Russia in Search of Itself

June 1, 1992 Topic: DefensePoliticsSecurity Regions: RussiaEurasia

Russia in Search of Itself

Mini Teaser: Russia's foreign policy cannot fail to provide for goals and tasks elevated above opportunist pragmatics.

by Author(s): Sergei Stankevich

We are having to talk about Russia's foreign policy at a time when it has yet to recognize itself as a state and has yet to shape the attributes of statehood--an army for instance; it does not have borders fixed in accordance with the practice of international law, does not have a sensible and formulated system of national interests on which foreign policy might be built, and has not recognized its particular historical mission.

Foreign policy with us does not emanate from the precepts and priorities of evolved statehood. On the contrary, foreign policy practice, frequently based on search, analogies, and intuition, is helping Russia become Russia. Dealings with the surrounding world are helping shape Russian statehood and helping Russia recognize its interests.

Categorical assertions to the effect that Russia is required to immediately renounce messianism have been heard increasingly often of late. If what is meant by this is a renunciation of the global mentorship of the communist rulers who stinted on neither others' money or others' lives for the sake of the universal establishment of the totalitarian utopia, there is no point arguing with this proposition. But what if we should rush to the other extreme: go so far in our denial of messianism as to jettison the similarly sounding, but not identical concept of mission.

A policy that is built on interests alone is highly vulnerable, and in Russia, in my view, it would be simply disastrous. Aside from interests, a mission, not degenerating into messianism, of course, is needed.

It is said that pragmatism should be the leading principle, virtually, of our foreign policy. This assertion is in need of particular reservations and limitations. Pragmatism not balanced by healthy idealism would with us, alas, most likely degenerate into extremes and cynicism. Russia's foreign policy cannot fail to provide for goals and tasks elevated above opportunist pragmatics.

Russia's mission in the world, from my viewpoint, is to initiate and support a multilateral dialogue of cultures, civilizations, and states. Russia the conciliator, Russia connecting. Russia combining. A state of charity, tolerant and open--within the limits drawn by law and good will, but formidable beyond these limits. A country imbibing West and East, North and South, unique and exclusively capable, perhaps, of the harmonious combination of many different principles, of a historic symphony. Such is my vision of Russia in a renewed world.

This is a perfectly natural role for it since Russia is in itself, by nature, dialogical. It has always bifurcated and acted as an opponent to itself in order subsequently, negotiating a chain of ordeals, to reach an accord with itself. it is pointless to complain at this nature of the historical destiny which has befallen Russia. it is very important for everyone who ventures to speak on its behalf to listen closely to the voice of its essence.

Frankly, I would greatly regret it were some Russian version of the strictly rational school of foreign policy to gain monopoly affirmation in Russia's foreign policy. On the other hand, were a foreign policy school combining both--rationalism and the pragmatic principle and our innate idealism connected with Russia's mission--to emerge, I would be prepared to associate myself with this school immediately. I am not talking about some speculative notions or emotional preferences, what is more.

Russia should appreciably reconsider its role in the United Nations and use its seat on the Security Council for the realization of its mission, for acquisition of a new status. It would make sense, evidently, having appreciably reduced the quantitative presence of Russia's representatives in the UN structure, to pay considerable attention to the qualitative aspect and laying claim to perfectly particular offices which would help Russia realize precisely its inherent mission. The European organizations of the United Nations and also the strengthening CSCE mechanism merit special attention. Russia's new role in these structures would help it not only establish itself as a leading European power but also compensate for its present geographical distance from the center of European international life.

Two lines, which may conditionally be designated in Atlantism and Eurasianism, have, in my opinion, emerged in our foreign policy practice of late. Atlantism gravitates toward the following set of ideas and symbols: to become Europe, to become a part of the world economy in rapid and organized fashion, to become the eighth member of the Seven, and to put particular emphasis on Germany and the United Sates as the two dominants of the Atlantic alliance. This is rational, pragmatic, and natural. There is credit, aid, and advanced technology there.

Its opposite trend--Eurasianism--is not as yet as clearly expressed as Atlantism, but it is already knocking on the door of the tall building on Smolenskaya.

Attempting at the close of the 20th century to resuscitate the idea of Russia's reorientation toward the East and the counteracting of Russia's Europization in its extreme forms would be just as pointless and unproductive, evidently, as hastily pulling onto the broad Russian shoulders the Atlantic dinner jacket and a bow tie. It is obvious that it is necessary to seek a new balance of Western and Eastern orientations characteristic of the present Russia and our times. Initially, for that matter, it will most likely be necessary to pay special attention to a strengthening of our positions in the East, straightening the manifest distortion permitted by the creators of the "common European home" concept.

There is no way that the present Russia can escape a combination of old and new realities. The fact is, for example, that we are now separated from Europe by a whole chain of independent states. We have become further removed from it geographically and geopolitically, which will inevitably entail quite an appreciable redistribution of our resources, our possibilities, our ties, and our interests in favor of Asia, in favor of the eastern direction. In addition, the development of the domestic political situation, which will inevitably be reflected in foreign policy, is pushing us in this direction also.

There will be a most difficult search for accord, mutual understanding and cooperation with the Turkic and Muslim components, which haver performed a tremendous role in the history of Russia. Our state emerged and strengthened as a unique historical and cultural amalgam of Slav and Turkic, Orthodox and Muslim components. Relations between them currently are on the brink of a fateful exacerbation. Avoiding this exacerbation and finding harmony here, finding a synthesis, allowing Russia to once again feel itself to be the combining, connecting conciliator is of categorical importance.

The shaping on the territory of the collapsed Union and around it of an appreciably different configuration of strategic interests is confronting Russia with a new historical challenge. We are seeing how the influence of the Muslim world, both close to us and not so close to us geographically, on our domestic political situation is growing, how zones of influence on the territories of contiguous Asian republics and on the territory of Russia are gradually emerging and how an arc of crisis, to use the well-known image of the seventies, from the Transcaucasus through North Caucasus toward the Volga region is taking shape step by step. Ignoring this circumstance is impossible. Not to understand which dominants of the Near and Middle East (Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia) are displaying a heightened interest in the arc of crisis is also impossible. We should be preparing to respond purposefully and consistently to the emerging intricate knot of counterinterests and influences. It is possible, evidently, to talk about a revival of the Eastern question in Russia's foreign policy in something close to the classical understanding. But we have as yet, alas, no ideologists capable of formulating the Eastern question at the modern level, nor are there the men of practice capable of offering effective answers.

The preservation and gradual strengthening of the special relationship with the states of the CIS (permeable borders, close economic and cultural ties, allied relations in the military and political spheres) correspond to Russia's long-term strategic interests. But there are in the realization of this tendency distinct limitations.

In order to broaden for itself the field of political action as much as possible Russia must quickly become self-sufficient that is, provide itself with all the vitally important means and resources from internal sources or from several independent sources within the framework and outside of the CIS.

In increasing the volume of treaty relations with its CIS partners Russia should approach them in differentiated fashion. It will inevitably be necessary to distinguish between those which use the CIS merely as a means of dividing up the Union inheritance prior to a "definitive" parting and those for who the Commonwealth is a fundamental historical choice. Concessions to the first in the name, allegedly, of preservation of the CIS are pointless and dangerous, and nonpower competition with its treaties recording results beneficial to Russia are more appropriate here. The second group of states, on the other hand, has the right to expect the preference of strategic allies.

There is no need for Russia to endeavor to have each document consolidating its relations with its CIS partners contain the signatures of all members of the Commonwealth without exception. Rather there be fewer signatures and more precise meaning, clearer consequences, and higher quality of the document.

Essay Types: Essay