Dienstag, 6. Januar 2009

To Moscow with Love - Crazy Ivan turns into Foreign Policy Doctrine

I have long thought abut getting seriously into Russian foreign policy as an academic profession. But while I could always explain the rationale behind Chinese foreign policy or any other major player for that matter - though I did not always agree with what they were doing in the first place - I never quite understood what considerations actually drove Russian foreign policy. On the contrary, much of Russian foreign policy today seems to be exactly what Alec Baldwin faced in The Hunt for Red October: A Crazy Ivan, a sudden, unexpected and apparently random move totally ad odds with the course laid in by the leadership.

But certainly Russia's foreign policy has turned onto a more assertive course in recent years in what was fuelled by record revenues of oil and gas exports. Its move into Georgia proper, its aggressive stance towards the United States, its reinforced ties with Venezuela and Russia, its now openly stated doctrine that it will protect its citizens in foreign countries by force if necessary and last not least unproductive role in the Iranian nuclear dispute clearly indicate that Russia wants to regain strategic losses suffered after the end of the Cold War. It is, however, set on a course bound to fail, because of two major, and intertwined miscalculations:

- First, it appears that Russian foreign policy makers seem to believe that since the country lost its status as a world power virtually over night, it should be as easy to regain that status, which is why Russia often employs means that might enforce its stance in the short-run but seriously harm its interests over the long-run. It might also explain why Russia choose the military card in Georgia, because the military would be able to yield gains in the short term; diplomatic channels would have required patience that the Kremlin apparently lacks on its way to reassert what it thinks is its historic destiny.

- Second, it appears that Russian foreign policy is also driven by the fear that relying on diplomacy and other long term means would widen the gap between the United States and Russia. The gap, however, widens as new major players like China and India carefully maneuvre themselves in the midst of the United States and Russia, which leaves Russia no longer as second among equals, but as one of a couple of major players. This perception gains momentum as other states, such as Brazil, are closing in on Russia and seem to be willing to take on leading roles in their respective environments, too.

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