Development of modern Russian foreign policy could be divided into two eras or phases: the post Soviet policy after Michael Gorbachev and the Putin era policy. Both are philosophically and politically different from one another.
The post Soviet era policy was based entirely on the Gorbachevian ideology of ‘Perestroika and Glasnost’ (Restructuring and Openness) in post Communist milieu when new Russia’s first president Boris Yelstsin put in place a new non-communist foreign policy abandoning the Soviet socialist ideology completely in order to advance the national interest of an essentially first ever anti-communist government in modern Russia.
While Yelstsin pursued a pro-west policy so as to get Russia closer to so-called western civilizational values– and of course he failed in achieving his key objective of promoting democracy as far as possible in Russia backed by the anti-communist Western regimes – his successor Vladimir Putin, now fully comprehending petrified western attitude towards even new Russia, began pursuing an assertive, at times what looked like anti-West policies.
In order to continue ‘dialog’ with USA and Europe, Russia gradually developed an approach of ‘confrontation cum cooperation’ but Russo-NATO tensions do reveal the hard truth that Cold War the former super powers fought had not indeed ended even after the collapse of Berlin Wall plus collapse of communist system world wide – the prime target of USA since World war Two.
The Western world is impressed by the ‘democratic’ efforts of new Russia, especially under president Putin. Russia remained globally isolated.
Today Russia, focusing on a retrieving super power status, lost in the Cold War, is seen making strenuous efforts to impress upon USA and Europe the need to take it seriously and as an equal partner if the West wants to advance their collective interests globally. Russia has made the point to especially USA loud and clear by forcefully entering Ukraine and Syria while Washington responded only in rhetoric.
Since it became a new non-communist nation in 1985 following the collapse of Soviet Union, for the first time Russia is now under such huge sanction that has weakened its economy and slashed its western contacts. Of course, the sanctions on account of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine could not cripple Russian economy to the extent the West thought their cumulative sanctions would do primarily because of its super power wealth from arms and oil.
Among primary factors that will impact Russian foreign policy today and in the coming years the key one is to effectively fight the potential for a new direction in US foreign policy that is more aggressive towards Russia in recent times, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The USA and its allies continue their policy of international isolation in respect to Russia, a policy that once again started to bear some fruit in 2014. However, it should be kept in mind that there is limitation for the USA in applying pressure on the Kremlin, for, Russia is not North Korea, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Iran. It is hard to ensure international stability and prosperity while at the same time driving one of the big nuclear powers into a corner.
Russia’s uncertainty of its own fate makes Russian policies, both domestic and foreign complicated as western powers have pushed Russia’s rulers from one extreme to another. Russia’s perennial inclination to shake the world’s capitalist-imperialist foundations to their core stems from its geopolitical weight it assumes as a Eurasian civilization. Although other international players, led by USA, keep talking about “rootless” claim of Russia as being a Eurasian civilization, have never been able to properly balance Russian strength.
Recent move by the Kremlin to turn to East is meant essentially to force the USA and allies to take Russia very seriously, end efforts to isolate Russia, roll back all sanctions and resume ties with Putin’s Russia by considering the assertive nature of his policy.
Russia suffers from a phenomenon of strong Russian character and great power and after the collapse of mighty Soviet Union President Putin is seen by most Russians as displaying that powerful character. Russian success in finding a strong president in Putin is not insignificant as the West is still to come over the impact Soviet system made on the USA-UK controlled world.
For a century Russia in its varied formats of governance from capitalist empire, to communism back to crony capitalism, has conducted an assertive foreign policy and elaborate diplomatic discourse to put forward its ideas for a new multipolar world order if not for a new society.
Soviet assertive politics disfigured the global colonialist and capitalist structures and threatened to remove them from the face of the world. The impact that the Soviet state had made on the global security, political and economic systems was so profound and strong that USA and its western allies sought to dismantle the formidable USSR and they succeeded.
Some of the punitive actions by USA and its European allies have further strengthened the character of Putin presidency. Western sanctions against Russian role in Ukraine including annexation of Crimea have not made Russian policy less assertive, though the country has become more vulnerable to economic upsets. However, in order offset the impact of western sanctions, Russia has pursued a very cautious foreign policy, though it had to curtail human rights in the country in order to contain the opposition leaders from resorting to any possible uprising against the Putin regime for the large scale sanctions.
America is therefore responsible for human right violation of Russian state.
It is not the first time that Russia, as a global power, has changed the international status quo through its aggressive military actions in Ukraine, either by heightening the level of confrontation, such as prior to the outbreak of World War II and throughout the Cold War, or defusing it, as a result of its victories over Napoleon and Hitler and Gorbachev’s “new thinking” in the 1980s. Putin represents the strong willed Russian mindset, reflected in his policies, both domestic and foreign.
Russia said it can attack any nation even without any real threats to its territory. When Putin announced Russian willingness to use its nukes as Russia’s military policy, even when there is no serious threat perception from enemy sties, many eyebrow were raised in the West.
Obviously USA and EU do take Russia and its warnings very seriously
Since Gorbachev era, Moscow has pursued a double strategy of seeking to establish a multipolar world while at the same time dutifully pursued a policy against open confrontations with the West.
Putin is often characterized as an autocrat by the Western media and some politicians, but his relationship with former US Presidents like Obama and George W. Bush, among others is reported to be personally friendly. Putin’s relationship with Germany’s new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is reported to be “cooler” and “business-like”.
Western policy is wrongheaded. Today’s “globalised world is based on an unprecedented interconnection between countries, and so it’s impossible to develop relations between Russia and the EU as if they remained at the core of global politics as during the Cold War.” The so-called “historical West” no longer is “the master of the human race’s destinies” – the role it assumed “for almost five centuries.” Transition “to a new international system” changed things.
Today’s world is increasingly multi-polar. One dominant center no longer applies. US interventionism is hugely destructive, one nation after another raped and destroyed. US-led Western efforts to ensure “global leadership” produces confrontation, not mutual cooperation, the unthinkable possibility of another global war. “There is virtually no state in Libya; Iraq is balancing on the brink of disintegrations, and so on and so forth,” Lavrov explained. “A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges.”
In a January 2007 interview Putin said Russia is in favour of a democratic multipolar world and of strengthening the system of international law. Putin also proposed certain initiatives such as establishing international centres for the enrichment of uranium and prevention of deploying weapons in outer space.
Russia’s view of the modern world, as well as its goals and objectives are reflected in the Foreign Policy Concept adopted in 2013. It evaluates the global situation and analyses the processes unfolding in the world and its regions. On its basis the foreign strategy of the country has been found in full recognition of the fundamentally new geopolitical situation in the world.
The independent foreign policy pursued by Russia in accordance with modern trends and long-standing traditions is in increasingly high demand in the world, attracting a wide range of partners from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.
Russia has consistently advocated an inclusive and positive agenda aimed not at restricting but rather amplifying ties between states. Our country stands ready to join efforts with all those who are equally willing to cooperate in line with the principles of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit and norms of international law, as well as recognition of the central role of the United Nations in global affairs. The work of the UN Security Council, the Group of 20, BRICS, SCO and CSTO clearly demonstrates the efficiency of joint efforts. Conversely, the Ukrainian crisis was a consequence of a policy of strengthening one’s own security at the expense of others, which has been pursued by Western states for over a quarter of a century aiming to expand areas under their geopolitical control. This was manifested by successive waves of NATO expansion despite assurances to the contrary at the highest level and in violation of solemn declarations on the establishment of a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic space. The current negative turn in global affairs is not our choice. Russia will continue working under these circumstances and remains open for dialogue.
There is no viable alternative to mutually beneficial and equal-footed cooperation between Russia and the EU, as our countries are closely intertwined by virtue of numerous geographic, economic, historical and human ties. We are ready to mutually approximate positions and seek compromises, but only on the basis of equality and true consideration of each other’s interests, excluding any attempts of blackmail and diktat. The establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union is making a tangible contribution to the development of wide-ranging cooperation in the region. We are convinced that gradual steps towards creating a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok based on the principles of equal and indivisible security should serve as a strategic guideline in shaping a new architecture on the European continent. In this regard it seems particularly important to establish direct dialogue between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, including their respective supranational executive bodies, with a view to perfecting models of mutually beneficial and equal-footed harmonization of the processes of European and Eurasian integration.
While there is no credible proof to show that USA is sincerely pursuing peace mission globally, there is enough evidence to prove that the Russians do have at least the peace mission intention. The decision of Russia to withdraw its forces occupying Syria, killing the Syrians (Sunni sect) only shows somewhat positive intent of the Kremlin and that it does not want to complicate the problem and is eager to give peace a chance. If “problem” resurface, President Puitn would resend the forces to Syria.
Even Soviet foreign policy was pro-peace; at least theoretically, L. Brezhnev sent the Red Army into Afghanistan ostensibly to defend socialism from those Afghans and their American backers there.
Following the collapse of the mighty USSR, Russia stopped its historic empire ambition and began cooperating with USA and Europe extending their nexus into terror war on Islam. It never invaded any nation which is not well within its space of influence, especially the former Soviet republics and East European nations. Russian military intervention in Georgia and Ukraine should be seen from that ankle only. However, Syria is certainly not in that category of nations where Moscow could intervene as its legitimate right. Russia explains that it has a duty to protect Syrian government and its president Assad and hence it intervened there militarily.
Russia’s geopolitical approach “is shared by most countries,” including China, other BRICS countries, SCO nations, and “our friends in the EAEU, the CSTO, and the CIS.” Moscow forthrightly supports resolving major geopolitical issues “on an equal and mutually respectful basis, providing a reliable foundation for a long-term improvement of international relations” – free from the scourge of war. Defeating terrorism militarily remains a pressing issue, while at the same time working for resolving conflicts diplomatically.
Lavrov stressed that Russia isn’t seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. It seeks mutual cooperation among all nations. ‘Either we find a way to live together in peace, or we’ll perish together from a war ending all future ones’.
Emergence of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), seen in Moscow as its traditional sphere of influence, was initially viewed in the West as an effort by Putin to revive old Soviet Union and socialist system to resume the super power status, lost with the fall of Berlin Wall. Though initially the CIS generated enough enthusiasm in Russia and elsewhere, it could not be developed into a well-knit union to promote Russian goals as the member states did not cooperate with Russia on the new effort to revive Soviet Union mainly because of pressure from USA on both Russia and former Soviet states.
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), seen in Moscow as its traditional sphere of influence, became one of the foreign policy priorities under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states.
However, the CIS became one of the foreign policy priorities under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states.
Instead of working cooperatively with Russia, US dominated NATO provocatively occupies “geopolitical space” near its borders, making normalized relations impossible. Repeated anti-Russian efforts over centuries failed, however. Lavrov said hid nation remains proud and resilient. It’s vitally important as a leading centre of the modern world, and a provider of the values of sustainable development, security and stability.
Pursuing a non-confrontational approach to the USA and Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin opted for in response to his nation’s deepening economic crisis, by seeking a “frozen” conflict in Ukraine, and actively looks for a diplomatic settlement with the West. This is necessary in order to offbeat the negative consequences of western sanctions and by smoothening his nation’s deepening economic crisis.
Vladimir Putin’s presidency lasted already three terms from January 2000 until May 2008 and again from 2012 and one is not sure if he would seek more terms. In international affairs, Putin made increasingly critical public statements regarding the foreign policy of the USA and other Western countries. In February 2007, at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, he criticised what he called the United States’ monopolistic dominance in global relations, and pointed out that the USA displayed an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations. The result of it is that no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.
In the wake of the 11 September hoax in the United States, Putin agreed to the establishment of coalition military bases in Central Asia before and during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Russian nationalists objected to the establishment of any US military presence on the territory of the former Soviet Union, and had expected Putin to keep the US out of the Central Asian republics or at the very least extract a commitment from Washington to withdraw from these bases as soon as the immediate military necessity had passed
During the Iraq disarmament crisis 2002–2003, Putin opposed Washington’s move to invade Iraq without the benefit of a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the use of military force. After the official end of the war was announced, American president George W. Bush asked the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq. Putin supported lifting of the sanctions in due course, arguing that the UN commission first be given a chance to complete its work on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In 2005, Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder negotiated the construction of a major gas pipeline over the Baltic exclusively between Russia and Germany. Schröder also attended Putin’s 53rd birthday in Saint Petersburg the same year.
During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Putin twice visited Ukraine before the election to show his support for Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was widely seen as a pro-Kremlin candidate, and he congratulated him on his anticipated victory before the official election returns had been in. Putin’s personal support for Yanukovych was criticized as unwarranted interference in the affairs of a sovereign state (See also The Orange revolution). Crises also developed in Russia’s relations with Georgia and Moldova, both former Soviet republics accusing Moscow of supporting separatist entities in their territories.
Russia’s relations with the Baltic States also remain tense. In 2007, Russo-Estonian relations deteriorated further as a result of the Bronze Soldier controversy.
Ukraine and Syria
International relations have entered a very difficult period, according to Russian foreign minister Lavrov, a world-class diplomat, a tireless pursuer of world peace and stability; specialists argue that President Putin is fortunate to have him as foreign minister. Lavrov said Russia is at the crossroads of key trends. Despite Russia’s importance in European affairs, its member states allied with Washington try keeping it marginalized, weakened, destabilized, contained and isolated, preventing it from taking part in Europe’s most important affairs, Lavrov explained.
Crimea’s accession to Russia, the Kremlin’s alleged support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – all this contributed to dividing European countries in their assessment of Russia’s policy in Ukraine and the sanctions war between the Kremlin and the West.
Not only did Moscow spoiled its relations with the USA in 2014, but also with its traditional allies in Europe, particularly with France and Germany, as indicated by the Mistral case with France and the failure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin to see eye to eye.
Wars in Ukraine and Syria have become a challenge not only for USA but even for Russia which has the advantage of playing the king maker in both nations. Washington has been unequivocal about its insistence and pressure on other countries to join their campaign against Russia’s policy in Ukraine. Although these countries are interested in doing business with Russia, they are hardly likely to put at stake their far larger business relations with the West. The European Union and United States are China’s first and second largest trading partners, accounting for some 30 percent of China’s overall trade. Russia does not even figure in the top ten of Chinese trading partners. Moscow holds a weak hand in its relations with Beijing, except in arms sale as China remains the key customer of largest military equipment of Russia.
Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria was driven by several overlapping objectives. The Kremlin was eager to strengthen the regime of longtime ally Bashar al-Assad, which was then losing significant ground to its various political opponents. Russia was keen to let Iran also feel safe simultaneously. Moscow has showcased its military strategy to Arab and other Muslim nations among other third word countries to get ‘orders” from them. Moscow was also keen to reinforce its strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean, which was centered on the longstanding Russian naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus.
Importantly, Putin’s government was desperate to regain momentum that had been lost in preceding months in Ukraine, where its forces had encountered stronger-than-expected resistance. Putin has shown Russia remains relevant today.
Moscow’s military presence in Syria, meanwhile, has expanded dramatically. Since September, Russia has significantly reinforced its preexisting naval base at Tartus, erected a new airbase in Latakia, and commenced work on at least two other military facilities nearby. It has surged manpower and materiel into the area, and placed naval cruisers from its Black Sea Fleet on “permanent” rotation off the coast of Syria.
Russia’s Syria deployment has also paid clear political dividends. Through it, Putin has been able to divert domestic Russian opinion away from the massive failures of his government (fiscal decline, a dwindling supply of foreign goods, and deepening authoritarianism among them). The intervention has also allowed Russia to at least partially break out of the international isolation caused by its earlier aggression against Ukraine.
Today the West requires Russia’s assistance to ensure the Assad regime’s continued compliance with the terms of any political solution. Russia was an intrinsic part of the putative ceasefire concluded in Geneva in mid-February, and—as a result of its ongoing leverage over Assad—remains essential to its implementation. That, in turn, gives the Kremlin a deciding voice over West Asia regional politics, has positioned Moscow as a key power broker in the Middle East. The March 14 announcement was both abrupt and surprising; coming as it did just six months after Russia’s entry into the Syrian civil war, assures Arab nations its resolve not to overstay, unlike USA or NATO, in Syria or any other regional nation in future.
However, whether or not Arab world thinks that way, USA and EU look at the Russian moves as a serious threat to them. Europe sees the aggressive move by Putin’s belligerent Russia as one of the most pressing threats to European security it is willingly uses armed force and breach the sovereignty of other states in defense of its interests. NATO has decided to face the ‘threat” by beefing up its presence in the Baltic States, to demonstrate that it has a “credible commitment” to defend member states under Article V of the NATO charter.
Countries like India and China are hardly likely to yield to US pressure because they are pro-Russia and somewhat independent players of world politics that have no reason to join the US campaign against the Kremlin. India is annoyed with USA for promoting Pakistan as a counter weight in the region. Only those countries that have economic and political links with Washington will yield, as in the case of Japan and Australia, which have quickly imposed sanctions against Russia. Japan was forced to support sanctions due to its geostrategic and geopolitical positions. Tokyo is struggling to develop its relations with Russia, yet it has to be in solidarity with the USA.
Russia’s Asia pivot
For a long time since the close of the so-called Cold War and Hot Peace, Russian has express its intentions of ignoring the West and turning to the East to warn the West about its intentions to join the Asian nations and harm US interests in Asia, though Washington has not taken that warning seriously. When Obama declared his ‘Asia pivot’ tactics he was only ridiculing Moscow. True, USA always sought to contain both Russia and China with veto handle.
With Russia losing traditional and reliable partners in Europe, it is trying to find new ones in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. President Obama made trips to these areas- latest being in Latin America where capitalist Russia is fast losing its friends. Yet can these “new allies” satisfy Moscow’s trade requirements and replace the partners Russia has lost over its schism with the West?
Even though German society is divided in its assessments of the prospects of Russian-German relations, there are increasing debates over the possibility of a cold war between Germany and Russia. Russia avoids any cold war with Germany that would affect Russian economy.
While losing its partners in Europe, Russia makes no bones about its turn to Asia, the Middle East and Latin America in attempt to persuade the West that it is not isolated and has numerous partners. Putin’s visits to India, Turkey in December, China in May and Latin America in July look like a clear gesture from Russia, demonstrating that it can make do without the West.
Russia has always sought strong relationships with Central Asia, and was engaged in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS group well before this summer’s difficulties with Europe. “But Russia is now trying to deepen and strengthen ties in Asia and the Middle East more than ever to offset the losses of business with Europe.
Likewise, Russia is attempting to establish closer ties with Iran amidst its schism with the West, as indicated by the conference held in Moscow on Nov. 25 on “Development of Strategic Partnership between Russia and Iran”. Stunning Russian ’progress’ in Syria could prompt Tehran to sign up more military deals with the Kremlin.
China has plenty of capital and plenty of expertise, but needs its capital internally and is also keen to invest in Africa and Iran and elsewhere, and lacks some of the specific expertise (e.g. Arctic oil exploration, tight oil extraction, innovation-based entrepreneurship) that Russia needs most.
Probably these countries may not be interested in full collaboration with a weaker Russia and would instead prefer it over the partnership with West. They “might work” with Russia on trade, but “they are unlikely to ally with Moscow, and they won’t “displace Europe in trade terms. In 2013, EU-Russia trade was more than four times Russia-China trade, and more than 15 times Russia-Turkey trade. Even though Asia and the Middle East do matter for Russia’s foreign policy, Moscow would abandon its deep-seated illusion that there is an opportunity to switch from its Western partners to eastern ones. Russia’s new allies in the Middle East and Asia are not meant to replace, but rather should be an addition to our traditional partners, including those in the zone of the European Union.
No clear evidence of the willingness of “Russia’s supposed ‘new partners’ to engage in preferential relationship with Moscow because of the crisis in Russia’s relations with the West not even India.
Even though Moscow made several attempts to woo the Asian and Middle East countries, there is still a lack of certainty over whether these “new allies” are eager to team up with Moscow and sacrifice their relations with the USA.
In most cases, Russia’s ‘new partners’ pursue their own – mainly economic – agendas, while considerations of standing up to US dictates take the backstage as a motivation for engaging with Russia. In fact, one is doubtful that Russia aims at replacing its EU partners with other ones elsewhere. If there are promising bonds and benefits to Moscow from cooperation with Asia or the Middle East, they had to be expanded irrespective of Russia’s relations with the USA or the EU.
The ‘partner replacement’ logic works in contemporary international relations but in small measures. Such logic can only be applied – albeit with limited effect – to military alliances for joint exercises. In trade or other forms of economic engagement, and even diplomatic coordination, ‘replacing’ one set of failing relationships with another simply makes no sense. There was never any reason why Russia should not have been developing ties with potential partners in the Middle East or the Asia Pacific region before its conflict with the West over Ukraine started. These regions, now controlled by USA, do not really trust Russia being a reliable ally against US monopoly of global affairs and economics.
However, Russia, backed by hue resourced reinforced by sales of arms and energy resources, has nothing to lose.
The vulnerability of our highly civilized and technological world to WMD is considerable. If it is difficult just to protect armed forces in operations against WMD, in particular biological weapons, then to protect the civilian population will pose even greater problems.
On August 6, 1945, towards the end of World War II, the American Little Boy device was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, obviously to test the efficacy of first ever atomic bomb on humans. Exploding with a yield equivalent to 12,500 tonnes of TNT, the blast and thermal wave of the bomb destroyed nearly 50,000 buildings (including the headquarters of the 2nd General Army and Fifth Division) and killed approximately 75,000 people, among them 20,000 Japanese soldiers and 20,000 Koreans. Today president Obama is testing latest unmanned drone weapons – first tested by Israel on Palestinians – on global Muslims, starting in Pakistan.
During the height of WW-II USA had threatened Moscow with an atomic attack but Stalin said was ready to face it. The Soviet Union had a peak stockpile of 45,000 nuclear warheads in 1988, forcing the NATO not to think of any misadventure on Russian soil. It is estimated that from 1949 to 1991 the Soviet Union produced approximately 55,000 nuclear warheads.
According to an audit by the Brookings Institution, between 1940 and 1996, the U.S. spent $8.78 trillion in present-day terms on nuclear weapons programs. 57 percent of which was spent on building nuclear weapons delivery systems. According to the Federation of American Scientists, an organization that assesses nuclear weapon stockpiles, in 2013, Russia possessed an estimated 8,500 total nuclear warheads of which 1,800 were strategically operational. The organization also claims that the U.S. had an estimated total 7,700 nuclear warheads of which 1,950 were strategically operational. According to Mark Schneider of the National Institute of Public Policy Russian strategic nuclear weapons now deployed number near 2500, considerably greater than the nominal treaty limits of 1550 under the New Start treaty.
In 2014, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a report, stating that there are a total of 2,530 warheads kept in reserve, and 2,120 actively deployed. Of the warheads actively deployed, the number of strategic warheads rests at 1,920 (subtracting 200 bombs that are “deployed”, but are not considered “strategic”). The amount of warheads being actively disabled rests at about 2,700 warheads, which brings the total United States inventory to about 7,400 warheads
Eliminating nuclear weapons has long been an aim of the pacifist left. But now many mainstream politicians, academic analysts, and retired military leaders also advocate nuclear disarmament. Goals include the initiation of United States-Russia bilateral negotiations for reductions to 1,000 total warheads each and commitments from the other key nuclear weapons countries to participate in multilateral negotiations for phased reductions of nuclear arsenals.
As of 2016, there are still more than enough nuclear weapons globally to render the planet uninhabitable. 16,000 nuclear weapons are ‘stored’ at sites in 14 countries and many are ready for immediate use. Modernisation of weapons continues to occur. Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons: 80–110 each active warheads; nuclear weapons: North Korean nuclear weapons: 10 active warheads; Undeclared nuclear rogue weapon states not party to the NPT: Israeli nuclear weapons: 75–200 active warheads.
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-weapon-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. Nuclear disarmament groups include the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Peace Action, Greenpeace, and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Mayors for Peace, Global Zero, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Dangers are inherent in the very existence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction have come to occupy center stage in international politics. The term “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is used to characterize a variety of weapons that share two key features: their potential for large-scale destruction and the indiscriminate nature of their effects, notably against civilians. There are three major types of WMD: nuclear weapons, chemical warfare agents, and biological warfare agents. In addition, some analysts include radiological materials as well as missile technology and delivery systems such as aircraft and ballistic missiles.
Radiological weapons are part of the nuclear risk. These are weapons, procedures, or methods that disseminate radioactive substances; for example, the conventional detonation of a container holding a radioactive substance. The aim of such weapons is to disperse radioactive particles. At multilateral arms control talks, such weapons are regarded as difficult to define, and there is little chance of reaching consensus on this issue. In addition, their military value is unclear.
While the mass killing of human beings is not a new feature of warfare, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) pose an unprecedented constellation of challenges to peace and security. Over the past century, various states have built and stockpiled lethal arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the materials to produce them. While states have officially committed to eliminating all stockpiles of chemical weapons and offensive biological weapons and to strive for the elimination of nuclear weapons, nine countries currently possess nuclear weapons – Britain, China, France, India, Israel (assumed), North Korea (claimed), Pakistan, Russia, and the United States – and several states are believed to possess chemical and/or biological warfare agents.
Anti Islamic media of US-UK led nations have spread rumours that the terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda was actively seeking nuclear materials to terrorize the humanity further. The use of WMD increased in the United States and around the world following the use of the biological warfare agent anthrax in the US mail in 2001 in Afghanistan occupied by NATO and one can easily guess who is behind this.
Last month US defense secretary Ashton Carter proposed boosting the initiative’s funding from $789 million to $3.4 billion for FY 2017. Both sides use displays of military prowess to signal their resolve to the other side. In 2007, Russia resumed the Cold War practice of strategic bomber patrols along NATO borders.
Even while targeting each other by the strategic missile postures, Russia and the West apparently also focus on a re-nuclearization of defense planning, driven by worst case scenarios. This is stoked by all the talk of a “second Cold War,” which encourages each side to view the other as implacably hostile, duplicitous and dangerous.
The cost of making the wrong call on the WMD issue is astronomically high. Both sides take steps to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons and reliance on nuclear threats as part of their defense strategies. There must be a follow-on to the 2010 New START agreement and the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which expired in 2012, and resolution of mutual accusations of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Deterrence by nukes may not work in the long run. Acknowledging an overriding common interest of avoiding nuclear war is not an exercise in appeasement. There were several incidents where humanity came perilously close to the nuclear brink, from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis to NATO’s Able Archer exercise in 1983. Russia’s own military doctrine states that if it found itself losing a conventional war, it may use nuclear weapons to defend Russia’s security. NATO, too, has a nuclear doctrine that does not preclude first use in a conflict. NATO seems to be underestimating Russia’s willingness to escalate and finds itself in a classic security dilemma, where defensive actions by one side are seen as a threat by the other, triggering an escalating cycle of action and response. Russia feels the NATO involved in a desperate nuke gamble.
USA may isolate Russia in order to make it look irrelevant in international affairs, but it can’t simply ignore the security readiness of the Kremlin to face any eventuality now or in the future.
The system of international relations is in transition as a new polycentric world order is taking root. World is witnessing the creation of a fundamentally new global model marked by growing competition in all spheres, including social and economic development and moral values. Evidently, Russia is well placed to consolidate its role as one of the centres of the new multipolar system and actively impact the global situation with a view to ameliorating it, strengthening security and stability, putting in place favourable external conditions for the country’s internal development to ensure sustainable economic growth and thus a higher quality of life for Russian citizens.
Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, saying in Lavrov’s words a nation’s greatness is not determined by the size of its territory or the number of its inhabitants, but by the capacity of its people and its government to take on the burden of great world problems and to deal with these problems in a creative manner.
President Puitn has lived up to the expectations of Russians who want a strong presidency to face the challenges of foes.
Russian foreign minister Lavrov’s thoughtful new essay, titled “Russia’s Foreign Policy” explains current foreign policy of Putin’s Russia. Lavrov explained Russian history and its special role in European and global history, an impressive scholarly account, rare for figures in his position, maybe unique in today’s world. Lavrov is no ordinary diplomat, shaming his Western counterparts, serving his country with distinction, a devoted advocate for peace, democratic values and rule of law principles.
Lavrov said that achieving world peace and stability, mutual cooperation among all nations, respect for their sovereignty, and upholding fundamental rule of law principles matter to Moscow most of all.
Putin’s Russia would not change its tone now or in future, though he seeks a multilateral world for the entire world to survive the challenges.
Western sanctions have crippled Russian economy or its tone of rhetoric, and obviously the USA ‘options now are limited in the chess broad. Russians, after its Syrian ‘blast’ are waiting for the next move of the USA.
Policy makers in Washington also know too well how Putin reacts to US unilateral moves. The more opportunities Washington offers to it, the better for Russia to make full use of them depending on the circumstances.
However, Russia won’t be able to remake the Soviet Union or socialist system even if Putin and his active supports at the Kremlin want that. It can only undertake measures to reform crony capitalism so that common Russians have a hope of better life.
Assertive foreign policy may be necessary but that should not promote domestic authoritarianism which is harmful to the nations and world.
On Russia’s Power: is Winter Coming?
On November 11–12, 2018, Abu Dhabi hosted the fifth annual expert meeting within the strategic dialog organized by Emirates Policy Center with the support of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Traditionally the event gathers a large number of specialists in international relations, regional security, and Middle Eastern issues. Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General, made a speech at the session devoted to the role of Russia in the modern world, including in the Middle East.
Talking about Russia’s power in the Middle East or in a broader global context, we should probably start with defining what power in the contemporary world politics really means. Is it about material resources that a nation can mobilize to shoulder its foreign policy aspirations — the total throw-weight of strategic missiles, the number of aircraft carriers and combined budgets of national assistance agencies? Is it about the size of your territory or about the natural resources that the territory contains? Is it rather about you GNP or about GNP per capita that defines your power in international relations? Probably not. If you happen to be an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the jungle, this does not necessarily make you the strongest beast around. A lot depends on how functional these eight hundred pounds are. It may be pure muscle tissue, but it may also be accumulated belly fat.
There is another, more functional definition of power in world politics. Power is defined as ability of states or non-state actors to make other actors do certain things or abstain from doing some things in the interests of those exercising power. To put it in a broader context, you can define power as ability of actors to meet the goals they set for themselves in international relations.
From this vantage point, Russia has recently demonstrated that it is a powerful state, capable of using its power in an efficient way. No matter how we assess the Russian role in the contemporary international system — as a predominantly positive or a predominantly negative, — we should agree that Russia constantly punches above its weight, having more impact on the system that it theoretically should have according to its ‘objective’ economic, technological or demographic potential.
If I were to compare Russia to a large investment fund, I would venture to say that the price of its stocks today is significantly higher than the true value of its assets. Look, for instance, at the recent Russia’s posture in the Middle East region. In my view, we can label it as an exceptionally successful political start-up: with rather modest price paid in blood in treasure, Moscow has been able to turn itself from a marginal player in the region into the arguably most important external power broker.
This apparent gap between the operational power and its material foundation needs an explanation. To say that Vladimir Putin has been simply lucky, making full use of indecisiveness and inconsistencies of the West and exploiting many vacuums of power around the globe is to say nothing. There should be something here about the ability of the Kremlin to make fast and resolute decisions, about its capacity to promptly mobilize Russia’s political and military forces, about the quality of the Russian diplomacy and so on.
Russia’s highly centralized political system, impressive domestic and international state propaganda machinery, its consistency in supporting Moscow’s allies and partners — all these features of the ‘Putin’s style’ foreign policy puts Russia in a league of its own in world politics. It does not have many important features of a truly great power (above all, it lacks a solid and diverse economic foundation), but so far it has been able to capitalize exactly on what distinguishes it from a ‘standard’ Western democracy or a typical non-Western autocracy. In other words, Russia is powerful because Russia is different.
Nevertheless, the Russian way of maximizing its international power contains a number of risks that should not be underestimated. First, the set of instruments, which the Kremlin can use in international relations to advance its goals, is quite limited. Russia is a nuclear superpower, is has military power projection capabilities second only to the United States. It is a global leader in cyber warfare and in a number of futuristic weapons. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a veto power, which it never hesitates to use. It is a member of other international groupings — ranging from G20 and APEC to SCO and BRICS. It is a global supplier of hydrocarbons, many other commodities, as well as of food stock. It is the largest country in the world with eleven time zones.
However, is this set enough for Russia to maintain its status in global politics for all of the XXI century? Until 2050? Until 2030? Probably, not. If so, in the rapidly changing international environment the Kremlin has to consider seriously a significant diversification of its foreign policy instruments with a special emphasis on soft power components (culture, education, social practices, technological edge, science and so on). The sooner we start moving in this direction, the more secure the country’s role is likely to be in the long-term future.
Second, many of current Russia’s foreign policy investments are high-risk investments bordering political speculations. Should Russia continue betting of leftist political regimens in Venezuela or in Nicaragua? Should it bet on Euro-sceptics and right wing populists in the European Union? Should it invest into failing autocracies in Africa? This opportunistic globalism is distracting Moscow from what is truly important for Russia: from resolving multiple crises on the territory of the former Soviet Union, from building stable partnerships with its immediate neighbors, from gradually restoring the troubled relationship with the West.
As for targets of opportunity overseas, any political engagement should be preceded, not followed by a careful consideration of exit strategy options. History teaches us repeatedly: countries that can win wars, quite often lose peace. If you take the ongoing conflict in Syria, it will not last forever. When the name of the game is no longer military operations, but a post-conflict reconstruction, new players will come to the stage, no matter who is charge in Damascus. External powers with deeper pockets than those that Russia has will claim a central role in the post-war Syria. The Kremlin should try very hard to convert its current military successes into less explicit, but a more lasting and a more stable political presence in the country.
Finally, neither Russia, not any other nation should forget that the real foreign policy power comes from the inside. Foreign policy victories might look great and they definitely appeal to the public, but they never become an adequate substitute for victories at home. In the end of the day, the ability to balance economic growth and social equity, preserving national identity and integration into the global community, political representation and efficient governance constitute the only reliable foundation for power in international relations. All other foundations turn out to be quite shaky and fragile.
I have no doubts that Russia has all needed ingredients to stay as a great power, no a global spoiler. It has the potential that makes it capable of being not a part of the problem, but a part of the solution for the international system of the XXI century.
However, the future of Russia’s power and that of Russia’s role will depend on the overall evolution of the system. In a popular American fantasy television series “The Game of Thrones”, characters from time to time remind each other — “Winter is coming”. By “Winter” (with a capital “W”) they mean something really bad, big and unavoidable looming on the horizon. They cannot prevent the Winter, so they have to learn who to survive in this extremely hostile and dangerous environment.
Today, there are many indicators that “Winter” might be the future of the world politics in years to come, that what we observe today is not a bad weather, but a profound climate change. The implosion of the state system in parts of the Middle East, the rise of right populism and nationalism in Europe, Brexit in UK the election of Trump in US, the coming collapse of the US — Russian strategic arms control, a renewed arms race in Asia — there are multiple symptoms of hard times ahead of us.
If the name of the game in the global politics is likely to be security, not development, if the prime goal of nations is going to be survival rather than prosperity, why should Russia change its current understanding of power in international relations? In a way, the Kremlin is better prepared to face the global Winter than most of its competitors and opponents are. To create incentives for the Russian foreign policy to reinvent itself, one has to prove that the global Winter is not the only option. Otherwise the world might face a self-fulfilling prophesy. As they say, “fate is shaped half by expectation, half by inattention.”
First published in our partner RIAC
Russia and Comoro Islands Cooperate To Enhance Bilateral Relations
On November 8-10, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoro Islands, El-Amine Souef, paid his first official working visit to Moscow. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with him on November 9.
After the talks, Lavrov told the media conference that they had confirmed to continue promoting bilateral cooperation in many spheres and work together towards using the existing potential in both countries.
There is considerable potential for cooperation in fishing, renewable energy, the provision of fresh water and agriculture.
“We have agreed to help our business communities establish direct ties and we also exchanged opinions on international issues, reaffirming the identity or similarity of our views,” Lavrov said.
They exchanged of views on international and regional issues of mutual interest with an emphasis on preventing and defusing crises in Africa and the Middle East, struggling against piracy in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean and countering terrorism and extremism.
Lavrov reminded that Moscow firmly supports the principle formulated by the African countries, that is “African solutions to African problems” and urged Africans to find ways of settling conflicts while the international community provides the necessary assistance through the African Union and sub-regional African organisations with the coordinating role of the UN.
Under a memorandum signed by the ministers, Russia will be training law enforcement personnel for the Comoro Islands.
Kelvin Dewey Stubborn, South African based Senior Analyst on BRICS and African policy, observes that foreign assistance is very essential to transform the economy and improve living standards of the population on the Comoro Islands.
Thus, Russia’s economic engagement is needed at this time, most importantly, to maintain stability and turn around the opportunities into an attractive place. With a relatively small investment, Russia could achieve important results for the Islands, so the first step should be genuine commitment, he told me in an emailed interview from Johannesburg.
One of the world’s poorest and smallest economies, the Islands are hampered by inadequate transportation links. It has a rapidly increasing population and few natural resources.
The low educational level of the labour force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. France, the colonial power, still remains a key trading partner and bilateral donor.
Russia established diplomatic relations with the Comoro Islands after it gained independence from France on 6 July 1975. In mid-2017, Comoros joined the Southern African Development Community with 15 other regional member states.
The most common language is Shikomoro, a Swahili dialect. French and Arabic are also widely spoken. About 57% of the population is literate. The Islands, with a population of about 1.2 million, situated off the southeast coast of Africa, to the east is Mozambique and northwest is Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
Russia’s Growing Clout in Asia Pacific Region
In their strategic calculus, the Asia Pacific major powers as well as other countries do not consider Russia a major military power for the region. Although these Asia Pacific countries understand Russia’s military clout in Europe and Middle East, they somehow fail to see how overall Russian military might have an impact in the Asia Pacific region too.
Accordingly, the growing influence of Russia in the region finds less attention on the regional media outlets, the regional discussion platforms and the think tank papers produced across the region. This is a total contrast to Russian involvement in Europe and Middle East, something which receives huge coverage. Despite the low coverage of its engagement in the Asia Pacific, Russia’s geopolitical presence is increasing in the region.
Although its military and economic involvements in the Asia Pacific reduced significantly after the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia has over the last decade improved and enhanced its military might significantly, making its military a potent power in the region.
Russia has been selling weapons and other advanced military technology to the Asia-Pacific countries in order to bring these countries into its geopolitical orbit. Besides its close military relations with both China and India, Russia is increasingly building good relations with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.
Furthermore, Russia is on a spree of building certain infrastructures in several Asia Pacific countries which would make those countries dependent on Russia for the proper functionality of those infrastructures. Take Bangladesh’s nuclear plant for example. Russia is setting up a nuclear-powered power plant in Bangladesh, and this infrastructure would certainly make Bangladesh dependent on Russia for the technological aspects of the project. Bangladesh has also been purchasing heavy weapons and military vehicles from Russia.
Recently this year, many regional countries were alarmed by Russia’s large scale war games. The fact that the war games was conducted in the eastern part of Russia – which forms part of the Asia Pacific region, unlike Russia’s western part that forms part of Europe – makes it an alarming development for the Asia Pacific region.
According to an Australian news website, the war games, namely Vostok-2018 or East-2018, involved more than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1000 aircraft, helicopters and drones and 80 warships and support vessels.
More alarming was the inclusion of the Chinese military into the war games alongside the Russians. Around 3500 Chinese troops were said to have taken part in the Russian war games. Troops from Mongolia too joined the drills.
Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, boasted about the drills saying, “Imagine 36,000 military vehicles moving at the same time: tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles – and all of this, of course, in conditions as close to a combat situation as possible.”
Condemning the drills, NATO said the war games “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict”.
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