09.11.2004
Russia Goes to War
№4 2004 October/December
Fyodor A. Lukyanov

Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

 

Following
the recent hostage drama in Beslan, where hundreds of
schoolchildren were brutally killed by terrorists, we must ask the
question: “What kind of country has Russia become?” It cannot be
denied that the September 2004 tragedy (preceded by a series of
other terrorist acts) has changed Russian politics. President
Vladimir Putin, like his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush three
years earlier, in a televised address to the nation declared a war
– a war on international terrorism which has chosen the Russian
Federation as a target for its attacks and which seeks, as the
president argues, a breakup of the country and its disappearance
from the international stage.



 

To counter
this threat, the president proposed measures providing for a change
of the state model. As a guarantee against the country’s
disintegration, the president and his administrative team intend to
build a rigid vertical of power. According to this plan, all state
officials, from top to bottom, would be appointed by Moscow and
will be responsible to it. In reality, this move signals a return
to the traditional governance system that existed in czarist
Russia, as well as in the Soviet Union. Analysts, both in Russia
and abroad, remain divided in their comments on the proposed
changes.

 

Some warn
against the possible restoration of authoritarianism in Russia;
they accuse President Putin of taking advantage of the Beslan
tragedy in order to bolster his personal power. Others argue that
the outrages committed by terrorists prove that a Western-style
democracy cannot guarantee safety for the Russian people. They
insist that only an effective and united authority can achieve this
goal.

 

Despite
the justifications, the moves made by the Kremlin in the last few
months have provoked a harsh criticism from the West – which, in
turn, has provoked a nervous reaction from Russia. The same old
Soviet song is once again being sung by some officials, experts and
ordinary people: “The country has been encircled by enemies who are
unable or do not want to understand us. Moreover, they rejoice at
our misfortunes and may well direct the terrorists.” The difference
of perceptions concerning the developments in the world between
Moscow and the Western capitals is
depressing.

Russian
veteran diplomat Anatoly Adamishin calls on the former Cold War
enemies to forget their senseless conflicts. The civilized world is
not yet fully aware of the real scale of the danger posed by
international terrorism, he writes. Many of the present
controversies and problems pale and seem insignificant against this
global threat.

 

In this
issue, specialists have contributed articles that are intended to
help understand the motives behind the present changes in Russia’s
political system. Analyst Vitaly Tretyakov explains why the
American and European methods for combating terrorism and forms of
state system cannot be applied in Russia. Political observers
Tatyana Gurova and Andrei Tsunsky admit that the new political
system will not be like a Western democracy, while they attempt, at
the same time, to allay fears that Russia is in for a dictatorship.
Finally, philosopher and sociologist Igor Yakovenko investigates
whether there are real prerequisites for the breakup of
Russia.

 

Our German
contributors, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and political
scientist Alexander Rahr, do not doubt that Russia, for all of its
differences, will remain a key part of the European
space.

 

The
developments of the last few months have again brought into the
limelight the numerous threats posed by the situation in the
Caucasus. Professor Vladimir Degoyev warns about the danger of a
geopolitical standoff in that explosive region. Political scientist
Andranik Migranyan and journalist Leonid Radzikhovsky offer
different visions of Georgia, and of Russia’s policy vis-a-vis that
country. One more Russian veteran diplomat, Vladimir Kazimirov,
explores the oldest seat of instability in the ex-Soviet Union –
Nagorno-Karabakh. The authors of the Armenia 2020 project present
their views about the different paths that Armenia may take in the
future.

 

Finally, a
special section of this issue is dedicated to a “new Russia” –
which is sweepingly expanding its presence on the World Wide Web.
“Russia and the Internet” is the subject of articles contributed by
Andrei Korotkov, Pavel Zhitnyuk and Robert Saunders.

 

Our next
issue will continue the discussion concerning the war on terrorism.
We are also planning to focus on the migration problem, a topic
being actively discussed now in Russia, as well as provide more
expert comments on the political reforms being launched by the
Russian leadership.