Russia - Foreign Relations - Post Cold War
On the night of 25 December 1991, the red flag was lowered from the Kremlin cupola – and soon the Soviet Union was relegated to the ash heap of history. The world went unipolar in a flash. Functionaries of Empire proclaimed the end of History, erasing the 1987 verdict of Yale historian Paul Kennedy in "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", that the global American empire, like all empires that came before, was declining.
Twenty-five years after the fall of the USSR, Vladimir Putin was the one and only geopolitical king maker; the prime deconstructor of the myth of Western liberal “democracy” – be it of the neocon or the neoliberalcon, “humanitarian imperialistic” variety; and the smasher of the Mother of All Geopolitical Myths: the domination of the unipolar superpower. Putin cut to the chase when he spoke at the defense ministry's HQ in Moscow in December 2016: "We can say with certainty: we are stronger now than any potential aggressor." And he added; "Anyone."
Russia does not aspire to be like the West. Rather, its leaders want the West - and specifically NATO and America - to become weaker and more fractured. The West was, in the words of Molly K. McKew, "not the beginning of a better - greater - world, but the long anomaly in a tyrannous and dark one."
Fedor Lukyanov wrote "Russia will be unable to insert itself into the construct envisaged by the Western project. But by then this construct itself had actually toppled, which was graphically manifested in 2016. The building of a new order is really beginning only now, when a line has been drawn under the plan to reconfigure for global purposes the institutions created to service the Western part of the world during the "Cold War" years."
US President Barack Obama said "we've seen a lot of commentary lately where there were, there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seemed to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans were Democrats..."
Putin said September 20, 2013 : "Today we need new strategies to preserve our identity in a rapidly changing world... economic growth, prosperity and geopolitical influence are all derived from societal conditions. They depend on whether the citizens of a given country consider themselves a nation, to what extent they identify with their own history, values and traditions, and whether they are united by common goals and responsibilities. In this sense, the question of finding and strengthening national identity really is fundamental ...
"... many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan. The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote paedophilia.... Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis.... "
The Russian elite was divided between the "siloviki" (officials from the security and intelligence services) and the modernizers. The siloviki are Putin proteges who believe a strong state exercising effective political and economic control is the answer to most problems. They advocate tightening the screws against domestic opposition and their alleged external supporters -- principally the U.S. and its Western allies. The modernizers believe that Russia's future depends on integration with the world economy and that confronting some of the country's most stubborn problems -- such as corruption -- requires transparency and the impartial application of the law. The security services are skeptical about the West's motivations and are the most influential opponents of the engagement agenda. Many Russian citizens associate economic progress with Putin's hard-line rule and economic decline with Yeltsin's democratization program. Russia's hard-line stances on issues often results in its failure to achieve its objectives by hardening opposition to its positions even on issues where there may have been room for compromise.
The "Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation" was approved by President of the Russian Federation V. Putin on 12 February 2013. It is a systemic description of basic principles, priorities, goals and objectives of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.
"The current stage of the world development is characterized by profound changes in the geopolitical landscape largely provoked or accelerated by the global financial and economic crisis. International relations are in the process of transition, the essence of which is the creation of a polycentric system of international relations. That process is not an easy one. It is accompanied by increased economic and political turbulence at the global and regional levels. International relations become increasingly complex and unpredictable....
"The ability of the West to dominate world economy and politics continues to diminish. The global power and development potential is now more dispersed and is shifting to the East, primarily to the Asia-Pacific region. The emergence of new global economic and political actors with Western countries trying to preserve their traditional positions enhances global competition, which is manifested in growing instability in international relations....
"With the reduced risk of a large-scale war, including a nuclear one, the balance of military power between states and groups of states is changing. Efforts to build up or modernize offensive potentials, to create and deploy new types of weapons erode the global security architecture based on international treaties and agreements in the area of arms control....
"Another risk to world peace and stability is presented by attempts to manage crises through unilateral sanctions and other coercive measures, including armed aggression, outside the framework of the UN Security Council. There are instances of blatant neglect of fundamental principles of international law, such as the non-use of force, and of the prerogatives of the UN Security Council when arbitrary interpretation of its resolutions is allowed. "
In the post-Soviet era, Russia’s foreign relations have gone through several stages. In the early 1990s, Russia sought friendly relations with virtually all countries, especially the West and Japan. By the mid-1990s, a nationalist faction discouraged relations with the West in favor of renewed influence in the “Near Abroad” (the territory of the former Soviet Union) and closer ties with China. The two contradictory approaches defined Russia’s foreign policy since that time.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia took steps to become a full partner in the world's principal political groupings. In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent UN Security Council seat formerly held by the Soviet Union. Over the years, Russia has increased its international profile and played a growing role in regional issues. Russia and the United States both belong to a number of other international organizations and groupings, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Middle East Quartet, P5+1 on Iran, Six-Party Talks on North Korea, G-8, and G-20. In 1994 Russia joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace initiative. In 1997 the NATO-Russia Founding Act established formal relations between the NATO and Russia, and in 2002 the NATO-Russia Council was created.
In the mid-1990s, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the first of two conflicts with the Republic of Chechnya strained relations with the West. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks realigned Russia with the United States, but new strains came from the continuation of the second Chechnya conflict, Russia ’s support of Iran’s nuclear program, and Russia’s failure to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Meanwhile, Russia improved its position in the Near Abroad by strengthening relationships with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and main taining bases in Moldova and Georgia. In 2005 relations with Uzbekistan improved as that country reversed its earlier movement toward the West. Relations with Ukraine deteriorated after Ukraine elected a Western-oriented president in 2004 and Russia raised natural gas prices in 2005.
Tension with Georgia increased in mid-2006 as Russia backed the demands of separatists in Georgia’s South Ossetia region. Russia used its role as natural gas supplier to gain leverage over both Georgia and Ukraine. Intensifying its commercial and diplomatic role in Asia, Russia was a strong supporter of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which it saw as a key factor in blocking U.S influence in Central Asia, and it improved relations with North and South Korea and China in a number of areas. However, Russia’s insistence on maintaining control of the Kuril Islands, a reversal of recent conciliation, chilled relations with Japan.
In the early 2000s, the Putin Administration continued to attempt a balance between restoring Russia’s influence in the Near Abroad (particularly Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine) and preserving positive relations with the West, which had looked with disfavor on Russia’s nationalistic ambitions. In that period, Russia’s perceived support of regimes in Iran and Syria, Western support for successful democratic movements in Georgia and Ukraine, Western criticism of Putin’s policies toward Chechnya, and restriction of nongovernmental organizations and the media were issues that damaged the bilateral rapport achieved in 2001.
In August 2006, the United States irked Russia by imposing sanctions on two Russian arms companies for their dealings with Iran. In 2006 Russia made progress in negotiations for membership in the World Trade Organization, but some issues caused the United States to delay approval of Russia’s membership. The continued existence of the U.S. Jackson–Vanik Amendment, which originally linked U.S.-Soviet trade with the Soviet Union’s emigration policy for Jews, also was a source of tension. In mid-2006, Russia enhanced its international prestige by hosting the annual Group of Eight summit meeting. Russia used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to influence international responses to cris es in Iran, Sudan, and the Middle East.
President Medvedev announced a framework for Russian foreign policy under his government, built around the principles of international engagement, and Russia continued to play an important role in international institutions such as the UN Security Council. Russia increased its international profile, played an increasing role in regional issues, and been more assertive in dealing with its neighbors. Russia had not shied from using its significant oil and gas exports as sources of political influence.
Differences with the international community arose following the conflict in Georgia in 2008, and Russia’s recognition of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. The August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia marked a new low point in relations. Russia continues to support separatist regimes in Georgia and Moldova. Russia always reacts to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as temporary states, as Russian politics views them. And this always has mostly to do with the fact that Vladimir Putin had set himself the task to restore the Soviet Union, or the Russian Empire, or some such thing.
Relations between Russia and the UK were strained in the aftermath of the murder of Alexander Litvenenko in November 2006 and the closure of the British Council in St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg in January 2008. The UK co-operates with Russia where it is in its interests to do so. High-level contacts have increased in the last year, in pursuit of shared interests on the global economy, energy and climate security, and international stability – although bilateral differences remain. President Medvedev and Prime Minister Brown held talks in July 2008 and President Medvedev visited the UK in April 2009 for the G20 Summit.
Paul Goble wrote in 2009 that "The conviction in Russia’s security agencies that the USSR would never have collapsed if “the Chekists” rather than the Communists had been in power has led many of them to conclude that they can restore much of the Soviet inheritance because “power is in the hands of ‘the Chekists’” rather than in the “imitation CPSU – “United Russia.” ... the “Chekists” are convinced that they would never yield power the way Gorbachev and the CPSU did and that “in the ‘chekist’ milieu, [Vladimir] Putin is positioning himself as the ‘second Andropov,’” the man many in the security agencies believe would have saved the Soviet Union had he lived."
By 2011, the political order seemed to be shifting decisively against the regime. An emerging urban middle class - grown wealthy, confident, and increasingly politically sophisticated - was demanding change. The elite was deeply divided between technocrats advocating political reform and economic modernization and hard-liners seeking to maintain the status quo. This all changed in 2014 with the patriotic fervor unleashed by the Crimea annexation and the Ukraine crisis. Most Russians shifted their focus to returning Russia to its great-power status.
Mark Galeotti wrote March 3, 2014 that Putin "has been able to use that to parlay a much greater geopolitical role than Russia’s actual political, economic, military, even moral resources ‘should’ command. Of course, in foreign policy chutzpah is a crucial, if intangible asset, especially when dealing with a European Union that is often disunited and uncomfortable with active interventionism (I have yet to see where the ‘Action’ in the European External Action Service comes in) and a US presidency that appears unable to take a strong line on anything that doesn’t involve drones."
Walter Russell Mead argued in a 2014 piece in "The American Interest," that the patriotic wave Putin was riding was similar to a drug dependency. "He needs triumphs abroad to vindicate and justify his rule and his repression at home, and foreign-policy victories are like cocaine when it comes to their impact on public opinion: the buzz of each hit soon wears off, leaving only the craving for another and larger dose," Mead wrote.
Dmitri Trenin, of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said February 27, 2015 that the period of 1992 to 2014, barely more than 20 years, was the inter-Cold War period. He said "... well-educated Russians, people with enough time and enough resources to study international relations themselves, have come to the conclusion that Russia is essentially seen as the country that lost the Cold War, the country that had to pay the price of defeat, the country that had basically no right to protect its geopolitical interests outside of its borders; that there were no limits to how far NATO expansion should go. Russia was not to be consulted on that issue. Russia was not to be consulted on the issue of the enlargement of the European Union.... Russia's unease or suspicions or what have you with regard to the West coming closer and closer to its own borders was seen as essentially evidence that Russia has not been able to reform itself.
"This whole argument is built on ... a very important statement: There can be no moral equivalence between Russia and the West. That, I think, is key to the new narrative. If there is no moral equivalence, it means that the West can do anything because whatever it does, it is either good or will be corrected by the West itself. Russia has absolutely no right, no moral right at all, to question anything, because it's still a country on probation. It used to be a country on probation. Now it's the criminal again. The old criminal has come back, the old convict."
The core of the Anglo-Saxon global strategy was to prevent at all costs rapprochement between Russia and Europe as the entente between the two would render the US dominance on the European continent meaningless and imply the programmed death of NATO, according to French writer, journalist, and political commentator Alexandre Del Valle.
“For at least a century and a half, the whole Anglo-Saxon strategy (English and American) is to prevent the rapprochement of France, Germany and Russia. The nightmare of Americans is reflected in the vision of General Charles de Gaulle: Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals passing through the axis of Paris-Berlin-Moscow,” Del Valle said 11 February 2016.
There is a sharp divide among European countries on whether Russia poses enough of a threat to justify a significant increase in defense spending, with countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary arguing that there is no risk of Russian invasion and no justification for the expenditures, while Poland and the Baltic states claim that Moscow presents an immediate threat.
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