Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russia's Strategic Importance: A Factor of Stability Between Europe, China, and India

Dr. Werner Fasslabend
Member of the Austrian National Assembly
Former Minister of Defense of Austria

I would like to expand on General Joulwan's earlier questions: What is the strategy against the new dangers? Who is going to develop the security policy of the 21st century? And how can we form the needed instruments and institutions in order to be ready to fight against these new dangers? Those are the real questions. Although I do not have the answers to them, I can remind everyone that we have already learned some lessons. Not much more than 10 years ago, the United States and Russia were enemies, and now they have found a way to communicate with each other. Today the former enemies sit in the same organization-in NATO. Though Russia is not bound by Article V, its representatives act and cooperate like members.  


Another question must be asked: If the U.N. Security Council does not work, and it has not worked since the Korean War, why shouldn't we create a Global Partnership for Peace Council? Such a council would count new members, including European nations, India, Japan, and some others, and not only the United States and Russia. The Council would work in an informal way, because if you work only within the structures , you get only structured decisions-dec isions oriented to the past and not to the future. I believe that we should think this concept over and see what we can do to take a further step and make it effective. 


It is also important to talk about the role of Russia. Russia is the only big Eurasian power; a big part of Europe belongs to Russia as well as a very big part of Asia. It is the only country that is a geographical neighbor to all the other major global players-Europe, China, Japan, and the United States-and even India, although without a common border. Its geographic situation is highly interesting at the center of the global stage, and it will stay there. But what makes it complicated is that this geographic situation is not matched with similar political and intellectual situations. In Moscow, Washington is very far away, and in Washington Moscow is very far away. Even the distance between some European countries and Moscow is much more distant than it should be, especially since it takes only two or three hours to fly from any European capital to Moscow. 

So, what should Russia's role be? From my viewpoint-the experts may see it in a very different way-the answer lies with three questions: what are the needs, what are the strengths, and what are the problems? 

I see quite a number of strengths: not only Russia's central geographic location, but also its potential resources. For example, in the energy field, Russia may be first in oil production in 2004 even before Saudi Arabia. It is similarly strong in gas and other resources, plus it retains some capability in the nuclear sector, in space technology, and in the military sector. It also has a greater capability than many people think in engineering-Russia has more engineering minds than any other nations. Russia has also played an integrative role for several hundred years. Along with its positive geographic situation, I think that makes Russia capable of becoming a center of stability between Europe, China, and India. 


Russia's new role is dependent on accepting the new situation. There is one very mighty power and a few others that are important but less powerful. I believe that all these countries are going to overstretch their power, as Michael Portillo called it, because of their size or the existing problems. Europe may do so because it is trying to integrate 10 new members. Russia may do so because of the size of the country. China may overstretch its capability because of its problems with minorities, problems with keeping its ideological basis, and problems with changing to a market system. Even the United States may overstretch if its problems continue. So we must not only talk about the problems, but try to find a way to resolve them together. Certainly, Russia will play a very important part in this stage. 





















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