Russia and the WestAre a World Apart

By Vasily Likhachev

President Dmitry Medvedev’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is completely justified and logical. He made this decision to fulfill Russia’s international political and legal obligations, achieve stability in the region, halt Georgia’s military escalation, and address the humanitarian catastrophe in the conflict zones in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That step was legal and correct from every perspective — historical, political, economic, legal and humanitarian. The main consideration has been to respond to the will of the people in those republics.

For many years, our leaders participated in negotiations between those territories and top officials in Tbilisi, relying on our own diplomats as well as those from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. But the events in August — Georgia’s aggression and U.S. geopolitical expansion in the Caucasus — forced Russia to take appropriate and necessary measures. The Kremlin was the first to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia within the framework of international law.

It is only a matter of time before more countries follow suit. For now, however, the reaction of the international community to Russia’s actions has been reserved at best and excessively critical at worst. Have purely political goals played any role in these responses? What could be the motives behind this attack aimed at the Kremlin? We see that the accusatory voices come from a broad array of NATO member states. The reactions have at times been biased, one-sided and seemingly Russophobic, but Russia will not tolerate attempts by the United States and its allies to constrain its foreign policy, nor will it allow the United States to encircle Russia with NATO members.

Russia’s policy is to defend fundamental values and actions based on the principles of international law. It was Russia that rescued the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian genocide.

When Medvedev recognized Abhkaz and South Ossetian independence, it was a big blow to U.S. global legal nihilism that Washington had practiced for so many years. Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia has proven to be a huge liability for the West because it showed President Mikheil Saakashvili’s true face and his warped definition of democracy. It seems that Washington reached a pragmatic conclusion on this issue, seeing a need to turn the situation around quickly with a nonconfrontational approach.

It is now crucial that the United States and Russia work together to develop a new, constructive partnership. That relationship cannot be held hostage to electoral ambitions and neoconservatives in the White House, who are largely responsible for President George W. Bush’s foreign policy and dream of dominating the world. It would be useful to hold talks to discuss the fate of the world and its values, with the participation of Russia, the United States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil and other countries. We need to establish mutual trust among all nations and actively safeguard and deepen that trust.

Now is the time for all states and peoples to consider creating a code of laws guiding the conduct of civilized states in the 21st century. Russia is already making its contribution to that process. One positive example is Medvedev’s proposal for a new EU-Russia security pact. All responsible nations should unite around this vital diplomatic initiative.

Vasily Likhachev, formerly Russia’s ambassador and permanent representative to the European Union in Brussels, is the deputy chairman of the International Affairs Committee in the Federation Council.

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