Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 164

In a development little noted by the Western press last week, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov presided over a small ceremony in which he presented to the public a new book–“The New Russian Diplomacy: Ten Years of the Country’s Foreign Policy”–he himself had written. Those on the guest list for the presentation ceremony included Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, State Duma Deputy Speaker (and a former ambassador to the United States) Vladimir Lukin and Ivanov’s predecessor and one-time mentor in the Foreign Ministry, Yevgeny Primakov.

While the book is not likely to show up on any bestseller list, and, based on initial reports, offers little new or original with respect to Russian foreign policymaking, its publication may yet be of some significance. For one thing, it may suppress, at least for the time being, intermittent rumors suggesting that Ivanov’s days as foreign minister might be numbered. In much the same vein, it could give some weight to a minister who has often been seen since his September 1998 appointment as less a maker of foreign policy than as an administrator-bureaucrat charged with executing policies devised largely by others in the Kremlin.

Indeed, Ivanov has never had the sort of independent political base that Primakov brought to the post, and his influence in the foreign policy sphere has frequently seemed eclipsed by other governmental actors. These have included the Defense Ministry, which appeared to have the Kremlin’s ear and whose leadership embarrassed Ivanov in June of 1999 when Russian paratroopers unexpectedly seized the Slatina airport near Kosovo’s capital city of Pristina. More recently, Ivanov has often appeared to be playing second fiddle to former Security Council Secretary and current Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (no relation). In part because of his relative political weakness, moreover, Ivanov has never seemed up to fully assuming responsibilities set out in an earlier decree by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin that conferred on his ministry a “coordinating role” in the implementation of Russian foreign policy. That Ivanov’s book will now apparently be used in the training of young Russian diplomats does not mean that he has suddenly emerged as a powerful player in the policymaking arena, but does at least suggest that his stature within the foreign policy community has been enhanced.

These political considerations aside, Ivanov’s book may also say something about the substance of current Russian foreign policy, or at least about the internal debate that is contributing to its formulation. Most important from the perspective of the Bush administration is its restatement of what have been Moscow’s standard arguments against making compromises on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so as to permit the United States to proceed with the testing and deployment of a national ballistic missile defense system. According to initial Russian and Western reports about Ivanov’s book, the Russian foreign minister again emphasizes the centrality of the ABM treatment to the maintenance of international peace and stability. Indeed, Ivanov reportedly identifies the liquidation of the global nuclear threat as one of the most important international developments of the last half of the twentieth century, and argues that its achievement rests to an important degree on observance of the ABM accord. A unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, Ivanov argues, would place the entire process of nuclear disarmament in question and threaten to destabilize the international security system.

None of this is new, of course. But the appearance of Ivanov’s book at this particular time seems unlikely to have been fully accidental. Its publication comes just as Russian-U.S. consultations on missile defense and the ABM treaty are set to go into high gear, and amid a welter of speculation over whether the Kremlin is in fact prepared to make a deal on missile defense by the time that Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush meet at Bush’s Texas ranch in November. Indeed, an unnamed Bush administration official suggested last week that a breakthrough of sorts may be looming in this area. “I think the Russians accept the inevitability of missile defense and [that] they are looking for some sort of compromise” he was quoted as saying on September 5 (AFP, AP, September 6).

But his remarks appeared to be contradicted the same day by Oleg Chernov, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, who told reporters that there was no chance of Russian and U.S. negotiators working out a mutually agreeable deal by November. In a series of remarks that reportedly surprised Bush administration officials, he also suggested that the United States could proceed with only the limited testing and development allowed under the ABM accord for another year, while the two sides continued their talks. Russian officials have recently also floated rumors, moreover, that the Texas summit may not come off at all because the two sides have made so little progress in their negotiations thus far. The Interfax news agency quoted a Kremlin aide as saying that the November meeting is “absolutely unnecessary” if its purpose is solely to nurture the friendly spirit of the leaders’ June meeting in Slovenia (Washington Post, September 1, 6).

Precisely where Ivanov’s book fits into this pre-summit posturing and maneuvering is unclear, but Russian sources have earlier suggested that on the subjects of missile defense and the ABM Treaty the Russian Foreign Ministry holds hardline views not unlike those of Russia’s military leadership. And if Ivanov’s writings do indeed reflect “official” Russian foreign policy views, as the newspaper Izvestia says they do, then it seems possible that Ivanov’s book is meant at least in part as a defense of the more uncompromising views on the missile defense and treaty issues held by many Russian hardliners. And that could limit the Kremlin’s room for maneuver over the next several months, and make more difficult any move toward compromise that Putin and his closest advisors may have in mind.

Aside from the missile defense issue, it is difficult to identify from initial reports other conclusions and analysis that might be of significance in Ivanov’s book. According to Izvestia, Ivanov appears to rank Russia’s foreign policy priorities–and this listing apparently begins with relations between Russia and the CIS, and proceeds through Russian-European Union relations, to Russian-U.S. ties, to Russian foreign policy in Asia. Among the more interesting policy prescriptions mentioned by news reports is one in which Ivanov urges the EU to adopt a more active role in international diplomacy and to be less dependent on the United States. There is nothing new about that recommendation, however: It dovetails with Moscow’s broader policies of prioritizing improved Russian-EU ties while seeking to fan existing tensions between European governments and the United States. In a separate but related observation, moreover, the newspaper Izvestia also reports that a new deputy foreign minister post has been created under Ivanov, one to be tasked with overseeing issues related to globalization. Aleksei Meshkov has been named to the post, and will apparently focus on analyzing those global tendencies that Izvestia says are having an ever-stronger effect on international relations. Whether Meshkov’s activities will have any substantive impact on Russia’s foreign policy operations remains to be seen (AP, Interfax, September 6; Izvestia, September 9).