Russia will become chairman of the G8 in January

An interview with Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council.

Russia will become chairman of the G8 in January. Here is an interview with Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, on whether or not Russia should be considered a fully-fledged G8 member and on what its relations with the West will be like.

Question: It is going to be Russia’s first chairmanship in the G8. Where economic development is concerned, Russia is far behind other G8 countries. Is it all right therefore to consider its chairmanship fully-fledged?

Mikhail Margelov: Yes, Russia is economically behind other G8 countries for the time being, but there is more to the matter than statistical parameters alone. Do not make the mistake of underestimating other G8 countries. They have surely taken into account other arguments in favor of Russia’s membership. Only the countries that are capable of playing a major role in dealing with global problems may aspire for membership in the organization. Entrusting Russia with G8 chairmanship in 2006, other countries announced, “This decision is a recognition of the considerable economic and democratic changes that took place in Russia in the last several years and particularly under President Putin.” It means that fully-fledged nature of our chairmanship in the G8 is not to be doubted.

Question: Both Russia and the United States actively promote democracy as they perceive it, that much is common knowledge. Does it mean a potential danger of a conflict?

Mikhail Margelov: We live in a so-called sovereign democracy. Saying that “Russia will make its own decisions on how principles of freedom and democracy are to be observed”, the president summed up its essence. It is Russia’s stand on the matter of the so-called proliferation of democracy advanced by the United States. In other words, we are firmly convinced that the rate and ways of realization of the principles of freedom and democracy are the internal affair of every sovereign country. History teaches us that attempts to promote universal democracy are rarely successful. A glance at the political map of the world confirms it. Consider Latin American countries, impoverished under their respective dictatorships despite the decades of American patronage. Consider Iran on the eve of the Islamic revolution and Iraq nowadays. Failures of the export of democracy warn us against neglect of the distinctive features of the target country. In the meantime, rivalry in the post-Soviet zone has little to do with promotion of democracy as such. This rivalry is rooted in geopolitical and geo-economic considerations and interests that serve as the ideological excuse. This excuse is also used to justify the so-called orange revolutions when processes of replacement of ruling elites are presented as triumph of democracy. In short, there will be no acute conflicts; there will be this geo-economic rivalry only.

Question: Do you think Russia should revise its policy with regard to the post-Soviet countries where Russian-speakers and even the indigenous population are downtrodden? Its current policy with regard to these countries does not exactly make it popular with the international community.

Mikhail Margelov: Russia is put under pressure from the West and East alike in the post-Soviet zone. This pressure takes the form of the political and economic relations distant foreign countries establish with the young sovereign countries, the relations established with disregard of Russia. All of that calls for certain flexibility on our part. On the other hand, damage to the image is expensive nowadays and cannot be compensated for by any economic advantages. It means that the policy has to be revised of course. On the other hand, a revision does not necessarily mean a confrontation.