The outgoing year confirmed the commitment of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his longtime foreign policy credo: ready to develop relations always and with everyone – both in the West and in the East, but never to the detriment of Russian national interests. Obviously, these same plants, the country will be in the New year and will live there until at least may – the inauguration of the next Russian President. In future foreign policy of the Russian Federation or undergo adjustments, since a number declared their intention to compete for the presidency profess different views on the current picture of the world, or in the case of Putin’s victory in the elections – will remain unchanged.
At the opening of the monument to Alexander III in the Crimea last November, the Russian leader recalled the words of Sergei Witte, that the Tsar-peacemaker gave Russia the world “is not a concession but a fair and unshakable firmness”. The objective of the current authorities, according to Putin, too, is to conduct such internal and external policies, “to anybody in a head did not even come” to attack Russia. The whole 2017 Moscow, as before, does not bend under increasing sanctions, but in some areas – for example, in middle Eastern Affairs – increased your weight and have reinforced positions.
This year Putin has made 20 foreign visits, including twice visited Hungary, Turkey, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, in Europe, Putin took in France, Finland and Germany (at the summit of “twenty” in Hamburg). From CIS countries the President of Russia was in Belarus, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In the middle East – in Egypt, Iran and Syria. For the APEC summit Putin came to Vietnam. A year earlier, Putin made 19 visits abroad in 2015 – half a dozen, about the same as it was, for example, in 2013, before sanctions. Foreign policy activity of the Russian leader if tends to increase, so the attempts of any isolation of Russia, no one remembers.
A small victorious operation
The main and absolute success of the Russian leader on the international stage in recent years – the salvation of Syria. So, in a nutshell, without quotation marks, parentheses, and clarifying footnotes. And then to analyze this story in layers.
The first layer – the fight against terrorism than primarily explained Putin his decision to get videoconferencing in the RAA in the fall of 2015. In particular, the fight against homegrown terrorists overseas, the massacre in the Syrian Sands of all those who might come under black banners home to the North Caucasus and in other regions of Russia. “What would happen if these hundreds of thousands [of militants] came back to us trained, armed, well-trained?” – said the head of state, summing up the military campaign.
The second component of the operation videoconferencing – support the legitimate authorities in a friendly country, where from the Soviet era exist only in the Mediterranean, the point of basing the Russian Navy in Tartus. The third layer is the assistance in preservation of the territorial integrity of a large secular state in the middle East, which has already predicted the fate of the unfortunate Libya and the other victims of the Arab spring and the violent “democratisation”. But Moscow has helped Damascus to confuse those who already were going to divide the “Syrian heritage”.
Following the meeting of Putin and trump waited at the APEC summit in Vietnam in November, but real negotiations did not take place, according to the official version – due to different schedules. The presidents talked on her feet, even managed to issue a joint statement on Syria, but it is obvious that full-fledged dialogue with his Russian counterpart the American President is now simply no internal resource. The nearest major international event on which Russian President (whoever that may become next year) and the President of the United States can overlap – a meeting of G20 leaders will likely be held only in the second half of 2018. Prepare for a bilateral summit currently not maintained, and perhaps that will change in the near future.
And the degradation of relations continued. Another link of the new “McCarthyism” in the United States was the inclusion of the Russian media, RT, and Sputnik in the U.S. registered as foreign agents list. Russia again had to answer, and Putin soon put the signature under the law on mass media-registered as a foreign agent. Then the US allowed the delivery of lethal weapons to Ukraine, which did not, despite persistent rumors that the Obama administration. Published in December of the new Strategy of national security of the US Russia was, however, derived from one of row with North Korea and Iran and “upgraded” to a “revisionist power” on a par with China. Putin, however, described the American document as offensive or even aggressive, stressing that Russia will consider it “in practice” in the field of defense.
The next act in Russian-American relations are expected to become the new sanctions in late January and February, which is forecast to affect the foreign assets of Russian big business. Putin is playing ahead of the curve, has already announced several initiatives in order to return to Russian jurisdiction of capital, which may fall under the restrictions. Will the Americans on more serious measures and the outcome of anti-Russian hysteria in the US, time will tell, Russia here we can only wait and react.
A glimmer of hope for a normalization of relations of Moscow and Washington can be considered the interaction between the two countries in the fight against terrorism, a clear manifestation of which in December was the transfer of the American party data, allowing to prevent the attacks in Saint-Petersburg. Putin then called Trump and thanked the CIA that in the current situation looks particularly dignified. If and when it is where to start the restoration of relations, it is a good base.
Ukraine: no major twists and turns
The Ukrainian crisis is sometimes cited as the root causes of the current foreign policy problems of Russia, but the Kremlin is a different view. Yes, because of the events in the Ukraine against Russia were imposed the first sanctions, but the contradictions between Moscow and generalized the West about the role and place of Russia in the current geopolitical map ripened for a long time. “It would not be the Crimea, there would be other problems – would come up with something else to deter Russia”, – said Putin.
The Minsk agreement, which will soon turn three years has not yet brought peace in the Donbass, where on the line of contact continue to periodically kill people. New on the Ukrainian track in 2017 was the discussion of Putin’s proposals on security of the UN mission. The discussion, however, to no avail. The Russian President said that Moscow is not against to deliver the Donbas under international control, but that Kiev should negotiate directly with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk national republics. Ukrainian authorities do not want such a dialogue, as do other points “Minsk-2”, feeling the support of Western countries.
Putin, in turn, emphasized that to shift the responsibility for the execution of the Minsk agreements on Russia will not work. He called on the West to influence on authorities in Kiev, “that they had taken at least some steps toward normalization” of the situation. According to him, the closure of Russia’s border with the DPR and LPR to provide the Donbass special status and Amnesty will lead to massacres like Srebrenica. “We will never permit this”, – Putin said.
That is, the ball is on the side of Kiev and its patrons, whose attitude to the peaceful solution of the problem (unless it implies the actual surrender of opponents) is far from obvious. For Western countries the situation around Ukraine is just one of the issues on the agenda, though unpleasant. For Russia, however, due to numerous cultural, historical, and just family ties, smoldering conflict in Ukraine is like a living wound. “We were first separated, and then was vented. We have finally come to the realization that is beneficial for Ukraine and Russia, and that is counterproductive”, – stressed Putin, who has repeatedly said he believes Russians and Ukrainians are basically one people.
The situation is out in 2018 from almost the same point, which was a year earlier. There are, of course, and positive changes. Thanks to the assistance of Putin and the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill at the end of December the parties of the conflict managed to conduct a large-scale exchange of prisoners. And even then, not yet “all in all”, as recorded in the text “Minsk-2”.
But there are negative trends. For example, because of the constant interference from the Ukrainian side, Russia withdrew its officers from the Joint center for control and coordination of ceasefire (SCCC) in the Donbass. The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko immediately offered to enter into this framework by the representatives of France and Germany, but soon received a bucket of cold water even from its partners: Washington, Paris and Berlin called for the return of the Russians in SCCC. Putin made it clear that this is only possible in case of ensuring normal working conditions for officers of the armed forces.
Another event with a minus sign – the U.S. decision to supply lethal weapons Ukraine. Putin previously, when this option was discussed only, underscored that such a move will not benefit the peace, but will only exacerbate the situation, will lead to an increase in the number of victims. “If U.S. weapons will be supplied to the conflict zone, it is difficult to say how you will react to the self-proclaimed Republic, they can send in their firearms in other conflict zones,” – said, in particular, the President of the Russian Federation.
The Korean question
Obviously, on the agenda in the coming year will remain and the settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, which has escalated in the last year in connection with the activation of the nuclear missile program of the DPRK and regular tests by Pyongyang’s missiles.
As noted in an interview with TASS the head of Committee on Northern economic cooperation and key policies in the administration of the President of South Korea, in charge of relations with Russia, song Yong Gil, Putin can play a leading role in resolving the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Putin’s position on this issue is consistent and well known, and it is unlikely it will undergo changes: “Russia condemns the [nuclear missile] exercise with North Korea, we believe that they are provocative”. However, as noted by the President of the Russian Federation, Plenum of war rhetoric in this situation is not just a dead-end and destructive. “All parties should exercise restraint and seek a peaceful solution,” – said Putin, explaining that the DPRK will abandon its nuclear program, only if it is to feel safe.
So Putin lays part of the responsibility for the decision of this question at the USA and their allies. Americans, in turn, on the contrary, say that he would like more participation of Russia in resolving the North Korean problem. A certain piquancy is the fact that these same denizens of a shining city on a hill, are putting our country on a par with North Korea and introduced against Russia sanctions. “This is out of common sense,” – commented on the absurdity in American foreign policy Putin. The Russian leader stressed that Russia was trying “not to pout and not to be offended”, and to solve problems in the field of international security without regard to the current political situation.
It is clear, however, that the development of the situation largely depends on Putin, and not even trump, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-UN, who has repeatedly surprised the world with a kind of answers to new sanctions. Therefore, the forecast for 2018 remains to some extent open.
O sport, you – …what?
Special attention to the North Korean problem is associated with one of the main events in the world of sport in the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, located near the border of the two Koreas. But while other countries talked about how to safely go to the Games, Russia had to deal with another matter.
Received on the IOC decision to suspend the country from the Olympics Putin hypothetically there were a few answers, some of which would have pleased “Jingo”. But it stalled on the most fair to the athletes and sports fans: making criticism of the position of the IOC, the Russian leader did not declare a boycott of the Games and left the decision to participate in them Russians under a neutral flag for themselves Olympians.
In the end, the Russians at the Olympics is still going, and the Russian audience will be able to empathize with the performances of the olympic athletes from Russia. It just so happened that from all sides of this story, Russia is the only one who acted in accordance with the principle of “sport above politics”. The same policies of the South Korean song young-Gil expressed the hope that Putin will be able to visit the Olympic games in Pyeongchang, however in the Kremlin about such plans is not reported, and could hardly expect that the Russian leader will take such a decision.
Another major sporting event in 2018 – the world championship on football in Russia. Putin has assured that the country will hold these competitions at the highest level that they become a real celebration of sport, the values of which “beyond any current situation.”
The European direction
As in the case of the US, any breakthrough in relations with the United Europe, Russia did not happen and the European Union in December once again extended sanctions against Russia. However, some positive aspects do exist. So, if in October 2016, Putin’s visit to France was thwarted – in fact, because of the unwillingness of then-President Francois Hollande to adopt Russian counterpart at the appropriate level, with the election of Emmanuel Macron, a bilateral meeting of leaders on French soil is not long in coming, and at the end of may the new President of the Fifth Republic was adopted by Putin in Versailles.
At the level of presidents and confirmed by the friendship between Russia and Serbia, which itself in the recent past felt the brunt of the situation disagree with the unipolar structure of the world.
Continued positive contacts at the highest level with EU countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, came to Russia President of Germany, Moscow for the first time in five years, visited foreign Minister of the United Kingdom. This, of course, not like thaw, but at least it shows the willingness of Europe to dialogue with Russia. Positive can be called also publicly expressed opposition to a number of European politicians of the United States attempts to limit the energy cooperation between the EU and Russia. Remain, however, and difficulties, not necessarily even related to the Ukrainian question. So, the Russian side are constantly faced unproven accusations of interference in internal Affairs and elections in the European countries and regions up to Catalonia.
Putin has always stressed that Russia is ready for dialogue with foreign partners, in spite of any limitations. We can expect that in 2018 this dialogue with Europe will continue. So, at the end of January is scheduled to visit Russia, Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel.
East and oil
In early October on the way from Vnukovo airport to Moscow there were posters with a greeting to the custodian of two Islamic Holy mosques, king of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud. More recently, to imagine a visit to Russia, the Saudi monarch was not easy, but Putin has shown his ability to build bridges, despite all the contradictions of the two countries (including fresh – Syria) and the allies of Riyadh and Washington.
Following the talks in Moscow the President of Russia and the king of Saudi Arabia agreed to bring bilateral relations to a new level. One example of a coordinated and mutually beneficial policy of the two countries in recent years – the decision to freeze the level of oil production. First, the agreement of the Alliance OPEC+ was reached at the end of 2016, has shown its efficiency and has been extended until April 2018.
Russia in the past year to develop its relations with other countries in the region, including Turkey and Iran. Creating in Syria the conditions for the transition to a political settlement was largely the result of joint efforts of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, which is called the “Olympic trio” (venue of the peace talks on Syria Russian President with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in November).
Activity in this direction has not prevented intense contacts with Putin, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the linkages with the Saudis has not prevented the development of Russia’s relations with Qatar and Iran, and Vice versa. All this, of course, talking about a fair amount of diplomatic skill of the Russian leadership, which he will have to demonstrate.
Asia-Pacific policy and other areas of cooperation
Under Putin, the current Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, whose political power has again secured the trust of voters in the elections in October, considerably intensified discussion of the parameters of a peace Treaty between the two countries, the conclusion of which the Japanese side is linked to the decision on the status of the “four Northern Islands” (southern part of Russian Kuril Islands). Putin visited Japan in December 2016, Abe in 2017, twice visited in Russia, the leaders also met on the summits of “twenty” in Germany and the APEC summit in Vietnam, said repeatedly on the phone. The parties first decide on the joint Japanese-Russian economic activities on the Kuril Islands, on the implementation of a number of projects in the sphere of economy proposed by the head of the Japanese government; and has earned the program of visa-free visits to the Kuril Islands, including closed areas, former residents of these Islands from Japan. In 2018 will be the Year of culture of Russia and Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister announced the intention to continue active development of relations with Russia in various fields. Putin has no problem with that, it is up to the development of relations with those who are ready to develop them. The Russian leader stressed that the preparation of a peace Treaty – it’s a big job, which can be calculated for one year. “We have to see what commitments Japan has with its partners in the field of security (that is, primarily the United States – approx. TASS), what it can and what it cannot do for itself”, – said Putin.
Among the main partners of Russia on the world stage in the past year, as before, were China and the CIS countries, including members of the Eurasian economic Union (EEU). Among the projects, which Putin has consistently expressed support, remains the idea of matching Chinese silk road and the Eurasian economic Union and the creation of Russia a great Eurasian partnership.
These and many other issues, will be left in the foreign policy agenda of the Russian leader in 2018. What will be the result, is difficult to say. Moreover, Russia will go through presidential elections.