ISSUE 2-2001
Александр Куранов
Александр Чубарьян Vladimir Votapek
Tomas Urbanec Татьяна Пархалина
Петр Вагнер  & Димитрий Белошевский Владлен Сироткин
Николай Хорунжий
Игорь Некрасов
Ярослав Шимов

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Vladimir Votapek | Research fellow, Institut of International relations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Czech Republic | Issue 2, 2001

1.     Introduction

       This essay is not a classic treatise on Russian foreign policy (RFP). Rather than a comprehensive account, the author attempts to formulate and elucidate several theses to describe the internal logic behind the formation of RFP, concentrating primarily on factors which he considers to have been inadequately described in the mainstream of RFP analyses. Hence he quite wittingly runs the risk that his work might be perceived as unbalanced, because he often passes over certain generally well-known and well-described factors in the formation of RFP.
       For Russia, Vladim?r Putin's rise as head of state has meant a change in many areas of life. The new president has reinforced the pillars of executive power and the economic reform process has taken on a new dynamic. The make-up of the financial and political groups that profit from proximity to the head of state and his apparatus has changed and RFP itself has undergone a certain change, though its chief principles have not significantly altered at all. As in the 1990s, it faces a two-in-one task of creating the best possible conditions for the internal operation of the state and for social reforms and of retaining as much as possible from the great-power heritage of the Soviet Union. Rather than taking an active role in the formation of international affairs, RFP has aimed to make use of those opportunities opened up to Russia by the global effort to rationalize international relations, supported by ongoing globalization. Russia has hitherto lacked a clear modernization strategy to serve the RFP elite as a compass in the chaos of day-to-day diplomacy.
       The author considers the most important part of the work to be the analysis of the reactions of the Russian elite to the reduction in RFP resources. Throughout the 1990s, a significant factor in the creation of RFP was the ongoing decline in resources, which the country was able to devote to achieving its foreign policy objectives. The Russian elite responded to this development by seeking specific procedures and methods to compensate, if possible, for Russia's weakness, or at least to make it less obvious. These include the defocusing of RFP principles, the relativization of assumed commitments and an effort to highlight the personal factor, substituting the improvement of relations between states with the (often putative) improvement of relations between leading politicians.
       The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 brought about a fundamental change in the environment in which RFP is implemented. The global shift in priorities towards security issues gave Russia the opportunity to deploy the strongest component of its foreign policy resources much more effectively and so bolster its overall standing in the system of international relations. Together with greater Russian emphasis on the development of relations with the USA and other great powers, new opportunities are opening up for Russia and the developed world to integrate Russia into western structures.

2.     Main RFP principles

       After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia demarcated two basic foreign policy tasks. The first task was to defend its position as the heir of the Soviet Union, including its assumption of membership in international organizations. The second task was to secure the most advantageous external conditions for internal reforms.

2.1.     Assumption of the status of the Soviet Union

       RFP was entirely successful in this area over the short term. Russian diplomacy actually initiated its independent activity by contacting the UN over recognition of the Russian Federation as the successor of the Soviet Union, assumption of all rights and responsibilities in accordance with the UN Charter, including retention of its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council1 . International recognition of this principle was of exceptional importance because as a result, from the first days of its independent existence, Russia was able to present itself as the generally recognized2 heir of the Soviet Union.
       Russia assumed the position of the Soviet Union not only at the multilateral level but also as regards bilateral relations, and perhaps Russian-American relations were the most important example of this. Washington continued to see Moscow as the main partner in questions of maintaining strategic stability, as is shown amongst other things by the continuation of the dialogue aimed at limiting the number of strategic weapons3 .
       In the great majority of cases, Russia also succeeded in taking on Soviet property abroad, including the network of Soviet embassies and legations. Moscow handed small parts of Soviet property over to the other republics of the former USSR only on the base of bilateral agreement. Regular part of such agreements was partner’s assent that Russia is the only one heir of the rights and property of Soviet Union. Thus the task of taking over the Soviet Union's positions (at the institutional and consequently a time-restricted level) was discharged and RFP was able to fully focus on performing other roles.
       Nevertheless, the task of maintaining as much as possible of former Soviet Union positions had not disappeared from the Russian diplomatic horizon. Whether at the level of general public awareness or in the declarations of the foreign policy elite, throughout the 1990s Russia continued to measure itself against the Soviet Union. From the beginning of its independent existence the Russian Federation faced a deep economic and political crisis. The resources that Russia was able to devote to the implementation of its foreign policy were considerably lower than the resources assigned for this purpose by the Soviet Union and they were reduced even further as time went by. Consequently, the results actually achieved did not correspond with high expectations. Hence the task of maintaining the position of the Soviet Union was a priori unrealistic and fuelled a sense of disappointment and disillusionment into RFP. This capacity for disappointment was a particular burden on relations between Russia and the developed world4 .
       This sense of disappointment at its own performance was transformed among some of the RFP elite into speculation that the developed world hadn’t been sufficiently active in its support of Russian reforms. In some cases, this even led to the formulation of a theory of a foreign conspiracy against the Russian Federation and the efforts of "outside forces" to harm Russia. These conspiracy theories have resulted not only in an encumbrance of Russia's external relations but also of its internal politics because in some cases they are used by the Russian elite to justify their own lack of success in reforming the economy, to bolster the superiority of the idea of the state over individual human rights and so forth.

2.2.     Securing suitable external conditions

       There were two main areas of activities of Russian diplomacy trying to create the most advantageous external conditions for internal reforms. First segment was lessening of external tensions with other powers and neighbours. The aim was to facilitate reduction of military budget. Second segment dealt with promotion of external assistance to the Russian reforms. In both sections Russian diplomacy has been entirely successful. The external conditions for the implementation of internal Russian reforms were most favourable throughout the 1990s.

Lessening of external tensions

       After the bipolar division of the world came to an end, Russia was released from any real threat of military confrontation with the great powers. This allowed the Russian government to sharply reduce military expenditure and so avoid the complete collapse of the state budget in early years of independent existence. Russian army was redeployed from Germany and Baltic states to Russia. Procurement was reduced below the level of reproduction.
       Important part of improving relations with neighbours was solution of the potential problems associated with its borders. Most of the Russian borders inherited from the USSR could be questioned either by Russia itself or by its neighbours. The Kremlin's greatest concern was to rapidly complete the process of signing agreements and subsequently demarcating the common border with China. The goal was to calm down the potentially explosive issue of the borders on the Amur River and in the Far East, as well as to contribute to the improvement of Russian – Chinese relations in general.
       In case of the former republics of the USSR Russia showed much less enthusiasm for rapid solution of the border questions. Russia quite often hindered border negotiations and in some cases is still refusing to sign or to ratify treaties, to keep an instrument of pressure on its neighbours (e.g. Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia). On contrary, the Russian government had managed to pacify the activities of some of its own politicians and pressure groups and had achieved a state where Russia did not come out (at least officially) with any territorial demands against its neighbours5 . Likewise, none of the Russian Federation's neighbours officially questioned the common borders.

Support of developed world

       The process of Russian reforms was actively supported by the developed states. They hoped that the Russian elite would overcome its traditional lack of unity and make significant progress in modernization of the country. A huge challenge confronted and still confronts Russia and the developed states: to transform a bankrupt imperial power into an advanced democratic state with a healthy economy and a peaceful foreign policy.
       The task of securing suitable external conditions for the implementation of internal reforms took various forms. Immediately following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the start of market reforms to dismantle the central economic planning system, Russia was confronted amongst other things by acute supply problems. Hence supplies of humanitarian aid came to be a significant form of assistance provided by developed states at the very beginning of Russia's independent existence.
       Furthermore, different programmes were gradually developed in an attempt to contribute to the successful implementation of Russian reforms, providing financial assistance, know-how and technology. The European Union launched the TACIS programme and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank provided Russia with sizable loans to facilitate structural reforms totalling USD 29 billion. Russia also became the recipient of extensive foreign aid provided at a bilateral level. Germany alone is reported to have provided gifts and loans totalling DM 80 billion. Through its government, the US provided USD 5.45 billion, primarily for projects involving the reduction of nuclear risks, support of economic reforms and various humanitarian projects6 .

3.     Transition from a pro-western orientation to a multipolar world model

       The foreign policy orientation of the new Russia was affected by a number of factors. In order to take on the old Soviet Union's positions, Russia urgently needed the help of the developed countries. This support was also of benefit in terms of support for internal reforms. Rapprochement with the West was also bolstered by such factors as the desire of the Russian elite to change the "Soviet" lifestyle of the time as quickly as possible and to bring it closer to the Western consumer lifestyle. Russia's transformation into a Western-style country was a clear motive behind the Russian reform programmes (e.g. Yavlinski's 500 days) and democratic, pro-western sentiments clearly prevailed amongst the urban population7 .
       It became increasingly evident with the passage of time, however, that the results of the Russian reforms lagged considerably behind the expectations of the Russian public and of the developed world. National revenue fell by dozens of percentage points, inflation reached astronomical proportions, entire sectors of the economy went bankrupt, Russian people accustomed to socialist egalitarianism was confronted by a process of deepening social stratification. A large proportion of foreign aid was used in a very profligate manner and sometimes simply pilfered away. Similar fate was prepared for funds provided from Russian state coffers.
       Instead of the rapid revival of the economy and Russia's inclusion in the community of developed countries, the opposite process took place. Russia weakened both economically and militarily and lost its way in its international relations. Russia began to find it difficult to meet its commitments arising out of international agreements, whether "great" disarmament agreements (e.g. the chemical weapons limitation agreement8 ), or "minor" agreements on cultural and scientific exchanges.
       A classic example is the Russian position as co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process. Even though the Russian Foreign Minister was there at the signing of the agreements between the Palestinians and Israel, Russia never got fully involved in the process mainly because it could not offer any significant financial or material aid. While the EU invested billions of dollars in the process, without formally assuming the role of co-sponsor, Russian aid was limited to offers of grants for Palestinian Authority employees or supplies of several armoured vehicles for the police.
       These problems meant that little by little Russia was losing its position in the system of international relations. While nobody deliberately pushed Russia out of its positions of power, individual states dealing with particular problems turned increasingly to other countries and protagonists as time went by, and considered other interests of greater importance. Russian influence was weakening even though the developed countries was systematically endeavouring not to take advantage of Russian problems and were being as accommodating as possible towards Russian ideas on Kremlin influence in world affairs. The opinion progressively gained ground among the Russian elite, however, that the losses in Russian positions were the result of some Western conspiracy, that the West had chosen the politics of confrontation with Russia and that a narrow orientation towards cooperation with the West was thus not in Russian national interests.
       The predominant trend in RFP thinking became the theory of the "multipolar world". This theory rejects the model of a single dominating great power and posits in its place a concept of international relations in which several power centres balance each other out. Among these powers one can find not only the USA and other traditional great powers of the Western world (Great Britain, France, Germany and so forth) but also Russia, China, India and to a certain degree a number of other prominent players, mostly regional powers such as Iran, Egypt, Brazil and so forth,
       Attractiveness of such model for Russia is based predominantly on two factors. First is a large number of power centres, giving to Russia easy status of one of powers. Second is immanent rejection of a leading role of Western civilization, disengaging Russia from the assignment to catch up developed world.
       The theory of a multipolar world with its explicit rejection of Western hegemony provides Russia amongst other things with a certain justification for developing military-technical relations with the group of "problematic" or "rogue" states.
       The theory of a multipolar world found an echo in official RFP doctrine, which speaks of Russia as a "great power" - one of the greatest centres of influence in the modern world - with responsibility for maintaining security both on a global and a regional scale. It has to be pointed out that even this definition of Russia's role is too ambitious and unrealistic in view of its actual resources. The one area where Russia can really act hegemonically is in its immediate neighbourhood as most of the countries in this area face problems that are even more profound than those of Russia. Hence in its relations with these unstable countries, Russia is in a clearly superior position.

4.     RFP resources

       The country's ability to exercise some influence on its standing within the system of foreign relations, to promote its interests both on a bilateral level and at multilateral forums depends on a number of factors. These include the amount of funding earmarked for foreign policy, as well as the number and professional qualifications of staff employed in the Foreign Service, or otherwise taking part in the creation and implementation of foreign policy. Another factor in foreign policy capacity is the standard of the armed forces, their ability to ward off external aggression or their ability to project their forces onto the territory of other states9 .
       In the long-term view, foreign-policy resources are largely narrowly connected by country’s economy strength. Competitiveness of foreign policy is based on competitiveness of the economy, on the ability of a country to promote itself on foreign markets and its ability to adhere to the generally recognized rules of the game expressed for example in membership of international organizations or integrated groupings both regional and global (WTO, OECD, APEC, ASEAN).
       Russia's foreign policy capacity is highly unbalanced and overall does not match the status to which Moscow pretends. The weakest element in Russian capacity is the economic component. In 1999, Russia's gross national product came to USD 332.5 billion10 and in 2000, USD 360.1, which was a mere 79% (and 85% respectively) of GNP in 199211 . Overall Russian exports might have grown by 40% (between 1992 and 2000) but they are still highly distorted in favour of energy and raw materials12 . The inadequacy of overall growth in Russian exports stands out particularly when it is seen in comparison with export growth in other post-communist countries. Between 1993 and 2000, the Czech Republic increased its exports by 266%. Another great problem that Russia has is the amount of its foreign debt in comparison with the amount of its GDP and the rate of exchange of the rouble with the dollar. Whereas before the crisis in 1998, government debt only came to a little over 1/3 of GDP, the subsequent devaluation of the rouble increased the dollar value of the debt to an amount exceeding the overall GDP for 1998. This extent of indebtedness naturally reduces the degree of independence of internal and external economic policy.
        The Russian state is somewhat better off in terms of personnel. Russia has a relatively extensive and highly professional diplomatic apparatus, qualified staff at scientific and research centres and special services.

       The strongest factor of all is the military, or to be more precise, the strategic nuclear. Ownership of thousands of nuclear warheads, the means of delivering them to their target and knowledge of the technology for producing both makes Russia the only state that is capable of launching a massive attack on the territory of the US. This gives it a privileged position in the system of international relations and at the same time it represents a significant problem for RFP, as ownership alone of an enormous arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is of rather small benefit to Russia in future. Russia might well have a strong position in certain areas of science and technology but few can transform these into support for its overall competitiveness.
       Russian weak and unbalanced foreign policy potential creates insufficient base for ambitious RFP. During the whole period of existence of independent Russian state one can observe lack of parity between the means and goals of RFP. Such inadequacy leads to everlasting disillusion and creates a heavy burden for Russian willingness to make new sacrifices for their approaching to the West.

4.1.     Compensation for inadequacies in its foreign policy resources

       The Russian elite reacted to such developments by seeking specific procedures and methods to compensate, where possible, for Russia's weakness or at least to make it less obvious.
       One basic mechanism is to defocus the fundamental contours of RFP. It makes more difficult precise calculations of future Russian measures and exerts real pressure on partners through the realization that a given measure taken by Russia, even if unpleasant, or contrary to their interests from their viewpoint (i.e. from the Western viewpoint), need not be the worst of all possible measures. A similar effect on the transparency of foreign policy and the predictability of future relations derives from the excessive emphasis on the significance of personalities in formulating and implementing foreign policy. The unsatisfactory development in relations between states is replaced here by the spectacular development in relations between leading politicians. Awareness of the inadequacy in the development of a civil society and the inability to adhere to a number of the standards of developed countries is manifested in emphasis on the principle of state sovereignty.
       Clearly, these phenomena are generally present in the politics of all states engaged in active foreign policy, but there are substantial differences in the extent to which such instruments are employed. In the policies of developed, democratic countries they are normally much less significant than in the policies of countries which are unstable or which stand on the periphery of the international community.
       This is true for several reasons. The politics of defocusing is unsuitable for constructive foreign policy aiming at greater integration between states, as it sends out conflicting signals on the orientation of a given country, which makes international cooperation difficult. Democratic countries also usually avoid such politics because the legitimacy of their governments is based on maintaining the rule of law. If it came to light that they had not acted scrupulously enough in adhering to their obligations, they would lose credit both abroad and at home. Developed countries do not normally feel the need to theatrically demonstrate friendly relations between leading politicians. Such relations are clearly not an obstacle but nor do they actually resolve anything fundamental. What is of decisive importance for the development of relations between countries is the positive development of a complex web of relations throughout the entire cross-sections of their societies.

4.1.1.      Defocusing foreign policy principles

       To provide a better illustration of our thesis on the diffusion of RFP principles, let us take the example of Russia's position over the chemical weapons liquidation process. Russia inherited about 40,000 tons of chemical weapons agents from the Soviet Union and committed itself to liquidating them by 2009. It is primarily in Russia's national interest to get rid of substances, which it does not have adequate means to store safely and which primarily pose a threat to its own population and territory. Nonetheless, Moscow repeatedly shows insufficient effort to meet its obligations and has manoeuvred the international community (the developed countries above all) into a situation in which the Western allies take on an increasing proportion of the costs of the liquidation of Russian weapons13 . The latest measure by the Russian side has been a request for another postponement of the final liquidation of chemical weapons until 2012. The reason given is again insufficient funds, with Russia hoping to gain additional aid of around USD 1 billion 14 .
       From the Russian point of view it is a problem of priorities and the allocation of limited resources from the state budget. Around 7 billion USD would be needed to liquidate Russian chemical weapons. Of course, Russia has such resources but it would rather devote them to other objectives such as the construction and distribution of new strategic weapons systems, e.g. “Topol” missiles or “Kursk” and “Gepard” nuclear submarines15 .
       For western governments is hardly possible to deploy new weapons systems if they had not yet managed to arrange for the safe liquidation of old systems threatening its own population. It would break not only the imperative to meet international commitments and agreements, but also the principle of common sense. From each individual country's standpoint, such conduct is clearly self-destructive. Hence, in foreign policy calculations the scenario in which the government of any developed state might proceed in such a fashion, can be ruled out (or ascribed minimum probability)
       But this is not the case of Russia. The West simply cannot be sure that the Russian government will give priority to the protection of its own population and environment, over the enhancement of its offensive (deterrent) resources16 . Not to speak about observing the international treaties. This is a situation where the validity of policy principles is placed in doubt (defocused) . Together with the sense of global responsibility of Western countries it creates a base for the success of Russian diplomacy. Threatening to harm global environment by self-destruction, RFP has managed to persuade its Western partners to spend more on the liquidation of Russian chemical weapons, so freeing up corresponding amounts in the Russian state defence budget for the purchase of new weapons systems.
       Another example of the successful application of the 'defocusing' principle involves the relations between the USA and the Russian Federation. When we compare the potential of the USA and Russia with the influence, which either country exerts when forming mutual relations, we see that Moscow, as the disproportionately weaker partner, has a stronger influence on the development of mutual relations than does Washington. The US is certainly the stronger partner but it is a democratic and transparent society. Its foreign policy is basically stable, rational and predictable.
       Even when we take into account the differences between changing administrations, we can see that since the establishment of an independent Russia, the governments of the USA have been aware of the importance of cooperation with Russia. They are aware that it is in the common interest of the West to contribute towards the success of Russian reforms, to help Russia become a democratic country with a developed competitive economy, a constructive partner and not a country dogged by crises, endangering its neighbours and destabilizing international relations. Constant goodwill in relations towards Russia befits such a stance as does self-limitation in the choice of foreign policy instruments. It needs to be pointed out that Russia only partially reciprocates such relations and feels itself much less restricted in its choice of foreign policy instruments.
       Moscow does not hesitate to use its own internal problems as foreign policy instruments. A classic example was the repeated warning of the Russian government that if the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were accepted, the position of the Communists and other reactionary forces in the East would be strengthened. A constant element in the West's calculations is the question of how a particular measure will be reflected in Russia's internal political development. From the methodological standpoint, this again entails the introduction of an additional level of uncertainty in foreign policy calculations and thus a further example of Russian policy "defocusing".

4.1.2.     The personal factor

       One example of the deployment of the personal factor in foreign policy might be the use of the person of the Russian president. In the second half of the 1990s we could see Boris Yeltsin meeting up with leading Western politicians in an increasingly informal atmosphere. Their meetings moved from official residences to restaurants to chalets and eventually to saunas. First they removed the protocol, then their ties and if the Yeltsin era had not come to an end in 1999, goodness knows what else they might have removed. Needless to say, in spite of the spectacular rapprochement of individual politicians, actual relations between Russia and the West did not improve at all.
       The identification of RFP with a specific individual (e.g. the president) creates a situation in which analysis of the process whereby a country's foreign interests are created is replaced by an examination of the symbols, in this case the statements, of a given individual. The personal opinions of politicians are of course all part of the foreign policy formation process in every state, and in the case of the Russian president, his influence on the formation of foreign policy is indeed significant. But it is just one of many factors. RFP like, the foreign policy of any other state, is created by many of other protagonists, and many internal and external influences act upon it. Some of them rise to the forefront of everyday diplomacy while others are only revealed by careful analysis. Concentrating on only one of them is just intellectual lassitude and necessarily leads to mistakes in anticipating the foreign policy of a given state.

4.1.3.      Absolutization of the principle of state sovereignty

       Recourse to the principle of state sovereignty as superior to other (non-state) elements in international relations does not so much aim to reduce the transparency of state foreign policy as endeavour to conceal the insufficient development of a civil society or the inability to adhere to certain standards, e.g. involving human and civil rights. The current phase of globalization introduces a number of new elements into international relations. The importance of non-state factors is increasing and a number of state and civil society functions are being redistributed. An increasing number of issues, which used to come exclusively under state sovereignty, are now coming under the attention of the international community. The question of human rights has ceased to be a matter of state sovereignty. The concepts of humanitarian intervention and limited sovereignty are becoming part and parcel of international practice.
       Russia is aware of its shortcomings as regards the development of a civil society and the adherence to human rights both in itself and amongst its allies and is attempting to stand aloof of this trend. For example, it understands its human rights commitments to be the expression of goodwill of an otherwise sovereign state17 . Hence, they always had a right to withdraw from its obligations.
       Of course, this kind of attitude not only places Russia beyond the mainstream of international relations developments but also separates it from the developed world and the West.

5.     The arrival of V. V. Putin

       The election of a new president did not change the priorities of RFP, even though it brought several new factors into play. The main news from top-level bilateral meetings no longer consisted of an estimate of the extent to which the mental and physical capacities of the head of the Russian state had deteriorated, and the partners could concentrate more on the actual negotiations.
       President Putin and his team are more rational and goal orientated than their predecessors. They are also a lot more aware of the limits of RFP resources and the extent to which their country is dependent on improving cooperation with developed countries18 . This changes found its reflection in the bolstering of RFP's sense of reality. As a result, fairly conspicuous signals of a certain willingness to come closer to the West are being sent out. The Russian leadership was more aware of the need to concentrate its potential only on the key trends in its foreign policy now.
       This change was all the more significant for Moscow as it coincided in time with the opening of a new chapter in the "romantic" rapprochement of the West with Russia. Western partners identified the change in personnel in Russia's leadership with a change in RFP priorities even though Russia did not perceptibly climbing down from any of its positions. Moscow still rejects the expansion of NATO and disagrees with the US concept of National Missile Defence. True to the politics of the ambiguity (see 3.1.1), Russian diplomacy was also trying to raise the price of this collaboration with the West by demonstrating its ability to collaborate with anti-Western states (e.g. Cuba, North Korea, Iran). Vladimir Putin already in capacity of president signed three basic foreign policy documents – Conception of National Security, of Foreign Policy and Military Doctrine. All of these documents are quite unfriendly towards the West.
       The West also shouldn’t forget, that during more than 2 years of Putin’s rule Russia’s fragile democratic institutions have weakened considerably. Influence of alternative power centres, like Council of Federation, has been reduced. Government effectively closed the only two relatively independent federal electronic media holdings (Gusinski’s NTV and Berezovski’s TV6). State Security Service has stepped up its harassment of investigative journalists, human rights activists, environmental leaders and western NGO’s19 .
       Nevertheless old (as well as new) sins were forgotten, because a new person had appeared as head of state. 20 Words on Russia's pro-Western orientation, uttered and then ignored so often by B. Yeltsin, had miraculously acquired a new validity in the eyes of the West. 21
       It can be said in general that the significance of the "personal factor" in relations between leading Eastern and Western politicians had revived. Instead of a sober analysis of the disposition of social forces and the extent of their support for a pro-Western line, the West often restricts itself to uncritical acceptance of the Russian president's words.
       Result of such attitude is double edged. On the level of newspaper headlines it looks like new period of partnership between the West and Russia in the beginning. But such approach may lead quite probably to the disillusion on both sides later one.

6.     Current RFP priorities


       Russia continues to come out in favour of the integration of the post-Soviet region, but more clearly than ever before, it is emphasizing that this cannot happen at the expense of the Russian economy. Hence it promotes collaboration at a military and security level more than economic integration. Thanks to cooperation with China, Russia succeeded to ease potential tensions in military field on the state level in the region. The major plank in Putin's policy towards the CIS thus become a fight against terrorism as a non-state forms of violence, above all against Islamic radicalism, pervading Central Asia and threatening potentially even Islamic regions of Russia itself.
       The value of Russian fight against terrorism and Islamic radicalism reduce permanent attempts to utilize it to exonerate Russian unfair war in Chechnya.
Putin's foreign policy realism has been particularly apparent in relation to Byelorussia. Regardless of the agreements on the union of the two states, he has left the process of rapprochement at a stage, which gives Moscow maximum benefits and minimum costs.
       Russia has not had to take on any responsibility for the Byelorussian economy and the standard of living of the population of this republic. Meanwhile Byelorussian foreign policy has given up on independence and regularly plays the role of support act for RFP. Thanks to its highly developed collaboration with the army and special services, Moscow in fact governs the military and security policy in Minsk.
       Despite the fact, that Russia considers itself to be a key element in the process of CIS integration, Russia showed no intension to promote an idea of human right in this region. Russia apparently accepts all kinds of Central Asia regimes, regardless of the level of democracy and human rights abuses. The main principle remains acceptance of Russian leading position in this region.

The West

The Russian leadership's realism has led to efforts to strengthen relations with the developed world and to engage Russia to the greatest possible extent in the Western integration processes. Even though this does not mean a return to the pro-Western policies of the early 1990s, this new orientation among the Russian leadership does give rise to hopes of an improvement in mutual relations.
       The US remains Russia's most important western partner. With Washington Moscow deals over strategic arms balance and disarmament questions. The USA is the most influential member of a number of international financial institutions such as the IMF and WB. Washington also has a decisive influence over the orientation of NATO. As the predominant superpower, the US is also the most important impediment to Russia's concept of multipolarity.
       In economic terms, however, Russia's most important partner is the EU. Russia effects around 35% of its foreign trade with the EU and this will evidently be over 50% after EU enlargement. As opposed to NATO, Russia has no objection to any future expansion of the EU. Moscow even welcomes the EU's first steps towards creating its own military and security resources, because it sees in them an opportunity to weaken the influence of the United States in Europe.
       Despite all hopes of the change of Russian foreign policy there still exist all problems, described in an article 2.3. Russia is and for foreseeable future remains the younger partner. The present international system is dominated by the West and above all by the US. From Moscow's standpoint there is not enough room for Russia, because Russia's level of influence within the system is limited and its opinions on questions of international policy and security may be ignored.
       There is also vexing problem of growing opposition inside Russian ruling elite towards attempts of Russian government to enhanced relations with the West. In the end of 2001 year appeared a letter of Russian generals to Supreme commander president Putin to roll back in the cooperation with the West. Also Communist party try to exploit moment and make harder its anti-western vocabulary.


       Despite promotion of its pro-western course, Russia is still trying to play also the multipolarism card. After several unsuccessful attempts at creating a closer alliance between Moscow and Peking, or Moscow and Delhi, it is more aware of the limited possibilities of such a policy, though it has not given up on it. In 2000, Putin visited North Korea and Cuba so as to demonstrate to the West that Russia plans to follow a policy independent of the West. Its cooperation with Iran, to whom it supplies civil nuclear technology, sends out similar signals: in November 2000 it even decided to renew supplies of weapons for Teheran22 .

       Nor does Russia ignore the Asian dimension of its foreign policy. Its main partners are China, India, Japan and the two Koreas. Russia is also endeavouring to be active in APEC and ASEAN and Moscow is not only interested in economic collaboration but the security element also plays an important role. Russia is following discussions on the possible creation of a US-Japanese anti-missile defence system with some discomfort.

7.     Foreign policy after 11th September

       The terrorist attack of 11th September changed the world-view of great powers and smaller states, politicians and ordinary people. It pointed up the vulnerability of the developed countries and changed their approach to security policy and international relations.
       As part of the initial reactions, every country in the world strengthened the security factors in its foreign policy calculations. It changed the importance of the individual actors engaged in international relations. Perhaps the most significant change involved the Russian Federation. As shown above, Russia's foreign policy resources are very unbalanced, with the military and security element playing a dominant role. Hence the shift of emphasis towards security has significantly strengthened Russia's influence in the system of international relations.
       Russia's influence also grew because the international operation against the Al Quaida bases is concentrated primarily on the territory of Afghanistan, immediately adjacent to post-Soviet Central Asia. Russia has border guard units and the 201st motorized artillery division deployed on the border with Afghanistan and a number of political and security ties exist with the governments of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan23 . Hence for the US and its allies, it was very important to gain Russia's support for this operation.
       It is not yet possible to make a thorough analysis of the content and significance of Russian support for the allied operation and the price the West will pay for it. At the level of declarations made by leading politicians, it would appear that Russia has made a great impression on the allies with its assistance, whereas judging by the information that can be gathered from the mass media, it has to be said that Russian assistance has not been unequivocal or disinterested24 .
       Nonetheless, everything indicates that the turn of the year 2001/2002 periods might be a time of great changes in relations between Russia and the West. Russia has managed to agree with the USA over a basic reduction in the number of strategic weapons, exceeding the previously signalled level of 1,500 nuclear warheads. This allows it, despite the weakness in its economy, to continue to hold approximate parity in strategic weapons with the US.
       Moscow has also had to reconcile itself with the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the ABM Treaty. It is not yet clear whether Washington will offer it any compensation. It can only be hoped that this will not involve NATO. Over the last two months there have been a number of declarations in the news from leading Western politicians indicating their interest in improving collaboration between Russia and NATO, including speculation on the possible membership of the Russian Federation in the Alliance. Even though these plans have met with clear rejection, and not only from the new members of NATO, the episode cannot be considered entirely closed.

8.     Conclusion

       The arrival of a new and more realistic leadership has given Russia the opportunity to improve its relations with the West and so to create better conditions for its own internal reforms. This positive trend has been further enhanced by the changes in the international political priorities of the majority of states since 11th September 2001. From the West's point of view, Russia is nowadays a desirable security partner, while in economic terms it is a promising market and source for numerous strategic raw materials. If Moscow means its endeavours at rapprochement with the West in earnest, it has every chance of success.
       From the West's point of view, Russia really does not have any other reasonable course than to improve its cooperation with the developed countries and eventually join their community at the security and economic level. The problem, however, lies in the fact that Russia itself has not resolved the question of its future development priorities. Regardless of what the Russian president says, it is still unclear if Russia really wishes to join the West. And it is not at all clear if it will be able to become a member of such a community, if it will be able to meet all the formal and informal requirements of such status. We can discern both positive and negative changes in Russia's development over the last few years – signals, which give rise to optimism as well as signals, which are disturbing.
       It is primarily up to Russia how it makes use of its current opportunities. In the West the doors will always be open, but Russia must go through those doors of its own accord. Suggest anything else would mean to entertain illusions both in the West and in Russia. It would mean carrying on in the vicious circle of the last few years, with periods of unjustified euphoria alternating with those of hung-over sobriety, aggravating mutual relations more than any realistic appraisal of the capacities of both sides.

1Cfr. Message of the President of the Russian Federation to the UN General Secretary, 24th December 1991 on Russian succession to USSR membership (in: I. Ivanov, "Novaja rossijskaja diplomatia", Olma Press, Moscow 2001, p. 28).
2The only exception was Austria, which does not recognize the Russian Federation as the successor of the USSR. Austrian sovereignty was limited by its "State Agreement on Neutrality", which gave the victorious great powers, including the Soviet Union, specific status. Hence Vienna took advantage of the opportunity provided by the break-up of the Soviet Union and refused to recognize Russia's rights as successor of the Soviet Union.
3As early as 3rd January 1993, i.e. one year after the creation of an independent Russia, the American and Russian Presidents signed the START II Agreement. Cfr.
4This assessment of developments also found an echo in the official foreign policy doctrine of the Russian Federation, where we find for example: "In addition to some strengthening of RF international positions, some negative trends have also come about. Hopes of the formation of equal, mutually-advantageous partnership relationships between Russia and the rest of the world have not been realized.
5The best-known were demands made by some groups for the Crimean peninsular, which the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic had ceded to Ukraine in the 1960s. Official foreign policy had numerous problems from groups around former Governer Nazdratyenka of Primorije who questioned the borders on the river........
6Cfr. Timothy J. Colton, Michael Mc Faul, America's Real Russian Allies, in: Foreign Affairs, November/December 2001, p. 55.
7This is shown by the experience of Russian elections; as a rule candidates in the cities with democratic and liberal ideals won easily.
8Moscow inherited 40,000 tons of materials used as chemical weapons (CW) from the Soviet Union. Russia undertook to liquidate the CWs by 2009. The first checkpoint came in 2000, when the first percentage of its CW supplies was to be liquidated. The Russian government did not meet its commitment and requested postponement until 2001, just as it requested a postponement of the date of completion of the liquidation till 2012. The main cause of Russian problems is insufficient finances. Overall costs for the liquidation of Russian CWs are estimated at 7-8 billion USD, while the Russian state budget can clearly only assign a fraction of the amount required. Hence it seems that the West will have to take on a significant role in the liquidation of Russian CWs, as in any case it already does.
9The attack of 11th September 2001 showed that the capacity for armed force needs to be measured much more comprehensively in the new conditions. The fight against terrorism does not resemble the classic conflicts of military organizations and is more reminiscent of the fight against organized crime, especially in its specific methods, intelligence information, deployment of agents and so forth.
10Cfr. I.N. Ustinov, Vn??ekonomi?eskie svjazi Rosiji, Me?dunarodnyje otno?enija, Moskva 2001, p. 19.
11Here we should warn the reader that the figures given are of limited information value. The known problems of Russian statistics are compounded by the influence of the fluctuating RUR against the USD.
1240% of Russian exports are made up of crude oil.
13The US takes on the largest share of Western aid while Canada, the EU, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden also participate in the chemical weapons liquidation programme.
14On 11th December 2001, the representative of the Secretary of the RF Security Council, O. ?ernov, told reporters that Russia had asked its foreign partners to postpone the date of final liquidation of CWs until 2012. To meet its commitments, Russia reportedly needs an additional USD 3 billion, one third of which it hopes to acquire from Western countries, primarily from the US. Cfr. RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 5, No. 234, Part I, 12 December 2001.
15According to a declaration made by the Russian Minister of Defence, Ivanov, on 6th December 2001, Russia hopes to increase funds for the purchase of modern weapons systems by approx 1 billion USD in 2002.
16On the Russian north coast there are dozens of nuclear submarines, with cut off missile department, but with corroded nuclear reactors still on board. These reactors represent acute danger for Russia. Despite of this risk, Russian government is making option in favour of new armaments, not in favour of safe dissmatling of old weapons.
17Cfr. I. Ivanov, „Novaja rossijskaja diplomatija“,Olma-Press, Moscow 2001, pp. 73,74.
18Of his many appearances, let us for example remember Putin's article "Russia on the Brink of the Third Millennium", published on the Internet in December 2000, as well as his report on the state of the Federation, delivered in July 2000. This realistic approach is all the more significant in that it was formulated at a time when the Russian economy was growing favourably. After overcoming the crisis of 1998, the Russian economy showed above-average results. The growth in exports and GDP was caused primarily by short-term factors such as the devaluation of the Russian rouble and the interplay of high prices for key Russian export commodities (oil, gas and metals).
19Cfr: Timothy J. calton, Michael McFaul, America’s Real Russian Alies, in: Foreign Affaires November/December 2001, pp. 46 – 58.
20The West's attitude towards RFP and V. Putin seems to have certain internal contradictions. If the Russian President comes out in favour of a western orientation for his country, his words are considered to be not only an expression of his own personal conviction but also of the entire country's orientation. If, however, the head of the Russian state comes out with the opposite view (i.e. anti-Western), his words are usually taken to be lip-service to those internal forces not supporting reforms and rapprochement with the West. Hence an exception proving the rule.
21The words of the Russian President are all the more convincing, in that they are spoken in fluent German. After many decades, V. Putin is the first Russian head of state who can speak a "western" language.
22The signing of new weapons contracts was frozen by Russia in 1995 pursuant to an agreement in the form of the Gore – Chernomyrdin inter-governmental commission.
23The governing regime in Tadjikistan only exists thanks to the support of the Soviet army and in this sense present-day Tadjikistan can be considered to be a Russian protectorate.
24Russia reacted relatively quickly and expressed its support for the fight against terrorism, though its representatives made it clear in their speeches that they wished to include assistance for Russia in its Chechen campaigns in the fight against terrorism programme.
     On 21st September, Putin offered Russia's assistance in five areas: active collaboration between intelligence services, collaboration between rescue missions in Afghanistan, extended support of the Northern Alliance, opening of air-space for humanitarian flights and the agreement of the Central Asian republics to overflying aircraft. However, that same day, Putin also set the price for such collaboration when he announced that Russia still considered the American withdrawal from the anti-missile defence treaty of 1972 to be a mistake because the current security system is to a considerable extent based on this treaty.
     After the Central Asian states offered their air-space for the requirements of American armed forces - and not only for humanitarian flights, as Russia had originally done, the Russian Minister of Defence, Ivanov, offered Russian air-space to the American military. The price for this concession was set immediately when President Putin declared that NATO should accept Russia as a member.

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Александр Чубарьян
Tomas Urbanec
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