Russia may change its image in bid to find more allies

G8 leaders pose for a group portrait with (L-R) Russia's Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Italy's prime minister Mario Monti as at the G8 Summit at Camp David, Maryland May 19, 2012. (Reuters/Jason Reed)
The current international situation allows a global shift in influence and alliances and Russia will use a complex mixture of soft and smart force to become an attractive center of power.

This is the main idea expressed at the 20th assembly of Russia’s Council for Foreign and Defence Policy – a large and influential expert body, including top parliamentary and government officials.

All of the participants agreed Russia as a country needs a shift in its foreign policy and that this shift will not happen automatically, but requires a serious and oriented effort. The conference attempted to define the first steps in this direction so the country’s leaders could later come up with a more detailed plan.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defined the current historical period as “a time of change that has developed contrary to all forecasts” and stressed the ongoing adjustment in international relations cancels all traditional models. At the same time, the period allows all nations to form completely new images, work from the blank page, combining the “hard” and “soft” power approaches.

Not all of the rules that are applied to international politics today will be also used in the future, Lavrov also said. “We can expect that in the next 20 years a new world order will be formed,” the minister noted.

Conference members also observed that in modern times the economic competition between nations is being slowly replaced by competition of military force. The situation when several nations are forcing the rest of the world to use their currencies in international transactions and therefore agree to a great deal of control of their economies is disappearing as new powerful economic centers are appearing in the East. Besides, the ongoing period of economic turbulence and uncertainty makes many countries return to a tried and trusted model of military dominance as investing in defense becomes an attractive option when none of the economic assets is seen as stable.

Also, the dependence on nuclear parity of the leading nations is no longer a significant factor, the assembly members said, calling Russian authorities to pay more attention to development of conventional weapons and forces.

Another question raised by the head of Russia’s International Cooperation Agency was that the economic and military strength was no longer enough for Russia to become an attractive international leader. To do this society must answer the question why is it accumulating the force and resources, how they should be used, and this depends on the moral and cultural values recognized by the nation, Konstantin Kosachev stressed. Modern Russia has a new identity formed after the Soviet Period and the country still has time and opportunity to make this new identity attractive to foreign allies. “Real Russia is better than its image,” the Russian official noted.