Democracy, International Governance, and the Future World Order
No. 1 2005 January/March
Sergei V. Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister since 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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