RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRESCRIBES GLOBAL CHANGES

26.09.06
NEW YORK. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it was time to go over to collectively solving international problems, i.e. to establish the world order for which the United Nations had been established over 60 years before. "This is an objective trend, because it reflects the reality of the emerging multi-polar structure of international relations," he said.

Perhaps this was not the brightest statement voiced at the General Assembly, which gathered heads of state and foreign ministers from 192 UN member states. But the prescription is serious and remarkable: the world has changed and the UN mechanism should be adjusted, Lavrov said.

Of course, it is easier for diplomats to see the seriousness of the looming change, but even others cannot fail to notice that the bitter experience of unilateral military action (such as in Yugoslavia and Iraq) has not been repeated for obvious reasons. It is equally obvious that China, India, Brazil and Russia today have more influence on global affairs than they had a few years ago. So in the numerous current international crises all nations are looking for a way to reach consensus, at least in many if not all cases. There were signs of change even in some speeches delivered at the Assembly. For example, the recent speech by U.S. President George W. Bush was an invitation to Middle East countries to discuss democratic values rather than another ultimatum. It is these obvious changes that Lavrov alluded to in his statement, offering his prescription for the international situation.

Much is changing in the UN itself: the organization is being reformed in the collective direction mentioned by the Russian minister. He recalled that the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council had been established in the past year. He also said that the UN "belongs to all of us" and that no group of states can be barred from active work in these two bodies.

Much of his speech was a report to the international community on the G8s activities, which he, as a representative of the Group of Eight president, was expected to give. Yet even in this part of his address, Lavrov spoke of the trend toward collective action, which was evident even in G8 work, including its African programs and the decisions to develop global education, healthcare and energy that were made at the St. Petersburg summit last July.

In speaking of the trend toward collective work, he pointed to the examples of the CIS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He called on NATO to follow suit so that it would be transformed "from a defense union into something more up-to-date."


Of the key international problems mentioned by the ministers, the most remarkable one is the idea that the disarmament process can and should be spurred on in the new situation. Russia, the United States and other countries should agree to prohibit the deployment of weapons in space and the production of military fissile material. Disarmament is not a purely Russian-American problem, because "almost all members of the international community benefit from supporting strategic stability."

Lavrov's speech was businesslike and even technical. It was not one to make the headlines, because it was not meant to be so. A source familiar with UN mechanisms said that presidential and ministerial speeches at the Assembly are oriented rather toward top diplomats. Each country has a team working at the UN that listens to and records these speeches, monitors all nuances of voiced positions and signs of change and tries to take all this into account, for example, ahead of a vote at the UN.

Russian diplomacy is believed to be one of the most sophisticated in its knowledge and use of the UNs complicated bureaucratic mechanisms to make the necessary decisions, sometimes seemingly against all odds. UN procedures can be compared to procedures in court: they are complicated, but very useful for those who go to court to pursue their goal.

Of course, the top tribune of international politics is also used for propaganda, for addressing a broad audience around the world or in a speaker's country, especially ahead of an election. This is normal. When somebody says that the previous speaker has left behind the smell of sulfur, this is propaganda. But it is a different thing when year after year a team of diplomats makes minor decisions that are not necessarily visible to an outsider, but that gradually change the world order. 0