Against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis and the military airstrikes in Syria, Russian foreign policy is often seen as unpredictable. Not only was Russian action in both cases swift and unexpected, the scope of the response appeared to be disproportionate to the risk posed to Russia’s national interests.
Syria and especially Ukraine appear to be inflection points in the trajectory of Russian foreign policy, representing a shift towards a qualitatively new line of policy. The new configuration is already taking shape. With the shock of Ukraine and Syria now over, predictability is beginning to return to Russian policy, as evidenced by the seven trends below.
Russian policy on ...view middle of the document...
Such crisis could provoke yet more rivalry between Russia and the West, both of which will try to take advantage of its consequences.
Russia and the West are both hostage to the fragility of the post-Soviet space. Russia will try to solve the problem for itself by enhancing alliances with the more stable countries in the region and engaging with the weaker ones (for example, through institutions such as the Eurasian Economic Union).
Paradoxically the West can benefit from the success of these alliances. The other members (especially Kazakhstan and Belarus) are bound to play a major role in them. This will help to “average out” their respective positions in international affairs and create a new structure of relations based firmly on partnership.
The key doctrinal idea of Russian foreign policy will be to check the spread of anarchy, avert the collapse of statehood, and preserve government control. This idea will run counter to the theory of democratization as the guarantor of stable development.
Russia will build situational or even long-term alliances with other regional and global players around this idea, which might be successfully used for the domestic audience. Russia could assume the role of leader in the area of global conservative politics, pursuing cautious, pragmatic change as per the specifics of each particular state.
The concept of democracy in this vein can be swung in Russia’s favor through gradual internal (instead of artificial and external) democratization and reference to local traditions. Russia will probably seek out China as a partner in the promotion of this doctrine.
Russia is becoming a more active military-political player outside its own territory. However, this activity will be selective and targeted due to limited resources.
Besides Syria, a possible point of Russian intervention could be the implementation of treaty obligations in Central Asia,especially in the event of a terrorist threat posed by militants not based in Afghanistan. Such an intervention would be carried out by highly mobile units with active air support.
Russia will take measures to develop new regional and international institutions such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). But the functionality and workability of these institutions remains an open question.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (center), former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus (right), chairman of the Parliament of Iran Ali Larijani (left) at the final plenary session of the 12th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. Photo: Kremlin.ru