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YABLOKO's Political Committee

June 26, 2009

The present situation and prospects of Russias foreign policy provoke much concern.

The situation in the Russian Federation has considerably aggravated for the past several years, especially for the past year. The global economic crisis and drop of demand in energy as well as slump of energy prices have sharply worsened the position of our country in the world economy and trade, considerably lowered the state revenue and again made us face the problems of foreign debt (a corporate debt yet) and budget and payment balance deficits. Russias economy oriented on the raw exports saw virtually no attempts of its replacement by a diversified model in the past years (despite multiple appeals and oaths by the Russian government), and such economy turned out to be very vulnerable in the crisis.

Russia will have to make a choice soon: whether to make its domestic and foreign ambitions commensurate with its modest revenue compared to that of the beginning of 2000s or to channel its energy exports to Asia. However, such plans of channeling raw exports to Asia are, first, very difficult in implementation, and, second, even their realization, if such takes place, will not lead to a qualitative change in the situation. Instead of playing the role of a raw appendix for the West Russia risks turning into a raw appendix for China, India and other BRIC countries, that are largely regarded as appendices to the innovative economies of the USA, the European Union and Japan.

However, Russia has also another way of development among the industrially developed democratic states. This requires deep transformations of its economy and export structure, that should base on high technologies, implies a real rather than decorative democratization of its political and socio-economic spheres, as well as needs significant correction of its foreign policies. In spite of frequent successes in the development of integration in the post-Soviet space (EurAsEC and CSTO), this decade Russia failed to create a firm new basis for interaction. The loyalty of Russias neighbors, with a rare exception, directly depends on the degree of authoritarity or their political regimes. However, authoritarian states, in contrast to democratic states, are genetically incapable of a true integration. They may be capable only of subordination of the weaker to the stronger - an unreliable basis for cooperation (which is once again confirmed by the recent dispute with Russias allegedly closest neighbour Byelorussia).

In spite of Moscows appealing to Article 51 of the UN Charter (the right of nations to collective or individual self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations), none of the CSTO allies supported Russia during its military operation in August 2008. And further none of Russias partners in CIS, CSTO, EurAsEC, SCO and BRIC followed Russia in recognizing independence of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russias use of force for protection of civilians from the military adventurism of Saakashvilis regime was justified, however, the following recognition of independence of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia created considerable difficulties for Russias foreign policies. In the past Russia had made the territorial integrity principle a corner-stone of its policies in Chechnya and Kosovo, but in August 2008 this principled position was undermined by its policies in the Southern Caucasus. Now Russia is completely alone in OSCE in the issues of independence of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which hinders promotion of its initiatives on the new treaty and the new architecture of the European Security.

For the post-Soviet space this creates a dangerous precedent on the whole territory of the former USSR, and the closed nature and unpredictability of the regime in the South Ossetia, as well as naturally arising suspicions about Moscows annexationist intentions become the problems of prime concern here, rather than Georgias position. Russia obtained over 1,000 km of a hostile southern border, which may become especially dangerous in case of another disturbance in the Northern Caucasus. Moreover, having recognized the independence of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia the Russian government undertook the liability for foreign and domestic policies of their governments and considerably limited prospects for the Russian diplomacy in settling conflicts in the Caucasus. All this created serious problems in the context of the new architecture of the European Security and Russias negotiations both with the CIS countries and the NATO states.

Very likely attempts to profit from the instability in Ukraine (especially in view of the forthcoming election) and to provoke a conflict over Crimea and a number of Eastern and Southern Ukrainian regions are especially dangerous for Russia in the short term. Use of force in this region will as a minimum ruin the CIS and the CSTO, lead to a new variant of a cold war with NATO and disrupt all the plans of socio-economic transformations in Russia. In the worst development this may make Russia prone to a national disaster.
Russias relations with Western countries have been going through the most difficult period for the past twenty years, since the end of the cold war. The European Security system has been virtually paralyzed and Russias negotiations on entering the WTO and a new Partnership and Cooperation Treaty with the European Union have been stagnating for many years, and very sketchy interaction between the RF and NATO has been frozen. In response to the privileged interests region concept declared by Moscow, the European Union proposed the Eastern Partnership idea for this region. Russias rivalry with the US/NATO in the post-Soviet space and the Middle East has been aggravating, and in the perspective it may spread on the Caribbean, the Arctic and other regions.

The system of limitation and reduction of nuclear and conventional weapons has been almost completely dismantled. In spite of the beginning of intensive negotiations between the RF and the USA, the prospects for a new treaty that has to replace expiring in December 2009 START-1 are vague. The non-proliferation regime exacerbated by the Iranian and the North Korean nuclear and missile programmes is also under threat. In spite of the fact that the key responsibility lies on the ex-leadership of the USA (broadening of NATO, the war in Iraq and the ABM plans), Russia failed to efficiently oppose such policies and often even encouraged these with its foreign and domestic policies. The first successful summits of the new Presidents of Russia and the USA and positive decisions within the framework of the present bilateral relations with certain Western countries can not turn the general unfavourable tide.

Russias relationships with China will remain favourable for a short and mid-term, however in the long term they may bring great uncertainty and huge problems for Russia, especially in view of a deepening economic, demographic and ecological crisis in Siberia and Far East. In the situation of steady growth of Russias vulnerability and dependence on China, cooperation of the RF with Japan, the USA and South Korea in the Pacific region has been insignificant.

Opportunistic advances to the mixed parts of the Islamic world (application for membership in the Muslim League, the gas OPEC idea, recognition of HAMAS and an unruffled reaction on acquittal of Hitlers crimes by the Iranian leadership) provoke disdain towards Russia from all without exception political forces in this specific part of the world community rather than increase Russias weight. The end of the US war in Iraq which is quite likely in the foreseeable future and curbing of NATOs operation in Afghanistan in case of Russias tacit counter-action (Manas) and growth of Talibans resistance are likely to lead to a situation when Russian troops will again have to fight against Islamic extremists in the Central Asia, Northern Caucasus and probably other Russian regions. And this will have to be done in a hostile environment of NATO and some former Soviet republics.

Moscows policies towards the developing countries of the past years have been demonstrating a line towards supporting (projects of delivery of weapons and nuclear reactors, negotiation of construction of military bases) of authoritarian radical anti-Western regimes: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Myanma, etc. However, the experience of the USSR demonstrates too well that cooperation with such regimes is often economically costly and politically unreliable: they may collapse in any moment due to their inner reasons, or flop to those who will pay more, or draw Moscow into their adventurist projects.

Russias increased military activity after the August 2008 crisis in the Caucasus often turned counter-productive. Such were the demonstration flights to the Latin America of outdated strategic bomber aircrafts, a cruise of warships to the Caribbean, and more frequent (and not often successful) tests of ballistic missiles, as well as grandiose military parades accompanied by formidable warnings to a possible aggressor from Russias military and civil leaders.

Western public takes this as an emerging Russian military threat, while NATOs professional policymakers regard this as attempts of self-assertion, sidetracking of public attention from stagnation of the military reform, playing on patriotic moods inside Russia and teasing the USA with the use of inadequate military means (sham as they say in Pentagon).

In addition to mass-scale errors and miscalculations of Western policies throughout the past two decades, instability of Russias position in the present dynamic system of international relations, as well as a discrepancy between its foreign ambitions and economic potential and the level of its technological and socio-political development condition the growth of problems in Russias foreign policy.

Uncertainty (in contrast to the equidistance) of Russias place and role on the international arena reflect the ongoing struggle around Russias choice of the way of development: either democratic or authoritarian. The need of replacement of the economic model based on the raw exports by a diversified and innovative model pushes to the first way, however, inertia and protectively selfish of the state-oligarchic elite drag toward the second way.

This results in fragmentariness of the foreign policies which is often presented as a different vectors concept. This also conditions that reactive nature of the policies and deficit of large-scale well-considered initiatives (projects that emerge from time to time turn out quite shallow, as, for example, the new architecture of the European Security or rouble as a world reserve currency, or the BRIC virtual alliance, etc.). This is the key reason of snowballing complications, stagnation and deadlocks in all the azimuths of Russias relations with the outer world, together with deepening backwardness of Russias economy oriented on the raw exports and retrogressive nature of its political system.

The Russian United Democratic Party YABLOKO finds that Russias foreign policy requires corrections, in some cases quite substantial and urgent:

1. It is high time for Russia to determine its basic position in the world. We think that Russias place is among the democratic states that in practice share the humanistic values of the European civilization, which Russia genetically belongs to, and reject any extremism, totalitarianism, imperialism and odious regimes dangerous both for their citizens and worldwide.

We are certain that such a course envisages real rather than decorative strengthening of the countrys defence, also such policies envisage efficient development of mutually beneficial relations with China, India and other countries (by the way, here the USA, the EU states and Japan have been much more successful than Russia).

The present Russias trends towards growth of authoritarianism and corruption, neoimperialism, rehabilitation of Stalin and his regime, unbridled anti-Western propaganda in the mass media are a serious obstacle for formation of efficient foreign and defence policies, as well as domestic and economic policies.

Principled and consistent counteraction to all these trends on behalf of the sound part of the society and the authority is an irrefutable condition for urgent correction of its international course and formation of modern and efficient foreign and defence policies.

2. Instead of developing loose (umbrella) integration plans for the post-Soviet space, Russia should definitely formulate its economic, military and other interests toward each of the CIS countries, abolishing neoimperialist ideas and dangerous geopolitical fantasies.

Russia can efficiently prevent broadening of NATO in the post-Soviet space, first of all positioning itself as a guarantor of their territorial integrity and sovereignty developing mutually beneficial and equal relations in all the spheres of mutual interests. Multilateral guarantees of territorial integrity of the CIS countries should be provided within the framework of the new architecture of the European Security. First of all, Russia should normalize its relations with Ukraine. Voluntary rapprochement of the CIS countries with the EU can not be resisted in principle, but it should not leave Russia aside, it should be coordinated (with consideration of all the socio-economic links) with the development of relations between the EU and Russia.

3. Stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan is Russias vital interest. It is reasonable to broaden NATOs rights to transit of military cargos through the Russian territory. In the perspective we should consider sending military advisers and special CSTO troops for participation in control over the northern part of Afghanistan (however, excluding sending there Russias ground troops). Military and political participation in control over the northern territories of this failed state will contribute to Russias security, including hindering drugs traffic via Central Asia, Kazakhstan and its border. In this respect we could also work on NATOs recognition of CSTO which will become an important precedent for European security too.

4. Russia should take a firm and principled position on Irans nuclear programme so that to achieve implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions by Teheran. This is required, first, for prevention of a new war in the region and, second, for maintenance of non-proliferation regime and raising of efficiency of Russias policies in different important issues of interaction with other permanent Security Council members.
5. Considering the fact that Russias position and role in the Pacific will be the most important factor of its international position, souverenity and territorial integrity in the 21st century, it is necessary to balance Russias links with China with the development of economic and political relations with the USA, Japan and South Korea.
The key condition for raising of the role and influence of Russia in the Asia-Pacific is its consistent policies of socio-economic and ecological resurgence of Russias Siberia and Far East, provision of ample defence and protection of the borders, re-population of these regions, asserting the rule of law there and encouraging of domestic and foreign investments.

6. Russia should reduce its demonstrative military activity and the tone of the accompanying militant declarations. The present growing gap between Russia and the West in the general-purpose forces and an exaggerated role of nuclear weapons in Russias defence are manifestations of a failure of its military reform. Implementing consistent measures in the housing policy, military reform, curbing of corruption and crime, combat training and technical re-equipment we shall be able to strengthen the defense and bring respect from progressive military states. A serious Russias initiative on creation jointly with NATO, Japan, China and India of a permanent grouping of naval forces against maritime piracy would be much better than rhetorics and staged performances.

7. Russia should change its hunker down stance in the disarmament issues and set forth a complex of proposals on reduction and limitation of nuclear and conventional weapons in bilateral and multilateral formats and strengthening of non-proliferation regime for the weapons of mass destruction. Without progress in the way of nuclear disarmament (which has been envisaged by the process throughout several decades) it will be impossible to prevent further spread of nuclear weapons and, finally, its getting into the hands of terrorists, which would make Russia the most vulnerable among the super-powers. In addition, nuclear disarmament is a powerful lever for Russia in achieving agreements on ABM systems, conventional weapons, space systems and reductions of armaments of the third nuclear powers. Russia should stimulate this process and format it developments according to our interests, rather than hamper it.

8. At the forecasted rates of nuclear and missile proliferation the circle of potential threats of missile strikes on Russia and its allies will be broadening. The situation for the USA and their allies develops in the same way. Therefore, it is unrealistic and counterproductive to hope on complete closing of the ABM programme, in spite of the fact that it has been undergoing revision at present. This creates favourable conditions, taking into account the range of substantial common threats to the security of Russia, the US, their allies, for active efforts in creation of a joint ABM system of Russia, USA/NATO and the European Union.

9. Asserting lawful Russias interests in the Arctic we should not focus on a unilateral seizure of Arctic natural resources and resurgence of military confrontation with other Arctic countries (that are NATO members and considerably exceed Russia in economic and naval potentials). We should promote in every possible way the idea of international cooperation in ecologically safe exploitation of Arctic resources and joint use of the thawing Northern Sea Route.

10. The urgent correction of Russias foreign policies envisages its definite and clear position in the international system as one of the leading powers of the Euroatlantic community which will considerably strengthen its position in relation to the West, East and South. Having clearly stated long-term foreign policy goals, this course envisages (in contrast to the policies of 1990s) a firm policy towards asserting Russias national interests in every definite issue of its relations with the West and promotion of Russias view of the ways and means for strengthening of the world economy and international security. Active and not reactive foreign policies should be strategically and tactically commensurate with the present resources and goals of creating favourable outer conditions for accelerated modern socio-economic and political development of the country.

* Draft document submitted by Alexei Arbatov in light of Grigory Yavlinskys proposals


See also:

Russia and NATO

Relationships between Russia and Georgia,

Russia-EU Relations

Russia-US Relations

Only truth can be set against distortion of history. Press Release, May 27, 2009

The YABLOKO Political Committee Statement ,
June 26, 2009