What has Russia given the world


After losing its superpower status, Russia is realigning its foreign policy. This also includes repositioning the country in the system of international financial relations.

Outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, from left, at the Medvedev residence outside Moscow. (& copy AP)

Foreign policy concepts since 1991

The ongoing transformation process since the collapse of the USSR has also affected the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. It is primarily a matter of repositioning Russia as an international actor capable of influencing and helping to shape it. There are at least two obstacles to this. Russia does not yet have the economic, financial and military resources necessary for this, and the Russian leadership is still looking for national identity determination, without which, in turn, a reliable international assessment of the country is not possible.

In the process of forming Russian foreign policy since 1991, four phases can be distinguished:
  • unconditional turn to the West (1991-1992);
  • Priority of the "Near Abroad" (1993-1995);
  • geopolitical multipolarism and compensatory realpolitik (1996-1999);
  • Course towards a new calculated Euro-Atlanticism (2000-2003).
There is a close connection between foreign policy and the economy in all phases.

Unconditional turning to the west

For the new Moscow leadership under President Yeltsin, the basic direction of Russian foreign policy was already determined by the concept of "New Political Thought" developed during perestroika. Russia should be opened to the west and especially to Europe. For Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, "Europeanism" meant deepening contacts with European organizations in order to quickly pave the way for Russia to become a member of the European Community. "Atlantism" was synonymous with Moscow's decision to join the "North Atlantic Cooperation Council" founded in 1991, thereby giving Russia the prospect of joining NATO in the long term.

With this orientation of its policy, the new Russian leadership tried to convince the West that only through the rapid, comprehensive integration of Russia into the Euro-Atlantic structures could democracy, market economy and the Western value system be firmly anchored in the country. Conversely, in the western capitals, a successful political and economic system transformation of the large neighbor in the east was a prerequisite for a partial opening of integrative alliances in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The intensive Russian campaigning for the USA and Europe did not remain entirely without material success. In spring 1992 Russia became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The invitation from President Yeltsin to the political talks of the heads of government of the seven leading industrialized countries (G7) at the annual world economic summit, which took place in Munich in 1992, initiated the gradual integration of Russia into this body, which was completed in 2000 with full membership.

Close European-American cooperation led to the provision of an international aid package for reforms in Russia amounting to 28 billion US dollars. The EU replaced the trade and cooperation agreement concluded with the USSR in December 1989 with a new contractual agreement, giving relations with Russia the character of a deepening partnership.

"Near Abroad" priority

But these results did not impress the opposition in Russia - national patriots and communists. Both groups condemned "unconditional Euro-Atlanticism" as "idealistic" and "romantic". It is inadequate to the dignity and size of Russia because it downgrades the country to the USA's junior partner and thus permanently weakens its role as an independent actor in the international system. In addition, the Yeltsin administration has criminally neglected traditional zones of influence in the post-Soviet area through this unilateral determination and thus grossly violated an important national interest.

The strong echo of this criticism in Russian domestic politics prompted the Moscow leadership in December 1992 to change course significantly. From then on, Russian diplomacy was to follow the motto of the old Russian coat of arms, on which a two-headed eagle looks both west and east. In addition, in the early summer of 1993, Yeltsin and Kozyrev affirmed that the "Near Abroad", that is, the successor states of the former Soviet Union, should be given absolute priority. The primary goal was to promote the cohesion of the post-Soviet area through increased bilateral and multilateral economic, political and security cooperation within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and to guarantee the protection of the Russian minorities there.

The paradigm shift in official foreign policy took place against the background of a tough argument about Russia's identity and its location in the world, led by at least three larger groups, some of which overlapped in their arguments. The "Eurasians" and the supporters of the "Russian Idea" competed with the new "Westerners", the Sapadniki. All three operated with the concept of "return", with the "Westerners" referring to the return to the "bosom of world civilization" or Europe, the others the return to national traditions. While the Westerners were in favor of the introduction of democracy and a market economy, the neo-Slavophiles pleaded for a renaissance of the "Russian Idea" and thus for a special path for Russia, which they already saw mapped out due to the cultural and Christian-Orthodox traditions.

For foreign policy practice, this paradigm shift in no way meant an end to efforts to join the Euro-Atlantic organizations. However, attempts were made to align them more closely than before with the respective Russian individual interests. Sometimes this could lead to conflicts of interest with the western partners. Examples include the controversy over Russia's admission to the Council of Europe, which did not take place until the beginning of 1996, and Moscow's accession to NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program in June 1994 after the Russian leadership had failed with its plan instead of an eastward expansion of the NATO to make the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) the main pillar of a new European security policy. This also includes the first Chechen war in autumn 1994, although Russia had previously committed itself to upholding democratic principles and human rights in the partnership and cooperation agreement with the EU.

Multipolarism and Realpolitik

On January 5, 1996, President Yeltsin appointed the then head of the foreign intelligence service, Yevgeny Primakov, as the new Russian foreign minister. In contrast to Kozyrev, who was labeled a "Westerner", Primakov was considered a "centrist", a "realist" and a "geopolitician". True to his credo that Russia as a great power must act in all directions, he endeavored to shape international politics according to the requirements of a geopolitically balanced equilibrium.

The "Primakov Doctrine" saw the USA in many respects as the most powerful state in the world at present, but not as the center around which the decisive processes and events of international politics revolved. Rather, the prevailing tendency in the present is the transition from the confrontational bipolar to a multipolar world. Primakov countered the Euro-Atlanticists, who wanted to move closer to the West at all costs, that Russia had to come to equal, partnership-based relations with all states on the basis of common interests. As part of this new concept, a "strategic partnership" with China, the "Union with Belarus" and new economic alliances with other successor states of the USSR were agreed between 1996 and 1998.

Where Russia could not prevent new alliances in international politics that ran counter to its national interests, it sought tangible compensations and concessions. For example, the acceptance of the eastward expansion of NATO compensated for it with a special status in relation to NATO through the establishment of a NATO-Russia Council in May 1997. In addition, Primakov succeeded in upgrading Russia within the G7, including his country in the Paris Club and the Assurance of American-European support for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and, in the medium term, also to the OECD.

The deep state, economic and financial crisis that broke out on August 17, 1998, put painful limits on further efforts to confidently position Russia as an international actor. But Yeltsin and Primakov, as their behavior during the Balkan crisis of 1998/99 showed, continued to regard great power rhetoric and actionism as compatible with the role of economic and financial supplicants in the Euro-Atlantic world. Only under Vladimir Putin did this unsatisfactory situation for Russia change fundamentally.

Calculated Euro-Atlanticism

Their official programmatic statements before, but especially their course after September 11, 2001, clearly showed the efforts of the Putin administration to change the concept of Russian foreign policy.

This included saying goodbye to the self-image of Russia as a superpower propagated under Yeltsin and from previous efforts to establish Russia as an equal global player or opponent of the USA. Instead, Putin pursues a calculated Euro-Atlanticism.

His strategic turn towards the anti-terror coalition led to the "Rome Declaration" on May 28, 2002, in which NATO agreed with the Russian leadership to set up a NATO-Russia Council. In many, very different areas below military integration, he defines problem areas, to the solution of which the previous NATO member states and Russia want to contribute jointly and equally. These include, in particular, the fight against terrorism, peacekeeping operations, and arms control and confidence-building measures.

The armaments agreement reached almost simultaneously in Washington with the USA allows Moscow to maintain the strategic weapons with the most favorable cost-benefit ratio with the number of 2200 warheads approved for deployment by 2012. In return, Moscow not only pledged its support for the American missile defense plans, but also accepted a second stage in NATO's eastward expansion. In return, the West did not openly but tacitly treat the Chechnya conflict as an internal matter for Russia. How virtuoso Putin is now practicing his calculated Euro-Atlanticism can be seen in the fact that, despite a joint rejection of American intervention in Iraq with Germany and France, he kept all diplomatic doors open in Washington.

In addition, after a phase of strategic ambivalence in foreign policy for almost ten years, the Russian leadership is now fully focusing on the complex modernization of the country as part of its new conception. The main reason for this is that, in an international comparison of economic performance and competitiveness, Russia lags far behind not only compared to the western high-tech countries, but also compared to the transition states in East Central Europe that have advanced to become new EU members and with which it embarked on the path of development towards democracy and a market economy almost at the same time Has. Since the modernization of Russia in a globalized environment requires not only the mobilization of existing internal resources and far-reaching system reforms, but also an extensive transfer of resources from abroad, especially from the Euro-Atlantic area, international economic relations are an important focal point of Russia's Foreign policy.

They primarily aim to reposition Russia in the system of international financial relations after the August crisis of 1998, to broaden and deepen economic cooperation with important foreign policy partners and partner groups on a broad front, as well as the stagnating process of Russia's involvement in leading institutions of the To force the global economy. This course opens up greater opportunities for Russia to influence international events.