Why is Russia jealous of huge Vietnam
Russia's will to world power
"Russia is returning to the imperial paradigm of a great power," say some. “No, Russia is going through the post-imperial syndrome that all former empires have gone through. Sooner or later Russia will start to have a balanced policy, ”the others reply. So what is the logic of Russia's foreign policy at the end of Vladimir Putin's reign? And what are your goals?
In February 2000, Vladimir Putin was still thinking about integrating Russia into NATO and the EU. He obviously wanted to go down in history as the one who made Russia's breakthrough to the west. Today the Kremlin surprises the world with the fact that Russia is acting independently and aggressively. The Kremlin is ready to demonstrate its dissent with the West and is looking for ways to push the Western states out of what Moscow regards as its own sphere of influence. Russia wants to play a role again in other regions of the world and is returning to global ambitions.
What are the reasons for this unexpected self-confidence in Russia? First there is the high price of oil and the world's dependence on fossil fuels. The stable domestic political situation and Putin's great popularity in society also play a role. There are also external factors: the disagreement in the Western community on how the security of Western civilization is to be guaranteed, the failure of the USA in Iraq, the world's dissatisfaction with American hegemony and the “colored revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, the 2003-2005 alarmed the Russian elite. This boosted the self-esteem of the Russian elite and revived their interest in the global power game. This elite seems to believe in Russia's potential on the international stage. Or maybe she's just bluffing. For domestic policy based on simulation could result in foreign policy that tends to create “Potemkin villages” in the same way
Moscow's self-confidence increases the distrust between Russia and the West. How did this come about and was it inevitable? There are a number of reasons that make trusting relations between Russia and the West difficult. The main reason is structural. Russia's understanding of the state is alien to the West. Therefore he regards the Russian great power thinking with suspicion. The pursuit of global influence has been a constant source of confrontation between the USSR and liberal democracies in the twentieth century.
Russia's distance from the West is also political. First, great power thinking remains an important factor in self-identification for the Russian elite. Even the liberals believe that Russia, due to its geographic location and security interests, cannot be a “normal country” and should in any case strive for global influence.2 The Russian political class is unwilling to recognize US hegemony as they do America’s Atlantic allies do. Second, the Kremlin is increasingly using anti-liberal traditions to stabilize the political regime. Third, the dynamic development of the Russian system requires a policy of strength, which Moscow is now pursuing on the basis of control over energy resources. For the Kremlin to reproduce power, it is essential to demonstrate this strength in world politics. Because a weak head of state who does not take initiatives on the international stage, which has always been extremely important for the self-affirmation of the Russian elite, has no chance of controlling events in their own country. Fourth, the Russian political class believes that moving towards the West would mean giving up Russia's sovereignty.
But the Western community of states is also responsible for the fact that Russia's rapprochement with the West has stalled and that alienation is growing again. The only head of state who had made the transformation of Russia and its integration “into the West” a priority of his foreign policy was Bill Clinton. He saw reforms in Russia as a guarantee of global stability and American security:
Russia must be the subject of special attention for us [...] The world cannot allow the drama of Yugoslavia to repeat itself in the case of a state like Russia, which has a nuclear potential and extends over eleven time zones
It is true that Russia succeeded in preventing this catastrophic Yugoslav scenario from being repeated. But the western community of states did not find a satisfactory answer to the Russian challenge. There were several reasons for this. Robert Legvold put one in a nutshell:
The problem is that neither US nor European leaders have seriously addressed the challenge of integrating Russia into the West if Russia was considered non-integrable and could not become a member of the EU or NATO
No less important is that the majority of Western heads of state were unaware of how difficult it would be to create a new Russian state. Some of them watched with interest as the enemy, who was still so powerful yesterday, wriggled in the water and did not know where to swim to. The other part of the West was sincerely trying to help Russia and make it easier for her to adapt to the new reality. But even those who had recognized the extent of the challenge did not succeed in effectively supporting the transformation in Russia. Europe and America did not develop a common strategy to involve Russia. There was a lack of understanding for the contradictions of political developments in Russia, and the political actors were judged naively.
The failures of the Russian reforms in the 1990s disappointed the West, but did not worry it, because many of the Western establishment had taken Russia off their agenda as an enemy or as a troublemaker. They saw stagnation in Russia as something inevitable, but this did not threaten the West any further. The rebirth of Russia as a global actor came as a complete surprise to Western political circles. This was the result of conceptual, political and diplomatic misjudgments. To date, western politicians have not understood what part the West played in the development in Russia and how it increased distrust in Russia, in particular through the bombing of Serbia, the expansion of NATO, the Iraq war and through double standards.
It should be remembered that under Mikhail Gorbachev the system change began with the new foreign policy thinking. Gorbachev destroyed the enemy image of the West by ending the confrontation and entering into a dialogue with him. Under Putin has one Rollback used. Foreign policy has become an instrument for strengthening bureaucratic authoritarianism. Once again it is opportune to see the West as an enemy. Russia's foreign policy is increasingly being used as a means for domestic political ends. Why is that? Apparently because the domestic political sources of bureaucratic authoritarianism are drying up.5 Whatever international activities of Russia one may look at - be it dissatisfaction with American hegemony, be it the sale of armaments to Syria, Venezuela or Iran, be it indulgence in relation to the Iranian nuclear program, be it the pressure on Ukraine and Georgia, there is always a connection with the domestic political needs of the regime. An example: In terms of foreign policy, Russia should press it to form a tandem with the USA, e.g. against international terrorism or potentially against China. But domestically, the Kremlin needs a powerful adversary to justify maintaining a centralized state
Foreign policy underwent a remarkable development under Putin. Putin had undertaken his first term in office trying to partner with the developed democracies. After the confidence in its own strengths had grown and the first disappointments had set in with the foreign partners, the Kremlin experimented with multipolarity. This led to considerable fluctuations. The transition to multipolarity was an expression of the desire to have a free hand. In 2005 a new phase began. The Kremlin decided on a more ambitious foreign policy. An expression of this was the attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential elections in Ukraine. In 2006 Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to bring Russia into play as a mediator in conflicts around the world. In connection with the conflict between Iran and Hamas and Western countries, he stated:
Russia […] cannot take sides in the global conflict of cultures […] Russia is ready to take on the role of a bridge.7
For the first time in 15 years, the Kremlin announced that Russia was refusing to join Western civilization. This amounts to a revision of Russia's strategic position. At the end of 2006 Lavrov postulated the goal of forming a “geopolitical triangle” made up of Russia, the EU and the USA. Shortly afterwards he advocated “network diplomacy”. You can no longer deal with today's challenges
To do justice to bulky alliances and fixed obligations, but only with alliances of convenience that correspond to the respective other interests and power relations
Such a “network diplomacy” should enable “flexible bilateral relations” between the states. This fits ideally with Russia's indeterminacy as regards civilization. But the emphasis on flexibility does not fit with the idea of the “geopolitical triangle” which is apparently intended to be a permanent entity.
The mere listing of the terms used by the Kremlin - “network diplomacy”, “mediator”, “bridge”, “geopolitical triangle” and finally “energy superpower” - illustrates the new mood among the Russian elite. She tries to keep all options open to move in different directions and avoids making a single commitment. On the one hand, it is about Russia's independent role between the West and the rest of the world. On the other hand, Moscow would like to secure a place in the triumvirate with the USA and the EU. At the same time, Moscow, with its emphasis on Russia as an “energy power”, reveals an understanding of power that is tantamount to a return to geopolitical thinking of the 19th century - in the style of the geopoliticians Halford Mackinder or Nicholas Spykman, almost forgotten in the West. Allegedly it is about a new type of geopolitics, energy geopolitics.
While under Boris El¹cin the idea of aligning oneself with Western values caused little protest in the ruling political class at the time, Russian politicians today regard every loan from the West as an “ideal basis of defeatism” and “a rejection of one's own identity and sovereignty” . Diligent Kremlin propagandists are now declaring that the West, primarily the US - under the guise of fighting for democracy and human rights in Russia - is seeking to deprive Russia of "the unique role it plays in world energy markets." Consequently, Russia must protect herself with all her might from Western influence and fight the Western, primarily American, understanding of democracy
The view that the surrounding world is hostile to Russia is increasingly gaining ground in the political consciousness of the Russian elite. Today's political class no longer doubts that the West is an aggressive power that wants evil from Russia. The events in Ukraine gave rise to this conclusion. The Orange Revolution At the end of 2004 and Moscow's unsuccessful attempt to influence the Ukrainian presidential elections, this was the first conflict between Russia and the West in the post-Soviet space.10 Russia clashed with the West because of civilizational differences - geopolitics was secondary here. Political Moscow sincerely believes that the Ukrainian people will respond to the Maidan poured into Kyiv because the West enticed it and paid for it. But events also showed that Russia is not ready for a confrontation with the West - Moscow had to give way.
Notwithstanding this failure, the Russian political class held fast to the conviction that Russia not only had the right to help determine the new rules of the game on the world stage, but to put its own stamp on them. To what extent are these ambitions justified, and what resources can the Kremlin rely on? Moscow's attempts to mediate in the conflicts between the West and North Korea or the West and Iraq have failed, not to mention the unsuccessful attempts to resolve the conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Given the way the Kremlin acted in early 2006 when the EU and the US imposed a financial blockade on the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas election victory, the impression arises that these are spontaneous initiatives that merely have a demonstrative effect aim, according to the motto: "Result or not - the main thing is to attract attention!"
At the same time, the Kremlin can boast tactical successes. Russia has increased its presence in the post-Soviet space and forced the West to show greater consideration for Moscow on global issues. Western governments prefer not to upset the Kremlin, knowing that without Moscow the most important problems cannot be solved, from energy security to nuclear non-proliferation. Some European heads of state are pursuing a policy of ingratiation with the Kremlin. They endeavor to build bilateral relations and thus give Russia greater room for maneuver vis-à-vis the West.
In 2005 Russia's relationship with the West took the form of an antagonistic partnership. That means cooperation in some areas and containment in others. At the same time Russia wants to be “on the side of the West, but not necessarily part of the West, then again without it and maybe even against it.” 11 Viewed from the outside, this hybrid foreign policy is of course nonsense. But in fact it expresses the Kremlin's efforts to transfer hybrid domestic policy to foreign policy. Elections and autocracy are just as incompatible as going with the West, but being on a different path and at the same time for the West and against it! 12 With such a contradictory model of behavior, the question of Russia's strategic orientation is one that political scientists and Political advisors have racked their brains for so long not to answer.
At the moment of truth, after September 11, 2001, the Kremlin had clearly sided with the United States. This suggests that Russia will most likely choose the West in existential moments. But in peacetime it will Russian system sustained by autocracy and the pursuit of great power, and the country inevitably returns to its wavering attitude. The question is how long Moscow this mix Realpolitik, economic pragmatism, the desire to be a member of the Club of Western Democracies, and the aspiration for great power.
The hybridity of Russian foreign policy is also reflected in the political style. It is a mixture of pressure and - where obstacles arise - withdrawal, of self-confidence and insecurity, the striving to want to participate in all international bodies, but at the same time rejecting commitments, spurts of activity and a lack of strategic goals. Such a policy naturally makes it difficult for the West to develop a coherent policy towards Russia and sometimes forces it to follow the Russian zigzag course.
On a global level, Russia wants that status quo maintain. Incidentally, it is the same goal that the political elite pursues in domestic politics. Russia seeks to preserve those elements of the international system which arose after World War II and which enable Russia to play the role of a world power.This applies, for example, to the UN Security Council with Russia as a permanent member and veto power, or to the ABM Treaty as part of the nuclear deterrent system. The Kremlin wants to maintain the post-war order until the moment when it feels strong enough to have a decisive influence on a new world order. As in the 19th and 20th centuries, Russia takes on the role of the conservative guardian. There is one more country involved in receiving the status quo is interested: China. The Middle Kingdom also wants to maintain the current situation until it has gathered enough strength to dictate its own conditions to the world. Here the interests of Russia and China coincide. But in the future, China's rise will inevitably change the global balance of power. That will affect Russia too, most likely not in its favor.
The Kremlin's endeavors to be both a partner and opponent of the West are bearing absurd flowers. On the one hand, Moscow is working with the EU on the concept of the “four rooms” in order to move closer to the EU. On the other hand, the Kremlin regards Ukraine's rapprochement with the EU as a hostile act. On the one hand, Russia presided over the G8 in 2006, on the other hand, it continues to accuse the West of undermining its territorial integrity.13 On the one hand, Moscow regards the US as a partner in the anti-terrorist coalition, on the other hand, it demands that the Americans withdraw from Central Asia, even though it is increasingly becoming a haven for terrorism. On the one hand, Putin is trying to attract Western investments to Russia; on the other hand, this goes hand in hand with anti-Western propaganda and the nationalization of the assets of Western investors.
But by moving away from the West, Russia is in no way strengthening her sovereignty. Rather, it comes under China's sphere of influence, especially through its participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which the Chinese are using to expand into Central Asia and to fight the US.14 Moscow does not notice how Beijing uses the partnership with Russia to pursue its own interests. At the same time, Beijing allows Moscow to cling to the illusion of being the leading partner in their partnership.
But how far would Moscow be prepared to embark on an independent course? The answer is obvious: the vast majority of the Russian elite are unwilling to isolate, and much less are ready for tension with the West. How can an elite want that that spends billions of dollars on a better image in the West to lure Western investors to Russia, who want to expand their presence in the West, whose families live there and who also keep their accounts there? How could the G8 and the energy Putin put into organizing the Petersburg summit in 2006 fit into a scenario of distancing itself from the West? We are experiencing a situation in which the ruling elite strives to integrate themselves into the West on a personal level and to achieve optimal conditions for their own business. But at the same time it uses the resistance against the West to consolidate society.
The oligarch Roman Abramovich, who was the governor of Chukotka for a long time and now lives in Great Britain, is the prototype for this. Like him, dozens of members of the ruling class live in western capitals and manage their assets in Russia from there. At the same time, they support the Kremlin's aggressive foreign policy course and try to demonstrate nationalism as soon as they are in Russia. That is understandable, because only when they oppose the West can they feel that they are fully valued. And in a society hostile to the West, this is the only way they can remain the elite. The overwhelming majority of the elite are not prepared to worsen relations between Russia and the West; this could destroy the schizophrenic but at the same time pleasant situation of division. There is nothing new about this attitude; we are dealing with the repetition of an old policy. Isaiah Berlin was already thinking about the "double bottom" of Russian foreign policy at the end of the 1940s:
Russia is ready to take part in international relations, but it would like the other states not to interfere in its internal affairs. It prefers to isolate itself from the outside world, but does not want to be isolated from it
So far, the community of interests between Russia and the West has not led to the expected convergence of values. On the contrary. Meanwhile, conflicts of interest are also evident. If Russia remains in its current constitution, it cannot be the obvious partner of the West, but cooperation will remain selective. Even a common threat will not make mutual distrust go away. Vladimir Putin evidently assumed temporarily that through his personal diplomacy he would be able to maintain trusting relations with his Western colleagues and at the same time shield Russia from Western influence. He did not succeed in doing this. In order to be able to preserve the state of its traditional color, it must now jeopardize relations with the liberal democracies.
Can you learn to coexist?
Various integration projects collide in the post-Soviet space. On the one hand, there are projects of a Russian nature, such as the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), the Organization of the collective security contract (CSTO) or the Uniform economic space. On the other hand, there are western-style projects like that GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) and the Democratic axis (Baltic States, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland). But there are also contradictions in the core of the CIS, which includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Russia's integration projects are in many ways a response to the fact that the EU and NATO have moved closer to Russia's borders.
Moscow's jealous attention to the post-Soviet space shows that Russia's political class still views its neighbors, with the exception of the Baltic, as states with limited sovereignty. For the Russian elite, these states remain a part of domestic politics. Even the liberals cannot easily break away from this traditional way of thinking, as demonstrated by Anatoly Chubajs' call to make Russia a “liberal empire”. That is an indication of how difficult it is to come to terms with the circumcised form of the former empire. It is true that all empires found it difficult to separate from their territories, and imperial allusions were slipping away from the French and English political classes as recently as 20 years ago. States like Russia or Great Britain find it particularly difficult to break away from their now independent territories, since these states appeared as carriers of a messianic idea towards other nations.
At the same time, Russia's interest in its neighbors cannot be explained solely by atavistic imperial feelings. It feeds on the endeavor to secure the conditions for its own development, guarantee stability, support benevolent regimes, develop economic relations with them and jointly solve the problems that are troubling Moscow. These are, for example, the management of migration, customs issues, the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and smuggling. For Russia, the post-Soviet space represents a market for its goods, 16 it is a labor reservoir, a transport corridor and a cordon sanitairewhich protects Russia from states that are not always sympathetic. Russia and its neighbors are connected not only by the Soviet past, but also by a mutual penetration of their cultures and the still important role of the Russian language. If we recognize that there is an objectively well-founded interest of Russia in the post-Soviet space, we must ask ourselves a number of questions: does this interest facilitate the modernization of Russia and the other post-Soviet states or does it hinder it? Do Russia's integration projects help to increase stability in the region or do they make this goal more difficult?
In the 1990s Russia paid for its loyalty by subsidizing the economies of the ex-union republics with cheap energy resources. But that was by no means useful for their transformation. However, not all countries that got cheap gas swam in the wake of Russian politics. In the summer of 2005, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that it was time for the CIS countries to build their relations on “the basis of world practice”. An anonymous representative of the Kremlin explained that Moscow “does not like the state of affairs, that it subsidizes the economy of its neighbors through energy resources” .17 It became evident that Moscow wanted to introduce a special kind of interdependence: “If we can stand you, you cannot keep an eye out for others at the same time. " The commercialization of Russia's foreign policy should be better coordinated with the political concessions that the neighbors were willing to make. And the energy resources should be used as a basis to form a new “integration belt” around Russia.
The 2005 “gas war” between Moscow and Ukraine was the first example of the new policy towards its former “little brothers”. It undermined Russia's reputation as a reliable supplier of energy. But Moscow was not about to give in. In 2007 Russia introduced new prices for all neighbors, even for those who were considered allies: Ukraine now buys gas for 130 dollars, Moldova for 170, the Baltic countries for 240, Armenia for 110, Belarus for 100, and Georgia for $ 235 per thousand cubic meters.18 The differences demonstrate the political approach to pricing. Unruly countries pay more. Even the loyal countries do not receive any discounts, because in return for the low energy prices they have to sell Russia the heart of their economies. Not all countries agreed to the new Russian energy strategy. In December 2006 a new conflict began - this time between Russia and its closest ally Belarus, which culminated in the next “energy war”, which led to the interruption of gas supplies to EU countries.19
Further conflicts between Russia and its neighbors are inevitable. They are inevitable when economic means are politicized. Today it's about energy sources, tomorrow about nickel or copper. These conflicts undermine the sovereignty of neighboring states and their power structures, something that not all national elites agree with. However, a number of states that the Kremlin wants to include in its dependency system have attractive alternatives. Only the authoritarian regimes remain in Russia's sphere of influence, especially those who, like Belarus, have fallen on the defensive and have not found a common language with the West.
In the end, Moscow's refusal to subsidize its neighbors is actually beneficial for them. They are forced to reform their economies, look at ways to save energy, and find other sources of energy. The market will weaken these states' dependence on Moscow. Georgia, fearing Russia's energy dictate, has already upgraded its hydropower plants and has not imported any electricity from Russia since 2006. Georgia has started to modernize its economy and intensify trade relations with Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan.
The neighbors, who have reached a dead end due to their energy dependence on Russia, must either look for new sources of energy or make political agreements with Moscow. The Ukrainian government under Viktor Yanukovich was faced with a dilemma in October 2006: Either it had to make political concessions to Moscow - not to force rapprochement with NATO and not to touch the Russian fleet stationed in Sevastopol - or it had one have to cope with sharp increases in gas prices. Kyiv chose the policy of concessions. Negotiations about Ukraine's accession began Uniform economic space under the leadership of Russia. In the future, however, all post-Soviet states will look for other sources of energy. That is why this new integration around Russia, which is based only on energy resources, has no long-term perspective.
Some states seek "protection" for Russia for other reasons. The example of the Uzbek head of state Islam Karimov, whose love for Moscow flared when his regime went into a tailspin, is telling. Those states return to Russia whose leaders fear for their power. In the later stages of the Soviet Union, Russia stopped playing the role of gendarme. But in recent years there have been initiatives both inside and outside Russia to encourage it to return to this role. Two totalitarian leaders need Moscow's protection: Lukashenka and Karimov. Moscow can't stand Lukashenka and distrusts Karimov. But it supports both for one reason only: to keep Belarus from going west and to keep Uzbekistan as an ally.
Ironically, the more Russia supports the wavering regimes, the stronger the anti-Russian sentiment in these countries becomes. In the majority of the CIS countries, a change of elite is imminent.20 Today's elites in the dictatorially ruled countries, which are led by members of the Soviet nomenclature, count on the support of Russia. But the new elites will inevitably experiment with new vectors of power and seek partnership with China, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Iran, and perhaps with the West as well. The Kremlin's fixation on the old rulers is short-sighted. Russia and its competitors in the post-Soviet space must also recognize something else: the new states have chosen the tactic of laving. They pursue a policy that they themselves refer to as a “distanced partnership”, which allows them to woo all the big players and get their own benefit from it. Sooner or later Russia, China and the USA will have to grapple with the fact that the countries of Central Asia, the South Caucasus and the European part have started to conclude agreements with one another and to become independent forces in these regions. In addition, states like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine are already trying to gain hegemony in their region.
The states that are oriented towards the West dream of integration into the EU and NATO. The EU crisis has slowed down European integration.21 But there is no doubt that Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus will be included in European structures. Even Armenia, loyal to Russia, is preferring EU membership to CIS membership and is building close ties with NATO. It is only a matter of time, the order and the way in which these states are integrated into the western sphere of influence. For Russia it is important whether this connection is made through NATO or the EU: Moscow will find it difficult to cope with the former, the latter easier, although Russia’s relations with NATO are better than with the EU.
It would be wrong to deduce from this that these states no longer need Russia. All of these states, even the three Baltic countries, are interested in extensive economic cooperation with Russia. For most of them, a break in relations with Russia would provoke an economic crisis. Take Ukraine: exports of the Ukrainian iron and steel industry to the EU brought in $ 2.5 billion for Ukraine in 2005, and exports to Russia brought in $ 2.1 billion. Europe bought Ukrainian engineering products for $ 760 million and Russia for $ 2.2 billion. The Ukrainian chemical industry increased its exports to Russia by 30 percent compared to the previous year, and to the EU it decreased by two percent. Other countries like Armenia need Russian investments and energy sources. Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Belarus and Ukraine see Russia as a market for their labor and a source of budget increases. They receive money from Russia that millions of their citizens have earned there. For countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, cooperation with Russia is also a security guarantee against China. That is why these states need cooperation with Russia.But they don't want to become completely dependent. Russia has yet to learn to deal more sensibly with the aspirations of its neighbors, who are simultaneously orientating themselves in two directions: towards Russia and towards the west. It is much more advantageous for Russia if the neighboring states do not join her cordon sanitairebut become a bridge between Russia and the West.
Russia has objective reasons for pursuing its interests in the post-Soviet space. But it is doubtful that Russia in its present state can act as a factor for the stability and modernization of Eurasia. If Russia succeeds in transforming herself, she will undoubtedly become a powerful factor for progress and an attractive example for her neighbors to emulate. However, if Russia remains a country stuck in the transition period, it will make the transformation of the post-Soviet space even more difficult. In any case, Russia will remain the decisive actor for all of these states.
Russia and Europe: condemned to coexist
The relationship between Russia and Europe has two dimensions, one international and one civilizational. The collapse of the world socialist system gave Russia the chance to reorient itself geopolitically and civilizationally if it moves “to Europe”:
After Russia ceased to be a great power in Europe, it got the chance to become a European country ”.22
This meant “more Europe in Russia”, i.e., Russia's reshaping according to European norms and standards. However, this Europeanization turned out to be more difficult than expected. And the common economic and geopolitical interests of Russia and Europe did not automatically lead to common values. While Boris El¹cin looked primarily at Washington, ignored Europe or viewed the Europeans as mere stooges of the USA, Putin initially showed a lively interest in building close relationships with the European community. Russia and the EU succeeded in reaching agreement on many areas: These include the introduction of the most-favored nation clause in trade relations, Russia's recognition as a market economy by the EU, Brussels' approval of Russia's WTO membership, the settlement of the Kaliningrad problem and the gradual adoption of the EU trade rules into the trade legislation of Russia. Finally, Russia and the EU agreed on “Four Common Spaces” as the basis for cooperation in the areas of economy, internal security, external security, and cultural and scientific cooperation.
The rapprochement between Russia and Europe, however, encountered a number of obstacles of which both sides were initially unaware. Contrary to what was expected, NATO turned out to be a more convenient partner for Moscow than the EU. Initially, problems arose which had to do with the different decision-making processes in Moscow and Brussels. The Russian diplomacy, which was not used to acting in a consensus-oriented manner, could not understand at all how the heavyweight European apparatus works. And she couldn't get used to the fact that all decisions had to be voted on by all EU members. The meeting of the two bureaucracies - the vertical, subordinate Russian and the more horizontal, pluralistic European - could only lead to misunderstandings. Russia demanded the right to participate in the decision-making process of the EU, even without being a member. In addition, Russia wanted to receive a special status in the European community of states. It was incomprehensible to Moscow that such a powerful state as Russia should have the same rights as Poland or Spain. Although Russia wanted to influence the decision-making process in the EU, it was of course not ready to adapt to the normative foundations of the Union. The EU, which was busy with its enlargement and its consequences, for its part did not have the time and the strength to develop a sustainable strategy for Russia and to coordinate its positions with the Russian side in lengthy negotiations.
Despite all the regular meetings and consultations between Moscow and Brussels, it became clear at the end of 2003 that their “partnership” was purely declarative. The reasons for the cooling of relations between Russia and the EU lie not only in the exaggerated hopes. The main reason is that Russia and the united Europe represent two opposing models of development. The aim of the EU is to overcome the nation-states, to abolish the territorial borders and to found a new community whose politics are based on compromise and in which the opinion of the minority and individual members is taken into account.
Russia, on the other hand, has organized itself as a “strong state” and continues to attach great importance to geopolitical attributes such as territory and sovereignty, which a priori prevents any movement towards integration with the EU. The differences in values between Moscow and Brussels led to resentment. The criticism of the EU states of the war in Chechnya and the restriction of rights and freedoms in Russian society increased the irritability of the Kremlin. Russia's membership in the Council of Europe resulted in its Parliamentary Assembly criticizing Russia and making increasingly hopeless attempts to improve its own reputation.
But despite their different values, the EU and Russia have a lot in common. That makes the picture even more complicated: There is the geographical proximity, the cultural similarities and the economic interests. Russia conducts more than 48 percent of its foreign trade with the EU. Satisfies a third of the EU's gas needs Gazprom. Eight EU countries account for 74 percent of foreign direct investment in Russia - the US share is around 4.3 percent. Russia exports goods worth more than 104 billion dollars to the enlarged EU - the value to the USA is around six billion dollars. The import of goods from the USA to Russia is decreasing; in 2006 it was worth around two billion dollars; Russia's imports from the EU are growing and in 2006 had a value of around 32.6 billion dollars.
The common economic and security interests between Russia and the EU overshadow the incompatibility of their values. Of course, future development depends on what turns out to be stronger - common interests or conflicting values. So far, Moscow's trade and good bilateral relations with individual capitals such as Berlin, Paris and Rome have mitigated the contradictions between Moscow and Brussels. But economic relations alone cannot resolve the structural contradictions between Russia and the EU.
In the 1990s, the EU followed a course that can be described as “transformation through integration”. When this course did not produce the expected results, the EU began to prefer a different formula: “integration through transformation”. It envisaged a rapprochement between Russia and the EU only to the extent that Russia reforms itself and is ready to adopt the principles of the EU.
In the meantime, Russia and the EU have accepted their divergences without finally ruling out future rapprochement: they are imitating a partnership. Moscow has learned to bypass Brussels and to establish bilateral relations, especially with Germany and France. This undermines Brussels' efforts towards a common EU policy on Russia:
Russia has become a master at harnessing the complexity of the EU for its own ends by pitting different levels of organization against each other. This has not strengthened the coherence of the EU. 23
While Moscow maintains pragmatic, if not so cordial, relations with “old Europe”, things are not going so smoothly with “new Europe”. Moscow is particularly allergic to Poland, which is trying to play the role of a missionary in the post-Soviet space, especially in Ukraine and Belarus, which is met with outrage in the Kremlin. The Russian elite cannot suppress their feelings towards Poland, which is shown by the anti-Polish sentiments flaring up in Russia from time to time, as if on command. Moscow expresses its dissatisfaction with Polish politics quite openly - through trade sanctions against Polish goods or through attempts to “cut off” Poland from the future energy veins.
In the near future, we can hardly expect any new initiatives from Brussels, which is absorbed by its own problems. But the very existence of the European integration project, which seeks to involve former Soviet satellites, and the influential European public opinion concerned with what is going on in Eurasia, make the EU a major influencing factor in Russia.24 The success of the European integration and the European social model could become a model for Russia. If the numerous congruent interests in the areas of economy and security, as well as the cultural similarities between Europe and Russia, are not sustainable to facilitate rapprochement, they can still alleviate the disappointment that will often arise in relations.
Russia and the USA: a difficult asymmetry
Relations between Russia and the United States can hardly be understood without taking into account the ambiguous relationship of the Russian ruling class to America. On the one hand, the Russian elite regards the Americans as the only nation close to Russia in character and worldview and which deserves Russia's attention. The Russian elite is impressed by America's messianism and its penchant for power. The elite are copying, sometimes even unconsciously, the American way of life and the behavior of Americans on the international stage.
On the other hand, the Russian elite cannot stand the Americans for the very same reasons that they adore and admire the United States for. Russia cannot allow itself to act like America or to compete with it in categories of power, because Russia simply lacks the resources for its own global ambitions. Russia's political class constantly compares itself to America and hates America both for this involuntary urge to compare itself and for the fact that the comparison is mostly to its own disadvantage. Unable to control their own emotions, the Russian elite often tries to annoy Americans, even when it harms their own interests.
These ambivalent feelings lead to mood swings that affect the relationship of the Russian political class to America, which, while not shocking, certainly alienates Americans who are not used to such unconscious behavior. The fact that America was the only hegemon after the collapse of the USSR does not make Russia feel positive. Its elite have not yet got over the loss of power. Besides, Russia is not used to living in a unipolar world. Americans' endeavor to convince the world that they are an "indispensable nation" arouses resentment among the Russian elite. This elite has forgotten the Soviet times when they did not hesitate to define the role of the USSR in the same way.
American arrogance outrages the Russian elite not because they would disgust such behavior - as it disgusts the Europeans, who cannot stand the “attitude of the hegemon” - but precisely because this elite cannot afford this arrogance itself can. It is not surprising that the Russian political class regards any articulation of American interests, even if these objectively coincide with Russia's interests, as a non-win situation. “We don't need a sheriff,” say the Russian politicians, meaning that Russia would like to be one herself. The paradoxical situation arises that while the Kremlin officials criticize the Americans, they follow them step by step, copying the Americans: the Americans are waging a war on terrorism, and Russia is waging its own war on terrorism. Americans are threatening pre-emptive strikes to countries they don't like, and Moscow wants to do the same. The Americans found their "axis of evil" and the Kremlin has its hostile "axis".
If someone starts criticizing Moscow for its aggressiveness towards other states, the Kremlin propagandists immediately reply: "Why are the Americans and we not allowed to do this?" Russia's politicians idolize maximalism and regard any form of consensus and compromise as a sign of weakness, much as the American neoconservatives do. The morbid attention to America and the endeavor to see the world through the prism of relations with the USA are an expression of both the immense claims of the Russian elite and their insecurity, their complexities and the attempt to conceal this with self-assurance. This elite hurts one thing above all: Washington's lack of attention to its old adversary. The Kremlin cannot forgive America for this disdain.
Relations between Russia and the United States took a few turns under Putin and Bush. Your presidency began with suspicion. But in June 2001 at the Ljubljana Summit, Bush and Putin unexpectedly found a common language. Shortly thereafter, the tragedy of September 11, 2001, prompted the Kremlin to react in an unusual and unmistakable manner: Without hesitation, Putin offered to help America. With his call to Bush immediately after the terrorist attack, Putin not only behaved like a pro-Western head of state, but also, as it seemed at the time, opened a new page in relations with the United States. The pro-American turn of the Russian head of state can also be explained by the fact that the terrorist attack on America confirmed in his eyes that he was right in warning the world of the danger of international terrorism. The reason he gave for the war in Chechnya, against which the West was against, seemed correct. But Putin could also have taken a more cautious stance in relation to the US, especially in view of the fact that those around him categorically rejected American support. But he decided that the time had come for a Russian-American partnership. In November 2001, Putin flew to Washington for a summit, just as Kabul fell and the Taliban were defeated. The Russian head of state radiated optimism when he declared:
If anyone thinks that Russia could become an enemy of the United States again, they don't understand what has happened in the world and what has happened in Russia itself
In May 2002 the US and Russia adopted a “Declaration on the New Strategic Relationship” in which both sides expressed a common interest in stability in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. This declaration formed the basis for the joint efforts of Russia and America to ensure stability in the post-Soviet space. The fact that Moscow had consented to the presence of the Americans in this sphere of influence was an expression of a change in sentiment in the Russian leadership. But that was it crescendo in Russian-American relations. Shortly afterwards they cooled down again. Washington did not immediately notice the change in trend. Therefore, Moscow's refusal to support the fighting in Iraq came as a surprise to the White House. Soon the signs began to mount that relations between Russia and the United States were by no means smooth.
Putin had evidently hoped that the emergence of the terrorism threat shared by the United States and Russia would allow their partnership to be made a political priority for both states. It could be that Putin was dreaming of a global Russian-American condominium at this time. It soon became apparent, however, that there was no reason for these hopes. The US understood the fight against terrorism in its own way. And they did not think of making Russia their most important partner. Americans have always known what divided America and Russia. They pursued their interests without paying any attention to Moscow.They also paid special attention to their Atlantic allies. What had to happen very soon happened. The three Russian-American issues that had been the subject of much discussion during Putin's first term - the joint fight against international terrorism, partnership on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the energy dialogue - remained in limbo. It turned out that the partners had different opinions about the substance with which these topics should be filled.
In Putin's second term in office, the idea of a “great power Russia” became acceptable again among members of the Russian elite. The logic of the political system required the Kremlin to show greater foreign policy self-confidence. Even loyal Putin supporters began to grumble about Putin's “conciliatory” with the Americans. The Russian elite branded adherence to the long outdated Jackson-Vanik amendment, the unilateral exit from the ABM Treaty, NATO expansion, and the lack of willingness to support Russia's accession to the WTO as points of criticism of the Americans. It was also criticized that when Russia abandoned the military bases in Vietnam and Cuba, the USA failed to make appropriate gestures, and that after the end of the war in Afghanistan, the USA was not prepared to withdraw from Central Asia and intervene in the post-Soviet area.
During his second term in office, Putin gradually changed his relationship with the United States. Instead of the usual reluctance, he now allowed himself critical remarks in the direction of Washington. He once spoke of “uncles in pith helmets” 26 who think they have to teach everyone. Another time he spoke of a “wolf that knows who to eat” .27 By that he meant Washington, of course. These anti-American tones show how the Kremlin's stance has changed. Russia's ruling class no longer regards America as a natural ally.
President Bush, on the other hand, refrained from criticizing his “friend” Vladimir. For a long time, the US tolerated Putin's authoritarianism, which it deemed necessary to carry out painful reforms. Nonetheless, concerns about developments in Russia grew in the United States. The Yukos case was seen as a blow by the Kremlin on private property, Moscow's interference in Ukraine and efforts to push the US out of Central Asia, support for authoritarian regimes such as the Belarusian under Lukashenka and the passing of the NGO law met with criticism. All of this showed how much the Kremlin disliked all of the principles on which America’s domestic and foreign policy are based. Washington had been able to turn a blind eye to the violations of democratic principles in Russia as long as there were supposedly “common interests”. But the more it became apparent that Moscow was showing a different understanding of these interests and attempting to restore its influence in the post-Soviet space, the more the US saw this as a relapse into imperialism and Soviet practices.
Washington no longer hid its anger at Moscow. The US complained not only of the refusal to support the military operation in Iraq, but also of the unwillingness to follow the American Iran scenario, the support of regimes hostile to America such as Libya, Syria, Iran and Venezuela, and Russia's arms exports to these states as well as to China, the dialogue with Hamas, sanctions against Georgia and finally the restrictions on democracy in Russia.
There are therefore structural obstacles that stand in the way of the “strategic partnership” that Putin and Bush had announced: In addition to the aforementioned discrepancies in basic political understanding, Moscow is reacting more and more sensitively to the asymmetrical availability of resources. Unlike with the EU, there are no common economic interests in relations between the USA and Russia. The USA accounts for around 2.6 percent of Russian exports (11th place) and 4.6 percent of Russian imports (5th place) .28 There is even no consensus on the idea of partnership: Bush sees it as an instrument of the American security agenda apparently a means to limit “Russian expansionism”, while Putin provides an impetus to strengthen Russia's role. Washington regards Russia's instrumentalization of energy resources for political purposes as a violation of the principles of global energy security. Russia, on the other hand, regards the US's striving for hegemony as a restriction of its own sovereignty. Moscow perceives the efforts of the USA to show a presence in the post-Soviet space as an unfriendly policy towards Russia.
The Orange Revolution, which Moscow regards as the work of the USA and the perception that the USA does not intend to withdraw from the CIS area, seems to have been viewed by Putin as treason. The ex-lieutenant colonel of the KGB, who has learned to think in terms of “defense” stereotypes, seems to have had the thought shot through his head: “We are surrounded!” The last thrust of the Kremlin's confidence was the suspicion that the White House viewed democracy only as a means of undermining the Russian state from within. The conclusion is obvious. At the end of the Bush and Putin reigns, there is no longer any illusion on either side about the real content of their relationship.
The approaching presidential elections in both countries, in the run-up to which the “Russian card” and the “American card” will certainly be played, are unlikely to lead to better relations between America and Russia. In the penultimate presidential election, Republicans did not fail to accuse Clinton and the Democrats of "losing" Russia. A similar maneuver can be expected from the Democrats this time. In Russia, anti-Americanism has become the criterion for the patriotism of the Russian elite. You will certainly put him on display particularly aggressively in the upcoming election marathon. The Democratic victory in the US midterm elections in the fall of 2006 raised concern in Moscow. There is a belief in Russia that relations with an administration under the Democrats are more difficult than with one under the Republicans. Russia's foreign policy establishment has forgotten that Clinton’s Russia maintained cordial relations with the US, while relations with America developed under the Cold War script during Reagan’s administration.
Even Bush understands, however, that regardless of the problems, he cannot allow himself to escalate tensions with Moscow. That is understandable: Washington must settle the Iran problem and try to cherish Putin's game with energy resources. He must also avoid any harshness by the White House against Russia being interpreted as an admission that the partnership policy has failed. All these considerations force the US to continue the dialogue with Moscow. That is why Bush traveled to Petersburg in the summer of 2006 to attend the G8 summit. And in autumn 2006 Bush gave the “green light” for Russia to join the WTO.
At the same time, however, the President loses the initiative in Russia policy. The US has gotten into a position in which any course in relation to Russia is doomed to failure. There can be no mutual understanding as long as there are no changes in Russia. Isolating Russia would be dangerous because Washington needs Moscow to resolve a number of problems that affect US interests. Marginalizing Russia is also not an option, because it would only increase the unpredictability of this country. Trying to put pressure on the Kremlin is pointless: the Russian side has no intention of following advice, as this would be a sign of weakness in the eyes of the Russian public. In addition, the Americans have practically no leverage against the Kremlin. To be lenient to Russian power would be tantamount to encouraging the activities of a state that is alien to America in its values. As far as the Kremlin is concerned, the fact that Moscow is using the US as an enemy for its domestic political ends narrows the scope for constructive dialogue with Washington. Even rapprochement between Moscow and Washington in the cases of Iran and North Korea will hardly change this unfortunate framework of relations
At the end of the Bush and Putin presidencies, US-Russia relations will no longer change. The resigning heads of state have neither the time nor the chance to give new impetus. Bush is being forced to focus on Iraq, which has become the main motive of American politics. Russia has become a periphery for the USA, which cannot significantly influence the balance of power. Putin has already lost his zeal and interest in foreign policy. It is true that the USA can become a subject of political struggle in Russian politics and Russia's relationship with America in order to mobilize the electorate, but only by demonizing America. Until new presidents are elected, the maximum the incumbent administrations can achieve is to prevent new conflicts and maintain dialogue.
The successors, who will move into the Kremlin and the White House in 2008 and 2009, have a difficult legacy. You need to rethink the importance of Russia and America to one another. Then they will have to think through the problem of energy security and the implications of politicizing this policy area. The next item on the agenda will then be to resume the dialogue on nuclear weapons. In addition to topics that both sides know by heart - cooperation in space travel and the peaceful use of nuclear energy - the problems in Eurasia could also become the subject of Russian-American talks. In this way, the trouble spots in Transnistria and the South Caucasus could be eliminated and stability in Central Asia achieved.
But it would be naive to believe that the new heads of state will create more stable relationships solely on the basis of common interests. Partial agreement does not automatically lead to a stable partnership. The differences in values between Russia and America lead to different evaluations of supposedly congruent interests. The relationship to international terrorism should be mentioned as an example. Washington and Moscow disagree on who should be considered a terrorist organization. America considers Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist organizations, Moscow does not. In this respect, the number of subjects they are discussing together does not indicate that the partnership between Russia and the United States is effective and stable. On the contrary: if there is no common worldview, dialogue can intensify mutual disappointments and prejudices. Perhaps, however, the search for opportunities for further involvement, regardless of the chances of success under the motto of “dialogue for the sake of dialogue”, is the only chance to prevent America and Russia from drifting further apart. The central basis for a stable partnership is the US turning away from military hegemony and Russia's transition to democratic standards.
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