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The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the
views of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace or the Carnegie Moscow Center.

The author analyzes the reasons, features and prospects for Russia’s domestic and foreign policy,
taking as a base Putin’s press conference and speech in Munich in February, 2007.


Alexei Arbatov is a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Prof. Sc.
(History); Director of the Center for International Security of the Institute for International Economy
and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Scholar-in-Residence of the Carnegie
Moscow Center and Director of its Non-Proliferation Program.

© Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2007


How effective is the “vertical executive hierarchy”? ........................................................................... 4
Who sets the national priorities and how? ........................................................................................... 5
Corruption – Munchausen’s Syndrome ............................................................................................... 6
Can the model be changed? .................................................................................................................. 7
The Cold War as a historical phenomenon ......................................................................................... 8
A historical perspective on the current deterioration in relations................................................... 11
Political reality and perceptions.......................................................................................................... 13
Lost opportunities ................................................................................................................................ 14
The CIS as an apple of discord............................................................................................................ 16
The West and Russian democracy....................................................................................................... 18
Yet another “third way” for Russia? ..................................................................................................... 20
The challenges of multipolarity .......................................................................................................... 22
Guidelines for the future ..................................................................................................................... 24
About the Carnegie Foundation ......................................................................................................... 27
During the Soviet years, any major speech by the state’s leader was followed by months of tedious
party and trade union meetings to express “approval and support”, but in today’s Russia, it only takes
a couple of days before the public and the media turn their attention to other matters. Such was the
case with President Vladimir Putin’s big press conference on February 1, 2007. This shows just how
much the Russian political system has changed, but at the same time it is also something of a shame,
because the president’s comments addressed important domestic policy issues. It is all the more a
shame as most or all of the president’s responses really did seem to be impromptu and gave a more
direct picture of the leadership’s approach to policy than is generally the case with official speeches
that have been checked and approved by various aides and officials.
Shortly after this press conference took place, attention shifted to Putin’s speech in Munich on
March 10, 2007, which became, if not a watershed, then at least a visible milestone in Russia’s relations
with the United States and other Western countries. The Western media and many politicians reacted
to Putin’s words with unexpected vigor and hostility, provoking an equally hostile counter-reaction
from the Russian media and Russian political circles. There was a clear whiff in the air of the Cold War,
which fifteen years earlier had been declared over and until recently had been considered irrevocably
relegated to the past.
In this context, it comes as no surprise that people are now asking themselves if we are headed
towards a new “Cold War” between Russia, as the legal successor to the Soviet Union, and the United
States, each backed by their respective coalitions of allies and partners.
Both of these speeches by Russia’s president provide ample material for reflecting on the evolution
of Moscow’s domestic and foreign policy and the consequences it will have for Russia and the rest of
the world.


In terms of form, one should give Putin his due, for he displayed a great breadth and depth of
knowledge at his press conference, dealing with a wide range of issues and responding with a swift-
ness and sense of humor that any of the current G8 leaders, some of whom will never attain this level,
would envy. As for the substance, the president’s views on many of the issues raised seemed entirely
convincing, and on others were perfectly in keeping with politically correct standards. This applies,
for example, to such issues as the choice of a “successor”, energy security, the transition to market-
based relations with the CIS countries, the creation of a union state with Belarus, NATO’s expansion,
Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the
Czech Republic and other issues.
But how these sound ideas and policies are to be implemented and put into practice by the state
machinery (the “vertical executive hierarchy”, as it has been dubbed) is another matter altogether.
Russia’s state machinery has become a poorly controlled conglomerate of different agencies that
have joined with big business clans to establish their own material and bureaucratic interests. In this
respect, even the president himself could not resist making a sarcastic remark. Although he was refer-
ring to the draft of a particular law, the implications went much further: “The Government,” Putin
said, “extends just as deeply beneath the surface as do our oil and gas reserves, and sometimes at such
depths things do indeed get lost.”
Indeed, Russia’s swollen federal bureaucracy has no counterbalance in the form of strong legis-
lative and judicial branches of power, an independent press and non-governmental organizations.
The bureaucracy, which during the Soviet era had at least to some extent been controlled by the
Communist Party organization, has now become a self-sufficient force that freely and imperceptibly
replaces the goals of the nation with its own corporate interests and submits to the will of higher politi-
cal authorities only when their decisions do not contradict these interests.
With the stroke of a pen, Putin can fire any minister and dismiss the entire government, dissolve
the Duma and the regional bodies of power, or bring even the richest oligarch to heel. However, he
cannot remove this entire new class that is the Russian post-Communist “nomenklatura”, the fruit of
a full-fledged state-monopolized capitalism, and he cannot compel it to act contrary to its own cor-
porate interests. All of the other institutions of democratic government and civil society that might
have counter-balanced the bureaucratic machine and given the president greater room to maneuver
have been visibly weakened over these last years and forced into a dependent and subjugated position
either through law or through informal political, financial and supervisory schemes.
This is Russia’s biggest national problem today. It is precisely this situation that is giving rise to the
biggest obstacles facing the country’s development, and it is this situation that explains why many
urgent issues are not being resolved, but are only patched up somewhat from year to year.
As a starting point it is worthwhile to consider how national priorities and a development strategy
for the society and state are elaborated. In countries having advanced market economies and a normal
rather than “sovereign” type of democracy (even taking into account all the specific features of each
individual democracy), national ideas are primarily formulated by the major political parties, the
think tanks that serve them, and the media. During elections, these programs are examined by the
ruling circles, passed or failed by voters, and, if successful, enable the political parties to install their
representatives into the bodies of power and to control the state bureaucracy’s implementation of the
objectives that have been set. Of course, this system does not always work smoothly - one needs only to
look at the current problems in the United States - but it does make it possible to get timely feedback
on political failures and to correct mistakes before the cost becomes too high.
In Russia, on the contrary, the senior level of the bureaucracy creates political “parties of power”
and then uses its administrative resources to ensure that these parties will gain majorities at every level
of legislative assembly, with federal and regional officials hastening to join their ranks in “voluntary
compulsion”. Clearly, such parties cannot and do not pursue any independent political programs and
are unable to control the executive. On the contrary, the bureaucrats use the “parties of power” to con-
trol the legislative authorities at every turn. Such parties cannot represent society’s interests or bring
the public’s hopes to the ears of the people at the top level of power. Even if individual competent
and honest members of legislative assemblies try to operate differently, the system works against them
because the success of the “parties of power” depends not on voters, but on federal or local executive
bosses. These parties’ positions fluctuate in accordance with whatever line the executive takes (the
cases of the law on citizenship and on the replacement of benefits with cash payments are just two of
the most vivid examples in this respect).
Political parties can call themselves whatever they want, defining themselves as social-democratic,
liberal, or even great-state-patriotic. However, a party’s real place within the political spectrum is not
defined from above, but rather by the particular social groups the party hopes to appeal to in elections
and whose interests it defends when in power. In this respect, Putin’s response when asked about the
role of – and the differences between – the United Russia and A Just Russia parties seemed less than
convincing, leaving the impression that he felt a certain sense of awkwardness.
The idea of an artificially created loyal two-party system is reminiscent of the marble telephone
in the popular Russian tale for children (“Old Man Khottabych”) – an object that is nice to look at,
but that doesn’t work at all. Although it creates an illusion of broad representation, stability and
cooperation between the different branches of power, it is in fact detached from society and from
real public and political life, and the people, who are unable to find adequate forms of legitimate
political expression through elections and the legislative assemblies, take instead to the streets in
spontaneous protest, primarily over the unresolved problems of corruption, crime and interethnic
friction. These feelings of protest immediately become fodder for manipulation by political extrem-
ists, and the authorities in turn, who would like to win this “electoral resource” over for themselves,
play along with these moods. While the larger parties compete for the title of “presidential party”, the
remaining parties either find themselves excluded from the parliaments altogether through the use
of “administrative resources” and restrictive new electoral laws, or they resort to calling on the people
to follow them back into the Soviet past or trying to gain popular support with a mix of great-state
patriotism and nationalism.
In practice, then, the national priorities and programs in Russia are structured to serve the general
interests of the federal and regional bureaucrats, a fact which the president himself confirmed at
the press conference on February 1, 2007, while describing how one particularly important issue was
resolved: “We got together probably fifteen or so times while drafting the demographic program,” he
recalled, “and in the end there we were down to just two or three unresolved differences between the
state agencies, but then they said to me, ‘We can’t sort out these differences ourselves – we need to
meet with you.’ So I said, ‘Come and see me then.’”
As extensive experience has shown, compromises made between different state agencies in any
country have always served only to reduce the various bureaucratic interests to their lowest common
denominator (these interests being staff expansions, budget increases and greater autonomy, as well
as take-overs of adjacent agencies.) Rather than serving the real needs of the people, these compro-
mises merely reflect the respective weights and influences of the different state organizations and
officials and the degree of access they have to the person at the top. Such agreements preclude the
use of innovative and breakthrough approaches that are vital for resolving serious national problems,
but that run counter to conservative bureaucratic mentality.
The labyrinths of state bureaucracy have never given rise to great initiatives or original solutions.
Foreign policy, in light of its specific nature, is perhaps the only exception to this rule. In all other
areas, the real initiative has always come from outside, from influential politicians, independent
specialists and respected public figures. They have been implemented only when their authors have
attained high state office, and even then the resistance of the bureaucracy and conservative political
circles has had to be overcome.
No one could possibly have any objection, for example, to the four excellent national projects
assigned to first deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev (healthcare, education, housing construction
and agricultural development.) But what principles were used to decide their funding levels and the
optimum means of implementation, and what steps are being taken at ministerial and regional levels
to ensure that the money is being used for its allotted purpose? Normally, this would all be part of the
functions of the legislative authorities, social organizations and, if necessary, the judiciary. However, in
reality, their role, as far as can be judged, is close to nonexistent. The same applies to Russia’s three top
national priorities as formulated by Medvedev in Davos: diversifying the economy; creating a modern
economic infrastructure; and investing in human resources. The concept is wonderful, but it is not at
all reflected in either the 2007 federal budget or in the three-year budget plan, where state administra-
tion costs, national defense and internal security remain the main items of expenditure.
The very term “executive branch” implies the function of executing decisions and programs drawn
up by others rather than the formation of national goals and priorities. If the executive branch swells
to the point where it crushes everything else, the senior political leadership ultimately becomes its
prisoner rather than its master. Whatever its deficiencies, the bureaucracy has consummate skill in
the art of political maneuvering and knows how to channel the leader’s decisions in what it considers
the right direction and distract or isolate him from undesirable alternatives. Only the ruthless ter-
ror of a Stalin or Hitler has managed to keep the bureaucracy in check, but then the entire country
becomes hostage to the arbitrary will of a single man and his favorites of the moment, which can lead
to national disaster.
Many of the greatest problems that Russia cannot resolve effectively have their roots in this unfor-
tunate situation. These problems include an economy skewed towards exports of raw materials,
the big gap between rich and poor, the high crime rate, ongoing terrorism in the North Caucasus,
the demographic decline and ethnic conflicts. They also include the degradation of the housing
and municipal services sector, the growing scientific and technological gap with the world’s most
advanced countries, the crisis in education, healthcare and culture, and the situation in the defense
industry. This situation is further exacerbated by the festering sore of corruption, which eats away at
the very foundations of the state and society, sucking the substance out of all well-intentioned laws,
initiatives and projects and perverting them.


The corruption that has become a national disaster on a scale unprecedented even for Russia is not
by any means simply an unfortunate anomaly. It is, rather, an inevitable and innate consequence of
the system, the entirely natural result produced by combining an immature market economy – what is
more, one wallowing in petrodollars – and an overly centralized bureaucratic model of power.
The Soviet bureaucracy had only the unprofitable command economy from which to suck wealth,
and the pickings were thus rather lean. More important for the Soviet bureaucrats were the privileges
available to the “nomenklatura” (modest by today’s standards) – privileges such as the possibility
of securing good jobs for one’s children, a decent pension and an honorable plot in the cemetery.
Today’s bureaucrats are not concerned with personal pensions and special rations of deficit goods.
They are concerned with the here and now, skimming the cream from the enormous revenues gener-
ated by privatization or the state-monopolized economy.
Not encountering any checks and balances, the modern bureaucracy swells and swells as it attempts
to extend its hold over society and expand its activities through a tangle of all-encompassing laws, by-
laws and regulations. The bureaucrats make everyone’s lives miserable, from the oligarchs to retired
grandmothers. However, this is where the simpler, more “informal” means of resolving problems
come in – buying a solution through bribes of all forms and sizes, from a bottle of cognac to millions
of dollars paid to get deals done.
Power is converted into money at every level, and money plus corporate loyalty means even greater
power. No tightening of penalties or group of watchdog agencies can come to grips with this system.
Worse still, these watchdog agencies and, in turn, the law enforcement bodies and courts also fall victim
to the cancer of corruption and are no longer able to effectively combat either corruption or crime.
The president’s responses to the questions he was asked about consolidating and ensuring the
continuity of the state power system and about the fight against corruption (as with the recent calls to
“keep business and state power separate”) leave a distinctly incomplete impression.
For a start, what is meant by the need to “continue consolidating the state power system” – some-
thing mentioned three times in various contexts at the February 1 press conference? If “consolidation”
means putting a stop to the in-fighting among the cliques in the presidential administration and the
government that has become even more fierce as the presidential elections approach, then yes, con-
solidation is indeed necessary. However, consolidation of this sort can be achieved only in a situation
where the top leadership has come to power following their party’s victory in elections, bringing with
them their party’s action plan and a staff loyal to their party and able to fill at least a hundred or so
senior posts. In such a case, the executive branch can indeed function as a more or less united team,
especially if they are brought closer together by pressure from an independent legislature, a strong
opposition and an ever-vigilant media.
Contradictions between the various groups exist within the administration of any country, but it
is unacceptable when these internal struggles begin to affect fundamental development issues and
even the very foundations of a great state. If the executive branch is formed as a compromise among
the different groups making up the state-monopolist elite, with all their various views and interests,
then fierce in-fighting between the bureaucratic cliques is inevitable. This is all the more true when
the rivalry is fueled by huge sums of money and when lobbyists make their appeals not to a weak and
servile parliament, but directly to the ministries and agencies that make the decisions.
However, “continued consolidation” could also perhaps mean an even greater subordination of the
other branches and levels of state power to the executive system through such methods as the crea-
tion of “parties of power” that are nothing more than Siamese twins. Such formulations are difficult to
accept. The political leadership, not to mention the public, would entirely lose control of the resulting
monolith, and this would inevitably have grave consequences for the country. The biggest problem
today is not how to further consolidate the “vertical executive hierarchy”, but how to effectively control
and manage it, how to restore the channels of feedback between the public and the authorities. The
various administrative reshuffles, shake-ups and appointment of consultative bodies from above (such
as the State Council and the Public Council) are inadequate to the task, just as Baron Munchausen was
unable to drag himself out of the swamp by pulling his own hair.
There is only one solution to this problem in the context of a more or less open market economy
and non-totalitarian political system. There is no point for Russia to reinvent the wheel (whether it’s
called “sovereign” democracy or something else.) This solution involves establishing a reasonable
and balanced division of powers, which is the only way to create an independent judiciary, arbitration
bodies and electoral commissions. This solution requires that fair and honest elections take place so
that the legislative authorities, even if their rights are limited by the constitution, adequately reflect
public interests and are able to manage and restrain the bureaucracy. This solution also calls for the
regular replacement of senior officials and all-round development of free media and law-abiding
public organizations.
Of course, we do not live in an ideal world and we are beginning not with a clean slate, but with the
difficult legacy of the upheavals of the 1990s, more than 70 years of Soviet power that came before,
and even the legacy of a still more distant past, as well. In such a situation, democratic institutions and
the norms governing political life will not just sprout up of their own accord, but must be gradually
and systematically nurtured, without upsetting social stability, as prosperity increases and the public
grows more aware and accepting of the principles of political tolerance, responsibility and respect for
the law and for human dignity. However, the main thrust of overall political development is of great
significance, and in this respect the proposed “continuing consolidation of the state power system”
raises more questions than answers.
The same solution applies for reining in corruption. Encouraging the media to be more active,
appointing new watchdogs and toughening criminal penalties, all of which the president spoke about
at the press conference on February 1, will not be enough to resolve the problem. It is not surprising
that all of the country’s most pressing challenges are addressed by one single approach. After all, they
all derive from a single big problem: the stranglehold that the state-monopoly system has on politics
and the economy in Russia.


A change of model would involve diversifying the economy and making a transition from an econ-
omy based on the export of raw materials to an economy based on innovative development, which
alone can guarantee Russia a position among the world’s great powers and power centers that does
not depend on oil and gas prices. Administrative reorganization and personnel reshuffles are not
enough to bring about this change. The experience of the defense industry, which is geared not to the
needs of market consumers, but to domestic defense procurement orders and the highly politicized
competition of the international arms trade, is not much help, either.
To achieve genuine and far-reaching change in the Russian economy, steps must be taken above all
to thoroughly overhaul the country’s legislation and transform the current informal system of political
relations that is prevalent throughout all of the structures of authority. What is needed are clearly and
firmly enshrined property rights, which only a clear division of power can guarantee, an independ-
ent and objective judiciary and a system of arbitration and law enforcement. What is also needed are
transparent and law-based relations between the state authorities and business, antitrust legislation
and restrictions on natural monopolies, 1 and a modern and open banking, insurance and mortgage
infrastructure (which Dmitry Medvedev has correctly identified as a national priority). Also needed
are strong civic organizations that protect the interests of employers, employees, and consumers.
Without all of this, there will be no real influx of investment, either domestic or foreign, into the
high-technology sectors, and it will not be possible to sustain high rates of economic growth over the
long term. The direct state investment the Communists call for would be stolen in part, and what
remains would once again end up in the hands of unwieldy industrial giants flooding the country
with low-quality and high-cost goods for which there is no demand. The acquisition and export of
raw materials and the banking sector that services them would remain the engine of the Russian
economy, but an engine with all the efficiency of an old steam locomotive. An energy superpower is
like “hot ice”: no such superpower has ever existed or will exist. There are only countries supplying
the raw materials that fuel the industrially and technologically advanced powers and coalitions: the
United States, the European Union and Japan, which will soon be joined by China, India, Brazil,
the ASEAN countries and “little tigers” of East Asia. None of these countries have built up their
power through the export of raw materials, and there is no “special Russian road” to follow in this
There is good reason to be proud of the economic recovery that Russia has undergone over recent
years, but it should not be forgotten that Russia’s GDP is still only twice the size of the U.S. defense
budget (and, as Putin has noted on a number of occasions, the Russian defense budget is 25 times
smaller.) However, this does not mean that Russia should pursue the goal of doubling its GDP at any
price, for if this objective is attained at the cost of increasing the bias toward the export of raw mate-
rials in the economy, the negative consequences for the country could be similar in impact to what
happened to the Soviet economy, overburdened by defense expenditures in the 1970s and 1980s.
It is no coincidence that Putin himself has noted with regret that positive change in the real sector
of the economy has been “much more modest” (with growth of around 4 percent a year.) However, it
is precisely these high-technology sectors, including small and medium businesses, that can provide
plentiful jobs for the population, reduce the gap between rich and poor, encourage scientific and
technological progress (domestically, rather than for export), give the country a modern and power-
ful defense sector, boost exports of goods with a high added value and free Russia from the shackles
of foreign raw materials prices.
In this respect, Russia’s domestic and foreign policy are closely interconnected and markedly influ-
ence (sometimes even pressure) each other. This is why the current debate on the possibility of a new
Cold War has such important implications for the country’s future prospects.


Given that “Cold War” is a journalistic rather than a scientific term, it can be interpreted in vari-
ous ways. It is often used to describe any heightened tension between states, but this interpretation
does not indicate any starting point from which the rise in tension can be measured and its probable
consequences and dangers assessed.
A more justifiable approach would be to define the concept of “Cold War” based on the historical
period that gave rise to the term in the first place. The Cold War was the name given to a particular
state of international relations that lasted for almost 40 years from the end of the 1940s to the end
of the 1980s. The history of those decades abounds with examples of how the two competing coali-
tions of states played out their rivalry on the economic, military and ideological fronts. However, the
uniqueness of the Cold War lay in several specific features of the system of international relations it
gave birth to, and these specific features can be used now as criteria for evaluating the current situa-
tion and its future development.
First, the main parameter of the Cold War world was a clearly defined bipolar structure in inter-
national relations that divided virtually the entire world into two camps – the West and the East.
Two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, established their respective spheres of
influence in Europe and Asia in the 1950s and extended them into Latin America and Africa in the
1960s and 1970s. In some cases this divide went even further, cutting across individual countries and
nations, as in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, China (from which Taiwan separated), and Palestine. This
bipolar structure turned the entire world into an arena in which the two superpowers played out their
tense rivalry, with varying success, right up until the end of the 1980s.
International politics became a zero-sum game, that is, one side’s gain was equal to the other side’s
loss. All other countries were either allies (real or potential), or adversaries. It was extremely rare for
a country to cross from one camp to the other. Any conflict, even in a hitherto peripheral part of the
world, became the focus of attention as an arena where the superpowers would stand off one against
the other, staking the global balance of power between the camps and their respective chances of
achieving final victory.
Second, this situation led directly to another of the Cold War’s distinguishing features, namely
that in practically any local or regional conflict, the superpowers found themselves on opposite sides
of the barricades and essentially fought each other through their protе' gе' s or fought directly against
the other superpower’s “client”. This was true of the wars and conflicts in Korea, Indochina, Algeria,
the events in Cuba and South Asia, the four wars in the Middle East, and the conflicts in the Horn of
Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Afghanistan.
Third, this combination of circumstances meant that all the classic conditions were in place for
potentially unleashing a third world war. The world came close to such a war on at least four occasions:
during the second and fourth Middle East conflicts in 1957 and 1973; during the Berlin crisis in 1961;
and during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when it teetered right on the brink of war. That disaster
was avoided is most likely thanks to fortunate twists of circumstance and the deterrent factor of the
nuclear arms stockpiles the opposing sides had built up. These nuclear arms ensured that the conse-
quences of war would be so devastating that they would outweigh the anticipated fruits of victory, and
indeed, would leave the whole concept of victory meaningless.
Rather than engaging directly in a military conflict, which they feared, the superpowers and their
allies indulged in a surrogate of big war – rivaling each other in their intensive preparations for the
day when such a conflict would come. Journalists came up with a name for this new form of competi-
tion, too: “the arms race”. This arms race – unprecedented in its scale, cost and intensity – was the
third distinguishing feature of the Cold War. The two sides deployed their armed forces, arms and
military installations on all the world’s continents and oceans, but the greatest concentration was in
Central Europe and the Far East, and in the surrounding airspace and seas.
In some years, the rate at which nuclear weapons were deployed reached truly record levels: one
intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) a day on average, and one strategic nuclear-armed submarine
a month. During other periods, thousands of nuclear warheads were being deployed every year. The
expansion and modernization of conventional arms was no less impressive, especially during the 1960s
and the early 1980s in the NATO countries, and in the 1970s–80s in the Warsaw Pact countries. Each
side was commissioning hundreds of fighter planes and tactical missiles of various classes every year, as
well as thousands of armored vehicles and dozens of naval vessels and multipurpose submarines.
Fourth, the two sides justified their global rivalry and all the sacrifices it entailed by engaging in
relentless ideological confrontation, demonizing each other and ascribing to each other all manner
of evil conspiracies and aggressive intentions. This implicitly did away with the need to try to see the
other side’s point of view, take its interests into account, and observe moral and legal norms regarding
it. In some cases, ideological confrontation pushed the superpowers and their allies into intervening
in the affairs of various parts of the world, and in other cases it served as justification for geopolitical
expansion and for economic and military goals.
History had known other periods of fierce ideological confrontation (the crusades, religious and
civil wars, the hostility between communism, fascism and bourgeois democracy between the two world
wars), but it had never before encountered such a protracted and large-scale political and military
confrontation. Political tension and wars between states had been more the rule than the exception in
history, but the world had never before known such a long period of bipolarity during peacetime. 2 As
a rule, when a bipolar situation arose, it rapidly developed into a state of war and lasted only so long
as the war continued. Such was the case with the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic wars and the First
World War. During the Second World War, the bipolarity really only emerged two years after the war
began – when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
Bipolarity and cold war are thus two inextricably linked fundamental attributes of what was a unique
40-year historical period in the second half of the twentieth century. Ideological opposition and the
arms race (fuelled by scientific and technological progress) were secondary attributes, although they
did certainly make the confrontation more dangerous and gave it additional motivation.
The Cold War, it should be noted, did not represent one unchanging, continuous situation
throughout its duration. It can be divided into two distinct phases, each lasting roughly twenty years:
from the end of the 1940s to the end of the 1960s, and from the end of the 1960s to the end of the end
of the 1980s. The first stage was characterized by bipolarity in classic “pure” form, with all the political,
military and ideological consequences this entailed.
The second phase already bore the marks of an emergent multipolarity, primarily as a result of
China’s emergence as an independent power center and the conflict between China and the Soviet
Union (which even led to direct confrontation between the two on their common border in 1969, and
which brought them to the brink of war when China invaded Vietnam in 1978). Bipolarity was further
diluted by Western Europe’s growing economic strength and political activeness (Willy Brandt’s new
Ostpolitik, for example) and the rise of the non-aligned movement headed by India and Yugoslavia.
This explains why the second phase of the Cold War was characterized by comparatively less ten-
sion than before, and why crises were less acute than they had previously been. The process of dе' tente
between the Soviet Union and the West began in the early 1970s. For the first time, serious nuclear
arms reduction talks took place between the two superpowers. 3 Negotiations were held on NATO
and Warsaw Pact conventional forces in Europe, and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)
was signed. While Moscow and Beijing competed against each other to prove their loyalty to the
doctrines of Marxism-Leninism, the ideological confrontation between East and West cooled down
somewhat (as reflected in the Soviet doctrine of “peaceful coexistence” and the Western concept of
These new shifts in direction represented the first harbingers of a movement towards a multipolar
world that would be completely different in nature than the bipolar world of international relations.
However, the geriatric Soviet leadership failed to understand these changes and held fast to their
bipolar vision of the world and their firmly fixed ideological blinkers, which no advisors, officials or
experts were allowed to question. This led the Kremlin to interpret the United States’ partial scaling
back of its military presence overseas following its defeat in Vietnam as “a change in the balance of
power in the world in favor of socialism,” the increasing independence of Western Europe as “increas-
ing contradictions within the imperialist camp” and the increase in the number of post-colonial con-
flicts in the world as a sign that new states were attracted by “non-capitalist development”.
The Soviet Union responded by launching an unprecedented geopolitical and military-strategic
expansion in the late 70s-early 80s in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and by unrestrained military
build-up in all areas. This compelled the United States, China, Western Europe, Japan, the Islamic
countries and local client states of the West and China in Africa and Latin America to unite in opposi-
tion to Moscow.
The American historian Paul Kennedy brilliantly explained the dialectic of imperial decline on the
basis of numerous historical examples, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, which President
Putin called “one of the greatest geopolitical tragedies of the twentieth century.” However, the Soviet
collapse was by no means the first such disaster of its kind. Kennedy wrote that wealth is generally
necessary for maintaining military strength, and military strength is generally necessary for snatch-
ing and protecting wealth. “If, however, too large a portion of the state’s resources is diverted from
wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of
national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a state overextends itself strategically – by, say,
the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly wars – it runs the risk that the potential
benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it all – a dilemma which
becomes acute if the nation concerned has entered a period of relative economic decline.” 4 Other
rival states “start expanding at a faster rate, and wish in their turn to extend their influence abroad.
The world has become a more competitive place, and market shares are being eroded.” 5 The great
powers, now in a state of relative decline, instinctively react by spending more on “security” and in so
doing, they siphon off even more money from “investment” and thus only further exacerbate their
fundamental dilemma.
This is precisely the scenario that led the Soviet Union into a situation where its economic resourc-
es, political influence and ideological spirit were seriously undermined, and what is more, were
accompanied by the economic and socio-political bankruptcy of the command economy and totalitar-
ian system. Mikhail Gorbachev, when coming to power, realized the extent of the country’s decline
and ended the Cold War, but he did not know how or did not manage to build a new world order
based on “new political thinking” or on “socialism with a human face”. The tottering Soviet empire
was unable to withstand the second round of dе' tente (after the first round in the early 70s) and the
second “thaw” (after the first in the late 1950s) and rapidly began to crumble, despite having an army
of four million men and a military arsenal that included more than 30,000 nuclear warheads, more
than 2,000 strategic missiles, 60,000 tanks and almost 200 nuclear submarines (more than the rest of
the world put together).
The Soviet Union thus became the first victim of the multipolar system of international relations in
the post-World War II period. It did not lose the Cold War, as many in the West and their imitators in
Russia assert, but rather, it lost the new political game, the rules of which were being set by an emerg-
ing multipolarity.


The preceding passages do not represent mere abstract political theory but are directly linked to
evaluating Russia’s current relations with the United States and with the West in general. Serious
analysis of the concepts set forth above makes it clear that the term “Cold War” does not apply at all
to the current exacerbation of tensions between Russia on the one side and the United States, NATO
and the European Union on the other.
Above all, the main component of the Cold War system – bipolarity – is missing. Aside from such
global and transregional economic and military power centers as the United States, the European
Union, Japan, Russia and China, there also emerge such regional leaders as India, the Pacific’s “lit-
tle tigers”, the ASEAN countries, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria. Moreover, the traditional
boundaries of international relations are being eroded by the powerful currents of globalization and
the information revolution, the rising tide of nationalism around the world and the trend of transna-
tional economic, political and even military players coming to the forefront. A dynamic, exception-
ally complex and multilevel system of international relations is taking shape, in which diverse actors
can play different roles in different areas of interaction and in specific global economic, political and
security issues.
The relations between the United States and Russia no longer form the central axis of international
politics. They are just one of the many facets of the international situation, and, for a number of the
most important issues, not even among the most significant. Aside from their differences, Russia and
the West also share very important common interests and face competition from other countries and
from non-state players. Under such conditions, a zero-sum game is out of the question.
Unlike the bipolar-era zero-sum game, today’s opponents in a multipolar world can become tomor-
row’s partners, and vice-versa. Excessively weakening one’s opponent does not automatically result in
gains – it can also lead to a third party rapidly gaining strength and result in an even greater threat
than that posed by the original opponent. Excessive strength gained by one side does not guarantee
victory – it unites the other power centers against the strong side and inevitably leads to losses if not
checked in time.
Compared to the multipolarity and the European “concert of nations” of the nineteenth century,
today’s international system is far more complex and global in scale. States and transnational players
can be simultaneously rivals and partners at different levels and on different issues. However, it is the
state or coalition best able to build better relations with the other power centers than they have among
themselves that will maintain the most advantageous position within this system. Until recently, Russia
was in just such a position and would have become a leading world power center had it not been for
its economic and domestic political handicaps.
Without bipolarity, the other manifestations of Cold War are also absent. Russia and the West are
not on different sides of the barricades in the current international conflicts, no matter what differ-
ences they may have regarding specific decisions. In Afghanistan, they are working together to prevent
a return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They are acting together through negotiations and multilateral
forums on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs and on Palestine and Nagorno-Karabakh
(at times, the positions of Russia, China, the European Union and South Korea are closer even than
the positions between the United States and its allies.) Differences between Russia and the West are
greater on Iraq, Kosovo, Transniestria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Uzbekistan (as in the past on
Chechnya, Tajikistan and the wars in the former Yugoslavia). Unlike the Cold War era, however,
Russia and the West do not provide open military aid to the groups waging war against the other side,
even if Moscow and Washington periodically accuse each other of indirect assistance to such groups.
Many other conflicts that previously could have become arenas for confrontation now lie outside
relations between the former adversaries (in Timor, Rwanda, Liberia, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Sierra
Leone and other places).
As for the arms race, despite the increase in U.S. and Russian defense spending over recent years,
there has been nothing even remotely resembling what went on during the Cold War era. The two
sides’ strategic and tactical nuclear arms will be reduced by around 80 percent over 1991–2012
(since the conclusion of the START-1 Treaty and till the implementation of the Strategic Offensive
Reductions Treaty). The modernization of nuclear and conventional forces is proceeding extremely
slowly. 6 There remain, of course, issues of concern for strategic stability, such as U.S. plans to deploy
a missile defense system to protect itself from isolated missile launches (plans which include deploy-
ing elements of the system in a number of European countries), U.S. future projects for developing
space-based arms and plans to equip strategic delivery systems with high-precision conventional war-
heads. However, although mutual nuclear deterrence continues to play a part in the strategic relations
between the two sides, there is nothing like the arms race that took place in the 1950s–1980s.
Paradoxically, the end of the Cold War has also had some negative effects, namely, the idea, origi-
nating in Washington, that with the Cold War over, there is now no need to hold talks and negotiate
new arms reduction agreements, supposedly only needed between adversaries. Unfortunately, after
first putting up a rather feeble resistance to this idea, Russia has now tacitly accepted it. Not a single
new agreement on nuclear or conventional arms has been signed and consequently implemented
since 1991.
As a result, the ABM Treaty (of 1972–1974), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996, which
never took effect, the START-2 Treaty and the framework START-3 Treaty (1993 and 1997) have fallen
victim to this irresponsible stance taken by the United States. Negotiations on the warhead counting
rules and verification measures for the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (2002) and on prohibit-
ing the production of fissile materials for military purposes (Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty) did not
take place. In 2007, Russia announced that it might withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear
Forces Treaty (INF Treaty, 1987) 7 and the Agreement on Adaptation of the Conventional Forces in
Europe Treaty (1999). The policies of the nuclear-weapons states and the threshold states now threat-
en even the most important treaty of all – the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. 8
True, in the 1990s, the West gave Russia valuable help in safely decommissioning and utilizing the
excess of outdated weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems left over from the Cold War
period (primarily through the Nunn-Lugar Program.) However, this was not enough to fundamentally
change the military relations between the great powers, all the more so as it went hand in hand with a
deadlock in the dialogue on bilateral and multilateral disarmament.
During this unclear transitional period, when the two countries have become neither opponents
nor allies, the military and strategic relations between them have stalled. Left to themselves, the armed
forces on both sides ultimately returned to their customary models of military activity. For a time,
attempts were made to at least try to base military training exercises on counter-terrorism or combat-
ing separatism, but as the political differences intensified, military exercises have openly reverted
to the traditional scenarios of armed conflict breaking out between Russia and NATO. 9 Russia now
conducts exercises on its western land borders, and NATO in the Arctic seas. 10 In reality, though they
have tried to be discrete about it, the U.S. and Russian strategic forces have never abandoned nuclear
strike launch training aimed at the other side; after all, no other use has yet been found for the huge
quantities of sophisticated nuclear weapons that both sides retained.
The final attribute of the Cold War era has been an irreconcilable ideological confrontation posi-
tioned as the motivation and justification for military and geopolitical rivalry. The end of the Cold
War coincided with the collapse of the communist ideology. North Korea and Cuba are probably the
only two countries left in the world that still firmly adhere to communism. Even China is undergoing
far-reaching ideological transformation through its policy of developing capitalism under the auspic-
es of the Chinese Communist Party, which itself is looking more and more like the Kuomintang. It is
true that increasing nationalism and the mixture of strong-state and religious chauvinism in the U.S.,
a number of EU countries, and also Russia, are adding a more visible ideological tone to the political
friction between the various sides, but this in the modern context does not signal a return to the kind
of confrontation between Russia and the West that existed during the Cold War.
The truly confrontational ideological schism today has developed between liberal-democratic val-
ues and Islamic radicalism, between “North” and “South”, and between globalism and anti-globalism.
Today’s Russia may not have yet been fully won over by liberal values, but it certainly is not about to
join forces with radical Islam. Russia is the country that has suffered the greatest losses over the last
20 years in the conflict with Islamic extremism (the war in Afghanistan, the wars and conflicts in
Chechnya, Dagestan and Tajikistan). 11 All of the tactical maneuvering notwithstanding, Russia and
the West have reacted to the rise of militant Islam by moving much closer together as allies rather than
remaining strategic opponents.
Such are the inexorable laws of globalization and the multipolar world, no matter how negative the
West may be in its attitude towards today’s Russia and no matter how much Russians may currently
dislike the U.S. and its allies. Mutual disenchantment with the way relations have developed over the
last 15 years has reinforced a feeling of nostalgia in Russia and the U.S. for the simple two-dimensional
construct of the Cold War era world. A good number of Russian theoreticians today, filling the gaps
in an education dominated by the dogma of Marxism-Leninism, are now immersing themselves with
a neophyte’s enthusiasm in the century-old ideas of Mackinder on the “age-old struggle between sea
and land powers” and the ceaseless hostility between “Western-Christian materialism” and “Eastern-
Orthodox spirituality”, and are eagerly sharing their newfound knowledge with others. The West also
has no shortage of people ready to preach their vision of Russia as an “inherently authoritarian, semi-
Asiatic and imperialist” state.
However, trying to follow these dogmas in modern politics is like trying to apply the mechanics of
Newton to nuclear physics. No matter how far political awareness might lag behind global economic,
technological and social life, increasing costs and failures are fast demonstrating the foolishness of
pursuing a Cold War policy in a world where objective conditions have fundamentally changed.


There appear to be four main reasons for the current flare-up in tensions between Russia and the
United States. It is not a product of Putin’s speech in Munich on February 10, 2007. On the contrary,
Putin’s speech was just a reflection, and a very late one at that, of the contradictions and claims that
had been building for some time.
The first reason is Russia’s policy of changing the “rules of the game” for relations between Russia
and the West that were established during the 1990s, and the West’s, particularly United States’, reluc-
tance to accept these changes.
Not a single Russian political party or state body is prepared now to accept the paradigm of relations
of the 1990s, when Moscow willingly or unwillingly simply followed in the wake of the United States,
when Russia’s interests were not considered and its opinion was ignored on all fronts. “Never again” is
the slogan that has united all forces in Russia in their approach to the country’s foreign policy.
However, most people in American political circles and a good number in Western Europe think
the 1990s model of relations was the only proper and natural model to follow. Prominent British politi-
cal scientist Laurence Freedman summed up this view most bluntly when he wrote that “there is now
no particular reason to classify Russia as a ‘great power’… It cannot therefore expect the privileges,
respect and extra sensitivity to its interests normally accorded a great power. Increasingly it lacks the
clout to enforce its objections to developments it considers harmful or to take on the sort of respon-
sibilities that can earn it international credit.” 12
The United States views the current and increasingly more evident abandonment of the 1990s para-
digm as an anomaly, a manifestation of Russia’s “traditional hostility towards the West and its values,”
and a relapse of an imperialist, Cold War mentality, or at best as a sign that Moscow is mistaken in its
evaluation of its own interests and the processes underway in the world.
However, the current tensions in relations can be explained by objective reasons that are not unu-
sual in international relations. These reasons stem from the shift in the balance of power in recent
years between Russia and the West. Compared to the 1990s, Russia has been undergoing sustained
economic growth and enjoyed relative social and political stability. Moscow has consolidated its power
in the country, obtained large amounts of capital for domestic and foreign investment, has virtually
repaid its foreign dept, sharply increased its defense spending (four-fold since 2001) and suppressed
a mass armed uprising in the North Caucasus. President Putin constantly makes reference to these
changes at every possible opportunity.
At the same time, the U.S., the European Union, and Japan have all seen their international posi-
tions weaken somewhat, but the West hesitates to admit these objective changes, preferring to view
them as temporary difficulties that have come about by chance, and seeks to continue its old policy
with regard to Russia. This inevitably leads to increasing frictions. This sort of process is nothing new
in history; there have been other conflicts of this nature between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in
the late 1950s-early 1960s, between the Soviet Union and China at the end of the 1960s, and between
the U.S. and Western Europe (in the less acute form inherent to democratic countries, of course) in
the 1970s.
The Russian political elite now feels a new surge of self-confidence and national pride, perhaps
even beyond what the country’s objective economic, social and defense achievements merit. As a
result, in sharp contrast to the 1990s, Moscow, no longer wanting to blindly follow the U.S. lead in
resolving regional crises (in Kosovo, Palestine, Iran and North Korea), has redoubled its diplomatic
efforts on all fronts and is developing or restoring ties with countries that are trying to politically
challenge American domination. Russia is actively pursuing cooperation with organizations that are
independent of the U.S., NATO and the EU, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the
Eurasian Economic Community and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Aside from competing
with the U.S. on the world arms market, Russia now has no qualms about openly confronting the U.S.
in some areas of military technology (countering missile defense systems), and also expects to com-
pete in renouncing certain arms reduction treaties (the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the
Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty) and in expressing dissatisfaction with international organiza-
tions (as the U. S. has criticized the United Nations, Russia has criticized the OSCE).

The second reason for friction stems from the consequences of Western policy, primarily U.S.
policy, over the last 15 years. After the bipolarity of the Cold War ended, Washington had a unique
historic chance to affirm the supremacy of the rule of law and the leading role of legitimate interna-
tional organizations (above all the UN and OSCE), the primacy of diplomacy in conflict resolution
and the exclusive selectivity and adequate legal basis for using military force for self-defense or to
protect global security (under Articles 51 and 42 of the UN Charter.) Beginning in the early 1990s,
the United States had a unique historic chance to lead the process of building a new multipolar world
order in coordination with the world’s other centers of power, but it failed to take advantage of this
Savoring the euphoria of unexpectedly finding itself the world’s sole superpower, the United States
increasingly began to substitute the rule of superior power for the rule of international law, to replace
legitimate UN Security Council decisions with directives of the U.S. National Security Council, and to
ignore the prerogatives of the OSCE in favor of NATO action. The starkest and most tragic expression
of this policy was the military operation against Yugoslavia in 1999. After the change of administra-
tion and the shock of the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, this policy was enshrined
beyond question. After carrying out just, lawful and successful military operations in Afghanistan,
the United States invaded Iraq (on an invented pretext and without UN authorization) and planned
to go further by “reformatting” the entire Greater Middle East to fit its own economic, political and
military interests.
“Empires are not interested in acting within the international system; they think they are the inter-
national system,” Henry Kissinger wrote of this kind of policy. “Empires have no need for a balance of
power. It is in this way that the United States has pursued its foreign policy on the American continent
and China in Asia for greater part of their history.” 13 This was Washington’s strategic mistake after the
end of the Cold War, because the world did not become unipolar. On the contrary, a new multipolar
and multilevel system of international relations emerged. No matter how great its economic and mili-
tary might, any country that arrogantly challenged the new system and took the road of unilateral and
arbitrary power action was inevitably going to run up against the united resistance of other countries.
In this sense, the United States can be seen as having taken the road described by Paul Kennedy that
led to the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The scandal that erupted following the discovery that official U.S. agencies had deliberately pro-
vided false information in order to justify the invasion of Iraq, the grave human rights violations that
occurred at the prisons of Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo, and the rigged trials and medieval execu-
tions of Iraqi leaders that took place with Washington’s obvious approval (over European protests)
have badly tarnished the United States’ moral image throughout the world. What is surprising is that
many U.S. politicians and experts, though they take domestic criticism of the administration for
granted, do not seem capable of realizing that America’s image has sunk to an unprecedented low and
continue using a tone of moral superiority in their dealings with the outside world (a classic example
of this was Senator Lieberman’s remarks in Munich on February 10, 2007, when he said that the world
is still unipolar, but that this is the “pole of democracy and freedom”.)
In real political terms, the United States has now gotten itself mired in a war of occupation in Iraq
with no end in sight, has undermined UN and NATO coalition policy in Afghanistan, and has tied its
own hands in dealing with Iran and North Korea. Washington has provoked an unprecedented surge
in anti-American feelings around the world, a new wave of international terrorism, and a proliferation
of nuclear weapons and missile technology. As the United States becomes more deeply involved in
affairs in the post-Soviet area and exacerbates its relations with Russia, it is at the same time losing influ-
ence in Western Europe, the Asian Far East, and even in its traditional “backyard” of Latin America.
Along with the countries Washington has pronounced its enemies (the “axis of evil” countries of
Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba), countries as diverse as Germany, France, Spain, Russia,
China, India, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and many of the countries in the
League of Islamic States have been nudged into the camp of international opposition by the United
States’ unilateral power policy. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which was established in
2000 as a coalition for combating Islamic extremism, has become a counterweight to American inter-
vention in Asia. Since 2006, opposition to the Republican administration has also been on the rise in
the United States itself.
A period of difficulty and internal contradictions has also begun for the European Union, includ-
ing the failure to adopt the European Constitution, a slowdown in economic growth rates, a worsen-
ing demographic situation, a rise in ethnic and religious conflict, energy security concerns, stagnation
in the area of military integration, and a lack of clarity regarding the future expansion of the EU.
In this context, whereas the United States, the European Union and NATO have all experienced
degradation in their overall positions, their relations with a more active and confident Russia have
additionally deteriorated as a result of the policy mistakes the West has made directly with regard
to Moscow. Instead of brazenly meddling in Russia’s internal affairs during the 1990s, the U.S. and
NATO should have tried to create as favorable a security climate as possible and helped to encourage
Moscow’s deeper involvement in Western international military, political and economic institutions.
During this period of transition, after all, Russia’s foreign policy centered not so much on relations
with other countries as on choosing a model for the country’s economic and political development.
Events took quite the opposite turn, however. Not only did the West meddle in Russia’s internal
affairs, it also took advantage of the country’s deep state of crisis and Moscow’s ensuing foreign
policy and military weakness to stake a claim to as many advantages as it could before Russia could
again begin to stand up for its own national interests. Russia was treated as the loser of the Cold War
(much the same way as Germany and Japan were treated after 1945). This outraged most of Russia’s
new political class, who saw Russia as having won the Cold War, as it was through the end of it that the
country had gained its statehood and sovereignty.
Together with “shock therapy” and its consequences, this Western policy towards Russia was the
biggest factor gradually undermining the Russian democratic parties and movements since the start
of the 1990s. The United States’ international strategy began looking more and more like the Soviet
domestic and foreign practices against which the Soviet democrats and dissidents had protested until
August 1991.
The West’s strategy was reflected in NATO’s eastward expansion, in the efforts at undermining the
CIS and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, in the imposition of unfair disarmament treaties
on Russia (the first draft of START-2 with its 10-year implementation period), and in NATO’s unilateral
position on the Yugoslav conflicts that culminated in extensive missile strikes and bombings of Serbia
and the mass exodus of Serbs from Kosovo. All of this went ahead in spite of Moscow’s helpless protests,
taking advantage of the weaknesses and inconsistencies in Russia’s foreign policy. The 1999 Yugoslav
conflict marked a real turning point in the Russian public’s and politicians’ attitudes towards the United
States and NATO. After this, relations steadily deteriorated, apart from the brief surge of goodwill and
sympathy that followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
After the Republican election victory in 2000, the United States began taking an even harder line
towards Russia, and the fact that President Putin and his new U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush, took
a personal liking to each other at their summit in Ljubljana did little to soften it. After the September
11 terrorist attacks, Putin, motivated by unquestionable personal sympathy, granted significant con-
cessions to the United States, but acted at the same time to try to change relations through a signifi-
cant increase in cooperation. Of course, it was in Moscow’s interests to crush the Taliban, but Russia
could have opted to take a stand of well-intentioned neutrality (citing the feelings of Russia’s Muslim
population and the “Afghan syndrome”). However, the Kremlin decided to go against the prevailing
mood of the political elite and give its full and unconditional support to creating the anti-terrorist
coalition, arming the Northern Alliance and supporting military operations in Afghanistan.
In return, Russia got the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty (covered with a fig leaf in the form
of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty), war in Iraq (and the liquidation of Russia’s oil conces-
sions there), and further NATO expansion eastwards, including former Soviet territory in the Baltic
states. This was accompanied by ongoing petty haggling between the Republican Administration and
Russia over Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, and the absurd obstinacy displayed by
Congress, which refused to let go of the obsolete Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1974 (imposing eco-
nomic sanctions in response to Soviet obstacles to emigration of Soviet Jews).
There was also an element of clear estrangement in the West’s policy towards Russia. Russia was con-
stantly being reminded that it had no hope of ever fully integrating into Western military-political and
economic organizations even in the long-term perspective. Other countries were able to join NATO
and the EU en masse, while Moscow had to make do with all sorts of palliatives such as the Partnership
for Peace, the Russia-NATO Council and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the
European Union. Various pretexts were used to send Russia the message that it was not being invited
to join Western organizations, not because it did not measure up to some specific universal criterion,
but because of some kind of inherent incompatibility with the world’s leading democracies.
After September 11, 2001, when there was a wave of solidarity with the United States and Russian-
U.S. military and political cooperation reached unprecedented levels, Putin spoke quite transparently
about Russia’s desire to hold a serious discussion on the possibilities and forms of membership in
NATO. Asked how Moscow viewed the second wave of NATO expansion, Putin said, “We would recon-
sider our position on expansion, of course, if we were ourselves part of this process.” 14 No reaction
followed other than the standard reply issued by senior NATO officials that the organization does not
invite anyone and that a country wishing to join needs to make an application (and get in the queue
behind Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and other candidates.) Such was NATO’s “farsighted” position
regarding a great power that had completely freed the West from military threat from the east, at great
cost to itself, and given Europe a level of security the continent had not known since the dark ages.
As far as the European Union’s expansion goes, Russia began by seeing it as part of the natural
and justified process of European integration. However, relations took a turn for the worse when EU
enlargement began to create unexpected humanitarian and military problems (such as the transit of
people and military cargoes to and from Russia’s Kaliningrad Region), and when it became effectively
tied to and synchronized with NATO’s eastward expansion.
In its attempts to formulate its position on cooperation with Russia, the EU could come up with
nothing better in its official documents for 2003–2004 than to include Russia among its “good neigh-
bors”, along with the countries of the southern Mediterranean (that is to say, North Africa and the
Middle East), or to place it among more distant partners such as China and India. 15 Caught up in
its own internal problems and in the issue of Turkey’s accession, the EU has failed to come up with
a substantial and attractive program for rapprochement with Russia to replace the Cooperation and
Partnership Agreement, which expires in 2007. The European Union is mainly concerned with ensur-
ing reliable supplies of Russian energy, thus delegating to Russia the role of raw materials provider
for the rest of Europe.
It is not surprising that Moscow eventually abandoned hope of achieving a rapid and consistent
integration with the West on the basis of equality, mutual advantage and respect for each other’s inter-
ests, and instead started looking for more interested and less fussy partners in the south and east.
The last straw was the West’s active intervention in the “color” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine
in support of the most anti-Russian politicians in 2004–2006 (which led to suspicion that the same
model was also being applied in Kyrgyzstan). This was followed by the announcement of the decision
to put Ukraine and Georgia on the fast track for membership in NATO, accusations of Russia using
“energy blackmail”, and the project to deploy elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland
and the Czech Republic, which contradicts the spirit of both the 2002 Russian-U.S. Joint Declaration
on cooperating on the development of a missile defense system and negotiations in the Russia-NATO
Council on the development of a common theater missile defense system. 16
Putin’s speech in Munich on February 10, 2007, was a signal to the West that Russia is no longer
going to seek more intensive cooperation in the absence of any signs of sincere interest on the other
side. This should in no way be construed as a break in relations. Moscow will continue to work togeth-
er in all areas, including at the bilateral level, with the European countries and, under acceptable
conditions, with the United States. As for recognition by the West of Russia’s interests in the post-
Soviet area, Moscow no longer expects any gratitude from the U.S. and its allies for Russia’s help in
other matters, and it will take energetic (and not just verbal) measures to counter Western policy if it
contradicts Russia’s national interests.


The situation in the post-Soviet area is the third reason for the current worsening in relations
between Russia and the West. The CIS has effectively split into the anti-Russian group “GUAM”
(Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) and the pro-Russian Collective Security Treaty Organization
(Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.) These same loyal
states, minus Armenia, form the Eurasian Economic Community, the economic nucleus of the
CIS, and together with China, but without Belarus and Armenia, are members of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization.
What is interesting is that this divide does not at all follow ethnic, religious or geographical lines
(despite all the talk about a “conflict of civilizations”). The first group, GUAM, encompasses all the
countries that see Russia as an actual or potential threat to their territorial integrity, and all of them,
except Moldova, have applied to join NATO. The second group is composed of countries that look
to Russia for help in countering external threats and/or domestic opposition, and that depend on
Russian economic support (the exception is Kazakhstan, which is linked to Russia by major economic
interests and a large ethnic Russian community, but which also follows well balanced policies of coop-
eration with the United States and China).
The prospect of seeing the GUAM countries join NATO has incited Russia to take an even tougher
line towards them and their problems (such as separatism and dependence on Russian energy sup-
plies). GUAM and NATO have retaliated in turn by working even more actively against Moscow in the
post-Soviet area. True, the internal political situation in Ukraine has slowed down its drift towards
NATO of late, and economic conflicts with Russia have pushed Belarus closer to the GUAM countries.
However, these factors have done nothing to smooth over the differences between Russia and the
Russia made its fair share of policy mistakes in the post-Soviet area during the 1990s by trying to
establish its dominance in the region through openly encouraging separatism in neighboring coun-
tries, supporting loyal but repressive regimes, making use of the military presence that remained from
the Soviet years and brazenly using energy supplies as a means of blackmail. With a few rare excep-
tions, this policy had no concrete aims other than to revive some kind of coalition of satellite coun-
tries so as to boost Russia’s self-confidence and raise its international prestige. Interestingly, the West,
though it worked against the CIS projects and structures, did not let this sour relations with Russia,
because the rest of Moscow’s foreign and domestic policy suited it perfectly well.
Under Putin, Russian policy towards the CIS began to change. As Russia gained in economic
and financial potential and independence, it began taking a very pragmatic approach towards each
individual country or sub-region. It abandoned ephemeral imperial projects in relations with its
neighbors and turned its attention instead to the transit of energy exports, the acquisition of promis-
ing business assets and infrastructure, investment in natural resources exploration and production,
maintaining genuinely important military bases and facilities, working together on combating new
transborder threats, and taking a strong stance on humanitarian matters. This policy has not been
without its mistakes and dubious moments (such as the excesses of the indiscriminate anti-Georgian
campaign of autumn 2006), but it is at least a lot clearer and more predictable than the eccentric and
often very aggressive policy of the 1990s.
The conflicts with Ukraine and Belarus over energy prices and transit costs, which disrupted energy
supplies to Europe, unleashed a wave of indignation in the West, accusations that Russia was practic-
ing a policy of energy imperialism and blackmail, and even calls to use NATO in order to guarantee
the energy security of importing countries. Moscow was perhaps heavy-handed in its tactics, especially
with Ukraine, but the fact remains that the transition to world prices for energy supplies does rep-
resent the renunciation of the former imperialist policy of economic favors in return for political or
military-strategic loyalty. This has been confirmed by Moscow’s similarly pragmatic approach to neigh-
bors as diverse as Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Belarus.
The price revision was not linked to political or military demands, and so there are no grounds for
accusing Russia of blackmail. Russia does not have any “sacred duty” to provide the world with energy
supplies, all the more so when Russian domestic consumption is on the rise. Relations between Russia
and the West in this sector should be based solely on a market basis of mutual benefit, the economic
situation and long-term commercial commitments, without any added layer of political preferences
or demands on either side.
In this respect, the politically motivated Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline that bypasses Russia and NATO’s
campaign against the energy security threat at the end of 2006 (during its summit in Riga) were big
mistakes. The same goes for Moscow’s vision of turning Russia into an energy superpower, an idea that
is being interpreted abroad as a policy of oil and gas blackmail.
Russia’s policy of “freezing” the ethnic conflicts in the CIS (in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transniestria
and Nagorno-Karabakh) is being increasingly rejected by Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan, as well
as by the United States and NATO. It has been subject to strong condemnation in these countries
against the backdrop of Russia’s decisive use of armed force to suppress Chechen separatism in two
past wars.
Russia’s policy on these issues cannot be justified in every aspect, especially in the case of the first
Chechen war of 1994–1996. Russia has often been guilty of practicing double standards (following the
example of the United States and other Western countries). However, unlike NATO during the Kosovo
crisis, Russia has at least not bombed Tbilisi, Chisinau and Baku in order to force them to accept the loss
of part of their territory. Russia has troops and military bases and installations in all of the CIS countries
except for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (NATO troops and installations are present only in Tajikistan
and Kyrgyzstan), and their presence is regulated by intergovernmental agreements and a CIS mandate.
Russia will soon shut down its remaining bases in Georgia. Russia’s troops are deployed as peacekeep-
ing contingents in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transniestria – against the wishes of the Georgian and
Moldovan leadership – and this is a constant source of tension with the neighboring countries.
Under Putin, Moscow’s policy has focused primarily on preventing the conflicts in neighboring
countries from being resolved through the use of force – surely not a blameworthy objective. It would
be better, of course, if Russia were working more actively to bring about a peaceful settlement to these
“frozen” conflicts. However, Moscow’s policy is nonetheless not as unfair and irresponsible as the
current Western policy of separating Kosovo from Serbia with all the consequences that will follow,
including repercussions for the similar “frozen” conflicts in the CIS.
It is entirely natural that Russia, like any major power, seeks to surround itself with friendly neigh-
bors. The whole question is: how to ensure that this friendship is built. These friendly relations should
be developed on the basis of a clear awareness by the public and the political elites in Russia and the
neighboring countries of their common economic, political and humanitarian interests and common
external and internal security objectives. A friendship built on this foundation means there is no need
to worry each time there are elections, a change of leadership or a “color revolution” in the neighbor-
ing republics. Then no foreign funds or information centers would be able to blacken Russia’s image
– if Russia does not blacken its own image, that is. At the same time, the Kremlin needs to exercise
particular tact regarding the post-Soviet republics’ sensitivity over everything that concerns their
recently acquired independence and should make its position clear regarding the imperialist rhetoric
of certain irresponsible Russian officials, politicians and experts.
The United States and the European Union, for their part, should be just as tactful regarding
Russia’s sensitivity over events in the post-Soviet area. It should not be forgotten that only 15 years
ago, this was a unified state bound by centuries of common history, great victories and bitter defeats,
economic, military and humanitarian ties, as well as communication links with the outside world and
transparent borders stretching over thousands of kilometers.
In this respect it is a good thing that Moscow’s current pragmatic (and sometimes even mercantile)
policy is bringing specific and tangible interests and plans to the forefront that the outside world can
understand and that do not go beyond the limits of accepted practice. This means that if Russia and
the West maintain proper relations, there will be no reason for wholesale confrontation and relations
will instead involve the usual competition and could also lead to negotiations, compromises, and


The fourth main reason for the rise in tensions between Russia and the West is the way Russia’s
domestic policy has developed since 2000. The criticism by Russian and foreign politicians, analysts
and journalists of Putin’s administration for rolling back democratic laws and institutions is fair in
many ways. However, in the context of a historic analysis, it is important to identify the clear reference
points in this criticism.
In comparison with most Western countries, democratic laws and institutions in Russia are under-
developed, and real political life is very different from the formal constitutional mechanisms, proce-
dures and laws that exist on paper. Then again, Russia started down this road only 15 years ago, while
the leading Western countries have been following it for tens or hundreds of years, also making big
historical zigzags and retreats at times.
During the 1990s there was a lot more freedom in Russia in many respects than there is now, and
there was certainly a lot more freedom than in the preceding Soviet years. However, only a compara-
tively narrow circle of liberal intelligentsia in the big cities was really able to appreciate this freedom.
The rest of the population saw the “winds of change” more in the form of shock therapy, widespread
impoverishment, rampant corruption, an explosion in crime and the plundering of the country’s
national wealth. The country’s healthcare and education systems, its science and culture sectors and
its defense capability all crumbled overnight (as Grigory Yavlinsky put it, the people lived through two
coups, two defaults and two wars in less than a decade.)
It should not be forgotten that during the “democratic” Yeltsin years, tanks shelled the parlia-
ment in the center of Moscow at point-blank range and no one ever bothered to count the casual-
ties. Aviation and artillery twice leveled the Russian city of Grozny; people were tortured in filtration
camps; journalists were murdered (Dmitry Kholodov, Vladislav Listyev); the generals plundered the
armed forces; bureaucrats filled their pockets with foreign loans; and the oligarchs grew fat on the
country’s industrial assets and natural resources. State affairs were run by a clique of relatives and
bootlickers, and the presidential bodyguard service carried out raids on businessmen and made
them lie face down in the snow. Official circles abroad, however, turned a blind eye to all of this, and
was this not because Yeltsin and his team almost always made concessions on international issues and
allowed direct foreign intervention in Russian internal affairs (even including appointments to senior
government posts)?
For objectivity’s sake, it must be recognized that, modest though the gains may seem by some other
nations’ standards, the majority of Russians have never enjoyed such political freedom and material
prosperity as they do now, not in the 1990s, not during the preceding 75 years of communist govern-
ment, and not during the centuries of tsarist rule. Yes, Russians suffer from rising prices, rampant
corruption and crime and the arbitrariness of power at all levels, but all of these problems existed
under Yeltsin, too, along with crushing poverty for the majority of the population.
This is what explains Putin’s high popularity within Russia, despite all the difficulties of everyday
life and people’s dissatisfaction with bureaucrats, parliamentary deputies and Russia’s new capitalists.
This explains why most of the population supports the Kremlin’s policies of building a “vertical execu-
tive hierarchy” and “managed democracy”. It is not at all that Russians have an inherent yearning for
authoritarian rule and state paternalism; it is simply that people in Russia have had no experience
with democracy except for the chaos of the 1990s, and they prefer the current state of affairs to that
kind of democracy.
The main problem with “managed democracy” and the “vertical executive hierarchy” is that the
current economic prosperity and political stability rest on a very fragile and impermanent foundation.
The economic growth of recent years is primarily driven by record high world energy prices – Russia’s
main export, which accounts for half of its total export earnings and a third of federal budget rev-
enue. All around the world, economies based on the export of raw materials have always given rise
to authoritarian-bureaucratic political systems rather than democratic systems, with all the perennial
attributes such as limited civil rights and freedoms, corruption, social stratification and reactionary
political movements. At the same time, economies based on the export of raw materials do not ensure
the high employment levels and budget revenue needed to resolve the immense socio-economic prob-
lems and security issues of a country as big and in many respects demanding as Russia. Moreover, high
energy prices will not last forever.
The Russian political and economic system that has taken shape and the interests of the new politi-
cal class that cement it are therefore a real problem, but a problem above all for Russia itself and for
its future development.
In its criticism of Russia over democracy and human rights, the West often seems to be setting high-
er standards for Russia in these areas than it does for, say, China, or many of its other partners in Asia
or other parts of the world. But at the same time, the West greatly underestimates the very negative atti-
tude in Russia towards its experience in the 1990s, including the role the West played in events within
and around Russia during those years. Furthermore, few in the West ever stop to think that all the great
anxiety over Russia’s ability to satisfy the West’s energy needs and the demands on Russia to provide
solid guarantees for increasing oil and gas supplies contradict the concerns over the development of
Russian democracy, which is incompatible with an economy based on the export of raw materials.
Moscow’s growing differences with the United States and Western Europe over internal political
issues indirectly impel it towards rapprochement with China and other countries that do not raise such
questions and are often the object of similar criticism themselves. This kind of influence of domestic
policy and ideology on foreign policy is nothing new, and it has sometimes played a fateful role in
Russian history. 750 years ago, Alexander Nevsky chose to confront the Catholic West for ideological
reasons, and in so doing left the door open for the religiously neutral Mongol Horde to plunder the
country, which it did for the next 250 years. In the 1930s, Stalin, again for ideological reasons, leaned
toward developing cooperation with Nazi Germany rather than with democratic Britain and France,
and that policy ended with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
The West’s current disappointment with Russia’s internal political development and the reaction
to this disappointment among most of Russia’s political circles and public opinion mean that the
integration goals discussed in the 1990s and set forth at the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg in
2003 will be postponed for a long time. 17 Integration is only possible between countries with a similar
national culture and comparable levels of economic and political development.
As far as culture goes, there are no problems. Russian culture – Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky
and Rakhmaninov – is an inalienable part of common European culture, just as Shakespeare and
Balzac, Mozart and Vivaldi are all equally at home in Russia. This is what determines which civiliza-
tion a nation fundamentally belongs to. The European foundation of Russia’s culture has remained a
constant through the centuries, continuing under the tsars and the Bolsheviks, and after them under
Yeltsin’s “democrats” and Putin’s “strong state patriots”. In China, these same cultural values would
be equally alien whether under the Mandarins, the Kuomintang, the Maoists or today’s followers of
Deng Xiaoping. They would not be accepted in Iran, either, whether under the Shah, Khomeini or
Russia has been debating its national identity for the last 200 years now, caught up in endless argu-
ments over whether Russians are Europeans or Eurasians (the debates began with the “Westernizers”
and the “Slavophiles” back in the nineteenth century.) There are probably some of both in Russia, and
their share of influence on policy periodically changes. This self-identification does not depend at all
on ethnic or religious background; individuals and their groups define it for themselves. The main
dividing line comes through in the different interpretations of relations between the people and the
state, who serves whom and what makes a great power: the freedom and prosperity of its people or the
ability to subjugate and frighten others. Unlike other empires, Russia has never managed to combine
the two options.
Russia differs considerably today in its economic and internal political development from the
world’s leading democracies. Some Russian political circles have taken these differences, given them
a theoretical veneer and called it “sovereign democracy”. This latest concept of a “third way” between
East and West is just the newest edition of the old theory of “Eurasianism” and is based on the same
old mistaken methodology.
The doctrine of “Eurasianism” places geographical location above the basic principles of a coun-
try’s socio-economic and political development. However, in today’s world, geographical position
may largely shape foreign policy, security and economic ties, but not necessarily the route of internal
development. Turkey, for example, also straddles Europe and Asia, but there can be no question as
to the country’s Asian identity. If Islamic fundamentalism does not get the upper hand in Turkey, it
could follow the European path of development and become a major democracy within the European
Union, though this is not very likely. If not, Turkey will join the Islamic world, but not even in that case
would there be any talk of the country having a “Eurasian” identity.
India, Japan and South Korea are located respectively in the center and at the far reaches of Asia.
For all its specific national features, India is making rapid progress along the European development
road and, precisely because it does not have much natural resource wealth, will become a democratic
superpower of the twenty-first century. Japan and South Korea, after rising from the ruins of destruc-
tive wars, have long since joined the ranks of the leading Western economies and democracies.
The United States, like Russia, was a historical offshoot of Europe and is also located geographically
between Europe and Asia. This is what explains the United States’ significant economic, military and
political interests on both continents. However, the Americans would probably feel deeply insulted if
someone suggested that they are a “bridge” or a “protective barrier” between Europe and Asia. The
United States is the leading independent power of European civilization, and it is its great economic
and military might that gives it such immense influence throughout the Eurasian continent.
The greater part of the territory of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union in the past, and
the Russian Federation today, is located outside Europe, but with all respect for their unique
identities, the peoples of Central Asia and the indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far
East have contributed nothing to Russia’s culture and its economic and political system. What
has had an impact was the 250 years under the Tatar-Mongol yoke. Russia emerged from this
period economically backward and cut off from Europe, with a legacy of despotism, an ineffec-
tive and thieving government organization and inhuman enslavement of its subjects, justified by
a messianic ideology. The Soviet authorities took these features to their extreme in the name of
a communist utopia. However, all of this is the legacy of Russia’s complicated historical develop-
ment and not its “Eurasian” geopolitical situation. 18 There is no reason to proclaim the country’s
geographical location a special virtue and use it as the basis for some kind of “third way” between
Europe and Asia.
Of course, Russia’s geographical location does give it significant economic and security interests
in both Europe and Asia. Russia’s future ability to make its presence and influence abroad match the
scale of these interests will depend entirely on which economic and political development path it
chooses to take.
This also applies directly to the latest version of “Eurasianism” – “sovereign democracy”, a concept
which, depending on how it is interpreted, is either hollow or mistaken. Every democracy is sovereign
in its own way and bears the clear imprint of specific national features. Russian democracy may in
fact have more noticeable differences than, say, the differences among the democracies of the United
States, France, Britain, Italy or Sweden, but it would probably not be as different as the democracies
of India or Japan. All of these countries have their own particularities, but they are united by com-
mon fundamental principles for organizing the economy, the state power system and internal politi-
cal life.
If the “sovereign” in “sovereign democracy” is understood as indicating more significant differenc-
es, then the second part of the formula, “democracy” loses all meaning. The question is not whether
two or seven political parties are represented in the parliament, or whether regional governors are
elected or appointed. If a country’s specific nature lies in an executive power system that manipulates
elections in order to ensure an obedient parliament, tax inspectors that scrutinize officials’ revenues
in inverse proportion to the seniority of their positions, courts that deliver verdicts on orders from
above, and a media where TV companies and newspapers can have their licenses revoked for insuf-
ficient political loyalty, then “democracy” is greatly deficient, no matter how marvelous the provisions
of the country’s laws and constitution.
Russia’s current development phase does not reflect some kind of national “Eurasian” special fea-
tures, but rather a particular evolutionary stage that other European countries also went through. In
this respect, Dmitri Trenin quite correctly wrote that Russia today “...could be reminiscent of Germany
in the 1920s, with its vibrancy and intense feeling of unfair treatment by others; France in the 1940s,
when it was trying to heal its traumas; or Italy in the 1960s, as far as the nexus of power, money, and
crime is concerned.” 19 For a full picture of modern Russia’s contradictory state, one would have to
add its vast territory and abundant natural resources, highly educated population, extensive nuclear
potential and the high international status inherited from the Soviet Union.
Democratization is a process that cannot be measured by the principle “yes or no,” but only by the
criteria of “more or less” and an analysis of which way the flow of change is moving. Leaving aside
comparisons with the upheavals of the Yeltsin years, it can be seen that since Putin came to power,
the flow of change has been towards constantly increasing the powers of the federal bureaucracy and
the president (which in Russia are often mistakenly equated with “the state” in general, although the
state is a much broader concept that encompasses all the branches and levels of power). This gives the
West the dilemma of deciding what policy to take towards Russia during its lengthy, far-reaching and
very contradictory transformation process. So far, the United States and many of its allies have gone
from one extreme to another on this issue, from radiant hopes to bitter disappointment, from exces-
sive involvement to complete indifference and neglect, and from burning enthusiasm to suspicion
and hostility. Back in 1951, the prominent American diplomat and political thinker George Kennan
prophetically foresaw the collapse of the Soviet empire and left the West a wise testament that reads as
if it were written today. “But when Soviet power has run its course, or when its personalities and spirit
begin to change (for the ultimate outcome could be one or the other), let us not hover nervously over
the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out
whether they answer to our concept of ‘democratic’. Give them time; let them be Russians; let them
work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which peoples advance toward
dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate
processes of national life.” 20 Kennan set out three principal conditions for building constructive rela-
tions and achieving gradual but consistent rapprochement with Russia: Russia must not be closed to
the outside world; it must not enslave its labor; it must not seek to establish imperial domination in
the surrounding world and perceive all outside its spheres of domination as enemies. 21
The existence of the above attributes formed the foundation of the Stalinist superpower that
existed in milder form under Stalin’s successors until 1991, but for all Russia’s current problems and
mistakes, these attributes are not present today. At the same time, there are political forces in Russia
that would like to revive these attributes of Russian statehood in one form or another, under various
slogans, and their influence depends to a great extent on the West’s policy, because external isolation,
the feeling of living in a “besieged fortress” and totalitarianism have always been inextricably linked
in Russia.
As for the concept of “sovereign democracy”, it can be seen only as an enforced period of stabiliza-
tion, cooling down of passions and restoration of national pride. Russia, like any country, indisputably
has its own sovereign road to democracy, but the final goal – making the basic universal principles of
democracy a part of national life – cannot be opposed to specific national features. In this respect,
Russia’s future path is important, not in terms of abstract criteria or relations with the United States
and Western Europe, but in terms of what Russia ultimately wants to become.
In Russia, like in any other country, a transition to an innovative and high-tech development path is
impossible without large-scale financial, technological and intellectual investment, both domestic and
foreign. This requires that clear and indisputable property rights (for material assets and intellectual
property) be enshrined in law. However, the observance and enforcement of laws requires independ-
ent courts, arbitration and law enforcement procedures, which is not possible without the division
of powers. The division of powers implies, above all, an independent parliament, which cannot be
independent without political pluralism, free elections and civil society. In other words, full-fledged
democracy must develop. This will also ultimately determine Russia’s closest foreign partners and
allies and the prospects for Russia’s integration into the community of most advanced countries.
In this respect, a group of authors headed by Sergei Karaganov writes that, “Rapprochement
between Russia and the European Union and the creation of a strategic political and economic union
would have clear benefits for both sides, but such a development of events is unlikely over the com-
ing 5–7 years. The likelihood would grow if Russia undertook intensive economic modernization and
political democratization, which would increase interest in economic rapprochement and remove
some of the obstacles in the way of bringing ‘values’ closer together.” 22
However, the reverse link is also important, for relations with other countries, above all with the
West, will hugely influence Russia’s internal development. The better the relations and the greater the
cooperation in the fields of economics, politics, security, humanitarian questions, and culture, the
more solid will be the position of democratic forces within Russia, the more the public will come to
embrace democratic freedoms, and the more the authorities at every level will pay attention to observ-
ing democratic norms and procedures.
This in no way implies that the West should not criticize Moscow for violating democratic princi-
ples, and Russia has the same rights, though it seldom makes use of them (except to criticize Latvia
and Estonia.) However, this criticism should not flare up or fade away depending on international
differences between the two sides, and it should not be arrogant and presume one’s own innocence,
especially in the case of the United States. Finally, if they want to demand higher economic and
democratic standards from Russia, the United States and the European Union should also show the
corresponding readiness to open up to Russia the organizations, institutions and spheres of activity to
which they give access to each other.


The answer to the question this essay raises is clear: a new Cold War in the historical sense of the
term is no longer possible between Russia and the West.
The explanation for this situation lies not in the subjective views and intentions of politicians, but
in completely objective circumstances. The world is no longer bipolar; many conflicts lie beyond the
axis of relations between the two sides; they are no longer separated by an antagonistic ideological
divide; they have neither the means nor the motives for a large-scale arms race; and they have many
common economic, political and security interests.
The current friction between Russia and the United States and the European Union reflects ten-
sions in individual links of the multipolar system brought about by its own dynamics – a constantly
changing balance of power between different power centers, a kaleidoscopic mosaic of diverse prob-
lems coming from globalization, and endless surprises from third countries now free from the former
superpowers’ control.
It is eminently clear that despite the great pressure exerted by anti-Western political circles and pub-
lic feeling within Russia, the Russian leadership does not seek confrontation with the United States
and the European Union, does not want to break off cooperation and is not positioning Russia as a
second superpower, along with the United States. Moscow is formulating its interests above all at the
regional level and only selectively declares its rights at the global level. Russia wants to be recognized
as a great power in the ranks of the other great powers, but it wants this recognition to be not just
in words but in deeds. Moscow demands respect for its legitimate interests and consideration for its
views on the most important issues, even if they differ from those of the United States and its allies.
When such differences arise, they should be settled through mutual compromise rather than having
the U.S. force its position down Moscow’s throat or arrogantly imply that Moscow has a mistaken
understanding of its own interests.
Putin’s speech in Munich addresses precisely these issues, and one cannot but agree with most of
its assertions, though there were a few specific points that raise objections (in particular, the possible
withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty 23 and the criticism of the OSCE).
However, the low probability of a new Cold War and the collapse of U.S. monopolarity (as a politi-
cal doctrine, if not in reality) should not give rise to complacency. The multilevel multipolarity and
interdependence that is now an objective reality offer not just benefits, but also quite a few potential
complications and threats.
There are three main threats potentially facing Russia in the foreseeable future. The first is that
tension between Russia and NATO could set off a chain reaction of escalation that would go too far,
causing great damage to both sides and to international security. If Kosovo does gain full independ-
ence from Serbia, for example (even if Russia vetoes the legitimization of this process through the
United Nations), this could provoke similar processes in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transniestria,
and draw Russia into armed conflict with Georgia and Moldova, which are backed by NATO. The
same chain of events, but starting at the other end, could be set off by accelerating Georgia’s acces-
sion to NATO. Fast-track accession of Ukraine into NATO (a proposal which recently received the
approval of the U.S. Congress) would risk splitting the country and setting off widespread violence,
a situation in which Russia and the West would find it hard not to get involved. U.S. plans to build
missile defense facilities in Central and Eastern Europe could incite Russia to withdraw from the INF
Treaty and revive its medium-range missile program. The United States would respond by expanding
its missile defense system in Europe and deploying its own new medium-range missiles in the region,
which would cause a growing vulnerability of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces and raise the degree of
nuclear tensions in Europe and at the global level.
Unlike the bipolar world, in a multipolar system of international relations other power centers
would inevitably act quickly to use this kind of confrontation between Russia and the West to their own
advantage. China, for example, would take the opportunity to strengthen its positions in economic
and political relations with Russia, the United States and Japan, and to increase its influence in cen-
tral and south Asia and in the Persian Gulf. India, Pakistan, the ASEAN countries and some eccentric
Latin American regimes would also be unlikely to miss such a chance.
Without progress towards nuclear disarmament, a multipolar world is a world of an expanding
“nuclear club”. Threshold states in various corners of the globe will hurry to reach or cross the nuclear
threshold, as long as Russia and the West spend their time confronting each other and fail to work
together to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This could also lead to the global trade in
nuclear materials and technology and the proliferation of missiles and missile technology spiraling
out of control. Ultimately, there would be a much greater likelihood of nuclear weapons being used
in some regional conflict or other.
Islamic extremism and terrorism would rise and there would be even greater destabilization in
Afghanistan and Central Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa. Western Europe, Russia,
the United States and other countries would also find themselves hit by a wave of militant separatism,
transborder crime and terrorism.
The remaining arms control agreements (the NPT and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) would col-
lapse. In a worst-case scenario, a rogue regime could launch a provocative missile strike against one or
several great powers (or their space satellites) with the aim of setting off a nuclear exchange between
them. The threat of a terrorist act using a nuclear device in one or several of the world’s main capitals,
with disastrous consequences for modern civilization, would also become quite probable.
Realizing where developments are heading, politicians in Russia and the West would most prob-
ably stop short of going to the extreme, but the damage to their interests and to international security
could still be great. Russia risks more than others do. It is located between the main power centers
and closer to the conflict zones and regions where the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
and their delivery systems is taking place. It has much weaker economic potential and does not have
strong allies. Its southern regions are unstable, its law enforcement agencies insufficiently effective,
and it has inherited thousands of kilometers of porous border with hotbeds of conflict and powerful
neighboring states close by.
Rapid globalization makes the second threat less likely, but it cannot be excluded altogether. The
impact of geopolitical conflict, competition over energy resources and worsening environmental
problems could transform the multipolar system of international relations into a bipolar system once
more and lead to a new Cold War with all its attributes. However, if this does happen, it is the United
States and China that will most likely face off, backed by respective camps of allies. Russia would find
itself in an unenviable situation if this were to happen.
Moscow is unlikely to be able to turn the contradictions between others to its own advantage. Even
according to the most optimistic forecasts, Russia’s economic potential will still be much less than
that of the other power centers (3 percent of the world GDP by 2015, compared to 20 percent for the
United States, 22 percent for the European Union and 17 percent for China), 24 and its geopolitical
situation makes it vulnerable and leaves it with unprotected communication routes on its western,
southern and eastern borders. At the same time, Russia’s natural resources, geo-strategic location and
military technology make it a tempting morsel for opposing sides and perhaps the deciding factor as
to which way the scale tips. In such a situation, Russia could end up like a grain caught between two
millstones and suffer great damage in the West or the East, irrespective of the final outcome of the
confrontation between the two main power centers.
The third and final adverse scenario is one in which Russia’s reliance on exports of raw materials
increases and its new ruling class proves unable or unwilling to carry out the democratic reforms
needed to make the transition to an innovation-based high-technology economy. Moscow could, in
this situation, start pursuing a neo-isolationist foreign policy focusing only on ensuring transit and
acceptable prices for oil and gas exports and selling weapons, nuclear materials and nuclear technol-
ogy to any prospective buyers. This would pave the way to socio-political instability within the country
and the final collapse of its scientific, industrial and defense potential, as well as an increased depend-
ence on world energy prices and growing imports of foodstuffs and all goods with high added value.
This is not an optimistic prospect for Russia, particularly in a context where the high-technology
and innovative economies of the United States and the European Union continue their integration,
with Japan and South Korea joining in this process, followed by India and perhaps China (if it can
make a transition to the Taiwanese political model without fatal upheavals). Rather than becoming
an “energy superpower”, Russia would become merely an energy supplier for other countries and alli-
ances and would cease being a player in world politics, becoming an object for others’ designs instead.
It could lose, if not its legal sovereignty, then at least its economic and political sovereignty and control
over large parts of its territory, like China in the nineteenth century.


Russia has every possibility in its hands for avoiding the above scenarios. In the near future the most
important task is to stop the slide towards confrontation and rivalry with the United States and NATO,
even if it is limited to regional geopolitical and selective military-technical issues. Those in Russia and
the West who are trying to score points through confrontation are irresponsibly turning their coun-
tries’ paramount national interests into trading cards in internal political games.
Stopping this slide towards confrontation calls for, first of all, a series of proposals in the spirit of
President Putin’s recent statements on bilateral and multilateral arms reduction and on strength-
ening the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime. Moscow’s position on the Iranian and North
Korean nuclear issues will be particularly important for advancing these proposals. Unlike Mikhail
Gorbachev’s initiatives in the 1980s, this new package of arms reduction proposals should be based
not on well-intentioned utopian visions, but on radical and at the same time realistic military, eco-
nomic and technical calculations backed up by an effective program for military modernization and
reform. This initiative should not be put forward as in past years like the menu in a Soviet-era canteen
(“take it if you want it, leave it if you don’t”), but should be presented as the state’s firm demand and
promoted using all available diplomatic and military-technical means of pressure – an area in which it
would not be amiss to learn from the Americans. 25 A strategy of retreating into a deep defensive pos-
ture cannot guarantee security in a multipolar and interdependent world that is changing ever more
rapidly as a result of intensive scientific and technological progress.
Second, instead of coming up with amorphous (umbrella) integration plans for the entire post-
Soviet area only to then retreat from them, Moscow should formulate as clearly and specifically as pos-
sible its economic, military and other interests with regard to each of the CIS countries, leaving aside
all neo-imperialist idealism. However, Russia needs to fight for these interests and projects, using all
the levers and advantages it has, including those offered by its foreign policy with regard to countries
beyond the CIS. Non-expansion of NATO to the CIS countries should be tied to guarantees for the ter-
ritorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors and mutually acceptable settlements for the serious problems
they face – settlements that also ensure the rights of ethnic minorities. After all, these countries ended
up with their current borders as a result of the Soviet Union’s dissolution and the creation of the CIS
in its place. By not joining NATO and remaining in the CIS, but outside the Collective Security Treaty
Organization, a number of post-Soviet countries would be able to maintain military and political neu-
trality and, depending on the progress they make, move towards the European Union.
In the midterm, it is in Russia’s interests to check any attempts to move towards the emergence of a
new bipolar system. With U.S. unipolarity melting fast, it is important to take timely action to refocus
Russian foreign policy on combating other threats. Maintaining multipolarity requires Moscow to
pursue highly flexible and energetic diplomacy and establish a clear hierarchy of priorities for each
given moment. It also calls for skill in linking some issues to the resolution of other problems, a high
level of bureaucratic professionalism, and close coordination of all the relevant state agencies. The
international situation will clear up over the next several years: the United States will realize its limited
possibilities in the world and the need to coordinate its interests with other countries; the European
Union will tackle its integration, immigration and enlargement problems; and the foreign policy and
military consequences of China’s and India’s rapid economic growth and rising energy consumption
will become clearer.
Russia also needs the time it could gain by pursuing a policy of “multiple vectors” and “equal dis-
tance” – that is, by maintaining a multipolar balance of power in the context of ongoing globalization.
The current euphoria created from the newfound economic and foreign-policy independence will
eventually pass, and the time will come to decide how to make constructive use of this. Superficial reci-
pes for making the transition to an innovative economic model will be tried and proven inadequate,
and the need will arise to start carrying out deeper political and legal transformation, particularly if
world energy prices fall. Russia clearly still has many challenges and difficulties to overcome before
it, as Valentin Kudrov writes, “develops a clear and concrete development strategy, makes a definite
choice in favor of globalization and Europeanization, and draws up a guiding national idea within the
framework of modern civilized standards and priorities.” 26
The transition from a model based on the export of raw materials to a high-technology and inno-
vative economic model as part of the process of developing democratic institutions and rules would
naturally refocus Russia’s integration policy as Europe’s biggest country and its potentially strongest
economy. The future will determine the specific timing, forms and means of equal and mutually bene-
ficial integration between Russia and the European Union. This integration would eventually result in
the formation of the most powerful global power center in geopolitical, economic, military, scientific
and cultural terms. This new power center would definitely remove the threat of monopolarity and
arbitrariness from international relations and the global situation, as well as the danger of bipolarity
and confrontation, and it would take the lead in building a new world order based on the rule of law
to resolve the problems of the twenty first century.

1 See: Yavlinsky, G. Perspektivy Rossii. Moscow: Galleya Print, 2006. pp.109–141.
2 The few known examples of similarly protracted and large-scale bipolar confrontation that peri-
odically flared up into armed conflict were the Peloponesian wars in ancient Greece, the hostility
between ancient Greece and Persia, between ancient Rome and Carthage, and between Christian
Europe and the Islamic caliphates during the crusades, and then the Ottoman Empire (up until the
mid-seventeenth century.)
3 The Partial Test Ban Treaty, finalized in 1963, pursued mostly ecological goals. The Outer Space
Treaty (1967) and the Seabed Treaty (1971) were aimed at military activities that the parties were
hardly considering, since their usefulness was doubtful.
4 Kennedy, P. M. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: economic change and military conflict from 1500 to
2000. New York, NY: Random House, 1987. p. XVI.
5 Kennedy, P. M. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: economic change and military conflict from 1500 to
2000. New York, NY: Random House, 1987. p. XXIII.
6 In 2006, for example, Russia procured 6 ICBMs, 31 tanks, 120 armored vehicles, 9 planes and
helicopters, and has been commissioning new ships and submarines at a rate of one every few years.
This is a considerably slower rate than during the 1970s–80s. In spite of its much larger defense
budget, the U.S. has been concentrating its defense spending on maintenance of its armed forces
and conducting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States deploys more conven-
tional weapons than Russia, but fewer nuclear weapons.
7 See: Arbatov, Alexei. “Shag nenuzhny i opasny.” NVO, N 7 (513) (March 2–15, 2007). pp. 1–2.
8 See: Yadernoye oruzhiye posle “kholodnoy voyny” (Nuclear Weapons after the Cold War). Ed. A. Arbatov and
V. Dvorkin, Carnegie Moscow Center. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2006.
9 Vladykin, O. “Predchustviye vtorzheniya.” Moskovskiye Novosti, N 9–10 (1377) (03.22.2007). pp
10 It is interesting to see that without political leadership, military planning can reach absurd
heights. Facing off as familiar adversaries, but without the resources to wage a large–scale war, Russia
and NATO are now developing their military actions against each other on the basis of a local conflict,
a scenario that is even more politically divorced from reality than the likelihood of a global conven-
tional war that escalates into nuclear war.
11 Soviet casualties in Afghanistan came to around 50,000 killed and wounded, while, accord-
ing to official estimates, some 45,000 Russian servicemen were killed or wounded during the two
Chechen campaigns.
12 Freedman, Laurence “Traditional Security,” Russia and the West: The Twenty First Century Security
Environment, Ed. Alexei Arbatov, Karl Kaiser, and Robert Legvold. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 1999. p. 26.
13 Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994. p.21.
14 Jones, Gareth. “Putin Softens Stance on NATO,” Moscow Times, (October 4, 2001). p.1.
15 See: Borko, Yu. “Svet i teni yevropeiskoy integratsii.” Rossia v globalnoy politike. Vol. 5. N 1 (Jan.–
Feb. 2007). pp. 46–59.
16 Looking at the issue in military–technical terms, U.S. interceptor missiles based in Poland
would not be able to intercept Russian ICBMs or SLBMs, but the plans drew a justifiably negative reac-
tion from Moscow as a politically unfriendly step and the first phase of potential expansion plans that
would deploy interceptor missiles with different technical characteristics.
17 That summit resulted in the concept of the “four common spaces”: economic, humanitarian,
internal and external security – which went far beyond a simple policy of cooperation and opened the
road to broad integration.
18 Geography has, of course, influenced Russia’s history by making it open to invasion from Asia.
In the same way, with only narrow straits between them, Spain, Portugal and the Balkan peoples were
subjugated by Arab and Ottoman conquerors, which also subsequently left them economically and
politically backward. However, these countries and peoples have enough common sense not to talk
about their unique “third way” between Europe and the Arabs/Turks and are rapidly covering lost
ground and catching up with the rest of Europe.
19 Trenin, D. ”Russia Redefines Itself and Its Relations with the West.” The Washington Quarterly.
Vol. 30, № 2 (March 15, 2007).
20 Kennan, George F. “America and the Russian Future (1951).” Foreign Affairs (Spring 1990).
pp 82, 84.
21 Ibid.
22 Mir vokrug Rossii: 2017. Kontury nedalyokogo budushchego. Ed. S.A. Karaganov. Moscow (2007).
p. 121.
23 See: Arbatov, Alexei. “Shag nenuzhny i opasny.” Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, N 7 (513)
(March 2–15, 2007). pp. 1–2.
24 See: Kudrov, V. “Rossia na podyome.” Rossia v globalnoy politike. Vol. 5, N1 (January–February
2007). pp. 191–194.
25 Russia’s sole military–technical trump card is, it seems, the ground-mobile Topol–M ICBM pro-
gram and the project of equipping them with MIRV warheads. The U.S. is 10–15 years behind Russia
in this particular area. The program’s slow–paced implementation and the dispersal of finances on
other, very dubious projects sometimes creates the impression that Russia has resigned itself to a
growing strategic gap with the United States, does not want serious negotiations and is letting its only
remaining serious advantage slip from its hands.
26 Ibid, p. 194.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization
with headquarters in Washington D.C. The Endowment was created in 1910 by prominent entrepre-
neur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to provide independent analysis on a wide array of public
policy issues.
Almost fifteen years ago, the Endowment launched the Carnegie Moscow Center to help develop
a tradition of public policy analysis in the states of the former Soviet Union and improve relations
between Russia and the United States. It thereby pioneered the idea that in today’s world a think tank
whose mission is to contribute to global security, stability and prosperity requires a permanent inter-
national presence and a multinational outlook at the core of its operations.
In 2007, the Carnegie Endowment announced its New Vision as the first multinational and ulti-
mately global think tank, adding operations in Beijing, Beirut and Brussels to its existing offices in
Moscow and Washington. As in Moscow and Washington in the past, the defining characteristics
of the global Carnegie institution will continue to be political independence, first rate scholarship
combined with high level experience in government and other sectors, sustained, first-hand, expert
collaboration across borders, and unrelenting focus on constructively affecting real world outcomes.
There is a clear demand for such an organization in today’s world, with its ever-increasing interde-
pendence and the interlinked nature of global issues.
Through research, publishing and discussions, the Endowment associates – in Washington,
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uses its experience of research and discussion at the Carnegie Moscow Center as a model to develop
its transformation into the first international research network.
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Issue 1. What will Happen in Turkmenistan? Round Table of Religion, Society and Security
Program held on January 23, 2007 at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Issue 2. Marrack Goulding. The United Nations: Leadership, Reforms and Peacebuilding.

Issue 1. Martha Olcott. “Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Energy Policy”(in Russian).
Issue 2. Civil Society: Economic and Political Approaches (in Russian).
Issue 3. Civil Society and Political Processes in Regions (in Russian).
Issue 4. Vladimir Milov, Ivan Selivakhin. Energy policy problems (in Russian).
Issue 5. Zhao Huasheng. China, Central Asia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (in
Issue 6. Anna Bessonova. WTO Requirements and the Russian Legislation Compliance (in

Issue 1. Vasily Mikheyev. The East Asian Community: The China Factor and its Implications for
Russia (in Russian).
Issue 2. Alexey Malashenko. How Real is the So-Called Islamic Threat? (in Russian)
Issue 3. Ahmed Ahmedov, Evgenia Bessonova, Elena Grishina, Irina Denisova, Denis Nekipelov, Ivan
Cherkashin. WTO Entry and the Labor Market in Russia (in Russian).
Issue 4. Ksenia Yudaeva. What Are Russian Enterprises Expecting from the WTO: Survey Results (in
Issue 5. Konstantin Kozlov, Denis Sokolov, Ksenia Yudaeva. Innovative Activity Among Russian
Enterprises (in Russian).
Issue 6. Vasily Mikheev, Vladimir Yakubovsky, Yakov Berger, Galina Belokurova. Northeast Asia: Energy
Security Strategies (in Russian).
Issue 7. Andrei Shleifer, Daniel Treisman. A Normal Country (in Russian).
Issue 8. Anatoly Shiryaev. Concept for Reforming Military Education: Organization and Methods
(in Russian).
Issue 9. Impact of Russian Interest Groups on Russian Policy Toward Belarus (in Russian).
Issue 10. Roy Allison. Central Asia and the South Caucasus: Regional Cooperation and the Russian
Policy Factor (in Russian).