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RF government presents report on foreign policy achievements

November 07, 2011, 14:07 UTC+3

The Kommersant daily has received the Russian government’s report on the fulfilment of the program for the use of foreign policy factors for Russia’s long-term development

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MOSCOW, November 7 (Itar-Tass) — The Kommersant daily has received the Russian government’s report, signed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, on the fulfilment of the program for the use of foreign policy factors for Russia’s long-term development that was prepared on instructions from President Dmitry Medvedev. The document suggests that all the key tasks of the Russian foreign policy - whether it be lobbying of Gazprom projects in Europe, attaining mutual understanding with NATO on missile defence or inducing the EU to liberalise the visa regime – are being fulfilled rather successfully. However, experts interviewed by the publication do not share the officials’ optimism.

Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov explained that the government on a quarterly basis sends to the Control directorate of the presidential administration the report on the program’s implementation. However, the newspaper said, the document is, in essence, a report on Moscow’s achievements on the foreign policy front for the entire first half of 2011. According to Kommersant’s sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry, this document, not intended for the public, is a real program by which the Russian diplomacy is guided - far more than by the declarative Russian foreign policy concept adopted in July 2008.

Based upon the report signed by Vladimir Putin, the first half of this year was extremely successful for Russian diplomacy - Moscow was literally going from one victory to another. The government substantiates its position citing the ratification of the New START treaty with the United States in February, as well as the “continuation of an active dialogue with the United States and NATO on missile defence in order to obtain legal guarantees from Washington that the missile defence system that is being deployed is not targeted against Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.” However, independent experts say that an “active dialogue” has not yielded the desired results, the American officials never tire of reminding Moscow that it will not get any documents that would impose at least some restrictions on the missile defence system that is being created.

Director of the Moscow Carnegie Centre Dmitry Trenin believes that extorting guarantees from the United States is a road to nowhere. “Legally binding guarantees are like a non-aggression pact. It is easy to remember how Germany acted in 1941, despite the existence of such an agreement. Guarantees are effective only as long as the political situation is stable,” he said.

Experts are also sceptical about the specified in the report progress achieved on the way to “the building of NATO-Russia strategic modernised partnership on the principles of transparency, predictability and confidence” that was coordinated in Lisbon in November 2010.

The only real successes in cooperation with NATO, experts say, are the specified in the government report agreement with the Pentagon on the purchase of a batch of the Mi-17 helicopters for the Air Force of Afghanistan, the creation of a trust fund with NATO for the training of technical personnel of these aircraft and an agreement with the United States on the transit of military cargos to Afghanistan. Another success that is not questioned by experts was the approval by the Arctic Council of the regulation on the role of observer countries, which “prevents the entry into Arctic of NATO, EU and other non-regional players.”

The Russian government calls one of the key successes the support “of pipeline projects in the energy sphere” - Nord Stream and South Stream. “In May, the laying of the first string of the Nord Stream pipeline was completed. The construction of a second string has been launched,” the document says. “Bilateral agreements have been signed on South Stream with Austria, Hungary and Greece.” Russia has actively involved in the project Macedonia, Romania, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Finally, getting from Turkey a permit for the survey work in its exclusive economic zone is seen by the RF government as its merit.

However, experts have called the 2011 results “a nightmare” for both projects. RusEnergy partner Mikhail Krutikhin told Kommersant that despite the launch of Nord Stream, Europe in the face of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has strongly made it clear that it is against the laying of a third string of the pipeline. According to him, the results on South Stream are even worse. “The EU denied South Stream the status of a trans-European network, easy-term loans and did not include it in its list of priority projects. All of these benefits were given to the rival project Nabucco,” he concludes.

In addition, the document notes progress in the visa sphere - visa formalities have been lifted with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Colombia, Peru and Turkey. And most importantly, the EU demonstrates “willingness to substantive interaction” on the liberalisation of the visa regime. However, chief editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal Fyodor Lukyanov said that “inducing the EC to cancel the visa regime is not very effective.” In his words, Moscow has not succeeded in getting a promise that the visa regime will be cancelled after Russia fulfils all technical requirements of Brussels.

Fyodor Lukyanov explains the dissonance between the content of the government’s report and reality by the genre of the document. “In such documents everything is always described very beautifully. Any report is always a self-justification of the reporter,” he said.

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