Editorial to Geostrategic Pulse 228 - Any novelties in the Russian foreign policy?

Any novelties in the Russian foreign policy?
Corneliu PIVARIU

On November 30th, 2016 the president Vladimir Putin endorsed the Concept of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy, just a day before delivering the already traditional speech in the Federal Assembly (State Duma – the Parliament) similar to the State of the Nation pronounced by the USA’s president. It seems that its final form, posted later on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ site, was not known before its official posting even by those who worked on the document. The integral text has 28 pages and is a new version both in content and style compared to the previous variant published in 2013 (it can be accessed at www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news, document nr.2232-01-12-2016).

Although in his speech at the parliament the president Putin devoted 7 minutes only to the foreign policy, when analyzing the text, Kremlin’s concern for counteracting the threats and its focus on the security issues become obvious. ”Securing country’s security and territorial integrity” and ”strengthening Russia’s position as one of the influential centers of the contemporary world” are among top priorities.  The last assessment comes as no surprise since Moscow acts in this paradigm for a longer time.

The Chapter IV of the document concerns the Russian foreign policy’s regional priorities and promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as well as  developing the strategic cooperation with Belarus Republic in order to promote ”the integration in all fields” as all these are at its forefront.  A key objective is strengthening and developing the integration cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union  (EAEU). In this context, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is deemed as “one of the key elements of the security framework in the post-Soviet space”.

“Russia understands to make all efforts in order to promote political and diplomatic solution for the domestic conflict in Ukraine in cooperation with all the interested states and international organizations”. No reference is made of the documents signed in Minsk or of the negotiations in Normandy format.

The document incriminates the “containment policy adopted by the USA and its allies towards Russia as well as the political, economic, informational and of other nature polcies Russia is facing from them”. That reflects Russia’s perception that the rest of the world attempts to isolate it, creating thus a dangerous tension between Rusia, the western states and almost all the states of the post-Soviet zone. Although the document acknowledges that the European Union remains an important partner in trade, economy and foreign policy, fields in which this cooperation should be maintained and developed, it specifies that “the visas regime remains one of the main barriers to developping the contacts between Russia and the EU”. Of course no mention at all is made about Russia’s violations of the international legislation and its sequels on the stability and geopolitical developments, the relationship with NATO included and that ”will depend on  the extent the alliance is ready to engage in a fair partnership... according to the norms and principles of the international law... The Russian Federation stands by the negative outlook of NATO’s expansion, of the alliance’s infrastructure coming closer to Russia’s borders and  of military actions in regions neighbouring Russia, all seen as a violation of the principle of an equal and indivisible security and that leads to the emergence of new division lines in Europe”. It is quite clear that Kremlin’s  elite considers that Russia’s place and role is predetermined by the country’s identity based on its size, on its military power, the nuclear one included, on the necessity of protecting its long borders as well as on the sentiment they are a great power and the center of a  distinct civilization.

The relations with the USA are seen in a key that considers that “both states have special responsibilities for the global strategic stability and for the international security in general”.

Although the Middle East is reminded at the end only, it is no doubt an area of great importance for Moscow and we notice that for Syria the option for “the territorial unity, independence and integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic as a secular, democratic and pluralistic state” is mentioned.

It is quite clear that the entire document underlines the idea that Russia is a great power and it should be treated as such on the international arena and that it is dissatisfied with its present borders.

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