The Words of the Selig Family
Washington, DC, USA -- UPF's Office of Peace and Security Affairs hosted a roundtable on "Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia: Russia's Role in Stability in Eurasia and the Far East" in Washington, DC, on June 28. Dr. Antonio Betancourt, Director, hosted the program. The moderator, a prominent scholar from a DC-based university, wished to participate without attribution.
The discussion brought together an array of experts on the subject from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) -- Johns Hopkins University, the Eurasian Center, as well as representatives of the diplomatic community from the embassies of Mongolia, Mali, and Lithuania.
The roundtable addressed prospects for the Russian Federation to promote stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia, especially this year when Russia is hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vladivostok September 8-9. In the context of Russia's multi-vector foreign policy, security and stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia is of growing importance; it is conditioned by interest in harnessing new possibilities in Eurasia and Northeast Asia through the promotion and realization of innovative policies for the social, technological, and economic integration of those regions, including development in Siberia and Far-East Russia.
Participants included: H.E. BaatarChoisuren, Minister Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Mongolia; H.E. Al MaamounKeita, Ambassador, Embassy of Mali; James G. Jatras, former senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee; ArnauddeBorchgrave, Director and Senior Advisor, Transnational Threats Project, CSIS; Ralph E. Winnie, Director, Global Business Development and the Eurasian Business Coalition's China Program, Eurasia Center; Dr. Lori Handrahan, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University; Konstantin Krylov, Assistant Secretary General, Universal Peace Federation-Eurasia; Dr. Mark P. Barry, Advisor to UPF's Office of Peace and Security (via Skype); Liana Vazbiene, Political and Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Lithuania; Lizzie ShaxuanShan, master's candidate in international relations, Yale University; Vicki Phelps, former Current Issues Associate Editor, The World and I; Diane M. Falk, former senior librarian, The World and I; Dr. Three Feathers Kazimi, member, American Clergy Leadership Conference; Dan Fefferman, President, International Coalition for Religious Freedom; Tomiko Duggan, Director of UPF's Office of Embassy Relations in Washington, DC; and Dr. William Selig, Deputy Director, Office of Peace and Security Affairs, UPF.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Betancourt introduced UPF and then provided an explanation and background to the roundtable. He said: "This roundtable will discuss prospects for the Russian Federation to promote stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia. Russia's chairmanship of this year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit will promote domestic economy integration into a system of economic ties in the Asia Pacific Region in the interests of modernization- and innovation-driven economic development, primarily in Siberia and the Russian Far East.
"These opportunities also bring new prospects for regional dialogue and integration. In the context of Russia's multi-vector foreign policy, security and stability in Eurasia and Northeast Asia is of growing importance; it is conditioned by Russia's belonging to this dynamically developing region and interest in harnessing new possibilities in Eurasia and Northeast Asia through the promotion and realization of innovative policies for the social, technological, and economic integration of those regions, and includes Siberian and Far Eastern development.
"Given last week's first meeting between President Putin and President Obama at the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and the larger issue of the questionable state of the reset in US-Russian relations which the Obama administration embarked upon in its early months, the roundtable will focus on US-Russian relations as the framework with which to view the dynamics of cooperation and competition between Russia and the US. on the world stage. This is especially important given Putin's absence from the G8 Summit at Camp David last month and pending controversial legislation affecting Russia in the US Congress. Within this larger framework, we will nonetheless address Russia's role in the Middle East and in East Asia."
How do you assess the current state of US-Russian relations and why?
Mongolian Ambassador Baatar described the relationship as "not so friendly." He said Mongolia is sandwiched between two big countries, China and Russia, so it is in Mongolia's interest to see a positive state of relations between the US and Russia. He said there are many issues, such as Syria and Iran, where there may be disagreement, but he believes the leaders – President Putin and President Obama -- are skilled and experienced statesmen who will find common language and common ground and not endanger world security.
Mr. de Borchgrave expressed concern about Russia's willingness to stand up for Syria and Iran, despite the perception by the West that it represents a destabilizing force. Russia maintains close military and commercial ties with Iran. De Borchgrave said China has been moving smartly all over the developing world. China has broken ground and taken over the economic future of a country, the Bahamas, whose nearest island to the US mainland is Bimini, only 50 miles away. The number of Chinese workers abroad in projects underwritten by China was estimated at 3.5 million in 2005. It is now 5.8 million. In Africa, there are about 1 million Chinese laborers, businessmen, and miscellaneous "temporary residents." China's on-site workers get free room and board and each sends home an average of $1,000 a month, for an estimated total of US$70 billion in 2009 alone. China is getting far more worldwide influence from its sovereign investment fund than the United States got from a $1 trillion war in Iraq and a half-trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan. With the interest on the money the United States owes China -- $1.3 trillion in trade debt -- the Chinese are winning friends and influencing people at breakneck speed. Mr. de Borchgrave pointed out that China clearly sees a permanent foothold in the Caribbean in its geopolitical future. The US Embassy in Barbados is responsible for half a dozen island nations -- Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe/Martinique, St. Kitts -- where the United States has no diplomatic representation. China has an ambassador or a consul in seven of them; the United States not one. Meanwhile, the US (Voice of America) and Great Britain (BBC) are losing their global voices, victims of drastic budget cuts, while China's voice is gaining strength daily. Among the recent outreach of the world's most populous nation: a new broadcasting center now going up on Times Square in New York, part of a $7 billion investment in "global propaganda," reported The Wall Street Journal.
The US is planning the withdrawal from Afghanistan through the northern distribution network, according to the moderator, and apparently the US is talking to the military leaders of the Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan about leaving behind military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and Humvees worth millions of dollars. This is important because it is shaping up as another issue of contention between the United States and Russia. Russia does not like the fact that the United States is going to transfer so much military equipment and armaments to regimes that traditionally depend on Russian arms sales and are part of Russia's sphere of interest.
What are the major problems and challenges in the US-Russian relationship that prevent it from going forward? In your opinion, how can these problems be solved? What are the positive factors, elements, forces, and narratives in the bilateral relationship that one can build on to improve the overall atmosphere and bilateral cooperation?
James G. Jatras, a former senior policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership, who previously served on the Soviet Union desk at the US State Department, said that during the Cold War, America tried to deal with the Soviets as "if we were dealing with a normal, rational, nationally minded state, which of course, we weren't; we were dealing with Communists who had an ideological component that simply was not reconcilable" with US interests. Mr. Jatras added that since the end of the Cold War, the same dynamic is at play, but in reverse. America appears to have adopted an ideological mindset that it must be the vanguard and arbiter of what is right for the world. He stated, "As long as the United States maintains this irrational hostility toward Russia, and maintains the notion that we have to run everything on the planet, then there will continue to be tension between the superpowers."
A senior Russian official told the moderator that he is concerned that China is growing so fast that the gap will become unbridgeable in 10 years. Russia would like to use the remaining time during this window of opportunity to institutionalize Chinese international behavior. Meanwhile, one of the biggest worries of the Chinese is that the Russians will share information with the Americans and bring Americans into those institutional arrangements which up until now have been closed to them.
Ralph E. Winnie, Director, Global Business Development and the Eurasian Business Coalition's China Program, Eurasia Center, said Russia's economy has been unworkable due to the interrelation of organized crime and political leaders and nationalization of foreign businesses. "The Russians are looking for successful business models but which allow them to retain power."
Winnie said President Putin is very popular in China. His strong leadership style is creating popular support among the Chinese who are pushing for closer ties. The one thing that the Chinese don't like is to be told how they should do things. They don't want to be taken advantage of by the West.
Mr. de Borchgrave argued that the problem is compounded because the "US Congress is a totally dysfunctional system," so the US public is turning inward. It represents a trend of which the Russians and Chinese have taken notice.
During the recent G-20 Summit held in Los Cabos, Mexico, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda presented an Akita dog to President Putin. He is trying to ingratiate himself with Putin, according to the moderator. The Japanese have their own interests and believe that Putin is the man to resolve territorial disputes in their favor. Were the other leaders of the countries like China, Japan, and the European nations wanting to develop good relationships with the Russian leader? Do they see something we don't see here about the lack of personal chemistry between Putin and Obama? To what extent does it really hurt the relationship?
Dr. Betancourt said there's a breakdown of the system and we have witnessed this for the 30 years or so and it's getting worse. The dynamic of diplomatic dialogue has been broken where you let the adversary, person, group, or country speak and you respect the adversaries even though you may not agree with their opinions. Instead, he said, we tend to demonize the opposition, and the moment that happens, whether domestically or internationally, with a Saddam Hussein or a Kim Jong Il, then you no longer have dialogue. You cannot have a dialogue with demons. You have no one to negotiate with.
Mr. Winnie said most Americans don't realize that Putin has a very close relationship with the Chinese leadership, having met his Chinese counterparts on many occasions. China is Russia's largest trade partner. "The US has to get on the ball and recognize that the China-Russia relationship is only going to grow, and the more we criticize Russia the more likely it is going to move toward a closer relationship with the Chinese." The first oil pipeline linking the world's biggest oil producer, Russia, and the world's biggest consumer of energy, China, has begun operating. The pipeline, running between Siberia and northeastern China, will allow a rapid increase in oil exports between the two countries. Until now, Russian oil has been transported to China by rail. Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer in 2009, and China has surpassed the US as the world's largest consumer of energy.
Mr. Winnie said the warning signs are there for all to see. "It is in the best interest of the US to cultivate close relationships with both Russia and China and to put aside whatever misconceptions and stereotypes we may have about the countries and really try and forge the close personal relationship that is necessary to get things accomplished."
H.E. Al Maamoun Keita, Ambassador, Embassy of Mali, and former Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, said a "Cold War is impossible to go back to." There are differences of economic strategy and security, but Russian-US collaboration will prevail, the ambassador said. It is the job of diplomats to find a framework to collaborate.
Mongolian Ambassador Baatar said the relationship between the US and Russia will change if Obama wins the presidential election for another four years. "The personal relations will surely change because the leaders of these two different countries will find some common language or friendly attitude, but the changes will be slow in coming."
Dr. Lori Handrahan, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University, praised Ambassador Baatar. "You're the smartest person in the room when it comes to balancing the powers of Russia and China because Mongolia has managed to maintain sovereignty when both powers have wanted to take you over."
Baatar said Mongolia declared independence from China in 1921 and from the Soviet Union in 1990. The ambassador was the author of the "third neighbor policy," by which a small country sandwiched between two big countries could stand upright and build relationships with countries other than Russia and China. Mongolia is dependent on Russia for 100 percent of its oil supply and 90 percent of most other goods. The ambassador said they are looking to develop new outlets with other Asian-Pacific nations. It is important, said the ambassador, for Mongolia to find and nurture common ground with its neighbors and to appreciate the common challenges they face in the region.
The Russian Ministry of Finance last year forgave 90 percent of Soviet-era North Korean debt, over $10 billion. This write-off goes against the US policy preference on the Korean Peninsula. The US would prefer to keep it as leverage against North Korea and at best put it on the table at the Six-Party Talks.
What do you find particularly threatening and/or promising in Russian foreign policy behavior? What should the US do to thwart the threatening elements and encourage the positive elements in Moscow's external behavior? How would you define the limits in the US-Russian partnership in foreign affairs? What can be done to further expand these limits of US-Russian cooperation in bilateral relations and global affairs?
Dr. Handrahan said what's happening in Syria deserves our attention. Innocent children and women are being slaughtered. It is very disturbing that President Obama and President Putin signed a joint statement that the Syrian people should independently and democratically be allowed to decide their own future, yet both nations seem to be pursuing diametrically opposite courses of action. "How can the President who won the Nobel Peace Prize cooperate with the leading supplier of arms to Syrian President Bashad al-Assad, who is killing his own people?"
Do you see any chance of Washington and Moscow reconciling their positions on Syria, or are we headed for a head-on confrontation on Syria between the United States and Russia with the US basically arming the Syrian freedom fighters and the Russians supporting the government.
Dr. Betancourt said there must be workable and diplomatic dialogue and the two superpowers should use their expertise to work toward a negotiated solution; in other words, an exit for the Syrian regime in which everyone wins. "Part of the problem is that our government is acting in a dysfunctional manner," he said. "American democracy and American enterprise are now intertwined; you don't know who is talking in terms of human rights, human values, the rights of women, the rights of children and minorities. American enterprise is heavily intertwined by the so-called military-industrial complex."
Vicki Phelps, former editor, The World and I, raised the issue of trust. "Can we really trust the Russians? Can they really play a role in bringing us together? What is their motivation?"
Dr. Handrahan agreed and said: "You cannot have diplomacy with someone who is not an honest broker. Diplomacy is based on honesty, and I don't believe we are dealing with an honest broker."
The moderator turned the question around and asked: "Is America an honest broker?" Mr. Winnie said each country has its own national interests and promotes its own national issues. How do you get your point across and at the same time promote respect for the other side, which may have a different view?
Mr. de Borchgrave pointed out that during this period before the US presidential elections, neither candidate will dare to criticize Israel for fear of upsetting the pro-Israel voting bloc. He compared Iran to Vietnam. Despite the violent history, Vietnam has been accepted by the US and the international community; Mr. de Borchgrave asked why Iran can't be seen in this light?
Mr. Jatras doesn't see much difference ideologically between the liberal and the conservative interventionists. He doesn't believe President Obama is enthusiastic about new foreign interventions but predicted that a President Romney would follow a foreign policy similar to George W. Bush's.
Diane Falk questioned the value of the United Nations in bringing about a peace plan, particularly to protect museums and libraries in war-torn regions.
Dr. Handrahan said the UN doesn't have any power; it is a collective, voluntary organization of member nation-states so it has to rely on its members to do anything and that's the problem of the Security Council because each of the five powers has a veto. UNESCO is a UN program that works in the area of culture and arts. By and large they do a very good job, even when nations don't get along, so it shows that the arts can be a very important part of the message.
Ambassador Baatar pointed out that the UN is not a unilateral organization; it's a place for the nations to find a common language. "I was at the United Nations when Colin Powell declared that Iraq had nuclear weapons." The UN Security Council did not get involved, and instead there was an invasion that was unlawful from the point of view of the United Nations.
The moderator said the point of the UN is to give legitimacy to the action, and with a UN resolution there is a stamp of moral and legal legitimacy.
Baatar said there is a double standard operating today. Every country has the right to build nuclear plants if the sole purpose is energy production and not weaponry. We don't know yet if Iran is producing nuclear weapons, so it is a very dangerous view to say it's acceptable to destroy its nuclear facilities. Yet no one talks about taking such an action against North Korea, which publicly has declared it is building nuclear weapons. We do not have the right to bombard a sovereign country. This is an international principle. "Why do these countries shut their eyes toward Pakistan, for example? I do not share the view that the Iranian nuclear facility should be destroyed."
Dr. Betancourt said we should not forget that from the very beginning nuclear weapons development was carried out in secrecy, beginning with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Developments have never been transparent and have not been for peaceful purposes but, with few exceptions, for the purpose of creating lethal weapons.
Konstantin Krylov, Assistant Secretary-General, Universal Peace Federation-Eurasia, shared about the difficulty of operating an NGO in Russia. Before traveling to the US, he was interviewed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about his purpose and finances. It is important to remember, he said, that the history of American democracy is 300 years old, while the history of democracy in Russia is barely 30 years old. It would be interesting to compare where America was 30 years after its founding, especially if we remember that slavery was still institutionalized at that time in American society. Russia and America are not alike in many senses, but in the long term they are like brothers.
Mr. Krylov also pointed out that there is a degree of anti-American sentiment in Russia. The two nations don't know each other that well. "I think in the short term," said Mr. Krylov, "there will always be questionable periods and misunderstandings, but in the long run, Russia and United States will be allies. Our task as an NGO is to promote internationalism. A modern Russian is far more self-sufficient than the previous generation; he travels extensively and is likely to be multi-lingual. In a couple of generations, the United States and Russia will be not just allies but friends."
The moderator asked if there are promising signs either in Russian domestic politics or foreign policy that can be built upon to develop a better relationship. Mr. Winnie said that he works with young Russian entrepreneurs who come to the United States to find business partners and helps them appreciate the capitalist system and how they can grow and develop their businesses in Russia through the use of American partners. In this professional relationship he sees very strong signals that things are moving in the right direction. "I think that Americans have to focus on developing better people-to-people relationships that can continue to move forward."
Tomiko Duggan, Director of UPF's Office of Embassy Relations in Washington, DC, asked whether the US feels a sense of cooperation or confrontation with Russia, Mr. Jatras said it's important for the US to change its attitude toward Russia and the rest of the world and find ways to reciprocate rather than dictate policy.
Ms. Lizzie Shaxuan Shan, a graduate student from Yale University, expressed a positive view about the young generation, thanks to technological advances beginning with the Internet, which has the power to share information and build instant informal networks. This level of communication was not available to previous generations. A more open-minded approach can wear away stereotypical thinking.
The moderator asked how we can reset the "reset" to move the US-Russian relationship in a more positive, fruitful direction. What needs to be done to reset this reset? Should we just abandon it altogether and come up with a new slogan and under that new slogan try to rebuild trust?
Mr. de Borchgrave said the biggest problem is the dysfunctional US Congress; therefore, any reset will not happen in the foreseeable future and certainly not before the US presidential elections.
While acknowledging that there is some anti-American sentiment in Russia because it is a useful tool for some people to promote their agendas, the moderator said, "Russians love American culture, whether it's McDonald's or Microsoft or Apple. Everybody has an Apple device and prefers American cars to Japanese or German cars. The legacy of US-Russian relations is long. The US was one of the first countries to recognize the Bolsheviks. We were allies during the Second World War. Russia has not reconciled with Germany; over 30 million Russians were killed on the Eastern Front in the war against Germany. On the other hand, Russia has strong emotional ties with America."
Ambassador Baatar said he studied in Moscow for five years. He pointed out that Western European and American leaders mistakenly believe Russia is European; but in fact, Russia is a Eurasian country, so a different cultural lens should be used to understand them. Their character is different. They don't like to follow others. They want to be themselves and stand upright to protect their own national interests. We should recognize the attitudes of the Russian people and why they admire strong leadership.
In closing, a tally was taken of the participants: the majority felt that the relationship between Russia and the US is basically solid and that we will remain close allies for the foreseeable future. Russia most definitely must play a role in maintaining stability in Eurasia and the Far East, but it is the hope that it will be in conjunction with the US.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following addenda are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UPF.
During US President Obama's recent trip to the People's Republic of China, he strongly urged China to strengthen its currency as tensions have escalated between the US and China over exchange rates. While both President Hu Jintao and President Obama agreed to work together on pressing international issues, Obama has joined many world leaders in calling on China to allow its currency, the reminbi, to appreciate. Obama contends that the currency is undervalued and damages US exports. Interestingly enough, the Russian Federation has been quiet on this matter.
The People's Republic of China has become a major economic player in the world community. As China continues to grow, Russia views the situation as more of an opportunity than a threat. China has been successful in actively promoting joint venture partnerships with profitable Western companies. Currently, Russia lacks the ability to effectively integrate new technologies into the fabric of its economy.
The Russian government recognizes that the key to developing a robust and stable economy is to push for strengthening relations with China. Russia is eager to understand how China has been able to rapidly absorb and utilize Western know-how and entrepreneurial business success and seeks to emulate China's relatively open economy. Privatized Chinese companies can now work together with Western companies to develop, refine, and control capitalism. By contrast, Russia's economy has been characterized as unstable, unmanageable, and unworkable. It has been alleged that this is due to the interrelation of organized crime with Russian political leaders and nationalization of successful foreign businesses.
Many members of the Russian politburo have strong ties with oil and natural gas companies seeking to increase and expand their presence in Asia. Many people associated with these firms are former high-ranking Russian military officers, including ex-KGB officials who were among the most professionally trained in the former USSR. These people seek out profitable joint venture business opportunities, thereby hoping to prevent the United States from dominating global affairs. According to recent studies, many Russians have responded favorably to increasing trade contacts and ties with China. Russians view the rise of China as the result of a more multi-polar world. While the Russian government wants to protect and defend Russia's sovereignty, they recognize that the Federation may be better protected through closer economic ties with China than with the West. Many Russians believe that the Chinese respect a country's internal affairs and don't seek to enforce the ideals of a "global society" on other sovereign nations. Moreover, President Hu Jintao echoed the Russian sentiment toward US policy when, during a recent meeting with President Obama in Beijing, Hu mentioned, "We will continue to act in a spirit of equality, mutual respect, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs."
China is already Russia's largest trading partner and its second largest export market. Leaders of both China and Russia have set a trade target of US$100 billion by 2015 and US$200 billion by 2020. Despite the European debt crisis, China-Russia trade surged by 42.7 percent from 2010 to US$79.25 billion in 2011, which, according to the General Administration of Customs in China, outperformed the growth of 22.5 percent for China's foreign trade during the same period.
Furthermore, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, since Russia and China signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Co-Operation in 2001, the two countries have witnessed many breakthroughs in the development of their relations, which have reached unprecedented levels. Some of these achievements include settlement of border issues, $80 billion in bilateral trade in 2011, strategic cooperation in energy (oil and gas), the recent launch of a reciprocal cultural exchange agreement called National Years of Language Cross Cultural Exchange Program, and close coordination in international affairs. On the political front, both China and Russia have agreed to continue enhancing mutual trust, promoting high-level exchanges, and providing mutual support to safeguard their own sovereignty, state unity, and territorial integrity. On the economic front, China and Russia are working on the establishment of a Sino-Russian investment fund with the initial capital of US$1 billion expected to begin operation during the second quarter.
The state visit of newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin was of great importance for the future of the Chinese-Russian economic and political relationship. Putin is relatively popular in China, and many Chinese consider themselves "Putin fans." Furthermore, Putin is quite familiar with the Chinese economic model and has close personal relations with Chinese leaders, having met his Chinese counterparts on many previous occasions in both bilateral and multilateral formats. Putin must continue his friendly diplomacy in China to convince Chinese leaders that Russia, a large energy exporter, has largely recovered from the global recession and that the Russian economy has greatly benefited from the increase in the price of oil. This issue has been reviewed by many Chinese scholars such as the renowned Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, who supports President Putin's assertion.
Consequently, in Putin's short inauguration speech, he referenced Russia's determination to strongly promote economic development along the Chinese-Russian border, which has risen drastically over the past decade due to China's rapid economic development. Compared to Russia's European region, development in its Far East has been limited. As China's economy is on the rise, more and more Russians are realizing the enormous economic opportunities along the border. For example, "Yuri" is the owner of a clothing store in Khabarovsk which borders China. It usually takes about two hours by boat for the local residents to go from one of the largest cities in Russia's Far Eastern region to the Chinese county of Fuyuan, which is on the border. According to "Yuri," at one time the variety of goods offered was much more limited in Russia, so he and a friend decided to start a business. Yuri bought the first shipment and sold the items via the Internet. What started as a trial run turned out to be a success, and now "Yuri" goes to Harbin to make purchases at least once a month. Like "Yuri," there are now many Russians who travel to the Chinese side of the border for business every day, due to a special program set up by China and Russia to coordinate the development of Russia's Far East and China's northeastern regions.
While skeptics may point out that the commerce and business environment in the Far East may not be readily developed, with infrastructure lagging behind and the natural environment being quite severe, the Russian government is trying to make the necessary changes to create a better business climate for investors. This way more people like "Yuri" will be encouraged and inspired to set up businesses and prosper.
In short, China has what the Russians do not have in the Far East, human resources and technology. Conversely, Russia has what China does not have, and that is natural resources. The leaders of China and Russia recognize that strengthening their comprehensive strategic partnership will allow both countries to share these natural resources and create a win-win situation for both countries with frequent high-level exchanges further facilitating strong economic ties between China and Russia.
In conclusion, a realistic estimate by the leaders of China and Russia regarding the other side's capabilities, a desire to implement projects that produce tangible benefits to both sides, and a recognition that the future of Chinese-Russian economic relations will be based on common development and pragmatic cooperation serves to enhance the reputation of both countries as strategic economic players in the world community.
The questions that concern US-Russia security cooperation in Northeast Asia are not unique to that region. In fact, Northeast Asia is an area where issues between Washington and Moscow are somewhat less contentious than they are elsewhere. Rather, the larger backdrop for this discussion is the peculiar ideological approach to the outside world the US developed during the post-Cold War period, of which our hostility to Russia is a subset.
That approach is based on the notion that the historic "mission" of the United States is to establish and maintain its position as the global "hyperpower" and "vanguard of all progressive humanity," in the service of promoting "democratic change." As such, we cannot tolerate any obstacle from any other country. All other states, and mainly Russia as the only other comparable military power on the planet, can be seen only as satellites or enemies. Since Russia under Mr. Putin is no longer the satellite it was under Mr. Yeltsin, it must be an enemy. (China presents a similar problem for Washington, but one that demands a different approach because of its role in our economy.)
A corollary to this ideological worldview is the proliferation of "wars of choice." These include not only Iraq and Afghanistan, but so-called "humanitarian interventions" under the extralegal "responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine. The showcase for this was the 1999 Kosovo war, replicated to some degree in Libya, and has now returned, front and center, on the question of Syria. In each case, Washington's claimed "right" to dictate to Moscow set the tone.
As in Kosovo, as well as in other trouble spots, the US has adopted the Manichean notion that "the Syrian people" are pitted against the "dictatorial regime, which is killing its own citizens." Nothing is said about the character of the insurgents, who although armed and funded from the outside are merely "peaceful democratic protesters," with all violence coming from the government side. This is an exact analogy to the West's arming, training, and financing the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the late 1990s. An armed wing of the Albanian mafia, with support not only from the West but from Iran and al-Qaeda, the KLA launched attacks against Yugoslav government targets (police, military) and murdered people of all nationalities (including Albanian "collaborators," such as postmen and forest rangers) to provoke a predictable counterterrorism effort from Belgrade – which then could be depicted as "attacks on peaceful civilians." It's no mystery that current news reports point to elements of the "Free Syrian Army" receiving training today in Kosovo, to learn not how to win a war – about which the KLA terrorists know nothing – but how to engineer the right kind of incident to justify intervention by NATO (especially the US and Turkey), supported by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. If successful, the outcome is predictable: the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power – with a horrendous massacre of Alawites, Christians, Shiites, secular Sunnis, and others – and Russia humiliated. (In Syria, as in Kosovo, the US finds itself curiously allied with radical Sunni, even Wahhabist elements – like those who afflict Russia internally in the Caucasus – to the detriment of local Christians. Few tears would be shed in Washington for Syria's Christians, mostly Orthodox. Who in Washington cares about the Orthodox Christians of Kosovo or the mostly Catholic Christians of Iraq?
On April 24, 2012, I tweeted a heads-up for a made-to-order atrocity in Syria to serve as a "trigger" on a par with "Serbian marketplace mortar-bombings" in Bosnia, the "Racak massacre" in Kosovo, the "Benghazi humanitarian crisis" in Libya – and a few weeks later we had the "Houla massacre," right on cue. Immediately, before the bodies were even cold, US officials were pointing accusing fingers at Damascus, and as in Racak (the details of which are still unclear, 13 years later), who can be bothered to go back and find out who really killed whom? US policy, in concert with our European NATO allies, the neo-Ottoman Erdogan regime in Ankara, and our Jeffersonian democratic friends in Riyadh, has shown a dogged determination to stick with "Plan A": keep our jihadist buddies pumped with arms and money and wait for "bad stuff" to happen. In the event, since Houla didn't pass muster as a trigger, Washington will keep trying – perhaps eventually another, even more horrific, future atrocity will. Either Russia (with China following suit) will succumb to the pressure to dump Bashar al-Assad and work out a "deal" – and get stung, like on Libya – or an excuse will be found to bypass the Security Council via the Kosovo and Iraq "coalition of the willing" route.
Moreover, Syria offers an advantage these other splendid little wars didn't: a border with a NATO country. Syria's violence already has slopped into Lebanon. All that is needed is a plausible encroachment into Turkey, and Ankara can invoke Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty for "defense of a NATO member's territory" against "Syrian aggression." Since NATO is a "collective self-defense organization" under the UN Charter, the war then would be ipso facto "legal"! The recent Syrian shootdown of a Turkish fighter might not have made the grade, but there will surely be other opportunities.
As in Kosovo (where NATO violated not only the UN Charter and the US Constitution by embarking on war after Congress had voted down the resolution of authorization, and then in 2008 violated UNSC Resolution 1244 guaranteeing Kosovo's status as part of Serbia) and Libya (where NATO turned a nuanced UNSC resolution for protection of civilians into a license for "regime change"), for Washington, humiliating Russia yet again is not just a potential bonus but a prime goal of "winning" in Syria. It remains to be seen whether Moscow will (again) allow itself to be circumvented or tricked, or whether it will steel itself to give full support for the admittedly imperfect Baathist government in Damascus. At stake is not just Syria's future or the stability of the Middle East – which is increasingly assuming a disquieting pre-1914 aspect, an abundance of gasoline soaking the region, and Washington gleefully flicking matches. Worse, with deepening tensions between Washington and Moscow, the last remnants of the rule of law and restraint in international affairs are melting away.
By Dr. William Selig, Deputy Director, Peace and Security Affairs, DC Office, UPF International.