When a prominent democratic leader was openly rebuked
that almost five years had been lost because he had sitting between two
chairs, he replied that there were actually two chairs; i.e., while protesting
against Putin's foreign policy it is impossible not to admit that the
foreign policy has become more considerate and circumspect, and should
This might seem true. Dashes typical of the era of Yeltsin and Primakov,
especially those related to the ejection of Milosevic from the scene and
NATO’s eastward expansion, which was allegedly dangerous for Russia,
all those nearly insane threats, cries and anti-American gestures have
ended. Vladimir Putin is much more competent and sane than his "unpredictable"
Simultaneously, he is incomparably more secret and pragmatic, is able
to distinguish what Russia can cope with and what the Kremlin cannot change
anyway; what should be stated and which goals should actually be sought
for. The president's main idea is that the foreign policy must ensure
the vector of Russia's internal movement as seen under Putin's plans.
Therefore, as it has ultimately come clear, "rapprochement with
the West" and "accession to the world community," just
as the renowned tirade concerning "free society of free people,"
cannot mean adherence to liberal and democratic values. On the contrary.,
under the guise of maneuvering and playing on private discrepancies between
the US and, for instance, France, embracing the cunning and cynical Berlusconi
and under the flag of "combating international terrorism" Putin
manages to get immediate and tangible dividends, primarily the consent
of the Western rulers and the business to improvidently shut their eyes
to everything which has been happening increasingly in Russia under Putin:
from the incessant bloodshed in Chechnya to the cynical devastation of
YUKOS or elimination of any shoots of independent television.
So, no "two chairs" actually exist, but the prudent and tough
crackdown, by means of using the kit of keys and picklocks in foreign
policy as well. Vladimir Putin, who has inspired awe in Russia, has been
sensibly continuing his domestic policy abroad, althoughusing "different
Firstly: the president has been eagerly resorting to informal protocol
and informal meetings with leaders of Western states, calling them "friends"
and by names. Yeltsin had used to do this, but unlike his predecessor Putin doesn't confuse the temporal smiling
tone comme il faut - and various savage escapades a la Khrushchev, explosions
of politically unsound anger, etc.
Strangely, these sweet meetings usually end in no drastically new decisions
and agreements. More likely, they remain ritual.
Secondly, by developing the military industrial complex anew and actually
trying to restore defensive potential of the Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin
hopes that, at the expense of using some evident geopolitical advantages and even the marginality of Russia
for the G-7, the former empire can regain its special status and a semblance
of previous prestige; by pleasing Western gentlemen create a semblance
that they are courting the lady of Russia in slight rivalry. Sometimes
this is successful. However, this resembles mere flirting. When Putin
is expected - primarily by Bush - to take some positive and practical
steps, our president fans himself inresponse and like his partners assumes
no binding commitments. No profound relations are emerging – they
Thirdly, I think relations with Japan prove an exceedingly significant
test. Hope appeared at times even under Yeltsin. A new democratic Russian
course in foreign policy is out of the question until a serious and fair
search for compromise is found regarding the peace treaty and the South
Fourthly, the president is undoubtedly concerned about economic relations
with the West, investment and so on. Nothing radical is achieved in this
Fifthly, no changes occur in Chechnya, which is an overwhelming, dead-end
problem. The stubborn, hypocritical and impotent approach to the tragedy
of Chechnya (and the whole of Russia) has spread the conflict to Ingushetia
Sixthly, ambiguity concerning the CIS: hugs with Kuchma and concessions
to the present-day Ukraine, which is far from democratic, on the one hand
and coolness in relations with Lukashenko, who has begun to hurt Putin
too openly (who never forgives similar treatment to anybody). Not a single
word of criticism for actions of khans of Central Asia, but tension in
relationship with the Baltic states, especially Latvia, which is a democratic
and pro-Western country (the undoubted problem of Russian-speaking population
should be resolved through a different style and behaviour); double standards
and ambiguity with regard to Georgia and the detached autonomies - another
example of a fruitless game based on contradictions.
To enable Russia's breakthrough into the future, a foreign policy, which
is "civilized" and "pro-Western" must be subjugated
to different missions in domestic policy, not the tasks of Putin but,
pardon me, the tasks set by Sakharov.