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Western-friendly foreign policy report leaked

06/03/2010

THE ISCIP ANALYST

(Russian Federation)

An Analytical Review

Volume XVI, Number 13, 27 May 2010

LEGAL ISSUES 

Western-friendly foreign policy report leaked

A Foreign Ministry policy report addressed to President Dmitri Medvedev was leaked to Russian Newsweek last week. The report proposes to abandon confrontational foreign policies in order to build closer economic ties with the West and modernize domestic industries. The report expresses concern that Obama’s “transformative potential” tends to be hindered by the US military and intelligence establishment that seeks to “return to the confrontational policies of the previous administration” and pressures the president to adopt foreign policies in line with the “war on terror.” (1)

 

Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin have confirmed the document's authenticity, but its purpose is unclear, particularly as it is not a new doctrine. Apparently, the report is a response to President Medvedev’s call to make foreign policy a driving force for foreign investment and modernization. (2)  "It sounds like someone with an American logic must have leaked this, because it's absolutely not normal for it to happen in Russia," comments Yevgeny Bazhanov, vice rector of the Diplomatic Academy. Many experts agree that the leak was most likely deliberate, and some suggest that it may be a sign of growing tensions between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin. (3)

The report is a sign that Russia’s leadership realizes that Russia cannot modernize on its own, and that cooperating with the West may yield better results than covering up the country’s diminishing status with aggressive rhetoric. The global crisis has caused Russia to fall behind in the areas of industrial, technological and scientific capabilities, despite a relative abundance of energy resources and its nuclear arsenal. (4) In his address to the Federal Assembly in 2009, President Medvedev stated that Russia ought to be less pompous in order to attract foreign investment, and needs to modernize its economy to thrive in the current environment. He ordered the Foreign Ministry to reevaluate Russia’s long-term foreign policy priorities. (5) In February, 2010, the Foreign Ministry responded with confidential reports to the president, who approved the documents and sent them to the government for consideration. (6)

The published document, “The Program for Systematic Effective Use of Foreign Policy for the Long-Term Development of the Russian Federation,” is noticeably different from other, similar programs that often originate with the Security Council of Russia. Instead of the usual, vague generalities, the program consists of concrete tasks and recommendations for Russia’s foreign policy goals in 61 countries and regions. For example, the document calls for a strong economic presence in the Baltic states, “considering their decreasing economic attractiveness for the European Union countries and serious devaluation of national assets.” The program proposes that Russian companies buy out enterprises belonging to the former Soviet military industrial complex enterprises in Central Asia. The document urges the government to insist on “concrete economic returns,” such as favorable regimes for Russian trade and investments, from “rogue states” such as Iran, Cuba and Syria. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote the preamble to the program. He contends that the global economic crisis has destabilized “the material base of Western dominance in world politics, economics and finance.” According to Lavrov, this has increased the necessity “to strengthen relations of mutual interdependence with the leading world powers,” such as the European Union and the US Lavrov describes President Obama as a “potentially transformative” leader, who is under pressure from the U.S. military and intelligence establishment to “return to the confrontational policies of the previous administration… in line with the ‘war on terror.’” (7) Thus, a weakening of Obama’s position could lead to increased tensions between Russia and the US. The program proposes negotiating for “most favored nation” status from US.  Other Western-oriented goals include joining the World Trade Organization and negotiating a visa-free regime between Russia and the European Union. Germany, France, Italy and Spain are named as Russia’s most promising partners in Europe. There is no mention of Britain in the program, which may be due to an incomplete draft or a sign that relations remain strained after the 2006 murder of the FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London, the war in Georgia, and other disputes. (8)

Most likely, a lack of funds necessary for modernizing the economy is one of the main reasons for the sudden shift in policy. The federal budget can only finance one third of the currently envisioned social programs, and the Central Bank’s reserves are insufficient to sponsor the rest. In today’s post-crisis world, Russia cannot afford to invest in its own modernization and is facing the need to forge meaningful economic alliances. The program’s emphasis on economic ties with the European Union and the US is driven by the need for foreign investment and technology. (9)

Russia’s leaders have taken some cooperative steps, such as signing the new START Treaty and supporting Washington’s efforts to tighten sanctions on Tehran. Nevertheless, the leaked program calls for military cooperation between Iran and Russia. Shortly after the report was released, Medvedev visited Syria to discuss Russia's possible assistance in building a nuclear power plant there. (10) While in Syria, he met with Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which is classified as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US Department of State. (11)

The decision to leak the foreign policy report represents a mixed signal from Russia’s leadership. The unofficial status of the report lends an ambiguity that reflects the tension between Medvedev and Putin. It is also possible that Russia is waiting for concessions before officially pursuing a softer approach. It is clear, however, that Russia understands that it needs foreign investment in order to modernize its economy and is exploring the options for a positive “reset” in relations with the economic powers.

Source Notes:

(1) Konstantin Gaaze, Mikhail Zygar, “Let there be sun again,” Russkiy Newsweek, 09 May 10 via http://www.runewsweek.ru/country/34166/.

(2) Nikolaus von Twickel, “Leaked Paper Calls for Friendlier Foreign Policy, The Moscow Times, 13 May 10 via http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/leaked-paper-calls-for-friendlier-foreign-policy/405884.html.

(3) Fred Weir, “Leaked Russian document: Could Medvedev era tilt more pro-West?” 13 May 10 via http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0513/Leaked-Russian-document-Could-Medvedev-era-tilt-more-pro-West.

(4) Dmitry Trenin, “A New and Modern Foreign Policy,” The Moscow Times, 14 May 10 via http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/a-new-and-modern-foreign-policy/405955.html.

(5) “Address to the Federal assembly of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin Official Website, 12 Nov 09 via http://www.kremlin.ru/transcripts/5979/print.

(6) “Let there be sun again,” ibid, http://www.runewsweek.ru/country/34166//.

(7) “The Program for Systematic Effective Use of Foreign Policy for the Long-Term Development of the Russian Federation,” Russkiy Newsweek, 11 May 10 via  http://www.runewsweek.ru/country/34184/.

(8) Tony Halpin, “Russia shows a friendlier face to the world but Britain is kept in the cold,” Times Online, 12 May 10 via http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7123357.ece.

(9) “Let there be sun again,” ibid.

(10)  Dmitry Solovyov, “Russia to sell Syria warplanes, air defense systems,” Reuters, 14 May 10 via http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64D35S20100514.

(11) “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” US Department of State, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm (last visited 17 May 10).

 

By Sergei Tokmakov (sergei.tokmakov@gmail.com)

 

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