Russian foreign minister writes article on ‘turbulence’ in world affairs

Text of an article by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, "International Relations in a Turbulence Zone: Where are the Points of Support", in English published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 11 January. The article is dated 29 December 2011.

Today the world is changing rapidly. This process is complicated, non-linear. The catalyst for change has been the global financial and economic crisis that convincingly – even for those who still had doubts about it – has shown that the 500-year period of Western dominance is coming to an end and that a new polycentric international system is emerging that meets the realities of the twenty-first century and rests on the "rules of the game" common to all.

In the outgoing year international relations have hit a zone of turbulence. A complicated situation developed in international financial markets – the economies of several countries, including euro zone states, faced the persistent effects of the crisis, among them the accumulation of excessive amounts of sovereign debt. A long overdue renewal of the political and socio-economic systems in different parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, was accompanied by outbreaks of armed conflict and violence. The need to avoid fault lines between civilizations and clashes on interethnic, intercultural and interfaith grounds stood all the more pronounced as the pressing task of practical politics. At the same time the cross-border security challenges and threats did not disappear anywhere; they can only be resisted by joint efforts of the international community.

The ongoing global shifts facilitate creating more flexible, non-bloc mechanisms of multilateral interaction and multi-vector network diplomacy based on equality and mutual consideration of interests. This opens a new "window of opportunity" for developing international relations based on a pragmatic addition of efforts cleansed of intellectual inertia in the spirit of the stereotypes of the Cold War and underpinned by an ideology-free, creative quest for joint responses to common challenges. Their accumulation in international relations pushes the leading states to work within a positive, unifying agenda.

An obvious example of such a mechanism is the BRICS, the association of five major countries with rapidly growing markets and similar views on the problems of the world, which today has become a factor of global importance. Its work makes a significant contribution to the reform of the global economy and finances. Interaction in this format is becoming ever more focused and intensive. At the same time our objective is not confrontation with anyone – BRICS only seeks to propose a new model of relations designed to help enhance productive equitable multilateral interaction in the interest of solving the urgent problems of today.

It is now universally acknowledged that one of the hallmarks of the development of international relations is the strengthening of the regional level of global governance. And in this context it is totally natural that the main priority of Russian foreign policy was and remains the CIS space. The consolidated integration structures here are our common contribution to the sustainability of the emerging new world order. We believe that the realization of the hugely important decisions recently adopted by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan about the transition from January 1, 2012 to a qualitatively new stage of integration, the Single Economic Space, and on the commencement of the formation of a Eurasian Economic Union will determine the future of our countries for the foreseeable future.

The world community today especially needs clear guidance in efforts to strengthen mechanisms of global governance. We are convinced that such guidelines should be, above all, respect for the fundamental norms and principles of international law; a clear, strict and responsible attitude to the provisions of the UN Charter; strengthening the role of the World Body as a non-alternative forum with an all-embracing mandate and universally recognized legitimacy; and increasing the effectiveness of its structures and mechanisms for adequate response to the diversity of modern risks and threats.

We promote just this kind of approach in contacts with our Western partners. In relations with NATO we act on the assumption that the North Atlantic Alliance is a real factor which largely determines security in the Euro-Atlantic region and near our borders. It is in Russia’s interest to give the interaction with NATO a stable and predictable character.

The December 2011 meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at foreign minister level reviewed the implementation of the decisions reached at the RNC summit in Lisbon in 2010. Then the leaders of the member countries set the task of building a strategic partnership based on the principles of mutual trust, transparency and predictability. The prospect of establishing a common space for peace, stability and equal security for all in the Euro-Atlantic region was outlined.

A lot has been accomplished over the past year. We made headway in counteracting the common threats and risks related to terrorism, piracy, natural and man-made disasters, and the situation in Afghanistan. We consider it important to give new impetus to the joint efforts in fighting drug trafficking – our proposal is on the table to establish cooperation between NATO and the CSTO. Russia is making a significant contribution to the Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund to support the Afghan army, to the training of personnel for anti-drug agencies at Domodedovo and near St Petersburg and to the Stand-off Detection of Explosives (STANDEX) project. Useful exercises were performed simulating rescuing crews from disabled submarines, and response by air traffic control systems, air forces and air defence troops to an aircraft hijacking by terrorists. Russian and NATO warships have developed operational cooperation in the Gulf of Aden. We provide a reliable simplified transit for ISAF troops.

But these undoubted achievements are not enough to accomplish transition to a new quality of relations. Unfortunately, on a number of fundamental issues affecting the vital security interests of our countries, the partners are not yet ready for serious cooperation. The problem of missile defence comes to the fore.

President Dmitry Medvedev on November 23 this year exhaustively set out our approach to the missile defence issue. We are ready for dialogue having mutual regard for the legitimate interests of all parties concerned. But we need clear-cut assurances that deployable anti-missile facilities will not work against Russia’s strategic potential. Such guarantees should be based on objective criteria for assessing whether the missile defence system matches its stated purpose – countering limited missile challenges originating outside Europe. Simple assurances that Russia has nothing to worry about do not suit us.

There should be no illusions – if Russia’s concerns are not taken into account, Russia will take appropriate action based on the developments at each stage of the US phased adaptive approach to missile defence. Our main interest is to preserve strategic stability at a time of the creation of a missile defence system. We think that there still is time to find a mutually acceptable solution.

The formation of European security architecture corresponding to the modern realities and based on collective and democratic principles is a priority for Russia. Military and political realities in the Euro-Atlantic area have fallen far behind the modern economic, technological, trade-and-investment, and other processes of the reinforcement of interdependence. We all need stability and trust in the military sphere, which stay fully relevant as the material foundation for security. We have on the agenda an extremely acute problem of translating the political declarations of the indivisibility of security in the entire Euro-Atlantic region into legally binding form. This is what the Russian initiative for a European Security Treaty is all about. At the same time indivisible security isn’t a menu from which you can choose a dish and decline that which does not suit you.

The strategic goal formulated a year ago at the OSCE’s summit in Astana, of creating the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community which would be based on shared interests and values, first and foremost on the principle of indivisible security, and harmoniously built into the global system, fits into the logic of our initiative. At the recent OSCE Ministerial Council in Vilnius, we confirmed the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate achieving this goal in every way. It is not our fault that the key tasks for the implementation of which this organization was created – to ensure security and develop robust cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic area – are at times sacrificed for populist moves designed to score propaganda points, or attempts to impose one’s standards on partners.

A key condition for progress in this area we believe is the rule of law. We are convinced that a departure from this principle, whatever seemly pretexts it may be hedged about, will inevitably be bound to weaken global and regional security and to destroy the foundation on which rests the whole system of international relations.

We don’t hide our attitude to what happened in Libya, to how NATO was fulfilling the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. When these decisions were being made we assumed that there would be strict adherence to their letter and spirit. However, the operation to enforce an arms embargo and a no-fly zone turned into action for regime change with a shocking ending, accompanied by combat air support of one side in the civil war and numerous civilian casualties as a result of air strikes.

We have even more questions to ask when hearing statements about turning the events in Libya into a model of action in relation to other regional situations. Some politicians argue that a UN Security Council mandate supposedly is not needed for decisive military action. This kind of interpretation of the idea of "responsibility to protect" – which, incidentally, was not articulated in the UN as a fully fledged concept – encourages a part of the opposition in the crisis-affected countries to rely upon forceful outside support. I would not like to think that there is a plan to transform NATO into a "global surgeon" who is trying to carry out radical intervention in places with complex internal conflicts.

The entire course of international events confirms the historical truth: the reverse side of the use of force is the recognition of one’s own impotence, especially in regard to the ability to achieve mutually acceptable solutions by civilized, political methods. In a globalization era it’s doubly true: any use of force is counterproductive and serves as evidence of the notorious limitation of a horizon of politico-diplomatic efforts. Use of force cannot provide a long-lasting and reliable settlement to internal state conflicts, which usually have no simple solutions. External players are required to work painstakingly and consistently to promote dialogue among all political forces involved in a particular crisis. We intend to continue to closely monitor the implementation in practice of NATO’s new strategic concept.

We also find disturbing the state of affairs with conventional arms control in Europe – we are still unable to break the deadlock that resulted from the NATO member states’ refusal in the past to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Our proposals, which need to be discussed in the format of negotiations on a new legally binding agreement on conventional arms control in Europe, are well known.

We consider it important to focus on strengthening the unifying agenda of international relations and on forging consensus through mutual consideration of interests. When this is the guidance in practical work, practically significant and realizable decisions can be achieved. Thus, among the important outcomes of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Vilnius is the adoption of the new version of the Vienna Document on Confidence-and Security-Building Measures, which has not been updated since 1999, as well as decisions on small arms and light weapons.

An example of how to build our relations with our partners, we believe is the conclusion of the new Russia-US Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which entered into force in early 2011. This is, without exaggeration, the "gold standard" that can be adopted as a reference for all subsequent work. In its preparation both sides adhered to the principles of equality and the observance of the obligations undertaken.

Such an approach has secured concrete results in our relations with the United States in several other areas as well. Among them – the entry into force of the Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, solution of questions of Russia’s accession to the WTO, and a number of mutually beneficial commercial and investment projects. The Russian-American Presidential Commission works actively and productively. Virtually all federal agencies have established contact within its working groups and have begun to implement specific initiatives.

We are ready to form the normal constructive relations with the United States, and intend to seek ways of solving all problems on a mutually respectful basis. We presume that the improvement of cooperation is possible only on the basis of fairness and predictability. Of course, the pace of progress along this road will depend on the finding of solutions to difficult issues on the Russian-American agenda, especially the issue of placing US missile defence capabilities in Europe.

Among the traditional priorities of Russian foreign policy is further deepening of the strategic partnership with the European Union. We strive to move forward in our relationship as far as possible, to bring it to a qualitatively new level and to encompass the widest possible range of issues.

In the trade and economic sphere the EU firmly occupies the place of Russia’s largest partner; it has become a major export market for Russian energy resources, and an important source of technology and investment. We are actively engaged in a bilateral format and within the Group of Twenty in stabilizing the global financial and economic system. We presume that Russia’s accession to the WTO will have the most positive impact on our economic and trade relations, facilitate access for economic operators from the EU not only to the Russian market, but also to the markets of Belarus and Kazakhstan as members of the Customs Union.

Recent positive developments, in particular, improved relationships with a number of European countries, are beginning to beneficially influence bilateral practical cooperation, and our overall dialogue with the EU. The results of the Russia-EU summit in Brussels on December 14-15 help to further enhance cooperation in a whole array of areas.

A major task for us is to implement the initiative "Partnership for Modernization." Projects have been launched on such relevant topics for our country as the creation of a diversified and low-carbon economy, facilitation and liberalization of world trade, increasing cooperation in the field of innovation, improving the legal, investment and social climate, and strengthening dialogue with civil society.

The most sensitive theme for us is the abolition of visa requirements for short-term trips to EU countries. The Russia-EU summit gave the green light to the realization of the list of common steps, implementation of which will make it possible to move to elaboration of an agreement on a visa-free regime. We have to jointly solve a considerable amount of technical tasks, including those related to the impermeability of the boundaries for organized crime, human trafficking and drug trafficking. Russia is ready for freedom of movement for citizens of our countries. We hope that the EU also adopts a constructive approach that meets the spirit of our strategic partnership.

Russia stands ready to assume its share of responsibility for the state of global affairs. Lingering pockets of conflict and crisis situations in no way meet our interests; they divert resources that are needed to create the most favourable external conditions for accomplishing the comprehensive modernization of the country, ensuring its dynamic all-round growth and radically improving the competitiveness of Russia in world politics and economics.

Like our western partners, we are interested in a speedy settlement in "hot spots." At the same time, as practice shows, the methods of pressure, the imposition of unilateral sanctions cannot be a panacea, but only complicate the search for solutions. In the XXI century when endeavouring to resolve them it’s necessary to seek to engage rather than isolate individual countries.

That’s what we follow in our approach to Iran’s nuclear programme, international tensions around which persist. We advocate that Iran closely and fully cooperate with IAEA experts to restore the confidence of the international community in the strictly peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Unacceptable to us are attempts to steer the situation from negotiations to direct confrontation with new sanctions and threats of use of military force. We are convinced that to find a mutually acceptable solution is possible only through dialogue while ensuring the reliability of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and respect for the rights and responsibilities of members of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

To prevent undermining of the nonproliferation regime is paramount for us. We seek universal adherence to the NPT, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As one of the main initiators of the convocation of the 2012 Conference on Setting up a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Means of Delivery in the Middle East, Russia will continue to actively work on the preparation of this important forum. We intend to continue to facilitate the promotion of other regional security initiatives, including support for the Treaty on a Nuclear-Free Zone in Central Asia, and to contribute to security in the Persian Gulf.

In general, Russia has consistently pursued a policy of developing equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries that have expressed willingness to reciprocate. We will continue to be guided by such fundamental principles of our foreign policy activity as pragmatism, openness, a multi-pronged approach, and the consistent advancement of clear national interests without sliding towards confrontation. They do not just retain their relevance, but also actually become universal in international relations.

Russia remains open to contacts with our partners; we do not hide our thoughts and intentions. We are convinced that at this sharp turn of the historical process the possibilities of increasing cooperation on the entire range of issues and of finding the best answers to the global challenges of the XXI century must be used up to the hilt. The key to success is goodwill and joint efforts.

December 29, 2011

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Moscow, in English 11 Jan 12

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