12 May 2012, 18:55

Putin sets priorities in foreign policy

Putin sets priorities in foreign policy

On the day of his inauguration on May 7, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a series of decrees aimed at maintaining his pre-election platform. One of them was the Decree that set priorities regarding Russian foreign policy. A pragmatic approach in the interests of the country's economic development is proclaimed to be its key principle.

On the day of his inauguration on May 7, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a series of decrees aimed at maintaining his pre-election platform. One of them was the Decree that set priorities regarding Russian foreign policy. A pragmatic approach in the interests of the country's economic development is proclaimed to be its key principle.

It is obvious that the Kremlin, as usual, will base its policy on multipolar world conception, where the main role is granted to multilateral diplomacy under the direction of the United Nations. Moreover, Russia's foreign policy is focused on the creation of "favourable external conditions for long-term development of the Russian Federation, modernization of its economy and strengthening of Russian positions as an equal partner on in world markets".

The ranking of international diplomatic priorities stated in the decree is rather interesting. Following the UN, which plays the central role in the world affairs, is the economic block known as the BRICS, then the G-20, and lastly, the G-8. As it stands, the future unified economic stance of the BRICS members - Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, which are also members of the «G-20» - will be one of the most important elements of Russia's foreign policy.

Another key direction of Russian foreign policy is economic integration with CIS countries. In this regard, we can highlight the ratification of the CIS Free Trade Zone Agreement, and the framework for the Union State, a coalition between Belarus and Russia. In addition, the development of the Customs Union and the Uniform Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan with the goal of creating the Eurasian Economic Union by January 1, 2015. These new multilateral economic structures are to gradually replace the CIS structures.

In the political sphere, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, plays a central role. It is symbolic that the Kremlin’s first foreign policy move after Vladimir Putin's inauguration will be the anniversary session of the CSTO Collective Security Council, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on May 15. It will bring together the leaders of all the CSTO member states. According to the Kremlin press-service, an informal meeting of the CIS heads of state will be held in Moscow that same day.

As far as relations with non-CIS countries are concerned, the President’s Decree primarily touches upon economic cooperation with the EU. Relevant topics include, "the creation of a single economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean", a visa-free zone, realization of the "Partnership for Modernization" program - an energy partnership aimed at creating an integrated European energy model.

Touching upon foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region, the President emphasizes the need to promote "accelerated socio-economic development of the Eastern Siberia and the Far East regions". He also highlighted strategic cooperation with China, India, Vietnam, Japan, and other key countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

However, regarding relations with the United States, which are not a priority in the Presidential Decree, political problems prevail. There is an emphasis on equal rights and non-interference in internal affairs. The Decree mentions non-discriminatory bilateral trade and a reqest to end US unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions against Russian legal and physical persons that have put a strain on bilateral relations, i.e., the cases of Boot and Yaroshenko, the saga with the cancellation of the "Jackson-Vanik Amendment", and its transformation into the "Magnitsky Amendment".

The issue of strategic cooperation regarding security is viewed from a new angle. The decree clearly states that negotiations on further strategic offensive weapons reductions are possible only in the context of taking into consideration all factors affecting global strategic stability. This is a fundamental change in the negotiations policy when Russia single-handedly used to conduct dialogue with the US and their NATO allies, and its transfer to a multilateral and comprehensive basis.

As for resolving global crisis situations, the Decree appoints the practice, which is already being used by Russian diplomacy - the priority of nonpower, “politically diplomatic settlement of regional conflicts” on the basis of collective actions. This course was implemented to its fullest during the Syrian crisis settlement. Its main instruments are blocking attempts of external interference in the UN Security Council, and establishing a negotiation process between conflicting parties under international mediation on the basis of a UN mandate. On the other hand, the Decree is aimed at preventing situations that allow a repeat of the Libyan tragedy, when the UN Security Council's mandate was in fact used for a quasi-intervention and change of the ruling regime.

This foreign policy focus on dialogue and multilateral negotiations are the basis of solving the problems regarding the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs .

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