Medvedev’s Foreign Policy “Style”

This article was first published on Vladimir Frolov's Russia Profile Weekly Expert Panel (June 11, 2009):

Vladimir Frolov, uses President Medvedev’s 2008 initiative to overhaul the existing security system in Europe as an example of what is wrong with Medvedev’s style in foreign policy: “vaguely worded” statements, “poor attention to detail”, and “a lack of follow-up.” 

I agree with Vladimir on that.  But is this style unique to Medvedev?  Can anyone point to a single specific, well-articulated, and followed-through major foreign policy initiative originated by Medvedev’s predecessors, presidents Yeltsin and Putin?  (I’m not denying, of course, that some Putin’s foreign policy statements were worded in a very “non-vague” fashion).  

Medvedev’s “style” in foreign policy is a reflection, first and foremost, of the fundamental problem plaguing Russia’s foreign policy since the end of the Cold War: the lack of geostrategic vision, perennial defensiveness, poor record of planning and executing specific foreign-policy projects, and inability to support foreign policy initiatives with “informational warfare.”

Making things worse, Medvedev is an ultimate “domestic” president.  Groomed for the presidency largely through being in charge of “national projects”, Medvedev didn’t have any solid foreign policy experience and apparently needed intense on-job training during last year’s war with Georgia.    

Given the circumstances, instead of criticizing Medvedev for a vaguely worded proposal on the new security architecture in Europe, one should applaud him for actually coming up with the idea.  For this is not only his first major foreign policy initiative, this is the first proposal of this magnitude coming out of Moscow in, perhaps, a good 20 years.

True, the Russian Constitution charges the president with special responsibilities in conducting foreign policy, yet one can hardly expect Medvedev or his administration to put on paper and/or specify every proposal he spells out.  This is a job for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and this is where the problem seems to reside as Medvedev appears to have no real control over the huge MID bureaucracy.

In order to bring about real change – and not just in his “style”, but, rather, in the very substance of Russia’s foreign policy – Medvedev has to dramatically revamp his foreign policy team.  A good start would be to fire his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov — something I first called for about a year ago.

Lavrov was appointed in 2004 by then-president Putin and has apparently missed the fact that effective May 2008, he is supposed to report to another boss.  But this is only a secondary problem with Lavrov.  The major one is that having spent the bulk of his diplomatic career in the United States, Lavrov tends to reduce Russia’s foreign policy to its relations with the U.S. (Even worse, during last year’s war with Georgia, Lavrov behaved as if his personal relationship with then-U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was at the core of U.S.-Russia relations).

The Russian foreign policy cannot remain a hostage of the results of the Medvedev-Obama summits or – on a larger scale – of the outcome of U.S.-Russia arms control negotiations.  It must become multidirectional, pro-active, flexible, and perfectly balanced in applying both “hard” and “soft’” power.

However, even with a new, young, and energetic, foreign policy team in place, putting meat on the bones of Medvedev’s Europe security proposal wouldn’t be my first priority.  Much more urgent is the designing of a comprehensive, coherent, and goal-oriented Russian policy in the post-Soviet space — in particular, in Ukraine and Georgia. 

 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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37 Responses to Medvedev’s Foreign Policy “Style”

  1. Interesting thoughts Eugene.
    I see that Viktor Chernomyrdin has just been reassigned:
    http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=14042246&PageNum=0
    His (apparently) first comments on Ukraine since the reassignment:
    http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=14042809&PageNum=0
    Best,
    Mike

  2. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    I like Chernomyrdin and I believe that his quotes (like “wanted something better but got as usual”) are perls of contemporary Russian. But I always felt that as Ambassador to Ukraine, he’s not up to the job.
    I believe that two diplomatic positions are of the most importantance for Russia: those of Ambassador in Kiev and in Tbilisi. (Yes, not in DC, Berlin or Paris). Honorable retirement like Chernomyrdin had in Ukraine is something Russia cannot afford anymore.
    That said, I’m holding my breath before hearing the name of his successor.
    Best,
    Eugene

  3. Alex says:

    In fact, indeed, interesting, Eugene. Although I don’t believe that Lavrov implements his own independent foreign policy. While I may not know all the relevant facts, Lavrov has never made me feel ashamed for being Russian and I can easily imagine that many in Washington don’t like him precisely for that. Especially Dr. Rice.
    Cheers

  4. Igor privet!
    Lavrov has never made me feel ashamed for being Russian either, nor do I believe that he’s conducting “his own independent foreign policy.” Again, my major problem with him — and, by implication, with Russia’s foreign policy — is an obsessive focus on US-Russia relations, whereas it (the focus) should be on the “near abroad.”
    Nothing personal against Lavrov, but the best way to change a message is to replace the messenger.
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  5. Alex says:

    Hi, Eugene
    I have to admit that my opinion is biased because I share the alleged Lavrov’s obsession; but I agree that Russian for.p. would seriously benefit from diversification even if to provide more distraction for our friends. Changing subject to you favorite WP – did you see that recent opus with L.Shvetsova etc http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/08/AR2009060803496.html
    ? When I read such “russian” patriots, I sometimes wish Stalin were alive..
    Cheers
    Cheers

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Igor!
    Re: Gudkov & Co. — I’m sure you haven’t missed this piece by Anatol Lieven in The National Interest:
    http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=21586
    Hard to add anything to Lieven’s piece. These “patriots” claim they want “democracy” for Russia. In fact, they ask for money for THEMSELVES.
    Regards,
    Eugene

  7. Eugene, Alex & Co.
    I suspect that Lavrov and Holbrooke are more at odds than Lavrov and Rice. For good measure, this has to do with Holbrooke’s abrasive manner and Lavrov’s not playing a panzy approach.
    US-Russia relations are a primary factor of importance. Lavrov has emphasized other matters like Kosovo and the disputed former Soviet territories, which involves Georgia. Then again, these issues overlap with US-Russia relations.
    Offhand, I gather that Lavrov could give a greater appearance of being more involved with matters like Georgia (besides the issues relating to South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and Ukraine. However, offhand, note how Russia’s relationship with Ukraine seems to often be at either the president or prime minister levels. I’d have to check back at how Georgia and Russia interacted with each other before last summer’s war in the Caucasus.
    Lavrov is in a subservient role and as such has limits. From a distance, it can at times be tough to know what’s at play behind closed doors. The so-called “Putvedev” administration impresses as one not wanting to be so open about airing disagreement within its ranks (even though this has happened in some instances on matter not necessarily concerning Lavrov). That administration consists of intelligent folks, who (it stands to reason) don’t always share the same opinions. From a PR standpoint, I see where there’s a need to show more of a united front approach, versus the perception of bickering politicos, in a government without a clearly stated direction.
    Lavrov and Russia’s UN ambassador Churkin are good at communicating to an English language audience.

  8. You got me thinking some more Eugene (which may or may not be so good).😉
    The Russian involvement with the SCO, CSTO and BRIC concepts are indicative of Russia looking at other relations besides the US. There’s also this recent news item on a customs union involving Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan:
    http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=14044629&PageNum=0
    At the same time, the US is important.
    Lavrov’s effectiveness with the English language community might explain why he seems to spend more time with that group as opposed to others.
    Very respectfully to you Eugene, I’d be curious to see a complete overview of his itinerary. Offhand, Russia’s global relationship doesn’t always seem to have Lavrov in a lead role, in a way that might be calculated (as in perhaps utilizing Lavrov where he’s best suited) – but not against the reasonable view that Russian foreign policy shouldn’t be too US top heavy.
    What also might be at play is how English language mass media periodically overlooks a number of Russia watching news items – which are obviously deemed as unimportant. This could include Lavrov’s dealing with non-US issues, as well as non-Lavrov directed Russian moves in such an area.
    Regarding the point on English language mass media and in line with my periodic digressions is how none of the elitny appear interested in conducting a Ukrainian public opinion poll on how Putin would fare if he ran as Ukrainian president against the three main Ukrainian presidential candidates.
    I better stop (at least for) now.

  9. You got me thinking some more Eugene (which may or may not be so good).😉
    The Russian involvement with the SCO, CSTO and BRIC concepts are indicative of Russia looking at other relations besides the US. There’s also this recent news item on a customs union involving Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan:
    http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=14044629&PageNum=0
    At the same time, the US is important.
    Lavrov’s effectiveness with the English language community might explain why he seems to spend more time with that group as opposed to others.
    Very respectfully to you Eugene, I’d be curious to see a complete overview of his itinerary. Offhand, Russia’s global relationship doesn’t always seem to have Lavrov in a lead role, in a way that might be calculated (as in perhaps utilizing Lavrov where he’s best suited) – but not against the reasonable view that Russian foreign policy shouldn’t be too US top heavy.
    What also might be at play is how English language mass media periodically overlooks a number of Russia watching news items – which are obviously deemed as unimportant. This could include Lavrov’s dealing with non-US issues, as well as non-Lavrov directed Russian moves in such an area.
    Regarding the point on English language mass media and in line with my periodic digressions is how none of the elitny appear interested in conducting a Ukrainian public opinion poll on how Putin would fare if he ran as Ukrainian president against the three main Ukrainian presidential candidates.
    I better stop (at least for) now.

  10. Pardon the hat trick, as some other news came in. (On the matter of hat tricks, how about Malkin’s MVP playoffs performance?).
    Here’re some recent news pieces regarding Lavrov and issues not dealing with the US:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090614/wl_nm/us_russia_belarus
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090614/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_belarus_security_summit
    An example of the diplomatic trash talking era that’s evident. A future panel might discuss the issues of whether Russia might be taking Belarus for granted and Belarus possibly banking on the idea of playing off Russia with other options.

  11. Pardon the hat trick, as some other news came in. (On the matter of hat tricks, how about Malkin’s MVP playoffs performance?).
    Here’re some recent news pieces regarding Lavrov and issues not dealing with the US:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090614/wl_nm/us_russia_belarus
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090614/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_belarus_security_summit
    An example of the diplomatic trash talking era that’s evident. A future panel might discuss the issues of whether Russia might be taking Belarus for granted and Belarus possibly banking on the idea of playing off Russia with other options.

  12. Pardon the hat trick. (How about Malkin’s MVP playoffs performance?) Here’s some recent news regarding Lavrov and issues not dealing with the US:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090614/wl_nm/us_russia_belarus
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090614/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_belarus_security_summit
    An example of the diplomatic trash talking era that’s evident. A future panel might discuss the issues of whether Russia might be taking Belarus for granted and Belarus possibly banking on the idea of playing off Russia with other options.

  13. Pardon the hat trick. (How about Malkin’s MVP playoffs performance?) Here’s some recent news regarding Lavrov and issues not dealing with the US:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090614/wl_nm/us_russia_belarus
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090614/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_belarus_security_summit
    An example of the diplomatic trash talking era that’s evident. A future panel might discuss the issues of whether Russia might be taking Belarus for granted and Belarus possibly banking on the idea of playing off Russia with other options.

  14. Alex says:

    Eugene – thanks for the link, I have now read it & frankly, I would rather read you – which is not to say that I disagree with the professor, it is just that writing publicists is not the same as writing a research paper.
    And, sorry, but I side up with Mike (above) on Lavrov – many good points (but not on the outright liberalization of Russian business, as I am afraid that if this crisis finishes without a war, Russia will be up against the whole world again – now as the only capitalistic country left :))
    Cheers

  15. Alex says:

    Apologies to Mike – it was Livien’s ideas about the liberalization, not his.
    Cheers

  16. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike & Igor,
    I’m not saying that US-Russia relations aren’t important. Of course, they are. After all, the US and Russia possess between the two about 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.
    What I am saying is that these relations must not define the rest of Russia’s foreign policy.
    I agree with you: not everything depends on Lavrov personally. But staffing of the embassies does. Why is it that an assignment to Georgia is considered a career deadend? Even going to a God-forsaken African country means more from the career point of view (know that from a reliable source). And here we have Georgia that was absolutely “lost” by Russia. And, by the way, now we have the major irritant in US-Russia relations.
    And with all due respect to Chernomyrdin, a diplomat he is not. But he’s spent 8 years in Kiev. And what did we see on his watch there? Right, the Orange Revolution.
    Again, one cannot blame personally Lavrov for that. But can either of you name at least one unquestionable success of Russian diplomacy associated with Lavrov?
    I cannot. The guy has been on the job for 5+ years. Good or bad, it’s simply time to replace him.
    Mike, with all due respect: Lavrov isn’t the only guy in Russia speaking fluent English.
    Love this discussion.
    Best,
    Eugene

  17. Me to Eugene.
    With Lavrov, it’s a matter of foreign policy knowledge plus his English language fluency and interconnect with that audience. I’m pleased to know that there’s an upcoming generation of seasoned Russian foreign policy professionals who will probably be even more adept at this aspect than Lavrov. You’re right that there’s an existing crop of some pretty savvy English speaking Russian foreign policy professionals.
    As previously discussed at your great venue, I agree that Russia could’ve done things differently in relation to Georgia. This point has been expressed by others and prior to Lavrov becoming FM.
    I like how Lavrov has stood up to the dubious attempt at trying to bring about greater international support for Kosovo’s independence. He IMO was suave in stating that Russia’s recognition of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia isn’t a cc of the reasoning behind the Kosovo independence drive. Lavrov did this by noting how since UNSCR 1244, Serbia hasn’t launched military action in Kosovo – whereas the Georgian government struck at South Ossetia, after there were years of relative peace – thanks in part to international mediation efforts. If there was no Gergian government strike on South Ossetia, would Russia have (at least at this point in time) recognized the independence of the two disputed former Georgian SSR territories?
    Concerning the role of Russian FM, another point to consider are Russia’s global limits. Russia is a major power especially within its neighborhood. It nevertheless has limits – at least for the time being. This situation makes it such that Russia can’t afford to be as aggressive and as foolish as the … Russia’s current limits makes it not so easy for a Russian FM to stand out.

  18. Some other thoughts that just came to mind.
    Whither Lavrov relates to the issue of whether a personnel change is the best option. A losing team can be losing despite having a great coach. (Conversely, a badly managed team can still win on account of having great clout.)
    Regarding shakeups, I think the matter of personnel changes might be generally better applied to Russian government involved English language media and PR efforts.

  19. So there’s no misunderstanding:
    I’m not categorizing present day Russia as either a losing or championship team. Rather, it’s a contender with limits. I very respectfully don’t see where a FM change is more needed than in some other areas.
    While liking Lavrov’s explanation on the difference between the independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia versus Kosovo, I still question (from the point of view of Russia’s best interests) whether the Kremlin should’ve decided on taking such a move at this time.

  20. So there’s no misunderstanding:
    I’m not categorizing present day Russia as either a losing or championship team. Rather, it’s a contender with limits. I very respectfully don’t see where a FM change is more needed than in some other areas.
    While liking Lavrov’s explanation on the difference between the independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia versus Kosovo, I still question (from the point of view of Russia’s best interests) whether the Kremlin should’ve decided on taking such a move at this time.

  21. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks much for your great comments, Mike!
    “I very respectfully don’t see where a FM change is more needed than in some other areas.”
    Well, we have certainly found a common ground here🙂 — totally agreed that Lavrov is perhaps one of the best members of the Cabinet.
    Yet again — and in perfect agreement with your thought that Russia has its limits — I’d like to see more goal-oriented Russian foreign policy (especially in the near abroad) rather than (OK, in addition to) chasing the role of a global power.
    For me, first things (Ukraine + Georgia) first. I guess my beef with Lavrov ia that he’s too “global.”
    Regards,
    Eugene

  22. Thanks again for getting me to think further on this subject Eugene.
    Along with some others, I see a kind of globalization aspect in Russian society, which to a degree extends in the area of foreign policy. I see this influence in Russian government involved English language mass media and PR projects.
    Globalization seems to have two definitions. One is the complete view of a connected world, where different views should be acknowledged and respected, when the latter matter has validity (a point which has subjective aspects). There’s another spin on globalization, which (comparitively speaking) seems to stress the “exceptionalism” of one group (particularly the West), as seen by neocon and neolib leaning advocates.
    In the context of globalization, Russia should IMO compete within reason on the first mentioned definition of globalization. I think it’s fair to say that Russian foreign policy hasn’t been so provocative in a manner having to do (for good measure) with Russia’s limits.
    Should Russia have just shut up on the proposed American government plan to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic? A yes answer could be seen as being in agreement with the idea that Russia is being unreasonable. On the other hand, Russia’s offer of sharing a missile defense program in Azerbaijan in place of Poland and the Czech Republic could be seen as a good foreign policy PR move, to better test the idea of overseeing “rogue states” (as has been defined), which is said to not include Russia.
    On your last point: from a Russian viewpoint, I think Ukraine looks to have a better prognosis than Georgia. IMO, this is very much influenced by the greater historical and cultural ties between Russia and much of Ukraine, versus Russia and Georgia. I agree that Russia shouldn’t just write off Georgia as a lost cause. I gather that for whatever mistakes Russia has made in dealing with Georgia – the Western neolibs and neocons are capable of rubbing many Georgians the wrong way. On this last point, some have hinted that this has showed signs of being evident.
    To digress a bit, I’m also somewhat bemused at how some Western neolibs and neocons comment on how in their view a number of Russian political elites seek to tweak the West (the US in particular). In comparison, I find this tweaking issue to be prevalent within the way Western neolibs and neocons approach Russia. Note some of their commentary on subjects like Moldova’s recent election, last year’s war in the Caucasus and Ukraine.

  23. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike, love your comments and agree with you on more than 99%🙂
    And yet, and yet, let me insist: watch your neighborhood first. Wouldn’t you agree that this story about Beylorussia ignoring the OKDB meeting is a painful distraction (at this point, who know what’s gonna happen next) that was completely preventable?
    Best,
    Eugene

  24. The two headed eagle should look east and west Eugene. Overall, I believe Russian foreign policy has been relatively balanced.
    At the same time: elsewhere, I often get disappointed at the lack of detailed coverage on the kind of issues we discuss here. Instead, there’s periodically an incomplete or perhaps (better said) inaccurate overview of what’s at play.
    As one of several examples, a PBS aired neolib leaning foreign policy show (Foreign Exchange) gave the view that Russia’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence is bad for Russia because it (supposedly) encourages Russian republics to secede. (The person saying this has been affiliated with a venue that has been above the clouds, when it comes facing perfectly valid criticism. Rather interstingly, the venue in question has been pretty much exempt from the kind of criticism alloted to others.) Actually, no Russian republic is currently looking to get out of Russia, as some territory outside Russia would like to become a part of it. (South Ossetia and Pridnestrovie voted to become part of Russia. Some other former lands outside Russia would no doubt do the same if given the choice.) This contrasts from how the UK’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence has been used by Scottish nationalists to secede from Britain. This kind of view is omitted when the mentioned PBS show covers Kosovo. Instead, the referenced show leans in uncritical favor of Kosovo’s independence. (This discussion is Serbversive.)
    During Lukashenko’s presidency, Russo-Belarusian relations are kind of like the close and continuous marriage, or close out of marriage relationship, which nevertheless has its boiling points. If you’re familiar with the Honeymooners TV show, you might recall Ralph motioning for Alice to go to the moon. Yet, in other instances, Ralph would positively refer to Alice as the greatest.
    With yours truly having some distant familial ties to Belarus, my Belarusian contacts have indicated that a truly “free and fair” referendum on Belarus becoming a part of the Russian Federation could very well be in the affirmative. This isn’t what Lukashenko wants. He prefers the idea of a union between two republics, along pretty much even lines of clout. Realistically, this is preposterous. From the Russian perspective, I’ve seen the economic argument stating that Russia would initially take a $ hit if it took in any additional territory at this time. If so, this isn’t the kind of move made during the kind of global crunch at hand.
    Belarus should improve its relations with the West. Spin wise, the momentum for this to happen is in play. That said, I don’t see Belarus and Russia becoming like the Russo-Georgian relationship.

  25. The two headed eagle should look east and west Eugene. Overall, I believe Russian foreign policy has been relatively balanced.
    At the same time: elsewhere, I often get disappointed at the lack of detailed coverage on the kind of issues we discuss here. Instead, there’s periodically an incomplete or perhaps (better said) inaccurate overview of what’s at play.
    As one of several examples, a PBS aired neolib leaning foreign policy show (Foreign Exchange) gave the view that Russia’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence is bad for Russia because it (supposedly) encourages Russian republics to secede. (The person saying this has been affiliated with a venue that has been above the clouds, when it comes facing perfectly valid criticism. Rather interstingly, the venue in question has been pretty much exempt from the kind of criticism alloted to others.) Actually, no Russian republic is currently looking to get out of Russia, as some territory outside Russia would like to become a part of it. (South Ossetia and Pridnestrovie voted to become part of Russia. Some other former lands outside Russia would no doubt do the same if given the choice.) This contrasts from how the UK’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence has been used by Scottish nationalists to secede from Britain. This kind of view is omitted when the mentioned PBS show covers Kosovo. Instead, the referenced show leans in uncritical favor of Kosovo’s independence. (This discussion is Serbversive.)
    During Lukashenko’s presidency, Russo-Belarusian relations are kind of like the close and continuous marriage, or close out of marriage relationship, which nevertheless has its boiling points. If you’re familiar with the Honeymooners TV show, you might recall Ralph motioning for Alice to go to the moon. Yet, in other instances, Ralph would positively refer to Alice as the greatest.
    With yours truly having some distant familial ties to Belarus, my Belarusian contacts have indicated that a truly “free and fair” referendum on Belarus becoming a part of the Russian Federation could very well be in the affirmative. This isn’t what Lukashenko wants. He prefers the idea of a union between two republics, along pretty much even lines of clout. Realistically, this is preposterous. From the Russian perspective, I’ve seen the economic argument stating that Russia would initially take a $ hit if it took in any additional territory at this time. If so, this isn’t the kind of move made during the kind of global crunch at hand.
    Belarus should improve its relations with the West. Spin wise, the momentum for this to happen is in play. That said, I don’t see Belarus and Russia becoming like the Russo-Georgian relationship.

  26. Hi back Eugene and Co:
    The last set of comments should’ve started off reading as:
    The two headed eagle should look east and west Eugene, with the eyes frequently looking south as well. In addition, these eyes have looked to the North Pole as well – noting the recent Arctic claim as an example. Overall, I believe Russian foreign policy has been relatively balanced.
    *****
    So that there’s no misunderstanding on that very last point: this isn’t to say that there aren’t certain foreign policy issues to second guess the Russian government on, from the non-neolib/neocon position of what’s in Russia’s best interests.

  27. Hi back Eugene and Co:
    The last set of comments should’ve started off reading as:
    The two headed eagle should look east and west Eugene, with the eyes frequently looking south as well. In addition, these eyes have looked to the North Pole as well – noting the recent Arctic claim as an example. Overall, I believe Russian foreign policy has been relatively balanced.
    *****
    So that there’s no misunderstanding on that very last point: this isn’t to say that there aren’t certain foreign policy issues to second guess the Russian government on, from the non-neolib/neocon position of what’s in Russia’s best interests.

  28. To underscore a point on Russian foreign policy, this morning’s BBC newscast (as aired in the US) had as a headline the international meetings taking place in Moscow. These conferences involve heads of state, with none of them from North America and Western Europe.
    Last week, the Kremlin hosted the Israeli FM for what were characterized as constructive talks.
    I recall some babble suggesting that Russia’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence would isolate Russia. Since that recognition, Russia doesn’t seem to have become globally isolated. The only exception having to do with the number of countries recognizing Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence. Outside, of that, Russia is fully engaged within its region of the world and outside of it.
    Gotta wonder about some of these experts. When Turkey decided to recognize northern Cyprus, Turkey’s relations on other global matters didn’t noticeably stop.
    For quality purposes, foreign policy analysis shouldn’t be left to a choice few.

  29. To underscore a point on Russian foreign policy, this morning’s BBC newscast (as aired in the US) had as a headline the international meetings taking place in Moscow. These conferences involve heads of state, with none of them from North America and Western Europe.
    Last week, the Kremlin hosted the Israeli FM for what were characterized as constructive talks.
    I recall some babble suggesting that Russia’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence would isolate Russia. Since that recognition, Russia doesn’t seem to have become globally isolated. The only exception having to do with the number of countries recognizing Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence. Outside, of that, Russia is fully engaged within its region of the world and outside of it.
    Gotta wonder about some of these experts. When Turkey decided to recognize northern Cyprus, Turkey’s relations on other global matters didn’t noticeably stop.
    For quality purposes, foreign policy analysis shouldn’t be left to a choice few.

  30. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Great comments as usual Mike!
    I remember that we had agreed to disagree on the recognition of independence of SO and Abkhazia.
    To me, it’s a typical trade-off. To a certain extent, Russia is “isolated” as no one of importance has followed the suit. On the other hand, Russia can now keep pretty much any number of troops there w/o being accused (except by Georgia itself) in “occupying” Georgia’s territory.
    Regards,
    Eugene

  31. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Great comments as usual Mike!
    I remember that we had agreed to disagree on the recognition of independence of SO and Abkhazia.
    To me, it’s a typical trade-off. To a certain extent, Russia is “isolated” as no one of importance has followed the suit. On the other hand, Russia can now keep pretty much any number of troops there w/o being accused (except by Georgia itself) in “occupying” Georgia’s territory.
    Regards,
    Eugene

  32. Understood Eugene.
    Like I said, this seemingly legal point to me means little, since practically no one recognizes the independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
    Thus, IMO, the politically incorrect “might makes right” principle applies on this matter. Specifically, Russia can pretty much do what it wants in South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the independence recognition. The two disputed former Georgian SSR lands have limited options.
    On might making right: pardon the repeat on how Russia needed air space permission from Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to fly additional troops and supplies to Kosovo in 1999. On the other hand, the American government led NATO war against Yugoslavia didn’t require air space permission to bomb that country. Look how UNSCR 1244 has been essentially violated by those countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence. In comparison, Russia can stretch certain realities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with or without the recognition of their independence.
    In the short historical post-Soviet span: as quickly as Russo-Georgian relations have taken a dive, it stands to reason that this relationship can improve with the right policy in place. Recognizing South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence serves to further alienate Georgia against Russia.
    In addition, PR wise, the greater number of countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence highlights the limits of Russian influence. (I don’t buy into the view that Kosovo has a comparitively much better independence claim.) An arguably better PR move would be for Russia to not recognize the independence of any disputed former Communist bloc territory, on the basis of being consistent unlike some.
    Best,
    Mike

  33. Understood Eugene.
    Like I said, this seemingly legal point to me means little, since practically no one recognizes the independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
    Thus, IMO, the politically incorrect “might makes right” principle applies on this matter. Specifically, Russia can pretty much do what it wants in South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the independence recognition. The two disputed former Georgian SSR lands have limited options.
    On might making right: pardon the repeat on how Russia needed air space permission from Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to fly additional troops and supplies to Kosovo in 1999. On the other hand, the American government led NATO war against Yugoslavia didn’t require air space permission to bomb that country. Look how UNSCR 1244 has been essentially violated by those countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence. In comparison, Russia can stretch certain realities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with or without the recognition of their independence.
    In the short historical post-Soviet span: as quickly as Russo-Georgian relations have taken a dive, it stands to reason that this relationship can improve with the right policy in place. Recognizing South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence serves to further alienate Georgia against Russia.
    In addition, PR wise, the greater number of countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence highlights the limits of Russian influence. (I don’t buy into the view that Kosovo has a comparitively much better independence claim.) An arguably better PR move would be for Russia to not recognize the independence of any disputed former Communist bloc territory, on the basis of being consistent unlike some.
    Best,
    Mike

  34. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    I’d subscribe under every single line in your comment. I too believe that the independence came way too early — w/o being properly used as a bargaining chip.
    I’m just trying to understand the Kremlin’s logic. Another point to make is that since 1992, apparently no single dollar (ruble, lari, whatever) came to SO and A from Tbilisi — all from Moscow. What is the reason for Moscow to invest money there (and it has no other choice anyway) if some day the two territories could become Georgia again?
    Best,
    Eugene

  35. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    I’d subscribe under every single line in your comment. I too believe that the independence came way too early — w/o being properly used as a bargaining chip.
    I’m just trying to understand the Kremlin’s logic. Another point to make is that since 1992, apparently no single dollar (ruble, lari, whatever) came to SO and A from Tbilisi — all from Moscow. What is the reason for Moscow to invest money there (and it has no other choice anyway) if some day the two territories could become Georgia again?
    Best,
    Eugene

  36. Eugene, I think the answer to your “since 1992…” point is in the thought that Russian “goodwill” (for lack of a better word) could help in bringing about a more positive image of Russia in Georgia.
    Russia has tried to play it relatively neutral on such matter. Taking a completely one-sided view leads to alienating one of the parties in dispute. Hence, Russia’s non-recognition of Pridnestrovie’s and Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence. To do otherwise only serves to increase the likelihood of Russia becoming more distant from Moldova and Azerbaijan. Meantime, among powers, it’s not like Pridnestrovie and Nagorno-Karabakh have better options than Russia. They can’t be too mad at Russia, given how no country recognizes their independence.
    Up to the Georgian government strike in South Ossetia, Russia showed a willingness to somewhat respect the idea that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were Georgian territories. I think that the key Kremlin decision makers got extremely annoyed with the Georgian government and current political situation in Georgia, in a way that overlooks the long term.
    BTW, on the matter of paying for a disputed territory, I understand that the Serb government continues to pay whatever debt Kosovo owes – on the basis of not wanting to lose its claim on that territory.

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