Russia and the West

by Sergey Mikhaylovich Rogov, doctor of historical sciences, professor, deputy director, Historical Commission of the Russian Academy of Sciences
in Russian, Mar 95 No 3, (Signed to press 6 Feb 95) pp 3-13

[FBIS Translated Excerpt]

[passage omitted] There is good reason why people are beginning to say that NATO's fastest possible expansion would relieve us of our obligation to adhere to the levels of the OVSYe Treaty not only on the southern flank but also in general. Moreover, it could hardly be denied that Russia is simply unable to physically maintain parity in conventional arms with NATO (and even more so if several of the Eastern European states are included in its membership). However, people are beginning to conclude from this that we need to place even greater reliance upon nuclear deterrence.

In this case Russia's strategic nuclear arms are not the only item under discussion. Emphasis is being laid on tactical nuclear weapons, and the question of operational-range missiles destroyed under the INF Treaty is being raised. That is, were NATO to expand, Russia could begin producing a new generation of SS-20 missiles and other systems prohibited under it. Of course, one-sided dissolution of the Soviet-American INF Treaty would evoke an extremely sharp reaction from the United States. The START-1 Treaty would also be brought into question.

Unfortunately the 1992 Lisbon Protocol equated Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan with Russia as heirs to the USSR under this treaty. Ukraine dragged its heels, and it was in no hurry to become nonnuclear, and even Kiev's recent consent to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is once again hedged by ambiguous qualifications. In Budapest, in the meantime, Russia agreed to announce enactment of the START-1 Treaty, even though Ukraine continues to insist upon its right of ownership of strategic nuclear weapons located on its territory.

This situation considerably complicates the prospects for ratifying the START-2 Treaty, signed by presidents Yeltsin and Bush in 1993. The difficulties are associated not only with the problems of dividing up the Soviet nuclear legacy, but also with the high cost of the proposed reductions. However, the main thing is the inconsistency between the declared strategic partnership between Russia and the United States, and persistence of the model of mutual nuclear deterrence in relations between the two powers.

This contradiction cannot be resolved by symbolic measures having the purpose of camouflaging continuing nuclear opposition. After all, the readiness to immediately annihilate the other side is the essence of mutual nuclear deterrence. Russian military doctrine pronounced in fall 1992 lays emphasis on nuclear deterrence and even foresees rejection of the Soviet promise not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. Rejection of this model is possible only if Russia and the United States transcend to a real and not just a declared partnership. Consequently announcement of accelerated stand-down of all systems to be destroyed by 2003 according to the START-2 Treaty, made during the September summit talks in Washington, was a surprise. After all, in this case the balance of forces may change dramatically, and not in Russia's favor. It may be that such a turn will make its ratification more difficult, rather than making it easier.

It appears that Russia might make yet another mistake by agreeing to make the ABM Treaty multilateral. After all, by doing so it would weaken Russia's unique status in relation to the United States, which in many ways determines our country's place in the present system of international relations. Moreover, reexamination of the ABM Treaty, especially with an eye on blurring the boundaries between strategic systems and tactical systems (ABM defense in a theater of military operations) would have serious military consequences. The reliability of Russian nuclear deterrence could be threatened.

In any case the "mature strategic partnership" between Russia and the United States proclaimed by presidents Yeltsin and Clinton is already experiencing a deep crisis. And this is understandable: Declarations that are not supported by specific acts become unfulfilled hopes. Strategic partnership cannot be effective unless a mechanism of close military-political interaction is created.

Russia and the United States could be united by important strategic interests, by their common interest in maintaining stability and security in the world. It would not be advantageous to either power or any third power to assume a dominant position in the system of international relations. However, Moscow and Washington have still been unable to develop a system by which to achieve consensus on their interests, and to reconcile them. As a result disagreements have started surfacing, first in secondary and then in more-important issues.

It appears that the historical chance for establishing Russian-American partnership may slip away. Responsibility for this lies to a significant degree with Moscow, which has been found to be incapable of offering a realistic program for development of relations with Washington, conceding the initiative almost wholly and entirely to the American side. This readiness of Russian diplomacy to recognize the United States' undisputed leadership has not been without its consequences: The Americans have begun getting used to the idea that Russia could be presented with a fait accompli . Ultimately the desire to maintain Western solidarity at any price will have the consequence that the United States will reckon less and less with Russian interests. Moscow's belated attempts to change this nature of the advertised partnership have only evoked irritation in Washington. The atmosphere in Russian-American relations deteriorated noticeably in recent months. It may be assumed that with the transfer of power in Congress to conservative Republicans, U.S. Russian policy will grow significantly stiffer. In any case the Clinton administration is not going to give up its plans to widen NATO just because Moscow refused to sign the agreement on "Partnership for Peace." Russian-American differences made public in the Budapest meeting may become the starting point of dangerous alienation between Russia and the United States.

The clumsy attempts by Russian diplomacy to play upon the internal contradictions in the West, particularly in order to find a counterweight to the United States, will perhaps only intensify even more the notion that Russia is a weak and unpredictable partner that makes excessive claims. It is an irony of history that upon ending the Soviet-American cold war, the former rivals have once again returned to their initial dispute. After all, having rejected a global role, Russia is attempting to stake out the boundaries of its special interests, while the United States and the West as a whole are refusing to recognize such a zone not only in Central and Eastern Europe but also on the territory of the former Soviet Union. In Budapest, Clinton rejected Russian claims upon a "right of veto" and a "zone of interests," and Yeltsin condemned the desire to control the course of events "from a single capital."

Could the growing alienation of Russia and the West mean a return to cold war? Hardly, because Russia doesn't have the resources with which to enter into a new arms race. Nor is there an ideological basis for such a confrontation. But there is a fully realistic prospect for transition to a "cold peace," which President Yeltsin discussed at the CSCE summit. Russia's policy in relation to former Soviet republics might perhaps have the decisive significance in this situation. However, intensification of economic, political and military pressure by Moscow with the goal of maintaining its zone of special interests in the CIS will be interpreted in the West as a return to an imperialistic policy.

Progressing isolation of Russia from the West--if it goes too far--will doubtlessly have a negative effect both on market reforms and on democratic political transformations. In turn, intensification of authoritarian counter-reformist tendencies in Russia will lead to even greater isolation of Russia, going as far as creation of a new "quarantine zone." Thus growing apprehensions in the West that Russia may assume an expansionist path may play the role of a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

Is There a Way Out?

As the old truism has it, foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy. The necessity for stabilization inside a country also means correction of foreign policy, which must be realistic, and which must ensure, in more than just words, favorable external conditions for the necessary economic and political reforms.

The main threat today is that we might go from one extreme to the other, and assume the traditional path of authoritarianism in domestic policy and confrontation with the outside world. What are we going to do after slamming all of the doors shut? Russian neo-isolationism is a path to a "camp under siege," together with all of its "delights."

But in the new geopolitical situation, in which Russia has been stripped of its allies, it could hardly become a great power, and it will inevitably transform into an object of expansion for other centers of power. Twenty-first century Russia cannot be 19th century America, separated from the surrounding world by two oceans. We are in fact a Eurasian power, and we must deal simultaneously with all of the main centers of power in the modern world--the United States, Western Europe, Japan, China and the Islamic world. But for the moment the only expression of our "Eurasianism" is that we have found ourselves isolated both in Europe and in Asia. Can we survive in a multipolar world if we have neither allies nor partners?

Moscow needs a foreign policy that would make it possible to ensure peace on our borders, avoid international isolation, and defend our interests with the help of dependable partners in regions having vitally important significance to us.

What must be done to achieve this?

1. Now that the first cycle of Russian foreign policy has ended with bankruptcy of its open pro-Western orientation, and the authors of this course are hastily distancing itself from it rather than admitting responsibility for the defeat, it is time to reach the conclusion that the present creators of our foreign policy are incapable of finding a way out of the dead end they themselves created. The absence of a thoughtful strategy, incompetency, improvisations and posing may conclusively discredit Russian diplomacy both at home and abroad.

2. It is finally time to clearly define the foreign political priorities of our state, and to stop swinging between globalism and isolationism. The first circle of Russia's interests is the CIS, the second circle is our neighbors in the Far East, in the Near East, and in Eastern Europe, and the West is only the third circle. Under no conditions should we isolate ourselves from the United States and Western Europe, but we need to begin our policy in the near abroad, not the far abroad.

3. Our interests in Eastern Europe will be conclusively undermined if we allow the desire of these states to join NATO to transform into an excuse for creating a new iron curtain. We still have the possibility, after all, to at least partially restore mutual economic cooperation with a number of Eastern European countries. And there are other areas in which our interests coincide. It would be sufficient to recall that cooperation with Poland is necessary in order to avoid transformation of Kaliningrad into a new Danzig.

4. Russia must avoid extremes in its relations with the West. Inasmuch as expansion of NATO can no longer be avoided, the question of formulating our relations with the North Atlantic alliance is acquiring decisive importance. If this is to be a truly equal partnership, why must NATO necessarily be perceived as a threat? Can we not imagine a variant of NATO's evolution in which this organization's growing strength would be in our interests, rather than contradicting them?

Obviously we can get the ultimate answer to this question by attempting to offer NATO cooperation under the terms of a mutual compromise--recognition of one another's lawful interests, rather than unilateral concessions by Russia. Clearly there are three directions of interaction here. First, we need to update the arms control regime, which is based on the obsolete principle of parity between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Expansion of NATO must lead not to a new arms race but to a decrease of the persisting high level of militarization in Europe. Rather than floundering in the wake of events, we need to take the initiative into our own hands, for example by proposing a new Treaty on Reduction of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (OVSYe-2) to replace the OVSYe Treaty. The OVSYe-2 Treaty must substitute bloc-based arms levels by national limits. All European states, and not just members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, must become its participants. We cannot allow the aggregate levels of arms foreseen for NATO to increase as a result of this bloc's expansion. And the new treaty must concluded under the auspices of the OSCE, which will become a noticeable contribution by the new organization to ensuring security and cooperation on the European continent.

Second, we need a sound contractual basis for relations between Russia and NATO in relation to a wide range of political and military problems. We could require NATO to recognize Russia's lawful security interests in a number of concrete spheres in connection with expansion of this alliance. Besides issues delimited in the "Partnership for Peace" program, the possible obligations of NATO should have a relationship to problems such as not locating foreign military bases and nuclear weapons in Eastern European states, not expanding the activity of the joint military organization of the North Atlantic bloc to the territory of Baltic states and other former Soviet republics, and Russia's equal participation in programs of material and technical support to the armed forces of former countries of the Warsaw Pact that may become NATO members. Moreover Russian conditions might include the requirement to hand the entire complex of problems associated with peacekeeping operations in Europe over to the exclusive jurisdiction of the OSCE. And finally, the final dissolution of the Yalta system must not have an impact on the Kaliningrad question. It is fully logical that if NATO is to expand, the present borders of the Russian Federation must be guaranteed.

Third, the new architecture of Europe also requires formal establishment of relations along NATO-CIS lines--in any case, organization of collective security on the basis of the 15 May 1992 Tashkent agreement. Naturally there can be no discussion of institutionalizing the principle of parity in relations between them. An agreement between NATO and CIS must document the principles and directions of cooperation between the two organizations in maintaining international security, rather than duplicating the OVSYe-2 Treaty. At the same time, adoption of a new program of measures of trust in the military sphere is also possible.

5. We need to reformulate the principles of strategic partnership with the United States, and move away from the "leader-follower" formula. Equal partnership presupposes presence of shared interests, a mechanism for consultations in decision making, and bodies for permanent interaction at the working level. We need to create such a structure of interaction, capitalizing upon the United States' interest in resolving a number of international issues.

6. The new strategic initiatives of Russian diplomacy could be successful only if Russia is able to find a way out of the economic crisis and provide for internal political stability. The hopes for a "diplomatic miracle" will prove groundless if Russia continues to weaken in all directions. It is time to understand that Russia is under no circumstances "doomed to being a great power." Continuation of the present trends will doom Russia to slipping into the backwaters of world policy. But the possibilities for rebirth, for transformation into a truly great power do exist. And we mustn't let them slip away.


1. DIPLOMATICHESKIY VESTNIK, 15 January 1992, p 12.
2. SEGODNYA, 22 November 1994.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. DIPLOMATICHESKIY VESTNIK, 15 January 1992, p 11.
6. Ibid., pp 12-13.