Putin’s foreign policy: achievements and failures

March 1st, 2008 - 10:04 am ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, March 1 (Ria Novosti) As Russia braces for presidential elections Sunday, strategic planners are looking at the achievements and failures of the country’s foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin. First, the achievements:

Russia regained its status as a leading world power. Economic revival and stable economic growth have increased Russia’s international prestige. Its views now carry far more weight in the international arena than they did in the 1990s.

This goal has been achieved without a substantial increase in nuclear or other capacities. Russia’s increased importance as an exporter of oil and gas also played a role, along with the inclusion of Russia in the group of the most rapidly developing emerging economies (BRIC, comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Today all Russians feel that they are citizens of a large, strong, growing and respected state. In the 1990s, it was said that Russia was governed from Spaso House, the US ambassadorial residence in Moscow. Today every Russian and foreigner knows that Moscow may disagree with Washington, or other capitals, on foreign or domestic issues, and uphold its stance without negative consequences.

When manipulations of public opinion during elections brought anti-Russian regimes to power in neighbouring states, some people thought that this would provoke the dissolution of the CIS and an economic and political crisis in Russia. They were disappointed. A failed “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan, accompanied by chaos and pogroms in the capital, frightened the local elites and population but strengthened Russia’s stance in Central Asia. The colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia lost their appeal following subsequent negative events there. Russia’s foreign policy emerged as the victor in these crises because it reacted calmly to them, proving that sometimes it is better to do nothing.

At the same time, the military union of several CIS states - the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) - was preserved, and Russia is changing the post-Soviet policy of supplying cheap energy to political allies. It is developing new relations with Kazakhstan and a new model of international cooperation in Central Asia. Foreign policy in the post-Soviet space is being increasingly split into a Western and a Central Asian policy, which are quite separate and, therefore, more realistic.

In the 1990s, Russia’s foreign policy lost its global reach. Russian authorities did not have a clearly defined view of economic and political goals in different parts of the world. The situation changed under Putin, with state-controlled and private businesses establishing ties in nearly all countries, supported by a special policy of promoting their interests.

There have been failures too.

Russia failed to become the top partner of close neighbours such as China and India. Russia’s economy was not strong enough to become the leading influence even in countries that would have welcomed this. The era of unions formed for political reasons is over, and the ability of business to become a competitive leader in foreign markets is now crucial.

Russian business has neither the experience nor the resources for attaining this goal. Russia is not the top partner for any of its main economic partners (such as Germany and China, as well as the CIS, notably Kazakhstan). At best, it is one of their 10 largest partners. This has weakened Russia’s ties, including political ones, with these states.

Russia today cannot do what the Soviet Union did in the sphere of winning hearts and minds abroad. The territory in which the Russian language is spoken is shrinking, and the prestige of Russian culture and arts abroad is declining. In this sphere Russia’s foreign policy (or rather, related sectors) is lagging far behind many other countries, which have a multitude of technologies to promote their cultures beyond their national borders.

New ideas appeared in that sphere in the early 1980s, but to this day millions of Russians living abroad have not become drivers of Russia’s development in economic and other spheres, unlike the Chinese and Indian diaspora.

Russia lost influence in Georgia and Ukraine. Moscow proved unable to mobilize the seemingly huge resources of goodwill in neighbouring states, including those with a large ethnic Russian population. Moreover, it has taken actions that worsened the position of its supporters in those countries.

During the 1990s, this sphere of international cooperation kept afloat nearly half of Russia’s foreign policy, notably its relations with countries with which trade was lagging, such as China. It was seen as the core of a new model for foreign trade based on the export of technologies rather than raw materials. The volume of military exports increased in the early 2000s, but other arms suppliers also stepped up competition. However, this cannot be said to be the only reason that buyers of Russian-made weapons and equipment often refuse to take delivery of them and complain of unjustified delays.
RIA Novosti

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