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This article appears in the September 28, 2001 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Russia Cautiously Looks to New
Cooperation with U.S. in Changed World

by Rachel Douglas

[PDF version of this article]

What if Russian-American collaboration, jolted to a new level by the violent attack on New York and Washington, went beyond an immediate response to that event? Could it become the initiating force for a new order of relations among nations, adequate to the promise, as well as the perils, of the 21st Century? For reasons of history and national culture, Russia and the United States are uniquely positioned to provide such an impetus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown that he is thinking in such a direction, by his statements and actions since Sept. 11. In the first of his two telephone calls to U.S. President George Bush on Sept. 12, Putin's spokesman Aleksei Gromov revealed, the two heads of state agreed that Russia and the United States should "be closer to each other," in the face of a common threat from the new irregular warfare. At the same time, Putin and numerous Russian sources are warning of precipitous action against the wrong enemy.

The first order of business was to douse the danger that traditional warfare would flare. Less than two and a half hours after planes hit the World Trade Center, Putin completed an emergency meeting with his "force" ministers, the chiefs of the Defense Ministry and security agencies. As a result of their decisions, the Russian Air Force revised a strategic aviation exercise that had been under way since the previous week, eliminating flights toward NATO countries and all test-firing of missiles.

Putin then plunged into non-stop phone diplomacy with Commonwealth of Independent States members, as well as the West. The Interfax press agency unofficially announced, that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov may attend the Sept. 25 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Italy, under the formula "19 + 1"—all NATO members plus Russia. Already on Sept. 13, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council issued an unusual joint statement from its ambassadorial meeting in Brussels. It said: "While [the NATO] allies and Russia have suffered from terrorist attacks against civilians, the horrific scale of the attacks of 11 September is without precedent in modern history.... NATO and Russia are united in their resolve not to let those responsible for such an inhuman act go unpunished. NATO and Russia call on the entire international community to unite in the struggle against terrorism.... NATO and Russia will intensify their cooperation ... to defeat this scourge."

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on Sept. 19, bringing "specific proposals" for action against the perpetrators of the attacks. U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage went to Moscow on Sept. 17-18, the latter for consultations with Gen. Trubnikov, as co-chairmen of a bilateral working group on Afghanistan-based terrorism.

'The World Has Changed'

On Sept. 14-15, Vladimir Putin made a previously scheduled state visit to Armenia. Speaking in Yerevan, Putin said, "The situation in the world has changed, but not because of the acts of terrorism. It changed a long time ago, only we didn't notice this. The tragic events in the United States have merely confirmed these changes.... Terrorism has become one of the main threats in the modern world, and we cannot fail to react to that." Then he cautioned, "We, of course, should not act like bandits who strike furtively. We must carefully weigh our decisions and take these decisions on the basis of reliable facts, which we possess.... I would like straightaway to warn against putting all the blame onto someone, against finding a scapegoat.... The old security system was not tuned to prevent such threats. We must draw conclusions from what has happened and develop this system."

Former Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov, who advises Putin on foreign policy, said in a Sept. 15 interview that most people have not yet grasped these changes in the world (see Documentation).

Russian officials fanned out across Central Asia, to the five former Soviet republics that are adjacent to or in the vicinity of Afghanistan, a likely target of U.S. military strikes. Premier Mikhail Kasyanov and his fellow heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, and China) pledged "an uncompromising fight to root out this global danger," calling it terrorism. Russia's 201st Motorized Infantry Division, stationed in Tajikistan, was put on heightened alert status on Sept. 16.

On tour in Central Asia, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Gen. Anatoli Kvashnin cautioned against the U.S. attempting air strikes against Afghanistan, not to mention a ground operation on its "extremely inaccessible" terrain. Afghanistan war veteran officers Ruslan Aushev, Alexander Rutskoy, and Boris Gromov, all of them now elected governors of Russian provinces, published blood-curdling reminiscences to warn against a ground war in Afghanistan. Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences Anatoli Gromyko, in a Sept. 19 Izvestia interview about the qualms his late father, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, had when the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan in 1979, recalled that that country has been "a cemetery for foreign armies." "America may land in a confrontation with the Islamic world," Gromyko warned, "especially if it starts bombing long-suffering peoples, like the Iraqis, or attacks Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Palestine. If Washington wants to wage a Third World War, rather than an anti-terrorist action, this is not the path for our people to take with the United States."

In the following Documentation, we present warnings from the Russian strategic thinkers and politicians Primakov and Aleksei Arbatov, and from military and intelligence analysts speaking through the press. Their theme is that the United States may overlook, at its peril, the nature of what hit on Sept. 11, the likelihood of the next attack, and the potentially disastrous consequences of a military "flight forward" response.

The full documentation is published in the print edition of EIR.

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