Inside Russia's New Foreign Policy Master Plan

Vladimir Putin answers questions from the press at the October 2016 BRICS Summit. Wikimedia Commons/Kremlin.ru

Here’s what Putin is focusing on in 2017.

In December, Russian president Vladimir Putin approved Russia’s new Foreign Policy Concept, which had not been updated for three years. The document is a system of views and basic principles to serve as a basis for Moscow’s foreign-policy strategy. The first thing that catches the eye is Russia’s new political status in the international arena. In contrast to previous official documents on foreign policy, the new concept shows the need to strengthen Russia’s position as a major center of influence in the modern world. Thus, Russian strategists believe that in the future no international political issue will be resolved without taking into account Moscow’s interests and direct participation. However, many authoritative Russian experts consider such a conclusion to be premature, since the most acute international crises involving the Russian side have not yet been settled.

It is noteworthy that one of the Kremlin’s most important priorities is strengthening Russia’s media position in the global information space, with the aim of informing the world community of Russia’s point of view on certain international processes. It can be assumed that funding of Russian media abroad will increase in the new year. According to the draft plan of the 2017 federal budget, adopted by the State Duma, the RT television network will receive additional funds for the creation, development, maintenance and distribution of its channel in French. Members of the Russian Parliament explain the decision to increase RT’s budget by citing the spread of European propaganda against Russia. Therefore, Moscow wants to express its own views on various global political processes, in particular on the Ukrainian and Syrian crises. In general, Russia’s status and the need for expansion of pro-Russian media influence are the most significant changes in the framework of the new Concept’s general provisions.

The Concept’s second chapter is devoted to more detailed and precise analysis of the role and place of Russia’s foreign policy in the modern world. As in the previous version of the document, it focuses on the fact that there has been a reduction in Western countries’ political and economic means for dominating the world’s economy and politics. Russia’s strategic and civilizational turn to the East is also highlighted. Meanwhile, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it mentions the discrepancies in the world’s uneven development, the widening gap among the levels of states’ welfare and tough competition for resources. It is particularly emphasized that the present global competition has a civilizational character in which some states are trying to impose their own values on others. The Concept’s authors believe that Western countries’ interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign states may eventually result in chaotic international relations. Indeed, over the past few years, leading Russian experts and politicians have been paying close attention to the special path of Russian civilization, based on conservative Orthodox values. In this regard, Moscow consistently enhances its work with the Russian diaspora abroad, increasing its financing for the “Russian world.”

Speaking of growing contradictions in the international arena, an excessive increase in the power factor is also emphasized. The Concept recognizes that there has been a lingering chill between Russia and the United States and its allies since the Cold War. That parity preserves strategic stability. In addition, Russia has consistently said that there is a high threat of nuclear war. At the same time, the Kremlin is considering the creation and deployment of new types of weapons as one of the most serious threats—not only to itself, but also to international security. Thus, Russia reacted negatively to the deployment of missile defense systems in Romania, responding by placing its Iskander ballistic-missile system in Kaliningrad, causing concern among NATO member countries. This shows Russia’s willingness to seriously resist the eastward expansion of NATO and its military infrastructure.

It should be noted that the new Concept specifies and expands upon the threat of international terrorism. For the first time, it is noted that the spread of extremist ideology and activity of terrorist organizations occurred due to systemic development problems in the process of globalization. Moreover, Russian foreign policy strategists emphasize that ideological values imposed from outside intensified the backlash in the traditional societies of the Middle East and North Africa. According to Moscow, the terrorist threat has acquired new features with the emergence of ISIS, claiming the creation of a new state. Russia considers the primary means of combating this threat to be the creation of an international antiterrorist coalition, which will operate based on equality and mutual respect.

Pages