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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s pre-election article, devoted to foreign policy issues, has triggered an extensive discussion among experts. Putin criticized attempts by foreign forces to put dominating pressures on Russia, but at the same time came out for cooperation with the United States and the West, including a compromise on the missile defense issue.
Outright criticism of the United States and NATO in the international scene has prompted some analysts to speculate that with Putin’s return to the Kremlin Russia’s foreign policy will get tougher. However, the key idea of most commentaries is this: the national leader defends Russia’s interests in the world arena, and the article is not aggressive, it merely expresses the expectation Russia will be respected. In his article titled Russia and the Changing World Putin says the country will not be isolating itself and wishes to stay open and cooperate with all other countries in various fields, including the strengthening of universal security, but at the same time it believes it will be impermissible for individual countries and blocks to encroach on state sovereignty.
Putin unequivocally accused the United States and NATO of “undermining confidence” and pointed out that “some aspects of their behavior do not fit in with the logic of modern development and rely on the stereotypes of bloc mentality.” Russia, as follows from the article, is most resentful over NATO’s expansion and plans for building a missile defense system in Europe.
The United States and NATO, Putin believes, on the pretext of human rights protection has abused the sovereignty of other states in a series of armed conflicts. Moreover, it was protecting human rights “selectively,” while violating the right of masses of other people to life. The events of the ”Arab spring,” and the outcome of the operation in Iraq have brought about a situation where religious extremism is on the rise in the countries involved, and the situation is getting even worse than it had been before external intervention, he said.
In his analysis of the West’s participation in the events of the “Arab spring” and its actions in the Middle East in general Putin calls in question whether the aims of the United States and NATO are really ‘noble’. He speculates that the real aims are not the establishment of democracy or the protection of human rights, but “interest in the re-division of markets.” Such foreign interference, whatever noble goals may be used as a cover-up, is confined to actual support for one of the parties to a conflict and to ousting the latter’s rival with the net effect “domination of one force is replaced by a still more aggressive domination of the other,” Putin said.
Alongside his critical description of the United States’ foreign policy Putin believes that “in periods of international turbulence close and trusting cooperation by Moscow and Washington is particularly in great demand.” In relations with the United States Russia is prepared for a qualitative breakthrough on the condition “the Americans will be guided in reality by the principles of equitable partnership and mutual respect.”
“Putin is contesting the Russian presidency and for that reason he was obliged to formulate Russia’s attitude to a number of fundamental issues very harshly. This article was written not only for the people of Russia. With it the prime minster sends a message to our neighbors, partners and competitors. If the article were written for the sole purpose of maneuvering, it would remain unnoticed, the deputy chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, is quoted by Life News as saying.
At the same time Putin not only identified the problems of international community, but proposed ways of handling them, the legislator said. For instance, he not only mentioned our differences over the missile defense issue, but also called for enhancing cooperation, thereby easing the risk of a major international conflict.
“This article is a demand for respecting Russia,” the weekly Argumenty I Fakty quotes the general director of the Center for Political Information, Alexei Mukhin, as saying. “Putin has not proposed some new foreign policy strategy, he merely stated that at a certain point Russia selected the correct path to follow, and if it continues along it, it will achieve respect. The most important thing is the prime minister declared he is a serious person and does not change his views under the influence of time-serving political considerations.”
“There are some nuances, but in general the point of view is clear and stable,” political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov said on the Russian News Service radio station. “I believe that in this article there is nothing offensive or aggressive. It is rather defensive. It describes the world in which Russia will have to exist during his hypothetical presidency as a very dangerous place.”
“It is very important the article declares that despite the existing controversies and problems Russia sees the United States as a partner,” the RBC Daily quotes political scientist Alexei Zudin as saying. “Certainly there will be attempts to interpret the foreign policy approaches, declared in that article, as aggressive. I believe that this does not agree with the reality.”
“Russia is not one of the East European countries which present a common front with the Western capitals on each issue,” political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov told Itar-Tass. “Naturally, Russia, which positions itself as an independent country, will be building relations of preferably equitable partnership with all other centers of the modern world.”
“The article is reminiscent of Putin’s memorable Munich speech of five years ago, made on February 10, 2007,” says the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “But with certain allowances for the new factors in global affairs, including the ‘Arab spring.’”
“The article is not a re-discovery of America or a great revolution. Everything contained in it was stated earlier in this or that form,” the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets believes.
“It is noteworthy that the four years of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency and his somewhat different approach to foreign policy were not reflected in the article in any way,” remarks the daily Kommersant. “It only briefly recalls the tacitly approved UN Security Council’s resolution on Syria, which Putin called a mistake. Even Medvedev’s catchword “resetting” is not mentioned just once.”
In the meantime, says the daily, however inconsistent and controversial the years of Medvedev’s presidency may look to some, the diplomats for the first time ever saw a clear and correct task set to them. The foreign policy must work for the country’s economy and contribute to friendship with the right partners, who may serve as sources of investments and technologies for overcoming our growing lag behind all major neighbors. It is most important to soberly proceed from the awareness Russia is in the position of a country trying to catch up.
MOSCOW, February 28.