On March 21, Russia’s State Duma issued a declaration “In connection with the beginning of US/UK military operations in Iraq”. In the document, Russian deputies urge the Russian authorities “to initiate a special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss aggression of the USA, Great Britain and the allies against Iraq, a sovereign state and a UN member; to consider post-war political and socio-economic restoration of the country under the UN’s aegis.” It was necessary to get 226 votes to adopt the declaration; 254 deputies supported it, 45 declined and one deputy abstained from voting.
In the declaration, the State Duma suggested “to submit for consideration of the UN Security Council the question of UN troops bringing in Iraq for keeping peace and for separation of the belligerent.” Russia’s parliamentarians are sure that “the Iraqi problem can be settled peacefully only on the basis of close observation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions.” They call parliaments of the world for support of diplomatic settlement of the Iraqi crisis and for support of UN’s efforts in solution of the problem.
Russian parliamentarians say that actions of the USA, Great Britain and the allies have caused a political situation “that poses a potential danger to the Russian Federation’s national interests.” In this connection, they say that the government must take urgent measures for strengthening of Russia’s defensive capacity. In particular, deputies say that amendments should be introduced into the federal budget for 2003 before June 1, 2003. It is suggested that federal budget spending on defense must be raised to the level of not less than 3.5% of GDP; what is more, additional financing must be appropriated for speeded up modernization of the armed force with modern weapons and equipment.”
Deputies also voiced their support to efforts of the government taken for diplomatic settlement of the Iraqi crisis. They also appealed to the Russian president and to the government and suggested to provide humanitarian aid to the Iraqi civil population.
Russia Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov spoke at a plenary session to inform the deputies of Russia-led consultations with all countries protesting against the Iraqi war. These countries think that their main objective now is to achieve immediate cessation of the hostilities in Iraq and bring the Iraqi problem back to the stage of political regulation. The minister emphasized that humanitarian situation in Iraq was complicated. He added that the Russian government was anxious about observation of the international humanitarian law during the war conflict; these are the problems of prohibition of attacks on civilians and civil objects, prohibition of unselective actions entailing much damage and on damage to the environment. Besides, some problems arise in connection with the declared intentions of military occupation of Iraq. In this respect Igor Ivanov said: “As there are no corresponding decisions made by the UN Security Council, these actions will be legitimate as they will become the result of illegitimate use of force against territorial inviolability and political independence of the country.”
The foreign minister also commented upon the initiative of the parliament on an extraordinary session of the UN General Assembly; he said this possibility is considered as one of variants for settlement of the conflict. At the same time, he added that the anti-terrorist coalition couldn’t be sacrificed to the problem on which Russia and the USA had different points of view. Igor Ivanov said that as for struggle with terrorism, Russia and the USA should cooperate in the spheres where they have community of interests; but at the same time Russia should take a tough position on the problems where it is necessary. “It makes no sense to be in confrontation just for the sake of confrontation.”
Obviously, this position of the Foreign Ministry isn’t supported by all politicians of the country, not to mention ordinary citizens. According to the recent opinion poll held by the ROMIR independent research center, only 14% of the Russian population consider Iraq an inimical country, while 51% treat it neutrally and 25% - even friendly. In this connection, it is a strategic error to focus attention on cooperation with the “aggressor”, this is how majority of Russians treat the USA, and President Putin, the man enjoying much trust of the population, confirms this fact. Cooperation is a characteristic of peaceful life, but in time of war categories of cooperation should be different.
As is known, Russia’s advantageous foreign policy is a distinctive feature of Putin’s presidency and a guarantee of his authority inside the country and abroad. In this respect, it would be a serious mistake to commit a mistake and go against the public opinion, and consequently put authority of the president on a strength test; this by the way would be dangerous for Russia’s foreign policy. Should the Russian Foreign Ministry change its key points? This is necessary to avoid an impression that the Foreign Ministry sticks to one foreign policy and the president – to another.
MiK news agency
Picture: Igor Ivanov, Russia's Foreign Minister
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://world.pravda.ru/world/2003/5/15/39/8749_mid.html