Monday, July 07, 2008

Ambassador Rogozin Explains It All

Russia's ambassador to NATO Dimitry Rogozin spoke today at the Nixon Center. As usual, blunt, direct and to the point.

Several items in passing that I wanted to note, since there will be reportage in greater detail on the event:

--asked about whether Russia wants a "sphere of influence", his response is that Russia (and by extension, any other country) has a "right of influence commensurate with its potential" in any given area; that countries all define what they consider to be "zones of vital interest" based on where they have commercial, business, security, cultural and human links.

--on the current U.S.-Russia mismatch: U.S. policy is too ideological; Russian policy is still not yet completely defined by a definition of what Russian national interests consist of. At present, the U.S. and Russia aren't enemies, but not allies or friends either."

--what I would call the Rogozin "Afghan dare": he noted that the Soviet-backed protege Najibullah lasted for three years after the cessation of Soviet support; would Hamid Karzai last for even a week without U.S./NATO backing?

--on why the Ukrainian government seeks NATO membership, Rogozin claims that senior Ukrainian governmental figures have said that they have been told by the West that the path to EU membership and full integration in the EU lies via NATO; that an approach of joining the EU without NATO is not on the table. This has implications for the debate over at the Atlantic Council, referenced last week in TWR.

The key point is the Ambassador's comment about the need for Russia to sort out its national interests. The Russians need coherence in their approach to the world as much as we do.

I find it difficult for example to reconcile the notion of traditional spheres of influence that the Ambassador endorses with the emphasis that Russia, China, and other governments have placed on the sanctity of national sovereignty. It would seem to me that any assertion of the former would necessarily weaken an assertion of the latter. Russia's future seems to me to rest more with ties of voluntary partnership.
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