|I DO NOT WANT TO COURT DISASTER, BUT I
HAVE TO SAY...
MOSCOW. (Sergei Karaganov for RIA Novosti)
The Russian Federation and its president have without a doubt successfully
passed a serious test for earning the title of a great power, which the
country lost after perestroika and the subsequent years of semi-democratic
chaos and economic degradation of the 1990s.
In St. Petersburg Russia did not receive everything it was hoping for.
Dozens of articles have been written on this subject. But Russia and its
president achieved a lot in St. Petersburg – primarily, prestige. For
the first time, Russia chose some of the items on the agenda (such as
energy) for the old great powers. When yet another big international
crisis developed during the G8 summit, as often happens, Russian diplomacy
rose to the occasion. We suggested courses of action which were accepted.
The summit’s PR was excellent, too.
A really big result of the summit for Russia was that the new leading
nations of the world – China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico
– were involved in the preparations for it, rather than merely attending
it as guests. This is a serious step on the path to turning the G8 into an
efficient organization bringing together the great powers –“a concert
of nations” for the 21st century.
Its partners left Russia empty-handed concerning its WTO entry. But it
looks like Moscow does not need WTO membership for prestige, and it is not
prepared to give in to other members’ demands, some of which border on
absurdity. The main point is that the WTO-launched liberalization of
international trade has obviously run aground. The conditions imposed by
Russia’s partners, or their puppets, are simply ridiculous. In this
stalemate Russia will not be able to enter the WTO in the next two years
anyway, and it has only strengthened its position by turning down the
With all due respect for the diplomats who drafted the texts of the
declarations adopted in St. Petersburg, these documents are only
marginally better than usual. They are mostly empty, containing the usual
set of good wishes but few specific commitments.
People like me, who have read such declarations for some 15 years, can
only praise them for a more succinct wording.
The G8 may be blamed for its lack of readiness to deal with urgent and
important global issues, but such criticism has become trivial. All
journalists who are not too lazy have had their chance.
Now I’d like to talk about what I think (from my subjective point of
view) should be on the agenda of the G8, or 12, or even 20 responsible
A decline in the level of control over international relations calls for
new administrative institutions (on a par with and in support of the
waning UN). This is common knowledge, but nobody is ready to do anything
practical about it.
The U.S. has embarked on a unilateral project, and is failing signally
both in Iraq and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to name but a few.
Meanwhile, a number of conflicts that are brewing now are very similar to
the preludes to some of the big wars of the past.
The Islamic world, like different parts of Europe at one time, is overtly
against the values and lifestyle of the general (let’s call it modern
European) civilization. The gap is widening, and tensions are running
The crisis in the Middle East (between Israel and its closest neighbors)
is obviously going from bad to worse. I hope that the current clash
between Hizbollah and Israel does not develop into a large-scale war
involving Iran and other foreign powers, and lead to strikes on Iranian
nuclear facilities, or else there will be a number of big wars in what is
called the greater Middle East.
This is all the more relevant because the causes of this “war of
civilizations” are plain. But this is a subject for another article.
Almost universally growing trade protectionism is another bad sign. It is
aggravating political tensions and breeding mistrust.
The nuclear non-proliferation regime has almost collapsed. Proliferation
has started and been practically legitimized with the recognition of India
and Pakistan as de facto nuclear powers. Unstable Pakistan may explode at
any time, and no one can predict where its nuclear weapons will land.
Now that the U.S. has accepted India as a nuclear power and the two
countries have signed an agreement on cooperation in the nuclear field,
the world community has no moral or political arguments to use against
other countries that want to get nuclear arms. At the G8 summit the
leaders of the great powers demonstrated a common, albeit mild, approach
to Iran; but they are not likely to remain united when it comes to
sanctions, to say nothing of military strikes.
In addition, attempts to prevent North Korea from going nuclear having
failed, the chances of a nuclear arms race in the Far East have become
Almost the whole of Africa is in a deplorable condition. More often than
not, assistance does not work, even when it is actually given rather than
The world community is clearly unable to manage its international
relations. In this situation, a provocation or misunderstanding may lead
to big trouble.
Many aspects of the contemporary international situation are reminiscent
of the circumstances which preceded world wars. I do not want to court
disaster, but I have to speak about my concerns as a professional involved
in international relations.
What is the way out? I have discussed this issue with my colleagues more
than once. The number of those who concur is multiplying, but ours is
still a voice in the wilderness. We need a new institution of
international control. It can have any name, but the gist should be the
same: the powerful and responsible powers should unite and form an
organization on a par with the UN, a controlling body, which will
sometimes impose definite standards of conduct on the world community. No
matter how many countries become members, the organization should act at
one. Otherwise, it will get nowhere, and the world will have to go through
another series of disasters. This time, it will not happen in Europe, but
today’s world has become much more interdependent than it was in the
The organization may have any name: the “Community of Democratic
States” (my colleagues and I liked that one the most in the early
1990s), or the “Union for Development and Stable Peace” (which we
What’s in a name? But there is an objective need to set up an effective
union of great and responsible powers, which would be able not merely to
proclaim, but to enforce certain rules of conduct to prevent the world
from sliding down into a new and much more dangerous situation.
The union should be permanent. It should have a secretariat and be closely
connected with the UN, but should not depend on the support of the
majority of the latter’s members. No matter how many countries join it,
they should adopt the principle of a qualified majority. For example,
decisions should be made according to the 12-2 principle.
I could go on talking about what I consider an ideal project to create a
new world order, but I will stop at this point.
I hope that the G8 leaders will resume the discussion of this idea at
their next meeting in Germany. Otherwise, we will be getting pleasant
communiquÊs while the world deteriorates into dangerous instability.
Sergei Karaganov is the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense