Andrei Kozyrev. Foreign Affairs. Volume 71, Issue 2. Spring 1992.
Russia has a unique capacity for attracting the world’s attention, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out 150 years ago. Daily newspapers and even CNN, let alone magazines, prove increasingly unable to keep up with the rapid pace of change or to find their way through the maze of everyday facts.
It is important to resist the temptation to simply describe the flow of events, becoming hostage to routine developments. Instead we should take a broader look. Granted, grand designs need to be seen from afar, and only future historians will be able to make a truly unbiased judgment of the second Russian Revolution. However, making no effort to fathom the profound meaning of recent events is tantamount to losing one’s bearings.
It is important to see that, behind present-day affairs, we are witnessing a tectonic shift, a global change in the world’s political landscape as a continuation of age-old processes in a new historic setting. One sixth of the world land mass that at different times has been known as the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union is now in a state of flux. It is undergoing a major facelift that affects the evolution of the world community. As a result 15 newly independent states, in lieu of one, will be joining the mainstream of human events.
Having lived through all the suffering associated with despotism, Russia awoke from centuries of lethargy, and no attempts at a simple cosmetic facelift or at building Socialism with a Human Face, through our own version of the Prague Spring, can keep people any longer from aspiring to profound changes.
Much of the explanation of the Soviet phenomenon must necessarily be historical. In taking that approach we might conceivably focus only on the last phase of Soviet history and agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said that the crisis of authority in the Kremlin and the perception of the historical collapse of communism have finally brought about a disintegration of the Soviet empire. That, however, would be too facile an explanation. After all the U.S.S.R. did not materialize out of thin air it came in the wake of the former Russian Empire and bore many of its birthmarks. It will be long before many of those blemishes cease to affect the fate of those countries that have now inherited the expanses of the former U.S.S.R.
The birth and expansion of the Russian Empire had been greatly influenced by an eminently messianic belief in the special mission of tsarist Russia as heir to the global vision of a Third Rome. Totalitarian trends in ideology and political attitudes are still besetting Russia even as it seeks to assert political pluralism. Imperial Russia, even though appearing a priori as a typical colonial empire, was clearly distinct from such maritime powers as Britain or France and the hinterland Austrian Empire. For all its expansionism the Russian Empire did little to improve the well-being of the Russian people at the expense of others. As a celebrated Russian historian, Vassily Kluchevsky, aptly put it, Imperial Russia was a “bloated state of emaciated people.” Furthermore the Russian Empire boasted no metropolis as such.
Western colonization, following as it did a clear-cut pattern between metropolis and colonies, was driven by a search for new markets, sources of raw materials and labor. Colonization made societies more open to the world around them, albeit through sometimes ruthless methods. Russia, by contrast constantly concerned with protecting its boundaries, was drifting eastward and stretching its territory outward to fend off outside risks to its historical center. Finally, whereas Western colonization proceeded amid bourgeois revolutions that spelled an end to feudal stagnation, Russian colonization only served to strengthen absolutism. Russian history might be likened to a mammoth cauldron set over a low fire, which boils so slowly that people forget to let the steam escape in time, leading inevitably to a gigantic explosion. An important stage in the process began with Peter the Great, whose reforms were firmly and cruelly imposed from above. Peter propelled the upper crust of Russia into western Europe, turning Petersburg into a northern Palmyra, a shining city among the most precious jewels of European culture. That splendor, however, concealed illiteracy and barbaric squalor just a few miles away.
When a tidal wave of revolution swept across western Europe in the nineteenth century and civic societies took shape, Russia continued its slow-paced search for its own “special place” in an attempt to perpetuate its archaic statehood. No wonder that the utopian Marxist ideas that made their way into Russia from the West acquired wild and most extravagant features. After the old empire collapsed in 1917, the peoples of Russia stood a good chance of improving their lot. The absence of both a classical metropolis in the Russian Empire and severe ethnic repression (everyone seemed to live an equally miserable life) offered good opportunities for engaging all the newly liberated nations, free from mutual hatred, in a common search for a better democratic future for their crumbling country. Theoretically the 1922 treaty that formed the U.S.S.R. provided a legal foundation for establishing a civilized commonwealth of free nations based on principles of equality.
However the totalitarian ideology of the Russian Bolsheviks, which came to supplant totalitarian attitudes of the Russian tsars, emasculated these processes of their democratic essence. Not only was the erstwhile empire reinstated under new ideological colors, it became more despotic and repressive, trampling upon the freedom and very existence of human beings.
The Soviet empire outdid its predecessor on its home turf when it came to the nationalities issue. Joseph Stalin consistently uprooted whole ethnic communities, banishing them from the lands of their ancestors. Nikita Khrushchev went to another extreme, making presents of whole regions and re-carving the U.S.S.R. as best he could—taking little heed of the aspirations of the peoples, much less anticipating a future disintegration of the U.S.S.R. along borders traced earlier at his whim.
But disintegrate it did, in a logical culmination of an unprecedented communist experiment with hundreds of millions of human subjects. And, much as it had in the past, this encounter with the outside world precipitated change in Russia, this time known as the Soviet Union.
Historical analysis brings out a certain cyclical pattern in the evolution of Russia: major periods of modernization were always brought about by a brutal collision with the outside world, which only tended to underscore the inadequacy of a backward and xenophobic Russia. That had been the case during Peter’s reforms, that was the case in 1917 and that is what is happening today.
However now there is an essential difference in that all the previous encounters with the outside world were of a clearly aggressive and confrontational character. Peter the Great carved out his “window on Europe” not merely for the sake of developing trade or sharing culture but nurturing certain military-strategic designs. Under Nicholas II Russia experienced another collision with its “external environment” in the cruel and ruthless setting of World War I, while the Bolsheviks usurped power amid a clearly hostile environment.
Now, as in those earlier chapters of Russian history, a close contact with the outside world brought out the inadequacy of the Soviet system in face of major global trends. However that contact was not a violent head-on collision. The Soviet system simply proved unable to cope with the breathtaking pace of history and suffered a crushing defeat in an open contest with the civilized world. The foundations of the system were shaken loose by President Gorbachev’s glasnost and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze’s openness in foreign policy, though the initial intent seemed to be the opposite, to reinvigorate the system.
In contrast to the previous sharp reversals in Russian history, the second Russian Revolution unfolded in a favorable foreign policy setting and enjoyed tactful and discreet support from civilized and democratic nations, free from any instigative notes, much less any attempts at direct interference.
Some Americans had concluded that five long centuries of absolutism—from Ivan the Terrible to the Soviet 1970s—had tamed the Russian masses into the habits of submission. It is now apparent that the humility of the Russians came to an end when broader contacts with the outside world, though strictly controlled, brought about an information revolution offering people an opportunity to compare and, consequently, to choose. And that was the undoing of the system. Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyev said: “Generally, to rise above coercion in social morality, wild humanity has to go through that stage; to go beyond despotism, humanity has to live through it.”
Soviet communism was doomed to failure from the start. This historical blind alley has been described by Orwell, Zamiatin, Solzhenitsyn and Akhmatova. Most surprising is not the fact that the system collapsed, but that it lasted for over 70 years.
The U.S.S.R. is no more. What will come in its wake! Do we still face the dangerous prospect of a lapse into attempts to put ideology above common sense? Regrettably forecasts of the future, like assessments of the past, do not often obey Heinrich Heine’s stern injunction against providing direct answers to fateful questions. No such answers regarding the fate of Russia will be forthcoming. Neither Russian history nor its evolution have ever been straightforward.
Communist ideology, like the tsarist ideology before it, has run its course. Russia already knows those two ideologies for their true value and will never step for a second time into either of these dried-up rivers of its past. However the centuries-old, carefully cultivated and genetically encoded hopes for a messiah may still give rise to new forms of stultifying ideology, particularly in these difficult times of economic crisis. This raises the dangerous prospect of fascist ideology staging a comeback in some form. There also exists an audience only too eager to welcome would-be fuhrers with their promise of miraculously cheap vodka for all and their grand vision of restoring Russia in its grandeur to the borders of the former U.S.S.R. There is still a lingering risk of other, more subtle attempts at building a semi-empire—banking on a lack of pluralistic traditions or a normal multiparty system. Many of us recall the warning from the American scholar, Richard Pipes, at the time of perestroika in the former U.S.S.R., that behind the facade of complete renovation old attitudes persist, as do the forces trying to bank on them. This warning has lost little of its urgency.
The risks are made even more tangible by some ill-advised steps taken by the newly independent states, by overly emotional nationalistic policies of the countries emerging from the ashes of the U.S.S.R. and by neglect of certain intermediate steps that absolutely have to be taken. Extremist attitudes on these and other issues, such as the status of the armed forces, energy, transport and communications are liable to touch off anarchy and bring about the rise of new would-be dictators.
Moreover our inability to ensure enlightened and civilized leadership is fraught with explosive consequences. We have very few capable managers who can provide such leadership, while the majority of old apparatchiks, who are thus far indispensable, espouse old administrative ways, remaining hostage to a system that puts a premium on unconditional loyalty while discouraging initiative in innovation, even on routine matters.
A new generation of democratic managers is in its embryonic stage, and a difficult growth it will be. For many it came as a revelation that the uphill battle against totalitarian central rule, from which they emerged triumphantly, did not solve the woes of Russia—that the hard part is only beginning and that innovative policies and radical reforms will be needed, in deeds rather than words.
The dearth of properly qualified manpower for building a civil society makes itself felt not only in governmental and managerial structures but also within the business community, still a toddler in this country. Hence the temptation of many managers to rely on the simple, tried and true command-and-administer routines each time they are faced with specific tasks arising out of their everyday economic activities.
The democratic forces that have now moved center-stage in politics, particularly in Russia, are far from homogeneous. They once were united by their rejection of the former system; now they are divided along party lines in their vision of the future of our society. Some long for fast and seemingly simple solutions, capable in and of themselves of ensuring so-called social justice. Still others, professing commitment to a market economy, are prone to inconsistency and indecision.
The government of Russia is aware of those risks. Its actions, far from being romantically motivated, are predicated on a conscientious and deliberate policy aimed at pulling out the roots of the fallen tree of totalitarian rule. This is the essence of the entire program of reforms undertaken by the democratic leaders of Russia, who are trying to engage other former Soviet republics that have embarked on the road of creating independent democratic states. The success of reforms will signify precisely the triumph of democracy over the threats of any imperial revival.
Marx said that history repeats itself twice: once as tragedy and the second time as farce. Today history in Russia repeats itself not according to Marx. The dismantlement of the former tsarist empire in 1917 turned out to be tragedy and farce at the same time: a tragedy for the people and a farce in the attempts to introduce democracy in Russia. Thus today we have real things left to accomplish, so that the collapse of the last (I hope) empire will permit us to steer the country to normal human conditions. Now we know the truth about the first Russian Revolution. We have learned bitter lessons from its results and have no right to make mistakes by repeating history. Only partially can I agree with the remark of an American journalist that history “hovers over the entire amazing enterprise, reminding all concerned that Russia has never learned how to be really free.”
The motivated support of most of the people proves that we are in fact learning how to live in freedom. In 1917 the Bolsheviks exploited the ignorance of savage illiterate “masses” who associated freedom with expropriating the expropriators. Today people are sufficiently educated to make a conscious and free choice in favor of a civil society in which they still do not know how to live but are resolved to learn. They proved that last August by defending democracy around Moscow’s White House.
In 1917 only the upper stratum of society understood the significance of the constituent assembly. The rest did not and they paid no attention to its dissolution. Instead they meekly accepted the power of the commissars. Today the parliamentary system is deeply rooted in public consciousness—one of Gorbachev’s chief merits. The irony of history is such that the first and last Soviet president, who never competed in nationwide free elections, contributed to a situation in which people came to regard such elections as the only way of legitimizing power.
A reservation is in order: having accepted the idea of elections, people do not yet possess the necessary experience. In the absence of a multiparty system and true competition of platforms, and when attempts are sometimes made to manipulate the electorate, certain elections look more like voting at an old party meeting. Hence the apparently unavoidable costs of the current stage. As to where this might lead, we saw what happened in the neighboring state of Georgia, where the freely elected president, Zviad K. Gamsakhurdia, had to flee his own country.
The main evolutionary trends in Russia and the political maturity of its citizens enable us to expect that the country not lapse into absolutism. The course of our internal processes, in conjunction with the favorable “external background,” give hope that we shall continue to seek answers to questions about the fate of Russia not by looking for a new “strong arm” but through the elimination of the inadequacy of our own lives as compared with normal countries. On the agenda is the elimination of our technological backwardness, intrinsic to a totalitarian regime with central planning of all and everything; the restoration of sorely lacking political culture and the dignity of owners and producers.
The fact is that Russia today is not placed in a hostile environment, as it had been in earlier dramatic stages; rather, it encounters friendly and positive external surroundings, and this objectively deprives the advocates of a “strong arm” of the possibility of invoking “the external threat” to force the country to once again adopt the old power structures.
The fate of democracy in Russia will be determined to a great extent on the economic front. Russia’s democratic government is based on mass popular support. However many of those who voted for the present leaders regarded them as individuals capable of rapidly ensuring “social justice” and of transforming into everyday life old myths about the possibility of egalitarian, universal well-being.
Our people have to understand that we can no longer live without measures carried out by the government to introduce a free-market economy, privatization and liberalization of the entire economy. They must understand the fairness of the diagnosis pronounced by the government regarding the crippled economic organism it inherited. They must understand the political courage of the Russian leadership that decided to carry through extremely unpopular, but realistic, measures to save the country. At any rate critics do not suggest other prescriptions, except for a return to centralized planning, which spells death for the economy.
Assuring people of real support in this difficult period means much more than providing assistance in its traditional sense. Assistance is not support for people “returning” to a normal economy based on common sense. Russians do not know such an economy. They have lost all historical memory of it after several generations of a totalitarian distribution system.
Looking at assistance in historical terms, the American scholar John Lewis Gaddis perceives yet another important aspect. He notes that of critical importance is not the size, as such, of this assistance but its timeliness, its accurate “targeting” and its coverage in the mass media. This psychological aspect is particularly important in today’s Russia, because at stake is helping the entire nation to learn to live a new life, helping it save for the world economy its largest and currently most promising part, which was once artificially cut off from the rest of the world.
The concept of assistance is undergoing fundamental change. Now it is not only humanitarian assistance but first and foremost “target” support for the primary driving forces of the reform: specific program mechanisms to liberate the economy and the emerging strata of businessmen. The way is open for mutually advantageous interaction at a key stage of forming a truly international free market.
This perspective, which focuses on the 21st century, should be kept in view when determining, without delay, concrete questions of translating into practice the favorable external background against which Russia is making the transition to democracy. Such practical implementation is called upon to consolidate the positive and mutually attractive character of Russia’s current opening to the rest of the world.
We are undertaking concrete steps toward this aim by exploring an area that for decades has been a “diplomatic virgin land” for us. We are joining the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; becoming more active in the European Bank; establishing in deeds rather than words an interaction with the Group of Seven industrial nations, the European Community, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, regional banks and economic cooperation forums in Asia and the Pacific and other regions. We have a lot to learn. But rest assured, we are learning fast.
In turn this will help establish Russia as a reliable partner in the community of civilized states. History has witnessed many times how the domestic problems of Russia made that state a dangerous and unpredictable participant in international affairs. However, with the transition to democracy in politics and the economy, our internal life and its driving-belts become understandable to the surrounding world.
No doubt Russia will not cease to be a great power. But it will be a normal great power. Its national interests will be a priority. But these will be interests understandable to democratic countries, and Russia will be defending them through interaction with partners, not through confrontation. In economic matters, too, once on its own feet and later, after acquiring a weight commensurate with its potential in world trade, Russia will be a serious economic competitor to many but, at the same time, an honest partner complying with the established rules of the game in world markets.
The “supertask” of Russian diplomacy in all areas is to make the utmost, concrete contribution to the improvement of the everyday life of Russian citizens.
Russia’s main foreign policy priority is relations with our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Despite decades of totalitarian rule, pervasive party and state “instructions,” personal surveillance and the “serfdom” of residence registration that collectively degraded human dignity, people in Russia have managed to preserve their amazing ability to communicate. Strange as it may seem, it is precisely these human bonds that fate twined around “one sixth of the world land mass” that drew together our peoples more firmly than any iron curtains or fences. Will these bonds break now that the totalitarian structure has been destroyed? On the contrary, now a full and normal human existence begins. Such is the main source of the centripetal, unifying trends.
Russian diplomacy will preserve and multiply this invaluable treasure of human relations: friendship between the independent states of the Commonwealth; friendship between Russian people wherever they live and with those who live nearby. The documents issued after the meetings in Minsk and Alma-Ata created a solid foundation for interaction within the Commonwealth in all areas. Work has started to give concrete substance to those mutually agreed commitments, taking into account the entire infrastructure of multifarious defensive, economic, communications-related, cultural and, most important, human links among the states of the C.I.S.
This work is also important in the sense that through it those states that are most advanced in their democratic and market-oriented reforms will act as stimulants to those Commonwealth countries where such reforms are still in the initial phase. Of course it will take some time for all states of the Commonwealth to reach common language on all the issues, but by and large the formation of the C.I.S. is a natural process that objectively contributes to their consolidation.
It is important to keep this perspective in mind rather than limit the analysis just to current events. To view the Commonwealth, as The Economist put it, as only a “forum for resolving, or at least discussing, the problems bequeathed by the Soviet Union to its successor states” is a static approach. It overlooks the historical and modern dynamics of the processes developing in Eurasia.
Moreover these processes will not run along a rigid, uniform course. They will be mixed and most likely produce not just another indiscriminate scheme reducing everything to the same level but a mosaic of relations among the Commonwealth member states in various fields—and not necessarily in one and the same combination.
Furthermore the experience of other European structures, notably the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the Council of Europe and the European Community will no doubt be useful to Russia and the Commonwealth as a whole. Active participation in the European process and the use of the standards and expertise accumulated within its framework will be of real help in solving Russia’s internal problems and those of other ex-Soviet republics, as well as in the civilized development of the Commonwealth in harmonious interaction with regional and global structures and mechanisms for security, cooperation and partnership. Here the United Nations has a special role to play. Russia, as a continuing state of the U.S.S.R., intends to promote in every possible way the strengthening of the United Nations as an instrument to harmonize national, regional and global interests. Russia will strive to halt fruitless debates and increase the efficiency of U.N. activities in all areas of world politics. We intend to work actively on the issues of U.N. reform. There are many promising ideas on that score, formulated both by member states and nongovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. The Security Council summit showed that the international community is ripe to pass from talk about a possible new world order to concrete deeds to advance a democratic world. Russia is ready to cooperate with all countries, including, of course, our Commonwealth partners, to cope with these tasks. I am confident that by the time this article appears in print most, if not all, of the independent states of the Commonwealth will have become members of the United Nations.
Russia entered the C.I.S. on the principle of full equality with the other independent states. However Russia cannot afford to forget about the particular responsibility conferred on it by history. This concerns both nuclear weapons and the obligations stemming from its status as a great power and permanent member of the U.N Security Council. This status of Russia has been recognized throughout the world and is in no way in conflict with the creation of the C.I.S.
However attempts still continue to artificially counterpose Russia to the C.I.S. and to interpret the establishment of the latter as tantamount to the forfeiture by Russia of its great power status. Arguments are making the rounds that we “gave away the Russian land,” withdrew into Asia and all but closed the “window on Europe.” These are echoes from the distant imperial past; they reveal a total ignorance of the realities of the end of the twentieth century. Openness to the world, responsiveness to everything useful and access to prosperity are gained not through armies marching to warm or cold seas, but through progressive foreign and domestic policies and through commitment to democratic values of the civilized world. Coupled with modern means of communication and the orientation of society toward high technologies, this commitment provides for our closest interdependence with the leading countries. So, by becoming a co-founder of the C.I.S., we opened ourselves to the rest of the world rather than moved away from it. Here again there is a fundamental difference from the events of 1917 and from Russia’s past clashes with its environment.
Today, however, openness alone, as it was understood until very recently, is no longer enough—and this concerns all states without exception. The level of interdependence achieved by the civilized world objectively requires not only the freedom of movement for people, goods, services, ideas and capital across national state borders but also the ensuring of the entirety of human rights and freedoms—political, economic, cultural and others—within each country. Assurance of democracy ceases to be an internal affair of states and becomes a common concern, a sine qua non for a sustainable development of the international community.
Wherever threats to democracy and human rights occur, let alone violations thereof, the international community can and must contribute to their removal. Effective measures to remove such threats should be elaborated on a regional and global basis, as is being done now in the context of the CSCE. Such measures are regarded today not as interference in internal affairs but as assistance and cooperation in ensuring everywhere a “most favored regime” for the life of the peoples—one consistent with each state’s human rights commitments under the U.N. Charter, international covenants and other relevant instruments. This is the approach that is already asserting itself within the CSCE. And it is from this fact that the democratic leadership of Russia, too, takes clear guidance in its action.
The new openness also presupposes a fundamental change in Russia’s attitude toward the United States, the West and NATO. Russia does not wish to bear any unnatural military responsibility beyond its borders. The time of world policemen is over, as is the era of military confrontation. The state ideology of communism, which has been the main breeding ground for the Cold War, is itself disappearing. The role of NATO is bound to change under the circumstances. The formation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council reflects all these trends, leading to openness and partnership in the military-strategic sphere as well.
As far as Russia is concerned, we see our goals—disarmament and limitation of the arms race—in terms of releasing as many resources as possible and creating the most favorable conditions for the implementation of our socioeconomic reforms. It is our desire to work for further deep cuts in strategic offensive arms and conventional armaments, for a “zero” solution to the tactical nuclear weapons problem, complete elimination of chemical weapons and for winding down nuclear tests.
In addition to making traditional quantitative disarmament more radical, above all nuclear disarmament, the emphasis in the security area is being shifted to confidence-building measures in the nuclear field, to nonproliferation in its broadest interpretation and to defense conversion. Promotion of demilitarization in both societies, without which the world’s democratic trend would inevitably ebb, is becoming the pivot for Russo-American partnership in military affairs. A switch from words to deeds in carrying out specific joint ventures in conversion would give real impetus to cooperative investments, which in the long run should become the main channel for Russo-American economic interaction.
How does democratic Russia’s course toward rapprochement with the West and NATO, as well as its overall position on arms control issues, differ from the policy of “new thinking”? That policy initiated by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze has accomplished a great deal and started what the world press called “breakthroughs” in limiting strategic offensive and conventional armaments, as well as in other areas. To be sure, those were breakthroughs but ones measured by old standards —those of the Cold War.
It is not the fault but the misfortune of the architects and makers of “new thinking” that those policies could be nothing more than a substantial liberalized modification of the earlier Soviet foreign policy course. Granted, “new thinking” in the world arena ran ahead of attempts at reform undertaken within the country, particularly in the beginning. Some individual concessions were occasionally won from the military-industrial complex on specific issues to be negotiated with the West. But those concessions had to be paid for, and the price was, objectively speaking, susceptible to pressure from the military-industrial complex in other foreign policy matters—and not only in secondary but fundamental ones. So even when agreement was extracted from the military for considerable reductions in the horrendous stockpiles of armaments, it never proved possible to obtain its consent on the main point—on changing the very attitude toward the United States and the West as a whole. Despite everything that attitude continued in fact to draw on the old ideology. And the old power structure called the “center” was too bound by that ideology to be able to change the situation.
Now in the leadership of Russia we have people who are free from commitments and debts to the communist past, who have completely and unequivocally broken away from communism. The only burden from the past that weighs heavily on them is the dire economic situation, not at all some kind of ideological nostalgia. These new leaders simply cannot think, for instance, of NATO as Russia’s adversary.
Let me make a qualification: this is the firm position of those who make up the government of Russia today, but not yet the mentality of the entire society, particularly in its managerial apparatus and in the corridors of the military-industrial complex. Pressure from those quarters on the Russian leadership will continue, and reliable guarantees of irreversibility in this regard are yet to emerge.
But the main point holds: the first-ever president legally elected by the people and a team of his like-minded associates are resolved to create such guarantees through radical democratic market-oriented reforms that already are under way. These reforms are aimed at improving the life of the people today, at their return from a through-the-looking-glass existence to a normal life and to the provision of well-being for themselves, their children and grandchildren. These reforms offer, in the view of the government, the only path to prosperity in Russia as a great (but normal!) Eurasian power in all its aspects—European, Asian, Siberian and Far Eastern—a power that in its domestic life and foreign policy refutes the pessimistic prophecy of Rudyard Kipling that East and West will never meet.
The geopolitical location and historical role of Russia as a bridge between West and East predetermine its active “Eastern policy.” Here I would limit myself to mentioning the Asian and Pacific region, an area characterized by a uniquely dynamic development. Among our priorities is to finalize the normalization of relations with Japan on the basis of a peace treaty, including a solution to the territorial issue. We see good prospects for relations with China as well. It is in our interests to have an economically strong China, posing no threat to Russia. On a broader scale all this should help achieve a balanced interrelationship in the “rectangle” comprising Russia, the United States, Japan and China, thus contributing to greater stability and cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.
All this appears to suggest the answer to the question that our friends abroad ask us: How can Russia be helped Let me once again stress that what we are talking about are non-orthodox approaches. There are no simple answers like “Help Yeltsin” (some time ago it was Gorbachev). Obviously it would be a mistake if “Gorbymania” were to be replaced with “Yeltsimania.”
Generally speaking, scenarios where support from abroad is addressed exclusively to those who are designated by the authorities in the country appear to be fundamentally inappropriate. We want to create a society that would abide by the same universal human laws as the civilized world. This world has come a long way to build such a society. Success has been secured by the democratic essence of the construction processes and by the support of the people implementing these processes in politics and economics.
In our case, too, everything will depend on the support for such processes, for specific initiatives and for the people who are democratically engaged. The Russian government, in all its actions, supports just these processes and people. Should support from abroad be channeled in the same direction, then we will certainly be able—through joint effort—to take advantage of the chance that Russia now has.