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Analysis: A Hard-Line Agenda For Putin's Second Term (Part 2)

Vladimir Putin The National Strategy Council (SNS) report titled "A National Agenda And A National Strategy" that was released in the beginning of August contains a particularly interesting section on foreign policy.

The SNS report notes that during President Vladimir Putin's first term, Russian foreign policy adopted a more active and assertive style. Russia began to project more influence in the other former Soviet states. It began using political levers to enlarge its economic influence and, alternatively, economic levers to boost its political influence. During this period, Russia took over emergency management of the national electrical grids of Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Armenia and initiated the creation of a Single Economic Space uniting Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Because of Putin's leadership, the report states, Russia today faces no acute foreign policy problems. "History has imposed on Russia a serious responsibility for the fate of the former Soviet space," the report reads. "The disappearance of the Soviet Union from world maps cannot eliminate or interrupt centuries of close cultural, social, economic, and, therefore, political and military ties among the states and peoples that were formerly incorporated into the Russian and Soviet empires."
The report urges Putin to become "the inspiration of a Russian dream, of the renewal of a feeling of historical mission."

The report argues that the international community tends to view any complications within the CIS as a result of Russian policies. "There is a presumption of Russia's imperial ambitions, regardless of its real actions and intentions," the report states.

Russia's Near Abroad

The report urged Putin to recognize Russia's responsibility for the CIS. "This responsibility before the international community for the development of the former Soviet space should, at the least, be accompanied by the recognition that Russia has certain preferential geopolitical rights," the report asserts. It calls for introducing the principle of "mutual transparency" in the CIS policies of Russia, the United States, China, and the European Union and warns that "any unilateral actions in the CIS" will be perceived in Russia as a clear challenge to its national interests. The SNS report also urges Moscow to warn the other CIS countries against giving in to "the illusion of playing against Russia's interests with impunity by manipulating controversies among the leading global players."

The report also calls for more quiet and reasonable diplomacy in relations with the United States. It calls for "a broad and stabile, pragmatic partnership with the United States based on an end to the Cold War era and a striving for a safe world and mutually respectful cooperation."

"Of course, contradictions and disputes can emerge in U.S.-Russian relations, but they can and should be resolved on a reciprocal basis," the report reads. "A permanent agenda with the most influential power in the contemporary world should be set up."

The report also notes that increased cooperation with China, which is described as a rapidly expanding global giant, "is unconditionally vital for Russia." It addition to economics and politics, Russia must continue to cooperate with China on regional-security issues in the Far East and in Central Asia within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It also acknowledges that defense contracts with China are an important revenue source for Russia's military-industrial complex and that Russia's energy and machine-building sectors are counting on expanded trade with China.

Dealing With China

The report states, however, that in the future China could present a serious geopolitical threat to Russia if China's post-communist transition evolves into "a nationalistic-hegemonic consolidation." If this happens, China will not only threaten Russia, but will present a source of general global instability. In that case, the report argues, Russia's most likely ally would be the United States, as the further strengthening of China based on the resources of Siberia would not correspond with U.S. interests. The report also cites large-scale illegal immigration from China to Russia as a potential threat to Russia.

The SNS report also stresses the importance of Russia's relations with India and the European Union and called for a more balanced Russian foreign policy that would re-focus away from the United States and the European Union toward the Asian-Pacific region. This could help Russia open new markets for its defense and energy sectors and allow it to incorporate the resources of Siberia and the Far East into the development of the Asian-Pacific rim.

The priority of Russia's foreign policy, however, should remain "the gradual economic integration of the former Soviet space and the eventual creation of a broad ruble zone," the report says. Another foreign-policy priority is the expansion of Russia's influence on world affairs, to which the report says there is no alternative. "Russia has a simple and dramatic choice: either to become great or to vanish from the map," the report states.

The report concludes by listing steps toward this "new Russian greatness." It advises Putin to stop being "an efficient manager" and to become "a national leader." It urges him to abandon his reserved personal style and to become "the inspiration of a Russian dream, of the renewal of a feeling of historical mission."

The SNS report can be seen as a manifesto of the so-called siloviki and the "administrative-bureaucratic group" in the Putin administration, the forces that the report states defeated the "liberals" at the end of Putin's first term. "We do not need liberal social institutions, but pragmatic and useful ones," the report states.

Nevertheless, it contains sober analyses of some key national problems and outlines pragmatic ways of confronting them. At the same time, though, it gives priority to some quite utopian and even illusory national-development goals, the same kinds of goals that in the past have led Russia the historical dead end of overstretching its national potential.

Read Part 1 of this article.

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