Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 13

Kozyrev aide pushes nationalist agenda

by Paul A. Goble

During a June 26 Federation Council discussion on Russian nationalsecurity, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s policyplanning staff laid out a frightening, even bizarre, vision ofwhere he thinks Russia should be going. His remarks were so unusualthat one Moscow newspaper–Kommersant-Daily–asked rhetoricallywhether they could be real or were simply the "exercisesof a philosopher." But because of Vadim Lukov’s access tothe ear of foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, his words need tobe considered carefully.

In his remarks, Lukov made five main points:

–First, Russia at the present time is "nothing but a civilizationin transition" and as a result, it lacks a carefully articulatedforeign policy. Given the massive changes in the world over thelast five years, that is not entirely surprising. But Lukov arguedthat Moscow, more than other world capitals, now approaches theinternational environment in a kind of a "Brownian motion"of random shifts and starts.

–Second, "the world is again becoming bipolar," Lukovsuggested, but "it is already clear that Russia constitutesneither of the two new poles." The multipolar world in whichMoscow had been operating since the collapse of the Soviet Unionis no more, and Russian policy makers have not figured out howto cope with the change. As a result, they are being marginalized,and the real players now are the US, Europe, and the Asian giantsof Japan and China.

–Third, with regard to its immediate neighbors, the former Sovietrepublics, Russia is compelled "to manifest its imperialambitions from time to time" because these strivings "arein its blood," Lukov said. Moscow has usually denounced anysuggestion that it is congenitally imperialistic; but here, asenior Russian official is openly both acknowledging and legitimizingthat idea.

–Fourth, Russia lacks a political elite which can cope withall these challenges. "In the United States, [the foreignpolicy elite] was formed on the basis of a financial oligarchyas transformed by democratic elections," Lukov said. "Russia’snew rich cannot become the ‘locomotive’ of national developmentbecause they have skipped the national stage of development andbecome part of a multinational oligarchy. And that won’t helpRussia."

–And fifth, Russia cannot follow a normal course of evolutionlike other countries. If it tries to, "it will catastrophicallyfall behind the leaders of the world and again cease to be a worldpower," Lukov suggested. Instead, Russia needs to definevery quickly a special form of existence –as it did under Sovietpower with the idea of "socialism in one country"–thatwill allow it to "unfold its existence" in the future.

In each case, Lukov’s ideas appear to be a pastiche of crudeSoviet-era Marxism and messianic Russian nationalism. Moreover,his proposed solution–Moscow must "take measures,"again unspecified–smacks of the past. As Kommersant-Dailynoted in its report of Lukov’s remarks, Lukov wants to "workout and to start implementing the idea of creating a ‘state ofa new type.’ Apparently in a test tube."

Had these remarks come from Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky,or appeared in the extremist newspaper Zavtra, they wouldhave been dismissed in the West as the ravings of an extremist.But because they come from a Kozyrev advisor, they are likelyto be discounted here as the foreign ministry’s concessions toa domestic audience, or as the idle speculations of one official,whose ideas other Russian officials have assured the West arenot the official "line." That is what happened withKozyrev’s opera bouffe speech in Stockholm in December 1992, andwhat happened more recently when Kozyrev said that Russia hadthe right to use military force to defend its co-ethnics–mostof whom are not even its citizens–in the former Soviet republics.

But such a Western reaction is dangerous in three respects. First, it discounts the extent to which Russian foreign policyis now driven by domestic concerns, by the passions and politicsof the Russian people and elites. If the foreign minister andhis aides feel they have to make concessions to the population,they are doing no more than Western leaders do when they articulateforeign policies in terms of domestic needs. Second, it failsto recognize that Kozyrev and his people may actually mean whatthey say, thus suggesting to the Russians that we do not takethem seriously, and thus only reinforcing the Russian sense thatthe West is patronizing them. And third, it removes an importantlever the West has had in Moscow: its ability to give or withholdmoral approbation for the Russian government’s actions. Not onlydoes Moscow care deeply about what the West thinks–it is almostobsessive about that even if it goes ahead and does what it wants–butby failing to say anything about outbursts like Lukov’s, the Westleads many in the Russian capital to believe that we do not disagreewith such formulations.

If Kozyrev wants to be taken seriously in Western capitals, heshould fire Lukov. If he doesn’t, the West should take seriouslywhat Lukov and his boss are saying. Paul Goble is the Editor-in-Chief of the Monitor and Prism