06.12.2002
On the Way to a World Government
№1 2002 December
Anatoly Adamishin

Deputy Foreign Minister from 1986-1990, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister from 1993-1994, and Russian Minister for CIS Affairs from 1997-1998. Presently, he is a member of the Board of Advisors of Russia in Global Affairs.

Anatoly Adamishin  — Doctor of Science (History), Advisor
to the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Sistema Joint Stock
Financial Corporation; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
(resigned).

Anatoly Adamishin

The world is entering the third millennium of the Christian era
trailing a host of daunting problems. It appears to be heading for
a point where quantitative changes (not always for the better for
most people) will culminate in a qualitative leap that will face
Homo sapiens with the stark question of survival.

The existence of the “thinking man” has always been determined
by two key parameters: dependence on the environment and relations
with members of his own species. Tensions are growing in both
areas. The combination of old and new threats to civilization forms
a synergy which suggests that the present crisis is of a systemic
nature.

An incredible amount of sophisticated means and devices,
designed purely for killing, has been accumulated on the Earth. It
is hard to tell what is the most lethal (and here we must take into
account not only the destructive potential but also ease of
access), a nuclear charge or a high-precision conventional weapon,
sources of radiation or bacteria.

Efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction are
failing. Meanwhile, the weakening of regimes and frameworks
designed to limit the arms race make it a much more complex task
than it was in the period of confrontation. That is sinister enough
in itself, but the problem has acquired a qualitatively new
character since organized international terrorism entered the world
stage.

The interconnection between the hideous metastases of terrorism
and the changing reality is becoming ever more evident. The danger
is compounded by global interdependence which is an inherent
feature of our civilization. Moreover, terrorists have no
difficulty in identifying the main targets, as the number of
information and innovation centers in the world shrinks as a result
of the process of globalization. In fact, all such centers are
located in what we term Western countries. In confirming its
technological superiority, the West has dramatically increased its
capacity to influence the rest of the world. In one form or another
it is implementing the principle of “getting its fair share without
leaving anything to the others.” Thus, a fifth of the human race
appropriates 80 percent of the world’s riches. While in the late
19th century, per capita income in the wealthiest states was nine
times that in the poorest countries, today that ratio is a hundred
to one.

But is poverty and unequal distribution of wealth the only cause
of international terrorism?

Terror almost always thrives on despair and humiliation and a
sense of impotence, especially where ignorance reigns; the more so
ignorance leavened with intolerance and a fanaticism that has been
deliberately cultivated for many decades. For example, the ruling
circles of some Arab regimes have encouraged the darkest aspects of
Islamic fundamentalism in order to deflect the threat of social
discontent and channel it against an external enemy.

One cannot escape the impression that the root of the problem is
a combination of economic factors and deliberately fostered
religious fanaticism. This combination has produced an explosive
mixture, which we can call “international terrorism,” symbolized by
Osama bin Laden who comes from Saudi Arabia.

The economic picture of the world as a whole is bleak. The gap
between poverty and wealth is colossal and, most importantly,
wealth has been achieved at too high a price in terms of resources
consumed. Only 20 percent of the world’s population can consider
themselves to be well off, whereas if the remaining four-fifths
were to achieve comparable living standards they would have to
consume the resources equal to four planets the size of Earth.

The new technologies that are developing in the process of
globalization undoubtedly open up new opportunities. But one side
effect has been the burgeoning of the shadow economy. Globalization
has opened additional points of access to the “official” economy,
and the shadow economy can only exist through symbiosis with the
latter, including the business of money laundering.

According to German scholars, almost half of the people on Earth
live within a kind of “informal” (essentially criminal) economy.
They pay virtually no taxes, which is one proof of the weakness of
governments. In other words, all processes are being globalized,
including the negative processes such as the shadow economy,
degradation of the environment and terrorism. To involve a much
greater number of participants in the global processes today
requires new revolutionary managers and new ground-breaking
approaches. Thank God, there is no scarcity of international
economic agencies called upon to organize the division of
labor.

Profligate exploitation of nature has, over the centuries,
inevitably depleted the Earth’s resources. We are no longer
surprised by distressing statistics such as an area of tropical
rain forests four times that of Switzerland being burned or cut
down every year. There is a growing shortage of drinking water:
after 2010, 40 percent of the world’s population, or three billion
people, will have no, or limited access to water that meets
sanitary standards. By burning solid fuel we contribute to climate
change which may turn out to be catastrophic.

Is humanity capable of coping with the avalanche of problems
that has deluged it? The fact that civilization is still alive is
no guarantee that the present crisis will be overcome successfully.
But one exceptionally important step has been taken: the political
elites and the leaders of the states which can still influence the
evolution of the world have become aware of the nature of the
threat.

Not so long ago a distinguished group of scientists prepared a
catalog, commissioned by the United Nations, of 53 emergency
situations. They have drawn a very important conclusion:
technologically, all these threats can be handled. Scientific
thought has found or is close to finding solutions to the global
problems. It now remains to try to unite all the reasonable forces
interested in saving civilization. One need hardly stress the
importance of achieving a harmony between national interests and
moral principles or universal human values.

But there again the question arises, who will undertake it and
how? The world is becoming less and less governable because
globalization is being superimposed on another major historical
process, the disintegration of the system of international
relations that took shape after World War II.

During the Cold War each of the two power centers sought to run
the world in its own way. While they engaged in a tug-of-war the
world teetered on the brink of disaster (suffice it to recall the
Cuban crisis). Gradually, certain rules of behavior were
established between the powers, with the Third World and
Non-Aligned Movement making a significant contribution. That code
of behavior included the entire body of agreements reached between
the states, plus the established custom and practice of complying
with them. Most of them are reflected in the UN Charter which came
to be regarded, albeit not immediately, as the fundamental body of
international laws, and the UN itself became the main controlling
authority.

The end of the Cold War marked the end of ideological
confrontation, but on the other hand it upset the military balance
that had taken shape over the years. At the start of the 21st
century, we see a discrepancy between the objective state of the
world, which has undergone colossal changes in the past decades,
and the norms of behavior which took shape after, and indeed, long
before World War II. Ever since the 17th century, international law
has been based on two principles: national sovereignty and the
legal equality of nations. Now these principles tend to be brushed
aside as outdated, yet nothing is offered to replace them. At a
certain point countries and peoples were practically deprived of
universal rules of behavior, something which made their already
conflict-ridden life still more complicated.

As a result, ethnic and religious differences between peoples
came to the fore and the imbalance of power offered greater room
for them to manifest themselves in the form of conflicts. One may
or may not accept the clash of civilizations theory, but there is
no getting away from the fact that the challenges to security often
arise today along the fault line between civilizations.

One may of course raise the alarm over instances of violations
of the UN Charter, but one has to bear in mind that some of its
basic provisions no longer fit the new conditions. For example, the
UN Charter mainly regulates relations among states, including
conflicts between countries. It continues to be an important
component of international law, but it is no longer the predominant
component, as before. Of the total number of wars fought in the
world after 1945, only a third were wars between states, while
two-thirds cannot be described in such a category. Some political
scientists have spoken about “the privatization of war.” The UN
Charter is of little help when it comes to conflicts within states
and to ethnic clashes.

The downgrading of the role of the UN created a serious vacuum
in the organization of the world based on international law. This
vacuum is filled either by decisions made by a group of “highly
civilized” countries (for example, the bombings of Yugoslavia), or
by unilateral actions of a single power (of which there are
examples galore). But can a group of countries or one state rule
the world in a way that is satisfactory to all? Can it really be a
safe world, including for those who run it? Is the U.S. capable of
ensuring world security single-handed if it fails to ensure it in a
single region, the Middle East, and even to some extent inside its
own country?

The inadequacy of political thinking in the United States is
highlighted by the barter arrangement it has operated for many
years in relations with certain Arab regimes, an arrangement which
the Americans themselves now describe as cynical: uninterrupted oil
supply and massive purchases of American weapons in exchange for
allowing the perpetuation of feudalism and the safety of the ruling
families. Meanwhile some of these regimes have provided financial
and ideological help to Islamic extremism, including terrorism.

It is only recently that public doubts have been expressed in
the U.S. as to whether the right countries have been included in
the “axis of evil.” For all its might, the United States is
incapable of bringing order to this chaotic world. Moreover,
American attempts to destroy the former system of international
treaties and agreements while refusing to sign new ones bring
instability.

For the foreseeable future America will have a power many times
greater than the potential of the states that are below it in the
world league tables. This imposes huge responsibility on the ruling
class of the sole superpower. It is necessary to combine power and
reason, international cooperation and a sound concept of U.S.
national interests.

What can be the systemic response to a systemic crisis?
Conscious building of a new world order. Henry Kissinger, the guru
of international diplomacy, rightly points out that the war against
terror is not just about persecuting terrorists. Above all, it is
about protecting the extraordinary opportunity that has presented
itself for rebuilding the international system, because,
paradoxically as it may sound, terrorism has generated a feeling of
world unity, something that could not have been achieved by
theoretical calls for a new world order.

Former enemies in the Cold War must become seriously aware of
the fact that their very survival depends on their ability to
address new dangers. It is high time to stop the bickering inside
one civilized family, a family which had been split along
ideological lines for forty years. It was during those years that
the threats to the whole human race were born and fostered. But
instead we are still fighting the ghosts of the past.

In the relations between civilizations and cultures, a
purposeful and systematic search is required for a common
denominator that would contribute to mutual understanding between
them.

In the modern world this is hardly possible without major
changes, the creation of a civil society in countries with
different political, religious and cultural traditions, and
establishing interaction between the authorities and society. There
is a close link between a developed civil society and normal
relations between civilizations. The only sound approach is through
developing new rules of international behavior that would be
adopted by an overwhelming majority of countries. Updating the
existing rules should be a component of that process.

More specifically, the ongoing work to renew the structure of
the United Nations and its Charter and to improve the functions of
the Security Council should be sped up. Russia could lead the way
in this and, indeed, in many other areas. Even though its economic
weight in world affairs has diminished, its moral authority with
states – including developing countries – is still fairly high.
This country has considerable experience in the field of
international law and an impressive intellectual potential. Russia
could come forward with proposals on ways to renew the system of
managing world processes. I see a thoroughly modernized UN as the
center of that system. All states of the world can contribute to
the discussion of these problems.

But who should have the decisive say, including on the key issue
of sanctions to use force in international conflicts?

Considering the dominance of the United States in world
economics and politics, it is impossible to imagine that the new
threats can be successfully countered without it. The leading role
of the U.S. is indisputable, but it should not be a hegemon, but
act in concert with other powers, including Russia. The mechanism
of decision-making within such a coalition lends itself to
regulation. One may consider, for example, a change in the rules of
exercising the right of veto in the Security Council, so that it
should come into force only if two or three members of the Council,
and not one as at present, express a common opinion. This is not
yet a world government, but it is something approaching one.