Passions Over Sovereignty

21 november 2005

Fyodor Lukyanov is 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 International Discussion Club. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

Resume: Of the many subjects of political debate in Russia in 2005, the main emphasis has been on national sovereignty.

© "Russia in Global Affairs". № 4, October - December 2005

Of the many subjects of political debate in Russia in 2005, the main emphasis has been on national sovereignty. The protection of sovereignty against terrorists, destructive social elements, strategic rivals and external competitors has been the primary focus of statements made by the country’s top officials and political experts.
In light of sentiments within the Russian leadership, this past year can be clearly divided into two parts. The first half was marked by near panic calls for society to rally in the face of threats to Russia’s sovereign existence. The nervousness derived from a series of negative developments, the first being the terrorist attack on Beslan; next was Moscow’s embarrassing defeat in Ukraine where the Kremlin’s prot?g? lost in the presidential elections. Other scenarios, such as instability in Central Asia, attempts to revise the Soviet Union’s role in the war against Nazi Germany on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the victory in World War II, the harsh reaction of the West to the centralization of power in Russia, and the guilty verdicts in the YUKOS case, only exacerbated the feeling of an “enemy encirclement.”

Later, however, the psychological state of the Russian ruling class began to change. And although there are no grounds to rest on our laurels today – the way there were no extraordinary reasons to fear for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity six months ago – Russia’s position has really strengthened. A series of global developments have added to the self-confidence of the Russian establishment: the inability of the United States to solve many of the global problems it has undertaken to address, the ongoing crisis in the European Union, disillusionment with the outcome of the ‘colored’ revolutions, the rapid rise of oil prices, and the equally rapid rise of Asia. The recent ‘contract of the century’ – the construction of a north-European gas pipeline that will bring Russia and the EU still closer together – confirms that Russia possesses a real resource, the importance of which is hard to overestimate in the new century.

This issue offers a wide variety of views on the sources of Russia’s sovereignty and threats to it, as well as Russia’s ability to pursue an independent and effective policy.

Mikhail Leontyev describes Russia as one of the few countries in the world that is capable of conducting a really independent policy. He believes that the country’s sovereignty must rest on might, which the Kremlin must now restore. According to Sven Hirdman, to better understand Russia one must compare the perception of the notions of the State, Society and Motherland in Russia and West European countries. Vladimir Ryzhkov argues that genuine sovereignty is impossible unless it relies on law and democratic procedures. Valery Tishkov focuses on the formation of the Russian people as the basis of a new national identity. Russia’s identity must rest on its entire 1,000-year-long colorful history, rather than on individual periods chosen out of short-term political considerations, Sergei Kortunov writes. Ivan Sukhov analyzes the situation in the Caucasus,  a region that poses the greatest threat to the integrity of the Russian Federation. Leonid Grigoriev and Yulia Urozhaeva argue that the sovereignty of this huge country can be strengthened only through the successful development of its constituent regions.

Sergei Karaganov warns about the danger of ‘Eurasianism,’ that is, Russia’s attempt to isolate itself from the fast-developing global centers under the guise of an ‘original path,’ while Fyodor Shelov-Kovediayev advocates the earliest possible accession of Russia to NATO. Vladimir Milov analyzes Russia’s role in the G-8, which will gather in   St. Petersburg in 2006. He believes that Russia will guarantee for itself the role as a key energy actor on the global stage only if it proposes a joint program for ensuring universal energy security to the developed countries. Vlad Ivanenko discusses how distant the next chairman of the G-8, Russia, is from the standards of this group of countries and what consequences this factor may have. Vladimir Dvorkin proposes ways to use the legacy of Russia’s strategic military confrontation with the United States for the benefit of a Russian-U.S. partnership.

Vladimir Frolov writes about dangers posed by elections in the post-Soviet space, which often become instruments for replacing power from abroad and thus violating the national sovereignty of the post-Soviet states. Mikhail Delyagin draws a line under the Commonwealth of Independent States – in his view, the incumbent Russian authorities have wasted the chance for this country to become the center of post-Soviet integration. Robert Saunders discusses the phenomenon of ethnic Russians in a foreign state – Latvia – following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Finally, Vladislav Inozemtsev, the host of our journal’s new section Personage, speaks with one of the most brilliant intellectuals in Latin America. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, which is often compared with Russia, speaks about democracy, reforms and globalization.

Last updated 21 november 2005, 17:57

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