Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russia's Role in the New Security Alliance

Dr. Sergei A. Karaganov
Chairman of the Presidium,
Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy

September 11 awakened us to new threats, but it is probably a mistake to consider terrorism as the number one future threat. Of course, terrorism is here and is a threat, but there are several other much more important threats that we will be encountering during the next years and decades. 

One of these threats is the profound and long-term destabilization of the Middle East. Another is the profound and long-term destabilization of Central Asia. Two other issues are the emergence of China, which may be positive or negative or both, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which has started and is hard to curtail. This last threat is not only a question of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists, but of these weapons getting into the hands of new states. If the present tendencies are not curtailed, we could have a few new states that could use these weapons against each other. 


Russia sits on the border of all the areas in question and is facing all threats simultaneously. That is why we probably cannot deal with these issues without being a member of a larger coalition. That is why President Putin, who was already leaning toward a grand alliance and integration with the West, used the post-September 11 opportunity to jump in. 

What has Russia achieved with this move? Most Russians say we achieved very little, but I would disagree. We achieved several tangible things. First, we now have different relations with the West. We have started the process of overcoming the position we took after the end of the Cold War, part partner and part adversary in a kind of a no man's land. Second, we have gained political clout with the international community, particularly with the U.S., Europe, China, and friends and partners elsewhere. 

Third, the Taliban were the most immediate threat to Russian security, but they have been defeated for the time being and, if they re-emerge, probably will not be a threat to Russia. In addition, drug trafficking has decreased in the area, through Russia and into Russia. Also, the Chechen terrorists largely have been cut off from their supplies, which came from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Although this arms and money trafficking has not been acknowledged before, it is much weaker now. Another achievement is that our war against terrorism in Chechnya has now been acknowledged as part of an international antiterrorist effort, and no longer is seen as an effort to subdue a small national liberation movement. 


What haven't we yet achieved? We have not achieved the final goal of becoming a member, not of the Western Alliance but of THE Alliance. The problem is, we do not need a Western Alliance. We need an alliance against the new threats. The Western Alliance is an alliance largely against the old threats. And that means communism from within and communism from without, i.e., the Soviet Union. NATO is transforming, but it is very hard for it to transform itself into a purely modern alliance. NATO is still needed but we will see if it is able to transform. 

We also have not yet created a system to counter the new threats. In addition, we have not yet entered a cooperative state with our new partners in the emerging coalition. For example, we have provided a lot of intelligence information, some of which we know has been crucial, but we haven't yet gotten anything back. And that is important. We have to build up two-way cooperation, though I know that there is a cooperation problem among intelligence communities within the West and that intelligence people hate to show what they know and what they don't know. 


The question on the table is whether the contributions of Central Asian countries and Russia are tangible and durable, and the answer is yes. They will continue to be if we create the proper framework for them, which is reevaluation of the threats. So far we have been talking about terrorism only. It is very good that we are at least talking seriously about terrorism, but I believe the framework for discussing and understanding the new threats should be broadened. When that has been accomplished, we should start to create the mental outlook and the institutional arrangements to deal with these new threats. 

So far we are conforming to the American idea of ad hoc coalitions. This is a useful view until we have something more effective. While we do not have anything else, we should at least adhere to this idea. But we all understand that in order to fight the new war or contain the new challenges, we have to create something like NATO, but a NATO in a new framework. 

I was one of the first in Russia, in 1991, to advise the president to opt for NATO expansion to Russia. This was seen in the West as a subversive act. Following that time, I saw NATO expanding without Russia so I took a very anti-NATO-expansion stand, though never an anti-NATO stand. Now, ten years later, we have a different situation: NATO expansion is unstoppable. NATO is transforming into a different alliance. And we see now that if Russia is not able to join NATO and transform it into a worldwide alliance against new threats, we should at least do it piecemeal. That means building up cooperation habits and ending the institutional mistrust between us. But if NATO doesn't take in Russia, and eventually Japan, and really transform itself into a worldwide alliance, then we will have to create a new alliance for stability and security. This should not be a military alliance, but a political and security alliance that will concentrate on preventing instability. It would involve building up intelligence and increasing cooperation among intelligence, customs police, border control, and financial agencies. It would also increase cooperation with energy agencies, because energy may become a problem in the future and most of the current regimes in the Middle East will fall one way or another in the next 20 years. 

In summary, Russia sees the current situation as a partly filled glass, but one that is fuller than it used to be. We are working to fill it completely, we hope with your help. 














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