Foreign relations

   Russia’s foreign relations with its neighbors and even distant countries such as Great Britain and the United States are complex, often characterized by suspicion and rivalry. This is in part due to the country’s historically fluid borders and projection of its power in all directions of the compass.
   As the Romanov Empire, Russian territory steadily grew until it covered one-sixth of the earth’s surface, a fact that did not sit well in foreign capitals. Under the new Bolshevik regime, Soviet Russia funded and directed the Comintern, an international organization dedicated to foment Communist revolution in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world; as a result, the country became an international pariah during the 1920s. Joseph Stalin’s decision to build socialism in one country, rather than actively support world revolution, allowed for a normalization of relations with many countries by the mid-1930s, but most of the Soviet Union’s neighbors remained hostile. During World War II, the Nazi invasion triggered a shortterm alliance with the British and Americans; however, postwar differences regarding Germany soon precipitated the Cold War between the U.S. and its European allies and the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. In 1955, the Soviets established the Warsaw Pact to provide collective security to its satellite states, which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
   The Khrushchev administration actively courted relationships with Third World countries, particularly in the Middle East, resulting in extremely poor relations with Israel and certain conservative regimes such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Soviet military and economic support for left-wing regimes in Indochina, Latin America (especially Cuba), and sub-Saharan Africa created even more problems between Moscow and Washington. During this period, the fraternal relationship between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and China disintegrated, resulting in a new global competition for the leadership of the Communist world. In the last years of Brezhnev’s regime, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to prop up a friendly government against Islamists. The resulting bloodshed triggered worldwide condemnation, seriously harming the country’s international standing.
   Beginning in the mid-1980s, the new premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, initiated the so-called policy of “New Thinking” in international relations. His initial reforms aimed to limit the arms deployed in Europe, particularly nuclear weapons. Over the years, he developed cordial relations with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. By the end of the decade, Gorbachev ordered Soviet troops out of Afghanistan and signaled to the Communist leaders of Eastern Europe that the Soviet Union would not repeat the military intervention of Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) if any of the members of the bloc moved to abandon socialism. Domestic problems forced Moscow to abandon its far-flung alliance system, resulting in the downgrading of its relations with North Korea, Cuba, Mongolia, Vietnam, and certain Arab states.
   The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in massive changes in foreign policy. First, the Russian Federation was forced to develop peer relationships with the 14 newly independent states of the near abroad, that is, the other former Soviet republics. Second, Boris Yeltsin attempted to turn Russia into a “normal country” in terms of its foreign policy. This translated into an Atlanticist orientation under Andrey Kozyrev, whereby Russia sought to emulate the international behavior of North American and European nations. It quickly became apparent that the first and second directives were not wholly compatible, given Russia’s historical relationships with Ukraine, Central Asia, and other former republics. Russian military intervention in conflicts in the Caucasus, Moldova, and Tajikistan were defended under the so-called Monroeski Doctrine, while the presence of large numbers of ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia, and elsewhere provided Moscow with a lever of control over these states.
   Hoping to maintain its influence as a regional power, Russia created a number of intergovernmental organizations like the Commonwealth of Independent States, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and Eurasian Economic Community, all of which it dominated. Russian troops were deployed across the former Soviet Union, including in Armenia and Transnistria, either as peacekeepers, border guards, or in narcotics interdiction. While Russia enjoyed improved ties to a number of states during the 1990s, particularly South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey, lingering territorial issues dogged relations with Japan.
   In the 1990s, several distinct schools of foreign policy developed in the Russian Federation that competed with Kozyrev’s liberal, Westernizing orientation. The first school is the Eurasianist or Slavophile orientation, which was embraced by ultranationalists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky and certain conservative intellectuals. Eurasian foreign policy supports reintegration of the Russophone world (i.e., the former Soviet Union), and an alliance with other Asiatic powers to balance against the West, which is seen as hostile to Russia and its values. This approach shares some qualities with the National Communist or neo-Soviet school of foreign policy advocated by Gennady Zyuganov and other members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the extreme left. This school is virulently anti-American in its posture, advocates imperialism, and supports a return to the ideological conflict between the socialist and capital worlds and a rejection of Western norms. The last school of thought can be described as statist or “great power” foreign policy, and is most closely associated with Yevgeny Primakov. During the second Yeltsin administration, Primakov attempted to return Russia to great power (derzhava) status and sought to counterbalance American hegemony by strengthening ties to Iran, China, and India. Such moves found support among many Russian political elites, including the siloviki>. During this period, Russia also took a strong stand against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) actions in Serbia and against the military alliance’s planned expansion into the Baltic region. Certain aspects of the Primakov Doctrine were expanded under Vladimir Putin, particularly the notion that Russia should not reject its unique geopolitical identity and civilizational messianism. However, the new president drew closer to the U.S. in the wake of the September 11 attacks, hoping to gain support for his actions in Chechnya and against Islamist terrorists on Russian soil. George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq precipitated a new axis of interest connecting Moscow-Berlin-Paris and a cooling relationship with the United States.
   By 2005, Putin had rallied the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to force the Americans to begin the process of abandoning their bases in Central Asia, despite Putin’s earlier acquiescence to the U.S. military presence in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. While Russia maintained excellent relations with Kazakhstan throughout the postindependence period, this event marked the return of Russian influence across the whole region. Under Putin, Russia assumed an increasingly aggressive posture in its economic and diplomatic relations with the former Soviet republics, including the suspension of natural gas shipments to Ukraine, threats directed at the Baltic States, and a partial embargo on goods from Georgia. While the rise of the siloviki certainly shaped this new posture, the increasing corporatization of the elite also played a role as Gazprom, Transneft, and other industrial giants gained a voice in foreign affairs. Buoyed by high oil and natural gas prices, Putin presided over a “proud” Russia, with representation in the Group of Eight (G8), a constituent part of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) grouping and a major player in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Fearful of the Western-backed color revolutions, the Kremlin began to develop its relationships with elites across post-Soviet space. This involved actively countering what it viewed as anti-Russian actions at home and abroad, backing its own form of “managed democracy” as a valid option for the larger region; this included an aggressive defense of Belarus’s authoritarian system. During this period, relations with Great Britain soured rapidly, particularly over espionage allegations and the Litvinenko case. Putin also began to engage in nationalist populism directed at the U.S., a country that he implied continues to seek the disintegration of Russia; his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov took an especially hard line against the proposed antimissile shield to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.
   Shortly after the ascent of Dmitry Medvyedev, Russia took its most dramatic military action since 1991, invading Georgia to secure its interests and citizens in the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. Moscow’s actions were condemned by the European Union and the U.S., though much of the developing world saw Russia’s response as appropriate under the circumstances. In recent years, Russia has also sought to expand its claims to the Arctic Ocean, placing the country at odds with Canada and Norway.
   See also Azerbaijan; Finland; Foreign investment; Foreign trade; France; Ivanov, Igor; Kosovo; Lithuania; Politics; Sinatra Doctrine, Turkmenistan; United Nations; Venezuela.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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