To begin with, I would like to sum up some developments. It has
become obvious that the United States has lost Iraq, and that the
situation there is quickly sliding down into a civil war, which
will involve adjacent countries.
The question is when the U.S. is going to leave, and whether
there exists the slightest possibility for the world community to
prevent Iraqi territory from turning into the breeding ground for
instability and terrorism, which would be worse than Afghanistan
had been before.
The U.S. is rapidly developing the post-Iraq syndrome. It is
similar to the post-Vietnam syndrome, which for six to eight years
restricted Washington’s ability and willingness to use armed force,
and pursue active foreign policy against the backdrop of a sharp
decrease in U.S. prestige and popularity.
The fact that the U.S. is developing a new syndrome does not
mean that it will not use force in the next few years, or will not
encourage its allies to take military action. (During the recent
Israeli-Hizbollah war it seemed that some people in Washington were
hoping that Israel would strike at Iranian nuclear facilities.
Israel has refrained from this so far).
In effect, the strongest military power has lost the war.
Moreover, in political terms, this war has been lost by the Israeli
army, which is rated the most effective in the world. It was trying
to knock Hizbollah out of southern Lebanon, but to no avail. A draw
meant Hizbollah’s victory. Anti-Israeli attitude has intensified
not only in the Arab world, but also among traditional Israeli
supporters. Israel’s political loss has worsened apprehensions
about the long-term future of this country with a substantial
Iran is also an obvious winner. The war in Lebanon has diverted
attention from its nuclear program, and its ally and client
Hizbollah has scored a political triumph. It has become clear that
Tehran has the political will and ability to win in intricate
political situations. It is entering a new round of bargaining for
its nuclear future with stronger chips.
The situation in nuclear Pakistan is worsening with every
passing day. The growing social tensions may produce an explosion
and put in power the radical Islamists; President Musharraf, who is
considered to be the guarantor of the Pakistani nuclear potential,
is losing political ground. It is becoming increasingly obvious
that in the event of his downfall nobody can guarantee that
Pakistani bombs will not land in the hands of radicals.
These and other developments are taking place against the
background of the situation in Afghanistan, which is not getting
any better, to put it mildly. They testify to the growing
instability in the «greater Middle East», the continued
consolidation of radical Islamists, and a higher risk of the
regional race for nuclear weapons.
It has become clear in the last eight months that the leaders of
the world community have almost failed to stop North Korea from
going nuclear. Moreover, Pyongyang has tested (whether successfully
or not is unknown) a series of long-range missiles, and got away
with it, increasing the likelihood of the nuclear arms race in the
The trend towards general chaos has been growing rapidly, and
international relations have been increasingly getting out of
control. The country that has proclaimed itself the only leader has
suffered several setbacks. The European Union has taken another
step towards becoming a political dwarf. It has not even tried to
take part in real earnest in the settlement of the conflict in
Lebanon, and does not seem to be willing to send peacemakers there.
The latter arrive from individual countries. One gets the
impression that the Europeans are trying to conceal themselves
behind the weaker U.S.
The ossified UN has again demonstrated its impotence during the
recent crisis in the Middle East. The conflicting parties were
almost openly opposed to the UN blue helmets carrying out a
peacemaking mission in Lebanon because of their very frequent
inefficiency. The helmets will arrive, but will they be able to
settle the doubts?
Certain hopes are inspired by the chances of the G8 being joined
by the new great powers (China, India, Brazil, and South Africa),
which have increased after the summit in St. Petersburg. But at the
same time, tensions are increasing among the old great powers. The
trend towards gradual deterioration of Russian-American relations
was stopped, and even reversed during the summit, but seems to have
resumed later on.
Exploiting a favorable situation to the limit of tactical
pragmatism, if not over it, and skillfully using PR, Russia seems
to have become a winner, too. The decision on the construction of
an eastward oil and gas pipeline has finally been made.
But like all the others, we do not seem to have a clear idea of
what we should do in the aggravating situation, and are avoiding
strategic decisions, which could drastically consolidate our
positions in a very complicated world of the future.
Needles to say, my description is far from complete. This task
is beyond the scope of a newspaper article.
What can be done? What goals should we pursue in the next few
months, or a year?
First. Despite the pressure of rapid changes, we should get down
to medium and long-term forecasting of events affecting Russia.
Tactical pragmatism is a good thing, but it may lead to strategic
mistakes if divorced from the understanding of the perspective. We
should update permanently our forecasts at least up to
Second. We will have to further modernize our military and
political doctrine. Militarily and technologically advanced
countries lose. It is perfectly obvious that we should modify our
Third. We should stay away from anti-American games, no matter
how much we are irritated by Washington’s policy. We should resist
the temptation to exploit its current relative weakness. America
will overcome its syndromes, and will continue to be the world’s
strongest power in the foreseeable future.
Fourth. We should prepare our country, its diplomacy and armed
forces for a new, chaotic world, where nuclear weapons are very
likely to spread, and which will be much harder to control.
Fifth. Despite the obvious need to concentrate on the
post-Soviet space, we should realize that the major challenges and
opportunities for Russia are outside it.
The post-Soviet space is important, and is a venue of
competition, but if we focus on it, we are bound to lose the games
where the stakes are much higher. I’ll venture to say that sooner
or later this space should cease to be at the top of foreign policy
interests of other countries, like it happened with the CIS.
Sixth. Growing outside challenges, exacerbation of competition,
and the world which is slipping out of control require a new
foreign policy philosophy. We should not give up the idea of
forming a club of great powers, which would be able, on a par with
the UN, to make the world at least a little more manageable. But
this hope is not likely to become reality in the next few years.
Therefore, we should be ready to rely on our own forces in the new
world. This goal demands serious, albeit relatively insignificant
investment into the instruments and intellectual support for our
foreign policy. Pragmatism is good, but it cannot replace a concept
of our view of the world, and Russia’s role in it.
Russia will have a very difficult time if it acts alone, without
allied support. If great powers are unable to form an alliance for
the time being, we should set up and consolidate regional unions,
such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective
Security Treaty Organization. But we should not lose the prospect
of a big alliance. By no means should we create new enemies by
spiting someone. Israel was one of our few allies in the war in
Chechnya, and it would be foolish to sacrifice it to tactical
gambling or to the desire to make a little money by supplying arms
to its enemies; all the more so, considering the potentialities of
its allies and friends in world politics and the media.
Seventh. Survival and success in this world depend more than
ever on the socio-economic model of the state, which we will be
able to build. But we may fail as well.
Eighth. A clash of civilizations, and the aggravation of the
military-political situation seem to be likely options. It is clear
that sooner or later we will have to take sides. But we should be
getting ready to make a choice, or else it will be imposed on
For the time being, let us maneuver. This is not the best
strategy but we don’t seem to have a better option. Understandably,
these goals will take us years to achieve, but we should start
tackling them today, if we do not want to be desperately late.