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Meeting 21st century challenges together

01.01.70

MOSCOW. (Dr. Vasily Likhachev, for RIA Novosti) -- The year 2006 is significant for Russia's foreign policy and diplomacy.

On January 1, Russia took over the Presidency in the Group of Eight industrially developed countries, which, we believe, shoulder the biggest responsibility for the state of the global economy and politics. It had done serious preparatory work led by President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin had come up with a special program that embraces priority issues of global politics and economy in the globalization era. It seems that after the first two months of Presidency we can draw some preliminary conclusions. Russia is ready for this role, it is actively coordinating these efforts both within the G8 and in the club's relations with international structures - the UN, NATO, the EU and many other institutions of international diplomacy. I believe that this year Russia as a G8 president will create a favorable atmosphere to discuss the topical problems, which are referred to as "threats and challenges of the 21st century" in the international vocabulary.

Russian diplomacy during its Presidency proceeds from the assumption that these problems should be solved by a concerted effort. It is important to create a system to react to the 21st century threats and challenges, a system that will be equally based on international and national resources. Improvement of modern international legislation will have a special role in this respect.

The issues that G8 leaders, including President Putin, have to deal with, are various. They include fight against famine, writing off the debts of the least developed countries, efforts against infectious diseases, including AIDS and avian flu, WMD non-proliferation, and struggle against international terrorism. Some rules, standards, approaches and methods will obviously be worked out this year that will require international legal framework. The first initiatives and the first moves during Russia's Presidency, including the latest meeting of the Financial G8 held in Moscow on February 10-11, have shown that Russia has taken the right course. It tries to take into account the interests of all G8 members, but at the same time these states are not isolated from the needs and interests of the entire international community.

Such harmonization and similarity of interests and needs create a solid foundation for real counteraction to modern threats and challenges.

In this context, I would like to touch upon another important aspect that also has to do with countering challenges of the 21st century.

Lately, the discussions of Russia's credibility as a democracy have been on the rise again (as proved by my contacts in Brussels, Strasbourg and other European cities). A vivid example is the recent sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the meeting of the committee for Russia-EU parliamentary cooperation. It has become customary to raise such questions when Russia has made real and specific moves on the international stage and has demonstrated its increased potential, for example, its responsibility for global energy security.

Obviously, the political forces in the West that launch a thesis on the allegedly weak democracy in modern Russia and on the country's tilt towards authoritarian rule pursue their own specific goals. The political goal is to undermine Russia, to tarnish its image and to cause distrust of other countries that are ideologically, financially or technically dependent on Western subsidies in order to isolate Russia and limit its room for maneuver.

I do not believe that such ideological campaigns will do any good.

First of all, they do not correspond to realities of the modern Russian civil society and values of the Russian President and the Russian authorities.

Secondly, they do not take into account the dependence that is present in Russia's relations with the international community. This dependence is objective and is evident when decisions are made on many global issues, such as efforts against international terrorism, the energy dialog, epidemic (such as AIDS) consequences management and struggle against drug trafficking. Russia's potential is of global importance for solving each of these problems. The world countries have to accept it and make correct conclusions that should prompt them towards objective partnership with Russia. The processes ongoing in the economy and politics of every country in the early 21st century are quite contradictory. We are not trying to say that the Russian political system does not have any serious flaws or that Russia has solved the most important global and domestic issues related to its rise as a competitive sovereign state, truly interested in spreading democratic values that prioritize human rights and freedoms, civil society and market economy principles and mechanisms. Of course, there are problems, and they are inevitable for the development stage at which Russia is now. But it is important to see that the Russian authorities are aware or these problems, as well as the ways of solving them, in line with the times. I think that our "partners" will continue raising the question of democratic improvement, of Russia's commitment to democratic values. This is a very convenient way to distract attention, including in the West, from their own problems. It is very convenient to point to the alleged incapability of the Russian economy. Yet I am positive that this stance will be rejected by the objective processes of global economy and politics.

How should Russia treat such campaigns? It should stay calm. It should show its values, speak of realities existing in Russia today, and make more friends on the international arena.

Let me recall my diplomatic and political experience, including experience of inter-parliamentary interaction, notably with our Turkish partners and friends. Their understanding of today's Russia is correct and we believe it will only be improving. Such understanding provides guarantees that the most serious global problems can be resolved on the balance of interests and needs of Russia and the international community. By the way, the West has made similar accusations against Turkey as well.

This is kind of a self-centered policy on the part of developed Western democracies, a condescending glance at countries that have launched serious democratic and economic reforms. I do not think that we should see it as an ideological threat, although it is definitely not pleasant to hear such accusations at the UN sessions and from the Parliament Assembly or the Council of Europe. In this respect, our Turkish partners and other countries are in the same situation as we, being the target for ideological attacks.

This is why I believe that parliamentarians from Russia, Turkey and other countries could use such platforms as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Council of Europe, etc. to explain their stands and unite their efforts. The same can be said about an initiative I outline for the first time today. It seeks to raise the issue of adopting a code of countries' behavior in our era of political and economic globalization. There are modern principles and norms of international legislation, imperative clauses of the UN Charter. It should be reminded that UN priorities and standards were adopted in 1945. Although time has left their ideological values unchanged, there is a need to interpret them in a new way with consideration for the threats and challenges every sovereign state faces in the 21st century. We could urge our partners, including Western developed democracies, as they call themselves, to adopt modern standards that will be binding for all. After all, we are not going to have different conditions. It is all about creating a universal international system that will work out common standards to be used by all players of global politics on the basis of the UN Charter.

I am positive that this project would help us overcome the self-centered behavior and individualism of developed Western nations and establish ways for truly impartial exchange of information and assessments of the processes different countries are witnessing now.

Dr. Vasily Likhachev (Law), deputy chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

Expert opinion

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