Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 15

On July 10, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov presented the text of a long-awaited Foreign Policy Concept. The roughly twenty-page document, which was signed by Putin on June 28 and replaces a 1993 concept paper, is a blueprint of foreign policy goals and priorities ostensibly aimed at guiding Russian policymakers. Its publication completes a process by which the new presidential administration has finalized the drafting of the three key conceptual documents which, in principle, will shape Russian foreign and security policy in the years to come. The first, most important and broadest of these documents was the Concept of National Security (published in January). This was followed in April by the approval of a Russian Military Doctrine. The Russian president, both in his current capacity and in earlier incarnations as Russia’s premier and as secretary of the Security Council, is reported to have had considerable input into the drafting of all three documents. They are thus a formal reflection of the new Putin administration’s efforts to put its own imprint on Russian foreign and defense policies.

Unfortunately, the new Foreign Policy Concept appears to share, along with the other two documents, a blurring of priorities and an absence of conciseness which suggests the document was drafted as much to satisfy a host of different constituencies as to provide a realistic guide to action. Among the most important internal contradictions within the concept is the tension which it exhibits between its underlying notions of Russia as a Great Power and its parallel attempt to recast Russian foreign policy in a more pragmatic and seemingly less ambitious fashion. Thus, in his presentation of the document Ivanov appeared to acknowledge that Russia’s current economic weakness could compel the country to retrench a bit in terms of its international activities. But this hint of moderation was countered by the broader thrust of the document, which depicts Russia as “one of the most influential centers of the modern world” and as the natural leader of an international effort to blunt U.S. global domination.