Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov's Article "The Foreign Policy Sovereignty of Russia - an Absolute Imperative"
(January 18, 2007)

The world has radically changed over the decade and a half since the end of the Cold War. And although the legacy of the past still makes itself felt, the shoots of the new are ever more confidently pushing up.

The field for confrontation in international relations objectively narrows as the bloc standoff is overcome. With the globalization of possibilities as well as challenges to security and sustainable development an understanding emerges of the fact that only a joint response of the world community to key problems of contemporary development can be truly effective. As a result the demand falls for single-nation leadership, and the "old" allied commitments, propped up by ideological and civilizational solidarity, become devalued.

At the same time the world has not become safer. The principal reason for that is the costs of globalization: the increasing unevenness of development engenders conflicts on social-and-economic, interethnic and religious grounds. But the sense of security shortage also creates relapses of unilateral military actions. Stagnation in the disarmament sphere aggravates the menace of a spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The continuing uncertainty about a future world pattern was due largely to the weakening of Russia in the period after the breakup of the USSR. Its other source: the syndrome of the West's "victory" in the Cold War that lies at the base of a black and white vision of the world and a striving for reideologization and remilitarization of international relations.

It is therefore only logical that the strengthening of Russia has become a catalyst for positive changes as it is now able equally with other leading powers to participate in the formation and realization of a global agenda. Without Russia and despite Russia, not a single international problem of any significance can be solved.

Perhaps, for the first time in the last fifteen years, a real competitive environment comes into being on the market of ideas for a world pattern adequate to the contemporary stage of world development. The degrading situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is a striking proof of the deficiency of the policy of unilateral military response and attempts to monopolize conflict settlement processes.

The out-of-balance system of international relations is becoming ever more unstable. Bloc, ideological stimuli cease to work, and others have not yet formed. In these conditions, many states are beginning to rethink their interests.

The rise of new global centers of influence and growth and the more even distribution of development resources and natural wealth control lay the material foundation for a multipolar world order.

The totality of these and other factors stands behind the incipient transition to a new stage of world development. Its chief distinction from the previous phase is that the present world order is determined not so much by the fading inertia of bloc standoff as by today's realities. In these circumstances the awareness of the commonality of all states in the face of the challenges and threats of the 21st century transforms itself into a tendency for the assertion of collective and legal principles in world politics. In particular, the analysis carried out as part of the Foreign Policy Survey prepared by our Foreign Ministry on President Putin's instruction, which has fully confirmed the correctness of the choice made in 2000 in favor of pragmatism, multivector diplomacy and a firm, though without sliding to confrontation, advancement of national interests, is testimony to this.

Earlier than many, Russia was able to comprehend the lessons of the Cold War and give up ideology in favor of common sense. Hence the ability to take an unbiased look at the contemporary international realities and initiate out-of-the box solutions to most complicated problems.

Russia is open for constructive dialogue and equal cooperation with all states without exception. With many countries, including the CIS neighbors, China, India, Egypt, Brazil and the G8 members, we have already reached or are reaching the level of strategic partnership. And in the world as a whole, forces are gaining momentum that are keen to see a powerful and sovereign Russia. Given, of course, that the notion of the power and greatness of a state is defined differently than in the past: mainly in terms of so called soft power, which is understood to mean, inter alia, the skill to "play in team," readiness to advance a positive agenda across the spectrum of international problems, and ability to cherish one's cultural and civilizational distinctiveness while respecting the diversity of the world's cultures and traditions.

The foreign policy sovereignty of Russia is an absolute imperative. Far from all can afford this in the contemporary globalizing world.

And for us this is a key question, the question of sovereignty. Our country is not one that or its foreign policy could be directed from the outside. We are not out to be likable to everyone - we simply proceed from our own, understandable pragmatic interests.

Let us recall that our country particularly strove to be "likable" in the era of Nicholas I and in the last Soviet years: we know where that led us to.

There is no reason to either conceal the existing differences with the partners or dramatize them. We have an enormous amount of joint work ahead. It is interaction in the United Nations and the Group of Eight, the Russia-EU partnership and dialogue in the Russia-NATO Council, crisis settlement, and bilateral agendas. What, then, hinders this, in our view?

Unfortunately, some have to literally overstep themselves for dealings with Russia on an equal basis. This is not our fault. But this turns into a general trouble of global politics, as it is designed to maintain a status quo taken to mean the privileged position of individual states in an evolving international system. That has nothing to do with envy or grievance.

Firstly, any claims to leadership must be supported by actions, yield added value in the form of "common boons." It is not visible yet that unilateral response would help solve existing problems. Rather, while failing to solve them, it creates new ones. As a result the problemness increases in international relations.

Secondly, the very character of global challenges and threats requires a global response. But instead of a collective mode of action, we are being offered something like collectivization Soviet style. Of course, those who "sign others up for the kolkhoz" do not put the notorious revolver on the table. They replace it with the maxim that otherwise it will be worse for all. We can't accept this logic, understandably. Especially as there are positive examples of truly collective, on an equal basis, multilateral efforts attesting in favor of our vision of the contemporary historical epoch. It is enough to refer to the decision of the G8 St. Petersburg Summit on international energy security and the Middle East. In the former case a fair, well-considered balance of interests of producers and consumers of energy resources was laid at the base of global energy policy. In the latter case a principled understanding was agreed upon that at the root of the region's problems lies the unsettledness of the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects.

And finally, Russia, in the process of unprecedented change, just can't participate in a protective policy aiming to conserve the current transitional state of the international system.

We can afford less than others risking the emerging trust in our foreign policy, trust which, in its turn, is an important factor of the general predictability of world development.

If there's something we do aspire to, it's only participation in well-argued discussions which would be open and free, without an outcome programmed beforehand. In politics, just as in everyday life, there's an acute need for an ability to listen to and hear one's interlocutor. At least in a number of cases this could save human lives and save material resources being wasted as a result of the pursuit of a policy which it is hard to call rational.

There should be no room for fatalism or fanaticism the hallmark of which, according to Winston Churchill, is a stubborn reluctance to change the theme of the conversation.

It evokes rejection, the striving to make us recognize as a given the policy in concrete matters that has already proven its unviability, particularly in the eyes of the appropriate countries' own electorate. Russia, even if it makes mistakes, pays its bills itself. In contrast, they call on us sometimes to back up a line the erroneousness of which creates problems for the entire world community. We do not claim truth in its last instance, but we as a minimum successfully pass the test for the adequacy of our foreign policy.

We hope that our American partners have not said their last word on Iraq settlement, where the need is long overdue for the real involvement of the UN, all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and leading regional organizations in support of a true national reconciliation of all the Iraqis.

A realistic correction of the coalition's policy in Iraq could help realize in practice the objective commonality of Washington and Teheran's interests in that country. This could become the start of movement towards the normalization of American-Iranian bilateral relations, which, in its turn, would create a favorable background for resolving the situation around Iran's nuclear program as well. That is, efforts for resolving Middle East problems and strengthening the nonproliferation regime would benefit alike. These tasks cannot be solved by following the zero-sum game logic.

Those won't be found now who only four years ago claimed that "the way to Jerusalem lies through Baghdad." Practically everyone, including the members of the anti-Iraq coalition, agrees in acknowledging the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which brings us back to the outcomes of the St. Petersburg Summit. Any attempts to get around this fundamental reality, particularly by playing the card of inter-Muslim and inter-Arab contradictions, would have the most devastating consequences, let alone the likelihood of finding themselves actually in the same boat with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, that is in the situation that existed at the moment of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. The very same forces advocate the Taliban's pacification that then stubbornly sought ways leading to an international recognition of their regime.

The Iraq experience suggests turning to sanctions policy problems as well. In their time, it was the ill-considered sanctions, as well as the striving to use them, contrary to the resolutions of the UN Security Council, for regime change that created the conditions for what we now have in Iraq.

In principle, sanctions as an instrument at the UN Security Council's disposal can play a role insomuch as they help to advance along the path of a negotiated settlement of a problem. If they are programmed for a force-based outcome, then they become a smokescreen for power politics. And unilateral sanctions imposed in circumvention of the Security Council can only undermine any chance of reaching solutions, alienate the partners and weaken the unity of the world community. In any case we believe that as applied to each particular situation the answer can only be given through honest, without-preconditions, multilateral efforts to find a politico-diplomatic settlement.

And, of course, ruinous is going beyond the bounds of international law, let alone gross violations of its fundamental norms - such as the inviolability of diplomatic representations. A striving to act on the "all is permitted" principle inevitably triggers a response reaction entailing a threat of chaos, and then it will already be pointless to argue who is "Jupiter" and who is "the bull."

The processes of the NATO and European Union enlargement give food for thought. Despite the distinctions in character between these two organizations, the consequences of the politicization of the enlargement theme - and the facts show that the enlargement was from the outset a political project - are largely of the same order. Both the European Union and NATO are losing flexibility and effectiveness in terms of achieving their fundamental goals. This might make some people happy; some would see in the enlargement a way towards the self-liquidation of NATO and weakening of the European project. Neither meets the interests of Russia, ready not only to reckon with the facts, but also to ease the positive development of pan-European cooperation on the basis that has actually taken shape. Any orderliness is better than chaos.

A comprehensive approach to solving the problems of the Euro-Atlantic region appears to be most promising. It could be about broad interaction on the full range of themes of interest in a trilateral format: between Russia, the European Union and the United States. Especially as such cooperation already occurs in practice, be it in the UN Security Council, within the G8, in the Middle East Quartet of international mediators or in the Six on Iran's nuclear program.

What particularly matters is that this format would remove unnecessary mutual suspicions regarding what is happening between any two participants of this "triangle."

There is no doubt that this would substantially improve the general atmosphere in the region and in the world.

I would not like to see anyone by inertia - "simply for want of other ideas" - react to self-confident Russia in the spirit of instincts formed in the course of the Cold War. I am convinced that neither a remake of the Cold War nor a "cold peace" are a realistic choice for the international community. At least because a choice has now to be made not behind closed doors and in a close circle of the selected.

Russia is sometimes reproached that it is trying to live in several civilizational dimensions. But that's how - at a junction of civilizations - Russia always existed. Such was the will of geography and history. Our historical destiny is to be interpreted in the light of a more fundamental problem: the cultural and civilizational diversity of the world that cannot be abolished and which must find reflection in the processes of globalization. It is the solution of this problem that Russia intends to facilitate in every way by its internal development and its initiative-laden, open and predictable foreign policy.