ROAR: “In 2009, Russia, West started to normalize relations”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Analysts and the media are summing up the results of the Russian foreign policy in 2009.

Most of them describe the resetting of Russian-US relations, the resumption of military cooperation between Moscow and NATO, and Russia’s stepping up cooperation with its partners on the post-Soviet space as dominating issues of the year.

Russia’s foreign policy, as in previous years, has been dependent on overall international atmosphere, which was influenced by global economic crisis, said Maksim Minaev of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

In these conditions, Russia counted on “the model of mobile behavior” with “a balance between continuity and novelty,” he said. Innovations in national foreign policy helped the country to start fulfilling “tactical offensive tasks on the international arena,” he stressed.

As a result, the reaction to external challenges “partly played supporting role to Russia’s own initiatives,” Minaev said. Moscow has finally confirmed its role as one of the key elements of multi-polar international relations that are being formed now, he added.

However, online newspaper Gazeta.ru believes that Russia’s foreign policy was not so active and “was rather a reaction to initiatives of other leading world players.” Nevertheless, the result of this policy was rather positive because “the year has passed under the sign of normalizing relations between Russia and the West,” Gazeta.ru said.

At the same time, the reset of relations between Moscow and Washington “began to work only in the Afghan direction” and the new treaty on arms reduction has not been signed, the website noted. But it would be even worse to approve “unfinished treaty,” Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, told the website.

Lukyanov believes that in 2009, relations between the two countries have improved significantly “at the level of rhetoric,” but there are few concrete results.

However, Washington has scrapped its plans to deploy elements of missile defense in Eastern Europe, and Russia “has demonstrated its drift towards a tougher approach to Tehran. Still, Russia has to decide who to side with, Lukyanov believes. “Any concrete sanctions against Iran are a threat to a number of Russia’s pragmatic interests,” he said.

Gazeta.ru also doubts that Russia could achieve many results in the European direction. “Europe did not demonstrate any signs of determined rapprochement,” the paper said. The West in fact refused to discuss Moscow’s conception of European security, it added.

“Europeans may understand that the security architecture may need reforming, but that does not mean that Moscow’s plan will become a basis for this,” the paper noted.

The Russian leadership proposed the rebuilding of the European security architecture, Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper said, adding that “Washington has taken this as Moscow’s claims to an excessive role in European affairs.” NATO has reacted “in a similar way, demonstrating that the European political elite is not ready for a clear understanding of the idea floated by the Kremlin,” the paper added.

Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center described the present relations between Russia and the European Union as “stagnant,” but stressed that “it is positive stagnation.”

Vyacheslav Nikonov, executive director the Russian World foundation, believes that the most important events of the international politics concerned the US policies and Russian-US relations.

“A year ago it seemed that the idea of arms reduction was doomed to demise, but now it looks completely different,” Nikonov told Actualcomment.ru. “The most important agreement is closing to the signing and resetting Russian-US relations is under way,” he said. “Americans are not speeding up plans for creating a missile defense system and NATO enlargement, which were considered resolved issues only a year ago,” the analyst added.

Among the most negative events Nikonov mentioned were US military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, stressing that the wars are leading to “long-term destabilization of the region, which will present a threat to the security of some countries including Russia.”

During 2009, Moscow and Washington were trying to reset their relations to leave “regress on all directions” behind, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said. The bilateral presidential commission on cooperation was created and the talks on the new arms reduction treaty started, it added.

Diplomats failed to complete their work by the end of year, but the talks on the treaty will resume in January and will not take much time, the paper said. “This was not the only achievement in the bilateral relations,” the daily said.

“The parties are continuing consultations on missile defense,” the paper added. “The issue of the transit of military cargoes via Russia has been solved. Against a background of improved Russian-US relations contacts between Russia and NATO have been normalized.”

“All this gives hope that the reset will bring concrete results in the coming year and will become one of the factors of overall improvement of international relations,” the paper said.

Vladimir Anokhin, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said this year was not the easiest for Russia, but it was not the most difficult either. “It has brought positive and negative results, Anokhin told Actualcomment.ru.

Among positive events he mentioned improving relations with Western Europe. “At the same time, I cannot say that our relations with the United States have turned for the better,” he said.

“The hopes that were pinned on improving relations after Barack Obama was elected president have disappeared,” the analyst stressed. “In fact, if you compare words and deeds, we are still at the situation that existed under President George Bush,” he said.

Anokhin believes that Russia may become “the unsuccessful party” in the talks with the US on a new strategic arms reduction treaty. Moreover, this document should concern all nuclear powers and “all arsenals should be reduced in a proportional way,” he stressed.

The analyst said there were no “decisive victories for Russia in 2009.” At the same time, Moscow had more contacts with Latin American countries, “whose policies depend on their leaders,” he noted, referring to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

He also believes that there has been no breakthrough on the post-Soviet space, adding that questions remain about the fate of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia’s main ally, Belarus, is pursuing inconsistent policy and it is not clear “if we are friends or not,” he noted.

“So if you look at the perimeter of our state, I think, we have the calmest relations with Western Europe, they are based on economy and one can expect positive results here,” he said.

Many analysts describe the creation of the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, as well as the establishment of the rapid reaction force of the CSTO as the most important event of Russia’s foreign policy of the year.

“In the passing year Russia for the first time in recent years began to resume integration processes, but they were not based on the Commonwealth of Independent States that officially lost Georgia, but on the structures parallel to the CIS,” Gazeta.ru said. Moscow preferred to turn the CSTO, “the virtual club of Russia’s friends, into a working military and political structure,” Lukyanov stressed.

The treaty on the creation of rapid reaction force was signed in June, but analysts believe its future will mainly depend on the desire of Russian partners “to play by the rules.” The same is true for the Custom Union which may become a foundation for further integration within the CIS, analysts say.

Sergey Borisov, RT