Back to the Concert
No. 1 2002 December
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 — 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Time, Sept. 16, 2002, p.

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

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

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

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

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

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,

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

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

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

44 Talleyrand, Memoirs, p.

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