THE ANGLO-PERSIAN CRISIS: A DIPLOMATIC OVERVIEW
"Since the end of the war a series of ineffective governments had done little to cope with the financial, political and economic difficulties caused by the presence of Allied troops in Persia, and there was little confidence in the ability of intention of the ruling class to improve the lot of the common people. But Persia was naturally affected by the world movement towards the improvement of bad conditions among Asiatic populations. The impact of this movement in Persia was particularly strong on the frustrated intelligentsia and on the factory workers....
It is difficult at the present moment to forsee in any detail the development of the political and economic situation in Persia."
Sir Francis Shepherd, British Ambassador to Persia, Dispatch # 360, to Foreign Office, 17th December 1950. In FO[Foreign Office]317/82313 [copy of the original in my possession].
"Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the current situation regarding the 15 British Service personnel, detained by Iranian forces on Friday of last week and that the Government is doing all it can to ensure that they are released immediately.
At approximately 0630 GMT on 23 March 15 British naval personnel from HMS Cornwall, engaged in a routine boarding operation of a merchant vessel in Iraqi territorial waters in support of Security Council Resolution 1723 and of the Government of Iraq, were seized by Iranian naval vessels.
HMS Cornwall was conducting routine maritime security operations as part of a Multi National Force coalition task force and operating under a United Nations Mandate at the request of the Iraqi government.
The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they and their two boats were surrounded by six Iranian vessels and escorted into Iranian territorial waters.
I immediately consulted with the Prime Minister and Secretary State for Defence and asked my Permanent Under Secretary to summon the Iranian Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
On 24 March my colleague the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Lord Triesman, held a further meeting with the Ambassador to repeat our demands. He has had several such meetings since that date.
At that first meeting the Iranian Ambassador gave us, on behalf of his government, the co-ordinates of the site where that government claimed our personnel had been detained. They were NOT of course where we believed the incident took place but we took delivery of them as the statement of events of the government of Iran. On examination these co-ordinates, supplied by Iran, are themselves in Iraqi waters.
On Sunday 25 March I spoke to Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, as I did again yesterday. In my first conversation I pointed out that not only did the co-ordinates for the incident as relayed by HMS Cornwall show that the incident took place 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters, but also that the grid co-ordinates for those incidents that the Iranian authorities had provided our Embassy on Friday 23 March and Lord Triesman on Saturday 24 March showed also that the incident had taken place in Iraqi waters. I suggested to the Iranian Foreign Minister that it appeared that the whole affair might have been a misunderstanding which could be resolved by immediate release.
In Iran, our Ambassador, Geoffrey Adams, has met on a daily basis with senior Iranian officials to press for immediate answers to our questions. He has left the Iranian authorities in no doubt that there is no justification for the Iranians to have taken the British Navy personnel into custody, and provided the grid co-ordinates of the incident which clearly showed that our personnel were in Iraqi waters and made clear that we expected their immediate and safe return. I should tell the House that we have no doubt either about the facts or about the legitimacy of our requirements.
When our Ambassador and my colleague Lord Triesman followed up with the Iranian authorities on Monday 25 March, we were provided with new, and I quote "corrected" grid co-ordinates by the Iranian side which now showed the incident as having taken place in Iranian waters. As I made clear to Foreign Minister Mottaki when I spoke to him yesterday, we find it impossible to believe, given the seriousness of the incident, that the Iranians could have made such a mistake with the original co-ordinates, which after all they gave us over several days.
The House may also be aware that, even if, and I stress that they were not, even if the Iranian government believed, our vessels had been in Iranian waters, under international law, warships have sovereign immunity in the territorial sea of other states. The very most Iran would have been entitled to do, if they considered that our boats were breaching the rules on innocent passage, would have been to require the ship to leave their territorial waters immediately.
Mr Speaker, we will continue to pursue vigorously our diplomatic efforts with the Iranians to press for the immediate release of our personnel and equipment. As members of the House will appreciate on sensitive issues like these, as with the recent Ethiopian case getting the balance right between private, but robust, diplomacy and meeting the House's and public's justified demand for reliable information is a difficult judgement. I am very grateful for the support we have been given over the last few days by the foreign affairs spokesmen of the other parties, and from yourself Mr Speaker as well as others in the House, and hope that this will continue.
But, as the Prime Minister, indicated yesterday we are now in a new phase of diplomatic activity. That is why MOD have today released details of the incident and why I have concluded that we need to focus all our bilateral efforts during this phase to resolution of this issue. We will, therefore be imposing a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved. We will keep other aspects of our policy towards Iran under close review and will continue to proceed carefully. But no one should be in any doubt about the seriousness with which we regard these events".
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, Speaking in the House of Commons, 28 March A. D. 2007 (in www.fco.gov.uk).
As I write these words, the UK government has taken the Persian act of piracy to the United Nation's Security Council. It appears that the Council will adopt a statement calling for the regime in Teheran to release the captured British sailors immediately (see: www.ft.com.lb). In addition the UK in the absence of any positive steps by the Persians will immediately ask that its EU partners, follows its lead, and freeze all economic ties with the Mullahs regime. So, in irony of ironies, the intemperate authorities (or I should say some of them) in Teheran, have perhaps, if this crisis is not resolved soon, manage to accomplish something which the United States has been unable to do for upwards ten years of trying: cut off the economic ties between the Persia and Europe (www.dailystar.com.lb).
What may one inquire, is the rationale (although one hesitates to use the rational[e and Persian in the same sentence...) for this latest instance of Persian mis-behavior? Simply put, it appears that the regime in Teheran, recently buffeted by various hammer blows on several fronts: one, the Russian shut-down of its nuclear co-operation with Teheran (see Pavel Podvig's article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in www.thebulletin.org); two, the United Nation's Security Council vote over the week-end to impose further sanctions on the Persia, over its nuclear programme. A vote which the Mullahs in Teheran denounced as: "spiteful and vicious" (see:www.cfr.org); three, even prior to the latest imposition of sanctions, both the de jure pre-existing UN sanctions, and, the de facto American sanctions are having an increasing effect on the economy as well as the psychology of the Persian regime(see:ft.com & www.cfr.org); four, the recent heavy reinforcement of American naval forces in the Gulf, merely reminds the Persian regime the futility of any attempt to close the straits of Hormuz, or interfere with tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf (one Persia's military weakness, see: Anthony Cordesman's writings on the subject in www.csis.org). Indeed, it is due to these slew of hammer blows being dealt to Persia, that the American analyst, Gary Samore recently commented in London
before the Royal Institute of International Affairs, that:
"Since the passage of UNSCR 1737 in December, however, the balance has begun to shift. To Tehran’s dismay, Moscow and Beijing [Peking] decided to support the Western strategy of incremental economic sanctions to pressure Iran [Persia} to suspend its enrichment program. Although 1737 did not impose significant sanctions against Iran, a number of private businesses have decided to limit their financial exposure in Iran. The new draft resolution – which was agreed to in record time by the P-5 – expands the existing sanctions (e.g. targeting financial sanctions against Bank Sepah and Revolutionary Guard Commanders) and hints at additional mandatory sanctions (e.g. arms embargo and ban on export credits) if Iran continues to defy the Security Council" (see:www.cfr.org).
In light of the above sequence of blows, it does not entirely surprise this observer that, that more primitive and 'hard-line' elements in the regime, around the Revolutionary Guards, and other elements loyal to President Ahmadinejad, have opted for a policy of va banque, by seizing the British sailors in Iraqi waters. The purpose of such an adventurous act being, that rather than Persia opting for a more conciliatory stance, in light of the pressures from abroad, Teheran must react in a volte-face fashion, on engage in a policy of pin pricks. And, in such a fashion, completely alienate any potential interlocutors abroad. Thus, of course scuppering any potential that the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) with or without Russia and China, will be able to use friendly persuasion to coax Teheran to climb down from its isolated position over its nuclear programme.
What is the optimum or best policy in light of this Persian attitude? Simply put, the best policy is one of incremental increases in the pressures on the regime. Do not, follow Teheran by sharply increasing the pressures all at once. Much less do anything so foolhardy as to either rattle sabers much less use them. Rather, let the regime in Teheran dig its own grave. A regime a society, most of whose young people main ambition in life is to emigrate abroad, is fundamentally a weak one, not a strong one. As the economic pressures, grow, and as most especially the United States fails to leap at any Persian provocations, the end result is the in the normal course of events, Teheran will swallow its pride and engage in real negotiations over its nuclear programme. Inexorably, inevitably, the more moderate forces in the regime, will overcome the more dogmatic and rigid elements. It will not be an easy process, nor a quick one. However, it is a process which can and will result in Persia giving in without firing a shot. Hence it is by far the best policy overall to follow.
THE ARAB SUMMIT - A STATEMENT ON THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN DISPUTE
The following is a statement issued by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa of Egypt, in which he provides a summary of the Arab League's re-offer of its 2002 Peace proposal to Israel. The text is provided by way of www.dailystar.com.lb. 'Arab-Israeli conflict is at the core of instability and tension'
"The convening of the 19th Arab summit in Riyadh ... shows that the regular convening of the Arab summit is becoming a fundamental mechanism in steering joint Arab action ... in the face of unprecedented tension in the contemporary history of the Middle East and the Arab world.
I would like to commend the kingdom and the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, who as we know is fully capable of leading the procession in the face of a clear and present challenge to the entity of this Umma.
The Arab-Israeli conflict, and particularly the Palestinian cause, is at the core of instability and tension in the region. What can we do in face of international bias and Israeli defiance of opportunities that might have led to peace? This very bias has crippled the peace process.
It has become necessary that we reconsider this policy if the Middle East is to enjoy peace and stability.
The absence of security mediation has seriously damaged the chances to achieve qualitative step in the region. Despite all this, we are following a diplomatic path that we hope will lead to the resumption of the peace process.
The Arabs have prepared themselves to enter a peace process that would put an end to Arab-Israeli conflict.
I commend the European countries that have adopted the right and courageous decision to recognize and work with the new Palestinian government ... I call for the lifting of the economic siege imposed on the Palestinian people. Arab goals are clear and enlisted in the peace initiative ... which calls for an end to the military occupation of Palestinian lands, the Syrian Golan and Lebanese Shebaa, the establishment of future relations with Israel under a comprehensive peace and the establishment of the real Palestinian state..."
THE SAUDI PEACE OFFER - IS IT FOR REAL?
In addition, according to Rice:
"What are the main Arab difficulties and crises that the world, from the East to the West, and from the North to the South, is no longer 'capable' of withstanding due to their resistance to any treatment?
The Arabs' suffering is not only limited to unsolved political, economic and social issues and crises in the Middle East and North Africa. It includes looking for a 'drug' capable of healing the wounds of political adolescents and crazy people, and of those who have run away from their Arab home. The aim is to bring them back to the Arab ranks, especially in this critical period.
Political 'adolescence', internal crises and foreign challenges are a triad where each of them represents a serious illness playing its role in destabilizing the joint Arab system and work. This has become particularly evident after the policies adopted by some countries have scandalously become more and more based on solitary work, which has brought others to lose the capability of focusing on how to deal 'exemplarily' with 'crisis-ridden' Arab files from a unique perspective, and with a single policy in order to silence rivals....
Political adolescence is the most dangerous stage countries go through, especially if they lose their mental balance, live as bigger States than their own size or regional roles actually are, and are dominated by an impulse that looks for disputes and revenge, until they run into an 'accumulated' wall of problems and crises against them. At that point, their mind starts to go back to its inner nature or goes crazy and is hit by 'grandiose delusions'.
Since 1964, when the first conference of the Arab Summit was held, the Arab countries have been living in a stage marked by brazen adolescence. Indeed, they are living the worst kind of adolescence, marked by what psychology calls 'social withdrawal': the teenager decides not to take part in the decision-making process with his or her society, and prefers to be isolated and make their decisions all alone, withdrawing into their deformities and single-minded thoughts. Another kind is dominated by adolescence and 'boyish' jealousy: they resort to inflaming passions and invent problems and crises. At the Arab level, we have 'living' examples that never stop to make relations among countries strained without any justifications.
The Arab region, as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz metaphorically defined it, is 'a gunpowder keg that can explode at any time'. Defusing the 'gunpowder keg', of which political teenagers represent one of its tools, has now become a danger for inter-Arab relations. This calls for a 'clinical' and psychological treatment of adolescents, adventurers and fools, and also of those striving to sow the seeds of unrest, inflame hatred and rancor and increase division. The goal is to reach a 'unified' Arab pathway based on equilibrium and the logical reading of incidents, challenges and novelties threatening the joint work. Also, the Arab countries should line up together to prevent any foreign interferences and attempts to split these ranks by instigating peoples against another....
The region is going through a phase of acute polarization and sectarian differences that are close to sparking off civil wars. Also, there is Iran's increasing sway and its emergence as a regional force 'rebelling' against the international community.
The Arab files that the Riyadh Summit will be confronted with are very 'hot' and 'intense': a way to circulate the Arab Peace Initiative diplomatically and to work on revitalizing it at the international level; the capability to assist and support the Palestinian unity government; the crises in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia; and, finally, the war on terror and peoples' requests to implement internal reforms, enlarge the scope of liberties, find radical solutions to the problems of unemployment and poverty, and fend off internal sedition. This requires changing the way the Arabs deal with the issues currently on the table, making these issues serious and credible, increasing people's participation and stopping the postponing of any possible action, especially because peoples' patience has run out and they are fed up.
Will the Riyadh Summit succeed in gathering the contradictions in order to reach decisions, find outlets capable of standing up firmly to crises and challenges, and find the drug that could heal the adolescent, the fool, the unemployed, the false and those like them"? Jameel Theyabi in
Judging by the amount of sheer activity, it would appear that diplomacy aimed at resolving, or trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has shifted into high geer. Not only is the Arab Summit in Rihyad in Saudia Arabia beginning on Wednesday, now expected to re-issue the 2002 Peace offer, made at that year's summit. The peace offer, which was the product of then Saudi Crown Prince, now King Abdullah, makes a straight offer of full Arab recognition, of Israel, along the border of 1967, with the proviso that it not bargain away, the internationally recognized right of Palestinian refugees to return, to their abodes circa 1947-1948. In actual fact, by not setting forth a means of returning the refugees to their (now vanished) homes, but merely calling for a 'just solution' to their grievances, the Arab Peace Plan, provides any Israeli government worth it salt, with a means of beginning a pour parler (on the specifics of the Summit Peace Plan, see: www.dailystar.com.lb & www.ft.com).
Will Tel Aviv take up the Arab Peace Offer? Will its American ally and backer, 'help' its Israeli client, to see the voice of wisdom and reason, in the plan, which while by no means parfait, does offer up, a relatively quick and easy route to lowering the tensions in the regions, tensions which as the above commentary in the Beirut daily Al-Hayat, shows is not between the Arab States and Israel, but between the Arab regimes in the region, and, their populations. Based upon past form, the answers to both questions should be a resounding 'non'.
However, in a surprise even for this commentator, the light-weight American Secretary of State, for once failed to disappoint, and instead pleasantly surprised many observers, by forging an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert (another lightweight), and Palestinian Authority President, Abbas. According to Rice, in a press conference in Tel Aviv today, the two leaders have undertaken to:
"Meet together biweekly. This very positive development builds on their previous meetings and will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians" (see:www.state.gov).
"The United States has a unique relationship with each party, and we will do our part to support their engagement. So I will meet with the Prime Minister and the President periodically – sometimes separately, sometimes together – in whatever form will be most effective to accelerate progress. The Israelis and Palestinians are taking the initial step on the path to peace, and the American role will include helping them to overcome obstacles, develop new ideas, and rally international support for their efforts. The meetings between the Israelis and Palestinians will focus on two sets of issues. First, they will discuss immediate concerns, like movement and access, management of the passages, and preventing arms smuggling and rocket fire by terrorists in Gaza. On issues like these, the United States is already deeply involved in helping them. On this trip, however, it became clear to all of us that establishing clear benchmarks to measure progress will help us move forward. So this is one immediate task that the parties will undertake with the assistance of General Keith Dayton" (see:www.state.gov).
These are useful beginning steps, particularly since, it is widely apparent that the Israeli side was less than enthusiastic about the whole framework of the apparent accord (On this see:www.haaretz.com). And, while one is fully alive to the sort of cynicism expressed today, in the Beirut Daily Star, by Rami Khoury, that there is au fond a 'fundamental dishonesty' about the American approach to Near Eastern peace-making, that does not obviate the fact that finally, fitfully, the Americans are putting a bit of backbone, into Near Eastern peacemaking (for Khoury's comments see: "Rice's Show: is it comedy or horror", in www.dailystar.com.lb). Obviously, one can only regret the fact, that Rice acceded to Olmert's pleas to not include in her formula or even mention in her press conference earlier today any, 'final status' issues (id est, return of refugees, East Jerusalem, borders of the two states, et cetera). And, indeed one may only regret that she did not have the nerve or the courage to show determined support for the Arab Summit's Peace Plan. Because make no mistake, Israeli, will never obtain, de jure, better terms than those embodied in the 2002 Peace Plan. To believe anything else is a chimera. And, now more than ever, positive movement is needed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Positive movement being only possible if the United States, so desires to resolve the issue at last. Such resolution, being measurable by the utilization of coercive diplomacy, vis-`a-vis its Israeli client. Without any such diplomatic coercion, all the huffing and the puffing by the Quartet, and, Rice herself, will avail nothing, rien, nada, zero, I am afraid.If, there is one lesson to be learned in Near Eastern diplomacy of the last sixty years, it is that left to themselves, the Israelis, will use or attempt to use, their superior position (based upon various factors to complicated to set out herein), to attack, frustrate and general make gains, at the expense of its neighbors. With the end result that region because ever more inflamed and unstable. As a commentator, for the online journal, Bitter Lemons, recently remarked in this vein:
"Israel has been pursuing policies that only strengthen Iran's regional influence at the expense of the Saudis and other Arabs. Through its strategic failure in Lebanon last summer, its disdain for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' overtures, the miserable life it is imposing on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza under the pretext of security and the need to boycott Hamas, Israel has almost succeeded in making Iran the main protector of the latter". Camille Mansour in http://www.dailystar.com.lb
A state of affairs which must be reversed and soon, if only to prevent the entire
region from falling into an abyss, which soon may become irretrievable.
THE CRISIS WITH PERSIA: A DIPLOMATIC UPDATE
Security Council SC/8980
"Determined to constrain Iran’s development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes, the Security Council today widened the scope of its December 2006 sanctions against Iran by banning the country’s arms exports and freezing the assets and restricting the travel of additional individuals engaged in the country’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1747 (2007), submitted by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the Council affirmed its decision that Iran should, without further delay, suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Under a related provision, the Council requested a report within 60 days from the IAEA Director General on whether Iran had established such full and sustained suspension, as well as on the process of Iranian compliance with all other steps required by the Agency’s Board of Governors and the other provisions of resolution 1737 (2006) and this resolution.
The Council also called on all States to report to the Committee set up in December to monitor implementation of the sanctions first established under resolution 1737, within 60 days of adoption of the present text, on the steps they had taken to implement the provisions that concerned them.
It also expressed its conviction that the suspension set out in resolution 1737, as well as full, verified Iranian compliance with the IAEA Board of Governor’s requirements, would contribute to a diplomatic negotiated solution that guaranteed that Iran’s nuclear programme was for exclusively peaceful purposes.
In that connection, the Council underlined the willingness of the international community to work positively for such a solution, and it encouraged Iran, in conforming with those provisions, to re-engage with the international community and IAEA, stressing that such engagement would be beneficial.
The Security Council met today to take action on the draft resolution contained in document S/2007/170, sponsored by France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The text reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling the Statement of its President, S/PRST/2006/15, of 29 March 2006, and its resolution 1696 (2006) of 31 July 2006, and its resolution 1737 (2006) of 23 December 2006, and reaffirming their provisions,
“Reaffirming its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the need for all States party to that Treaty to comply fully with all their obligations, and recalling the right of States parties, in conformity with articles I and II of that Treaty, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,
“Recalling its serious concern over the reports of the IAEA Director General as set out in its resolutions 1696 (2006) and 1737 (2006),
“Recalling the latest report by the IAEA Director General (GOV/2007/8) of 22 February 2007 and deploring that, as indicated therein, Iran has failed to comply with resolution 1696 (2006) and resolution 1737 (2006),
“Emphasizing the importance of political and diplomatic efforts to find a negotiated solution guaranteeing that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, and noting that such a solution would benefit nuclear non-proliferation elsewhere, and welcoming the continuing commitment of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the support of the European Union’s High Representative, to seek a negotiated solution,
“Recalling the resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors (GOV/2006/14), which states that a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery,
“Determined to give effect to its decisions by adopting appropriate measures to persuade Iran to comply with resolution 1696 (2006) and resolution 1737 (2006) and with the requirements of the IAEA, and also to constrain Iran’s development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes, until such time as the Security Council determines that the objectives of these resolutions have been met,
“Recalling the requirement on States to join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures decided upon by the Security Council,
“Concerned by the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme and, in this context, by Iran’s continuing failure to meet the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors and to comply with the provisions of Security Council resolutions 1696 (2006) and 1737 (2006), mindful of its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security,
“Acting under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
“1. Reaffirms that Iran shall without further delay take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions and, in this context, affirms its decision that Iran shall without further delay take the steps required in paragraph 2 of resolution 1737 (2006);
“2. Calls upon all States also to exercise vigilance and restraint regarding the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals who are engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, and decides in this regard that all States shall notify the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 18 of resolution 1737 (2006) (herein “the Committee”) of the entry into or transit through their territories of the persons designated in the Annex to resolution 1737 (2006) or Annex I to this resolution, as well as of additional persons designated by the Security Council or the Committee as being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, including through the involvement in procurement of the prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials and technology specified by and under the measures in paragraphs 3 and 4 of resolution 1737 (2006), except where such travel is for activities directly related to the items in subparagraphs 3 (b) (i) and (ii) of that resolution;
"3. Underlines that nothing in the above paragraph requires a State to refuse its own nationals entry into its territory, and that all States shall, in the implementation of the above paragraph, take into account humanitarian considerations, including religious obligations, as well as the necessity to meet the objectives of this resolution and resolution 1737 (2006), including where article XV of the IAEA Statute is engaged;
“4. Decides that the measures specified in paragraphs 12, 13, 14 and 15 of resolution 1737 (2006) shall apply also to the persons and entities listed in Annex I to this resolution;
"5. Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran;
“6. Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint in the supply, sale or transfer directly or indirectly from their territories or by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms to Iran, and in the provision to Iran of any technical assistance or training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services, and the transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of such items in order to prevent a destabilising accumulation of arms;
“7. Calls upon all States and international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes;
“8. Calls upon all States to report to the Committee within 60 days of the adoption of this resolution on the steps they have taken with a view to implementing effectively paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above;
“9. Expresses the conviction that the suspension set out in paragraph 2 of resolution 1737 (2006), as well as full, verified Iranian compliance with the requirements set out by the IAEA Board of Governors would contribute to a diplomatic, negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, underlines the willingness of the international community to work positively for such a solution, encourages Iran, in conforming to the above provisions, to re-engage with the international community and with the IAEA, and stresses that such engagement will be beneficial to Iran;
“10. Welcomes the continuous affirmation of the commitment of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the support of the European Union’s High Representative, to a negotiated solution to this issue and encourages Iran to engage with their June 2006 proposals (S/2006/521), attached in Annex II to this resolution, which were endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1696 (2006), and acknowledges with appreciation that this offer to Iran remains on the table, for a long-term comprehensive agreement which would allow for the development of relations and cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme;
“11. Reiterates its determination to reinforce the authority of the IAEA, strongly supports the role of the IAEA Board of Governors, commends and encourages the Director General of the IAEA and its secretariat for their ongoing professional and impartial efforts to resolve all outstanding issues in Iran within the framework of the IAEA, underlines the necessity of the IAEA, which is internationally recognized as having authority for verifying compliance with safeguards agreements, including the non-diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes, in accordance with its Statute, to continue its work to clarify all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme;
“12. Requests within 60 days a further report from the Director General of the IAEA on whether Iran has established full and sustained suspension of all activities mentioned in resolution 1737 (2006), as well as on the process of Iranian compliance with all the steps required by the IAEA Board and with the other provisions of resolution 1737 (2006) and of this resolution, to the IAEA Board of Governors and in parallel to the Security Council for its consideration;
“13. Affirms that it shall review Iran’s actions in light of the report referred to in paragraph 12 above, to be submitted within 60 days, and:
(a) that it shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations in good faith in order to reach an early and mutually acceptable outcome;
(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12 of resolution 1737 (2006) as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above as soon as it determines, following receipt of the report referred to in paragraph 12 above, that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board;
(c) that it shall, in the event that the report in paragraph 12 above shows that Iran has not complied with resolution 1737 (2006) and this resolution, adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to persuade Iran to comply with these resolutions and the requirements of the IAEA, and underlines that further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary;
“14. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
The above action by the United Nation's, although weaker than it might have been is enough to indicate to the Persian regime in Teheran, that it will not go unpunished if it continues with its nuclear programme. While one may gainsay the above by saying (correctly enough) that the sanctions are without real economic impact on the mass of the population of Persia, this truism ignores the fact that the existing sanctions have already had an impact, both psychological and economic on the economy of the regime (for more on the economic woes, which have increased in the last eight months due to both official and unofficial, read American economic sanctions, see: www.ft.com). Contrary to commentators such as Ray Takeyh, who a short while ago, were stating that Persia was an iron colossus, ready to sweep all before it in the region, anyone who has even a fair knowledge of the regime, knows that it is quite weak. Weak economically (what can what one say for a country where perhaps several hundred people a year die due to the lack of spare parts for its aging air fleet, not to speak of perhaps the irony it might have to commence rationing gasoline?). Weak militarily, as per the militarily expert, Mr. Anthony Cordesman, Persia, could not even close down the Straits of Hormuz, for more than a few hours, if that (for Cordesman on Persia and its military, see: www.csis.org).
Notwithstanding the statement by the Persian foreign minister to the Security Council, that:
"pressure and intimidation would not change Iranian [Persian] policy. If certain countries had pinned their hopes that repeated resolutions would 'dent the resolution of the Great Iranian [Persian] nation', they should have no doubt that they had 'once again faced catastrophic and analytical failure vis-`a-vis the Iranian [Persian] People's Islamic Revolution....Even the harshest political and economic sanctions or other threats were 'far too weak to coerce the Iranian [Persian] nation to retreat from their legal and legitimate demands".
It would appear that the regime is in fact, quite concerned about both its support in the outside world (hence the vitriolic reaction to Russia's recent moves, backing away from Teheran), and, by the weakening economic situation internally. It is perhaps for the latter reason, in order to rally domestic opinion, that the recent seizure of fifteen British sailors in International waters off, of Iraq, but, near Persia, has been orchestrated. While perhaps the prime motive is to trade the sailors for the Persian officials seized recently in the Kurdish part of Iraq, by the United States Army, another rationale would be to hold the sailors up for some type of public trial, for purposes of propaganda, after which the sailors would be let go (on the seizure of the British sailors, see: www.ft.com & www.dailystar.com.lb).
Where does the new UN sanctions leave us? It would appear that the EU three powers (Britain, Germany and France) will attempt to approach Persia, perhaps as early as today, in an endeavor to re-start the now defunct negotiations. Hopefully, being realistic about both its internal situation, as well as the International one, the regime in Teheran, will stage a 'climb down', and agree to perhaps a formula (already floated by Russia) to process the fuel for nuclear power in Russia proper, and, thus eliminate the danger of spent fuel being used to manufacture nuclear weapons. With its clients in the Lebanon, also not faring too well of late, it is hoped that the moderate elements in the regime, around ex-President Rafsangani, will overcome the more extreme elements to agree to a workable compromise along the lines of the Russian proposal(on the current situation in the Lebanon, see:www.dailystar.com.lb). Obviously, in any such modus vivendi, the United States, will be forced to offer up some concessions as well, such as a pledge to recognize the current regime in Persia, and, to forswear any ambitions to overthrow it. And, to end its regime of economic sanctions on Teheran. Neither item, to the mind of this commentator, is soo onerous that the United States could not agree to it readily. It can, and in the context of a settlement of the Persian nuclear issue, it must. The alternatives (appeasement or air strikes) are too frightening to contemplate.
HOLBROOKE TAKES ON RUSSIA: AN ANALYSIS
Richard Holbrooke, is without a doubt, the man most qualified to be Secretary of State who has not yet held the position, in the United States today. The only man to have been Assistant Secretary of State, for two different regions (Europe and East Asia), Ambassador to both Germany and the United Nations. The man who brought the warring parties to the Bosnian conflict, to the peace table at Dayton in 1995. A Foreign Service officer at the age of twenty-one, straight out of Brown University. Holbrooke, served in Indo-China as Henry Cabot Lodge's Executive Assistant, before being recalled to Washington to serve as Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary of State, he served on the American delegation to the Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam War. In short, one may say that of Holbrooke, that he is a 'diplomat to his fingertips'. After resigning from the Foreign Service, he founded and edited the (then) 'radical', alternative to Foreign Affairs magazine, Foreign Policy, for five years, prior to his service in the Carter Administration. In addition, to his extensive experience of diplomacy, Holbrooke is both a first-rate writer and a cogent public speaker, as anyone who has heard him on Public Television's various programmes, as well read his monthly column in the Washington Post (see a partial biography of Holbrooke in: www.cfr.org).
While, one may doubt that in fact, Holbrooke will ever be called to the office that he so richly deserves (assuming that the next President is a Democrat it is difficult to imagine that either Mme. Clinton or Senator Obama, would be able
abide such a domineering character as Secretary of State), that does not negate the fact, that his is probably the leading voice on foreign policy in the Democratic Party, and, one of the leading voices across the American political spectrum. Consequently, when Holbrooke speaks people should definitely listen. And, what Holbrooke has been saying is of interest precisely because it in some ways,expresses an emerging consensus, among the Washington pays legal, concerning current and future policy towards Russia.
In an interview, with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Holbrooke attacked Russian policy towards both Georgia and Kosovo. In the case of the latter, Holbrooke repeated arguments made a few days prior in Brussels, in which he argued that:
"If the Russians delay or dilute or veto it [Kosovo independence] then I am afraid that the long pent-up desire of the Albanians in Kosovo for a rapid move toward independence will explode into violence....The Russians should be aware of the consequences of their actions in New York" (see: www.reuters.com).
In the case of Georgia, Holbrooke argues that Russia is engaged in a policy of 'regime change Russian style', and he contends that the United States should give full support to the Saakashvili government, arguing that:
"My support for Saakashvili is based on what he's achieved. Nobody's perfect and there are certainly problems with Georgia. But when he took over, the country was bankrupt. The electrical system didn't work, the people were stealing the place blind, and government officials weren't even being paid. Now it has growth. It has a balanced budget. It's an amazing achievement. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was American-educated....I do not believe the United States should or will make concessions about Georgia. I certainly would oppose that. Georgian territorial integrity is important, the Russians should stop supporting the breakaway illegal regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Georgia should be allowed to develop on its own" (see:www.rferl.org).
In short, Holbrooke advocates a firm, and consistent line vis`-a-vis Moskva, on two issues, in which it could be argued, the United States, does not have a primary interest (as opposed to say Iraq, North Korea, Near Eastern policy in general and Ballistic Missile Defence). And, yet Holbrooke advocates that the United States not even entertain any Russian proposals for a quid pro quo. One has to wonder if, Holbrooke realizes that the International situation has changed considerably since 20th of January 2001, when he last was in officialdom, or even March 2003? It is now no longer the case, that the United States can by a mere crack of the diplomatic whip, or a frown, get Moskva to behave the way it did in the Yeltsin-Kozyrev days. If Holbrooke thinks, and, unfortunately all too many members of Washington elite think as he does, that the United States can force Russia into line, on secondary issues while at the same time expecting Russia to co-operate on issues that the USA, regards as being of primary importance, than the future of Russo-American relations looks none too bright. Either now or under a McCain, Guiliani (God help us!), or a Democratic Presidency.
MOSKVA'S PERSIAN 'ULTIMATUM':
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
According to Tuesay's, 20th of March, New York Times, in a byline from Paris, Russian officials have given an ultimatum (perhaps better described as a 'demarche'?), to their Persian counterparts, stating that Russian nuclear fuel needed for Teheran's nuclear programme, most especially its nuclear power plant at Bushehr, will be withheld, and all Russian experts withdrawn, in absence of Persia's complying with the United Nation's Security Council's resolutions on its nuclear programme (see: www.nytimes.com). The story, which has been subsequently denied by Russian officials in Moskva, certainly indicates that the ongoing Russo-Persian tensions over whether or not, Teheran has been paying its bills for Russian assistance with the project at Bushehr, has not been without foundation (for such stories in the past two months, see: www.ft.com & www.lemonde.fr., for the Russian denial, see: www.enrian.ru). The Persian reaction to the story, notwithstanding the official Russian denial only served to give greater credit to it. In an commentary on Official Persian State Television, Russia was denounced as "not a reliable partner in the field of nuclear co-operation" due to Moskva's "double standard stances by Russian officials regarding the Iran's [Persia's] nuclear issue" (see: www.dailystar.com.lb). Persian outrage can also be tied to the fact that Russia, in conjunction with other member of the Security Council, are pushing forward with more sanctions to be placed on the regime in Teheran (see: www.ft.com).
What is the rationale for Moskva's action? Especially since commentator's such as Ray Takeyh, have argued that Russia would never break with Persia over the nuclear issue (see his: "Time for Detente with Iran", in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007). With tensions on the upswing between the United States and Russia over a number of different issues: Kosovo, Ballistic Missile Defence, and to a lesser extent Georgia, there is per se no rhyme or reason for Putin, et. al., to necessarily agree to American demands for cutting Russia's nuclear relationship with Teheran. Much less do so, in so public a fashion. One possible explanation is that contrary to much analysis, in both the American and West European press, Russia is not in fact, greatly interested in cultivating relations with those powers in the Near East, who are discontented with American hegemony in the Near East, id est, Persia and Syria. And, that as per the analysis of scholars such as Dmitri Trenin, that Russia's prime motivation for its Near Eastern policy, is much more focused upon commercial goals. And, with the regime in Teheran suffering from the existing sanctions, formal as well as informal ones, Moskva might just see, that the present dispute over alleged Persian late payments, as an excuse to back away from a business client, and or customer, whose shady history and current problems, seem to indicate that 'the game is not worth the candle'. So much for those who posit that Russia is gearing up for a rematch of the cold war with the United States, either in the Near East or elsewhere (see my last posting on this issue). As for future Russian policy towards the Persian regime, it would appear that this is something needing a soupcon of good olde fashion 'watching and waiting'.
THE IRAQ CONFERENCE ROUND ONE:
AUTOPSY AND PROGNOSIS
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT 03.13.2007Two Busted Flushes: The U.S. and Iranian Negotiation
On Saturday just past, the United States, Persia and Syria, among other regional powers, met in Baghdad, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, for purposes of arriving at means of pro-offering support for the same. In addition, in a sotto voce fashion, to see if the two camps: Persia and Syria on the one side, and the United States and its Sunni Arab allies on the other, could possibly arrive at a modus vivendi, not only in Iraq, per se, but in the entire region. The talks, highly recommended by the Baker-Hamilton Commission, and subsequently taken up by many figures: political, diplomatic as well as commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, was and is seen as a first step towards talks between the United States and its two main adversaries in the region. With none of the key countries represented at the ministerial level, the talks themselves appear to have been a bit of a damp squib. Producing nothing much more than hot air version of pour parler.In a subsequent meeting all the powers are supposed to be represented at the ministerial level. Id est, the American Secretary of State, will, quite possibly meet up with both her Persian and Syrian confreres, at the same table. And, to what end? Will it work?
Per se of course, it is better, as Churchill once put it to: 'jaw, jaw, rather than war, war', however, that presupposes that the two opposing sides (or three sides?) have agendas which to some extent mesh and can be molded into an acceptable synthesis that all can agree to. Is this the case now in the Near East and Levant? For an analysis of precisely this question, we turn to, the online American journal, Stratfor.com. According to Stratfor's senior analysis, George Friedman, the talks "are of enormous importance", due to the fact that allegedly 'shadowy talks' going on between Teheran and the United States, are now moving into the open, allowing for a much greater degree of impetus for any such talks to come to a successful conclusion. According to Stratfor, the Bush administration is under both pressure from domestic public opinion, and, from foreign powers, particularly Moskva, to come to some sort of modus vivendi with Persia. As per Friedman, the failure of the United States to arrive at both a settlement with Persia and a plausible solution to the Iraqi imbroglio, will have the end result of:
"If he [Bush] does not use this psychological window of opportunity to achieve a political settlement within the context of limited military progress [the so-called 'Surge' policy], the moment not only will be lost, but Russia might also emerge as a major factor in the Near East -- eroding a generation of progress towards making the United States the sole major power in the region".
In the case of Persia, Friedman argues that the forces pushing for a settlement with the United States are those related to primat der aussenpolitik, as it relates to how the Mullahs in the Persian leadership see the situation in their immediate neighborhood:
"Iran has sufficient power to block a settlement on Iraq, but lacks the ability to impose one of its own making. Second, Hezbollah is far from willing to play the role of global suicide bomber to support Iranian ambitions. Third, an Iranian nuclear bomb is far from reality."
Finally, in the case of the Syrians, Stratfor argues that while 'important' players they are not 'decisive' ones. The discussions are primarily a American-Persian affair. As per Friedman, the outlines of any potential settlement between the two powers would be something along the lines of a carve-up, in which a neutral, but friendly Shiite government, would offer commercial and other concessions to both powers, and, allow for the permanent stationing of American forces in the country. In addition a joint '"commission" to mange political conflict in Iraq', would be formed.
How plausible does all this sound, with the current realities on the ground, and in Teheran and Washington? While plausible, much of it sounds utopian, especially the idea that Teheran and Washington would apply to Iraq, a 'solution' along the lines of the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 concerning Persia, in which the latter country was marked out, into respective British and Russian spheres. Any such agreement, would imply that the two power in question have firm or something approaching firm controls over their respective clients. At present there is little evidence that this is in fact the case. Especially, since any such agreement does not in fact deal with one of the major factors of the current violence in Iraq: the Sunni minority. Except for some crumbs, like concession on oil revenues, Friedman's proposed modus vivendi, does not provide for any real attempt to resolve the Sunni level of violence. And, without any such resolution, it is somewhat unlikely that their will be any real end to the endemic sectarian violence in Iraq. Short of a campaign to exterminate, and or defeat militarily the Sunnis of Iraq. Something which of course, their Sunni brethren in the rest of the Near East, would, one may surmise forcefully oppose. Indeed, as per Friedman, in essence the United States would ignore any caveats that its Sunni Arab allies in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States would have, for any such Persian-American tie-up. Nor, am I convinced, that fending off, a major challenge by Moskva, is a motivation by the Americans to settle with Teheran. However, notwithstanding these major and many caveats, I urge you to read Mr. Friedman's analysis of the ongoing discussions between Persia and the United States. So please read and enjoy.
By George Friedman
The United States: Geopolitical Compulsion
U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats met in Baghdad on March 10 to discuss the future of Iraq. Shortly afterward, everyone went out of their way to emphasize that the meetings either did not mean anything or that they were not formally one-on-one, which meant that other parties were present. Such protestations are inevitable: All of the governments involved have substantial domestic constituencies that do not want to see these talks take place, and they must be placated by emphasizing the triviality. Plus, all bargainers want to make it appear that such talks mean little to them. No one buys a used car by emphasizing how important the purchase is. He who needs it least wins.
These protestations are, however, total nonsense. That U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats would meet at this time and in that place is of enormous importance. It is certainly not routine: It means the shadowy conversations that have been going on between the United States and Iran in particular are now moving into the public sphere. It means not only that negotiations concerning Iraq are under way, but also that all parties find it important to make these negotiations official. That means progress is being made. The question now goes not to whether negotiations are happening, but to what is being discussed, what an agreement might look like and how likely it is to occur.
Let's begin by considering the framework in which each side is operating.
Iran: Psychological and Regional Compulsions
Washington needs a settlement in Iraq. Geopolitically, Iraq has soaked up a huge proportion of U.S. fighting power. Though casualties remain low (when compared to those in the Vietnam War), the war-fighting bandwidth committed to Iraq is enormous relative to forces. Should another crisis occur in the world, the U.S. Army would not be in a position to respond. As a result, events elsewhere could suddenly spin out of control.
For example, we have seen substantial changes in Russian behavior of late. Actions that would have been deemed too risky for the Russians two years ago appear to be risk-free now. Moscow is pressuring Europe, using energy supplies for leverage and issuing threatening statements concerning U.S. ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe -- in apparent hopes that the governments in this region and the former Soviet Union, where governments have been inclined to be friendly to the United States, will reappraise their positions.
But the greatest challenge from the Russians comes in the Middle East. The traditional role of Russia (in its Soviet guise) was to create alliances in the region -- using arms transfers as a mechanism for securing the power of Arab regimes internally and for resisting U.S. power in the region. The Soviets armed Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and so on, creating powerful networks of client states during much of the Cold War.
The Russians are doing this again. There is a clear pattern of intensifying arms sales to Syria and Iran -- a pattern designed to increase the difficulty of U.S. and Israeli airstrikes against either state and to increase the internal security of both regimes. The United States has few levers with which to deter Russian behavior, and Washington's ongoing threats against Iran and Syria increase the desire of these states to have Russian supplies and patronage.
The fact is that the United States has few viable military options here. Except for the use of airstrikes -- which, when applied without other military measures, historically have failed either to bring about regime change or to deter powers from pursuing their national interests -- the United States has few military options in the region. Air power might work when an army is standing by to take advantage of the weaknesses created by those strikes, but absent a credible ground threat, airstrikes are merely painful, not decisive.
And, to be frank, the United States simply lacks capability in the Army. In many ways, the U.S. Army is in revolt against the Bush administration. Army officers at all levels (less so the Marines) are using the term "broken" to refer to the condition of the force and are in revolt against the administration -- not because of its goals, but because of its failure to provide needed resources nearly six years after 9/11. This revolt is breaking very much into the public domain, and that will further cripple the credibility of the Bush administration.
The "surge" strategy announced late last year was Bush's last gamble. It demonstrated that the administration has the power and will to defy public opinion -- or international perceptions of it -- and increase, rather than decrease, forces in Iraq. The Democrats have also provided Bush with a window of opportunity: Their inability to formulate a coherent policy on Iraq has dissipated the sense that they will force imminent changes in U.S. strategy. Bush's gamble has created a psychological window of opportunity, but if this window is not used, it will close -- and, as administration officials have publicly conceded, there is no Plan B. The situation on the ground is as good as it is going to get.
Leaving the question of his own legacy completely aside, Bush knows three things. First, he is not going to impose a military solution on Iraq that suppresses both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias. Second, he has successfully created a fleeting sense of unpredictability, as far as U.S. behavior is concerned. And third, if he does not use this psychological window of opportunity to achieve a political settlement within the context of limited military progress, the moment not only will be lost, but Russia might also emerge as a major factor in the Middle East -- eroding a generation of progress toward making the United States the sole major power in that region. Thus, the United States is under geopolitical compulsion to reach a settlement.
The Iranians are also under pressure. They have miscalculated on what Bush would do: They expected military drawdown, and instead they got the surge. This has conjured up memories of the miscalculation on what the 1979 hostage crisis would bring: The revolutionaries had bet on a U.S. capitulation, but in the long run they got an Iraqi invasion and Ronald Reagan.
Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani already has warned the Iranians not to underestimate the United States, saying it is a "wounded tiger" and therefore much more dangerous than otherwise. In addition, the Iranians know some important things.
The first is that, while the Americans conceivably might forget about Iraq, Iran never can. Uncontrolled chaos next door could spill over into Iran in numerous ways -- separatist sentiments among the Kurds, the potential return of a Sunni government if the Shia are too fractured to govern, and so forth. A certain level of security in Iraq is fundamental to Iran's national interests.
Related to this, there are concerns that Iraq's Shia are so fractious that they might not be serviceable as a coherent vehicle for Iranian power. A civil war among the Shia of Iraq is not inconceivable, and if that were to happen, Iran's ability to project power in Iraq would crumble.
Finally, Iran's ability to threaten terror strikes against U.S. interests depends to a great extent on Hezbollah in Lebanon. And it knows that Hezbollah is far more interested in the power and wealth to be found in Lebanon than in some global -- and potentially catastrophic -- war against the United States. The Iranian leadership has seen al Qaeda's leaders being hunted and hiding in Pakistan, and they have little stomach for that. In short, Iranian leaders might not have all the options they would like to pretend they have, and their own weakness could become quite public very quickly.
Still, like the Americans, the Iranians have done well in generating perceptions of their own resolute strength. First, they have used their influence in Iraq to block U.S. ambitions there. Second, they have supported Hezbollah in its war against Israel, creating the impression that Hezbollah is both powerful and pliant to Tehran. In other words, they have signaled a powerful covert capability. Third, they have used their nuclear program to imply capabilities substantially beyond what has actually been achieved, which gives them a powerful bargaining chip. Finally, they have entered into relations with the Russians -- implying a strategic evolution that would be disastrous for the United States.
The truth, however, is somewhat different. Iran has sufficient power to block a settlement on Iraq, but it lacks the ability to impose one of its own making. Second, Hezbollah is far from willing to play the role of global suicide bomber to support Iranian ambitions. Third, an Iranian nuclear bomb is far from being a reality. Finally, Iran has, in the long run, much to fear from the Russians: Moscow is far more likely than Washington to reduce Iran to a vassal state, should Tehran grow too incautious in the flirtation. Iran is holding a very good hand. But in the end, its flush is as busted as the Americans'.
Moreover, the Iranians still remember the mistake of 1979. Rather than negotiating a settlement to the hostage crisis with a weak and indecisive President Jimmy Carter, who had been backed into a corner, they opted to sink his chances for re-election and release the hostages after the next president, Reagan, took office. They expected gratitude. But in a breathtaking display of ingratitude, Reagan followed a policy designed to devastate Iran in its war with Iraq. In retrospect, the Iranians should have negotiated with the weak president rather than destroy him and wait for the strong one.
Rafsanjani essentially has reminded the Iranian leadership of this painful fact. Based on that, it is clear that he wants negotiations with Bush, whose strength is crippled, rather than with his successor. Not only has Bush already signaled a willingness to talk, but U.S. intelligence also has publicly downgraded the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons -- saying that, in fact, Iran's program has not progressed as far as it might have. The Iranians have demanded a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, but they have been careful not to specify what that timetable should look like. Each side is signaling a re-evaluation of the other and a degree of flexibility in outcomes.
As for Syria, which also shares a border with Iraq and was represented at Saturday's meetings in Baghdad, it is important but not decisive. The Syrians have little interest in Iraq but great interest in Lebanon. The regime in Damascus wants to be freed from the threat of investigation in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and it wants to have its interests in Lebanon guaranteed. The Israelis, for their part, have no interest in bringing down the al Assad regime: They are far more fearful of what the follow-on Sunni regime might bring than they are of a minority Alawite regime that is more interested in money than in Allah. The latter they can deal with; the former is the threat.
In other words, Syria does not affect fundamental U.S. interests, and the Israelis do not want to see the current regime replaced. The Syrians, therefore, are not the decisive factor when it comes to Iraq. This is about the United States and Iran.
We see the following points as essential to the two main players:
If the current crisis continues, each side might show itself much weaker than it wants to appear. The United States could find itself in a geopolitical spasm, coupled with a domestic political crisis. Iran could find itself something of a toothless tiger -- making threats that are known to have little substance behind them. The issue is what sort of settlement there could be.
1. The creation of an Iraqi government that is dominated by Shia, neutral to Iran, hostile to jihadists but accommodating to some Sunni groups.
2. Guarantees for Iran's commercial interests in southern Iraqi oil fields, with some transfers to the Sunnis (who have no oil in their own territory) from fields in both the northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shiite) regions.
3. Guarantees for U.S. commercial interests in the Kurdish regions.
4. An Iraqi military without offensive capabilities, but substantial domestic power. This means limited armor and air power, but substantial light infantry.
5. An Iraqi army operated on a "confessional" basis -- each militia and insurgent group retained as units and controlling its own regions.
6. Guarantee of a multiyear U.S. presence, without security responsibility for Iraq, at about 40,000 troops.
7. A U.S.-Iranian "commission" to manage political conflict in Iraq.
8. U.S. commercial relations with Iran.
9. The definition of the Russian role, without its exclusion.
10. A meaningless but symbolic commitment to a new Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Such an agreement would not be expected to last very long. It might last, but the primary purpose would be to allow each side to quietly fold its busted flushes in the game for Iraq.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY IN A NEW ERA: PUTIN AND BEYOND"LA RUSSE EST UN ETAT EUROPEEN". CATHERINE II."RUSSIA IS THE OCCIDENT'S LAST HOPE". GEORG LISKA.
"RUSSIA HAS PURSUED A COLD POLICY OF SELF-INTEREST. WE COULD HAVE WISHED THAT THE RUSSIAN ARMIES SHOULD BE STANDING ON THEIR PRESENT LINE AS THE FRIENDS AND ALLIES OF POLAND INSTEAD OF AS INVADERS....I CANNOT FORECAST TO YOU THE ACTION OF RUSSIA. IT IS A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY INSIDE AN ENIGMA. BUT PERHAPS THERE IS A KEY. THAT KEY IS RUSSIAN NATIONAL INTEREST.
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, 1 OCTOBER 1939.
Russia Redefines Itself and Its Relations with the West
For reasons which are both self-evident and not, post-Soviet Russia, has been an object of suspicion and dread, for much of the timer since the collapse in 1991 of Sovietskaya Vlast. In the United States it is the fear, of a Cato the Elder variety, that the dreaded rival, has not been really vanquished, and, therefore near constant vigilance is necessary to ensure that a revival of anything resembling Soviet Russia, never, ever occur. Some no doubt, would only be appeased by a Cato the Elder type policy: delenda est Russia....The mind reels (for which see anything written by the egregious Max Boot, id est: "Putin: the louse that roared" in www.latimes.com). In the case of the former, 'Peoples Democracies' of Central and Eastern Europe, the catastrophic years between 1945 and 1989-1991, are much too recent, to allow for an easy relationship with its larger, Eastern neighbor. That is particularly the case, inasmuch as almost all the members of the former Soviet Bloc, are still connected to Moskva via a very heavy energy independence. Consequently, the suspicion if not worse felt by the Baltic countries and by Poland, is not going to go away anytime soon. As the recent contretemps between Prague & Warsaw vis`-a-vis Moskva over the basing of American anti-missile defence systems, so pertinently demonstrates. The irony being of course, is that per se, the American systems, will have absolutely no value in defending either Poland or the Czech Republic, against Russian (or any other I might add) missiles. It would appear that for the authorities in both countries, it is the value of American bases as 'trip wires', vis-`a-vis Moskva that is probably the real reason for their willingness to go ahead with the American project.
In Western Europe on the other hand, suspicion of Russia is both less and much less virulent. While concern has grown, especially in circles which are more willing to heed American voiced paranoia about 'energy dependence', even the CDU half of the current German government in Berlin, has not espoused the type of ideological fear expressed about Russian foreign policy that one sees, in even the more intelligent class of American politicians like Senator John McCain. Indeed, even in the highest and most intelligent circles of American policymakers, such as the influential Council on Foreign Relations (hereafter CFR), suspicion of Russia, and of Russian foreign policy is rife. The best example of which was a paper put out by a CFR taskforce early in 2006, headed by former Clinton Administration official and well known academic Stephan Sestanovich. Titled appropriately enough as "Russia's Wrong Direction", the report attacked the democratic deficit in Putin's Russia, as well as Moskva's failure to properly support the retention of bases by the United States in Central Asia. It also attacked Russia's more recent (admittedly heavy handed) use of energy as a political weapon in its disputes with Ukraine, stating:
"Russia has used energy exports as a foreign policy weapon: intervening in Ukraine's politics, putting pressure on its foreign policy choices, and curtailing supplies to the rest of Europe".
It also opined that the United States should more strongly intervene and back regimes in Central Asia and the Kavkas, who seek to form ties with itself and Western Europe, regardless of any Russian reaction:
"The United States should cede no veto or undue deference to Russia over American relations with the states of the Russian periphery....There is nothing legitimate about limiting the opportunity of its neighbors to deepen their integration into the international economy, to choose security allies and partners, or pursue democratic political transformation" (see for both: www.cfr.org).
Of course, if one follows the self-same logic as Messieurs Sestanovich, et. al., then the United States should recognize the independence of Formosa [Taiwan], and, do the same for Tibet. Neither action being something that one can recall the worthies of the Council on Foreign Relations ever advocating. The example of the PRC, is one, which I use deliberately, following from the always interesting Anatol Lieven recent article in the Financial Times, where he notes quite cogently how unbalanced and unreasonable is current American thinking, across almost the entire pays legal, about Putin's Russia (see: "The West Must Set a Strategy for a Resurgent Russia", in www.ft.com). On a score of issues: domestic politics, free speech, free elections, economic integration, foreign investment, corruption, foreign policy, Putin's Russia compares by far quite favorably with the current regime in Peking, with the exception perhaps of foreign investment. Notwithstanding which, Washington in particular on a regular basis takes a much more hardline and irritating policy vis-`a-vis Russian interests which it would almost never dream of doing with say the PRC. With the partial exception of the Formosa Straits crisis of 1996. Something which of course, even the Bush regime has worked strenuously to ensure never happens again. Which begs the question of course: is Russia's new course under Putin, something to which the West need be seriously concerned about? Or conversely it is merely the activities of a great power, which will, like all other great powers defend its interests, when need be. No more and no less. Pur et simple.
To help elucidate this quandary, I would like to introduce the excerpts from the
following essay by the Russian scholar, Dmitri Trenin. As per Trenin, Russian foreign policy under Grazhdanin Putin, is something entirely new, in the history of Russia in the last three hundred years: a policy which is almost entirely non-ideological in nature, much more concerned with practical, material objectives, than anything else. The days of an ideological motivated foreign policy are, as per Trenin, entirely passe. What now motivates Putin and his coterie are quite simple, as per Trenin:
"Private and corporate interests are behind most of Moscow's major policy decisions, as Russia is ruled by people who largely own it. Although the unofficial slogan says: 'what is good for Gazprom is good for Russia', in reality 'Russia' stands for a rather small group of people....From Moscow's perspective, Russo-Western relations are competitive but not antagonistic. Russia does not crave world domination, and its leaders do not dream of restoring the Soviet Union. They plan to build Russia as a great power with global reach, organized as a super corporation" (see: www.twq.com).
As per Trenin, in the future, it will be hard headed, realpolitik, of a very materialistic variety, which will determine the foreign policy priorities of Putin and his successors. Accordingly, the Europhilism of the Gorbachev sort ("A common European home"), is also no longer in play. Nor of course is any sort of policy which `a la Andrei Kozyrev, whose sole rationale is that it is for les beaux yeux of Uncle Sam, at all possible or likely. And, while Trenin does foresee the possibility in the long run, for sometype of convergence between a resurgent Russia and EU Europe, something which I heartily agree with, he is less than positive about Russia's near term, future relations with the United States, stating:
"U.S.-Russian Relations do not benefit from the same economic interconnectedness. With their interactions based mostly upon geopolitics, the United States are in unstable territory. The Kremlin has basically written off Washington as a partner in useful diplomatic business for the foreseeable future. Russian decisionmakers see the United States, with its Iraq turmoil, as distracted and disinterested. To the extent that they must deal with the United States, they view it mostly as a problem".
This unfortunately, both under the current Bush regime, and, any likely successor (where no doubt, Sestanovich will in any Democratic Party administration play an important role), is no doubt the way things shall remain in Russo-American relations for the foreseeable future. It would appear that it is just too much to expect that any American administration, will have the strategic intelligence to recognize that needlessly alienating Russia, for reasons which are for the most part, minor in scope and purpose (the current contretemps over basing missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic being a case in point), is something to be avoided. Nor has any American administration cared for dealing with other governments on a quid pro quo, which as per Trenin, is most likely the only basis for any ongoing Russo-American, if not Russo-Western interaction and dialogue. Hopefully, however even an American administration will comprehend the fact, that having one's head bit off, occasionally is something to be avoided rather than encouraged.
How cogent and accurate does Trenin's analysis of Russian foreign policy in the current and near future sound? Overall, I would give Trenin high marks for his positing plausible variables to explain the underlying dynamics of Russian policy abroad. However, like most academics (or ex-academics: I include myself in this category), Trenin, tends at times to indulge in a simplistic form of reductionism. Id est, both in the Soviet as well as in the Tsarist periods, 'realism' without any form of idealism, was very much the order of the day (after all, did anyone imagine that Josef Vissarionovich, was an 'ideologue' tout court?). After all, it was Knyiaz Gorchakov's famous motto: 'be strong', which was in the late 19th century, the epitome of realpolitik. Conversely, one can name any number of cases where the materialist motivation that Trenin highlights as being the sine qua non, of Russian policy is conspicuous by its absence, first and foremost being policy towards Georgia, where it would appear that Gazprom, is hurt, rather than helped by the current policy towards Tbilisi. Similarly, the Russian position in the dispute with the United States, and its Central European allies, is many things, but it is hardly a policy governed by purely materialistic purposes.
That being said, I high recommend for my readership, the portions of the attached article, which is my above caveats notwithstanding, one of the best efforts at explaining current Russian foreign policy, under Putin and beyond. Please read and enjoy:
By Dmitri TreninTHE WASHINGTON QUARTERLY ■ SPRING 2007
Russian foreign policy’s modern-day motives are completely dissimilar to those of the recent Soviet and the more distant czarist past. Whereas the empire was predominantly about Eurasian geopolitics and the Soviet Union promoted a global ideological as well as political project backed up by military power, Russia’s business is Russia itself. Seen from a different angle, Russia’s business is business. In stark contrast to its Soviet past, postimperial Russia stands among the least ideological countries around the world. Ideas hardly matter, whereas interests reign supreme. It is not surprising then that the worldview of Russian elites is focused on financial interests. Their practical deeds in fact declare “In capital we trust.” Values are secondary or tertiary issues, and even traditional military power is hardly appealing. Fluctuating energy prices, not nuclear warheads, are what really matter to Moscow.
Geopolitics is important primarily as it affects economic interests, but not as a guiding theory. Private and corporate interests are behind most of Moscow’s major policy decisions, as Russia is ruled by people who largely own it. Although the unofficial slogan says “What is good for Gazprom is good for Russia,”in reality “Russia” stands for a rather small group of people. These people have not inherited their power and property but fought hard to get where they are today. Not a single one among them is a public politician; practically everyone is a bureaucratic capitalist. Under President Vladimir Putin’s watch, the Russian state has turned into something like Russia Inc., with top Kremlin staffers and senior ministers sitting on the boards of various state-owned corporations and taking an active interest in their progress and profits. In a major conflict of interest, for example, between terminating gas subsidies to former Soviet republics and keeping them in Moscow’s political orbit, material interest wins. Russian leaders want to be and be seen as powerful and wealthy individually,but also as a group, which helps to achieve their individual goals....
From Moscow’s perspective, Russian-Western relations are competitive but not antagonistic. Russia does not crave world domination, and its leaders do not dream of restoring the Soviet Union. They plan to rebuild Russia as a great power with a global reach, organized as a supercorporation. They are convinced that the only way to succeed is to get their way, and they are prepared to be ruthless. Virtually for the first time, Russia is turning into a homo economicus, and it is emerging as a major player in the highly sensitive field of energy. This naturally disturbs many Europeans and Americans....
THE VIEW FROM MOSCOW
Ironically, at the beginning of the twentieth century the Soviets were fiercely ideological, and the West was essentially practical and pragmatic. Now, the Russians have transformed themselves into raw-and-ready capitalists, and the West is lecturing them on values. From the Russian perspective, there is no absolute freedom anywhere in the world, no perfect democracy, and no government that does not lie to its people. In essence, all are equal by virtue of sharing the same imperfections. Some are more powerful than others, however, and that is what really counts.
Buoyed by high oil prices, Russian leaders are standing tall for the first time in almost two decades. Their level of self-confidence can only be compared to the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union achieved strategic nuclear parity with the United States and the United States suffered defeat in Vietnam. Once begging for loans, Russia has now paid off its debts. Russia is sovereign at last and fiercely independent, no longer a poor ward of the West, and on the way to becoming a power on par with others. For each concession the Russians are now asked to make, they will quote a price.
Power and property are inextricably linked in Russia itself, and Russian leaders, though primarily business oriented, are not oblivious to the political influence that comes with ownership or market dominance. They reason that economic dependencies lead to political dependencies, which result in privileges. The oil and gas business, they believe, is essentially political. For decades, Western oil companies were major political players in the Third World countries in which they operated. Since the 1973 oil boycott, decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have been essentially political. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was a U.S.-driven political project, with the aim of bypassing Russia. Transit countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, have used their critical geopolitics to win concessions from their Russian suppliers. The Russians thus make no apologies for being the principal purveyor of oil and gas to the Western markets. They see it as a strength that stands out among so many Russian weaknesses. They enjoy being an energy power.
Ironically, despite the geographical distance, Russia is in some ways more similar to the United States in its outlook and key characteristics than it is to the European Union. The United States is a nation-state, and postimperial Russia is on the way to becoming one. The role of religion is more prominent than it is in most EU states, although, needless to say, very different than it is in the United States. Russia shares a predilection and propensity toward using force in international disputes and certainly has a residual superpower mentality, now manifested in energy power. The role of money is preeminent, and social democracy is not a major force. Russia is becoming markedly individualist although in a very crude fashion. Given all of these characteristics, Russia will modernize and will become more Western, but it will not necessarily become European....
Russia and Europe: Seeking Equality and Reciprocity
Russia’s long daydream about uniting with Europe is history. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s idea of a “common European home” and other Russians’ more recent concept of a greater Europe are now regarded as conceptual flights of fancy. Old thinking about integration, which even included EU membership in some cases, has been shelved. The new talk is centered on sovereignty, with the United States as the role model and China as an object of admiration and envy. Present-day Russia wants a Europe without dividing lines: a pragmatic business proposition that assumes the essential equality of two partners.
Russia does not seek to dominate Europe, but it will exploit the EU’s various vulnerabilities at a tactical level. To capitalize on the EU’s internal divisions, Moscow prefers to deal with the EU’s members separately, rather than as a group. It will take advantage of its links to Germany, France, and other important countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Based primarily on strong business interests, these relationships are relatively stable, being subject to periodic corrections, such as the recent post-Schroeder “readjustment”of German-Russian relations, but are not in any real danger of sharp reversals. Relying on these productive ties, the Kremlin will work to offset the influence of the recent group of EU entrants, which includes some traditional Russia skeptics such as Poland and the Baltic states.
Having consigned central Europe, including the Balkans, to the EU sphere politically, Russia seeks to acquire assets there and in the Baltic states. Rather than a nostalgic move, this is a pragmatic decision to exploit opportunities where competition is still relatively light. At the same time, the Russians want to keep the post-Soviet neighborhood largely to themselves. From their perspective, NATO and EU enlargement should stop at the Commonwealth of Independent States’ doorstep. Gazprom’s sharp increase in gas prices in late 2005, leading to the cessation of supplies to Ukraine on New Year’s Day in 2006, was the ultimate coup de grace for the former Soviet Union. A similar move led to cutting off Belarus one year later. Moscow sent the message to its neighbors that there would be no special relations or subsidies anymore, even for political loyalists such as Armenia or Belarus. This is as much about geoeconomics as it is about geopolitics. Although the former Soviet states are now considered abroad, Russia still sees these neighbors as economic spaces in which it continues to enjoy some comparative advantages over third-party competitors.
Pipelines are essential to Russia’s policy of economic expansion. As Putin mentioned at a meeting with EU leaders in Lahti in October 2006, Europe relies on Russia for 44 percent of the natural gas it consumes, and 67 percent of Russia’s natural gas sales are to Europe. The EU will seek to lower its dependence on Russian gas, but pipeline projects that bypass Russia promise bitter rivalry. The underlying cause of the Kremlin’s ongoing spat with Georgia is Tbilisi’s Westward political orientation, which among other things would allow Western companies to build a pipeline to pump Caspian gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. In Turkmenistan, Russia and the West are already struggling over Turkmenistan’s vast natural-gas inheritance.
This energy interdependence will keep the EU-Russian relationship relatively stable in the medium to long term. In 2010 the North European gas pipeline, traveling under the Baltic Sea, will further link Russia and Germany. The development of the giant Shtokman gas field in the Arctic Sea will require cooperation on an even larger scale, due to the massive requirements of expertise and advanced technology, and much of the gas from that project will be shipped to Europe. Russian leaders want to deepen this relationship through asset swaps. In return for allowing Europeans to acquire some of Russia’s upstream assets, Russians want a piece of the downstream distribution business in the EU. They see this as a fair trade and are prepared to bargain hard....
Outside of government and business relations, European-Russian personal contacts will gradually increase to include ever more diverse interests of societal groups and individuals. Visa-free travel to the EU for ordinary Russians may be decades away, but Russian diplomatic passport holders, that is, the Russian elite, already have that access. Europe’s general attractiveness to Russians and its geographic proximity will lead to a gradual social rapprochement between the EU and Russia.
This process will hardly be smooth or easy. In the short term, the European media and publics will become even warier of Russia. The transfer of power in the Kremlin in the spring of 2008 or, as the case may be, the extension of Putin’s mandate is likely to be accompanied by events that will drive Russia’s image still further into the ground. Political assassinations, large-scale ethnic violence, and terrorist attacks would serve as a pretext for anyone trying to exploit isolation from the West and stir up turmoil at home to create an emergency situation in Russia that would freeze the existing power and property balance.
New members of the EU, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, will negatively affect the EU’s attitudes toward Russia. The recent signals from the deepening and widening of the EU are not particularly encouraging. In a dispute over its meat exports to Russia, Poland has succeeded in delaying the start of an EU-Russia negotiation, due in 2006, on a new overarching document to replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Along with the Baltic states, Poland is wary of the North European gas pipeline and is calling for an EU-wide energy security policy to oppose Russia’s domination. The current acrimony of Russian-Georgian relations and the uncertainties regarding Ukraine’s foreign policy orientation will also complicate the picture. True statesmanship on each side will be required to keep the relationship from hitting the rocks.
Russia and the United States: Damage Control
The U.S. and Russian foreign policy agendas are very different. Washington’s agenda is currently dominated by Iraq, Islam, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Russia puts the post-Soviet neighborhood front and center. In principle, these plans could complement each other and lead to a measure of productive interaction, but the ideological bent of the Bush administration on democracy promotion and the Kremlin’s domestic heavy-handedness and suspicion about democracy promotion prevent any chance of serious, long-term engagement....
Washington and Moscow conflict more directly on the issue of U.S. influence in the post-Soviet area. Russia is adamantly opposed to NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Capitalizing on Uzbekistan’s decision to remove the U.S. military presence there, Russia is trying to ease U.S. forces out of Central Asia altogether. Moscow has been somewhat relieved by the August 2006 election of Russia-friendly Ukrainian premier Viktor Yanukovych, who will counterbalance the pro-Western, liberal president Viktor Yushchenko. Obviously, the Russians would like to see President Mikhail Saakashvili’s government in Georgia replaced by some who would take Russian interests more seriously. Saakashvili, to many Russian leaders, is what Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is to the United States. There is little, however, that the Kremlin can do about the Georgian president.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is an important factor in several areas of major significance to the United States. Moscow’s cooperation is a necessary part of any solution to the Iranian nuclear issue that is negotiated in the UN context. It is similarly vital to the North Korean problem, even though China is playing a leading role there. A common position of the five countries negotiating with Pyongyang, including Russia, is a sine qua non for North Korea taking the six-party talks seriously. Across the greater Middle East, with U.S. policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon and toward the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in crisis, Russia could be a useful partner. It keeps a presence in Central Asia and maintains contacts with the elements of the former Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which opposed the Taliban for years and joined with the United States to end the Taliban’s rule in 2001. It has a long-standing relationship with Syria, having supplied arms to Damascus for two generations. It has useful contacts among the Palestinians and the Lebanese factions and a very vibrant relationship with Israel, approximately one-fifth of whose population is Russian-speaking. Despite the very different lenses through which the White House and the Kremlin view the war on terrorism, the core interests of each call for collaboration against Islamist extremists.
Russia could move somewhat on these top U.S. priorities, but it will not budge without a serious quid pro quo. Essentially, the Kremlin wants the United States to stop being a spoiler in the Russian neighborhood. Yet, even if the United States was willing to make certain concessions, Russian flexibility has its limits. Russian leaders will not subscribe to anything at the UN Security Council that would sanction the use of force against Iran. From the Russian perspective, a preventive war over Iran is worse than a nuclear Iran. They believe that a war would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, but at the price of a major regional crisis, political radicalization, and Muslim-Western confrontation. Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, Russians are skeptical about U.S. staying power and its effectiveness. They suspect that the United States might try to disarm Iran, fail, and have to withdraw, leaving others in the neighborhood, including Russia, to inherit the mess. As Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov put it, Russia will not make the mistake it made in 1914 when it became involved in other peoples’ war (World War I) and lost everything.
With the U.S.-Russian economic anchor being essentially absent, political relations can and probably will become substantially worse. A crisis could arise Energy interdependence will keep the EU-Russian relationship relatively stableover some provocation or miscalculation in Georgia or Ukraine, should the main Ukrainian factions resume their bitter internecine fight. A resumption of hostilities in Abkhazia or South Ossetia would draw Russia in, resulting in a Russian-Georgian military confrontation, with Tbilisi appealing to the United States and Europe for protection and support. A major political split within Ukraine could also put the territorial unity of the country in question, encouraging Russian irredentists to propose holding a referendum in overwhelmingly Russian-speaking Crimea. Russia is turning nationalist, with clear anti-U.S. overtones, while the U.S. public sees Russia in an increasingly negative light. The rhetoric of both countries’ 2008 presidential elections is likely to strain relations even further. During the U.S. campaign, Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight may become an issue; and in Russia, the United States can be cast as the one country that seeks to prevent the recovery and rise of Russia. If the legitimacy of the new Russian president is questioned, the damage could be truly severe....
Russia’s Future with the West
Russian-Western relations are likely to be rocky for the foreseeable future, as they are separated by a value gap over several decades. Russia is very old Europe.It 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. Russia is not a democracy—not even a failed one—but it is a rough, capitalist reality powered by private interest, which sometimes poses as the state interest....U.S.-Russian relations do not benefit from the same economic interconnectedness.
The future of Russia itself is key to any discussion of its future foreign relations.
Will it actually be able to modernize, or will it fail again, collapsing once and for all? Will property and globalization, the two forces unleashed in the 20 years since the start of perestroika, be enough to put Russia on track? Will Russia succeed in using two decades of stability to build capitalism? The last time it tried, the Bolshevik Revolution cut the effort short in 1917, before even the first decade was out. It may or may not become a democracy, but this outcome will not be known until the mid–twenty-first century.
To the extent that Russian capitalism embraces the rule of law, constitutionalism, and eventually some form of democracy built on civic responsibility, this gap with the West will likely narrow, but the process will be very slow. Aside from a general preference for economic expansion over integration, Moscow is pursuing few long-term strategies. Tactics prevail, medium-term thinking is just emerging, and no national interest worth the name has surfaced. In Russia’s contemporary bureaucratic capitalism, the state itself has been informally but effectively privatized and will take some time to coalesce.
Despite its transitional character, Russia is too important to be ignored, neglected, or stereotyped. The West will not only miss opportunities but may run real risks if it misjudges Russia’s movements, overreacting or reacting inappropriately to them as a result. Russia could be a party to a future U.S.-initiated exercise in global governance, or it could become isolationist and anti-American. The West would do best by dealing with Russia on Russia’s own terms, reaching for an acceptable balance of reciprocity, and not on the basis of normative principles such as democratic reform. Ideology is not a good guide in a valueless yet vibrant Russian environment. Public preaching only shows the powerlessness of EU and U.S. politicians to change realities within Russia and allows Russian officials to portray these protests, even meaningful ones, as meant for Western political consumption.
New realities and evolving interests may make Russia correct its trajectory in the long term. If some future Russian leadership were to decide in favor of economic and political integration with a body that is larger than Russia, it would have only one candidate: the EU. The EU must therefore consider its relations with Russia from a long-term perspective. For the EU, Russia is the immediate neighborhood and the ultimate frontier. In principle, Russia alone, not Africa or the Middle East, could give Europe strategic depth. Culturally, geographically, and historically European, Russia would project the EU all the to way to the Pacific, strengthen the Europeans’ global outlook, and provide the EU with a range of resources and materially add to its power. This would enhance Europe’s overall competitiveness vis-à-vis other major players. Eventually, a pan-European energy system could emerge, or Russian companies could join the EU’s aerospace consortium as a substantial minority shareholder. Russians could even visit Paris and Berlin without visas. The resultant whole would be larger than the sum of its parts. This vision, however, has a caveat. A poor and failing Russia would never be a suitable party for the EU, but a rich and successful one would not find joining the EU particularly attractive.
The potential of U.S.-Russian relations can be realized if and when the United States makes a strategic decision to prioritize world leadership and integration, reaching out to the major players, including Russia, in an effort to consolidate the system over which it presides. By that time, the present Russian foreign policy philosophy would probably have had to change, toward more community-conscious behavior. This is not impossible, if the analogy with rough robber barons turning, usually in the next generation, into socially responsible capitalists holds true for nation-states. For those with a long view, a positive partnership is possible, even if difficult to see for quite some time.
Of course, Western countries should diversify their energy supplies, but they must be realistic about the extent to which this is possible. Turning energy into an area of power relations, such as by adding an energy dimension to NATO, is not a well-considered proposition. Outside of the energy sector, building defenses against the invasion of Russian capital is bad business and bad politics. Russia will not take over the EU or the United States, of course, but it could eventually become a responsible shareholder in the system, allowing Westerners to own pieces of Russia in an inevitable quid pro quo.
The main hope for both sets of relationships is more business ties. Essentially,
this would mean more of the United States and Europe in Russia and more of Russia in the EU and the United States. This would create a more solid foundation for political relations, especially between the United States and Russia, a far better understanding of each party’s goals, and a convergence of interests. As capitalism in Russia continues to evolve and as the country, on the threshold of WTO membership, integrates further into the global web of economic, political, and social relationships, Russian standards can be expected to grow more modern and closer to the sets of values now espoused by Americans and western Europeans.
Dmitri Trenin, is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and director of studies at the Carnegie Moscow Center.