In one of my recent posts, I wrote that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had prepared a new concept of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. President Vladimir Putin was supposed to sign the document by the end of 2012. But he didn’t. As reported by the Kommersant daily, Putin wants the concept to be re-worked. Such a decision can easily be viewed as a non-confidence vote in the team of concept writers and, by implication, in their boss, the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Given that there are no obvious problems with Lavrov’s performance, the snub over the concept looks like Putin reprimanding Lavrov for publicly opposing the Duma adoption ban.
Even more intriguing sounds the explanation of Putin’s unwillingness to sign the concept in its current form: according to the Kommersant‘s sources in the presidential administration, Putin wants some messages in the document to be “toughened.” More specifically, Putin is seeking more aggressive language to condemn meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.
Putin’s international views–and increasingly Russia’s foreign policy in general–are driven by his belief that “international relations are facing a growing number of challenges and threats,” a sentiment he expressed again a few days ago at a meeting with foreign ambassadors. Although I can certainly agree with Putin that the current events in the Middle East and Africa are troubling, I see absolutely no evidence that the number of challenges to Russia’s national security is “growing.”
What is growing is the size and scope of the Kremlin’s campaign to maintain control over the country by trumping up perceived threats to Russia’s sovereignty. Besides, as signs of erosion of public support for the regime–and him personally–accumulate, Putin seems to consider the propaganda of the “enemy at the gates” image as one of the most effective tools to keep in check the country’s elites.
Putin’s seeds definitely find a fertile ground. In a recent interview, a Duma deputy and member of the United Russia party’s General Council Evgeniy Fedorov went as far as to call Russia a “colony” of the United States and opined that the real power in the country belongs to the U.S. Department of State.
To those who would argue that Fedorov is no more than a middle-level bureaucrat in need of medication, I’d like to remind one of my favorite Russian proverbs: A fish rots from the head down.