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Impressions of Heiligendamm
MOSCOW. (Sergei Karaganov, head of the editorial board at the Russia in
Global Affairs magazine).
13/06/07

The G8 summit in Heiligendamm has a great achievement to its credit - a
tentative agreement on a 50% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases
by 2050.

This is a major success on the part of responsible individuals who are
urging the political classes of their countries to rise above minor disputes
and tactical power games in the name of meeting the major challenges of
today and tomorrow. They urged the United States to take a new look at the
situation. It had been opposed to any commitments on greenhouse emissions,
but its position has now mellowed. The Americans will still have to be
persuaded to put the issue on the UN agenda. Washington is still against a
stronger UN that limits its freedom of action, but some progress has been
made.

Having backed the positions of the majority, Russia has kept its freedom of
maneuver by placing itself between the obstinate Americans and the radical
Europeans, which is a good thing.

I was happy about the personal victory of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Her position deserves respect. In her past as an academic, she was concerned
with environmental pollution, and for her, combating harmful emissions was
both a professional and personal duty. There were a few moments when she
seemed on the verge of failure, but eventually she won. This victory is not
final, of course, but she has proved that convictions are still worth
something in our increasingly cynical world, where people have been losing
respect for morals and common values.

I am much less pleased about the agreements on aid to Africa. The declared
figures pale into insignificance when compared with the real humanitarian
issues of the continent in distress. Rather than provide Africa with real
help, these handouts are meant to ease the conscience of the former colonial
powers and feign a desire to compromise with anti-globalization activists
and other left-wing forces who consider the current world order unfair.
Moreover, it has become clear over the past few decades that giving
financial aid to poor countries is a senseless pursuit - the money
disappears into thin air.

Economic injections can be effective only if poor countries accept external
management, but the idea of a new, "enlightened" imperialism is not in vogue
right now.

Russia itself is emerging from a crisis, despite rather than because of
"assistance." Indicatively, we started moving ahead only when "assistance"
came to an end, although this may have been a mere coincidence.

I was pleased with the Russian president's maneuvers around the issue of
building an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system in Europe. Having upped the
ante by warning that European-based ABM elements would automatically become
priority targets in the event of an armed conflict (that I hope will never
take place), Putin took a small step back. He suggested to George W. Bush
that the United States use a Russian radar station in Azerbaijan to watch
for potential, albeit very unlikely, launches of missiles from the south. In
this way, he started a game that opened but did not guarantee a way out of
the artificial crisis created by the ABM plans of the United States and its
satellites in central and eastern Europe.

Contrary to the gloomy forecasts of journalists, the personal relationship
between the Russian and French presidents got off to a predictably good
start. There will be problems, and more than before. But the two countries
and their presidents do not need to confront each other when expressing
their interests. Even the usual entente cordial will strengthen the
positions of both sides.

I think Russia has scored a success by dispersing the gloomy clouds of
confrontation, at least to some extent. Russia and its president were the
target of an attack, and they used stronger arguments in this involuntary
propaganda battle. But this is a losing battle for everyone, primarily for
Russia, which is not the strongest player although it has gained a lot of
strength since its past failures. We have enormous unsolved problems inside
the country, and outside confrontation will impede their resolution. We'll
have to wait and see how tough future attacks will be and how well we will
reply. Relations may continue to deteriorate, and we will have to respond.

In parallel with the G8 summit, Brussels agreed to resume talks with Serbia
on EU entry. Serbia is not going to succeed without EU membership, which
comes with the prospect of aid and elements of external management. Now
Belgrade may pretend that it hopes for early accession and agree to grant
independence to Kosovo. Moscow will win no matter what. We have always said
that Kosovo's independence is impossible without Serbia's agreement - so,
one more source of irritation will be removed on our terms.

The summit's atmosphere was good for Russia. It has given it a chance to
relax and look back - maybe it should stop responding to minor provocations
with its usual enthusiasm and stop cornering its strong Western partners and
rivals that have temporarily grown weaker.

It is necessary to try and regain some things that were senselessly given
away or deliberately taken from us in the past. But if we overdo it, we will
be asking for trouble.