Russian Foreign Policy

The study of the history of the development of Russian foreign policy doctrine, and its heritage and miscalculations. Analysis of the achievements of Russia in the field of international relations. Russia's strategic interests in Georgia and the Caucasus.

Рубрика Международные отношения и мировая экономика
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To some extent, this position of Russia was justified because it minimized the risks to national security. But over time, Russia has returned a lost positions and prestige in the international community, and then the actions of this state on the international arena have become more diverse and critical.

The next chapter will analyze in detail all the fundamental achievements of the Russian Federation in the sphere of international relations. But it is not possible to achieve anything going error-free, at least it might be considered miraculous given the path of state development. In the past decade Russian government has made a lot of wrong decisions and some of them had a global resonance. Perhaps the reason behind those wrong decisions was the ideology of heterogeneity which shaped the foreign policy of Russia during this period, as well as an integral gene of monarchism, which is inherited almost by all the leaders of this country.

On the following pages will be allocated achievements and the main positive factors in course of Russian foreign policy. The analysis of these factors will be followed by failures and setbacks, which in the development of the country's happened quite often. The major achievement of Russian Federation is that over couple of decades after USSR collapsed Russia had regained its status as a leading world power. After a period of chaos and recession in the 1990s, Russia is now proclaimed to be back among the worlds leading authorities. Russia is still undergoing a process of transformation from a Communist party system to a state of law, to democracy and a market economy.

Much has been achieved, although Russia has also experienced certain setbacks. Despite all warranted as well as unwarranted critique of its internal development or foreign-political positions, it has (once again) become a major power factor, it is a nuclear power, a permanent member of the Security Council with power of veto, and besides the US it is the only other state to maintain a continuous presence in space. It exports oil, diamonds and other natural and mineral resources. It has a developing economy and agricultural industry. Russia is member of the European Council and allocates one of its judges to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, to which every citizen of the Russian Federation may appeal. In elections and votes the majority of Russians have affirmed their constitution and governing political system.

This affirmation does not necessarily mean direct identification, but the predominant trend to look to the West and to take advantage of the freedom to travel to the West, which was evident immediately after the political transition in 1990/1991, has diminished considerably. Economic revival and stable economic growth have increased Russia's international prestige. In 2008 the political leadership of the Russian Federation has set an ambitious goal: to bring to the country to the level of "five" world leaders by the year 2020. The main reason for this apparent success has been a remarkable economic growth, driven to a large extent by the booming energy prices.

The last eight years of steady growth meant that Russia's gross domestic product in 2007 reached the level of 1990. Today, Russia is the sixth largest economy in the world and a booming market. Russian experts say much credit must go to President Vladimir Putin, who imposed strict order on Russia's chaos and has pushed for free-market fiscal and social reforms. He was helped, oddly enough, by the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998, which punctured the overvalued ruble, ended the dominance of imported goods in Russian markets and all but wiped out political opposition to overhauling the economy.

Some countries like Russia and other countries don't; some are helping it to spread its influence and others are resisting it. Its views now carry far more weight in the international arena than they did in the 1990s, when Moscow's opinion on international crises was generally ignored.

This goal has been achieved without a substantial increase in nuclear or other capacities, or not only due to such increases. 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 (the BRIC, comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China).

Since Dmitry Medvedev arrived on the world stage, the BRICS community has been given greater attention since Medvedev, strange as it may seem and contrary to the stereotypes of him that have formed, has paid significantly more attention to the non-Western world -- particularly to Asia - than Putin did. Correspondingly, he paid less attention to Europe, which I think doesn't interest him very much. So, during his presidency, the BRICS bloc was emphasized. They started holding summits. Under him, South Africa joined the group -- and Russia played a notable role in convincing the organization of the necessity of accepting South Africa even though the bloc didn't have any particular desire to expand. Formally, the organization has progressed quite a bit during this period, not least in terms of its appearance in the public sphere. At the same time, it would be a mistake to say that the BRICS structure has been filled with some sort of concrete content during this time.

In fact, BRICS didn't even work on those occasions when it could have stood as a united front and extracted some concessions from other world powers. For instance, last year when there was the discussion of the appointment of a new director of the International Monetary Fund, the BRICS countries had an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that they form a cohesive political force and are capable of putting forward a united position. But this didn't happen because all of them -- and Russia most of all -- preferred to engage in direct and separate agreements with the United States and Europe. So, for now, the BRICS structure is an empty casing that the participants are still trying to fill with something.

One more important factor was the rehabilitation of the "sick man of Europe," which many people did not expect to see. During the 1990s, Russia and many fellow Eastern European countries were called "sick men of Europe" due to the severe economic hardships of the time, as well as the soaring rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, and AIDS that led to a negative population growth and falling life expectancies. The Russian Federation had been in the grip of a steadily tightening mesh of serious demographic problems, for which the term "crisis" is no overstatement.

This crisis was altering the realm of the possible for the country and its people-continuously, directly, and adversely. Russian social conditions, economic potential, military power, and international influence were to the recent times, all subject to negative demographic constraints--and these constraints stand seemed only to worsen over the years. Nevertheless, the country managed to overcome those issues in the course of recent years. This factor has undoubtedly reflected in the positive manner on the international image of the state. Another positive aspect of the foreign policy of modern Russia had been the ability of the state to resist to the wave of color revolutions in neighboring states. When manipulations of public opinion during elections brought anti-Russian regimes to power in neighboring 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 in the capital, frightened the local political elites and population but strengthened Russia's stance in Central Asia. The color 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. Despite the ambiguous relations with several countries of the former USSR, Russia managed to preserve an integration mechanisms (CIS, CSTO, etc.) and establish of new ones (SCO). Russia's policy towards the former Soviet states during the 1990s was unsustainable and bound to change, as became evident at the beginning of Vladimir Putin's first presidential term. The only question was what policy would replace it. It became clear over the last eight years that the majority of post-Soviet states need some CIS functions and mechanisms, and so they are being reformed.

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, which involves not only the former Soviet states in the region but also China (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization).

The heritage of the Russian foreign policy and it's miscalculations

In Russian history, the international situation has never been so favorable for a relatively peaceful internal development, as in the early twenty-first century. The absence of large-scale external threats, and who set in the twentieth century, and in the nineteenth century, and XVII, and XIII centuries into question which set the very survival of the nation of Russia and the Russian super-ethnos into question, perhaps for the first time allows a country to focus on issues of domestic policy.

In these circumstances, foreign policy should not be so much an instrument of self-assertion of Russia as a great power (although it is also very important), but the most important resource of national modernization, which is identical to the transition to an innovative type of country development. In this context the foreign policy activities of Russia and the legacy in international affairs, which fell to the new President of Russia should be assessed. In both official and expert evaluations the state of affairs in Russia's foreign policy for several years the incomprehensible euphoria had been dominating. It has been stated in particular that Russia's position in the last eight years had become much stronger (Putin's famous "hand of Russia grows stronger"), it supposedly became more respected, but do not liked by some states in the world, they say, because "it was again a strong and independent.

"This bravura fervor is reminiscent of the worst examples of Soviet foreign policy propaganda, pierced in recent years through the speeches of top officials of the state, the court "analysts", as well as all the official documents without exception, including a recent review of Ministry of Foreign Affairs' foreign policy and diplomatic activities of the Russian Federation "and the new foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation which Dmitry Medvedev approved on July 12, 2008".

( Lowell W. Barrington, Erik S. Herron, and Brian D. Silver, "The Motherland Is Calling: Views of Homeland among Russians in the Near Abroad," World Politics 55, No. 2 (2003) : 290-313.)

Are there objective reasons to these estimates ? An honest and politically unaffiliated answer to these questions are unlikely to coincide with those panegyrics that have been give voice by the official and "unofficial" experts of the Kremlin. No doubt, in comparison with the early and mid 90s of last century, Russia's position in the world has improved considerably.

But this improvement was not the result of a successful, active and well-counted foreign policy, which has since been on various merits (and not in rhetorical terms) has not changed. Some improvement of Russia's position was attained by the two factors which it did not accomplish at all: the relative weakening of the political positions of the U.S. (due to the failure in Iraq) and the EU (due to a temporary inhibition of the European integration process) and a favorable situation for Russia on world energy markets. To be fair, it should be noted that significant role has been played by such factors as the internal consolidation of the Russian state, which began in the mid 90s, when world energy prices were not so favorable for Russia.

If one tries to describe the state of affairs in foreign policy in one word, then this word should be crisis. In this case it is not some marginal crisis or the crisis of Russian foreign policy in certain areas. The crisis is a comprehensive and wide-ranging, systemic and structural, developing both "vertically", i.e. top to bottom, and "horizontally", i.e. in all conceivable directions. It is simultaneously conceptual, institutional, resource, intellectual, technological and an image crisis. Moreover, this crisis is accompanied by a synchronized and increasing pressure on Russia by the major international players.

As for talks about the "pragmatism" and "multi-vector" foreign policy, which allegedly is followed by the Kremlin, it is obvious that statesmen are trying to hide behind those statements the obvious fact that Russia's foreign policy is formed spontaneously, constructed as a system of answers, rather than preventive steps, has no thought for the future, but is purely situational. Is it any wonder that in in the sphere of international affairs, Russia is still not widely trusted and considered unpredictable? The main thing is that in the event of continuation of this kind of policy, Russia is doomed for new defeats. Regardless of various statements, virtually none of the tasks of Russia's foreign policy of a global order, which were set in Russian Foreign Policy Concept and approved by Putin in 2000 had not been completed. It is important to analyze in this chapter the problems posed by regional foreign policy in the process of their solving Russia could have played a much larger role:

Development of good neighborly relations and strategic partnership with all states - participants of CIS as a priority area in Russian foreign policy, with the primary objective to strengthen the Union of Belarus and Russia as the highest form of integration of two sovereign states at this stage;

Strong opposition to the narrowing functions of the OSCE, attempts to redirect its activities towards the former Soviet Union and the Balkans in particular;

Transformation of the adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in an effective tool of ensuring European security;

Development of intensive, sustained and long-term cooperation with the European Union, devoid of market fluctuations;

Opposition to NATO expansion plans;

Preservation of existing human, economic and cultural ties with Central and Eastern European order to overcome the current crisis, and to give extra impetus to cooperation under the new conditions and Russian interests;

(Shlapentokh, Vladimir. "Russia as a Newborn Superpower: Putin as the Lord of Oil and

Gas," #18 - Johnson's Russia List, 9 February 2006.)

Development of relations with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the stream of good neighborly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation;

Preserving the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, resistance to the dismemberment of the state, which is fraught with danger of a pan-Balkan conflict with unpredictable consequences;

Overcoming of considerable difficulties in the recent relations with the United States, which primarily concerns problems of disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as preventing and resolving the most dangerous regional conflicts;

Enhancing the participation of Russia in the main integration structures of the Asia-Pacific region, the APEC forum in particular;

Development of friendly relations with the leading Asian states, especially China and India;

Sustainable development of relations with Japan in order to achieve a true good neighborliness that meets the national interests of both countries, registration of the internationally recognized border between the two countries.

(Trenin, Dmitri. "Reading Russia Right," Policy Brief #42 Special Edition. October 2005. (accessed December 2005).

With regard to the Commonwealth of Independent States, Russian policy was simply a failure. Russia not only failed to achieve any breakthrough (though such a task were assigned by Vladimir Putin), but had to back down on all issues, without exception. Prospect of integration have been lost not only with some individual countries - be it Georgia, Ukraine or Belarus - the prospect of integration was lost in this area in general. The situation in this area has worsened especially after Putin's statement that the CIS, had no hope, and from the very beginning it was conceived as a "civilized divorce process." In response to the crisis of the integration project in the post-Soviet space, the Kremlin's desire to "write off" the collapse of the CIS on some external forces rather than conducting an in-depth analysis of the situation is is especially alarming.

No doubt, these forces have played its role. However, all these "orange revolution" had an objective character, as they were a form of protest against the bankrupt and corrupt post-Soviet regimes that, contrary to Russia's national interests, Kremlin was trying to save. Russia did not even managed to withdraw from military-political threat near its borders over the years, which convincingly demonstrated in the Georgia-South Ossetia military conflict in August 2008 in which it has been literally plunged. It is necessary to ascertain that around Russia has been forming,with external support, a hostile military-political environment.

Regarding the European direction. Russia did not succeed in stopping the trend towards a narrowing of the OSCE functions (indeed, over the past eight years it has evolved substantially in an anti-Russian organization), neither enlargement or erosion of the CFE Treaty (Russia suspended its participation in this Agreement). Relations with the EU (not with individual countries - Germany and France - and with the EU in general) have now been the worst in the last 20 years. They are clearly came to a state of serious decline, especially after the events that occurred in 2004 in Ukraine.

At the end of 2006 Agreement between the EU and Russia regarding Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) has expired and the new agreement still failed to develop. In this situation talks about the four common spaces of the Wider Europe seems rather vague and, frankly unpromising. Pompous ritual of signing of the "road maps", did not change this bleak picture. In Europe once again been talks about the dividing lines, and this line is now on the border of Ukraine and Russia, which was the subject of derogatory comments and jokes from the main European elites as from the public, and at the state level.

For some time it began to be treated as a "sick man of Europe". The very identity of Russia has been increasingly questioned by the European civilization. With the arrival of the new management in Germany and in France the tripartite mechanism for political consultations namely Berlin-Paris-Moscow has been completely destroyed. Russian-British political relations are still in a complete deadlock. With regard to NATO Russia have continued over the past eight years (and still do) to tread on the same rake as the Yeltsin administration did. First, Putin (as Yeltsin did in 1992) proclaimed Russian readiness to join NATO.

Having received "an evasive answer" from Washington, Russia started to categorically oppose the admission to its ranks countries of CEE and the Baltics. Thus, Russia has pushed with their own hands an integration into of those countries in the alliance, provoking (or at least accelerating), the second wave of NATO enlargement. At the same time it went on to create a new body of interaction with this military alliance - NATO-Russia Council, as if oblivious of the fact that the same structure has been established after the first wave of expansion in 1997. As expected, the new structure was just as ineffective as the old.

At the moment Russia is on the eve of the third wave of NATO enlargement to the East (at the expense of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova). It is clear that the proposal Medvedev had made on 5 June 2008 in Berlin at a meeting with representatives of political, parliamentary and social circles of Germany regarding the development and conclusion "of a legally binding treaty on European security," is essentially identical proposal to abolish NATO and it did not earn any enthusiasm on the part of European partners of Russia. The conclusion of this contract in the current political situation is just not realistic. Of course, a direct military threat from NATO is close to a zero. But if the mechanism for a real partnership between NATO and Russia won't be worked out (and this is still not happening), there will be a third wave of its enlargement, the dividing line between Europe and Russia will take place on the border of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, which would mean a complete failure our European policy.

As for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with their entry into the European structures of security and economic cooperation (NATO and the EU), they became the subjects of anti-Russian attitude, largely determine the of these hostile policies of these structures towards Moscow. Russian relations with the Baltic countries and Poland are going through especially serious crisis. The task of maintaining the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to counter the dismemberment of this state, which is fraught with the threat of a pan-Balkan conflict with unpredictable consequences has not been resolved and although it has been staged in 2000. Now after events in 2008 in Kosovo, it became apparent that a similar mechanism may be started at any time for any separatist neoplasms, if deem advantageous to the United States.

One can hardly say that Russia have achieved any success in the American sector. Full-fledged Russian-American relations are yet to happen. One would probably call a success the currently developing Russian-Chinese relations. However, many of politicians and experts still question whether the gains in these relations are bought mostly at the cost of Russian territorial concessions? In their opinion, according to the Treaty on the boundary settlement, signed in 2004, Russia had given away two large islands to China frontier - Great Ussuri (most of it) and Tarabarov. The total area of land ceded to China totaled at 337 square kilometers. If such problems arise it means that our foreign ministry did not bother at least to submit a coherent explanation for this crucial matter.

In addition, the structure of Russian - Chinese trade and economic relations over the past 20 years has not changed essentially: Russia continue to supply China with weapons, energy resources and modern technologies, the Chinese are in response overwhelm Russia with low-quality consumer goods. And if from 1945 until the collapse of the Great of Russia in those bilateral relations Soviet Union informally (and even quite officially) firmly held the position of "elder brother", and in the 90 years it has been, at best, the relationship of "equal brothers" today, it seems that China has quietly become "big brother". These relationship is largely preserved by the fact that the vector of foreign policy activity of China is directed to the South now rather than to the North. However, this does not bode well for Russia. If China will intensifying its efforts to reclaim Taiwan, it will cause an acute crisis in China-US and China-Japanese relations.

Such a development is unlikely to meet Russia's interests because it would mean a sharp destabilization of the entire Asia-Pacific region with consequences which would be hard to predict. The Russian-Japanese political relations (on the background of a very small recovery of economic relations) today are still at zero. And there are currently no signs of even long-term prospects for normalization, this was the fact that Dmitry Medvedev was has been forced to acknowledge in his interview to journalists of the "Group of Eight" on 3rd of July 2008.

The task of "clearance of an internationally recognized border between the two countries" ( Trenin, Dmitri. "Russia's Foreign and Security Policy Under Putin," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005.) which was set to achieve in 2000 has not been resolved yet. Repeated attempts of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the territorial issue ended with chronic embarrassment. Is it not a sign of complete failure of Russian (also Japanese) foreign policy elite? Of course, all these problems of Russia's foreign policy did not arise overnight. They have been accumulating for a long time, ever since 1991.

And yet fatal as well as critical for Russia's foreign policy were the years 2004-2008: it is difficult to find even one such period in Russian history, when Russia got so many slaps, kicks and knockdowns. Equally shameful, perhaps, only have been years after the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1856). However, this failure lasted only a few years: Russia had quickly won back its geopolitical position, and regained its international prestige the over the course of next few years after the war.

Nowadays it is obvious that humiliation of Russia by the "international community" continues for more than 20 years of an era of new Russian statehood. At the same time professionalism of domestic diplomatic corps is beyond doubt. As has been evident to everyone that it is quite a different matter. What are the main reasons for the deep crisis of Russian foreign policy?

Reasons behind crisis

First of all, this crisis has a conceptual nature. This means that currently Russia does not have a viable and realistic conception of foreign policy. The concept approved by Vladimir Putin in 2000 contained many correct conclusions and regulations. However in general it is certainly out of date. Unfortunately, the new Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by Dmitry Medvedev on July 12, 2008 had no sense of "breakthrough" in it - at the very beginning of the document was stipulated that it was merely "complements and builds upon the provisions of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President of the Russian Federation on June 28, 2000.

The new concept contains three key theses: emphasis was made on the comprehensive strengthening of international law as the basis of interstate relations and the formation of the international security system, reliance on the UN and its Security Council as non-alternative international organization endowed with a unique legitimacy, and the task of reducing the force factor in international relations with simultaneous enhancement of strategic and regional stability. Of course, all these tasks are noble and imbued with high moral and ethical fervor, which by itself should be welcomed. Another question is how do they relate with the modern realities of global politics.

The history of international relations, for example, shows that international law is not so much a set of some abstract, albeit noble, principles of conduct in foreign policy as the fixation of existing balance of power in the world at present moment. In the context of consideration of the following matter it would be useful to revise briefly the facts from the history. Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 which was concluded after the Thirty Years' War, stated the defeat of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and the papacy - the two major actors in world politics that shaped it before. Under the terms of this agreement, France has secured a dominant position in Europe for 150 years, pushing a minor role to the Spanish monarchy.

After the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1812 the Russian Empire had secured the leading positions for several decades ahead which was enshrined in the documents of the Congress of Vienna and in the international configuration of Sacred Union. After Russia's defeat in the Crimean War in 1954-1956,. new balance of forces has been fixed in the documents of the Paris Congress under the terms of which Russia lost its leading position. The Frankfurt peace of the year 1971 noted the weakening of France and a major strengthening of Germany unified by the "Iron Chancellor" O.Bismark. Treaty of Versailles in 1918 meant the consolidation in international law, including the League of Nations, a new correlation of forces: Germany as a defeated country was forced to agree to a humiliating position in the international system for itself. The Ottoman Empire was abolished, and the first position were occupied by Britain, France and the United States. After the Second World War two countries - the USSR and the USA - made their appearance in the league of "superpowers" .

This was enshrined in the postwar settlement documents, including UN documents (at the formal equality of all five permanent Security Council members - the USSR, USA, China, Britain and France). It is obvious that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the world has developed a new correlation of forces, which no longer reflected the main provisions of the Yalta-Potsdam system of international relations. Under these conditions the documents signed in 1945 could no longer been the sole source of international law and insisting on this is pointless and counterproductive.

One can, of course, condemn unilateralism of the U.S. particularly in Yugoslavia and Iraq but it only illustrates the destruction of international law, which had been developed over 60 years ago and fixed the balance of power on the international arena. An appeal to this international law (the new Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation contains 22 mentions of that) is a sign of weakness not of strength. It is equally meaningless to stress on the exceptional role of the United Nations (this is done in the Concept up to 23 times) in the process of construction of a new system of international security.

The effectiveness and credibility of this mechanism decreases from year to year for quite obvious reasons: an anachronism of its procedures, including procedures for decision-making in the Security Council has become increasingly evident. Attempts to reform this organization at this stage has completely failed. Finally, we can not accept the call for the reduction of force factor in international relations as politically promising: on the contrary, there is a tendency to an increase of this factor, including the factor of military force.

Thus, it should be stated that all three of the fundamental thesis of the new Concept, approved by the third President of Russia - an appeal to the strengthening of international law, the authority of the UN and the reduction of the power factor in world politics - unfortunately, are poorly realizable under present conditions and, therefore, can not serve as a convincing indication of whether any foreign growth potential of Russia is present. In the absence of real power, including the the military one, such foreign policy would inevitably be reduced to an endless submission of complaints which is more than useless. A noble calling for "humanizing of international relations" (Tsygankov, Andrei. "Vladimir Putin's Vision of Russia as a Normal Great Power," Post Soviet Affairs 21, no. 2, (2005). which are not supported by "soft" and "hard" power, can not be a realistic basis for the growth of international influence in the modern pragmatic and even cynical in many ways cruel world. And this is clearly confirmed by the latest developments in the Caucasus.

This episode of a Russian foreign policy development should be analyzed separately.


foreign policy doctrine russia

Russia analysts observe that:

"Russia's new central battleground is in Chechnya and increasingly in the rest of the North Caucasus, where it fights Islamist terrorists, separatists, and bandits." (Dmitri Trenin. "Reading Russia Right," Policy Brief #42 Special Edition. October 2005. Available online at (accessed December 2005.)

Lack of progress in implementing an effective strategy that addresses the corruption and poverty of Russia's southern rim breeds frustration, and leads to human rights abuses that only serve to attract new fighters to the cause. In the words of the Kremlin's Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, the "subterranean fire" of regional instability continues to rage unabated.(Ibid). For this reason the Caucasus will continue to be an area of vital national interest to Russia. The old East-West axis that pinned NATO forces against a massive Soviet conventional army is gone and the new era of the Southern offensive has been ushered in. The after-effect of the disastrous first Chechen war was a shift in strategic focus. As Dmitri Trenin noted:

"Central European plains were replaced by the Caucasus mountains (and potentially, the mountains and deserts of Central Asia); familiar peer enemies by primitive but deadly warriors; operations of groups of armies were replaced with a mixture of counter-insurgency operations, special forces engagements [and] police mopping up campaigns". (Dmitri Trenin. "Russia's Foreign and Security Policy under Putin," Carnegie Endowment (2005)

With the longest border on Russian unstable Southern rift zone, Georgia has figured prominently in Moscow's foreign and security strategy. Russian key interests in Georgia are characterized by efforts to ensure regional stability, retain military influence, "protect" the Russian diaspora and increase economic ties. Each of these goals is developed below to provide a glimpse of Russian view of the Caucasus.

The chapter then examines the cultural, diplomatic, economic and military means that Russia has used to advance its agenda in Georgia. Finally, these efforts are compared to the tenets of Tsygankov's Great Power Normalization model to determine whether they meet its criteria of a pragmatic Russian approach to foreign policy.

Regional Stability

The Caucasus have historically served as a buffer between the Orthodox Christian empire and Muslim powers to Russia's south. That geopolitical reality has not changed. With what Russians generally refer to as "Wahhabi" (Salafi) influence growing in Uzbekistan and inside Russia itself, Moscow is deeply concerned about instability in its "soft underbelly."

The source of the instability, Chechnya, is largely a secessionist crisis and the subject of Western criticism that Russia's heavy handed military operations in the region created an environment where militant Islam could get a foothold. (Chechen rebels, looking for external sources of support, tapped into the international jihad movement to further their cause but while elements of Islamic extremism now exist in the region, the crisis began, and still is, largely a separatist struggle).

Russia has always been stung by this criticism and has sought to portray the Chechen conflict as part of the larger Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

Continued incidents of violence in the Northern Caucasus have spread eastward from Chechnya to Dagestan and westward to Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and most recently, Kabardino-Balkaria where coordinated attacks against assorted federal and security installations rocked the capital city of Nalchik in mid-October 2005. ("Russia's hot spots: Caucasian dominoes," The Economist. 15 Oct 2005. p54).

To Russia's domestic audience such a spread of violence lends credibility to President Putin's "domino theory" about how the whole southern region of Russia can be destabilized, potentially causing Russia to lose control of the strategic border region from the Caspian to the Black Sea. If this happens, the Kremlin argues, energy supplies from the Caspian basin will be in danger, and terrorist access to weapons of mass destruction technology will expand.(Ariel Cohen. "Competition over Eurasia: Are the U.S. and Russia on a Collision Course?" October 24, 2005. Heritage Lecture #901. Online at

Russians fear that with Islamic extremism no longer contained to Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus, but spreading to places like Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, successful secessionist movements in these regions could effectively split Russia down the middle, with lines of communication between Moscow and its resource rich Siberian environs extremely difficult. ( Dmitri Trenin, "Russia's Foreign and Security Policy Under Putin" (Carnegie Endowment, 2005)

Regional stability also means that the Kremlin does not want to see pro-Western governments coming into power in the former Soviet republics. This means no more "colored revolutions" that disrupt the political status quo that Moscow has fostered since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin publicly couches this concern by criticizing not regime change itself, but the manner in which it takes place - namely through what it considers unlawful and unconstitutional populist demonstrations. What makes Russia's position on the "constitutionality" of these revolutions dubious, from a western perspective, is that the Kremlin does not apply the same standards to authoritarian regimes which violate their own laws and jail or kill their own citizens, such as Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Military Influence

Georgia, like Armenia and Azerbaijan, contained remnants of the Soviet Transcaucasian Military District after the break-up of the USSR. After 1991, Russia assumed control of all former Soviet forces in Georgia, including approximately 20,000 ground troops and numerous vessels and bases of the Black Sea Fleet and Border Guards.

While many troops were subsequently withdrawn (troop strength from these units decreased from 20,000 to around 8500 by 1996) five bases and several strategically significant ports remained and Russia has been very reluctant to give up control of them over the past decade. In addition, while overall military strength was decreasing, the numbers of Russian soldiers in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia was increasing as Moscow supplied the bulk of peacekeepers that were mandated by the CIS to enforce the 1994 peace accords. Today, with the last two bases still in the process of closing and peacekeepers in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, approximately 3000 Russian troops remain in Georgia.

"Protection" of the Russian Diaspora

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it left approximately 25 million Russians living beyond the borders of their ethnic homeland. In many cases these Russians had migrated to the former republics as part of Moscow's nationalities strategy, a highly volatile policy whose divide and conquer methodology during the Soviet era spawned deep seated ethnic and political conflicts. Russian citizens now found themselves minorities in newly independent states without official safety lines to Moscow.

Russia was therefore very "proprietary" over states where ethnic Russian minorities became "stranded" outside the motherland. In Georgia, while ethnic Russians are the 2nd largest minority group, they represented only 6 percent of the population in 1989. In Armenia and Azerbaijan ethnic Russians number under 3 percent. (Rajan Menon, "Introduction: the Security Environment in the South Caucasus and Central Asia," in Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia: the 21st Century Security Environment, ed. Rajan Menon, Yuri Fedorov and Ghia Nodia (New York: EastWest Institute, 1999), 11.)

Although this minority was not a target of anti- Russian policies, Moscow nevertheless has used the security and well-being of the diaspora at least as rhetorical justification to strengthen Russian presence. While Russians in Georgia did not represent a political threat to Tbilisi or a security problem for Moscow, the Kremlin feared the economic impact of an exodus of Russians to Russia and the effect a potential conflict in Georgia might have on the Russian population in the North Caucasus. Fundamentally, the Kremlin believed that it must stabilize any conflict within Georgia (whether it directly involved Russian minorities or not) which might worsen inter-ethnic disputes within Russia itself. (Nicole J. Jackson. Russian Foreign Policy and the CIS (London: Routledge, 2003), 119).

Increase in Economic Ties

At the time of the break up of the Soviet Union, Georgia was one of wealthiest republics. Russian interests in Georgia included agriculture, especially in the semitropical Black Sea areas, coal mines, a major port in Sukhumi, railway links, and tourism, particularly in the resort areas of Abkhazia and Ajaria. Finally, Georgia was a significant transit point for Caspian oil and gas coming from Baku, Azerbaijan, as well as a source of hydroelectric power and minerals. Russia's current foreign policy continues to focus on securing favorable economic relations and agreements, especially with regard to natural resource transit rights.


Western oriented, liberal leaders such as Yeltsin, in order to separate Russia economically from the rest of the republics for the purpose of pursuing radical market reforms, sought to dismantle the Soviet Union and create in its place the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).Others, particularly the military and defense industrial establishment initially believed the formation of the CIS to be nothing more than a name change, a way to cast off the Soviet communist legacy without jeopardizing the fundamental political and institutional bureaucracy.

Thus the CIS was created in 1991 amid much turmoil and its nature was hotly debated by liberal reformers on the one hand and anti-reform neo-imperialists on the other Apart from the Baltic States, Georgia and Azerbaijan were the only two of the remaining twelve Soviet republics that did not initially join the CIS during its first year of creation. Both had been experienced strong nationalist movements and Moscow's violent repression of political demonstrations during the Gorbachev era, and these crises discredited local communist efforts at forming any new "neo-Soviet" political unions.Despite their initial reluctance, both Tbilisi and Baku were coerced into joining the organization two years later when internal instability forced them to turn to Moscow for security assistance in the management of civil wars.

Given Georgia's stormy CIS initiation, and its orientation as one of the more independent minded members, Russia has frequently had stormy relations with the former republic, a trend that has deepened since the "Rose Revolution" that brought to power Western-leaning Mikhail Saakashvili.

While Moscow appears to have gained an upper hand in Central Asia, successfully orchestrating US withdrawal from a strategic base in Uzbekistan, as well as signing a historic mutual defense treaty with Tashkent, it does not appear to have made as significant inroads in the Caucasus and more specifically, its relations with Georgia appear to have become more combative since 2004.

Information / Cultural Mechanisms

While a 2004 survey mapping the attitude of 1,472 Tbilisi residents toward different ethnic groups revealed a 64% positive rating for Russians, Moscow's cultural mechanisms, such as its imperial legacy, media and language, appear to be largely ineffective in maintaining its influence in Georgia. (Statistical data reported in Eurasia Insight Study by Haroutiun Khachatrian entitled "Democracy still not Perceived as Priority in Caucasus" dated 23 November 2005. The study used data gathered by groups of public opinion pollsters in the three Caucasian capital cities in March 2004 under the direction of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), a non-profit research institution sponsored by the Eurasia Foundation.) When faced with their imperial legacy, Russians generally believe the "periphery" is ungrateful to Moscow for bringing it "civilization." Not only did Russia bear the bulk of the expense of industrialization, it defended the periphery from external threats such as the defense of the Georgians from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. In contrast, residents of the Caucasus no longer perceive these efforts as vital or important. Today, their real concern revolves around Moscow's continued support for separatism in regions like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Business priorities, such as energy transit, oil, gas and electricity supply and migration, dictate attitudes towards Russia in the "near abroad" much more than historic memories do. For the younger generation, the importance of Russia as a destination for education and employment is diminishing, being replaced by the lure of most Western influences of Europe and even Turkey. A brief history of independence (from 1918-1921), the small percentage of ethnic Russians in the Caucasus, and the violent Soviet crackdown against rebellion in 1986 all serve to minimize the cultural influence that Russia can bring to bear.

Unlike Central Asia, where there is very little indigenous free press and many residents listen to Russian media, the Georgian press is largely considered to be free, and journalists regularly criticize government officials and their conduct. While Tbilisi authorities finance some publications and operate the national state TV and radio networks, Georgians have access to western press and approximately 200 privatelyowned newspapers. In addition, only about 10% of Georgians speak Russian, further strengthening Georgian identity and a sense of independence. In contrast, in Central Asia, the Russian language is still widely spoken, especially in academic, political and business circles, and serves as the common denominator in educated discourse. In an effort to increase its "soft power" and counter perceptions that many Western NGOs in post-Soviet states promote national languages and the use of English as the new language of international communication, Russia has launched a new offensive consistent with a foreign policy of Great Power Normalization. The Kremlin has recently proposed that the free education quota for students from the CIS (currently set at 1%) should be increased, allowing more students from the Commonwealth of Independent States to get a free education in Russia's higher educational establishments. President Putin also spoke out against cutting the number of departments which Russian colleges and universities have in the CIS and announcing that Moscow State University is

expanding its network of branches in the Commonwealth of Independent States, an effort

the Russian leadership will facilitate. (FBIS article "Russian President Putin Calls for Closer Education Ties With CIS Countries." CEP20051025027193 Moscow RIA-Novosti in Russian 1102 GMT 25 Oct 05. Also see RFE/RL article by Paul Goble, "Moscow Plans Linguistic Counterattack in CIS.)

Diplomatic / Political Mechanisms

While Russia's cultural influence in the Caucasus may be weak, Moscow has several geopolitical levers it can use to influence its smaller neighbors, the most effective of which are their internal secessionist conflicts. A March 2005 EU country report, drafted as part of its neighborhood action plans, described progress toward reform in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and providing detailed overviews of their progress toward adopting EU values such as rule of law, democracy, and a market economy. The EU generally considers Georgia to be the most advanced of its Caucasian neighbors with relatively few problems identified in terms of domestic political reforms. Of note in

the criticism of both Armenia and Azerbaijan are breaches of fundamental freedoms, a general lack of willingness to reform and "widespread Russian influence on decision making in both Armenia and Azerbaijan." Perhaps emboldened by the EU's hesitation to become directly involved in helping resolve Georgia's "frozen conflicts" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or assist in monitoring the border between Russia and Georgia, Moscow has continued to make the most of its political mechanisms. One includes its veto in the OSCE, an organization Georgia has sought to involve to a greater degree in its internal stability efforts. Since the establishment of a Georgian-South Ossetian ceasefire 1992, a four-party Mixed (or Joint) Control Commission has been responsible for monitoring and implementing the peace. The Commission is comprised of representatives from Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and Russia's oblast of North Ossetia, a composition that seems blatantly biased toward South Ossetia. Georgia has long lobbied that the Commission in its current format is "ineffective" and that the OSCE and other international organizations should take a more

active part in developing and implementing a peace process. In Georgia's opinion, whenever Russia feels that the role of the Commission in the conflict resolution process is threatened, Moscow orchestrates a minor concession or position that demonstrates the Commission's utility to outside observers and ensures Russia continued political leverage. An even more potent lobbying tool is Moscow's sponsorship of Georgia's two breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (as well as those in Moldova and Azerbaijan). Both separatist regions are highly dependent on Moscow for support and therefore highly susceptible to Kremlin influence. Most South Ossetian citizens hold Russian passports and Russian laws provide the breakaway region with its legal code.

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