Redefining Russia's Foreign Policy: Still searching for a national interest, Russia focuses on the "near abroad" by Jennifer Long

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Redefining Russia's Foreign Policy: Still searching for a national interest, Russia focuses on the "near abroad" by Jennifer Long

Perhaps what is so noteworthy about the monumental changes Russia is undergoing is that they have had such a profound impact on all of the country's vital institutions-political, social, and economic-and that they have all occurred simultaneously: political democratization, an economic transformation from a centrally planned to some form of market economy, a redefinition of the Russian state and nation that must accompany the end of an empire, and the transition from a unitary to a federal state.1

While we have seen how the vagaries of these profound changes have manifested themselves in Russia's domestic institutions, we are just beginning to see how such changes have affected Russia's external projection of itself in its relations with other states.

Although all of these changes will affect Russian foreign policy to one degree or another, it is the last two issues that will have the greatest influence. The Russian state and people must develop a self-identity that will replace the sense of belonging to a multinational empire during the Soviet period. Although a small but vocal minority continues to promote the resurrection of the Soviet Union, this will not happen. However, because Russians dominated the leadership of both the former Soviet state and the Communist Party, it will be difficult for them to see Russia as anything less than the superpower the Soviet Union once was. This " great power" attitude has manifested itself periodically, not only in Russia's relationship with the other former republics of the Soviet Union, but also within the Russian Federation itself. Russia's involvement in the armed conflicts in former Soviet republics has led many observers to question whether they are witnessing a resurgence of Russian imperialism. The relationship between President Boris Yeltsin's government and Russia's own republics and regions, at times contentious, has also taken on this neo-imperialist aspect periodically as the prospect of the Russian Federation's dissolution led to official statements that the provinces will be kept in line by any means necessary. Russia's current foreign policy is thus closely associated with what goes on within its borders.

Russia's profound economic problems sap the country's confidence in its long-term survival and thus steer its political leaders and its citizens away from the urgent necessity of establishing a national identity. Moreover, the country's perilous economic performance is regularly cited as the most important factor that will determine the fate of democracy in Russia.2 While economic reform is critical, the development of the country's foreign policy agenda has an equal urgency. However, fully cognizant of the issues mentioned previously, Russia's leaders realize that designing and enacting a foreign policy agenda is a complex undertaking. Again, the most contentious and troubling issue in this regard is the problem of national identity, which poses two critical questions for Russia's leaders: " What is Russia?" and " Who is a Russian?" Other less daunting problems in attempting to create Russia's foreign policy agenda include establishing a constitutional delineation of responsibilities for creating and executing foreign policy, and entering the traditional domain of foreign policy as Russia expands its diplomatic reach beyond the pressing affairs within and around its borders. The " near abroad," as Russians call the other former Soviet republics, is an entirely new focus for foreign policy officials, who must also concentrate on Russia's relations with the rest of the world. These same officials must resolve these nettlesome issues before their country can establish its place in the international arena.

During the last year of political turmoil, Russia's foreign policy was relegated to a lesser role as politicians concentrated on domestic issues. Since the government's attention has been focused elsewhere, ad hoc measures have served as a policy of sorts in lieu of a comprehensive foreign policy. This has led Russia to become involved in battles near its borders while trying to downplay these actions to maintain good relations with the Western powers. It appears now that while Russia will continue its involvement in such " peace-keeping" operations, the country's leaders will not be as open to what is perceived to be Western interference in Russia's internal affairs, or policies that do not fully take into account Russian interests and responsibilities in the region. Russia may thus wind up on the " opposite side" of the major Western countries. While the West will certainly view these kinds of foreign policy endeavors with concern, the future course of Russian foreign policy should be seen as part of a larger effort that will happen to place it at various positions along a spectrum that ranges from the status of a returned foe (recalling its Soviet past) to a sycophant of the advanced industrial democracies. Of course, the motives underlying Russia's external behavior will confound attempts to isolate its position on such a spectrum. What is clear, though, is that the different views of Russia's place in the international arena will be heavily informed in the immediate future by how Russia defines itself as a nation and how it attempts to create a government that will maintain its territorial integrity.

" National honor is national property of the highest value." - James Monroe

A great deal has been written about the changes that the end of the Soviet empire is forcing on Russia, from the end of a complicated ideology that did not often correspond to the practical matters confronting the Soviet state, to the effects of democratization and the rise of nationalism in post-Soviet Russia. Other authors look back to the Russian empire and discuss its historical continuity: " a nebulous center and a periphery," or an inability of Russians to " let go" of parts of the empire. The latter had a particular resonance in the Soviet period, when Russians possessed " extraterritorial status" -that is, they were assured " Russian-language institutions wherever they lived." A distinctly Russian identity was therefore knit into the empire itself, whereas the nations that the empire comprised defined themselves in opposition to it.3

The forces behind the rapid dissolution of the Soviet empire after Gorbachev came to power-beginning with Third World clients, followed by the loss of the " buffer states" of Eastern Europe, and then the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself-threaten to plague the Russian Federation as well. Thus, the preservation and future development of the Russian state is the most critical issue facing Russian leaders today. Yet, there are as many definitions of what Russia is as there are forces potentially pulling it apart. Precisely how Russia's leaders view the various territories of the Russian Federation itself, the new states on its borders (a view often characterized as " neo-imperial") and the ethnic Russian minorities in those states, the situation on the country's borders, and the role of Russian troops serving outside the Russian Federation will all come to play a major role in how these leaders see the state and the types of foreign policies they pursue.

In terms of maintaining the integrity of the Russian Federation, there is likely to be both innovation and a resurrection of " imperial-think." Russia's sudden onset of regionalization has imbued relations between the central government and the Federation's provinces with a " foreign affairs-type" quality; federal authorities have had to treat regional and republican officials almost as they would leaders of a foreign state. Yet, this does not mean that Moscow's officials do not try to influence what occurs in the periphery. Yeltsin once said, prophetically it turns out, that the country would be held together using any means necessary, " by naked force, by a dictatorship." Presidential spokesperson Viacheslav Kostikov quipped that the " Russian Federation is not a piece of Swiss cheese." 4 These and similar remarks came in response to the escalating demands by leaders of the Federation's republics for more political and economic autonomy within the Russian Federation/ culminating in the republics' demands for the status of " sovereign states." Yeltsin appears to have answered these demands decisively by removing any references to the autonomy of Russia's republics and regions from the constitution that will be submitted to Russia's citizens in the December 1993 referendum; it remains to be seen how the political leaders at the local level will act. For the moment, Yeltsin seems to have the upper hand in the struggle between the center and the provinces, but he also realizes that he-and the country as a whole-will ultimately lose by trying to force the republics and regions to accept mandates from Moscow, especially when there is a possibility of armed conflict within the Russian Federation. Such a response is more likely in republics like Tatarstan or Chechnya, where non-Russian ethnic populations constitute a majority and where ethnic issues fuel the debate over complete independence from Moscow's dictates.

The " new" in the relationship between Russia's center and its periphery will be the recognition of the diversity of the Russian Federation and an acknowledgement of the different needs of the myriad peoples who inhabit its territories. This is mandatory; if nothing else, the disintegration of the Soviet Union demonstrates what can happen to leaders who ignore the potent force of nationalism. Trying to force the regions to accept control from Moscow is unwise at this point because allegiances and political loyalties are still inchoate-the result of the country's national identity crisis. In the new constitution, citizenship adheres to the Russian Federation, rather than to Tatarstan or Sakha, for example. For so many of the Russian Federation's citizens, the answer to the questions " What is Russia?" and " Who is a Russian?" are still unclear. Do people who inhabit the territory of the Russian Federation consider themselves to be " Russians" even if they are not ethnically Russian? Does that same person's loyalty reside in the particular region where he or she lives, or to the country as a whole? These questions are difficult to answer in a political environment where politicians at the local level have, up to now, acted resolutely to establish some degree of autonomy from the central government and have endeavored to instill a sense of regional identity among their constituents. It is fairly clear, however, that a further imposition of policy on the republics and regions from Moscow could set in motion events that will lead to the eventual breakup of the Russian Federation, and that citizens will be most inclined to attach their loyalties to the political leadership that is most successful in improving their standard of living. Relations between the national and provincial governments will continue to be problematic for some time.

Though it is also clear that, following Gorbachev's initiatives, Yeltsin will continue to allow these territories to pursue more autonomous economic policies, including more independent foreign economic relations. This is likely to placate leaders of the 89 territories, made up of 21 republics, 6 krais, 49 oblasts, 2 federal-level cities, 1 autonomous oblast and 10 autonomous okrugs, as economic interests are now their central focus. Granting such freedom in the economic realm poses few challenges to the central government's foreign policy apparatus. There has not been a movement for regional leaders to be involved in what may be considered traditional areas of foreign policy-the ability to declare and wage war, deploy armed forces abroad where national interests are involved, or negotiate treaties, for example-and one is not likely to arise. Many of Russia's citizens believe that the Russian Federation has inherited the Soviet Union's great power status, and as long as the national government recognizes cultural and ethnic rights and does not impinge on regional economic policy, they will see continued membership in the Russian Federation as preferable to " going it alone." In this way, the enduring questions " What is Russia?" and " Who is a Russian?" are now being defined inclusively, not according to the ethnic identity many citizens acquired when they received their Soviet passports. This inclusiveness is in the interest of the country's political leaders who want to end the process of regionalization by acknowledging a certain degree of the autonomy in the provinces. In terms of foreign policy, this leaves the center with control over its development and execution; if conducted with the Federation's diversity in mind, this could prove to be a way of cultivating allegiance to the Russian Federation among all of its citizens.

For a foreign policy to be executed, or even to be, it must reflect the national interest. Unfortunately, a cogent conceptualization of Russia's main interests has so far eluded the country's central foreign policy officials, though some more provocative elements of such a notion emerge from time to time. The current " Atlanticists vs. Eurasianists" debate recalls the " Westernizer vs. Slavophile" dialogue of the last century.5 Nationalists in the now-defunct Russian parliament consistently advocated an aggressive Russian foreign policy, and even Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev- a consummate " Westemizer" -asserted that Russia " cannot afford to forget about the particular responsibility conferred on it by history. This concerns both nuclear weapons and the obligations stemming from its status as a great power and permanent member of the [United Nations] Security Council." The specifics of such a view were elaborated in a document entitled " Russia's National Interests and Threats to Her Security" : Russia is the guarantor of stability in the region, and the greatest problem is trying to prevent military conflicts like those that have resulted from the demise of the USSR.6 While Russia's sense of its national identity still seems to be inextricably linked with a primus inter pares status with regard to the other former Soviet republics, this outlook could imperil Russia's relations with these newly independent states. For example, the leaders of Georgia and Tajikistan asked for, and now seem to be content with, the participation of the Russian military in the conflicts on their territory. The length of time the troops spend in these countries and their actions with regard to the different political factions in these conflicts will either confirm what many feel are Russia's neo-imperialist tendencies or establish Russia as an objective peacekeeper.

The incipient sense of a national identity has informed Russian leaders recent attempts to redefine their country's national interests, including what may be called a " gathering of the Russian people." Russian leaders have declared that Russians will be defended against " aggressive nationalism" wherever they may reside, a " Russian" being any person who considers him or herself to be such.7 Between 25-28 million people who are identified as Russians live outside the Russian Federation, the vast majority of them residing in the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and in Kazakhstan, where Russians constitute a plurality. Russian civilians and soldiers in these and other newly independent states that border Russia have been subjected to political discrimination or physical attack, whether being disenfranchised in Estonia or becoming involved in the battles in Georgia or Tajikistan. The Russian military journal Krasnaia zvezda noted that " the fate of 25 million compatriots, who have at the stroke of a pen found themselves, often against their will, either immigrants, migrants, or (how utterly offensive!) expatriates, is bound to concern Russia." 8 The protection of compatriots " abroad" has thus become a crucial point in what Russians consider their national honor and duty.

The defense of Russia's borders is another issue that has been debated ever since the breakup of the USSR, when one of Yeltsin's first statements about the Soviet republics' political detachment from one another was that Russia reserved the right to call for changes in its common borders with the former republics. An article in Nezavisimaia gazeta during the summer of 1993 proposed that there are several different types of borders: those with the " far abroad," which are not disputed; those with the former Soviet republics that did not join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which must be " corrected from an international-legal point of view" ; and those with CIS states, which must continue to adhere to Soviet demarcations. Though the article explicitly disputes only the borders with non-CIS states, the large Russian populations in Ukraine and Kazakhstan may serve as a strong rationale for those seeking change in these borders to try to incorporate these large enclaves of ethnic Russians into Russia proper. Along these lines, the ongoing effort to help the government of Tajikistan against what Russian leaders call Islamic militants and Afghan mujahedeen was labeled an effort to protect " our common borders," 9 leading one commentator to ask if Russia's borders are sometimes confused with those of the former Soviet Union.

Just as they have struggled to identify their country's national interests, Russia's leaders have so far been unable to define a concise national security doctrine, preferring to decide such issues " through practical policy making on a case-by-case basis." 10 Such cases appear to have much more symbolic than tactical importance as Russia's officials seek to demonstrate the extent of their national security concerns in the post-Soviet period. Russian troops serving in the " near abroad" have become the primary instrument used to resolve problems and to promote certain goals that touch on what are perceived to be vital Russian state interests. In addition to defending what Russia officially considers common borders, Russian soldiers are a powerful weapon against smaller states, as was vividly displayed in the row over Lithuania's demands for $150 billion in compensation for the devastation to the country during Soviet rule and Russia's desultory response in withdrawing its troops from the country. Receiving a bill for actions taken by the Soviet Union, for which " young Russia" is not responsible, is too much on top of the reported 3-4 trillion rubles that Russia spent in the first six months of 1993 on housing, pensions, and other provisions for the returning troops. The continued presence of Russian soldiers in Lithuania provided Russia's leaders with some leverage in this instance, but similar affronts to national pride will evidently provoke Russian leaders into resolute action.

In this sense, answering the question " What is Russia?" may be more difficult for Russia's leaders than deciding " Who is a Russian?" If the overriding goal of Russia's leaders is indeed to preserve the Russian Federation, it is in their interest to be as inclusive as possible with regard to citizenship; maintaining a strong state will presumably encourage more people to identify themselves as citizens of the Russian Federation, or to support the leaders of their own state in maintaining good relations with the Russian Federation. The degree to which issues such as those involving nationals living abroad or the division of property that once belonged to the Soviet Union-imbued as they are with a sense of national pride and honor, and therefore a source of conflict with Russia's neighbors-will become clearer only as time passes. As Russia tries to accommodate the many centrifugal forces plaguing the Federation, the easiest means to cope with what Russians see as losses is to focus on Russia's continued great power status and its " victimization" by the other former republics and by the West." Such an attitude is not conducive to consistent, rational behavior in interstate relations, nor is it a clear definition of Russia's national interest.

Policy adrift for the lack of anyone at the helm

Russia has not been able to establish a cogent set of foreign policy principles for many reasons, not the least of which has been the lack of a clear delineation of political powers between the executive and legislative branches of the national government. The new constitution and elections that will be decided in December will establish a federal structure that should end this problem. Differences of opinion will continue, however, and opponents to Yeltsin's foreign policy decisions will undoubtedly make themselves heard in the new parliament. Policies that are currently being pursued could come under attack; only the results of the elections will reveal the new political and ideological alignments that will come to shape these policies.

In addition to the appearance of competing visions of Russia's foreign policy, the institutional structure itself also has changed. During the Soviet area, Marxism-Leninism presented an ideological paradigm for policy making, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was responsible for the development and execution of policy. The foreign policy process was highly centralized, as the Politburo and Central Committee, especially its International Department, formulated directives that were passed on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID); MID had little influence on this process. The Ministry of Defense and the Committee for State Security (KGB), two organizations which had an obvious interest in the conduct of foreign policy, had some input into this process; but no voice was given to the possible concerns of regional or local leaders, however. From 1985, when Eduard Shevardnadze was named foreign minister, the power of CPSU institutions over foreign policy began to wane, and MID became the center of foreign-policy thinking. MID thus began emerging from its traditional " Soviet" apparatus even before the August 1991 putsch, after which it was appropriated by the Russian government.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, the current MID, inherited much of its Soviet predecessor's structures and personnel. While ensuring the continuation of relations with foreign states during a time of crisis, this inheritance also burdened the Russian Foreign Ministry with the USSR's foreign policy " baggage." The former Soviet officials who continue to make foreign policy decisions for the Russian Federation still find it difficult to shed what may be described as the " imperial" attitude that the Soviet Union enjoyed when it was a superpower. It also has been difficult for policy makers to adjust to the loss of the foreign policy expertise that the demise of the CPSU brought and the guidance that Marxist-Leninist ideology offered.

In their first major post-Soviet foreign policy initiative, Russia's leaders pursued a pro-Western direction. The main motivation for this approach was Russia's dire need of financial help in addition to Western support in situations like the imposition of sanctions in the war in Bosnia. But as the amount and conditions of Western aid were revealed over time, Kozyrev's pro-Western outlook became a liability to Yeltsin in the domestic arena, and the foreign minister began to lose influence. Conservative forces in the parliament were successful in their efforts to rally public opinion against what they portrayed as meddling in Russia's domestic affairs by international financial institutions. For the first time in Russia's history there was an open debate about the country's foreign policy priorities. Kozyrev began to acquiesce to the need to shift his efforts and acknowledge that the " near abroad" was becoming increasingly important to Russian foreign policy. He toured these states for the first time only in April 1992.

Other actors began to enter the foreign policy arena as polemics continued over Russia's diplomatic efforts. In May 1992 Yeltsin established the Russian Security Council, and lurii Skokov was named its director. Skokov seems to have been as popular with conservative forces as Kozyrev was vilified by them, and the two men promoted contradictory goals for Russian foreign policy. Without a specific hierarchy for foreign-policy making, and after the Foreign Policy Commission was established under the auspices of the Security Council in December 1992, Kozyrev's pro-Western line was gradually supplanted by " traditional policy positions" such as the regional leadership role and an increasing amount of attention devoted to Yugoslavia and former Soviet clients like Iraq and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Security Council drafted a report on Russia's national interests which advocated the Skokov line.12 Although this report was said to have had Yeltsin's support, it did not result in a coherent policy.

The situation was dramatically altered by the April 1993 referendum in which Yeltsin won popular support for his reforms. At the beginning of May 1993, Skokov was dismissed and the position of secretary of the Security Council remained open for a month. During this time, the absence of Skokov's strong personality seems to have reduced the Security Council to the role of junior partner in the foreign-policy process. After Evgenii Shaposhnikov, former commander of CIS forces, took over as secretary in June, Yeltsin failed to give him any orders for six weeks. A disgusted Shaposhnikov resigned in early August, saying that the omission of any mention of the Security Council in Yeltsin's constitutional draft would deprive it of any real power.13 The constitution that will be put to Russian voters in December 1993 not only mentions the Security Council, but also gives the president the sole authority to appoint and dismiss its secretary. Oleg Lobov, the current secretary, has not distinguished himself so far as someone who will be as independent as Skokov was; it will take time for him to establish both his authority as secretary and the council's place in the foreign policy process.

The immediate effect of the personnel changes in the Security Council has been Kozyrev's resurrection in Russia's foreign-policy making establishment. Since the fall of 1992 he had been trying to appease conservatives in the country's now-dissolved legislature, the Supreme Soviet, especially in taking a tougher line with regard to the " near abroad." In so doing, he seems to have recently avoided much of the scathing criticism he endured during the fall and winter of 1992-93 when the reform camp came under heavy attack. Despite Yeltsin's anger at his dramatics in Stockholm in December 1992, Kozyrev seems to have maintained a good relationship with the president and remains in control of MID.14 He is also a well-known and long-surviving member of Yeltsin's team, which could give him a significant amount of influence with the new parliament.

A third figure who has had considerable influence on Russia's relations with other states is the former head of the now-defunct Supreme Soviet Committee on Foreign Affairs, Evgenii Ambartsumov. Although the legislature had limited official powers vis-a-vis foreign policy, it used its authority to debate and ratify treaties in order to bring the government in line with the positions of some of the parliament's more conservative factions. Such legislative influence was evident in the sudden cancellations of Yeltsin's scheduled state visits to Japan and the adoption of a more pro-Serb position in Croatia and Bosnia.15 Ambartsumov has given extensive interviews in which he has repeatedly criticized both the foreign ministry and the West. He accused the Council of Europe of employing double standards regarding admission, since it welcomed the Baltic states among its members but demanded that Russia either hold new parliamentary elections or adopt a new constitution before the Council would consider its admission. Ambartsumov charges the European organization with blatant interference in Russia's internal affairs, a criticism he has leveled at " the West's" international financial organizations in the past. He was not among the more reactionary members of parliament, however, and if and when he returns to a similar role in the new legislature he will undoubtedly try to keep the Russian government on a more centrist foreign policy course. The issues he considers most dear, which echo much of what the Russian government has been promoting recently, are maintaining the Russian Federation's integrity, protection of Russians abroad, and greater integration of the CIS countries as long as Ukraine is involved.16

Far more important to Russia's foreign policy process than the officials involved is the foreign policy machinery itself; and in this regard the new Yeltsin constitution will be crucial. Prior to Yeltsin's dissolution of the Supreme Soviet, three constitutional drafts had been proposed to become the Federation's basic law: Yeltsin's version, the Supreme Soviet's version, and one Grafted by the Constitutional Conference, which sought to strike a compromise between the two. Having for the time being essentially vanquished those who sought to curb his reforms, Yeltsin restored some crucial presidential prerogatives to the fourth (and presumably final) constitutional draft that was published in early November 1993. According to this constitution, foreign-policy making is almost entirely in the hands of the executive branch. The president has control over the Security Council and the military command, and, by extension, over security and military doctrine. The executive is also given the responsibility for the implementation of foreign policy.17 Although responsibility for these policies is vested almost entirely with the executive branch, a parliamentary opposition, even if it is a friendly one, will undoubtedly develop.

A second critical constitutional issue that will affect foreign policy is the power that the Russian Federation's numerous territories will continue to demand from the federal government. The struggle for power between the center and the regions has focused primarily on local control of economic decision making. As was outlined above, provincial leaders have shown an interest in pursuing only a narrow range among all the possible issues involved in foreign policy per se.18 In the near future, regional authorities will likely continue to reach out to neighboring states while federal authorities endeavor to accommodate foreign economic initiatives by the Federation's various regions within the national government's principal foreign policy goals. For instance, Russia's relationship with either China or Japan could be improved by these countries' investments in the Russian Far East; it could also make the central government more amenable to demands by local leaders from this area. The provinces might even begin to compete with the central government for aid. The converse is a situation in which Russia's relations with a neighboring state deteriorate and the relevant region becomes extremely anxious; regional leaders would in this case become very dependent on central leaders in Moscow for the region's security. However, the most likely scenario involves regional actors trying to exert the most influence on foreign economic policy, leaving military issues and the guarantee of national and regional security to the federal government.

The main constitutional issues for foreign policy thus exist on two levels. From the standpoint of the basic formulation and implementation of policy, it is critical for the federal authorities to delineate responsibility. At the present time, it appears that the executive branch has a decided advantage and that future parliamentarians may have to rely on public criticism of specific policies to exert influence. The new constitution's approval in the December 1993 referendum will settle only the official delineation of responsibilities. While this step is critical, future Russian legislators will not fail to voice their opinions; and it is never wise to discount any of the actors or potential actors on Russia's political stage. Trying to reconcile the goals of the central government and the many independence-minded areas of Russia is another matter, one that could prove to be much more difficult. Though the situation could change, the country's economy is the central focus and many regional politicians would be satisfied with a narrow foreign policy authority that would allow them to negotiate economic agreements with other countries.

Carving out a new niche for Russia in the family of nations

Any discussion of the future of Russian foreign policy must be, in large part, highly speculative. Especially now, after a prolonged period of political and social upheaval, it is extremely difficult-and probably ultimately futile-to point to any sort of clues or directions as to how the economy will fare, which former Soviet republic will be the next site of hostilities, whether or not the Russian Federation is indeed a viable " federation," or how the minority population of ethnic Russians in the other former Soviet republics will be treated. All of these issues will play a major role in shaping Russia's foreign policy in the near future. Domestic concerns will also influence how Russia views various actors or regions, and the newly independent states on Russia's borders will receive more attention now than when they were formal allies. The underlying theme for the future of Russian foreign policy is that Russian leaders still view their country as a world power, despite its many problems, and they will strive for Russia to be treated as a vital international actor.

A major concern for Russian leaders is the need to put out the sporadic fires on Russia's borders and to prevent further conflicts. The role of the Russian armed forces has already been mentioned in this regard, but the future of such troop deployments is not clear. While the West reluctantly acknowledges Russia's right to serve as peacekeeper in the region, other Soviet successor states have not been so willing to accept Russia in such a role. This obviously came as quite a surprise to Russia's foreign policy and defense officials. One observer commented that, " as the Russian leadership sat back, the former Soviet armed forces and other assets of the defunct USSR were 'privatized' in a series of most unseemly squabbles." Russian troops have been attacked in both Tajikistan and Latvia. Moreover, Russian troops have begun to act independently of military authorities in areas such as the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova and have been accused of taking sides against Georgia's government in its struggle with Ossetian and Abkhazian rebels; although Russian forces are now assisting Georgian president Shevardnadze's troops.19 While Russian Army troops will continue to be used as leverage against neighboring states, whether to protect the Russian communities in those countries or to try to enforce a " common foreign policy, 20 there is growing opposition among Russians themselves to the role the Russian Army has been playing in the " near abroad," including demands that Russian soldiers be returned home, thereby minimizing both the potential for fatalities and the need to allocate scarce rubles for such deployments.21

The " near abroad" will continue to present Russian leaders with many conundrums: how to divide up the property of the former Soviet Union;22 how to resolve the internal political conflicts of many countries which could threaten Russia, such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, or Tajikistan; what to do with the Soviet arsenal of thousands of nuclear and conventional weapons spread across several former Soviet republics; and how to enforce international arms treaties in the region. The disagreement between Russia and Ukraine over the Black Sea Fleet, the status of the Crimean peninsula and Sevastopol, and Ukraine's nuclear arsenal have led to protracted negotiations, the successful outcome of which is critical for the maintenance of stable relations between Russia and Ukraine. The Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan is another potential flashpoint, as Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has said that it must be kept under Russian control; he credits Russia with paying for the program and says that it should benefit from this investment. Another likely flashpoint is the status of Kaliningrad oblast, technically part of the Russian Federation but separated from it by Lithuania and Belarus. While it seems unlikely that Russia will invade any of these states to recover assets or impose certain dictates, the attention given to these conflicts with Russia's neighbors conveys their importance to the national identity." Kozyrev has said that the " near abroad" will be the focus of Russia's foreign policy in the coming years, and it is not difficult to see why.24

What will be difficult for Russian leaders to do is formulate a coherent policy or set of policies for these newly independent states since the " near abroad" is not monolithic and many of the problems that have arisen in the region so far have evoked a " crisis management" response by Russian officials rather than long-term planning. The Russian foreign policy establishment could not have predicted that Russia would be called on to enter military struggles and thus did not develop a " diplomatic response"; again, the task was left to the military leaders. Although militarily supporting regional governments that Russian leaders view as friendly seems to be in the country's short-term interest, long-term goals will suffer under such diplomacy. Eventually, economic agreements with Russia may help the governments in countries where the standard of living has dramatically declined in the last few years, and constitutional guarantees provided to Russians living in the " near abroad" would diffuse tensions between Russia and its neighbors. Intense, ongoing negotiations are the only way to try to solve border problems and common political crises; but such negotiations require a commitment on the part of all leaders involved to resolve these issues peacefully.

It is interesting that what was once a crucial part of the Soviet defense system, the " buffer" states of Eastern Europe, has faded from the realm of pressing concerns for Russian foreign policy. Obviously, the threat from the West has been dramatically reduced, so their original function has been obviated; most of the Soviet troops stationed there have left. There is not an apparent desire in Russia to try to exercise influence in these states, except by the most ardent nationalists. Most of these states have expressed their desire to join NATO, but the Clinton administration has proposed the concept of " peace partnerships," where NATO would extend collective security arrangements without expanding its membership. This solution satisfied Yeltsin's objection to East European countries joining NATO without Russia and potentially forming an even greater bloc against it. The " peace partnerships" compromise also assuaged Kozyrev's apparent worry that conservatives in the Russian military would use the Soviet Union's former allies' membership in NATO as a provocation.25 This dispute seems to have been settled for the present time and Russia's relationship with the states of Central Europe remains stable.

The influence of the West and the Group of Seven (G-7) states will decrease somewhat in importance in Russia's foreign policy considerations unless a great deal more aid is forthcoming; but Russian leaders will continue to pursue any opportunities for financial assistance. In the coming years, the Federation's officials are likely to take a tougher stand against what a future parliamentary opposition or the Russian public at large could perceive to be undue Western influence in Russia's affairs, and MID will have to pursue foreign relations with the West carefully. This unofficial policy will manifest itself in several ways. First, critics of a nationalist bent have begun to question whether the United States is really an ally of Russia: issues such as U.S. pressure to cancel the sale of Russian submarines to Iraq and rockets to India, and U.S. condemnation of Serbian behavior in Croatia and Bosnia seem overly demanding of Russia and ignorant of its common linguistic and religious ties to other countries in the region, in this case with the Serbs. Moreover, reformers and nationalists alike did not positively receive Washington's criticism of what it views as Russia's neo-imperial tendencies in the " near abroad." The attitude emerging among not only politicians of every stripe but even officials within the government is that the West at times treats Russia like a beggar and demands that it follow the West's foreign policy agenda. Russian officials have responded by promoting the idea that the " CIS is not just a region, but a sphere of geostrategic, economic, and basic interests, like Latin America is for the U.S." 26 Western nations are also blamed for employing a double standard in Bosnia, reserving criticism for the Serbs when all sides are guilty of atrocities in the conflict. Similarly, such a double standard applies in the Baltics, where Russians were summarily disenfranchised without much criticism from the West,27 The U.S. bombing of Iraq in June did not go unnoticed in Moscow either, since the West has been so critical of the Russian military's involvement in disputes on Russia's borders.28 Finally, the amount of Western aid pledged and ploddingly disbursed has become a very contentious issue, and one which the country's conservative and nationalist leaders can count on for widespread appeal. Out of the tens of billions earmarked for Russia, one commentator reports that Russia received only $1 billion last year. The IMF and the World Bank are criticized for the many conditions that are put on aid, but it is apparent to many that the real problem is the lack of a firm commitment on the part of the " wealthy" Western nations to deliver.29

These troubling issues will continue to plague Russian-Western relations in the years ahead. Russian leaders see their country as a great power that has fallen on hard times, not as a country that should have to go begging. Even those in the pro-West camp have come to see Western criticism of the Russian military and conditions attached to aid as meddling in the internal affairs of Russia, and this issue will continue to be fodder for critics of both MID and Yeltsin's advisers. Russia probably will not take a hard line against the West because aid is desperately needed and because Yeltsin's reception at the last G-7 meeting signalled an acceptance of Russia among the " elite club" of influential Western nations. At the same time, there will be some tension between Russia and the West as Russia attempts to forge a new policy toward the outside world, especially toward the " near abroad."

Finally, Russia will attempt to maintain some of the influence the Soviet Union enjoyed in various Third World countries. This is undoubtedly attributable to a feeling among Russian leaders that they lead a still-powerful country which has a role to play in international affairs distinct from the West. Russia offered to mediate when North Korea threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, and may be able to institute a dialogue with another former client and pariah state, Iraq, should the international community again need to bring Saddam Hussein to the bargaining table. In November 1993, China and Russia signed an agreement to exchange military technology and expertise, which should bolster Russia's standing in the Far East. Russia also played a key role in the Middle East peace negotiations and can aid in removing obstacles to implementing the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Turkey, an actor whose regional importance is increasing due to its potential influence in Central Asia, is receiving a great deal more attention from Russia's foreign policy establishment, which once again views Turkey as a competitor in the region. In Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific Rim countries, Russia will eventually be able to lend its influence in the international effort to minimize regional conflicts through economic and security measures.30

Obviously, Russia's continued influence worldwide will come to mean something quite different than the massive arms sales and economic aid agreements which the Soviet Union used to win over many Third World leaders. Russia will continue to sell weapons abroad because they provide a much needed source of hard currency, but nations may begin to turn to Russia as a member of the Security Council for support in the UN as that international organization becomes a more important forum for debating regional or international conflicts. Russia could then assume a position as an international mediator rather than being cast solely as an arms dealer. As was the case with the Soviet Union, Russia's role at the UN could pit it against the West in some instances, such as Russia's quandary over using its Security Council veto in imposing sanctions against Libya, which owes Russia billions of dollars for Soviet arms sales. But this role as an international power will more than likely join Russia with the West, as the " great powers" on the Security Council develop new methods for addressing conflicts in the post-Cold War world. For Russia to be able to assume this new foreign policy posture, Yeltsin must continue to rebuff internal criticism of MID as being slavish to the West. His domestic critics, as was evident in October's showdown, can be much more damaging to Russia's new role and image abroad than any potential foreign enemy.


Russia must decide for itself the role it will play in international affairs, and the choices Russian leaders make will be greatly affected by the domestic political and economic changes now occurring. The need to define exactly what and who constitutes Russia as a nation will obviously influence what will become the " national interest." What is not so obvious is whether Yeltsin's and future governments will be able to arrive at such a definition successfully and in the near future.

While Russia's central government officials may pursue foreign policy initiatives that the West decries as neo-imperialist, it is important to remember that Russia is no longer following an ideology that is hostile to the West, and that the external environment is now conducive to Russia's democratic transition.31 It will take time for both the institutional foundation for foreign policy to be worked out and for a national security doctrine to be formulated which Russia's many political groups can agree on. In the meantime, it should be noted that a lively debate on these issues is part of what constitutes a democratic system, and the players in Moscow seem to have accepted most of the rules of the game. Future conflicts, both within the Russian Federation and with its neighbors, can be avoided by maintaining a serious and accommodating approach to negotiations. Such an outlook by former Soviet republics that have exhibited a very anti-Russian attitude would also ameliorate strained relations between Russia and several of its neighbors, as could Russia's avoidance of instances like the recent suspension of troop withdrawals.

Finally, the West must recognize that Russia indeed has an interest in what occurs in the " space" of the former Soviet Union, and should use pressure only when Russia is unilaterally violating international accords or the sovereignty of other states. The West cannot coerce Russian leaders into following any particular foreign policy line. The most it can do is influence this new member of the international community in the desired direction. Yet the influence and support of other nations is only part of the picture. Only Russia can resolve the critical questions of " What is Russia?" and " Who is a Russian?" and decide the country's future foreign policy course based on a newly defined national interest. The arduous task of answering these complex questions, while simultaneously implementing extensive and enduring economic and political reforms, has only just begun.


  1. The idea of the 'triple transition' Is discussed more fully In Daniel Yergin and Thane Gustafson, Russia 2010, and What It Means for the World, (New York: Random House, 1993). The chapter on foreign policy offers a thoughtful and provocative discussion of the problems facing Russia's foreign policy makers.

  2. Andrei Kozyrev. " Russia: A Chance for Survival." Foreign Affairs 71 (Spring 1992). p. 8.

  3. Bruce Porter. " A Country Instead of a Cause.' The Washington Quarterly (Summer 1992). pp. 41-43; Michael Mandelbaum, " Coup de Grace: The End of the Soviet Union," Foreign Affairs 71 (America and the World 1991/92). p. 171; and Paul Goble, " Russia and its Neighbors." Foreign PolicyW (Spring 1993), pp. 79-80.

  4. Quoted in The New York Times. 14 August 1993.

  5. " Atlanticists" are those, like Kozyrev, who favor further cooperation with. and more attention focused on, the West. " Eurasianists," many of whom are Russian nationalists, advocate a look to the East and the South and a promotion of Russian interests there. For more on this debate, see Sergei Karaganov, Russia: the New Foreign Policy and Security Agenda: the View from Moscow (London: Brasseys, 1992).

  6. Kozyrev, op. cit.. p. 12; Nezavislmala gazeta. 29 April 1993, pp. 1.3.

  7. Obviously, the most ardent Russian nationalists would include only Orthodox, ethnic Russians under this policy; the definition becomes more expansive the further one moves away from groups like " Pamiaf."

  8. Nezavisimaia gazeta, Research Report 2. No. zvezda, 14 May 1993, p. 17 May 1993, p. 14. 18 March 1993. p. 2; RFE/RL (1 January 1993); Krosnaia 3, reported in FBIS-SOV-93-093,

  9. Nezavisimaia gazeta. 30 July 1993, p. 2; tzvestiya, 5 August 1993.

  10. The general outlines of a military doctrine put forward by the Security Council are discussed in an Interview with Secretary Lobov in Izvestiya. 4 November 1993, p.1.

  11. Nezavisimaia gazeta, 29 April 1993. pp. 1. 3; Kozyrev. op. cit.

  12. This section on MID is based on John Lough, " Defining Russia's Relations with Neighboring States," RFE/RL Research Report 2, No. 20 (14 May 1993), pp 53-60; Dimitri Simes, " Reform Reaffirmed," Foreign Policy 90 (Spring 1993). p. 45; Suzanne Crow, " Processes and Policies," RFE/RL Research Report 2. No. 20 (14 May 1993), pp. 47-52.

  13. Izvestiya, 12 August 1993. The latest constitutional draft was published by ITAR-TASS, 9 November 1993; the citations are from Article 83.

  14. " Shokovala teraplia Andrela Kozyreva," Izvestiya. 15 December 1992. p. 6.

  15. Jan Adams, " Legislature Reasserts Its Role In Russian Foreign Policy." RFE/RL Research Report 2, No. 4 (22 January 1993). pp. 32-36.

  16. Lough, op. cit., p. 60. As Ukraine's government continues Its anti-Russian stance, moderates like Ambartsumov could become more aggressive about the need for Russia to impose certain policies on Ukraine.

  17. ITAR-TASS, op. cit., specifically Articles 80. 83. 86. 87 and 114.

  18. Many regions have concluded economic agreements with foreign governments. For example, Karelia and Finland, outlined In Moscow ITAR-TASS. 0815 GMT, 15 June 1993. reported in FBIS-SOV-93-ог, 15 June 1993. p.7.

  19. John Lough. " The Place of the Near Abroad in Russian Foreign Policy," RFE/RL Research Report 2, No. 11 (12 March 1993), pp. 21-29.; Crow, op. cit.. p. 50: this despite the tact that Russia is not strong enough to police Itself, let alone other states (Lough. " Defining Russia's Relations." p. 68); Lough, " Defining Russia's Relations." p. 54; Izvestlya. A and 5 August 1993; Moscow ITAR-TASS World Service. 1102 GMT. 11 June 1993. reported in FBIS-SOV-93-112. 14 June 1993, p. 9; Lough, " The Place of the Near Abroad," p. 21.

  20. Nezavisimaia gazela. 18 March 1993, p. 1.

  21. Moscow ITAR-TASS. 1044 SMT, 19 July 1993, reported in FBIS-SOV-93-137. 20 July 1993, p. 8; Vera Tolz, " The Burden of the Imperial Legacy in Russia," RFE/RL Research Report 2, No. 20 (14 May 1993). p. 42.

  22. Bohdan Nahaylo, " The Massandra Summit and Ukraine." RFE/RL Research Report 2, No. 37 (17 September 1993). Immediately after the summit it was reported that Ukraine had agreed to " sell" Its nuclear missiles and part of the Black Sea Fleet to Russia in order to write off its debt to Russia. Ukrainian parliamentary leaders decried the agreement, which has cost Kravchuk a great deal politically. The future of Massandra is unclear.

  23. Izvestiya, 17 June 1993, p. 3; Simes, " Reform Reaffirmed," p. 44; Suzanne Crow, " Russia Debates Its National Interests," RFE/RL Research Report 1, No. 28 (10 July 1992), pp. 43-46; Washington Post, 14 August 1993. p. A17; Nezavlsimaia gazeta. 30 July 1993; Krasnaia zvezda, 6 July 1993, pp. 1,3, reported in FBIS-SOV-93-130.9 July 1993, p. 10. For an in-depth discussion of the Kaliningrad Issue, see Magdalene Koff and Heinz Timmermann. " Kaliningrad: Russia's Future Gateway to Europe?" RFE/RL Research Report 2, no. 36 (10 September 1993).

  24. Kozyrev, op. cit.. p. 10.

  25. The Economist. 30 October 1993. p. 57.

  26. Moskovskle novosti, 15 August 1993.

  27. Sovetskaia Rosslia, 20 May 1993, p. 5, reported in FBIS-SOV-93-097. 21 May 1993. p. 8. MID is even accused of " grovelling" before the West on the Bosnian issue (.Sovetskaia Rossiia, 8 May 1993, p. 5. reported in FBIS-SOV-93-089, 11 May 1993, p. 7); Krasnaia zvezda, 14 May 1993, p. 3, in FBIS-SOV-93-093, 17 May 1993, p. 14.

  28. Moscow Ostankino Television First Channel Network, 1700 GMT. 7 July 1993, reported in FBIS-SOV-93-129, 8 July 1993, p. 14.

  29. Moscow Mayak Radio Network in Russia, 0930 GMT, 14 May 1993, reported In FBIS-SOV-93-093, 17 May 1993, p. 23.

  30. Nezavisimaia gazeta. 29 April 1993, pp. 1, 3. On the recent Russian-Chinese agreement on the exchange of technology, see The New York Times. 10 November 1993, p. A15.

  31. Kozyrev, op. cit., p. 8; Seweryn Bialer, " The Death of Soviet Communism," Foreign Affairs 70 (Winter 1991/92), p. 175. For specifics about what the West can and cannot do. see Goble, op. cit., and Yergin and Gustafson, op. cit.

Jennifer Long is a doctoral candidate In the Department of Government at Georgetown University. She is currently working as a research assistant to Professor Angela Stent, a specialist In Soviet and Russian foreign policy at Georgetown, and is a program associate at the International Science Foundation. She would like to express her thanks to Dr. Stent for her Insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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