U.S. diplomat Charles Hill was a senior adviser to former U.S. secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations. He has also penned two books: “Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft and World Order” and “Trial of a Thousand Years: World Order and Islamism.”
The Moscow Times talked to Hill about the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis on today’s world system and the role other global and regional powers play in preserving — or undermining — the global order.
Q: What makes you think that Russia is interested in preserving the previous world order?
A: I don’t think Russia is interested in it. That’s the problem.
When you cross a line that you shouldn’t cross without at least exhausting all other remedies, and roll tanks over the border, then you are damaging the international security system. And what is really troubling is that Russian regular troops were involved in these matters with no insignia.
It may seem trivial, but it’s a fundamental point in the international system going back to [central Europe’s] Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), and [jurist Hugo] Grotius, the father of the international order: that you have to agree [to use] a professional military that is identifiable as legitimately sent by a legitimate government.
When you have troops with no insignia, you have deliberately violated a principle that is at the heart of the whole order, of the way nations have agreed to work with each other. So that’s symbolically a very bad sign.
Q: But from the Russian perspective, isn’t that exactly what the U.S.S.R. tried to do throughout most of the 20th century? To extend its sphere of influence, challenge the world order, get the nukes and use them as leverage?
I think it’s pretty close to that, yes, although I’d say that the Soviets’ aim was to challenge, undermine, eventually bring down and replace the international state system with a Soviet Marxism-based would-be international system. And what I am talking about now is not that.
I don’t see Russia as trying to eventually create a system that would be dominated by Russia worldwide. I am talking about regional spheres of influence, which is different from both the Westphalia idea of the international system and Communist ideology.
Q: Earlier this month, Russia announced it is lifting its ban on supplying S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran now that the sanctions against Tehran are to be lifted. What does this mean for the world?
A: Israel will now be planning to attack the air defense system as it arrives in Iran, to destroy the core elements of the system or render them unworkable before the Iranians can deploy them.
I’m only speculating, but I imagine that this decision by Russia to supply the system to Iran was made by President Vladimir Putin when he saw that there was an opening made possible by President Obama’s rhetoric about the American approach to Iran, which essentially made it clear that the U.S. would not itself act militarily against Iran under any circumstances and would strongly oppose any attempt by Israel to act militarily.
So such a Russian system sent to Iran would put President Obama in a very difficult position: He would not be able to oppose it clearly without seeming to reverse his own position on the U.S. — not attacking, and not wanting Israel to attack Iran.
So this was a very clever move by President Putin in what is a kind of a chess game. It scored points for President Putin against President Obama.
Full article: U.S. Adviser Warns That Russia Is Sapping World Order (The Moscow Times)