The Outlook for Russian Foreign Policy: Great Power Restoration

Article excerpt

Conclusions

* Moscow's erratic attempts to defend Russia's "vital interests"--while still clinging to the goal of global integration--have not worked. Even reform-minded politicians and officials in Moscow question whether the United States will ever allow Russia a place in the international community.

* The perceived failure of Moscow's quest for global integration, coupled with the ongoing shift in Russian politics to the nationalist and conservative end of the political spectrum, is increasing the appeal of a clear-cut alternative: Great Power restoration.

* Great Power restorationists--including retired General Alexsander Lebed's Congress of Russian Communities, the Communist Party, and various "national patriotic" groups like Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's LDP--have never been reconciled to Russia's loss of Great Power status. Although most do not harbor hopes of regaining the military superpower status of the USSR, Great Power restorationists see America's emergence as the single superpower as destabilizing and want Russia to serve as a counterweight.

* Great Power restorationists see regional integration--consolidating Moscow's domination of other Soviet successor states--as a basic step toward rebuilding Great Power status and carving out an international role for Moscow based on Russian strength, not weakness.

* Even if a conservative sweep in the December parliamentary elections is averted and Boris Yeltsin manages to hold onto the presidency after the presidential elections currently scheduled for next June, Moscow will likely adopt some elements of the Great Power approach. We can therefore expect Moscow to increase its efforts at some sort of regional integration even if it means antagonizing the major international powers.

Yeltsin's Initial Foreign Policy

Russia's initial foreign policy--most closely associated with Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev--viewed foreign policy primarily as an extension of radical economic reform. The main goal of Kremlin foreign policy was full integration into existing Western international organizations--both financial and defense.

A key assumption undergirding this approach was that the only way a weakened Russia could integrate into the international community was through close cooperation with the U.S. and other Western powers. Indeed, Moscow harbored strong hopes that the West would reward Russia for withdrawing from Eastern Europe and repudiating Cold War Soviet aggression, by welcoming Russia into the international community and footing the bill for Russian economic reform. This initial policy approach also involved accepting the other Soviet successor states as equal partners, resolving differences with them through diplomacy, and disengaging from them militarily.

By late-1992, however, it was clear that the initial Kozyrev strategy--relying on the United States to help Russia integrate into the global community and transition to a democracy and market economy--was running into trouble. Disengaging militarily from the other Soviet successor states proved difficult. Many of these states proved to be little more than contiguous pieces of real estate racked by ethnic strife and clan warfare. Russia repeatedly found itself intervening militarily, sometimes (as in the case of Tajikistan) at the request of an embattled host government.

Relations with the United States were also disappointing. The hoped-for economic assistance was slow in coming and much less than expected. Moreover, Moscow's efforts to protect what it saw as its legitimate security interests in the other Soviet successor states prompted charges of Russian neo-imperialism from a suspicious West.

Defending Russia's "Vital Interests"

By the end of 1993, Moscow had finally abandoned Kozyrev's pro-Western policy in favor of the notion that Russia could entrust its security and place in the international community only to itself. …

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