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  New concept of the Russian foreign policy: from Vancouver to Vladivostok?

Vadim Volovoj, Doctor in Political Sciences
2008 09 09

On 12 July the Russian president D.Medvedev signed the new concept of the Russian foreign policy.  It presents Russia as one of the political centers which is ready to create and implement the international agenda.

According to the above concept, the Western world is getting weaker in the military-political sphere, ignores international legal norms and tries to „restrict“ the developing Russia. It also deals with the strategic partnership with the United States, however, the confrontation line is very clear, especially regarding the NATO development and „the danger of unilateral actions in the sphere of anti-missile defense destabilizing the international situation“.

Regional priorities of Russia are very clear and logical in the Concept, i.e. in favor of the relationship with the CIS countries. The Concept highlights the co-operation with China and India, applies the BRIK concept, however, the most interesting is the idea of the establishment of the single Euro Atlantic security area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Experts evaluate the above Concept differently. According to the newspaper „Komersant“, one of the major differences of this document from the concept signed by V.Putin in 2000, is that „the Government of the Russian Federation is responsible for the formation of foreign policy“. There is nothing special in it, having in mind the current diarchy realia of Russia. Simply, now this was registered officially.

Y.Minchenka, director of the International Political Expertise Institute, highlighted several moments of the Concept. According to him, this is a document of the transitional period, which qualifies the current situation in the world and suggests the medium term steps regarding the response to this situation. The Concept is diplomatic, its certain provisions are hardly understandable and implementable (strengthening of the role of the UN, establishment of the single Euro Atlantic space „together with the United States etc.).

F.Lukyanov, the editor of the journal „Russia in the Global World“, while speaking about the new document, emphasized that: „Russia‘s approach towards the relationship with the former USSR republics is not ideological but political, more specifically – geopolitical. Russia... tries to strengthen its positions at the national level, and to demonstrate its power which is not an ideological, but a geopolitical instrument“. In this context the use of the saying „from Vancouver to Vladivostok“ which is popular among the geopolicy theoreticians, is not surprising.

The Western experts are more reserved in evaluating the new concept of the Russian foreign policy. The majority of them indicate that a strict V.Putin‘s policy regarding the United States and its allies has not changed, the Euro-Asian Russian policy prevails, the efforts are made to tear Europe from America and make it the sphere of Russia‘s influence. P.Bayev from „Jamestown Foundation“ qualified the new concept visually: „the text consisting of 7000 words are statements and banalities of general character usually not contradicting with each other“.

It is not normal, that even the experts have to search for more specific statements in the strategic state document on what is the ally and what is the opponent of the country. Why is the new concept so ambiguous?  Maybe its authors wanted to hide the key priorities of the Russian foreign policy, since everybody could find there the pleasing moments, whereas actually the strict policy (first of all towards the neighboring countries) would be executed? Or maybe its authors cannot imagine what direction should the Russian foreign policy take?

Recently this policy was not consistent. The anti-Western Russia‘s position became more clear, the priority was given to the cooperation with China, however the relationship with Germany, Italy and France was appreciated, although the funds of the Stabilization Fund have been invested to the bankrupting credit companies of the United States.

The Concept might also imply that in the future there‘ll be more efforts to realize the idea of the Eurasian axis, according to which Russia is the connecting-link between Europe and the East. However, in practice, the Russian Euro-Asian policy often reminds the geoenergy: it does not matter who buys gas and oil, the most important thing is to get the highest price.

It is quite complicated to evaluate the documents regulating the Russian foreign policy and practice of its implementation. This is either because it is so professionally hidden that no one is capable to understand it, or because of its chaotic and ambiguous nature preventing from its specific characterization. It is harder to trust the second option, since the Russian diplomacy has always been famous for its deep traditions.

However, Russia and its power in the West today is usually understood in the light of the past power of USSR and the image of the recovering power created by public technologies, but not in the light of reality which is far from ideal.

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