After the Tandem: Russian Foreign Policy Guidelines

22 june 2011

Russian Foreign Policy in the Era of Turbulence

Dmitry Yefremenko has a PhD in Political Science. He is Deputy Director of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Resume: The new configuration of power after the 2011 and 2012 elections will not so much determine a radical change in Russian foreign policy (which is unlikely), but indicate whether or not Russia will become a new source of global turbulence. In the end it is the election, not the winner, that matters, i.e. its ability or inability to secure the legitimacy of the next president.

A tragic death in the provincial Tunisian town of Sidi-Bouzid brought world politics into the second decade of the 21st century. A young trader set himself on fire after a local official insulted him. In any other circumstances the incident would have incited talk at local shops or cafes for just a few days, but this time it sparked a wave of protest that swept across northern Africa and parts of the Middle East. Although systemic problems were behind the ouster of Tunisian President Ben Ali and Egyptian leader Mubarak, and subsequently the civil war and NATO operation in Libya, it was the young man’s death that set off fundamental changes in this key region.

GLOBAL TURBULENCE IN 2011

The revolutionary upheavals in northern Africa have become the subject of political analysis, with the supporters of one approach or another rushing to find in these events either a confirmation of their ideas or a reason to adjust them. Much depends on the way the international situation is viewed – as a non-linear, multidirectional process with no predetermined outcome – that is, in line with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History – or as a movement on the heels of the civilized vanguard, which definitely knows where it is heading. It is more appropriate to describe the events of the past few months and those in the foreseeable future in terms of political turbulence, not “waves of democratization.”

Small events generate a chain reaction of mass protests, which well-organized political forces of all kinds – from political parties and movements in Arab countries to foreign states, international organizations and military and political blocs – have to follow, while trying to guide them in the proper direction. Thus, there is far more reason to interpret the ongoing upheavals as harbingers of the global community’s ventures into the unknown, where it might face an even stronger shake-up.

In international relations theory the idea of turbulence in world politics was defined by James Rosenau, who published a keynote paper at the beginning of another period of powerful turbulence that resulted in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and, soon after, the Soviet Union. Rosenau, in taking an extremely radical approach to the theory of mutual dependence, wrote about the world entering an era of “post-international” politics, when global processes will be affected by the multidirectional actions of a previously unthinkable multitude of collective actors, each guided by different objectives and using the newest technology. Subsequently, this results in prolonged chaos in international relations, which continues unabated or even gains momentum, despite stable political governance institutions. In this case turbulence becomes an integral part of global development which underscores not only the upheavals that accompany “scheduled” changes in the key parameters of local or global processes, but also changes that frustrate the established rules and models of development.

Two decades have passed since Rosenau’s paper was published, but the world is still being carried along the same current; its force and duration suggest that these are fundamental global changes. It is true that over the past twenty years the world has seen periods of relative calm. However, these were transient periods and showed that the sources of turbulence were far from exhausted (as many analysts had expected with the end of the Cold War) and they continue to expand, emerging in quite unexpected places.

It looks like a new kind of turbulence has begun that involves two inter-related processes. Globalization is already commonplace, while the other, post-Westernization, is just beginning to find a niche in social-scientific discourse. The latter, however, should not be confused with de-Westernization. Global civilization, supported by five centuries of Western domination, is rethinking this legacy and is not going to develop along Western lines; however the specific parameters of the new phase of civilization’s development are not yet clear. What we are witnessing today is an extended turbulent period – an “interregnum of modernity” – which is an alarming threshold to a new era.

The main characteristics of 21st century turbulence (which, incidentally, began in 1991, after the end of the “short 20th century,” using a term coined by Erick Hobsbaum) are associated not only with the end of Western domination, but also with the global nature of world trends. The matter at hand is not just increasing global interdependence and transnationalization, but also a new quality where the world, as a system working towards unification, finds itself locked in and devoid of any outside periphery. This new quality implies that turbulence is taking place within a confined system, with no opportunity to expand, and consequently, reduce internal pressure.

There is no question that the confined global system has retained quite a few internal partitions and barriers that are the surviving vestiges of a divided world. One can still find a place for economic activity, an outflow of “excessive” population, or for collecting industrial waste. Preserving such vestiges of sovereignty and particularity causes differences in internal pressure and, consequently, turbulence flows. Much depends on the stability of these barriers inherited from the Westphalian era; they are either a useless wreck or an old-fashioned, yet relatively reliable, bulwark capable of providing protection from average-force vortex flows. At any rate, when studying the causes of modern turbulence one should take a close look at the asymmetry of sovereignty in the system of international relations and an increasing variety of the existing types of statehood.

As previously, economic factors are crucial to ensuring stability, or, visa versa, disrupting social systems and political regimes. In a confined world the movement of capital flows, less than ever before, conforms to the ideal of a “natural regulator” of economic processes. Instantaneous overflows of capital, often caused by speculative operations or momentary considerations, can push prosperous nations to the brink of economic collapse and social explosion in a matter of days. Shrinking opportunities for the territorial expansion of capital, above all finance, is compensated for by a frenzied expansion in time, i.e. various forms of living on credit, and creating bubbles in all economic and financial sectors wherever possible – from raw materials and real estate to the hi-tech sector.

The majority of these bubbles burst consecutively in the 2000s. Today, the growing bubble of state debt is becoming the last resort for the timely expansion of capital. In the case of the U.S., the world’s largest economy and an issuer of world currency, it is fraught with global collapse, whose magnitude might surpass that of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. However, economic normalization measures can also cause turbulence, which will imply a considerable decrease in spending in the U.S. state and private sectors. This may result in an overall dramatic decline in consumer demand and a new global economic recession.

In world politics, turbulence is linked, as never before, with what can be called natural turbulence, i.e. the increasing vulnerability of socio-technological systems to natural calamities. Some of these disasters stem from the effect of man-made factors on climate and ecological systems critical for balancing the global environment. There has been ever more evidence lately that the global environment is increasingly determining the behavior of individuals and social communities through natural anomalies and catastrophes. A direct consequence of these processes is the increasing problem of food supply, a growing inequality in access to freshwater reserves, an increasing lack of control over migration flows, and the appearance of hotspots of social tensions, even in countries which did not have a history of such problems.

However, even in cases when there is no direct link between the scale of natural disasters and man-made factors, we can see that a natural catastrophe causing destruction and human casualties in one country may have complex and long-term consequences across the globe. One recent example is the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which, in addition to killing thousands of people, sparked the most serious nuclear accident in history since the Chernobyl disaster. This will have long-term consequences for global energy policy, thus reducing even further the already scarce opportunities to resolve the energy problem.

Russia’s position in this setup is rather controversial. Although it is integrated in global processes, its involvement is not complete; so it has managed to avoid some of the waves of global turbulence. None-the-less it has been impacted. The 2008 financial crisis easily crushed the hopes of the Russian authorities that Russia would be perceived as a “safe haven.” Yet the old-fashioned bastions of sovereign state have been coping quite successfully with smaller flows, while stronger winds have only slightly impacted Russia so far.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the present-day generation of Russians was slightly ahead of other leading nations in gaining experience in weathering great upheavals, so Russia seems to have had a better ability to adapt. Furthermore, Russia is in a unique position, where relations with a majority of countries are good or satisfactory, largely because Russia is able to deftly maneuver its foreign policy in a chaotic world.

Even in economic terms, Russia’s position as the largest fuel supplier turned out to be more solid than the honorary position as leader of the knowledge economy. This most likely is a transitory state, like the calm within the “eye of a hurricane.” While Russia has been successfully accommodating itself within this zone, it has been extremely lucky, as political scientist Sergei Karaganov noted recently. The question is how long Russia will be able to keep this advantageous position amid mounting turbulence.

There are at least two challenges here. The first is to continue skillfully navigating Russian foreign policy through turbulent weather, leaning on a world outlook that is adequate for modern global processes. Second, and most important, Russia has to be careful not to become a new powerful source of global instability. It is this last circumstance that is crucial to the discussion about the possible evolution of Russian foreign policy after the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections in 2011 and presidential election in 2012.

 

FOREIGN POLICY CONCEPTIONS AND GROUP INTERESTS: THE RUSSIAN CASE

During the first three years of the power-sharing tandem of Putin and Medvedev, Russian foreign policy was not a matter of dispute (real or imaginary) between the two teams. The immediate goal of Putin’s Munich speech, that of putting a brake on NATO expansion into the post-Soviet space, was achieved in 2008. After that, Moscow, while keeping its foreign policy reference points, needed to demonstrate a decrease in the intensity of arguments, openness to dialogue and readiness to build partnership relations with the West within the context of global efforts to overcome the consequences of the global economic crisis. President Medvedev was effectively fulfilling these tasks, which were certainly part of his joint strategy with Putin.

The Putin-Medvedev rift over UN Resolution 1973 – which paved the way for a military operation against Libya – was unexpected against this background. Curiously, the controversy began after the Kremlin made a decision (most likely mutually agreed on in principle) not to veto the resolution. The Kremlin had obviously weighed the advantages and disadvantages before deciding not to create obstacles to Western involvement in a new war in the Islamic world. The difference was that Putin, immediately after the initial bombing of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi’s military facilities, did not feel constrained by any obligations before the new coalition and went ahead with standard anti-Western statements, while Medvedev stood up to the resolution, if not to the West’s attack.

In the ensuing flow of opinions and comments by experts eager to find new signs of a split in the tandem, few paid attention to the fact that the Russian leader had used the term “humanitarian intervention” in his arguments. Earlier, a similar reason was cited during Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in August 2008. However, humanitarian intervention in general is not a popular idea for political discourse in Russia. Before asking what the prospects are for such a discourse in Russia, we might want to think about why, aside from political realism, Russia obviously lacks stable foreign policy movements or schools of thought comparable to liberal Wilsonianism or Jacksonian populism in the U.S. After all, such ideas are voiced. Russian experts are quite capable of offering them a la carte, or, at least, relaying them from foreign sources. However, demand is needed in addition to supply.

What are the sources and mechanisms that create demand? This or that line of foreign policy thought will only be viable if it is linked with stable and influential interest groups and if these interests are represented by the appropriate conceptions. Understandably, Russia does not have any movements on the scale of Jacksonian populists or Wilsonists in the U.S., as historical succession was disrupted in the 20th century. Could such movements have appeared if these disruptions had not taken place? They certainly could have. The 19th century Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin, whose book Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia became a paradigmatic text for Russian conservatism, projects the historical arguments in support of the autocratic “power vertical” onto concrete conditions of European policy after the Peace of Tilsit. However, if Karamzin’s ideas about the nature of Russian government partially hold true for the internal political situation at the beginning of the 21st century, his opinions about the turbulent times of the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars will at least be instructive for those who are trying to find their bearings in the turbulent world of post-Westernization.

Projecting the foreign policy ideas of pre-Revolutionary liberals onto the modern world will be more difficult. An analogy between the imperial aspirations of the Kadets’ leader Pavel Milyukov and Boris Chubais’s idea of “liberal empire” would look like a coincidence. The latter caused brief, albeit lively, polemics at one point, but never developed into a serious concept.

The stability of foreign policy ideas and demand for them depend directly on the interests of influential forces and on voicing those interests in public. In the post-Soviet period new groups of interests emerged, which steadily gained support among the public (beginning with the mass media) in the 1990s. Recreating the power vertical did not imply eliminating interest groups; on the contrary, they continued to consolidate. However, the forms of articulation and mechanisms to coordinate various interests and resolve conflicts changed dramatically. These forms were heavily dependent on the government during Putin’s presidential term. Yuri Pivovarov, a historian and political scientist, probably offers the best illustration of the specifics of this situation. The political metaphor he uses – “the power plasma” – successfully brings together the incompatible clusters of Russian elites through specific regulation of the government-property relationship. This amorphous substance is the medium where conflicts between the main groups of interests are settled and new conflicts arise. The “power plasma” is the breeding ground for structuring and differentiating groups of interests, some of which already have quite definite geoeconomic and geopolitical preferences (post-Soviet space, the European Union, the U.S., China and Asian-Pacific countries). However, these preferences have not been articulated clearly so far.

The political discussions during this pre-election year, which began to involve Russian policy issues, show that the “power plasma,” as a mechanism for political-economic governance and for settling conflicts, is no longer satisfactory for many influential forces and large groups. The very reconfiguration of government and the beginning of the first long (six-year) presidential term means not only the end to the interim period of “tandemocracy,” but also a possibility to unfetter key interest groups. If these groups emerge after the Putin-Medvedev tandem and change the state of the “power plasma” to a full-fledged existence in the public political arena, then they will most likely launch the process of forming stable foreign policy doctrines. These doctrines will rely on demand formed by stable structures that have a strong foothold in society, rather than on the preferences of individual experts.

This process is based on overall macro-social changes related to the strengthening of the Russian middle class and the shaping of its identity. It also concerns the further restructuring of elites. The middle class, like other large social groups, is unlikely to formulate a clear demand for one foreign policy line or another anytime soon. The middle class will remain vague and self-contradictory, bearing a slight resemblance to the eclectic foreign policy aspirations of the broad strata of the U.S. These are the people on whom President Barack Obama’s opponents, including those in the Tea Party movement, rely at present. In the U.S., however, elite groups are capable of articulating the interests of a wide range of people and match them with those of the business community, the military-industrial sector, various minorities, etc. Immersed in the “power plasma,” the Russian elite are “stewing in their own juices,” with little need (until recently) to interact with large groups. Ultimately the matter at hand is the quality of the current Russian elite, the extent of its rootedness in modern Russian society, and the awareness of its responsibility before society.

The Russian urban middle class, or “the new angry ones,” as journalist Alexei Chadayev, a member of the Russian Public Council, aptly called them, is already integrated in the globalized world – both through information and technology. This does not imply, however, that despite its severe criticism of the Russian government and elite, the middle class will generate pro-Western and pro-modernization demand. It is more likely that the middle class will expect Russia’s relations with the outside world to finally begin to work for its benefit. The critically-minded middle class will be the first to not support a policy, which, despite all the declarations of openness to the West and a striving for modernization, will only be in the interests of a few elite groups.

Broad coalitions could appear in the mid-term in support of stability or renewal that would reflect large-scale demand and the interests of certain elite groups. Such coalitions could lay the groundwork for reconfiguring the socio-political order and overcoming the current “power plasma” pattern. One of the countless consequences could be that various schools of foreign policy thought will gain a stronger foothold among the Russian public. The question is whether these changes will be expedited by the 2011-2012 election campaigns, or whether they will be accompanied by other, possibly alarming, events.

 

ELECTIONS AND TURBULENCE

The new configuration of power after the 2011 and 2012 elections will not so much determine a radical change in Russian foreign policy (which is unlikely), but indicate whether or not Russia will become a new source of global turbulence. In the end it is the election, not the winner, that matters, i.e. its ability or inability to secure the legitimacy of the next president. Full-fledged legitimacy is necessary because the “power plasma” model is losing its efficiency and is no longer meeting the needs of a number of elites and social requirements of large groups of the population.

This legitimacy should above all be proven to Russian citizens (the criteria of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or other supra-national bodies that comment on electoral procedures are of secondary importance in this case). This legitimacy should not be merely reduced to an election free of fraud; it is also a measure of how the policy of the elected leader meets the expectations of the people. In this sense, the legitimacy of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency rested not just on his victory in fair elections on June 12, 1991, but essentially on the tremendous potential of hope that various strata of the population pinned on him. The 1996 election did not strengthen his legitimacy, but the initial hope was strong enough to continue throughout the 1990s. In Putin’s case it was not the competitive election that played the key role in legitimizing his authority, but his conformity to changing demands in society. The legitimacy of the Putin-Medvedev tandem was inert, a sort of a follow-up to Putin’s presidency.

Securing new legitimacy is the main problem of the upcoming elections, and an increasing number of representatives with a wide range of political views agree that an election won in a truly fair fight is the best way to attain this goal. As it stands now, any candidate with administrative leverage can win an election, but this kind of victory will not make the new president truly legitimate. At best, Vladimir Putin might hope to exploit what is left of his earlier legitimacy by leaning on the paternalistic-minded electorate and offering it a kind of a new social contract in the style of renewed political conservatism or a modified solidarity. If the use of all administrative levers brings victory to a liberal candidate, one may expect, with a high degree of probability, that the new president will not be legitimate (the consequences of this can be seen in the final years of Gorbachev’s term) or there will be a radical turn implying a departure from the principle “freedom is better than non-freedom.”

Alternative free elections are not a panacea; using this instrument amid conditions of “vegetarian authoritarianism,” as political scientist Ivan Krastev termed it, is fraught with unpredictable consequences. Russian politics today needs an objective evaluation of the real setup of forces and interests, including foreign policy, instead of trying to lull oneself with talk about “irreversible modernization,” or the everlasting value of political stability. Granting political representation to varied forces that exist in society, but which are absent in the official political setup, is a means to prevent domestic turbulence.

Meanwhile, there were clear signs in late 2010 of a loss of control and legitimization when it became apparent that a new non-systemic force had surfaced on the public and political stage. Fans of the Spartak football club clashed with the police in Manezhnaya Square outside the Kremlin on December 11, 2010, an event that was a symptom of mounting internal political turbulence. It demonstrated the spontaneity and potential of public involvement, the quick mobilization and defiance of legal political forces, as well as confusion among law enforcement officials. The vector of the protests was a particularly alarming indicator. Muscovites were not only witness to an upsurge in xenophobia based on a primitive, “friend-stranger” division, but there was a readiness to apply this division nationwide, fence themselves off from others, or secede from part of Russia. “National isolationism” is the term for this trend. With strong ideological support this is an extremely dangerous utopia, and any attempt to implement it will automatically turn Russia into one of the major zones of global turbulence.

The protest that broke out late last year quickly exposed the structural vulnerability of the current Russian state, although this was not a surprise to anyone.

It was inevitable that the collapse of the Soviet Union would lead to the emergence of dangerous cracks in the government structure of the Russian Federation. Throughout the 1990s the Kremlin tried to prevent these cracks from spreading to a critical level. It seemed that the government had managed to make significant achievements in the following decade: the cracks were stopped and plastered. Now the plaster has begun to fall off and even a mid-sized shake-up could widen these cracks. Under these circumstances, free and fair elections, as the most effective method of legitimizing the authorities and ensuring that the main interest groups are represented, could help strengthen statehood and find a reasonable balance between stability, modernization and strengthening Russia’s position in a turbulent world.

 

FOREIGN POLICY OPTIONS AFTER 2012

The inner vulnerability of the state structure and external turbulence are the framework conditions for the next presidency. Any efforts to develop a Russian foreign policy strategy in the second decade of the 21st century will be futile, if the end of the Putin-Medvedev tandem contributes to internal instability, tensions in ethnic and federative relations, or makes Russia a new source of global turbulence. How Russia overcomes the landmark year of 2012 will be crucial from the point of view of the effectiveness of its foreign policy.

Obviously, the elected president (no matter who it is) must have a new full-fledged mandate, without trying to clutch at the helm by exploiting what is left of the previous legitimacy. Naturally, the key foreign policy events of the initial period of the next presidency will contribute to the strengthening of new legitimacy. If state power is consolidated without causing social resentment and political tensions, then the new president will certainly seek to have a complete array of foreign policy instruments at his disposal.

In this sense it is hardly justifiable for someone to limit one’s own political maneuverings and follow a standard doctrine. Global turbulence will not disappear after the inauguration of the new president. Rather, one should expect new upheavals mostly fueled by the global economic situation, namely the consequences of the 2008-2009 financial crisis that have still not been eliminated. Moreover, post-Westernization is likely to generate several new problems.

A look at the basically tentative “interregnum of modernity” and global turbulence as the Zeitdiagnose of the beginning of the 21st century suggests that Russia’s foreign policy needs to resolve three interrelated tasks:

  • Prevent or minimize the destabilizing influence of global turbulence on domestic politics;
  • Use global turbulence in Russian interests as much as possible;
  • Seek Russia’s full-fledged participation in determining the future rules of the game – the new world order, which will replace the “interregnum of modernity” sooner or later.

The first two tasks are an attempt to use the country’s luck and the “eye of the hurricane” for as long as possible. In order to cope with this, Russia will need a maximum degree of foreign policy maneuvering, an openness to constructive interaction with other influential world political actors, and the prudence to stay away from hasty moves to fit into this or that rigid configuration of military-political unions or integration mechanisms, where it will find itself playing second fiddle.

The increasing rivalry between the U.S. and China for global leadership will obviously become one of the key trends of this decade. Objectively, Russia has a potential capable of securing strategic superiority for one of the sides. But Moscow should learn lessons from Beijing, which was in the same situation for two decades during the Cold War. Mao Zedong’s tactics of the “monkey watching two tigers fight” proved to be beneficial, with the triumphant monkey eventually siding with neither. In the present circumstances, Russia may make the most use of its advantage without joining any of the opponents, while trying to build partnership relations with each.

At present, U.S.-Russian relations have not moved any closer to the level of Moscow’s relations with Beijing, despite the significant achievements of the “reset” policy. The main difficulty is the inability of Moscow and Washington to agree on a basically new agenda for bilateral relations that would meet present-day realities. As a result, by the end of the (first?) presidential terms of Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, missile defense may become the key problem determining the further agenda of bilateral relations. It could expose the limits of the U.S.-Russian “reset” policy or dismantle it altogether. At the same time, the rise of China will eventually make Moscow and Washington work out a new format for bilateral relations, regardless of who the future U.S. and Russian leaders will be and what political parties they will represent.

A dramatic change in U.S.-Russian relations also depends on whether Russia will be able to secure full-fledged participation in establishing the framework conditions and institutional mechanisms of the new world order. However, this search cannot be the sole prerogative of either Moscow or Washington. In the short and mid-term, the key international actors might take joint actions to ensure relative governability amid the growing conflict potential in a number of important regions of the planet, turbulence on the commodity and financial markets, new waves of migration, the growing activity of various online communities, environmental degradation, man-made disasters, etc. The search for a new model of global governance is a multilateral and competitive process, and in this sense it may also produce turbulence. In recent months we have seen a frantic search for effective crisis-resistant global governance mechanisms. We have also seen attempts to revive the institutions of the Washington consensus, efforts to form a more representative club of the leading players in world politics (the G20), and new multiparty cooperation institutions, such as BRICS. It is in Russia’s interests to take an active part in the majority of possible configurations targeting the formation of a new system of global governance. The exceptions would be political configurations that may directly involve Russia in regional conflicts or in a situation where one of the major aspirants is in competition for world leadership.

Russia’s foreign policy is likely to remain multidirectional after the 2012 presidential elections. Even if its foreign policy is strictly tied to the objectives of modernization, largely associated with a sense of “hardware,” it will still have to be ready to quickly react to turbulence, situational coalitions, and various doctrines geared up to substantiate moves justified by certain circumstances. Accordingly, Russia should keep the ideas and rhetoric of humanitarian intervention in store in case it needs to take action in the territory of the former Soviet Union, which is something that cannot be ruled out. Of course, it would be strange if such ideas became the cornerstone of the new president’s foreign policy.

Russia should be prepared to endure turbulence in the post-Soviet space or in its immediate proximity during the first “long” presidency. In the first place, the situation in Central Asia could worsen, possibly fueled by large social protests, ethnic clashes or natural changes in political leaders. This has already happened in Turkmenistan and may take place in other countries of the region. Even if the region is stable, Afghanistan will remain a constant source of turbulence, as various scenarios could emerge after the death of Osama bin Laden to considerably reduce or even put an end to the West’s military presence in that region.

A new flare-up of the Karabakh and Dniester conflicts would be extremely dangerous for Russia. An open confrontation in these regions would result in a large-scale disruption in the fragile balance that is in place all over the former Soviet Union. It would also provoke direct interference by some Western countries, the Western military or political institutions in the affairs of former Soviet republics. Furthermore, Russia could find itself directly involved in those conflicts.

The establishment of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan has been one of the unquestionable political achievements of the Putin-Medvedev tandem. However, the situation is still unstable for both economic and political reasons, above all, due to the problem concerning the stability of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. Admittedly, strengthening these achievements will be an important task during the new presidency, along with attempts to stabilize the situation in the Customs Union member-states and the CES.

Positive changes in Russian-Ukrainian relations after the election of Victor Yanukovich as Ukrainian president were an important event in 2010. This potential could be wasted if Moscow and Kiev stick to the existing stereotypes of interstate relations in the post-Soviet space. “The flight from Moscow” – the Alfa and Omega of the previous Ukrainian administrations – proved to be a breakthrough to a geopolitical dead end, not to Europe. Yet drastic moves in the opposite direction do not promise large dividends for Kiev either, especially if these moves follow the existing patterns of institutional cooperation between post-Soviet states. Russia should help the incumbent Ukrainian administration determine Ukraine’s special place in Greater Europe, where it could play a truly active and unique role, which Moscow, Brussels and Washington would treat with equal respect. In strategic terms, the stability and prospects for developing the post-Soviet space will directly depend on whether Moscow and Kiev are able to find a new formula for Russian-Ukrainian partnership. 

* * *

Avoiding internal instability in the next few years will be crucial for Russia’s role in the “interregnum of modernity.” If things remain stable, Moscow will play an increasingly active role in the international arena regardless of who takes the presidential oath in the Grand Kremlin Palace in 2012. At the same time, the evolution of domestic policy will steadily stir demand for particular doctrines on the part of interest groups. These doctrines will begin to affect Russian foreign policy to a greater degree. In other words, Russia’s foreign policy in the mid-term will no longer reflect the “power plasma” consensus over relations with the outside world. It will begin to reflect the more explicit interests of influential groups, both among the public and the elite. Meanwhile, global turbulence and post-Westernization collisions might significantly alter daily foreign policy and conceptual interpretations of its key objectives.

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