Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Redefining the Space

Writing in EDM, Vladimir Socor presents an analysis of the recent marathon press conference by Kremlin spokesman Gleb Pavlovsky, who on February 3 announced a major redefinition of Russia's policy in the "post-Soviet space". Socor notes that
Pavlovsky warned at the outset: "One should be aware that, at least until the end of President Putin's tenure and probably until the end of the presidency of his immediate successors, Russia's foreign policy priority will be to turn Russia into a 21st century world power. This despite the fact that we are presently a weak regional power with a weak commodity-based economy."

Socor diagnoses three essential strands in the new Russian policy:
1) Belarus represents an optimal model of integration with Russia, whereby the regime's ultimate political reliability will override other issues. "We are totally satisfied with the level of our relations with Belarus. Russia will clearly distinguish between certain characteristics of a political regime in a neighboring country and its observance of allied commitments. Belarus is a model ally."

2) As a major departure from Russian policy since 1992, Moscow reserves the right from now on to pursue its goals by establishing relations with political forces, opposition as well as governing, in post-Soviet countries. "Russia will certainly interact with the entire political spectrum in the neighboring [sic] countries, both official and opposition, including nongovernmental organizations, democratic organizations, and in-system political groups," other than the "extremist, radical, or underground groups." "The president of our partner country or ally country, while preserving the role of our central interlocutor, will not be regarded by Russia as the one and only representative of the society." Moscow intends to use its NGOs as well as its government agencies to link up with political forces in post-Soviet countries...

3) Russia does not accept the proposition that Euro-Atlantic integration provides a shelter against Russian influence in post-Soviet countries. "Russia will become a world power again, and will have a global area of interests. Now, however . . . there are certain countries where we have our interests. Even the admission of some of these countries to the European Union and NATO does not mean that they fall out of the area of our interests. The Baltic states are certainly within this area of interests, particularly on such issues as transit or the status of the Russian language and Russian community. We will certainly use their accession to the new organizations in order to intensify monitoring of what concerns our interests and to influence these countries."

This stated goal transcends the Baltic states as such, reflecting more far-reaching ambitions to corrode NATO's and the EU's political cohesion by extracting concessions at the expense of Baltic states on the issues that Pavlovsky named. The tactic at this stage consists of trying to introduce those issues on the agenda of Russia's discussions with the EU, NATO, and some major West European capitals. Any success in doing so would encourage Moscow to expand the range of internal EU and NATO issues on which Moscow seeks to obtain a voice.

See also in this blog: The "Kwasniewski Doctrine"

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