Russia’s New World Order

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post has a column today addressing Dmitry Medvedev’s foreign policy ambitions, and Russia’s attempt to create a “new world order” by fundamentally changing the postwar global security architecture.

For a variety of reasons, Putin is likely to come up as short in reshaping the world as Bush did — if the next U.S. administration is smart about handling the challenges Russia intends to mount to America’s lessening but still dominant role in European security and in international financial institutions. In Berlin, Medvedev provided few details of Russian intentions. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a June 20 speech and a follow-up conversation I had with him here, outlined an ambitious agenda of change in a new era of “multipolar cooperation . . . and collective leadership” in international affairs. A “new world order” cannot be based on “an Anglo-Saxon pattern that some have tried to establish for the rest of the world,” Lavrov said. It would involve doing away with “the Cold War architecture for the security of Europe.”

He proposed a European Security Conference to bring together the United States, Russia, the European Union and other regional organizations, such as NATO, to establish new controls on armies and alliances in the “Euro-Atlantic space.”The idea as presented will not appeal to either the Bush administration or its successor. The unacknowledged intent is to reduce the importance of the United States and NATO in European security.But it does reflect a realization by Russian leaders that they are now seen by the rest of the world as a “veto power” constantly saying no — to NATO expansion, Kosovo independence or greater international involvement in Darfur. They have concluded that under Medvedev, they need instead to start putting forward more positive-sounding proposals.Medvedev’s role so far involves presentation more than substance. He has not been able to name his own foreign policy adviser, while Putin is installing Yuri Ushakov, the outgoing and effective ambassador to Washington, as his deputy chief of staff and de facto diplomatic adviser.Lavrov also fleshed out general criticisms that Medvedev had voiced of U.S. financial markets and their influence on the world economy. A new world economic order “must also be multipolar and must include a more balanced distribution of finances and national resources,” Lavrov said.Russia is reported to be considering an effort to bring other natural gas exporters into an international cartel similar to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Venezuela and Iran are also said to be pushing the cartel idea for an October unveiling.Energy exports have earned Russia massive foreign reserves. But the natural resources boom masks a general failure to develop other sectors of the economy.Industry has stagnated, while annual inflation runs at 12 percent. Reforms launched in the 1990s under former prime minister Yegor Gaidar brought growth in Russia to 10 percent. Now it has fallen to about 7 percent under Putin and Medvedev.In short, the Russian economy has feet of clay that will prevent the Kremlin from dominating a new world order for very long — if at all. The effort expended and the animosities incurred in trying to remake the world quickly will put that goal beyond reach, as the United States has already learned.The next U.S. administration should give Russia time and rope enough to prove it again. Either John McCain or Barack Obama can play a long game in which Russia is taken seriously but not necessarily on its own terms.