Academician Alexey Arbatov: Greatpowerness From Both Sides

Alexey Arbatov
Head of the Center for International Security at IMEMO RAS, Academician, Deputy Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the International Luxembourg Forum

Humanitarian cooperation is underway and needs to be expanded

We should not exaggerate the possibility of serious changes in relations between Russia and the West, in particular between Russia and the United States, at the very least because those relations are in good shape today due to the fact that they are mainly based on the relationship between Presidents Putin and Trump.

The relations between our two governments and their ruling elites, however, are very bad. In essence, the only thing we have come together about over the years is arms control, especially nuclear weapons.

Everyone understood that this is a common interest, because a nuclear war would destroy everyone, regardless of who is the good guy or the bad guy. And this meant that everyone had an interest in negotiations on the limitation and reduction of strategic weapons, which were accompanied by transparency, predictability, and a reduction of the threat of a sudden decapitation strike. Now, this platform is breaking up.

The United States has not yet reached a decsion on extending the New START. Russia does not yet know whether it wants another treaty after the New START, or if it will drag its heels for five years and then go back to start, as in a children’s game.

It seems that Russia wants to discuss different systems, but so far no one anywhere at the official level has defined that position — what do we want from the next treaty: arms reduction, increase, or restriction?

As for the system that existed for 50 years and maintained enormous continuity, even when the treaties were not ratified for one reason or another, there was a process of mutual deterrence. And the restrictions were respected.

The personal relationship between the current presidents is good. They can talk every day if they want to. But that won’t solve the increasing problems between our states. Let's call them ideological problems. They say that ideology no longer exists. Nothing could be further from the truth: there is an ideology, and it is very strong. The ideology is primarily nationalism, and it runs very deep both here and in the United States. It has nothing to do with ethnic nationalism. It is about the great-power ideology that defines foreign and domestic policy.

In addition, there are a number of specific problems: the former Soviet Union, the expansion of NATO and the European Union, Ukraine, Donbass, Crimea, Syria, Libya...

These will not disappear. While everyone is busy with the pandemic, all we can do is postpone them for a while and put them on the back burner.

It is a surreal situation, as if evil aliens landed on Earth and all the countries unite to fight them off and then immediately return to their earthly squabbles once the threat is past.

Therefore, I believe that, in terms of tactics, new kinds of cooperation, primarily between doctors, microbiologists, and drugs engineers, are both possible and necessary.

History offers us an excellent example: the U.S.-Russian cooperation in space, established in Soviet times. Whatever international conflicts, provocations, squabbles, and even military and political aggravations emerged, nothing could destroy joint flights and research carried out by entities and persons engaged in joint efforts in outer space.

Even the strange episode of the mysterious hole aboard the space station was resolved amicably.

Our space cooperation is a unique example. It began in the 1970s with a flight in the years of the first détente. The Apollo-Soyuz project was a shock, not so much because it was a technological breakthrough, but because potential foes flew into space together. The détente itself was an amazing and inspiring time.

Now, instead of détente, we have another cold war. And still we go to space together. That is the right thing to do, and I welcome it.

We should similarly combine efforts in microbiology. That said, our problems, which I mentioned, will not disappear. Neither cosmonauts nor microbiologists will resolve them. It is the politicians who must overcome them, and I strongly doubt that they can do it.

Of course, we have cultural ties and relations, just as the U.S. and Europe do. Like joint space flights, these will continue. Russia is an integral part of European culture – although unique – and it is essential. America is also integral to European culture and also has its own face.

The cultural sphere is very special and very important, because ultimately the image of civilization is created by the culture that any government inherits from its countless previous generations, rather than by economics or current policies.

No matter what form of government our country has, Tchaikovsky was Tchaikovsky, Pushkin was Pushkin. That will never change.

Of course, we also have ties with the United States that are invisible to the rest of the world. For example, our intelligence services collaborate to counteract international terrorism. We cooperate in Syria to avoid shooting each other. Strategic arms control is another realm of cooperation.

Our scientists, experts, and academies of sciences cooperate. All except for nuclear research, which was for some reason excluded. This was done some 20 years ago. But there is still dialogue between experts on security issues, strategic weapons, and advanced technologies. There is, of course, strategic research, in which I myself am directly involved. All in all, there are processes that give cause for hope.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta