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Good Cop or Bad Cop? Russian Foreign Policy in the New Putin Era

Good Cop or Bad Cop? Russian Foreign Policy in the New Putin Era

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This policy brief outlines likely directions for Russia's foreign policy in the next presidential administration.
This policy brief outlines likely directions for Russia's foreign policy in the next presidential administration.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Jan 25, 2012
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Russian foreign policyin the new Putin-era is not going  to fundamentally differ from the one pursued under DmitryMedvedev. In the post-Sovietregion the same integrationistpolicies — both economic andsecurity-related — are likely tocontinue, aimed at maintaining and increasing the formal and
informal inuence of the Russian
Federation, only with growing intensity. Concerning the West,Russian interests are likely tobecome increasingly divergent.Deepening and widening thecooperation with the EU is clearlyin the interest of the RussianFederation. On the other hand,existing tensions in the U.S.-Russia relationship are unlikely
 to decrease, while a key eld
of common interest is going todisappear following the Alliedwithdrawal from Afghanistan in2014.
Good Cop or Bad Cop?Russian Foreign Policy in the New Putin Era
by Andras Racz 
January 2012
Te Russian presidential electionsin March 2012 are likely to result inthe return o Vladimir Putin to theKremlin. Tis paper analyzes the maintrends o Russian oreign policy, andprovides a short- and mid-term policy orecast. It examines three specicdirections o Russian oreign policy:the relationships with the post-Sovietregion, with Europe, and the UnitedStates. Te research question is similarin all three cases: should we expect any signicant changes in Russian oreignpolicy in the new Putin Era comparedto that o the Medvedev Era?
The Post-Soviet Region:An Even Firmer Grip
With the exception o the three Balticrepublics, Russia still views the coun-tries o the ormer Soviet Union asa zone o special interest. Te docu-ment “National Security Strategy o the Russian Federation until 2020,”adopted in 2009, makes this clear: “Tedevelopment o bilateral and multilat-eral cooperation with member stateso the Commonwealth o IndependentStates is a priority o Russian oreignpolicy.”
Tis perception is unlikely to
1 Стратегия национальной безопасности РоссийскойФедерации до 2020 года. [National Security Strategy of 
 the Russian Federation until 2020]. Available: http://www.scrf.gov.ru/documents/99.html Last accessed: January20, 2012.
change in the uture. Tereore, duringthe next presidency period, Russia islikely to do its utmost to maintain andstrengthen control over the post-Sovietregion.Te strengthening o various Russia-led integration ora will surely becontinued in the years ahead. Tisapplies to the Collective Security reaty Organization (CSO), theEurasian Economic Community (EarAsEc), and also to the newCustoms Union, which has recently developed into the Eurasian Unionproject. By deepening the institution-alization o these Moscow-dominatedorganizations, Russia can increasingly cement the inormal control it hasalready had over member countries,particularly in the elds o economy,energy, trade, and deense.In the eld o energy policy, Russiais likely to keep pushing to take overenergy inrastructure in the Common-wealth o Independent State (CIS)countries, or at least to secure a domi-nant position in them. Te motivationbehind this is to secure uninterruptedow o Russian energy to the West,and also to gain political and economicleverage over the aected countries.So ar, this strategy has been strik-ingly successul: the energy sectors o 
Following the planned withdrawalof U.S. forces from Afghanistanin 2014, Russia is highly likely to take advantage of the regionalpower vacuum and furtherstrengthen its position in CentralAsia.
Armenia and Moldova are completely controlled by Russiancompanies, Georgia is highly dependent, and recently thekey Belarusian gas transit company, Beltransgaz, was ully taken over by Russian Gazprom. Te last important “prey”le is the gas transit inrastructure o Ukraine, or whichthe struggle is underway. Building alternative pipelinesthat bypass Ukraine and Belarus (e.g. the South Streamand the recently completed North Stream) ts the samebill: they weaken these countries’ blackmailing potentialby decreasing their transit role, thereby undermining theirbargaining positions and increasing the security o transit toWestern countries.Military presence has long been an integral part o theRussian oreign policy inventory towards the CIS region,aimed both at preserving regional inuence, and also atpreventing any uture NAO-enlargement to the East.Maintaining this presence in neighboring countries willcontinue even in the long run, indicated by the act thatRussia managed to signicantly extend Russian military orces stationing agreements abroad. Te current with-drawal deadline rom Ukraine is 2042, and Armenia is2044, while Russian orces will be deployed even longer inthe two Georgian separatist “republics.”Following the planned withdrawal o U.S. orces romAghanistan in 2014, Russia is highly likely to take advan-tage o the regional power vacuum and urther strengthenits position in Central Asia. Te charter o the CSOwas recently modied in such a way so as to prohibit any member state rom hosting a oreign military base on itsterritory without the consent o all other CSO members.Tis move, in act, is aimed at gradually pushing out allnon-Russian military bases rom the territories o the CSOcountries.During the next presidential administration, Russia ishighly likely to extensively use its political, economic, andmedia leverage to inuence the domestic politics in post-Soviet countries. In this way, 2012-2013 will be particularly intensive years. In 2012, parliamentary elections will takeplace in Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, and possibly also in Moldova, while in 2013, presidential elections will beheld in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, ajiki-stan, and urkmenistan. Aside rom the latter three, thepolitical landscapes in these countries are rather diverse, sointense political struggles are likely to take place, and Russiawill surely not miss the opportunity to actively pursue itsown interests.
Relations with the EU: Modernization Goes On
Contrary to the post-Soviet trends, Russia is likely tocontinue to try to improve its relations with the EuropeanUnion. Te most important motivation is the moderniza-tion agenda, launched by President Medvedev. Te supporto Europe is critical or the intended economic, nancial,and technological modernization o the Russian Federa-tion. Looking at the presidential campaign program o Vladimir Putin on the newly launched
 it becomes clear that the modernization project will indeedbe continued, and so, the need or close ties to Europe willalso remain.Economic interests point in the same direction. Bilateraltrade and investments between the EU and Russia aregrowing rapidly, despite the crisis. Besides, energy inter-dependence (e.g. the EU needs Russian oil and gas, whileRussia needs EU money) is not likely to decrease in thenear uture, particularly in the light o the post-Fukushimaclosing down o German nuclear power plants. Te comingWO-accession o Russia will urther intensiy trade rela-tions with European countries.Moscow will continue to push or an institutionalizedposition on issues o European security as well. CertainEuropean countries are indeed receptive to the idea. Tereare various options on the table: in November 2009, Presi-
www.putin2012.ru Last accessed: January 20, 2012.
Russia has its own proposals on the table aimed at ensuring theexclusively peaceful nature of theIranian nuclear program — andalso at maintaining the lucrativecontracts Russian companies havein the Iranian energy sector.
dent Medvedev launched his proposal on need or a NewEuropean Security reaty; in June 2010, a bilateral German-Russian proposal on security policy cooperation was signedin Meseberg, quickly joined by France in October the sameyear. Another option is getting the French-German-PolishWeimar riangle cooperation extended to Russia. Tecommon element in these initiatives is the Russian inten-tion to get decision-making positions institutionalized inissues o European security that would be stronger than theconsultative ones it currently holds.
The U.S.-Russia Relationship: A “Reset” Freezing Down?
Te nature o the uture U.S.-Russia relationship obviously depends a lot on the outcome o the U.S. presidential elec-tions. And no signicant positive development is likely tohappen in 2012 as the pre-election period is hardly suit-able or U.S. politicians taking a so position on Russia.However, as a starting point or mid-term predictions, onemay well presume that a Democratic administration inWashington is more likely to ollow a rather more coopera-tive course with Moscow than a Republican one. Regardlesso the election results, however, certain mid-term sources o tension in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship are already  visible.Te most important one is that with the orthcomingAllied withdrawal rom Aghanistan in 2014, a key area o common U.S.-Russia interests is going to disappear. Perhapsthe most important practical result o the “reset” was theU.S.-Russia cooperation in Aghanistan, in particularMoscow’s allowing the transit o military shipments overRussian territory, which made supply management orAllied orces a lot easier and cheaper. ermination o thelarge-scale U.S. engagement will end this ruitul practicalcooperation.Te missile deense debate is likely to remain anothersource o tension. Russia clearly perceives the ballisticmissile deense (BMD) system as a undamental threat toits nuclear deterrence capabilities. According the Military Doctrine o the Russian Federation,
adopted in 2010, oneo the main external military dangers is the “the creationand deployment o strategic missile deense systems thatundermine global stability.” Russia has kept demanding
Военная доктрина Российской Федерации. [Military Doctrine of the Russian Federa
- tion.] Available: http://www.scrf.gov.ru/documents/33.html Last accessed: January 20,2012.
rst to have an institutionalized position inside the BMDsystem, then to be given legally binding guarantees thatthe system will not be used against Russia. Neither o thisis likely to happen, since the current U.S. position seemsbeing constant on the issue, something Russia is well awareo. Consequently, as the U.S. missile deense system getsurther developed, tensions are likely to increase.Te Russian position on Irans nuclear program signicantly diers rom that o the United States. However, it also hasits ambivalences. Tough Moscow is concerned about thepossibility o an Iranian nuclear weapon, a direct U.S. mili-tary action would clearly be unacceptable to Russia. Tis, o course, does not mean that Russia would be ready to takeup any military conrontation over Iran. Russia actually hasits own proposals on the table aimed at ensuring the exclu-sively peaceul nature o the Iranian nuclear program — andalso at maintaining the lucrative contracts Russian compa-nies have in the Iranian energy sector. All in all, as theIranian nuclear program develops, the gap between the U.S.attitude urging action and the Russian strategy o mediatingand preserving the status quo is likely to become wider.Te toughening Russian position on the post-Soviet spacemay also have a negative eect on U.S.-Russia relations.A key U.S. ally in the region, Georgia, may again becomea hotspot. Fortunately, serious military conrontation canbe excluded. As the separatists territories o Abkhaziaand South Ossetia are under its rm control, Russia hasnothing to ght or, and Georgia also learned grave lessonsrom the 2008 war. However, Russia is strongly opposed to

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