Lasīšanas ilgums: 34 minūtes
2009. gada oktobrī pēc Vaclava Havela ielūguma Sandra Kalniete piedalījās konferencē “DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM IN A MULTIPOLAR WORLD”. Zemāk diskusijas Russia in Global Politics apskasts, kas noslēdza konferenci.
CONFERENCE ROUNDTABLE: RUSSIA IN GLOBAL POLITICS
Organised by the Forum 2000 Foundation in cooperation with DEMAS
Alexandr Vondra, Senator, Parliament of the Czech Republic
Yegor Gaidar, Former Prime Minister, Russia
Sandra Kalniete, Member of European Parliament, Former EU Commissioner, Latvia
Grigory Yavlinski, Economist and Politician, Russia
Ján Kubiš, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Switzerland/Slovakia
André Glucksmann, Philospher, France
CLOSING OF THE CONFERENCE
Václav Havel, Former President, Czech Republic
Alexandr Vondra, Senator, Parliament of the Czech Republic
Alexandr Vondra: Let me open the last conference round table of Forum 2000. This is really the last, but not the least important panel discussion of the two days’ gathering here in Prague at the invitation of Václav Havel, who together with the organisers selected a theme that has been broadly discussed here in Prague as well as in many other Central European capitals over the last couple of months. The theme is Russia and its role in global politics. We have here a very illustrious and, I think, balanced group of speakers to present their views. I believe that this debate is more than important. This year, 2009, is not just the year of commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fundamental changes in Europe. This is also the year when we can see a certain reconfiguration on the international scene: on one hand, the Americans are coping with the problem of overstretch, which was publicly admitted by the President at the UN General Assembly; on the other hand, Russia is once again a player, and it raises the question in many minds: what kind of player? Is it a solution or is it a new problem?
We are trying to complete the ratification of the EU Treaty – the result of an eight-year-long effort – and you all see how difficult it is. This is also a year when the Czech Republic itself is going through a phase of asking questions on this 20th anniversary. This panel intends to answer one of those questions regarding Russia during a time when the world is facing one of the largest economic crises ever.
The speakers come from all corners of Europe: we have here Yegor Gaidar, a leading Russian economist and politician who was Prime Minister of Russia in 1992, and he will be the first to speak on this panel. He certainly has his mind and thoughts in order, but I would like to put to him a question: what is the impact of the crisis on the position of Russia in global politics? We read about the winners like China or Goldman Sachs, we read about the potential losers – and I do not want to name or single out any entity – so, Yegor, where does Russia stand as a player, coming out of the current economic crisis? What can we expect from Russia?
Yegor Gaidar: The crisis strongly affected the development of the Russian economy. It was not expected by the majority of the expert community, or by the majority of those in power. After ten years of dynamic economic growth of approximately 7% a year, of dynamic growth in income of approximately 10%, they somehow believed that there was no crisis in the global economy, thereby ignoring the history of the previous two centuries. So, when we had the first few signs of recession in the United States, there were lots of articles in Russia and statements along the lines of: “well, there won’t be a recession in the United States, and if it does happen, it will not affect the global economy because of China and India, and it will not touch Russia because oil prices are high,” etc. All this proved to be absolute nonsense. Russia, as a strongly commodity-dependent economy with 80% of our export being oil, oil products, gas and metals – the commodities whose prices are strongly dependent on global developments, global demand – was, of course, very seriously hit by the crisis. First of all, by developments in the price of commodities with its influence on the balance of payments and on budgetary revenues; and secondly, on the balance of capital operations, because with the global slowdown, capital usually moves away from emerging markets to the more developed markets, and, particularly from commodity-dependent markets, because investors are not fools: they understand what will happen.
The good thing was that we were relatively well prepared for this. Only two years ago, it wasn’t Russian populists but my friends from the IMF and World Bank who were asking me why we needed such huge hard currency reserves. They are no longer asking me such questions; they are not resolving the problem, but they are allowing us to adjust to the new realities in a constructive way. Before them, every populist in Russia had been asking on TV why we needed a stabilization fund, why we shouldn’t spend it when we were facing so many problems.
This discussion is now over. The Russian authorities were a little slow in adjusting to these realities, and I think that they lost approximately six to nine months, but starting from last autumn, they understood more or less, at least in macroeconomic policy – budgetary, exchange rate, monetary policy – what should be done. That allowed them to halt the decline of hard currency reserves from the 15th of January, so that after that, they fluctuated somewhere between $390 and $410 billion US without declining further.
Generally, I hope that the crisis will be good for Russia because it is too easy to run a country which is oil-dependent when the price of oil is $145 U.S. per barrel. You can make lots of mistakes, and you can think that you don’t have to consider serious institutional reforms, serious changes, which would help the diversification of our economy. Now, at least from my point of view, it is less evident for those who are in power. Thank you.
Alexandr Vondra: Thank you very much. So, the statement is that the crisis is going to help Russia by keeping oil prices down. The next speaker is Mrs. Sandra Kalniete, a very well-known Latvian historian and politician who was Foreign Minister of Latvia between 2002 and 2004, and somebody who was rightly recently elected as a Member of the European Parliament. I think she is also here to show how Russia influenced the fate of so many throughout the century because she was born in Siberia after her parents were deported there. Many of you may have read her book which was also translated into Czech, called “With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snow”. The question for Sandra is obvious: should we be afraid of Russia, should we have a serious concern, is Russia a continuing problem for Europe, in particular, for its neighbours, or is Russia a solution and there is no cause for concern?
Sandra Kalniete: Thank you, Alexandr, for this very ample introduction. First of all, I would like to say that there is no country in the world who wishes more than Latvia – the closest neighbouring country which has a long border with the Russian Federation – to have good neighbourly relations, good economic exchange, good trade, and a good psychological climate in our relations.
However, in response to Mr. Vondra’s question, I would like to make three comments: the first goes back to 1997 when I was the newly accredited ambassador to Paris and I paid a courtesy visit to Russia’s ambassador. He was not a career diplomat, and that’s why we were not making diplomatic small talk. We were talking about the demographic crisis; as a physicist, he was thinking strategically and was greatly worried about the destiny and the impact of a declining demography on Russia’s future development. Just recently, I read the new UN Human Development Report on the state of demography in Russia. This is a very worrying report: since 1992 Russia’s population has decreased by more than 12 million people, and the prognosis is that Russia’s total population could fall to as low as 128 million by 2025. This is a state of demographic emergency, which is the most acute problem facing Russia today. Why is it important for Latvia as a neighbouring country, for Europe and the world? Because it has a very important psychological dimension: Russia has always felt that, in a way, it is surrounded by hostile nations, and that it must use every means to protect itself – and all means are justified. I think that this psychological feeling of insecurity is increasing among the governing élite and also among the people. In politics, the tendency of isolationism is growing: Russia is losing its belief, its trust, in the instruments of international cooperation and international organizations, and this also fuels the ambitious attitude in Russia’s international policy. And we all know the examples of that: first of all, the unilateral rhetoric, which is often sensed in the statements delivered by Russia’s Foreign Minister, President or Prime Minister. Also, as a holder of very important energy resources, on which Europe is largely dependent – and there are countries who are almost 100% dependent – Russia is using this as a tool, or an instrument of political pressure, especially in the countries which Russia considers their own sphere of interest like Ukraine and Belarus. And I won’t even speak about the war in Georgia with its consequences of an occupied Abkhazia and Ossetia, both of which are territories of Georgia.
My second comment will be on what I see as a contradiction between hyper-controlled and centralized politics, the control of politics over the economy, and the ambition to change – over a period of some ten years – the economic structure of Russia from one based mainly on natural resources, which is most typical for third world countries, to a modern, competitive and diversified economy. Just recently, Russia adopted a governmental strategy: the Concept of the Long-term Socioeconomic Development of the Russian Federation, which describes what measures have to be taken and implemented to change Russia into one of the world’s leading economies. However, this existing state-centric approach towards diversification – the Russian approach to modernizing the economy in some respects – is still Soviet because it is based on the state-controlled economic giants. They are presumed to be the best vehicle for promoting development, and because of that, the whole process should be conducted in a top-down fashion. It is understandable that the Russian élite’s ambition of economic diversification is far-sighted, but these old methods put the success of this ambition in doubt. And the emphasis on domestic innovation with limited foreign involvement, the top-down approach and the preservation of barriers to competition – all make rapid transformation into a knowledge-based economy unlikely.
My third comment follows the presumption that Russia accepts that Central and Eastern Europe are no longer within its sphere of influence. This is what we expected – that Russia would accept this, and would stop trying to interfere in our regional politics. But geopolitical competition did not stop: Moscow is simply trying to pressure and interfere in new ways – using energy and other weapons of political pressure. It seeks to marginalize the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states in NATO and in the EU, by going above our heads. It still wants to create a zone of special Russian interest, influence and also lesser security. The fact that there are no official defence plans for Central European and Eastern European NATO members speaks for itself; there is an ever-growing feeling of uncertainty in our countries as to whether NATO would be capable of coming to our rescue today were there to be a crisis involving Russia. Many of us no longer believe that the political solidarity, which is one of the basic principles of NATO, still exists. This adds to Russia’s efforts to marginalize our region; we also take the withdrawal of anti-missile plans from the Czech Republic and Poland as a signal that Eastern Europeans and Balts are not as high on the U.S. agenda as was the case during the Clinton and Bush administrations. I was among those European leaders who signed a letter to Obama appealing to him not to disengage from our region. The presence of the United States in Europe today serves as a counter-balance to Russia, which feels insecure and very ambitious. Thank you.
Alexandr Vondra: Thank you very much, Sandra. We have another addition to the panel, who was not mentioned in the programme. Because our speaker is a woman, and because I think that there should be a certain sequence and logic to the debate, I would now – with the permission of Grigory Yavlinsky, who was expected to speak next – pass the floor to another woman on the panel: Mrs. Ella Lazarovna Kesayeva, co-Chair of the Voice of Beslan. After the Beslan school massacre in 2004, she became a member of Mothers of Beslan. In 2005, she founded the Voice of Beslan, an NGO and an association of the parents of child victims of the massacre which is highly critical of the Russian authorities and the government for their questionable approach to the crisis and its subsequent investigation. She currently co-chairs the group with her sister. Mrs. Lazarovna Kasayeva, please, take the floor.
Ella Lazarovna Kesayeva: Thank you. I would like to touch on the most fundamental issue that should be disturbing to all of us. When the Israeli Minister of Defence arrived here today, the first thing he was concerned about was his security; I think that this is right, we should be concerned about our security – the security of our families, of our country. A concerted action is needed to solve the most complex and serious problem in Russia, which is terrorism – a specific kind of terrorism. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., there was a genuine and intensive search for the international terrorist bin Laden, but he was not found, as our Israeli friend said. Or, you may only partly believe that this was genuinely done. When the Nord-Ost and Beslan massacres took place, Russia responded by saying: “these acts of international terrorism are attempting to destroy our country and we will defeat this threat.” We carried out our own investigation and realized that these terrorist attacks had no connection with international terrorism, thereby challenging the position of the country’s leadership; but it was international terrorists who were blamed for killing the children in Beslan and the hostages at NordOst. Not a single representative of the countries engaged in the fight against terrorism said: our intelligence services, our law enforcement organizations – be it in Israel, Palestine, or elsewhere – tell us that we have any connections to NordOst or Beslan, in any way. If the leader of a country like Russia blames international terrorists for attacks in his own country, and the intelligence services of all other countries remain silent, then, I believe, it’s a game played by the Russian leadership; they know exactly what happened, but they try to point their finger at other countries, which keep silent. This gives the impression that a game is being played, and everybody is taking part. People are killed and no one in Russia carries out a proper investigation. Some virtual terrorists are blamed, who do not, in fact, exist in Russia, otherwise there would be some evidence; you could investigate and find out which countries paid or equipped the Beslan terrorists, but nothing like that happened.
That’s why I say that if such terrorist attacks take place, there must be a more responsible approach to investigating them. No investigation, punishment, or fight against terrorism is possible if each country starts pointing fingers at others instead of investigating, and the other countries silently agree. And that’s despite terrorist attacks continuing to happen, and every country being afraid of that evil – it is not possible to fight evil unless there is a common effort.
It has been mentioned more than once that realistic assistance could be provided if we were to organize an international investigation committee, and if the investigation was not superficial and terrorist attacks were not considered to be the internal problem of a country. If an attack took place in any country, including Russia, and was then investigated by all countries at the request of the citizens of that country, it would not be interference in the internal affairs of the state. If you say: “It was an international terrorist attack”, what sort of interference could there be? And so an international investigation could be carried out, which would then deter those who carry out terrorist attacks for their own interests.
I would like my words to be taken seriously, as I am sure that there is no other solution than a common, international effort; and the sooner we understand this, the sooner we can look after our lives and security. Thank you.
Alexandr Vondra: The intensity of the reaction in the hall is a confirmation of how this voice was an important part of the panel. The next speaker is a man who is very well known to the audience of Forum 2000 conferences. He is a regular participant here in Prague, a well-known Russian economist and politician who in the late eighties belonged to a group of young, liberal reformers; he later founded the well-known political group Yabloko, and even now remains to be one of the critics of politics in Russia. Grigory, the same question as I asked Sandra: should we be afraid of Russia, should we be concerned? What are your expectations regarding the future of Russia’s internal policy and its impact on Russia’s foreign agenda?
Grigory Yavlinsky: Whether you should be afraid of Russia or be happy with it is up to you. I’m going to tell you what I think about my country and it’s better that you make your own judgment.
First of all, as the Chairman has already reminded us, twenty years have passed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall – and it’s important to recall that Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet people played a decisive role in that event. I also want to underline that it was absolutely unexpected and unpredictable that the Soviet people would voluntarily and peacefully put an end to the Communist system, at least, formally. There was nobody in the world who was able to predict such developments, so I’m very proud that my people took such an unexpected and tremendous step. There is a lot of criticism of Mr. Gorbachev nowadays, but Mr. Gorbachev gave the Russians – the Soviet people, a freedom that these people were not even fighting for – it was simply a gift; and what these people did with the freedom is another question, but it’s not Mr. Gorbachev’s problem but their problem. So it’s very important to realize and to be reminded of this because you were speaking twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Regarding the question of Russia in global politics: what is Russia’s role? Is it a true global power or a regional one? Recent U.S.-Russian relations – what is next? The economic and political role of Russia in Central and Eastern Europe – there is a lot, but I will try to answer the key questions.
Firstly, Russia is a country which certainly plays an important international role and will continue to do so because Russia has enormous potential in nuclear weapons. Russia’s geopolitical and geographical position means that it has the longest borders in the world – parts of which are with the most unstable regions in the world, including countries which are successful today, but whose future is not very clear. Thirdly, Russia certainly has great energy reserves, and will play an important role in energy policy.
At the very least, Russia will be an influential world power – I don’t know about ‘superpower’, but certainly an influential power. In world politics, Russia will also play an important role because without Russia, you can’t solve some of the very sensitive problems such as non-proliferation, the war on terrorism – or whatever it may be – energy supplies and partly the climate change problem. This is a given.
Politically, Russia is not a democratic country – it’s an authoritarian system: in Russia we do not have one working democratic institution, all of them are imitations of institutions – they are only about imitating democracy. From this point of view, Russia is unpredictable – even for me – , not transparent. On the one hand, it’s a very influential country, on the other, it’s a neighbour with whom it’s very difficult to deal. Even for us Russians, it is not easy to deal with our own state.
Professor Gaidar was speaking about the economy – and economy is also a very important political point. He was speaking very thoughtfully about the macroeconomic situation in Russia and recent economic developments, and I want to add several points about the institutional situation of the Russian economy. Russia has a problem with private property – Russia has no clear private property rights. Secondly, Russia is an over-monopolized economy with a very big element of corruption. Thirdly, state dependence on the Russian economy is extremely high and is growing; the influence of the state on the Russian economy is also very high. Generally, Russia is not a modern market economy, but it is very powerful. Once again, there are two sides to the story.
With regard to current politics in Russia, one of the key issues is its spheres of influence: Russia is trying to establish a right to its spheres of influence, meaning that Russia wants to be influential with former Soviet Union republics and to play a large role there. From my point of view, this goal is not achievable because Russia has nothing to offer – that’s what the Russian leadership do not understand, they simply have nothing to offer to these countries that the countries would want to buy, except for gas. But gas is not a commodity that people would be ready to buy in return for their independence, and so this is the main issue. But attempts to establish that influence may be dangerous – here I want to underline that this autumn will be a crucial time when we see what’s happening with Ukraine. This is a very serious issue and I would prefer that it be debated in Europe in advance – not just in January, with surprise when the problems come. If the actions of European diplomacy were to start in advance, it would be much easier to find proper solutions.
To go back to global politics and Russia, I would say that twenty years of political development after the fall of the Berlin Wall reveal policies which are partly cooperative, partly confrontational – as were the policies from, for example, the Clinton period and the Bush period. When half of the policies are confrontational and the other half cooperative, then the results are faulty, disastrous policies – I would rather that this approach should stop: policies must be clear and it’s better to proceed step-by-step. For example, to say quite honestly that the nuclear potential of Russia is the same as that of the former Soviet Union, the missiles are pointed in the same direction as during Soviet times, and so are the American missiles, or that Russia doesn’t care about human rights and such things. We have problems where we just don’t understand each other; it is all about saying everything clearly, honestly, without anger. If the main and only problem between Russia and Europe is the import of Chinese meat from Poland to Russia, and this results in Europe freezing its relations with Russia, it is simply a joke because it makes a farce of all relations between Russia and Europe. It is important that we are very clear, open, friendly, and that we use words whose meaning is clear. If politics come down to pipelines and gas, it’s not just a Russian problem; it is also a problem of how Europe conducts its politics: Europe discusses only this aspect, Russia only discusses the other – that’s too simple. Russia does have a very specific political system at the moment – and this must also be said loud and clear –, it is something we see but it’s not necessarily a reason to freeze relations. There were relations with the Soviet Union, in the old times with the tsarist Russia, and now you have this system, and Europe could say: we don’t believe in this system, we don’t think that this system has a future, but it is your choice if you want to have such a system, so let’s talk anyway. This has to be made very clear, openly and without anger, without fighting all the time – it simply has to be said: that’s how we will cooperate.
Speaking of U.S.-Russian relations, the United States needs Russia so badly because it has made so many mistakes; it cannot solve a single problem without Russia: not Iraq, not Iran, not Afghanistan, now the economy – it needs Russia to speak to China in order to find a way out. The situation is very clear: if you make one mistake after another, if for ten years you’ve been putting your country in a very peculiar situation – to put it mildly –, then you need cooperation. We were all talking about the new American policies being about dialogue; the decisions on missile defence were very symbolic decisions, as everybody knows this, and that is why there have now been some changes in policies. The sides need different symbols, and they are using different symbols, the politicians in Eastern Europe should understand that. In the future, it could be that the symbols are removed because the policies change –that should not be a big surprise. It is simply a clear vision of politics without a very big strategy, but, at least, with some strategy.
Here I want to underline that the price which the United States is ready to pay for that cooperation with Russia must not be unlimited: there must be clearly defined limits of situations where principles and values are more important than whatever practical achievements cooperation may bring. This relates to, for example, the former Soviet Union Republics: it must be made very clear that the sovereignty of these republics and their future are indisputable and unquestionable, which is also in the vital interests of Russia and the Russian people. Yes, don’t keep quiet – it must be said clearly and very openly. I’m not certain about expanding NATO into this territory: there needs to be a different approach to resolving the problem, that is certain, but, in principle, the point that the price is not unlimited must be clearly made.
I was asked about the role of Russia in Eastern Europe: Russia’s role would always be serious, important – in both economics and politics, and that’s why it’s necessary to think and to prepare a special strategy on how to operate with such a neighbour. I’m not in a position to tell respectable Eastern European countries what kind of policy they should adopt – that is up to you. The only thing I would say is that it would be preferable for you to have ‘smart policies’ – I sometimes see examples of such policies: the last statements of the Prime Minister of Poland were a very smart and new move. It’s necessary to understand the political situation based on the points which I have mentioned, and to create a sophisticated and productive policy accordingly.
In conclusion, I think that in the coming two hundred years, we will still be neighbours, so we should love each other – no other decision. Thank you.
Alexandr Vondra: Thank you so much. I think Grigory Yavlinsky has raised the question of European policy towards Russia, and I think it rightly brings us to the next speaker of the panel, Mr. Ján Kubiš. Many of us know him very well from his various jobs and positions in Slovak, and previously also Czechoslovak diplomacy, as well as from the international scene. He is the former Slovak Foreign Minister, former Secretary-General of the OSCE, he is also former EU Special Representative for Central Asia, and, right now, he is Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. My questions to him are precisely about how the EU should handle its policy towards Russia. Do we have a smart policy or, Ján, what is your prescription for a ‘smart policy’ towards Russia for Europe?
Ján Kubiš: Thank you very much. President Havel, Sasha, colleagues and friends, my personal message is to Grigory Yavlinsky: if love, Grigory, then tough love, and it will be a tough love, I believe – at least in the coming period. You cannot expect anything else. This is what I expect – tough love and cohabitation.
Let me start with what was on the agenda and what was discussed during the opening panel of this Forum 2000: it was that Russia is currently deliberately, intentionally, testing its partners – putting their endurance to the test, testing their limits, patience, cooperation. I believe it is the case: it’s a new Russia that has emerged – a much stronger Russia, conscious of her power, and she’s trying to test us – but funnily enough, not the whole world. We should understand that Russia tests primarily its European partners and the United States. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Russia has a good number of interesting and difficult partners like China or Iran, it’s a player in the Middle East etc., and you don’t see the same willingness to test those – on the contrary.
The new policy of testing us is oriented first and foremost towards her European partners and the United States. And this is also one of the clues for us on how to design a smart policy towards Russia. Here, Russia also uses its comparative advantage, as she sees it, in gas and oil – whether she, or whoever, likes it or not, this is a fact of life. But it’s also an intense desire to invest in the Russian Federation. There is a competition of who will be the first, of who will grab the most, regardless of the crisis – things have slowed down a bit, but nevertheless, companies are rushing towards this country. And there is a strong interest in the international community to cooperate with Russia in solving various global problems. Of course, Russia is a Security Council Member, has nuclear weapons, but, I would say that even without taking this too much into consideration, Russia is simply a natural partner in trying to solve the questions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, the future of the world economy, China, etc. So, you cannot just put everything into the basket of thinking about Russia as a nuclear power or a Security Council power – Russia is simply an interested partner, and we must deal with her as such. Naturally, Russia – whether we like it or not – has a very strong interest, and, indeed, still rather strong influence on what they used to call the Near Abroad, and this will not disappear.
There was a question asked on this panel about whether the new Russia and the new posturing of Russia is a solution or a problem. I would say it’s a reality, and it’s not for us to like or dislike – it’s a reality; we may try to change, to influence this reality – better through dialogue – but it remains that Russia has been and will be present in Europe, for Russia is a part of Europe. Without our understanding that Russia is inevitably a part of Europe, we won’t reach any solutions; we won’t have a smart policy.
But, of course, Russia is an enigma and in a league of its own. I will not speak about its internal developments; there are people on this panel who are in a better position to do that. Also, I believe you have heard prominent representatives of Russian civil society here, telling us what the current Russia is like internally. I heard Grigory say that Russia is an authoritarian regime, and ask us to understand and deal with the country as it is and not try to invent another Russia. However, Russia is a member of different international organizations like the OSCE and the Council of Europe, which are based on values, norms and principles, and Russia is accountable to the membership of these organizations, to all of us as countries responsible for the implementation of those principles. And there are other legal instruments to be used, should there be trouble.
Looking at Russia’s behaviour on the international arena, you will find examples of good cooperation, but from my perspective – and, again, what I’m saying is my personal opinion and I speak here in my personal capacity – there were two developments that should strongly influence our thinking about Russia and the way we develop our policies towards Russia. First of all, there was the ‘gas war’ this January between Russia and Ukraine. It was a very nasty war, both actors grossly disregarded their international obligations – obligations towards each other, but also towards all of us here in Europe. Luckily, for the first time – and I was then still Foreign Minister of my country, Slovakia – I saw that the European Union finally understood that something was happening, and began to get its act together. I am very glad that this is happening; I hope that it will continue. Indeed, I can’t say that the story is over, so it is better to be prepared, and let’s prepare beforehand, as Grigory said.
The second event, which is extremely important from the point of view of global development and the positioning and posturing of Russia not only towards Europe, but also in global matters, is the Russian-Georgian war of last year and all of its consequences, including – and for me this is the most worrying factor – the recognition by the Russian Federation of two regimes – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If a member of the Security Council that holds responsibility for peace, war, stability and for international law as such under the Charter of the United Nations, takes this kind of step, it is a new factor. Yes, we were used to some of the other great powers doing the same in the past – they would violate international law in whichever way, but I don’t remember the Russian Federation doing so – and it’s not the Soviet Union and never will be. It is the first time that the Russian Federation has taken this step; it’s a bell, and we must understand what happened; we must understand what kind of resolve, determination, this signals.
So these are the two elements which seem extremely important to me. And what is the reaction? You have the EU Report – as predictable, a report that is somehow being used by both sides to say: “We are right!” In a way, it clears the European Union and NATO to continue its cooperation with the Russian Federation. That was the political essence of the Report and the whole exercise. But you also had an interesting reaction from the closest allies of the Russian Federation: from the region, none of the allies recognized South Ossetia or Abkhazia – and that’s also important.
One can say yes, it is a difficult country but it is also a partner, a desired partner, a necessary, indispensable partner, with whom we need to work. You heard Ehud Barak in the previous session. One of his concluding remarks was very clear: we need Russia, the current world needs Russia in many respects. It will remain a partner in the economic sphere, as elsewhere. So, what should our response be? We can always complain – we can say that Russia is encroaching on our territories, on our interests, that it’s using its gas and economic interests, that it’s using its influence. We can complain that the new policy of the United States pays less attention to what is happening in Central and Eastern Europe, etc. It’s perhaps a function of the fact that our countries are now first and foremost members of the EU and NATO, which means that we should consider our own interests and do what we need to do ourselves – that’s a smart policy. Not complaining about others betraying us or encroaching on our interests – but to put up the barriers ourselves. As I said, I was encouraged by the European Union moving slowly forward in doing this. Although, I have my doubts about how far the European Union can go. Frankly, even with the Lisbon Treaty, it is only with difficulty that you will get a Common Foreign and Security Policy towards the Russian Federation in the fullest sense of the words, it’s extremely difficult. In some areas you will find glimpses of it, but we should have a more comprehensive approach towards the Russian Federation – an approach of partnership. In the first place, we need to think about how to deal with the energy resources and how to prepare ourselves for potential difficulties in the future.
If there is concern about the ability and the capabilities of NATO providing the necessary assurances, let’s strengthen NATO then. Let’s do whatever is necessary to prepare ourselves – we are allies, we are talking here on equal terms with each other, including the United States. Let’s get NATO to take care of its core business instead of spreading into areas such as the environment, potato seeds, etc., because everything, in fact, could have an impact on security-related matters. Let’s be serious about NATO: we don’t have enemies – and I don’t see an enemy in Russia –, but if we have an instrument (NATO), let’s use it and let’s keep it in good working order. That would be the natural response – we don’t need Russia in order to do that, and we don’t need to be afraid of Russia. We can simply take our own steps as necessary.
So how do we structure our relations with the Russian Federation? At this point in time – after the failures of the previous approach based more on challenge and unilateralism, let’s try the approach now being promoted by President Obama – but not blindly – it’s not idealism that is motivating it. Let’s try partnership, let’s work with them, let’s challenge them and test their limits, and let’s test the potential of this new partnership. Let’s then assess what the situation is in two, three years from now, based on concrete terms – and I agree with Grigory that values, norms and obligations must be a part of this relationship. It’s not just about mutually recognized interests, and if possible, common interests. It also about norms and values – they are a natural part of such a relationship. That would, in my opinion, be the smart policy: rely on ourselves, be not afraid; we are grown-up and mature enough in Central and Eastern Europe to be able to take care of ourselves as members of NATO and the European Union. Thank you very much.
Alexandr Vondra: We got the diplomatic prescription for a smart policy, and now, we should end with a philosophical prescription for a smart policy. This brings me to the last speaker on this panel: André Glucksmann is also a frequent visitor at this gathering, a man who has a long history of writing about the dangers of totalitarian regimes, a man who did not miss any opportunity to jump into various intellectual debates across Europe in the last couple of decades, and a man who is credited with not staying silent when there was a debate or, at least, a sign of a debate in Europe about the reaction to the war in Georgia – and Jan Kubiš has raised this issue as well. André Glucksmann together with Václav Havel and others produced a statement of a slightly different value than the classic EU diplomatic report chaired by the Swiss ambassador.
Mr. Glucksmann, what is your philosophical prescription for the smart policy? What should Europe do to engage itself? – and not when it’s too late as it was in the Summer 2008. I’m deeply convinced that the conflict started well before August 8, 2008.
André Glucksmann: It is not a philosophical view that I will present here, it is a matter of common sense, or at least an attempt at common sense, as one can never be certain of one’s common sense. All of it is based on facts, and, in principle, there is unity in recognising those facts. But there remains one small problem – of vocabulary: when we say Russia, when we say that we have to accept Russia as it is, then it is Putin’s Russia that we are talking about. When we say that Russia is a part of Europe, this has been true for three, four centuries, and it is true for European culture, which would never have been the same without Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev. So, we have Putin’s Russia and a European Russia. Even today, we have at least two Russias – there’s a Kremlin Russia and the Voice of Beslan Russia, there is a Russia of Memorial, there is a Russia of those who risk their lives for democratic liberties. We have a long way to go before we are used to this in the West. So, we have to be careful when we say “to understand Russia”: we have to understand Russia, we have to understand Putin, but we also have to understand Anna Politkovska or Mothers of Beslan, as well as Natasha Estemirova who was murdered on the 15th of August. Then you come to understand that Anna Politkovska and Natasha were not on good terms with Putin. So when you say Russia, you have to think about who it is you are listening to, you have to listen to both Russias.
We cannot dismiss the events of the last decade as meaning nothing. If we say we have to start from zero once again, which is one meaning of the “reset” approach put forward by the American diplomacy, I don’t think this is the right approach; it should instead be based on facts, on what has been done.
In the economic field, there is no Russian economic miracle, as opposed to the Chinese economic miracle, for example; so the two countries, both of whom do not respect human rights are not the same in all aspects. Russia is in a class of its own; it cannot be said that Russia is one of the many countries that do not respect human rights – that being the case for a majority of UN countries. There is something particular about Russia. There is the fact that Putin’s Russia used an enormous amount of money from its oil and gas to buy the Champs Élysées and many other things instead of using this money for the development of Russia – for the development of its economy. Russia is not China, so if we want to understand each other, we have to ask what is it that makes Russia a special case?
Regarding the social situation, which has already been mentioned by our Latvian panellist: the social balance is catastrophic: the population is declining, there is alcoholism, there are people suffering from tuberculosis, HIV, there is unemployment. This is an important balance, but then there is the democratic balance. During the last decade, there was a series of murders that have never been explained. The murder of two women journalists, of ordinary people, such as the three or four hundred citizens of Moscow who were victims of two explosions in 1999, and nobody ever found out what really happened, who did what. All seems to indicate that the police did not go after those responsible, but rather that it was they who did it.
Here is a terrible democratic deficit, which is redoubled by the ‘human balance’. Two hundred thousand Chechens have died over the last decade – out of a population of one million; 20% of Georgian territory has, in fact, been annexed. Certainly, autonomy must be granted to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as to all peoples of the world, but also to the Georgian people, and Russia’s approach to the annexation is very different, after all.
The economic, democratic and social balance indicate something very specific; I don’t want to call the country a ‘monster’, but its policies are damaging and harmful. I would not say the same about China, although there are certainly many problems with democracy in China – it is a totalitarian regime – but China’s existence is not based on a determination to harm others. At present, China is on very good terms with the United States; China is an example of an economic miracle, but that of course, does not mean that everything will develop perfectly and we will all get along well, it just means that China is a slightly different case from Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century, Japan and Germany were also economic miracles. But this is not the case with Russia; it is a power which is based on extortion, on using its power to damage others with its nuclear capability, with its capacity to supply weapons to very dubious countries; it is the second biggest arms trader in the world; it is a power which uses its energy sources to lead an aggressive policy. So I am very glad that the European Council realized this was a problem for the Europeans, but those Europeans had already noticed this some time ago, when they were trembling with cold earlier this year. What I am saying does not mean that Russia should be treated as an enemy, that war should be waged; I only want to say that Putin’s Russia is not what our officials thought – a country that would gradually modernize and democratize itself. A country can modernize without democratizing – which is currently the case with China; but a country may also not modernize, and may not be democratized, but still use the profit from its energy resources and other businesses.
Does this mean that at the core, Russia is, in fact, a huge Arab Emirate, which generates profits from its energy and natural resources? No, because Russia has the political will – and when I say Russia, I mean Putin’s Russia –, and in the face of that political will, there are Russians who want to live as Europeans do: with their rights, their freedom of speech, with the possibility of living in peace. It is this that we have to think of – a divided Russia, and one that we have to talk to. If we say that everything is going well with Putin, we have to be reasonable – who is, after all, our partner that is making the disputable moves? It was more than disputable in Georgia; it was also the first time that external borders of a UN member state were not respected in the European sphere.
Given all of this and as historical experience reminds us, if we say “we must accept it”, it is called appeasement; if we say “discussion must be undertaken”, it’s a manifestation of our will to contain the threat. People are not good by nature – and Putin’s Russia is not likable, but we have to live with it. To do that, we need to have foresight, and to know when to resist.
Alexandr Vondra: I think we have five minutes for two questions, two comments.
A lady from the audience: My question is to Mrs. Kalniete: when you were one of the leaders of the People’s Front in Latvia in 1990, you came up with the proposal to establish an independent Latvia as a zero version scheme, to grant the whole population of Latvia equal rights, and you won the first elections. Now, going back to Latvia, I could observe the very efficient attempts by the Kremlin to manipulate those citizens of Latvia who are regarded as non-citizens. Are the politicians in Latvia now ready to take a more sophisticated approach, and to take the ball from the hands of Kremlin propagandists by granting some rights to those who are regarded as alienated citizens of Latvia? Thank you.
Sandra Kalniete: When you say “to grant some rights”, then I would like to say that there are rights, otherwise Latvia would have never become a member of the European Union or NATO, because one of the Copenhagen criteria and a criteria of NATO membership, is a strong commitment to and a legislation of human rights. You are talking about one of the most intimate links established between a person and the state – about citizenship. According to the Latvian legislation, we had two steps: the first was to restore citizenship to all those persons and their descendants who inherited it from the moment of Soviet occupation in 1941. The second step was to develop appropriate legislation, which was done with the assistance of the UN and the Council of Europe. Those who were introduced to our country after the occupation – how could those people have that citizenship? Our naturalization legislation is considered by international experts as one of the most liberal in Europe, especially if you compare it to that of Switzerland. Everyone who decides to become a citizen of Latvia has to pass a language test, which is to guarantee that this person can be competitive in the labour market; secondly, the person has to show loyalty to the state; and thirdly, he has to pass a test of basic knowledge about the history of the country. Everyone who is born in Latvia (after independence) automatically has a right to Latvian citizenship. So, I don’t see why, persistently twenty years after, that disinformation is still so dear to many journalists and politicians. Thank you.
James Mancham: Mr. Chairman, I am James Mancham, founding President of the Republic of Seychelles. Last week I was in Bucharest where I was invited to attend a round table discussion promoted by the Rumanian-French Friendship Association on the subject of Europe and a New Russia. A French philosopher and politician attended and gave a keynote speech: after admitting that the Franco-German collaboration promoted the guiding force of Europe, the gentleman said that there could be no prospect of Russia becoming part of the European Community because Russia is so vast that if Russia were to become a part of Europe, the concept of Europe, as we see it, would change. I would like the panel to comment on this because I found a little question mark in relation to the acceptance of France and Germany constituting a ‘big block’, and difficulty in moving towards trusting Russia enough to accept it as a member of ‘global village politics’. Thank you.
Alexandr Vondra: That brings us to the end. If I may ask every panellist, starting with Sandra, continuing with Yegor, André, then Ella Lazarovna Kasayeva and Jan Kubiš, and then the final word –because this is a panel about Russia, and I think it only fair that the final word of this panel should go to somebody from Russia – Grigory, would be the last. Please, try to respond in one sentence whether you believe that Russia could one day be a member of the European Union. Thank you.
Sandra Kalniete: I would not believe, but I would hope for it, because that would mean that Russia is living up to all the standards required to be a normal democratic state.
Yegor Gaidar: I don’t think that it’s realistic. I wanted very much to put it on a practical political agenda when I was working in the government, but I never got any positive response from the European Union.
Alexandr Vondra: André.
André Glucksmann: The response is this: you have not been listening, because there are several Russias. And I would respond by asking: which Russia would you like to see as part of Europe? Is it the Russia that killed two hundred thousand Chechens over a period of one decade? No thank you: the European Union has abandoned the idea of colonialism. Are we talking about the Russia which murders its journalists and prevents them from speaking out? No, thank you – the European Union was built on the rejection of fascism. And there would be more.
Which Russia is it that we are talking about, then? The answer lies in whether the European Union will survive. The German Chancellor’s Office has a large portrait of Catherine II, and I think in Germany, we are seeing a very strong tendency to believe that the Franco-German engine is running out of petrol, and that for the Germans – and it’s not only Schröder who is corrupt – that locomotive could be Russia, and this would be Putin’s Russia.
Ján Kubiš: Both organisations – the EU and NATO – have their principles, their norms, they have their objectives. First of all, if there is a Russia fully in conformity with those objectives, principles, etc., then we can ask that question. That’s perhaps the response for the foreseeable future. Eventually, I would not exclude that Russia would first try – in case changes do take place in that country – to think about NATO membership, and not necessarily EU membership.
Alexandr Vondra: Ella.
Ella Lazarovna Kesayeva: If we continue with the idea that has just been presented, I can say: yes – if the policies change, if Russia stops being Putin’s Russia. But with the present state of affairs, and as a citizen of Russia, I don’t see such a prospect. Violations of rights are continuing, will continue, and one must not turn a blind eye to them. If you do, then you are passively taking part; if you agree passively, then no positive change will take place – and Russia must be made to change, and we have to press it to change – all of us together, the citizens of Russia and citizens of other countries. No one should be asking: “What can I do alone?” – not alone; all of us together can force Putin’s Russia to take a civilised course.
Alexandr Vondra: And Grigory, you have the final word.
Grigory Yavlinsky: Thank you very much for that wonderful question. My answer is yes: in twenty years from now, fifteen years from now, Russia will certainly be a part of Europe. There is a long way to go, a very difficult way. Russia would be a member of Europe not in terms of Brussels, not in terms of the European Commission, but in terms of its political principles, its human rights, its values, its role in world politics, and it would also be a part of the European economy. But it will take many years – maybe fifteen, maybe twenty. Here I want to underline that there are millions and millions of people who are fighting for the new Russia: in my party, in the last ten, fifteen years, four people were killed when fighting an authoritarian, corrupted regime, so we are paying a very high price for the fight for a democratic, open, liberal Russia of the future. It’s a long process – it’s not an Eastern-European country, it’s Russia, it’s thousands of years of a different kind of culture and history. That’s what we are doing and what we will continue doing; it’s our responsibility to bring Russia to a European way of life, because if we are not successful, Russia will collapse, and that would be a big problem. I want to support very strongly the idea of ‘two Russias’; I want to support the idea of communicating with both sides. During the Soviet period, your governments were so smart – they talked to the Russian people, to the Soviet people and to Soviet governments, whether it was Brezhnev or somebody else in the Kremlin; and that was a smart approach – it was the right approach. And there is no such approach at the moment. So I very much support this proposal.
Last but certainly not least – how can you help? That is always the question, and the answer is simple: by setting an example. Please, put the European Union in order, please show us the future, show us that you can exercise the values and the principles which you yourself have declared, help the United States to overcome the economic and political crisis, and we would look at your example and we would move much faster. All the other things we would do ourselves. Thank you very much.
Alexandr Vondra: Thank you very much to all of you. Allow me, now, to invite our host, the founding father of the Forum 2000 conference series, President Václav Havel.
Václav Havel: Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished friends, after all these excellent speakers, it is rather difficult for me to address you. Therefore, I will not attempt to sum up the results of this year’s Forum 2000; I will only make a few comments.
We have had approximately sixty-five delegates from abroad – among them philosophers, politicians, philanthropists, and public figures – in other words, precisely the kind of people who have always tried to make Forum 2000 a space for debate about the problems facing the world today. We have had people from all continents, and I should underline that we have also had participants from Burma, Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Botswana and other countries, open-minded participants from different countries and continents.
The Conference was divided into eight main panels, which took place here in the large hall at Žofín but, apart from that, there were a number of smaller, accompanying events and panel discussions that were held at different venues in Prague.
It would have been impossible for us to attend all of these events, but we will not miss out on anything because the proceedings will be published; this publication will then be available for everyone. It seems to me that this year’s thirteenth Forum 2000, just like the previous ones, has once again met the objectives of such a gathering by creating a calm, open environment for debate among all sorts of people, for a debate that reflects on the various aspects of today’s world – its problems, its perspectives, and all the dangers looming outside.
Apart from these panel discussions, the personal encounters in the corridors, over breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and during our parties, have also been very important. People have had the opportunity to discuss issues in twos, in threes, and by doing so, meeting the very basic human need for dialogue, conversation and for learning about one another. We don’t share opinions on everything, so it is therefore very important that we are capable of explaining our views to each other, to try to persuade the other party, or at least encourage the other party to consider criticisms which they had not previously thought about.
As you know, this was our 13th Forum 2000, and there is hope that one year from now, we will have a 14th Forum 2000. I want to thank the Forum 2000 Foundation for organising this event, and I also thank Mr. Sasakawa, who has been a major sponsor of this Conference since its inception.
The next, 14th, Forum will be looking at some of the topics pertaining to human settlement. The way current civilization is acting in this respect – behaving as it pleases is very dangerous. In many places, the countryside is disappearing; millions of people are moving into cities, which are cities no longer, and are instead becoming gigantic agglomerations where crime thrives and environmental problems arise as a result. We would like to invite international urban planners, architects and other experts to think collectively about this particular phenomenon. This will be a part of the major theme of the next Forum 2000.
Once again, I would like to thank you for having attended the conference, thank you for your cooperation, for coming to Prague. Let me express my belief that we shall meet here again next year, and, in particular, I hope that these meetings will enter your memories in a positive way and that they will contribute to our human self-reflection. Thank you for your attention.