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World: Analysis From Washington: -- Globalization With A Human Face

Washington, 5 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Globalization threatens to become "a faceless monster" and a danger to all countries unless structures are created at both the national and international level to ensure equality, democracy and stability across the world.

That is the conclusion of Lev Klepatskiy, the deputy chief of the foreign policy planning department of the Russian foreign ministry. Writing in the current issue of the ministry journal "International Affairs," Klepatskiy's analysis is striking because it goes beyond rhetorical charge that globalization is simply a cover for the projection of American power.

Klepatskiy notes that there are two schools of thought about the globalization of economic activity According to one perspective, globalization is creating a world order by itself; according to the other, globalization threatens the world "with chaos and world disorder."

In the short term, Klepatskiy suggests that unrestrained globalization is likely to destabilize the world. Without modifications, it will benefit only the developed countries, increase the income gap between them and the developing world, and reduce national politics to discussions of how to cope with the negative aspects of economic change.

Indeed, he suggests that the kind of economic disproportions among the world's regions that globalization is creating "would have created social conflicts or even revolutions," if they had taken place within countries such as Britain or Germany.

And that combination, Klepatskiy argues, could lead to efforts to counter globalization and its advantages by protectionism and authoritarianism, on one hand, and to conflicts among countries on the other.

Because of these threats, Klepatskiy suggests that the globalization of economic relations should acquire "a corresponding political skeleton." And he devotes most of his article to considering what such a structure should look like and how it might come about.

Noting that national governments must now "share their power with transnational companies" and with non-governmental organizations working in the political sphere, Klepatskiy argues that there must be democratic forms of governance at both the national and international levels.

Such arrangements he said will prevent both transnational corporations and NGOs from becoming forces threatening stability.

At the national level, he says, states must be powerful and efficient enough to reflect the will of their own people and also to protect the human and civil rights of their citizens. Only the state can do that, and hence attacks on state sovereignty when there is nothing to put in its place can undermine both democracy and human rights.

Klepatskiy cites with approval recent World Bank research which concluded that "the role of the state should be enhanced," because it is the responsibility of the state to identify economic priorities and to organize relations with other states.

And at the international level too, Klepatskiy says, the world community must also be democratic, respecting state sovereignty and state interests in democratically organized forums. That is the only way, he continues, to overcome the "'anarchy of national interests'" and thereby harmonize them with globalization.

At one level, Klepatskiy's article is little more than the restatement of current Russian concerns about rebuilding state authority there and opposing what many in Moscow see as the unbridled power of predominantly American and West European-owned transnational corporations.

Indeed, Klepatskiy's comments make it clear that he is interested in promoting a democratic international order primarily to increase the voice of Russia and reduce those of more developed countries like the United States and the members of the European Union.

But at another level, his insistence that globalization acquire a "human face" is likely to strike a far broader chord with people around the world who have seen the benefits of international economic activity flow away from themselves to others.

A generation ago, East European calls for "socialism with a human face" had a profound impact on international affairs, affecting not only that region but also how it was viewed in the West. Now, this Russian appeal for "globalization with a human face" could have an equally dramatic effect in both places, albeit in ways that no one now can accurately predict.