Democracy, International Governance, and the Future World Order

9 february 2005

Sergei Lavrov is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Resume: Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. Attempts to replace a ruling regime by force only serve to destabilize the situation in a given country. Democratic institutions must be formed on the national basis of a given country, while the international community must help create favorable conditions for promoting this process. It must show respect for the existing traditions of every country and for the choice of ways to develop democracy.

How can international relations be made more systemic and governable under conditions of globalization and the growing interdependence of states? This question, which is not a theoretical one, has now come into the focus of international politics. An answer to this question will largely decide how effective the international community will be in countering global threats and challenges, such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Actually, it will decide whether or not we are able to accelerate the protracted transition from the former bipolar system of international relations to a new, safer and more stable world order.

The 15 years that have passed since the end of the Cold War have seen sweeping positive changes in the world. Democracy has been growing in individual countries and in international relations, while there is growing understanding in the world that only free men can ensure economic growth and the prosperity of a state. Civil society is developing around the world, although in different ways, and is playing an ever more active role at national, regional and global levels.

At the same time, the hopes of some politicians and scientists that a majority of states would adopt democratic values, which would then become a universal regulating principle of international relations, have failed to materialize. On the contrary, these values have become the target of attacks from militant separatism and other manifestations of extremism, which serve as a fertile medium for international terrorism.

There are other factors – forwarded under the banner of “defending democracy” – that are impeding the universalization of democratic principles. These include: interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, exerting political pressure on them, and imposing double standards on other countries when assessing their election processes and the state of civil rights and freedoms. Those resorting to such practices must realize that they only discredit democratic values, turning them into bargaining chips for achieving selfish geostrategic interests.

The creation of new mechanisms for ensuring security and stability in the world is impeded largely by the contradictory nature of globalization. On the one hand, this process, albeit far from complete, is delivering mankind to a new level of civilizational development in many respects. At the same time, it entails heavy costs, among them the increasing developmental gap between states and regions, soaring economic and social degradation, and the growing impact on the global economy by spontaneous market forces that are beyond state control.

These developments increase the amount of unsolved international problems. The disappearance of the negative stability of the Cold War era has resulted in the escalation of numerous regional conflicts, both old and new, which have begun to evolve into real or potential seats of terrorism, crime, drug trafficking, and WMD proliferation. Poverty, unemployment, and mounting tensions on a social, economic, ethnic and religious basis, which persist in many regions of the world, create the fertile ground for these evils and extremist sentiments.

The international community does not yet have a common strategy for addressing these problems and oftentimes must grope for adequate ways to ensure its security and stability.

Nobody holds a monopoly on the right answers to these questions; the realities of the contemporary world (global and, at the same time, infinitely versatile) rule out the possibility for such a monopoly – be it on the issue of democracy or international relations. The current developments in the post-Soviet space provide a characteristic example. Russian President Vladimir Putin told a conference of Russian ambassadors in July 2004 that Russia does not have a monopoly on this region. The members of the Commonwealth of Independent States enjoy the sovereign right to build their foreign policies in accordance with their own national interests. This is the reason why no other state or group of states can lay claims to monopoly influence. Any attempt to place the CIS countries in a false dilemma (“either with the West, or with Russia”) would be unnatural, dangerous and irresponsible. No one would gain from a revival of obsolete methods of geopolitical rivalry.

Obviously, the right way to a stable and democratic world order can be found only through a dialog that would involve not only governments but also parliaments, political parties, analysts, businesspeople, and civil society as a whole. The present session of the UN General Assembly has demonstrated that such a dialog is already gaining momentum. The international community has begun to work out general approaches which take into account the views of the international public and are shared by a large number of countries.

First, the recent course of global events proves that any attempt to handle the new threats in a unilateral fashion is futile. The present developments in Iraq, where the United States launched a military operation without a UN Security Council approval, illustrate the advantages of a multilateral approach. Eventually, the U.S. began to form a broad international coalition, seeking to include any – even the most insignificant – countries. This coalition was built in order to demonstrate the international participation (much of it token) and multilateral nature of U.S. actions. Later, Washington asked the UN to place the postwar restoration of Iraq under its umbrella, and the international community is presently facing the common task of assisting Iraq in order to stabilize the situation and prevent its disintegration. This can be accomplished through a broad inter-Iraqi dialog, aimed at encouraging national accord, and fair elections which would help to build truly representative bodies of power reflecting the interests of all groups of the Iraqi population.

Like an overwhelming majority of other countries, Russia believes that the future world order must be based on collective mechanisms for addressing global problems. Whether this will be named a multipolar system or otherwise does not really matter. More important, this system must contain as many fulcrum points as possible in order to guarantee its stability. The international community must discover a platform for broad accord and interaction between the main actors on the global arena, including the G-8, the European Union, China, India, Japan, and the key countries of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. This platform must rest on mutual confidence and respect for each other’s interests in addressing international problems, as opposed to a group of countries invited to join a single nation that has already decided everything unilaterally.

Another aspect of more reliable international governance is improving mechanisms of multilateral cooperation; of these, the United Nations is undoubtedly the most universal. This organization, which has unique legitimacy and an extensive record of global and regional activities, must be made more effective in crisis management and acquire better-defined criteria for using coercive measures, including force, by a Security Council decision. This subject (discussed in recent years under various names – “humanitarian intervention,” “human security” and “the right to protection”) is in the focus of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, established by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; the panel includes the Russian Academician Yevgeny Primakov. The United Nations is soon expected to begin discussion of the Panel’s report.

Russia maintains that the UN Security Council must avoid applying mechanical approaches when advancing criteria for giving the green light to the use of force. Each individual situation must be considered taking into account its specificity. There can be no universal recipe or simple arithmetic solutions, such as “99 people killed are not quite genocide, but 100 people killed are, so the Security Council must automatically make a respective decision.” It is also important for the international community to make decisions on its interference in a crisis, especially on “preventive interference,” on the basis of verified and irrefutable facts rather than conjecture and unsubstantiated accusations, as was the case, for example, with assertions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Efforts to solve this difficult and topical problem involve scientists, diplomats and leaders of many countries. The success of these efforts will enable the international community to build equitable and multilateral mechanisms for the new world order. These mechanisms could also be applied to regional organizations pertaining to international cooperation. Today, all of them, especially in Europe, are undergoing deep transformation, adapting to the new threats and challenges.

The disruption of the Cold War bloc discipline has played a very positive role in this respect. A new, more flexible and mobile structure of international relations is now being formed and regional integration associations are taking a more and more prominent place in it. These associations are turning into independent poles of world politics, enabling even relatively small states to influence it. These changes have told on Russia’s international ties, as well. This country is building new interaction mechanisms, e.g. the Russia-NATO Council, and new partnership institutions with the European Union. Russia has established close contacts with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), integration associations in Latin America, and individual countries in various regions, for example, the Persian Gulf, with which it formerly had no dialog.

However, these positive processes notwithstanding, the inertia of the bloc approach still persists. An illustrative example is provided by NATO’s expansion which does not meet any of the real challenges that the European countries are now facing. Furthermore, strange things are happening in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE, which emerged when the world was divided into two blocs, was established on the basis of consensus and generally acceptable approaches to cooperation in the fields of security, economy and human rights. It would seem that now that the bloc system has ceased to exist the OSCE could fully realize these qualities. In practice, however, and rather paradoxically, this organization is erecting a wall within itself, artificially dividing its members into the NATO and EU members, and the rest. Actually, the European Union, especially after its enlargement to 25 members, has emerged as a new political bloc in the OSCE, and its position is evolving in a destructive direction under the influence of some of its new members.

Attempts are being made to restrict the OSCE agenda to solely humanitarian issues and to reduce the latter to the monitoring of democratic processes and the observance of human rights in the post-Soviet space. Thus, the OSCE’s work in ensuring security and encouraging economic development is being downplayed. As it turns out, NATO deals with security issues, the EU with economic issues, while the OSCE will only monitor the adoption of these organizations’ values by countries that have remained outside the EU and NATO.

This state of affairs can hardly be accepted. Russia, together with its CIS partners, has come out with constructive proposals for reforming the OSCE in order to bring it back to the original concept of balanced and equal cooperation in each of the three baskets.

Finally, the third area in building a new world order is the consolidation of international law. Russia does not view it as dogma, believing that international law, as well as national legislation, must keep up with the times. In particular, the need for new approaches to humanitarian catastrophes shows that international law needs to be amended and that certain voids within it must be filled. In keeping with the UN Charter, the Security Council can establish new legal norms within its prerogative, as it did when it set up ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the absence of international treaties.

However, after the Security Council fills in dangerous blanks with its decisions, universal international treaties must be worked out by all interested countries. This was how the Statute of the International Criminal Court was drawn up following years of tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The International Criminal Court makes the establishment of ad hoc tribunals redundant.

In much the same way, the UN Security Council – following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 – adopted special counterterrorism resolutions so that each country would bring its national legislation into line and participate in the international legal regimes for stopping various kinds of support for terrorist activities. In 2004, on Russia’s initiative, the Security Council adopted Resolutions 1540 and 1566, which filled the legal void in the WMD nonproliferation regimes with regard to access to WMD and their components for non-state actors, the need for a clearer definition of terrorism, and the inadmissibility for states to provide safe haven to individuals who support, facilitate or participate in terrorist acts, and to protect them from justice. However, this kind of Security Council decisions must be followed up with efforts made on a universal basis. This refers, in particular, to the promotion of the draft international counterterrorism convention and the Russia-proposed draft convention on nuclear terrorism.

Heated debates are under way on an issue that is closely connected with “humanitarian interventions,” namely, a balance between state sovereignty and the need to respond to crises in any particular country. The search for the right legal solution may take much effort; however, the creation of new international laws, be it through Security Council resolutions or universal instruments, must proceed on the basis of a strict observance of generally accepted international norms while these remain in effect.

The dimensions of the terrorist threat present domestic legal problems for countries. One of the most difficult problems is: how does a country effectively combat terrorism without going beyond the frameworks of constitutional, democratic standards? There are no ready-made solutions for such a question. Fundamental democratic values are universal, but each country implements them in its own way, taking into account its traditions, culture and national peculiarities. Likewise, this approach manifests itself in the tactics a particular country chooses for combating terrorism.

When fighting against an enemy, it is possible to put oneself in the enemy’s position in order to better predict his actions. However, terrorists have deliberately overstepped all ethical norms; thus, the average person finds it difficult to foresee their next move. This is the reason why all countries facing the terrorist threat are committing inevitable mistakes. In order to reduce these mistakes to the minimum, governments must establish a professional and trusting exchange of information and experience. However, when the public appeals to the authorities to “report” why a particular terrorist act was allowed to be committed, it actually harms the antiterrorist efforts; such appeals are often made to gain points in domestic or foreign policies.

Russian society, as well as the entire world, was deeply shocked by the terrorist act in Beslan. Russia will continue to wage an uncompromising war against terror and defend its unity and security. At the same time, Russia will remain a democratic state that respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens. When considering such issues, Russia is open to a mutually respectful dialog and an exchange of experience; it is prepared to listen to an outside opinion which may not coincide with its own opinions. The only things it cannot accept, however, are arrogance, a didactic tone, double standards, and attempts to use the war against terrorism in various kinds of geopolitical games.

In order to construct a new system of international relations, it is necessary to eradicate double standards. It is impermissible, for example, to fight against aggressive separatism and, simultaneously, encourage the independence of Kosovo. It should be understood that such a policy could spark a chain reaction – and not only in the Balkans. Those who argue that refugees should be allowed to return home somehow “forget” about the largest group of refugees in Europe – the 500,000 Serbs.
The real provision of human rights is incompatible with double standards. In its dialog with the European Union, Russia finds it very difficult to prove the obvious and well-documented injustice done to ethnic minorities in Latvia and Estonia. Rolf EkОus, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, who recently visited Latvia, proposed, yet again, specific recommendations to the Latvian government, urging it to speed up the rate of naturalization, ratify the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and grant everyone, including so-called non-citizens, the right to participate in the election of municipal authorities. However, these recommendations have never been fulfilled. Paradoxically, a foreigner, say, from Portugal, can come to Latvia and, having lived in the country for six months, will have the right to vote in the municipal elections. Compare this with the many people who were born in Latvia, and permanently live on the territory of a municipal entity, but yet do not enjoy such rights.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, set up to monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted specific observations with regard to Latvia, which Riga has failed to respond to. Thus, the European Union’s assertions that Latvia, as well as Estonia, fully comply with the EU’s Copenhagen criteria are groundless.

In order to do away with the occurrence of double-standard practices, it is necessary that people change their mentality and relinquish the philosophy of the past epoch. Thus far, not everyone has managed to do that, as shown by the reaction of certain circles in Europe and the United States with regard to the political crisis in Ukraine. Even before the presidential elections there began, these outside groups sent strong signals that the West would not recognize the outcome of the election if the victory went to a candidate it did not support. When the results of the elections did turn out different from what they had anticipated, they immediately spoke of the “invalidity” of the vote and the need to revise its outcome. Those who pose in their own countries as staunch defenders of democracy and law began to openly encourage the Ukrainian opposition, even when some of its leaders actually provoked public disorder and the seizure of power by force. Statements were made in Europe that “Ukraine must be with the West.”

Such methods, when applied toward a sovereign state, may have grave consequences for the situation in Europe, as well as damage democratic values. Democracy must be established within the frameworks of law rather than by street rallies, which may provoke violence and the division of society.

History proves that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. Attempts to replace a ruling regime by force only serve to destabilize the situation in a given country. Democratic institutions must be formed on the national basis of a given country, while the international community must help create favorable conditions for promoting this process. It must show respect for the existing traditions of every country and for the choice of ways to develop democracy; these are established by each country on the basis of the fundamental values proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As for the fundamental principles of Russia’s foreign policy, they remain unchanged. We will continue building our foreign policy as befits a strong, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, acting through dialog and partnership, rather than confrontation, even when the most complicated global problems arise in interstate relations. Together with other countries, Russia will make constructive contributions to the efforts to increase the governability of the global processes and build a fairer, safer and more stable system of international relations.

Last updated 9 february 2005, 12:53

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