References to international law are an important part of Russia’s official rhetoric. While criticizing other countries for violating international law, Russia’s leaders declare that Russia respects international law, protects it, and upholds its principles. However, a closer look at statements by top leaders reveal some changes not so much in their content as in their tone.
Russian foreign policy in the Putin era has drawn particular attention, and even praise, from the realist school of international relations scholars. John J. Mearsheimer, for example, has written that “Putin and his compatriots have been thinking and acting according to realist dictates” in their policy towards Ukraine.
The documents that President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed in May form the basis of a truly strategic partnership, writes columnist Fyodor Lukyanov.
The main content of Russia’s national interest must be self-development, which includes general economic development and the improvement of the quality of human capital. These indicators will be the main criteria by which to judge Russia as a great power.
Theoretically, a convergence of Russia’s and the U.S.’s vital interests may pave the way to mending fences between the two countries, with joint counteraction to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda being the most evident opportunity to start such a rapprochement.
In the absence of a large number of allies, bases and airfields in various parts of the world, Russia’s capability for global presence and defending its national interests far from Russian borders is limited.
As a manifestation of higher-order wisdom than just the election needs of concrete leaders or political parties, national interests should discipline politicians and significantly restrict the freedom of their action. The selfrestricting function of the declaration of national interests is particularly important for Russia.
Power politics is not “back” after having been away on some vacation. It has always been here. What is different today is that power plays are more visible because other countries are pushing back harder.
Society is ready for new national interests to appear that will pave the way for effective and long-term policies “for all.” Now the situation hinges on those who will formulate them correctly.
In the next three to five years, Ukraine’s political system will most likely be a mosaic of virtually independent autonomous territories nominally united in a single state. Such a compromise would be acceptable to all the main actors – Moscow, the West, and the central Ukrainian government.
Mounting economic problems will exacerbate Ukrainians’ ressentiment towards the West as well as mistrust and even hatred towards their own political elites. Russia should make use of Ukrainian society’s disappointment with Ukrainian nationalism and pro-European liberalism.
Russia has already lost Ukraine – not now but years ago, for good or at least for long. Yet it is very likely that very soon the loss of Ukraine will no longer seem very important. Indeed, an ability to find and use one’s chance is much more important than emotions over phantom losses.
The rise of Central Eurasia is one of the three components of Russia’s new global strategy. The other two are relations with Europe and Russia’s current turn towards the Asia-Pacific region. Russia’s internal development should be meaningfully linked to its main foreign policy imperatives.
From the standpoint of peace prospects, the outcome of the end of the Cold War was quite acceptable for Russia. It is an entirely different matter as to how the opportunities for peaceful Russian-Western cooperation that opened up in the early 1990s were used and what has taken us to the crisis of 2014.
The year 2014 has gone down in history as a time of the collapse of the previous model of relations between Russia and the rest of the world. The year 2015 will most likely show that the changes are irreversible and have gone beyond the point of return. We can draw a line under the bygone era, but we still cannot say what the new one will be like.
I have already written before that having emerged from the Cold War, Europe lost the post-war peace. The continent is on the verge of strategic degradation that may either become a caricature of military-political division into opposing blocs or a time of disquieting uncertainty. The military-political conflict over Ukraine can escalate as well.
When trying to underscore the difficulty of predicting the Kremlin’s next steps, many Westerners like to cite Winston Churchill’s famous reference to Russia as “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Few however, recall the remainder of that 1939 adage: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
Pursuit of immediate goals can limit future foreign policy capabilities that can only exist if there is a strong economy and political ambitions are buttressed by financial and economic resources.
The combined BRICS market is enough to develop any defense or civilian technology and keep it competitive. The BRICS’ Technological Alliance can ensure the “scale effect” – the main condition for developing technologies.
Diplomats can work without any doctrines or concepts in turbulent or revolutionary times. Admittedly, the contrast between foreign policy conceptual basis and practice in the Russian case looks outrageous at present.
The unity of opinion displayed by Russians when identifying the country’s friends and foes declines as they try to understand a common strategy, and vanishes completely when it comes to determining concrete actions Russia should take with regard to the Ukraine conflict.
Even in the absence of attempts to isolate Russia politically and economically resulting from the events in Ukraine, the flight of investors from emerging markets as a class and a re-evaluation of risks in emerging markets generally have provoked a move to safe havens.
The BRICS can serve as a locomotive for Russia’s geopolitical rise in the 21st century. This development will not necessarily imply a deterioration of relations with the West, which would be almost inevitable if Moscow were to face it alone.
Seoul believes that South Korea, with its advanced port infrastructure, is a natural gateway to the Pacific, opening access to the entire continent of Eurasia all the way to the Atlantic.
Russia proposes an integration project that envisages the strengthening of external economic borders to stimulate re-industrialization. Central Asian states are interested in the Customs Union and Common Economic Space, but they do not want to impose tighter control on their external economic borders.
Can Turkey become another Ukraine for Russia? Such speculation would be premature at this point. Today the choice of Turkey as a transit country for the transportation of Russian hydrocarbons to Europe looks strategically sound.
Germany will not become the main adversary of Russia in Europe but remains its main interlocutor on the continent – and Moscow is well advised to make proper use of that.
At a roundtable event in Moscow, top experts debated the “hypocritical” and “insincere” foreign policies of both Russia and the West in the post-Cold War era.
Vladimir Putin has mentioned several times that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical mistake. Although these words were often interpreted as his desire to constitute that country, there is little reason to believe this.
The April 16 referendum will focus on power distribution rather than institution building. In other words, the organizers saw it as an opportunity to expand the President’s powers and allow him to rule longer. In their turn, Turks perceived it as an institutional choice to contribute to the development of the state.
If the larger picture defies prediction, the immediate future is scarcely more transparent. In the U.S. case, the known unknowns are numerous. They begin with the question of how much deck furniture Trump is willing to overturn in order to pursue an “America First” strategy.
In the wake of the For Fair Elections protest movement in Russia in 2011-2012, the Kremlin initiated a new strategy of state-society relations that was aimed at diminishing the propensity for protest in the next election cycle.
Belarus’ traditional structural dependence on Russia is increasing, and Minsk’s freedom of maneuver continues to shrink.