What Would a Democratic Russian Foreign Policy Look like? Mark Katz Predicts Substantial Continuity of International Approach in a Fully Democratic Russia

By Katz, Mark | New Zealand International Review, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

What Would a Democratic Russian Foreign Policy Look like? Mark Katz Predicts Substantial Continuity of International Approach in a Fully Democratic Russia


Katz, Mark, New Zealand International Review


How different would the foreign policy of a democratic Russia be from the foreign policy of Russia now! While some aspects of a democratic Russia's foreign policy would be different from that of the Putin/Medvedev regime, much of it could be the same. It is important to understand this since identifying how a democratic Russian foreign policy would be similar to as well as different from Putin/Medvedev's helps us to distinguish between what are Russia's core foreign policy interests--no matter what kind of regime is in power n and what are the peculiar interests of an authoritarian Russia which might change as democratisation occurs. It is timely to explore just what a democratic Russian foreign policy might be toward several areas, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa, the Near Abroad, and the United States.

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If Russia was fully democratic, what would its foreign policy look like? Would it be greatly different from what it is now? Would it be much more in tune with American foreign policy? Would it share the values that the European Union espouses in dealing with other countries? Or would there still be important differences between Russia, on the one hand, and the West, on the other?

Just asking these questions, of course, assumes that Russia can and will become a full-fledged democracy. Many will immediately object that this is not likely--or even that it is not possible. But no country began as a democracy. All were originally authoritarian. Democracy, where it exists, is something that countries had to learn--often slowly and haltingly. Some happened to learn it sooner while others happened to learn it later. It appears to me that claiming that a particular country, such as Russia, either will not--or worse, cannot--become democratic is far more dubious an assumption than that it will become democratic some day.

But while predicting that Russia will become fully democratic in the future may be more reasonable than predicting that it never will, predicting how and when Russia might become democratic is far more difficult. Perhaps it will occur quickly and surprisingly as a result of a 'colour revolution'. Or perhaps it will occur in an evolutionary process that unfolds over the course of several years or even decades. Perhaps it will occur sooner. Or perhaps it will occur later.

There would be a dramatic difference between the domestic policies of the Putin/Medvedev administration now and a democratised Russia in the future. Unlike the present Russian government, a democratised Russia would witness real competition in elections both for the presidency and for the Duma, would protect human rights as well as property rights, and

would promote religious and ethnic tolerance. Of course, how successfully a democratic Russia would be at this last task is unclear. Even long-established democracies have trouble promoting and maintaining tolerance. But like them, a democratic Russia would at least try to do so.

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Basic similarity

But how different would the foreign policy of a democratic Russia be from the foreign policy of Russia now? While some aspects of a democratic Russia's foreign policy would be different from that of the Putin/Medvedev regime, much of it would be the same. After all, not all democracies agree with American foreign policy. France in particular has proved that on many occasions. A democratic Russia might well also disagree with Washington on foreign policy issues. Of course, a democratic Russia, on the one hand, and France (as well as the European Union as a whole), on the other, might also disagree on various matters.

And it is important to understand this since identifying how a democratic Russian foreign policy would be similar to as well as different from Putin/Medvedev's helps us to distinguish between what are Russia's core foreign policy interests--no matter what kind of regime is in power--and what are the peculiar interests of an authoritarian Russia which might change as democratisation occurs. …

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