Are Moscow’s new foreign policy priorities to be welcomed?

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Are Moscow’s new foreign policy priorities to be welcomed?
Published 13-03-2013, 08:57

On 12 February President Vladimir Putin unveiled the new Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation. This is the third edition of the Concept. It supersedes the version formulated at the start of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency in 2008.


There is considerable continuity between the 2013 Concept and its predecessor: the Kremlin continues to advocate a multi-polar global system and show concern over the increasingly acute civilizational conflicts. But at the same time the new document introduces several changes of emphasis, such as downgrading the status of Russia’s relations with the US; and for the first time it mentions the use of "soft power”, including the Russian version thereof. It is also more pessimistic – or realistic, depending on one’s point of view – in its assessment of the state of the world: in Moscow’s view, the world has become more unstable and unpredictable, notably under the impact of the economic crisis.

The Kremlin apportions much of the blame for these developments to the West. In the first place, it is the Western countries’ mismanagement of their economies and banking sectors that has caused the crisis. But the West – and especially the US – has made the global turmoil worse by what Russia sees as illegitimate unilateral actions and irresponsible use of its soft power in the name of "democracy promotion”.

The authors of the new Concept envisage a range of defences in the face of these challenges. First, the document restates the preservation of Russia’s sovereignty along with the deeper integration of the countries of the former Soviet Union. It also strongly advocates the establishment the Eurasian Union (EAU), which Putin first proposed in October 2011. And it explicitly courts Ukraine as a favoured key partner in this undertaking, although it steers clear of any suggestion that Ukraine will become a member of the Union. 

Second, while welcoming the shift to a multi-polar world – and China’s increasing role in it – the Concept nevertheless explicitly refers to the common civilizational roots of Russia and Europe. Deeper economic integration and intensified security cooperation between Russia and Western Europe is seen as a significant stabilizing factor. In this context, Moscow highlights its constructive relations with key European countries, especially Germany and France, while expressing the desire to improve ties with the UK. 

The major novelty as regards the Euro-Atlantic dimension is the recognition that the US is not interested in a "strategic partnership” with Russia: the mention of this goal in the 2008 Concept has been dropped from the new document. Nevertheless, the latter notes that Moscow desires a  "solid economic foundation” for US-Russia relations.

Overall, the new Concept bears all the hallmarks of Putin’s thinking on the subject of international relations. At the same time it develops views expressed most forcefully in his "pre-election” article on this subject in February 2012. His realism in foreign policy is now even more hard-nosed, driven by the exigencies of the global economic crisis and worsened relations with the West – particularly the US. 

Yet while Medvedev’s aspiration of deeper integration with the West is definitely out of fashion – an unfortunate turn of events for which the Kremlin alone cannot be blamed – Putin’s approach is constructive, if not visionary. He styles the EAU not as a vehicle for Russia-led isolation but, on the contrary, as a means of linking Eurasia with the world’s largest economy – the EU – and the most economically dynamic region – China and other fast-growing countries in Asia. His vision is for nothing less than an integrated economic and security zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

  • Are Russia’s proposals in response to the current global situation to be welcomed?
  • How should the US respond?
  • Is Putin’s vision of an integrated economic and security zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok realistic?
The topic for the Discussion Panel is provided by Vlad Sobell, 
Editor, Expert Discussion Panel 
Professor, New York University, Prague  

Expert Panel Contributions

Dmitry Mikheyev
Former Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, teaches "Leadership in the 21st century” at various business schools in Moscow

It was only a dozen years ago that some American strategists fantasized about a world without Russia, about splitting Russia into three parts and creating "a loosely confederated Russia, composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic.”[1] How quickly and dramatically things have changed! Today, after four years of the financial crisis, the very same Zbigniew Brzezinski contemplates the world after the "American global hegemony,” in which "Europe is a spent political model” and China dominates the Asian mainland. For the West to survive in such a frightening "chaotic multi-polar world,” Brzezinski suggests, it should "enlarge by drawing Turkey and Russia closer to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”[2] But again, the images and language of American strategic thinking remain the same – chaos, the clash of civilizations, enemies, allies, power-balancing, pipeline and currency wars … 

Against this apocalyptic scenario, Putin offers a much more optimistic and constructive strategic vision of the future of Russia, Europe and the world. As regards Europe, he proposes "a more advanced form of integration – the formation of coordinated industrial, technological, energy, educational, and scientific policies.”[3] He is not talking about the creation of a new military-economic bloc of European civilization against "alien cultures”. Rather, his vision of pan-European integration is constructive – it is not directed against anybody.

But of course he is a former intelligence officer, so his offer can be nothing but a cunning trap. To dispel unfortunate suspicions of this kind, we need to remind ourselves that Putin and the other "pitertsy” who currently rule Russia have deep cultural roots in Europe. They grew up in the city where the Westernization of Russia began three centuries ago, when the French, Germans and Dutch were invited to teach the Russians how to build ships and bureaucracy, how to dress, eat and dance. They are as European as anybody and are as pro-European as any Russian can possibly be. The neo-Eurasianism these Russian zapadniki advance is not the anti-European, isolationist, and anti-modern classical Eurasianism of Danilevsky.[4] On the contrary, it envisions the creation of a Eurasian economic space on the landmass from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, "economically harmonious yet polycentric in terms of specific mechanisms of decision-making”.[3]

What are Europe’s alternatives to pan-European integration? I see none. Europe will almost certainly stagnate economically and socially and slide into geopolitical irrelevance. The European "shining castle on the hill” will turn into a communal apartment of cohabitants squabbling among themselves and fighting civilizational wars with former colonial subjects. It will turn into a museum of a once-glorious civilization, just like ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece.  

Europe desperately needs a major long-term project such as "colonizing” northern Eurasia. This means more than a visa- and custom-free Eurasian economic space. Motorways and high-speed railroads linking Europe with Siberian natural resources and Far Eastern markets will bring huge savings in transportation costs. Imagine natural resources, spare parts and consumer goods moving from Europe to Beijing in five days, not weeks. Instead of wasting huge resources on heavy agricultural subsidies, the EU could participate in the development of the Russian and Ukrainian black-soil regions, which can produce basic food staples sufficient to feed some two billion people. This will also free up scarce land in Europe for other purposes or more sophisticated types of crop. Instead of wasting tens of billions of dollars on useless gas-oil pipelines (such as Nabucco) or environment-damaging shale gas extraction, Europe should fully integrate its oil and gas pipelines and electricity grids with those of Russia and Ukraine. Delivering Russia’s inexhaustible supplies of fresh water to Central Asia and China is yet another mega-project. 

Last but not the least, Europe is the cradle of techno-scientific progress, to which the world owes its current state of development; and Europeans still have plenty to offer in this regard. Europe remains home to the largest pool of arguably the most educated, skilled, and creative labor force in the world. What is needed is to reorient this intellectual capital from production of smart bombs to smart earth-moving machines, from more efficient tanks and killer-drones to more efficient food production chains, new materials, etc. In this way, as Putin suggests, a reintegrated Europe would help to "shape the contours of the world’s future”.[3] 
[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, "A Geostrategy for Eurasia," Foreign Affairs, 76:5, September/October 1997. 
[2] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power (New York: Basic Books, 2012).
[3] Izvestia, October 3, 2011.
[4]Matthew Schmidt, Is Putin Pursuing a Policy of Eurasianism? Demokratizatsiya, Vol.13. Iss.1, Winter 2005.

Edward Lozansky
President American University in Moscow
Professor of World Politics, Moscow State University

Russia is turning to the East while leaving the door open to the West

Whatever Russia's new foreign-policy concept is about, one should admit – with some bitterness – that all our euphoric expectations of Europe's prodigal son returning to the fold of Western civilization after the collapse of communism were romantic and naive.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Russia was indeed ready for such a return, thus fulfilling the dreams of many zapadniki – the pro-Western sections of Russian society mainly consisting of the well-educated intelligentsia. During this very brief period, there was a window of opportunity: an overwhelming part of Russian society, not just the intelligentsia, was ready to follow the lead of those pro-Western forces.

Unfortunately, the United States and Europe committed, in my view, a colossal geo-strategic blunder in unceremoniously rebuffing Russia's advances toward integration in the Euro-Atlantic community. A catastrophic collapse of Russia's economy followed – a collapse in which an army of Western advisers, attached to every economics department in Russia, clearly played a role. It would be unjust, of course, to put all the blame on these advisers, since the final decisions were made by the Russians themselves. However, two well-known cases of Harvard professors using USAID money for insider-trading and the mysterious evaporation of some $4.5 billion in IMF grants to Russia via the Republican National Bank of New York raise some serious doubts about the quality of the "assistance” Russia received.
Other such examples can be found, and not only in the economic sphere. But none of them killed Russia's desire for closer ties with the West. Both Putin and Medvedev reiterated on numerous occasions their aspirations for more robust economic and military cooperation with the West, for establishing a joint security architecture and for an integrated economic and security zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

All this to no avail. Except for some countries belonging to "Old Europe”, the West simply is not interested. Unaccountably, Russia is still viewed as a threat, and concerted efforts are made to limit its geopolitical and economic influence both in the post-Soviet space and in Europe.

Those efforts are aimed in various directions:  military or hard power – European Missile Defense; economic – limiting Russian energy exports; geopolitical – obstructing the creation of the Eurasian Union and closer Russia-Ukraine ties; soft power – supporting marginal anti-Putin opposition groups and constantly harping on about the lack of freedom, democracy, and human rights in Russia. I am sure there are other but less visible similar efforts.

Such policy, to put it very mildly, is extremely short-sighted, especially at a time of Western decline and the rise of China and other countries in Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, Putin's new foreign-policy concept downgrades the importance of the relationship with the West and redirects its vector toward the East. According to Bloomberg, Russia is "on course to send an unprecedented 25 percent of its crude exports to eastern markets by 2015 as rising demand from China and other Asian consumers attracts sales at the expense of Europe.”

Fortunately, Moscow still keeps the door open to the West but regrettably the political landscape in Washington or Brussels does not inspire much hope for Russia-West rapprochement. For the most part, Western leaders are simply not ready to revaluate the West's self-harming strategy.

Obama's foreign policy ideas are certainly the least harmful to the US (I am not talking here about his obviously failed domestic policies) and the West, compared with those of his loudest critics, who disparage the "Reset” as a policy of appeasement advantageous only to Russia. However, Obama is hardly capable of dramatically changing the general line of US foreign policy. He is certainly not Ronald Reagan, the man who had the guts and strategic vision to ignore both his opponents and his advisers and follow his own instincts.

The only voice of reason in Washington these days is that of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). But can one man change the thinking of the whole US foreign policy establishment? Hardly, but miracles do sometimes happen, so let’s try to be optimistic and assume that in the course of the next four years we will hear more rational voices similar to that of Rand Paul.

Martin Sieff
Chief Global Analyst, the Globalist

The Pessimistic Realism of Russia’s Foreign Policy 

The first thing to be said about Russia’s new foreign policy concept unveiled on February 12 is that it is realistic, and this automatically makes it cautious and pessimistic. For this reason it is easy for critics of the Russian government to paint it in a negative light. The document is in no way a declaration of ideological conflict against the United States and the West. But it does assert the priority of national interests in the implementation of foreign policy. Russia may or may not support either democratic or authoritarian governments around the world, but it will always decide on the basis of its own national interests, much as the United States did in supporting such dictators as Sese Seko Mobutu in Zaire, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Luis and Anastasio Somoza in the Philippines and Suharto in Indonesia through the decades of the Cold War.

The new doctrine is an evolution in detail from the previous doctrine of a decade ago and is not a revolutionary departure from it. Like its predecessor it commits Russia to supporting the survival of a multi-polar global system. In this, ironically, Russia positions itself vis-a-vis both the United States and the European Union in the same way that England for 400 years positioned itself, usually in alliance with Russia, against any single power seeking to dominate on its own the entire European continent.

The new concept, ironically also expresses the values of one of America’s greatest historians over the past century, the late Prof. Samuel Huntingdon, giving him an influence among policymakers in Moscow he has yet to receive in Washington, DC. It echoes Huntingdon in warning of the growing dangers of a "clash of civilizations” through the growth of already serious conflicts around the world.

The second point of importance about the new concept is that it fits the traditional conception of nation–states pursuing their own national interests and those of their peoples, a concept whose history over the past 400 years was explored thoroughly in former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s classic book "Diplomacy.” 

Third, the new concept is a pessimistic one in ways that clash with the idealistic rhetoric and expression of democratic values seeking the global implementation of human rights, democracy and improved environmental standards that are regularly expressed by both the United States and the European Union.

In Moscow and Beijing, and in other world capitals, such repeated states are often dismissed as hypocritical excuses to provide the justification for national and group policies of self-interest. But what is much more alarming is that these statements are, in fact, entirely sincere. 

For the Kissinger school of diplomacy, this emphasis on idealistic values is extremely dangerous. It is much easier to mediate conflicts when both sides recognize they are competing for the same finite, material resources, such as adequate overseas sources of energy or sufficient food imports per year at moderate prices. 

A classic emerging example of such a conflict is the growing rivalry between India and China over control of the water resources flowing out of the Himalayas. But since India and China both recognize the specific nature of the clearly defined resource they are competing over, they can set up a negotiating mechanism to mediate their needs and reach a compromise solution.

Ironically, the long Cold War ideological conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States was much less dangerous because while the Americans and the Soviets espoused very different political and economic systems, each recognized that the other was sincerely committed to upholding the validity of their own.

By contrast, today, American leaders (whether Republican or Democrat) fail to set any limits to the unlimited rapid spread and enforcement of their own ideological values on the world.

Finally, as Vlad Sobell has written, the new doctrine "is also more pessimistic – or realistic, depending on one’s point of view – in its assessment of the state of the world: in Moscow’s view, the world has become more unstable and unpredictable, notably under the impact of the economic crisis.”

In this respect, the new concept is entirely right to be pessimistic for a single crucial reason: As I pointed out in my 2012 book "That Should Still be Us,” the fundamental, underlying reality facing every major government in the world is that there are now 7 billion human beings alive on our planet where there were only 3 million 50 years ago. This makes the cautious pessimism of the Russian foreign policy concept so realistic. And it also explains why it is a vastly more accurate and reliable guide to how major powers need to approach the conflicts in the world that the brightly optimistic assessments pouring out of Washington and Brussels.

Anatoly Karlin
Da Russophile

The new foreign-policy concept is a long-overdue adjustment to international realities. There can be no meaningful "strategic partnership" between Russia and the US or indeed Russia and the West in general, when their respective core values have diverged from each other so much. 

Ironically, this divergence has occurred at a period in history when Russia has retreated from ideology; it now embraces a doctrine of national sovereignty and moderate social conservatism that a generation ago would have made it part of the European mainstream. But today it has been "left behind" as the West has moved on to democracy fetishism and pushing concepts such as gender feminism and criticisms of "heteronormativity" that sound alien to most Russians. Hence the disconnect between Russia and the West on a whole host of issues, from the Arab Spring to the Pussy Riot affair.

So even as Russia converged with Western civilization of the 1970's, the West – in particular its Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Gallic constituent parts – has "transcended" itself, and we are again left with a gulf of mutual incomprehension as deep as in Soviet times. As such, the best that can be realistically hoped for, at least in the medium term, is mutually beneficial economic relations (i.e., oil and gas in exchange for machines and modernization). Anything "deeper" or more heart-felt will require cultural concessions on the part of either Russia or the West, and it is unclear how that could be made to happen even were it to be acknowledged as desirable in and of itself.

Given these cultural clashes, it is probably a good thing for relations to become more defined by markets, which peace theorists believe have a moderating effect on animosity and inter-state conflict. Fortunately, prospects in this sphere are good, the specter of the Great Recession notwithstanding. Russia's GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms is now well above half the EU average and close to convergence with the likes of Portugal and Greece. Russia has joined the WTO, and will probably join the OECD in another year or two. De Gaulle's vision of a unified space – at least in the economic sphere – from Lisbon to Vladivostok has a real chance of coming into being within the next decade.

China doesn't see eye to eye with the West either culturally or geo-politically, but it too is rapidly converging with the developed world; wages in its manufacturing sector have recently surpassed Mexico's. It is now for all intents and purposes a middle-income country, and its GDP in terms of PPP may already have overtaken America's. Opting for a closer relation with China is a wise play on Russia's part. Its economic dominance in one or two more decades is all but assured, and with an (economistic, non-ideological) exploitation of high-speed trains and the melting Northern Sea Route, Russia can make a fair bit of money by being a "bridge" to the Orient.

Irina Bubnova
American University in Moscow

The foreign-policy concept of any country should reflect its place in the system of international relations. The new version of the Russian foreign policy concept does not differ much from the original version, published in 2000. Russia has not changed the dominant vector of its foreign policy but has adapted it to the new realities of the modern world.

Commenting on the concept, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had the following to say: "The key principles on which our foreign policy is based have not changed. They were fixed in the foreign policy concept published in 2000 and include the need to conduct a pragmatic and clear foreign policy, interact predictably with all countries which are ready to cooperate on the basis of equality and mutual benefit and to defend national interests firmly but without confrontation."

And here is an extract to that effect directly from the document: "Russia conducts a policy aimed at creating a stable and sustainable system of international relations based on international law and the principles of equality, mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. This system is intended to provide  reliable and equal security for every member of the world community in the political, military, economic, information, humanitarian and other fields.”

The concept, however, does not answer an important question: what are the concrete geopolitical goals of Russia in global terms? Judging from the latest trends evident in the Russian foreign policy, the desire of the country’s leaders to restore the image of Russia as a great power can be discerned. But at this stage, the restoration of the national identity and the Russian "national idea”, which is supposed to be offered to the world as a set of new values, is merely in its formative phase. Moreover, there is no sign in the concept of any Russian ambition for the "Great Empire”.

The concept pays little attention either to Russia’s place in the international arena or its development strategy. In the previous version of the concept, Russia was presented as the largest Eurasian power and one of the leading powers in the world. But now the country is depicted more as a balancing factor in international affairs and the world’s overall civilizational development, although Russia's special responsibility to maintain global security is acknowledged (item 25).  

The reduced weight of the West in the global arena and the negative impact of problems unresolved by the West affecting the global development are addressed in the section on "The modern world and the foreign policy of the Russian Federation". In the current difficult environment, Russia is striving to play an independent role. Obviously, the US is unhappy about this because Washington still considers that chaos will prevail in the world if it does not play a dominant role. 

Overall, in terms of relations with the West, the concept focuses on a pragmatic approach and the strengthening of Russia’s economic potential. According to Sergey Lavrov, the Obama administration has succeeded in promoting new approaches to bilateral relations; and this could help improve US-Russian cooperation at all levels. And despite the number of negative factors in relations between the two countries, Moscow intends to improve ties with the US.

In the current period, the world is becoming more diverse and China-driven Asia more dynamic. The new concept acknowledges and support these trends and calls for the strengthening of multi-polarity. However, as long as the West continues to impose its value system on the rest of the world, not least by political and military pressure, it will clash with nations that want to assert their own cultural and civilizational identity

At the same time, the concept notes that the West is standing up to Russia’s strategic interests, including to the establishment of the Eurasian Union as one of the poles of the multi-polar world. So, the importance of cooperation and strengthening relations with the CIS countries and the leading role of Russia in the Eurasian Union is very clearly spelled out in the document. This direction of Russian foreign policy is geo-politically more important than the global one because constructive relations with its neighbors are bound to improve Russia’s position globally.

To summarize, despite its failure to clearly outline Russia’s global geopolitical goals, the new version of the concept adequately reflects the main vectors of Moscow’s foreign policy, including leadership of the Eurasian Union and the willingness to engage in a constructive dialogue with the West in the new, multi-polar environment.

Mark Sleboda
Senior Lecturer and Researcher
Department of International Relations and Centre for Conservative Studies
Sociology Faculty
Moscow State University

Russia’s latest foreign-policy concept signals the continued gradual acceptance of modern geopolitical realities and trends which over the last decade or so have become increasingly difficult for Putin, the Russian foreign policy establishment and the political elite to ignore. Putin began his leadership of the Russian Federation back in 2000 with a sincere and genuine attempt at cooperation with the US and the EU. Several times since then, he has also attempted rapprochement and alignment with the West on condition that recognition of Russia’s core national interests and acknowledgment of Russia’s sovereignty are taken into account. Each and every time he has been rebuffed, ignored, insulted, and betrayed.

A US-led West will never accept a strong, sovereign, and independent Russia. It will never acknowledge a Russian President and Russian political elite which does not fully accept the Western hegemonic order, liberal-neoliberal ideology, and the West-centric self-proclaimed "universal” social values. It is not enough to want to be "partners” of the West – Russia’s leaders must aspire to be the West.

Russia’s national interests must be in complete alignment with those of the United States. It must accept its subservient place in the global hierarchy. The US’s paranoid and solipsistic conception of security post-2001 demands an impossible absolute security for itself, at the cost of absolute vulnerability for every other country, as Putin rightly noted in his published foreign policy and security articles published during the 2012 presidential election campaign. 

A Russia which insists on sovereignty, foreign policy independence, and a separate Russian national identity and which does not accept de-facto suzerainty and subservience with conditional sovereignty in the US-led Western hegemony can and will only ever be viewed as a threat and potential enemy. In essence, Putin will not accept the neutering and taming of Russia, and the West will not accept a Russia that has not been neutered and tamed.

Yes, the foreign policy concept still includes the still requisite rhetorical and diplomatic nods to dreams of an "integrated economic and security zone stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok” and that Russia still sees itself as part of a larger "European civilization”, but these are just flourishes for the sake of form and not rocking the boat too much before we are ready. No one really believes them anymore. They are neither realistic nor genuine. Very few in the Kremlin still harbour these delusions, and those that do are clearly on the way out the door. Everything from the requirement that Western GONGOs (government organized "non-governmental organizations”) register as foreign agents to the ban on Russian government officials owning property and assets in the US and Russia’s infuriating refusal to accept Western-backed regime change in Syria illustrates this as clear as day. This is not just a "pause” in relations – this is Russia finally deciding to go its own way.

Perhaps the most important – and most characteristic – aspect of Russian domestic and foreign politics is, and always has been, the contested internal struggle over Russian identity. The eternal question – is Russia part of the West or is it the center of its own distinctive civilization? This battle for the "soul” of Russia between Westernizers, "Modernizers” and Reformers, on the one side, and Slavophiles, Eurasianists, Nationalists and Communists, on the other, has defined Russia since the beginning of the Romanov dynasty. This was not a fight or a choice that Putin wanted to make. However modern geopolitical realities are forcing him to come down definitely on the side of the latter. Putin’s foreign policy focuses on integrating the Eurasian Union and solidifying its condominium with China to counterbalance the West clearly demonstrate this.

The truth is that the West has never considered Russia to be a part of Europe. Russia has always been regarded as "barbarian” and "the other” on the periphery. To be sure we have a common history and relations. Twice in the past two centuries, Russia has had to intervene militarily in Europe, both to defend itself from invasion and to prevent the emergence of a continent-wide tyranny. However the West refused to regard Russia as part of Europe. And in this, at least, it is right.

Simple geography dictates Russia’s geopolitical identity. Russia stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and covers more than an eighth of the world’s surface. It has borders not only with Europe to the West, but with the Islamic world to the South, and Asia to the East. And it also has its own blessedly diverse ethnic makeup of many peoples who have never been part of the European experience or culture. All this ensures that Russia can never be just another "normal” European country nor an Eastern appendage to Europe. Dreams of Russia as part of a common Europe are predicated on a Europe that no longer exists – that is, Europe before its domination by the US and its institutionalization in the EU. There is no home for Russia in Europe.

Nor can the Russian state coalesce its identity around a Great Russian homogeneous ethnic-nationalism comparable to that which has been manufactured in Europe over hundreds of years of genocidal and fratricidal warfare, ethnic cleansing, and the institutions of modernity. This would mean denying her diverse constituency of over 160 ethnicities, breaking up into fragments, and leaving a rump "Russian state”. That would be a geopolitical disaster worse than the 1990s.

Moreover, Russia is no longer a global superpower and the day cannot be foreseen when it will ever be one again. No Universalist and crusading "civilizing mission” such as communism or liberalism drives her. She must come not only to accept her limited geopolitical horizons but to embrace them and focus her energies on reintegration with as many of the other Eurasian countries of the former Soviet Union and Russian Empire that are willing. This is Russia’s world – reconnection with those separated peoples who have been an intrinsic and valuable part of Russian civilization for the last several centuries. In pursuit of this integration, Russia needs to utilize "soft power” as a positive role model and present a compelling and attractive vision that would invite Eurasian cooperation in this endeavor. 

Russia must introspectively and critically look inward and strengthen herself through regional integration, before turning to deal with the outside world. In so doing she will settle the dilemma of Russian identity once and for all – realizing and accepting her geopolitical role as the center of a separate and distinct Eurasian civilization. 

No, this is not the economically most profitable path in the short-term. But the geopolitical and domestic realities for a foreign policy vision necessitate more than an economically reductionist point of view. It must be a broader and more far-sighted picture. Russia’s foreign policy vision must be ideational, cultural, and identity-centric.

However, this does not in any way necessitate a "clash” with the West or any other civilizations, as Huntington would have it. Russia can and must continue to do business with the EU and must deal with and come to terms with the US. Russia is part of the global economy and still interdependent economically with Europe. Both the US and the EU, in turn, must learn to accept an independent and sovereign Russia; the Russian economic and strategic pivot to China and Asia will help facilitate this in the medium term. Russia must also develop good and peaceful relations with the Islamic world; increasingly positive ties with Iran will be vital. Africa and Latin America are more distant and less crucial, but they have a cooperative role to play nonetheless. 

The world inevitably is becoming more multi-polar; and Russia as the renewed heart of a Eurasian civilization at peace both with itself and with the Rest will be a constructive major part of and player in this new international system. Putin’s vision encapsulated in the new Russian foreign-policy concept is a bold step in this direction.
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