Europe-Russia-America: Determining Factors of Cooperation in the 21st Century

Report Europe

Europe-Russia-America: Determining Factors of Cooperation in the 21st Century

September 10, 2002 11 min read
Ariel Cohen
Ariel Cohen
Director, CENRG and Senior Fellow, IAGS
Ariel served as the Director of the CENRG and Senior Fellow for IAGS

Does the Mission Define the Coalition?

Presentation to the Deutsch-Russische Forum, Berlin, September 9-10, 2002

War goals
The first anniversary of 9/11 attack. A good time to take stock of where we are and where should we go. We should be going there together, regardless of what appeasers, isolationists and anti-globalists may say. Because in this war, we are together.


The attack on the U.S. on 9/11 was not a terrorist act per se. It was an attempt of a militant ideology of radical Islam to strike at the heart of a hostile civilization. The threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction affects millions of people in the Middle East and beyond. As such, these threats are much greater than those posed by Slobodan Milosevic. Then, our European allies supported the use of force. Today, when we are facing the greatest threat since World War Two, some of them oppose it.

The war aims of the United States are to protect itself - and the world - from further attacks and eventually to defeat the attackers. The goal is to defeat terrorism, which targets our men, women and children. To defeat those who justify murder in the name of their ideology. To prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction which Hitler craved so much -- and Saddam still does.

We have been through this twice before in the 20th century, with communism and Nazism. Berlin is the right place to talk about this - both because of the Nazi past, and because of the 50 year long division caused by the communists. People who hate freedom need to be stopped. Utterly. But the debate on how to defeat terrorists has been replaced by a debate about why they hate us, and why do they do what they do. Is it due to educational deprivation, psychological trauma, or economic misfortune.

We are all at risk, Americans and Europeans. Media has revealed intelligence captured in Al Qaeda safe houses that the organization planned to crash planes into the Eiffel tower, the Houses of the Parliament and other targets in Europe. They planned to assassinate the Pope. And they used infrastructure in London and Hamburg, as well as safe houses in Spain and elsewhere in Europe to achieve their goals. So, it is Europe's war, too.

The war on terrorism will require destroying the terrorist manpower, their command-and-control; their infrastructure, their sources of funding, and the states or regimes that harbor them. It will require neutralizing the ideological infrastructure, which supports them - the madrasse, the radical mullahs, and the venom-spewing media. It will also require taking weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from the hands of dictators.

Thus, this is also a war to make the world safe from the regime of Saddam Hussein and his doomsday arsenal. Saddam has attempted twice to emerge as a dominant power in the Gulf. First, when he attacked Iran in 1982, and the second time, when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. Both times he failed because he did not have weapons of mass destruction. But if he has ICBMs pointed at Western Europe and the United States, we will not be able to stop him the third time.

Western Europe, Russia and the U.S. are interested in stable and sustainable oil prices. If the prices go too high, the world slumps into a recession and investment into Russia will not be forthcoming. Saddam, if left unchecked, will develop weapons of mass destruction further, including delivery systems capable of reaching our countries. He will cause a much graver conflict. And he may drive oil prices as high as $50-60, triggering an severe economic slowdown.  Thus, cooperation in the fight against Saddam serves our common interests and should be pursued cooperatively, with Western Europe, Turkey and Russia cooperating with the U.S.

What this is not about

High-level politicians, businessmen and foreign policy experts in Europe repeatedly told me  that this is "America's War." "We were not attacked," they said.  It is all about America's unilateralism; neo-imperialism; crudeness; Texan bravado. 

Russian analysts told me that this is about oil; this is about carving a new sphere of influence for the U.S. in the Middle East and Central Asia. This is about deterring China. No it is not. None of the above.

U.S. can buy all oil it needs. From the Middle East, from Latin America, from Africa, from Russia and the Caspian.

And it had friends throughout the Middle East - the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and Moroccans.  U.S. could have had these friends. Or it could abandon them, and have less headaches. After all, isn't it what Mr. Bin Laden actually wants? That the US abandons the Saudis so he gets the control over the Gulf oil and its cash flow.

The monarchy is weak. The rumblings are many and loud. The forces of Wahhabi militancy and of Muslim Brotherhood are on the rise. And with the cash flow from that oil, he, bin Laden could achieve much more than he already did, couldn't he?

And the U.S. does not need a new "sphere of influence in Central Asia." What is there to influence? There is no oil in Kyrgyzstan - it is thousands of kilometers to the East - in the Caspian. If the US wanted military bases to protect the potential oil flow, it should have put one on the Absheron peninsula in the Caspian, not in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, and not in Tajikistan. And China is just too far. The main concentration of the Chinese military is facing Taiwan and the South China Sea - to far to reach from Kyrgyzstan.

Yet, after it was attacked, the U.S. decided to stand up and fight. This is what Americans do when they are attacked. This is what the Russians do. I hope that is what the Europeans may learn how to do if God forbid there is a radical Islamist terrorist attack against European civilians.

Let's not forget. More American civilians were murdered on 9/11 than American soldiers killed in Pearl Harbor 61 years ago. America cannot and will not sit still. Nor it should. And those who share values of freedom - freedom for men and women; freedom of religion; freedom of political expression; freedom of movement and freedom of economic activity, should stand by America.

Blurring the lines: When coalition destroys the mission. 

Some in Europe are skeptical of America's commitment to the war on terrorism. And I wonder - is this because Europe's sense of weakness, as some have suggested, or is it because Europe which is coming together, Europe which is uniting, which is evolving into a super-state, is defining itself in opposition to something? Not to radical Islam, but to its peer competitor, the United States?

Is America's power is envied and feared? Is this what is driving the terms like "hyperpuissance," "l'imperialisme Americaine culturelle," etc? Is this what is behind the incessant attacks on American "junk" culture - from McDonald's to Disney to Hollywood?  I hear similar sentiments in Russia, but this does not make the lines before U.S. Embassy there shorter. And even if we are economic competitors, does this mean there is no radical Islamic terrorist threat to Europe and to Russia? Of course there is. Just look at the pictures of Russian women and children blown up to smithereens in Budennovsk and Kaspiisk by those who collected money world over for a "jihad" in Chechnya.

U.S.-Russian achievements. Since 9/11 Russia has proven to be a cooperative partner for the U.S. It allowed U.S. military overflight rights to Central Asia to resupply the Northern Alliance. It shared intelligence and provided arms to the forces that defeated Taliban; it recognized the necessity to bring to closure a Treaty from an era long gone, a Treaty with the country which no longer existed. I am talking about the ABM Treaty. President Putin expressed strongly his desire to be part of the West in the fight against terrorism. And Russia is becoming a major player to provide security to the world energy markets. We welcomed that.

U.S.-Russian outlook
The potential for the U.S.-Russian cooperation is huge. Russia is bordering Central Asia, has a border with North Korea and is close to Iran and Iraq, the two countries President Bush defined as parts of the Axis of Evil.

However, in the last couple of months, Russia announced that it will sign a $40 billion economic agreement with Iraq, declared that it will sell five nuclear reactors to Iran, and President Putin hosted Kim Jung Il.

The window of opportunity for the U.S. to develop a closer relationship with Moscow has not closed - at least not yet. But there are warning signs that America's inability to deliver the goods for Putin - combined with the anti-Americanism of many of Russia's ministers and bureaucrats - could derail the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

We have seen this with recent agreements signed with Iraq on trade, with Iran on five nuclear reactors, with China on arms. Pavel Felgengauer, a well-known independent analyst, said recently that it is not clear which Russian foreign policy is served by the recently announced agreement: that of President Putin, or that of LUKoil; as he put it: "We have several foreign policies." Other Moscow-based analysts, who asked not to be identified, believe that as far as the Iraq business is concerned, LUKoil was engaged in business and lobbying practices that we would call "opaque." Others were almost proud that private interests now influence Russian foreign policy - just like in any other state. "It is safer that companies influence our decision making. In the past it was all done behind the closed doors of the Politburo," said one observer.

The problem of articulating the new Russian foreign and defense policy is not new, however, and has long worried Putin's advisers in Moscow as well as Russia watchers in Washington.  When Bush and Putin seemed to have hit it off, the bureaucrats were not thrilled.

The anti-American and pro-Arab opinions of Soviet-era spies and diplomats such as ex-prime minister Evgeny Primakov, are nothing new. Some in the Putin's inner circle may not trust them, but they also have not been replaced, as Putin is delaying a purge of the foreign ministry.

The ministry of defense is now under the leadership of Putin's confidante, ex-KGB general Sergey Ivanov. Ivanov is Russia's first "civilian" defense minister, but reforms have been slow in coming.

Today, the question is whether Putin's foreign policy is being hijacked by companies and by the Soviet-era, anti-American elite. The figures certainly do not add up. If Russian-Iraqi trade now stands at about $1 billion a year, it would need to quadruple in order to meet that $40 billion mark during the ten-year period. This is simply not going to happen. But the astronomical figure may, however, be a signal to Washington that Russia wants to be compensated if Saddam is removed. At the recent G-8 summit, Putin told Bush that Moscow will shed no tears over Saddam provided Iraq repays the Soviet-era $7 billion debt formerly owed to the U.S.S.R. Adjusted for inflation, today Iraq's debt comes to about $12 billion. Moreover, if Russia loses the oil concessions that have been signed off by Saddam, and if oil prices go down as Iraq starts to pump more oil to pay for postwar reconstruction, Moscow will lose some of its oil-export revenues - perhaps as much as $4 billion a year.

As far as cooperation with rogue states is concerned, it should be our common concern. The huge Iranian nuclear contract was lobbied for by MinAtom, the Soviet-era nuclear ministry, which is trying to keep factories with tens of thousands of jobs afloat. MinAtom's bureaucrats are not exactly Yankee fans. True, in the long term, a nuclear-armed Iran on Russia's borders would make for a difficult neighbor. Tehran could stir up unrest in the Muslim areas of the Caucasus and in Central Asia. But it's short-term greed - and millions of dollars in bribes - that are keeping the Iranian contract on track despite America's loud protestations.

Finally, the take on North Korea in Moscow is that the former satellite is finally coming to its economic senses, and may provide an opportunity for Russian companies. Russia does not want to lose a potential future market to China, Japan, South Korea - or to the U.S. - when the last business frontier opens up.

What we can accomplish together
U.S., EU and Russia have a large mutual agenda which can drive an ambitious list of trade and investment projects.  In the oil and gas sector, we are looking at $7-10 billion in infrastructure project, including pipeline and port development. Russia needs at least $30-40 billion in power grid and railroad modernization over five years. These large-scale projects, which can be only undertaken by joint ventures, possibly with some Russian government guarantees, will also require some International Financial Corporation (IFC) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) financing, as well as private funds.

Europe, just like the U.S. needs to diversify its energy sources. The EU is at advantage, as it can expand imports not just of Russian oil, but also of abundant and environmentally friendly Russian gas. A larger market share for Russian and Caspian oil and gas should be a target for EU energy policy, just like the U.S. is planning to expand imports of Russian oil.

Large-scale projects are also possible in the automotive, civilian and military aerospace, space exploration and commercial satellite launch sectors. We have complimentary needs and capabilities in all these areas.

Americans and Europeans should work together to assist Russia's entry to WTO. To achieve that, we need to make sure that the financial, insurance and banking sectors of Russia open up and become more transparent. Only with presence of American and European companies, with dissemination of Western expertise and know-how Russian can develop adequate financial infrastructure to absorb Western investment.

The EU should also gradually open its markets to Russian agricultural products. As Russian agriculture, including land, undergoes privatization, more agricultural products become available for exports. Competition from Russian farmers will benefit European consumers. Why, in perversion of a Leninist slogan of the worker-peasant solidarity, German workers should keep subsidizing French peasants?

Furthermore, development of economic ties with Russia requires liberalization of visa regime, including a possible compromise on Kaliningrad. It is inconceivable and unnecessary that Russian citizens will be only issued one-time short-term visa to travel from one part of Russia to another. Furthermore, Russian travel to Europe should be facilitated; The EU should not make Russians feel as second class Europeans.

This is what the recent policy shift seems to be all about. The message of Putin's advisers is that they're willing to negotiate to address American security concerns, despite opposition from some old school circles. Both the Kremlin and the White House should seriously explore that window of opportunity to forge a strategic relationship. Russia needs to understand that it can't entertain Iran and Iraq and still be considered a legitimate partner in the antiterrorism effort. And the Washington should give Russia's economic interests a fair hearing, without compromising U.S. defense concerns.

In the 21st century, it's as about geo-economics as about geopolitics. But it also about our common struggle against a dangerous and lethal enemy. We are all in it together. We are either going to hang together, or we are going to hang separately.


Ariel Cohen
Ariel Cohen

Director, CENRG and Senior Fellow, IAGS