I generally don’t cross post my published articles in my blog, but this is different. In the backdrop the warning of the Russian Ambassador to NATO on the Libya intervention, I had a candid, serious conversation with Lisa Karpova, columnist and correspondent for Pravda, on Russia’s foreign policy, the ongoing Libya crisis, BRICS, Kuril island disputes, and I tho’t I must share that here. This piece is also published in The-Latest, and Pravda itself.
2008 was a watershed year in Russia’s history. After nearly two decades of almost non-recognition, lost media propaganda battle and foreign policy neglect, the World suddenly saw a newly assertive Russia during the South Ossetia – Georgia Crisis. Opinions started pouring in, with some congratulations from traditional allies, and mostly skepticism from the World press. So what has really changed?
I was delighted to chat with Lisa Karpova, Correspondent and Columnist of Pravda, who gives us her views on the situation, and clears the notions about Russia’s foreign policy and goals.
1. We see a lot of change in the recent days. The recent allocation of funds for the massive rearmament programs including state of art missile technologies, the assertive foreign policy and posturing, the reconsolidation procedure with the traditional sphere of influence, and the aggressive rhetoric. What has really changed in the last few years that influenced this makeover of image?
I am not sure why you think there is aggressive rhetoric coming from Russia. I would say quite the contrary, Russia has endeavoured to maintain friendly cooperation with all, utilising dialogue, debate and disscussion, focusing on international law and a multilateralist approach. The modernization of Russia’s armed forces has been an ongoing project and naturally recent events have demonstrated that one cannot be caught without adequate defences.
Also using the UNSC as the proper forum for the above mentioned debate.
Russia is sure of itself and knows where she is going after a decade of instability due to political and economic crises.
2. Is it or will it hamper the “reset” with USA? Or is there at all a possibility of the “Reset”?
Russia has always been willing for resets and has excellent relations with her partners in the international community. It is not Russia that goes around attacking people outside of the auspices of the UN, nor does Russia engage in bullying, blackmail and coercion on UN members.
Russia will certainly keep the door open for dialogue expecting that the US will adopt a multilateralist approach…something Washington seems to have already realised. It should be obvious that Russia has kept on track with on the reset path.
3. What are the major policy goals for Russia regarding its foreign policy and European Union, in the near future?
Continuation of Russia’s policy of debate, dialogue and discussion, as well as “resets” as mentioned before. Also WTO membership on terms which are not disfavourable to Russia.
Russia’s accession has taken a long time — roughly 17 years. Russia’s major concerns have been copyright and intellectual property rights protection.
Regarding the European Union, strengthening of commercial ties and good neighbourly relations. Russia seeks to constantly mend, repair and reshape relations which are strained. For example, with Poland, things were more tense in the past than they are now.
Certain issues remain with the Baltic States, but the tensions come from outside Russia, not within. Moscow always sought good relations with its neighbours and partners.
4. We saw a lot of Russian opposition with Iraq, and recently with Libya. But we never saw that much expected VETO. Is this incoherence or policy of pragmatic engagement with some reasoning behind this? Is this difference of posture and act creating problem of credibility? Do we see more engagement with the Middle East in the future?
Yes, well President Medvedev didn’t want the impression given that the country was not doing something to save civilian lives, that was the reasoning behind the failure to veto the Resolution.
Russia is part of the Middle East Quartet and maintains very active relations. Talks were held Thursday between Netanyahu and Medvedev.
5. We see Russian dispute with Japan. But the World is not much aware of Russian policies with other East Asian states like North Korea, and Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailan. What are Russian plans for re-engagement with the East Asian countries? Also is there any plan for re-engagement with India and China?
Yes, there is a dispute regarding the Kuril Islands. It is necessary that Japan recognise political realities. Strange for you to say re-engagement when there was never a disengagement. Russia is part of BRIC which means there are ongoing relations and China is also part of SCO with Russia.
6. Obviously the question that comes, global terrorism. What is Russia’s position on Afghanistan-Pakistan, and Chechnya?
There is a people supported government in Chechnya, 85 percent of Chechens voted to remain part of Russia. There is a terrorism/insurgent problem in the Caucasus that crops up due to outside interference and certain groups wanting to establish an Islamic caliphate over the entire region. Such activities are being dealt with in the most effective manner possible.
Russia has been a partner in the war against terrorism, gave information and advice about dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Russia believes that force and violence are not the answer, but dialogue and discussion.
7. The recent spat between the Prime Minister and President was well played over in the media. Is there really ego clash between Vladimir Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev?
It was not a spat and the following day President Medvedev was quick to stress the fact that the tandem is working better than ever. It was a difference of opinion over the handling of the UNSC vote on Libya.