The May artillery preparation by the US and Russia before July G8 Summit in St. Petersburg
When during the "Common Vision of Common Neighborhood" conference in Vilnius on May 4 US Vice President Richard Cheney took up the burden to openly criticize Russia for its home and foreign policies and, later, US President George Bush said himself – thereby proving that in Vilnius Cheney was speaking "not on his own behalf" — that Washington was not satisfied with "the level of democracy" in Russia, many understood that they in the White House were beginning some kind of battle against Moscow. Their goal might be to get some kind of carte blanche before the July G8 Summit in St. Petersburg to be able to pressure the Kremlin in the "Iranian dossier" issue. As you may know, it was exactly in early May that Russia and China had once again rejected the UN SC's resolution on Iran, drafted by the UK and some western countries.
However, the US and its allies might as well want to turn the St. Petersburg G8 into some kind of "public flogging" for Russia – for Cheney's indictment contains quite surprising charges: like, Moscow is allegedly "toying" with the territorial integrity of some neighboring states. Any unbiased observer could see that Cheney was, first of all, meaning Russia's official stance on the ethnic conflicts in the CIS, and so, through its vice president in nowhere but the Baltic states, the US has given a start to a process that will inevitably dismantle the CIS and — as the Americans believe — will tear away and then reshape the peacemaking formats in the CIS conflict zones. They believe that this all will allow them to push Russia out of the peace-making and -keeping operations – for example in the selfsame Abkhazia or South Ossetia. In this light, one can agree with the "forebodings" of some Azeri officials that during the G8 Summit the US may raise the problem of Karabakh too.
Georgia and Ukraine have already started the CIS dismantling. We already know what their presidents Mikhail Saakashvili and Viktor Yushchenko are going to offer instead, say, to Armenia or Azerbaijan — "Commonwealth of Democratic Choice" – an alternative to the failed GUUAM-GUAM — a framework that the extra-regional forces will now use to "push a-la-west democracy" from "the Adriatic to the Caspian seas" (as they said in Vilnius). However, this is a topic for a separate discussion.
Everybody understood that they in the Kremlin would not be able to pretend they did not see the openly anti-Russian meaning of what Cheney and Bush said. That's why the quick response of Russian FM Sergey Lavrov on May 6 made clear to the experts that in his annual address to the Russian parliament Russian President Vladimir Putin would not fail to outline his basic policy during his the G8 talks. Obviously, Russia began preparing for "a battle" with the US beforehand. One proof is the enhanced Russian-German diplomatic, political and business activities in January-February 2006.
Particularly, Lavrov said: "Democracy is necessary not only inside the state but also on the international arena." About Cheney's speech Lavrov said: "I thought that a person holding such an office is objectively informed of everything but his advisors or assistants must have let him down. For example, Cheney says: 'the opponents of reforms in Russia are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade.' I think one should not explain to the Russian people what gains he is talking about – the country was on the verge of breakup." Lavrov said that, in fact, the Russian authorities are seeking to preserve Russia's unity; in the last 40 years Russia has broken no single oil or gas export contract; as regards the statement that Russia undermines the territorial integrity of its neighbors – in early 90 it was exactly Russian peacekeepers who gave their lives to stop bloodshed in Moldova and Georgia. "Not to remember this is blasphemy," Lavrov noted. To clear the air Lavrov said: "One thing I agree with is Mr. Cheney's desire to see the world as a community of sovereign democracies. Russia wants to be and is becoming sovereign, strong and stable democracy and hopes that they in the world will take it as equal partner whose presence in global problem solving is indispensable. I think that such statements will not undermine the efforts we are making with the US, with Europe, with other leading counties to build a fair world with no conflicts and with countries developing stably and democratically."
That's why when on May 10 Putin appeared with his annual address to Russia's Federal Assembly, special attention was given to the paragraphs about Russia's foreign policy and security for the time being. The South Caucasus and some other CIS countries were mostly eager to know what Putin thinks about the changes in Russia's migration policy – just count how many citizens of our country are presently earning their living in Russia and sending home untaxed money transfers in freely convertible currency in order to feed their poor families. Still, we are inclined to first of all analyze the foreign policy and defense parts of Putin's address.
It should be noted that the text of this document has made it clear that Russia, at least, for today is inclined to regard the West's policy in the CIS as an ordinary rivalry. That's exactly what Putin wants to say: "now that the world is being actively rebuilt we are facing many new problems. These challenges are less predictable and nobody can say how dangerous they might be. The conflict space is actively enlarging and, which is even more dangerous, is beginning to cover our vital interests." They in the CIS and the West should understand the last phrase as an imperative signal to all extra-regional forces that Moscow will not give in "the zone of its vital interests" "without fight." It is symptomatic that today the Russian President has "as if imperceptibly" begun to use the vocabulary the US administration used in early 90 when "opening up" the whole post-Soviet space and calling it "newly independent states and "zone of American vital interests."
Let's put aside Putin's clear remarks that despite their lagging financing, Russia's defense complex and armed forces can give worthy rebuff to any persons or countries who will try to "scare" Moscow. Obviously, Russia's key strategy before the St. Petersburg G8 is that it links nonproliferation of mass destruction weapon (which first of all refers to nuclear weapon – and this is a subtle hint at the "Iranian nuclear dossier") with the new turn of arms race, including the US' deepening activities to create a national anti-missile system. Let's give a couple of quotations: "…today it's early to speak about the end of the arms race… the race is just unfolding and it is going up to a new technological level to produce a threatening arsenal of destabilizing arms (he obviously means non-conventional arms).
Experts are already discussing the plans of use of intercontinental ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. But nuclear powers may inadequately react to the launch of such a missile – they may counter-act in a large-scale nuclear strike. Not everybody in the world has given up its stereotypes and prejudice…" In our view, by saying this Putin just reminded the West that Russia's national security concept has a point that allows Russia to deal response or even preventive nuclear strikes in case of a war or a threat of war. Well, this is all but "a declaration of war" against the West. Let's remind once again – "the war was declared" against Russia at the Vilnius conference by Mr. Cheney, who made an ultimatum: either you break up yourself and we call it "the deepening of the western standard democracy" or…
Even the Western media called Cheney's speech "a new Fulton speech," "cold war ghost," etc, while Putin's address is just a reminder that the challenge can be accepted. In other words, this is an ordinary strategic game until the G8 presidents dot their "i's" by themselves.
The US CIS "democratization" policy also got it from Putin. True, again indirectly: "Today the percentage of our defense expenses in GDP are comparable or a bit smaller than in big nuclear powers like France or the UK… but only absolute figures matter, in absolute figures they are just half of what those countries have and are in no way comparable to the expenses of the US. Their absolute military budget is 25 times as big as that of Russia. That's what they in the military call "their home, their fortress. They did it well. Well done! But this does not mean that we must not build our own strong home. Because we see what is going on in the world. We do see. As they say 'comrade wolf knows whom to eat.' He is eating and is not listening to anybody and seems not to be going to. What becomes of their pathos about the necessity to fight for human rights and democracy when it comes to the necessity to push their own interests? It turns out that here everything is possible with no restrictions." In our view, this is what the Kremlin actually thinks about "the fruits" of the "color revolutions" in the CIS, designed by US political technologists.
And the last point of the defensive-preventive part of Putin's address. He said that Russia has means that can overcome air defense systems and will allow Moscow to fulfill its key task – to guarantee stable peace in the world and to preserve the strategic balance of forces. Putin also made clear that the Russian army will shortly have maneuverable warheads – units that make missile flight path unpredictable for potential enemy.
Only after that did Putin announce the cardinal tasks of Russia's foreign policy – which will obviously be valid for not only this year but the whole period till the next presidential election of 2008. Here Putin said that the CIS is still a priority for Russia's FM. True, the CIS as such has already fulfilled its historical mission and should be reformed. This might be a hint that the Kremlin's political technologists are already working to transform the CIS into one or even several new organizations, which would reintegrate the actions and efforts of all the present CIS states. We have already heard their names and not once – CSTO, Russia-Belarus Union, EurAsEC, CES (common economic space).
The other key task of Moscow's foreign policy is to harmonize relations with the EU, Russia's biggest partner. There is nothing new here – the Russian President still trusts the Russian-EU bilateral agreement for creating "four common spaces." On two of the four the sides have actually been actively working in the last months. We can certainly add to this "the fifth common space" between Russia and the EU – the quickly ongoing Russian-German project of Northern gas pipeline.
As regards the US, it seems that Russia has decided to make it known beforehand that, once its major partner in the West (especially in politics and fight with terrorism), Washington, is no longer a priority in Russia's foreign policy. The US has got into the class of Russia's "special partners" along with China, India, some Asia-Pacific, Latin American and African countries. And if many experts believed that by Cheney's Vilnius speech President Bush made clear to Russia that in St. Petersburg they would have an unpleasant talks, by his speech Putin made even more clear to Bush that today they have nothing special to talk about – let's say once again: "the wolf is eating and is not listening to anybody and seems not to be going to…"
And the last task of Moscow's foreign policy is to promote the UN reforms so that it can further be "the carcass of the modern world order" — "a regulator allowing to jointly develop a new up-to-date code of behavior in the world." But, at the same time, the UN should become as efficient as possible. We can try to go deep into this problem, but it is too is a topic for separate discussion…
It's not a secret that the reason for this "attack" on Russia and those CIS countries who reject the "anti-Russian" democracy is that some of the G-8 and, primarily, the US are very much eager to get new levers of control over Moscow – at least, some new ways of political and other pressure on it. This might also be due to Russia's plans to repay its debts to the "Paris Club" ahead of time or to the US' plans to stop Russia's impartiality in the "Iranian problem?" – this may even be some complex task Russia's international enemies are trying to solve. One thing is clear: the West (the US) fears lest it might lose not only the strings that help it to manipulate Russia but also any "control" over the actions of Russian leaders – present or future. And this is quite possible. That's probably why after Putin's address Russia's Federal Assembly was told that starting from July 1, 2006 Russia will be ready to convert its ruble…
Sergey Shakaryants – expert of the Caucasus Analytical Center