the core of a “trusting partnership” with the U.S.A. is “a new interpretation of national interests of the two countries and also a similar perception of the very nature of present-time threats” [33].

As a result, Russian-American relations have in recent months reached, I am sure, the highest point in their history, since the time of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Proclaiming a cessation of rivalry, presidents Putin and Bush have expressed their “commitment to promoting common values,” among which they mentioned human rights, tolerance, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, economic opportunity, and supremacy of law [34]. The Russian-American Anti-Terrorist Group is no longer confined to Afghan problems only. It has expanded its mandate and is now tackling problems associated with Central Asia, the Indian-Pakistani conflict, South-East Asia and Yemen. It also takes measures to prevent nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism, and fights drug trafficking [35]. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed, even though the Bush Administration at the outset had no intention of making any commitments in the nuclear field. And on June 6, 2002, the U.S.A. recognized Russia as a market economy, much earlier than this recognition came from our main trade partners in the EU.

There are still many differences between Russia and the U.S.A.. Both have officially excluded each other from the list of potential military adversaries, yet both have kept the old lists of nuclear targets. But this is no sign of aggressive spirit, rather it calls for further reductions of strategic offensive arms: indeed, the remaining warheads (1,700 to 2,250) have to be targeted somewhere! There is no one else to be contained with such an enormous stock. Russia does not agree with America’s destabilizing decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, but it seems this decision would sooner have an impact on American-Chinese relations. Any national missile defense (NMD) that the United States may set up in the coming decades will constitute a serious obstacle for Chinese strategic weapons, not Russian. Many of Russia’s steps in its relations with Iran and Iraq, and also Russian supplies of missile technology to China cause disputes. However, Russia coordinates its actions in these directions with Washington and would never step over the line where confrontation with the U.S.A. may start. I suppose, America would act the same way. The still remaining issues are steel imports (although American sanctions affected Russia less than other steel producing countries), chicken legs, and the Jackson-Vanick Amendment. But try finding someone who does not have some contradictions or other today. The main thing is willingness to discuss differences constructively and move ahead.

The U.S.A. and Russia no longer play against each other using major third countries as trump cards, as was the case before, when Russia sought to aggravate, for example, American-European contradictions, while Washington had the same aims with regard to Soviet-Chinese relations. Partnership is easily discernible – even by the fact that during the European tour of President Bush in May 2002 the numbers of anti-American protesters in Moscow were considerably smaller than the crowds in Germany and France.

Observer Jim Hoagland has remarked that the American and Russian leaders are moving towards an era of Global Entente, which will diminish the strategic influence of Europe, China and Japan on Washington and Moscow. And this is something that is already causing concern in the capitals of other great powers [36]. I am in no way against the Entente that was born in the era of the First Concert. But I see no formal reasons why it should not be global and aimed not at restricting the strategic influence of Europe, China and Japan but at joint action.

After all, Russian-American partnership is no impediment to development of Russia’s relations with NATO. Alliance’s Secretary-General George Robertson is confident, “We are on the threshold of qualitatively new relations between Russia and NATO… What unites us is, in many ways, greater than what disunites” [37]. Nor does partnership between Russia and the United States represent any handicap to G-8 cooperation: at the latest summit in Canada, Russia acquired the status of a full-fledged G-8 participant in the entire range of issues discussed. For the first time, Western countries empowered the Russian leader to carry out a collective assignment, bridging relations between India and Pakistan. Russia had not been entrusted with such a serious mediatory mission before.

The media in the West still tend to treat Russia with prejudice, but to a lesser extent than before. The country’s image is today better than ever. It is also better than in pre-Bolshevist times of the First Concert. A stereotyped opinion of an American journalist of that period was of “a Jew-hating czar and the Jew-hating oligarchy /who/ had so long perpetuated atrocities among the peasants” that it was hard to imagine if Christ ever turned up in a Russian village [38]. Russia’s image is especially attractive against the background of the West’s other allies in the grand anti-terrorist coalition where the central role is assigned to a number of Islamic countries. Compared to these countries, Russia may with every reason be considered a prosperous democracy of a Western type. In addition, Russia’s image has also improved with the Western public coming to know better their future NATO allies. In all the countries, except Slovenia, to be admitted to NATO following the Prague summit, the governments only managed to stay in office for one term; everywhere it is the left, the former Communists, who are in power. In some of these countries, anti-West and anti-American moods are spreading, and corruption is way bigger than in Russia [39]. Incidentally, 60 percent of Europeans and 68 percent of Americans favor Russia’s accession to NATO [40].

Moscow has turned into a potential strategic partner of the West with no harm caused to its earlier formed strategic partnership with China and India. The Russian-Chinese Comprehensive Treaty is more binding than any other agreement signed by Beijing. A lull in Russian-Indian relations, caused by Boris Yeltsin’s physical inability to get to Delhi in the course of eight years, has long ended, and both countries are now engaged in active cooperation. Russian-Japanese relations are on the rise, although over the decades they were wholly concentrated on the issue of Russia’s South Kurile Islands, alias Japan’s Northern Territories. At any rate, there are now signals coming from Tokyo indicating Japan’s willingness to set the territorial issue aside and get busy with others, less entangled. These may include, for example, development of energy resources in Sakhalin Island, which involves construction of the first ever pipeline to take natural gas from the Sakhalin shelf to the Japanese Islands [41].

Meanwhile, the question arising time and again is: how lasting is Moscow’s turn towards partnership, and would it not return to the former, Soviet, confrontational paradigm? I see no reasons for that. Russia has neither strength, nor desire for confrontation. Putin is going to press ahead with his course, even despite the resistance by part of the elite and bureaucracy, which the president may just as well ignore in a country with a millennium-old czarist political culture. But Putin by no means is a lonely figure. Rallied behind him is the advanced part of the intellectual elite, the more successful members of the financial and political community, and the petroleum, metallurgical, high-tech and other giants that have already broken out of the national shell and turned into transnationals.

From The First To The Second Concert

The main prerequisite for resumption of Concert is that it (and the “century of peace” it provides for) represents a mode of relationships natural for civilized states. It is natural for normal people to seek peace and tranquility. The purpose of the First Concert was confirmed if only by its long history, a record for all international systems (except, of course, the longevity of the Westphalia Treaty system of 1648, which is only just about to die out). World War I was a result of a fatal miscalculation by several European governments – Kaiser Wilhelm’s, in the first place – rather than irreversible malfunctioning in the mechanism of the First Concert. When the war ended, the Concert could have been restored, had it not lost two great powers for quite a while. One of these was Germany, which was given much harsher treatment in Versailles than post-Napoleonic France had been meted out in Vienna. The second was Russia where the Bolsheviks, seizing power in the 1917 Revolution, challenged directly the system of values and the way of life of all other great powers, which resulted in the country’s isolation and self-isolation lasting for decades. The least governable system, that of Versailles-Washington, that found its expression in the impotent League of Nations, came to its end amid the flames of the bloodiest world war. Recreation of Concert after World War II, now on a global scale, not just European, had prospects for being quite a practicable endeavor, considering the experience of the anti-Hitler coalition and the establishment of the United Nations, with the U.S.A. turning into a global player, and Germany, Italy and Japan successfully integrated in the international system. But again, for reasons that are a separate theme, this system left outside the Soviet Union, a country that was already controlling a good half of the world’s population. This made the world bi-polar, divided by a big curtain. As the experience of the 20th century indicates, no Concert is possible without Russia, and, moreover, by the end of the century it became obvious that no Concert was possible without the reviving new-old great powers, China and India.

By the late 1990s, Russia had carried out a revolution most important in its history: it created a world that was no longer divided by impassable lines. This facilitated the process of globalization, which has now reached almost all places on the planet. The fall of the “iron curtain” became decisive for emergence (or, recreation?) of a system of non-confrontational interaction of major powers.

September 11, 2001 and the events that followed provided additional arguments in favor of not so much unilateral action, as actions in the spirit of a new, Second Concert. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, characterizing the incipient anti-terrorist coalition, stated, “What is unique about the coalition… is that, except for about three or four countries, every other country on the face of the Earth has signed up” [42]. Of course, one should not overestimate either cohesion of the coalition, or the sincerity of its participants, or the contribution of some of them to the success of the common cause, but the coalition is a fact. For the first time since the era of the First Concert, all great powers with no exception, each proceeding from its own interest, have rallied to fight a common enemy, international terrorism. Certainly, we can in the future expect differences in interpretations of such notions as “terrorism” and supporting it.” But for the first time in decades, those who are regarded as terrorists by a group of great powers have not become “freedom fighters” for another group of powers. For the first time we hear chords of the Concert, or Concerto, in global performance.

Coalitions “pro” are more viable than coalitions “contra.” This, however, does not mean that the latter are not viable. There’s nothing like a common enemy to consolidate. The First Concert was directed against a former enemy, Napoleonic France. However, the powers that can form a Second Concert have different former enemies. The common enemy, terrorism, has come from the outside and on a global scale from the outset; the global fight against it as the joint mission of the orchestra has become an imperative. The enemy is very strong, and its strength is linked with Islam in its most radical forms. Although pointing out this linkage is considered as lacking in political correctness, “Islamic leaders who aver that Islam has no relation to terrorism engage in wishful thinking. The linkage is there and discernible, above all, in the ideological substantiation of terrorism and extremism. For this purpose, they employ the long known Islamic concepts that concern jihad, attitude to the unfaithful, suppression of all that is forbidden by the Shariah, and relationships with the powers that be” [43].

Of course, creation of a Second Concert is a development that is far from certain and one that provokes numerous questions. Anticipating them, I’d like to point out that the First Concert should not be idealized either. And the world today is not any worse than the one where our ancestors lived in the 19th century.

At first glance, Concert may look impossible in the conditions when the powers differ in opinions on major issues, are divided into blocs, and have different basic values and cultural codes. But there was never unanimity in the First Concert; all major and even minor issues evoked bitter disputes. Members of the 19th century Big Six also participated in various blocs. Already during the Congress of Vienna, not without the assistance of the cunning Talleyrand, Austria, Britain and France formed a temporary secret alliance against Russia and Prussia [44]. Britain, a member of the Quadruple Alliance, never joined the Holy Alliance of the monarchs of Russia, Austria and Prussia. And later, the countries broke into the Entente and the Triple Alliance. It is rather doubtful that members of the First Concert shared all the values. The difference between constitutional monarchy in Britain and Russia’s autocratic monarchy was a lot more significant than between today’s representative democracy in the U.S.A. and socialist democracy in China. On the contrary, the values associated with peaceful coexistence and the rights of the individual, as well as market principles in the economy, have in recent decades become practically universal. As for cultural values, these, whether it is good or bad, are being leveled out. Martin Heidegger once remarked that there were two downfalls in the history of humanity: the first time in sin, and the second – in banality. Modernism and post-modernism, representing, in essence, simplification of culture, are becoming a universal asset as a result of the information revolution and broad international exchanges. The only cultural entity that denies the Western system of values is based on Islam. In any case, China, India, Japan and Russia do not set themselves in confrontation to the process of globalization, to Western mondialism.

How can we talk of any concert if we have no agreement on how we read the music and everyone interprets international law in his own way? Can “century-long peace” be really possible with wars flaring up all around and the United States planning a series of armed interventions? However, international law in the 19th century was an even more ephemeral matter than today. And European Concert in no way meant absence of any wars and aggression. Great powers waged numerous colonial wars and conducted military operations on European periphery. Russia in the 19th century fought two wars with Persia and three wars with Turkey, it annexed Central Asia by force, etc. It was not a matter of no war as such, but, rather, a situation where major clashes were prevented between great powers. And the Concert performed this mission successfully, with only two hitches that led to the Crimean war in the 1850s and the Franco-German war in the 1870s. In our day it is just as difficult to imagine a situation causing a military conflict between major countries. Not the least because almost all of them are nuclear powers. A potential hot spot is Taiwan, which may be destined to play the role akin to that of the Black Sea straits in the 19th century. That is, it may become a source of endless tension in relations between leading powers (in this case, between the U.S.A. and China). And although quite possibly the planned American interventions will not meet with universal approval, they, nevertheless, will not necessarily cause an end to concert activities. Tectonic shifts in the world system have in the 21st century formed a situation where the strategy of territorial divisions and military containment is giving way to a strategy of the times of the First Concert, viz., cooperation in the area of security and economic engagement. These are obvious prerequisites for a new Concert, and the performers and the organizational format still remain unclear. However, the final answers will take a long time to come.

Concert without U.S. participation will either be senseless or turn into a counterproductive anti-American scheme. The main question is whether the U.S.A. will be prepared to join in. In the long run and, maybe, in a mid-term prospect, undoubtedly yes. In a short-term prospect, more probably yes. Even that ode to America’s unilateral stance, the recently adopted National Security Strategy of the United States of America carries the following statement: “America will implement its strategies by organizing coalitions – as broad as practicable &mdash of states able and willing to promote a balance of power that favors freedom” [45].

Russia is actually already engaged in a global game of concert. So is the European Union; the question is only what kind of participation in the Concert this is going to be – collective or individual. All depends on whether the EU becomes an independent major player in the area of international and defense policy and how soon this may happen. If not, it will be represented by heirs to the performers in the First Concert.

Today, impediments are diminishing to overall global integration of India, which for decades was alienated from world affairs and culturally detached from the West. A decisive role in this matter was played by the deliberate policy pursued by Washington, which even before 9/11 had embarked on the course of partnership with Delhi. Now, after a period of sharp Indian-U.S. contradictions over India’s nuclear programs, the two countries, as their leaders assert, are “natural allies” [46]. It should be noted in this context that the chronically complicated Indian-Chinese relations are improving, albeit slowly, which means that one more obstacle is coming down on the way to global Concert.

China’s participation in the Concert is the hardest to forecast: the U.S.A. is wary lest Beijing should claim the status of a second superpower and defy America. Indeed, China is capable of becoming an Asia-Pacific superpower in the coming twenty or thirty years, but it will have no potential to threaten American security. No desire either. “The further China moves along the way of modernization… the more important for it is partnership with America” [47]. Today, the U.S.A. is China’s leading trade partner, so why threaten the goose that lays golden eggs? It is hard to predict the consequences of American troops’ arrival in Central Asia, just as those of the creation of NMD. There is a possibility of a new hotbed of tension emerging and nuclear missile stocks being built up. Or else, it is possible, on the contrary, that Beijing will revise its strategy in favor of greater moderation. I would agree with Henry Kissinger who maintains that Washington should let China understand that the U.S.A., while countering its hegemonic aspirations, still prefers constructive relations and will promote China’s participation in a stable world order [48].

The organizational format of the Second Concert does not look like a crucial problem. The First Concert was rather loose organizationally, having no clearly defined objective and setting no legal obligations. There was no entity like a European government, and there were only sporadic European congresses, most of all reminiscent of what we know today as G-8 summits.

The Second Congress may be more formalized — for example, it may function on the basis of the UN Security Council. But this requires expansion of the Council, with more countries represented in it, while the U.S.A. has to get rid of its prejudice against this body, which, as a matter of fact, is not easy. G-8 could also serve as the basis for the Concert, growing into G-9, G-10 and so forth. NATO could also offer a platform for the global Concert. By accepting ever more and weaker members and setting up the Russia-NATO Council, it has been turning from a serious military organization into a political association. In this new status the Alliance could opt for similar councils formed with other countries (it is already stepping up its partnership with Uzbekistan and Mongolia), or use Russian channels to establish contact with them. There are already forums functioning in the manner of Concert – the World Trade Organization and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development that Russia is planning to join in the near future. It is quite possible that some entirely new format may be required.

The world is moving and will arrive at an actually global Concert, despite all efforts at unipolar hegemony. It is on a concert basis that problems of survival on Earth can be resolved, with the second, chaotic megascenario thereby forestalled. Whether it is a matter of non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons, or preservation of habitat, or poverty, or epidemics, it has all got to be a matter of concern for all countries with influence, for, indeed, none of them can fly away to live on another planet.

The word “concert” derives not only from the Italian “concerto,” but also from the Latin “concerto” (compete). A concerto in music is a composition written for one or, more seldom, for several instruments and an orchestra. What is typical of a concerto is virtuoso solo performance and competition of the soloist with the orchestra. A symphony in which one instrument acquires a solo role on its own has ever since the 18th century been called symphonique concertante or konzertierende Symphonie.

I have nothing against symphony concerts, the supreme form, make note of it, of instrumental music.


1 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, N.Y.: 1994, pp. 75-76.

2 Antoine Debidour, The Diplomatic History of Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to Berlin (1814-1878), V. 1, Moscow, Foreign Literature Publishers, 1947, p. 25 (Russian edition).

3 J. Kurth, “The American Way of Victory” in The National Interest, Summer 2000.

4 S. Books, W. Wohlforth, “American Primacy in Perspective” in Foreign Affairs, July/Aug. 2002, p. 23.

5 Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1989, p. 149.

6 Mikhail Overchenko, “The U.S.A. Losing Attractiveness” in Vedomosti, Sept. 16, 2002 (Russian edition).

7 Vladimir Sysoyev, Anastasia Skogoreva, “Terrorists Hit at America Again” in Gazeta, 15 July 2002 (Russian edition).

8 Military Almanac 2001-2002: Handbook on U.S. Armed Forces. Center for Defense Information, Moscow, Gendalf Publishers, 2002, pp 14-16 (Russian edition).

9 Time, Sept. 16, 2002, p. 40.

10 Franz Nuscheler, “New World Politics” in Internationale Politik, 1998, 11, p. 45 (Russian edition).

11 Norman Kempster, “U.S. Sharply Criticized on Human Rights” in International Herald Tribune, May 31, 2001.

12 Washington online, Sept. 9, 2001.

13 Joseph S. Nye Jr., The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 140.

14 See, for example: James Kurth, “The American Way of Victory” in The National Interest, Summer 2000.

15 G. John Ikenberry, “America’s Imperial Ambition” in Foreign Affairs, Sept./Oct. 2002, p. 58.

16 Michael Hirsh, “Bush and the World”, Idem, p. 43.

17 Anastasia Skogoreva, “Bush Turns Over Metal” in Gazeta, June 26, 2002 (Russian edition).

18 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, p. 77.

19 Antoine Debidour, The Diplomatic History of Europe, p. 40

20 Robert O. Kohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press, 1984, p. 46.

21 Talleyrand, Memoirs, Yekaterinburg, Urals University Press, 1997, pp. 307-309 (Russian edition)

22 Zbigniew Brzezinski, “NATO Should Remain Wary of Russia” in The Wall Street Journal Europe, Nov. 29, 2001.

23 Washington online, Sept. 9, 2001.

24 Peter Boon, Denis Rodionov, “How Russia Can Get Rich” in Vedomosti, Sept. 5, 2002 (Russian edition).

25 The World at the Turn of the Millennium, p. 555.

26 Alexander Bekker, “Amendment for $8 Billion” in Vedomosti, March 1, 2001 (Russian edition).

27 R. Tyumenev, R. Tankaev, “Russia and Prices on the World Oil Market” in World Energy Politics, ‹5-6, 2002, p. 37 (Russian edition).

28 Andrei Konoplyanik, “The Oil Referee” in Expert, 13 Nov. 2000, p. 12 (Russian edition).

29 Military Almanac 2001-2002, pp. 14-15.

30 Washington Profile, Aug. 5, 2002.

31 Thomas E. Graham, Russia’s Decline and Uncertain Recovery, Wash.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002, p. 74.

32 Andrew C. Kuchins, “Summit with Substance: Creating Payoffs in an Unequal Partnership” in Policy Brief (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), No. 16, May 2002, p. 3.

33 Statement by President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin at an Enlarged Conference with Participation of Russia’s Ambassadors in the Foreign Ministry of Russia, July 12, 2002, (in Russian).

34 Official Visit of President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin to the U.S.A., (in Russian)

35 Arkadi Orlov, Boris Volkhonsky, “Secret Collusion at the Level of Deputy Ministers” in Kommersant, July 29, 2002 (Russian edition).

36 Jim Hoagland, “US, Russia and Global Entente” in The Washington Post, July 25, 2002.

37 George Robertson, “Russia and NATO: Time to Implement a Joint Scheme” in Izvestia, Apr. 2, 2002 (Russian edition).

38 Ronald E. Davis, Eugene P. Trani, The First Cold War: The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson in U.S.-Soviet Relations, Columbia (MO) L.: University of Missouri Press, 2002, p. 8.

39 See: Charles Gati, “All that NATO Can Be: To Prague and Beyond” in The National Interest, Summer 2002.

40 Frederik Kemp, “The West Consolidates in the East” in Vedomosti, Sept. 10, 2002 (Russian edition).

41 Vasili Golovnin, “Japan Wants to Forget Old Times” in Izvestia, Aug. 20, 2002 (Russian edition).

42 Colin Powell, The Campaign Against Terrorism (as delivered), October 25, 2001.

43 Leonid Syukiyanen, “International Terrorism and Islam: Allies or Enemies?” in Constitutional Law: East European Review, 4, 2001, p. 81 (Russian edition).

44 Talleyrand, Memoirs, p. 299.

45 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, Wash. 2002, p. 25.

46 Robert D. Blackwill, “Natural Allies” in The Times of India, Nov. 2, 2001.

47 Xsuewu Gu, “China and the U.S.A.: Partnership in the Search for Strategic Foundation” in Internationale Politik, 2002, 2, p. 13 (Russian edition).

48 Henry Kissinger, Does America Need a Foreign Policy. Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century, Simon&Schuster, New York-London-Toronto-Sidney-Singapore.

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