Senior Russian Figure Igor Ivanov Calls for U.S.-Russian Cooperation in the Arctic
25 January 2012
Igor Ivanov, former foreign minister and still a senior voice in Russia’s foreign policy establishment, has proposed that the Obama administration’s new ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, would be better off thinking about policy areas like Russian-American cooperation in the Arctic, than continuing his initial mode of conduct. The government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta of January 20, under the headline "There Is A Chill in the Air. How the New US Ambassador to Russia Began His Mission," published an interview with Ivanov on what the newspaper bluntly called McFaul’s "far from standard step" of holding a meeting with extra-parliamentary opposition politicians and protest leaders, before he had even finished presenting his credentials.
"Classical diplomacy is a fairly conservative sphere of state activity and has its well-established rules, which bear a universal character," Ivanov diplomatically replied. "I am sure that Ambassador Michael McFaul knows them perfectly well, too. At the same time, as is well known, there are no rules without exceptions. Even in diplomacy, improvisations, and occasionally, original ones, are possible. The whole question is whether they are a reflection of the individual’s eccentricity (history knows many such examples), or whether they are dictated by far-reaching political considerations of some kind."
McFaul has a reputation as author of the so-called "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations, Ivanov noted. But he added that the reset is extremely "fragile" at the present time. Therefore Ivanov went on to propose an agenda for McFaul to concentrate on, in order to improve those relations.
1. The first area would be strategic military relations. While expressing confidence that escalation to a "new Cold War" could be avoided, Ivanov warned that "the absence of progress on the missile defense problem is very serious."
2. Potential trade expansion between the two nations: "The growing problems of the world economy are also nudging us toward closer Russian-American collaboration."
3. Most striking, Ivanov called for more cooperation in the Pacific region and the joint development of the Arctic, where both the US and Russia have special interests: "It is necessary to endeavor to expand the geography of our cooperation with the United States. Collaboration on the problem of Afghanistan or North Korea is undoubtedly very important, but such collaboration still does not create a stable and positive basis for bilateral relations. It seems that this year there are two additional strategic opportunities for joint work at a regional level. There is cooperation between the two countries in the Asia-Pacific region in the context of the Russian chairmanship of APEC, and the potential of bilateral (and equally, of multilateral) projects in the Arctic zone, where both countries have extremely substantial interests."
4. Lastly, he delicately advised McFaul, whose high-profile reception of the protest leaders has stirred up the Moscow political scene, to readjust his "civil society" agenda, stating that "civil society is not only a narrow group of human rights defenders or political dissidents in the capital cities."
Ivanov headed the Russian Foreign Ministry in 1998-2004, and was Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation from 2004-2008.