16.11.2002
A Reader on Russia’s Foreign Policy
Opinions
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Russia’s Foreign Policy in the Era of Globalization. Articles
and Statements. By Igor Ivanov. OLMA-PRESS, Moscow, 2002. 415
pp.


Sergei Chugrov — Doctor of Science (History), is acting head of
the International Journalism Chair at the Moscow State Institute of
International Relations, deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Mirovaya
ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya magazine.

It is said that speech has been given to the diplomat to conceal
his thought. I might add that the pen serves him to bring his
concealed thought home to the public. This book by Russia’s Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov contains some eighty statements at various
forums and conferences, several articles and interviews and also an
extensive (56 pages) analytical introduction in which the author
formulates the main issues and challenges of Russia’s foreign
policy in “the Putin era”.

The author can hardly expect that his book will be read line by
line, although a thorough reading does produce interesting results.
For instance, it becomes evident that Russia’s foreign policy is
gradually becoming more pragmatic, consistent and open. This
openness, I hope, allows me to talk about the activities of
diplomat No. 1 without excessive diplomacy. When undertaking to
review a book by a foreign minister, you have an inadvertent
feeling that this is a review of not so much a monograph, but
rather of foreign policy itself. In the analysis presented in the
book, Russia’s policy looks a trifle more virtuous than it is in
reality and, therefore, evokes a feeling of affectionate
veneration. No ill intent here: it is, after all, the task of
diplomacy to evoke solely positive emotions among the greatest
possible number of our counterparts across the world when the word
“Russia” is mentioned.

The thematic range of the statements and articles in the book is
so extensive that it is impossible to enumerate all the interesting
aspects. The author very clearly and absolutely unequivocally
expresses the country’s position with regard to international
terrorism. This is undoubtedly an important asset of Russia’s
foreign policy. The author maintains that serious thought should be
given to various adaptations of such a phenomenon as chain
terrorism, and calls for creation of a “global, integrated system
to counter international terrorism.” I think, the minister has
reason to stress in the title his intention to analyze his policies
in the context of the “era of globalization.” The notion of
globalization, it seems, became for the author not only the
starting point in his reflections but also the subject of a
thorough “polyphonic” analysis.

“Russian society is fast becoming part of the global world,”
Igor Ivanov emphasizes. “This is a natural consequence of the turn
from autarchy of the Soviet period to a democratic, open model of
society. However, we can in no way remain indifferent to how the
globalization processes are going to develop. A spontaneous,
unregulated character of their development will determine Russia’s
drift towards such a position in the world economy and politics
that will limit the opportunities for our country to pursue its
independent course for many years to come.”

However, the phrase “becoming part of the global world” does not
explain adequately how important it is for Russia to integrate into
the world system. Indeed, it should be born in mind that
globalization brings economic and political dividends above all to
the more economically developed countries. The author supplies a
diplomatically vague answer to this question, which is “Russia must
be an active participant in globalization processes.” Yes, I agree,
it must. But how can its national interest be combined with that?
On the one hand, aggravation of numerous problems “makes the world
community more vulnerable when faced with global menaces,” while,
on the other, globalization “opens for it a broad field for
multilateral cooperation.” On the whole, we can only agree with the
author that the process of globalization needs regulation and, in
developing a globalization strategy, “realistic goals and joint
political will of all participants are necessary.” Of course, it is
hard to blame the author for the absence of unequivocal answers
with regard to both the attractive and the frightening prospects of
globalization. But still, there is certain understatement
concerning the main thing, the balance between globalization and
national interest.

The author is convinced that “the country’s foreign policy must
be based not on ideology of whatever sort, but on national
interest.” Quite recently, giving up ideological idols and
upholding the priority of national interest was justly considered
as a great breakthrough in Russian political thought. However, some
doubts have arisen recently about the absolute soundness of this
strategy. Having relinquished the ideological model, Russia, as
Igor Ivanov emphasizes, has focused on national interest, assuming,
thereby, positions of realism. Indeed, the word “realism” is in
frequent usage in this book. Meanwhile, Western political thought
is increasingly departing from the concepts of the school of
political realism that are based on the notions of force,
influence, and rivalry between powers. In Europe, many countries
have a propensity for supra-national structures: they are gradually
leaving the field of full-fledged sovereignty in order to play on a
new field – that of integration. Unless Russia amends its
priorities in foreign politics, sacrificing some part of its
national interest in favor of supra-national structures, it runs
the risk of staying the only guardian of the Europe of
nation-states. And the more intensive and profound the European
integration, the more dramatic Russia’s lagging behind Europe will
be. The short but eloquent experience of the anti-terrorist fight
bears out a paradoxical fact: by sacrificing part of the national
interest in favor of coalition, those countries only strengthen
their own national security. A case in point was when Russia’s CIS
partners in Central Asia decided, with Russia’s approval, to offer
Washington their airfields to American military equipment and men.
It could appear that American military presence in the zone should
pose a direct challenge to Russia’s national interest. But, in
actual fact, this helped avert a serious threat to the security of
Russia and Central Asia which emanated from the Taliban regime.

Then, what are Russia’s difficulties in making political and
intellectual breakthroughs and responding more flexibly to the
challenges of globalization and world integration processes?

In the first place, Igor Ivanov maintains, Russia’s policy is
now in a period of transition, hence its contradictory character.
“The Russian Federation is operating in conditions of radical
changes taking place throughout the entire system of international
relations. Russia’s leadership had, by and large, to formulate anew
and bring into the system its views on the key foreign policy goals
of the country and its position in the world,” the author writes.
At the same time, “however deep the domestic changes may be, no
country’s foreign policy can be built from scratch. It inevitably
carries an imprint of continuity stemming from the geopolitical
position of the country and specific features of its history and
culture.”

Secondly, the economic slump has considerably impaired Russia’s
prestige. In describing the reasons why the goals have not always
been entirely achieved, the minister regrets, “An opinion in
circulation today is that Russia has got to reconcile itself to a
new ’modest’ role. Moreover, we have been unjustly accused of
imperial ambitions as soon as we were out to uphold our
interests.”

Thirdly, the search for optimal solutions becomes considerably
more complicated today due to the crisis in social sciences. A
foreign policy department needs an independent brain center,
something like the American Rand Corporation. In the course of many
decades this center was the Institute of World Economy and
International Relations in Moscow, where Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov used to work. Deplorably, academic institutes today are
losing capable researchers. It appears that diplomats are forced to
look for intellectual support from new structures, more dynamic and
responsive to present-day requirements.

Another regretful point is that the activities of Russian
diplomacy in the CIS can hardly be described as successful. It
follows from the articles and numerous statements by the minister
that the Russian Foreign Ministry is now focusing its attention on
this aspect. Apparently, here, too, new concepts and criteria are
needed.

On the whole, Igor Ivanov’s book is a chronicle of diplomacy, a
reader on Russia’s foreign policy since the year 2000. It is
valuable, among other things, in that it represents a systematic
source of documents for students of the most recent history of
Russia. Besides, a model of diplomatic analysis, the monograph will
no doubt be useful for teachers. The book most probably is to be
continued, for Russian diplomacy is dynamic and history never stays
frozen. As the author himself admits in the concluding interview,
“there are moments when you come away with the feeling that all has
worked the way you wanted. But that is rare. More often, the
feeling is different — that it could have been better. That’s
normal, it’s a constant quest.”