In an appearance before Russia’s influential Foreign and Defense Policy Council earlier this week, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov elaborated on several of the fundamental principles currently underlying Russia’s activities on the international stage. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, Segodnya, March 17) According to a summary of Primakov’s remarks published by Nezavisimaya gazeta, the foreign minister opened with the observation that Russia’s current economic and military weakness in no way negates the need for Moscow to implement foreign policies that are both vigorous and global in scope. He listed five essential goals of Russian foreign policy:
— the preservation of Russia’s territorial integrity
— gradual integration into the world economy as an equal member
— resistance to international efforts aimed at thwarting CIS integration
— facilitating industrial restructuring mainly through arms exports
— expanding Russian capital abroad
This listing of priorities is revealing and not entirely expected. Mention of preserving Russia’s territorial integrity, for example, appears on the top of the list just as Moscow is set to enter into talks with Japan on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. A recent upturn in relations with Tokyo has clearly buoyed Russian foreign policymakers. The Kremlin seems determined to press for improved political and, especially, economic ties with Japan. There is little indication, however, that Moscow is prepared to make the sort of substantive concessions on the islands that Tokyo is sure to seek in return for such cooperation. As Nezavisimaya gazeta observed, Moscow fears making concessions on the Kurils in part because that could open up a host of other territorial issues, including the status of Russia’s Kaliningrad region.
The high priority accorded Russian arms exports is also noteworthy. Coming on the heels of a major reorganization of Russia’s arms export bureaucracy (see Monitor, March 17), it suggests that Russia will intensify what have already been aggressive efforts to find new markets abroad for Russian weaponry. Those efforts, which have in some cases ruffled feathers in Washington, are also likely to be redoubled because of a fall in Russian arms exports from 1996 to 1997.
Finally, Primakov’s mention of CIS integration would seem to underscore once again the Kremlin’s determination to maintain the territory of the former Soviet Union as a Russian sphere of influence. In that context, Moscow has protested plans to integrate former Soviet states into NATO. It has also bemoaned the growing influence of the West — and especially the United States — around Russia’s periphery. It has also attempted to discourage the development of regional groupings that tie former Soviet states to neighboring countries other than Russia.
…Looks to Counter-Balance United States.