On February 27, with Russia’s presidential poll already in sight, Moskovskie Novostidaily featured an international politics opinion piece by Vladimir Putin, which came as the seventh in a series of programmatic papers by the Russian prime minister and March 4 elections front-runner. The vision of foreign policy issues and perspectives laid out by Vladimir Putin drew responses worldwide and merits an in-depth analysis.
It is clear that the majority of the challenges confronting Russia internationally stem from the US tendency to maintain at any cost its monopoly in global affairs, including the “right” to occasionally tailor the political map of the world to Washington’s liking. Russia, as a result, faces recurrent attempts to exclude it from the process of shaping the international policy agenda and to subject its geopolitical status to fundamental downgrade.
As of today, the US seems to reject the very idea that other countries must be treated as equal partners in handling the world’s problems.
Russia, a major power and a large economy with the overland territory spanning 1/7 of the world’s total, stretching across two continents, and opening direct access to two oceans, is entitled to its own national interests and geopolitical aspirations and has to take the threats to its standing seriously.
It should be also taken into account in the context that being a key player in the European and global politics has over the course of centuries become an integral part of Russia’s political tradition. Putin stresses that “Russia has generally always enjoyed the privilege of conducting an independent foreign policy and this is what it will continue to do”.
Other countries – Moscow’s allies or geopolitical rivals – should at all times be aware that Russia is prepared to defend itself and its friends, as well as the general principle of equal rights in international politics, meaning that the freedom of maneuver available to its peers should not be perceived as unlimited if Russia’s national security regards factor into the situation.
No doubt, Moscow is yet to contribute to formulating the global rules of the game which, among those of others, should duly reflect Russia’s own interests and views. The rules obviously should include the following:
1. The principle of inviolability of national sovereignty.
2. Universality of the norms of international conduct and unacceptability of double standards.
3. Absolute priority of diplomacy in conflict resolution and a ban on the disproportionate use of force.
4. Unacceptability of “humanitarian interventions”.
It is an open secret that in many cases the death tolls related to “humanitarian interventions” far exceed those inflicted by the regimes condemned as dictatorial and targeted under the pretext of protecting civilian populations. Nor should it evade watchers that Washington exercises double standards by asserting that interventions against other countries are admissible as human rights override national sovereignty but would never agree to see the US sovereignty called into question.
5. The indivisible security principle
The rules of the game espoused by Russia are consonant with the concepts of fairness and security to which most nations and countries would readily subscribe. Therefore, Russia’s approaches to international relations are guaranteed to meet with understanding in all epochs, especially these days when we routinely witness the principles supposed to keep the world stable being cynically brushed away.
The moral values underlying the policies pursued by Moscow will, in the long run, translate into its definitive influence globally. The mission of the Russian diplomacy is to have the values reinstated as the basis of international politics. No country but Russia has the potential to become in charge of outlining a new agenda and international code ruling out any form of global dictate.
Helping other countries stay sovereign and independent – and, in the process, coherently citing the above principles atop of pertinent case-specific regards – Russia also reinforces its own security and, paradoxically, that of the West. The arrangement exemplifies the general paradigm known as the indivisibility of security. In contrast, the US efforts to sideline Russia and to impose on it the background power status routinely cause the West to float Utopian initiatives or to launch completely irresponsible campaigns.
First, the US is currently trying to achieve complete invulnerability in the military sphere, including the immunity to a response nuclear strike. Obviously, the in-depth motivation behind the pursuit is to avoid assured mutual destruction under the scenario of a nuclear conflict. Chances are the US elite fears that some day its country would be thrown out of history similarly to how the US treated Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya.
The US is planning to build a global missile defense and, at the same time, coerces Russia into drastic cuts of its nuclear arsenals in the hope that missile defense infrastructures would be able to neutralize Russia’s residual nuclear deterrent. It is an easy guess that arms control talks would be ending in stalemates if Washington continues to rely on the strategy, but it is also clear even at this point that the US complete invulnerability will always be an illusory objective.
Secondly, one gets a permanent impression that the US and its European allies plan to leave Russia short of allies and economic partners by undermining the regimes friendly to Russia across the world. The tendency was manifest in the cases of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran but similarly surfaced under less pressing circumstances, for example, when Russia’s energy giant Gazprom could not get the green light to buy into Opel, sanctions were slapped on Russian companies – typically those of the military-industrial complex – for transactions with regimes kept under pressure by the West, and European regulators passed passed discriminatory laws hurting Russian suppliers.
The policy carries particularly high risks when applied to the post-Soviet space. The recent outbreak of unrest in Kazakhstan’s Zhanaozen and the serial attempts to undermine stability in Belarus appear to reflect Washington’s far-reaching strategy aimed at derailing the Eurasian integration project in its relative infancy. Washington reckons that regime changes in some of the post-Soviet republics can slow down the Eurasian integration while the local elites largely remain undecided and the Customs Union is experiencing the inevitable formative-phase problems.
Thirdly, steps are obviously being taken to destabilize Russia as the West is putting to work its velvet revolution technology disguised as support for greater democracy and popular political involvement. Money is being poured in massive quantities in various NGOs in Russia as a part of the package while activists from various groups are trained to mobilize the corresponding audiences.
Fourthly, Russia finds itself targeted in a carefully planned information warfare campaign. The time has come for the Russian administration, academic community, media, and expert groups to compose in response a broad conceptual framework based on Moscow’s positions in the spheres of historical studies, culture, human rights, etc.
A propaganda defeat is imminent if Russia continues to speak the Western conceptual language with keywords like democracy, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and Stalinism which imply a priori negative assessments of all aspects of the Russian and Soviet historical experience. Adopting the language, the Russian administration and academic community render themselves defenseless at the face of the Western information warfare.
Fifthly, Russia’s foreign policy should be equipped with a convincing humanitarian component. Combining diplomacy, clever information policies, and the popularization of the Russian language and culture should help Moscow address its long-term goals internationally, especially in the territories historically associated with Russia. “We must work to expand Russia’s educational and cultural presence in the world, especially in those countries where a substantial part of the population speaks or understands Russian”, wrote Vladimir Putin.
The Russian course should in all cases be premised in the assumption that the treatment of Russian-speaking populations – or the interpretations of common history offered in the CIS countries – do not belong exclusively to the realm of domestic affairs of the respective countries. Within the CIS, the common historical past automatically translates into lasting mutual obligations of moral and humanitarian character.
Those include respect for the rights of the population groups which natively speak Russian, while the readiness to oppose, in concert with Moscow, the tide of historical revisionism should serve as a criterion of true disposition towards Russia and its people. The above themes merit a permanent place on the Russian diplomatic agenda, notably, vis-a-vis Ukraine.
Russia should decisively advance its own principles for the international relations and be prompt to response to any infringements upon its national interests. Moscow has the leverage it takes to make other countries respect its positions over missile defense, the post-Soviet space, the Middle East, etc. For example, Russia’s threat to close the Northern Supply Route used to sustain the operations the West is running in Afghanistan would surely sound alarming to Washington and the European capitals.
Russia will actually earn the friendship of an ever-growing number of countries in all parts of the world by firmly advocating its international policy principles and national interests. In a world where the principles are respected, Russia will score benefits far outweighing the costs of re-establishing itself as a global power which, in fact, it has never stopped being.
Victor PIROZHENKO, Strategic Culture Foundation