Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Psychological Dangers of the New Global Environment

Dr. Vladimir Lukin
Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma

I would like to make a few personal comments on the nature of global dangers in the post-September 11 world. I actually believe that the dangers of our time are not really new ones, they are simply being manifested in new ways. Terrorism is as old as the world. The first terrorist was Herostratus, who burned a cathedral to immortalize his name, which he did. The difference now, first and foremost, is that there are new technological advances with which to implement the dangers. The motivations for terrorism may be more or less the same, but technological capabilities for universal destruction are quite new, and that is the real news.

We have already heard about the military dangers and the technological dangers of the new global environment, but I would like to draw your attention to the psychological dangers, which are very important and should be given more attention as well as analyzed for possible solutions. 


Our recent experience with the dangers of weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist threat have pointed out two problems that appear both in times of cooperation and times of discussion, and that are dangerous. First is the inability to act decisively; when my American colleagues refer to this lack of decisiveness, in my view they are correct. Some colleagues in Europe have tried not to see what is most unpleasant; it is more comfortable to proclaim oneself a pacifist. Being a pacifist is good and noble, but it does not lead to withstanding global dangers. I absolutely agree with the American people who strongly call on us to act, to stop only discussing things and act. 


The second problem is the temptation to dominate the action to counter the dangers. All of us are human beings, and the sum of our feelings, including our prejudices. One thing humans sometimes do is promote themselves as great powers. Russians are not immune from these instincts, as our history demonstrates. But that is why we understand these feelings so well. So we believe it would be very dangerous now to lose objectivity when we have the technological capability to harm the entire world. We have a difficult situation confronting terror and terrorist weapons of mass destruction. But we must continue to struggle against traditional feelings of national superiority. One would think that a country such as the United States, the greatest power and the most effective power to address global security challenges, would be immune from nationalism because of its makeup. Unfortunately, this not true. There is an international idea of nationalism, which we former Soviets well understand. But this idea of international happiness can become ordinary chauvinism to manifest a great power. 


I bring up the issue of trust because of these problems. One of the most important lessons of the last few months and years of the struggle against terrorism is that we must substantially upgrade our level of trust, and this must be done in a bilateral way. Of course, our European friends and colleagues and we Russians must somehow understand more clearly the new world situation as well as the new dangers and the urgency to act. On the other hand, our American friends should rethink their style and some of their actions that manifest traditional great-power policies and that do not lead to increasing trust. 

In the fight against terrorism, the most effective weapon is the monitoring of terrorist activity before catastrophe strikes. This demands the right level of trust between states, organizations, etc. Such monitoring has begun, and it is very good, but it is only the beginning. To increase the effort, and to make it effective and truly global, we need to have more mutual trust. And to do this, we need to be more attentive to old-world suspicions and to traditional actions that generate such suspicions. 


I would like to make two last points. One of the most important things we need to discuss is the Iranian problem, which Ambassador Vershbow referred to earlier. I think we are all interested in promoting Iran as a strong, stable, democratic state without weapons of mass destruction, and certainly Russia is more interested in this than most because Russia is a close neighbor of Iran. The problem is that Iran divides our mutual interests regarding competition for markets. We will have to find a way to have Iran comply with AIEI demands but one that also gives Russia the right to trade with Iran in full accordance with our agreement. This issue is making progress, but we need to remain clear on the subject. 

Secondly, there is the issue of North Korea. Here I realize that Russia's position was less clear than I would like it to be, perhaps because of inherited feelings from the Soviet past. However, it is true that there is pressure to be cautious vis-à-vis North Korea's nuclear program, and Russia, together with China, is quite interested in North Korea's denuclearization. We will have to cooperate and act as we can. I understand that China has more influence on this situation than anyone else, including the United States and Russia. China has already begun cooperative efforts in this direction, and we will need to be even more cooperative and coordinate our positions. However, we should not struggle for influence; for example, if Mr. Putin or Igor Ivanov visit North Korea again, no one should suspect that the visit is an attempt to set up something separate but to coordinate our positions. 

We all have some resources, and we will need to use every one of them. But I see only two possible outcomes: one is that North Korea is bluffing, that they have no nuclear weapons; this is the much easier outcome. But if they do have nuclear weapons, the solution is much more difficult. However, I am certain that by coordinating our efforts and by having Russia take a more active role we can achieve what we need to achieve. Russia is not interested in being surrounded by nuclear weapons and you must trust us and rely on us. 






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