A Way Forward for the U.S. and Russia

Examining the forces in play.

When meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in October, Henry Kissinger mentioned with his characteristic humor that after trips to Russia he brings the Russian point of view to the American leadership, but that in the United States such information does not always help him. This is unfortunate. For Kissinger has much to offer Americans when it comes to Russia.

In the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy where Dr. Kissinger was awarded an honorary doctorate, the maitre of diplomacy gave a lecture on his favorite topic—the World Order. Paying tribute to the Westphalian system as the basis of international relations, he stressed the need to preserve its principles in the present context that was practically a call for sovereignty and sovereign equality of national states in twenty-first century. Silence reigned in the auditorium of the Academy—to hear this from an American was an unusual thing. He went further—referring to today's close organic global relationships all over the world in all spheres of life, he suggested that each state should retain its national character, remember its history—of course, all this should be in constructive terms, taking into account the balance of interests and cultures of other countries. But even that was not all—pronouncing at the beginning of the lecture the word "exceptional,” Kissinger subtly smiled and at the end of the lecture said that the United States, Russia and China must not represent a threat for each other—with the coming of the new era and the new challenges they should reassess their capabilities and global role and work together for their shared goals. Take that: the world is neither unipolar, nor multipolar with the United States-Russia-China triangle adapted to the present times in a neo-Westphalian world.

Despite the popularity of terms such as globalization or international community, the blunt fact remains that the appraisal of events or phenomena by major world powers are often seriously at odds with each other—and, respectively, their approaches to policy. The positives are obvious—the ongoing development of knowledge, technologies and world trade, the growing multifaceted links between states and peoples, the extensive spread of reliable information, the enhanced influence of the rejection of force in policy decisions in conflict resolution—and much more.

However, the existential threats to mankind have become global, and the matter is not just military threats, wars and armaments. Militant supporters of the "new world," to which Mr. Kissinger, judging by his speeches and articles, does not belong, believe that the rule of law and legal conscience, molded in the past, should be eliminated, and that war, regime change and generated conflicts are normal means to achieve geopolitical goals. In the field of "soft power", namely, the arrangements for the domestic life of peoples, the struggle of philosophies and practices is bloodless, but no less radical. The offensive against the nonmaterial foundations, principles and norms of the existing civilization is being conducted—the matrix of conscience and notions about right and wrong are being changed, the still-existing bases of private, family, social and political life of people are being desacralised and cancelled. Norms of behavior considered outre, or even criminal, yesterday are being encouraged today. The nature, scope and systemic consistency of the innovations suggests that a global project against civilization is under way.

What about the economy? Here the inadequacy of global finance and the economy adds up to category of the negative—the paradigm of property and wealth remains dominant in the sphere, but no one is going to change it. Crises in the economy classically lead to temptations in world politics. Proclivity to conflicts—where more, where less—is present in virtually all regions of the world except, perhaps, Europe, North America and, in general, the CIS. For a number of states, including Russia, the dangers of instability in the Middle East, the war in Syria and tensions around Iran will be compounded by new security threats—with the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan in 2014, the traffic of Afghan heroin to Russia is expected yet to increase—as well as the flow of the warriors of Jihad and Caliphate, who received a tough training in Syria, to Afghanistan and on to Central Asia and Russia. Specific questions arise—whom does the world owe all this? Why is the New World Order being built by the new Al Qaeda fighters? The American vision of the world situation, and prospects—is fundamentally different from the Russian one. Unlike the Russians, the Americans believe that all events and developments are positive changes, the struggle for a better world, and America is on the right. As Thomas Graham wrote in "Izvestia", leadership is a part of the national DNA of Americans. However, he admitted that in the past decade there have been mistakes in the foreign policy of the United States.

With regard to the Russian political genetics it appears that because of the catastrophic consequences of revolutions and coups in the twentieth century, a rejection, or at least a very cautious attitude to the concepts of "turnover," "revolution," "new order" and so forth, became a part of the Russian national DNA.