European dimension of Russia's economic policy is absolutely critical, though Russia will definitely try to become not just a European or Eurasian power but a Euro-Pacific power. Which means Russia is also a part of the fastest growing part of the world, which is Asia Pacific.
On February 27 Prime Minister Vladimir Putin published his most recent article on his vision of the Russian foreign policy. “Russia and the Changing World,”published by the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper offers a detailed analysis of the current international trends and Russia’s stance on the most pressing issues of the global agenda. Vyacheslav Nikonov, Executive Board Director of the Russki Mir Foundation and Dean of the School of Public Administration of the Lomonosov Moscow State University highlighted some of Putin’s proposals in an interview for the Valdaiclub.com.
First of all, why did Putin make practically no mention of his project with the Eurasian Union, his integration project, in his article?
This is not Vladmir Putin's first election campaign article and he already paid much attention to that project in his economics article, where he outlined the Russian viewpoint of the Customs Union. It's more about customs, about common economic space, it's not so much a foreign policy issue, and it’s more a matter of economic policies. If you took an article by any European leader about his or her country's foreign policy, I would not imagine they would be speaking much about their relations with their neighbours. They would rather speak about their relations with the United States, China, Russia and that's the logic behind the reason why Putin did not pay too much attention to that issue. It's not an isolated article, it's rather one in a series of many.
So Putin has also mentioned Russia's economic turn towards the new Asia. Does that mean the Western vector in Russia’s foreign policy is becoming absent?
Of course not. Putin did not say that. Indeed he made some quite critical comments about Western policies but one should bear in mind that almost 60% of Russian foreign trade is with the European Union. And of course it is very important to diversify the economic ties of the Russian Federation and it is also very important, as Putin put it, to “catch the Chinese wind” into Russian sales, which is crucial for almost any country. But as of today this European dimension of Russia's economic policy is absolutely critical, though Russia will definitely try to become not just a European or Eurasian power but a Euro-Pacific power, if I may put it like that. Which means Russia is also a part of the fastest growing part of the world, which is Asia Pacific.
Putin has also harshly criticized the non-governmental organizations. Is it possible that even more pressure will be put on these organizations in Russia and what will it mean for the civil society?
Well in Russia there are hundreds of thousands of NGOs and the vast majority of them are doing useful jobs. That is also true of the Western NGOs working in the Russian Federation. Putin did not criticize the NGOs, he criticized the interference into Russian domestic politics by some of the Western NGOs. Actually I don't think that any country, any sovereign country in the world would tolerate interference in its domestic affairs. Take the United States of America for example. They have something called a foreign agent registration act which actually limits the possibilities of foreign organizations to effectively influence American domestic matters.
Finally, what are the novelties in this article that will be implemented in foreign policy if Putin wins the elections?
Putin is not a newcomer to the Russian political scene, so he doesn't need to provide any novelties. Besides, foreign policy is something which has its own inertia. Though of course there are some new ideas, actually new turns, for example I have never heard anyone in Russian power to use such a word combination as the “Alliance of Europe”, which is actually a new concept concerning the creation of a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok, as he described it. So this idea is quite untrue in today's world when the European economy is not in the best shape. Russia is no longer an economic dwarf; its economy is bigger than those of France or Great Britain. So the interest in such cooperation may increase in the Western European capitals. There is also talk of the return to the old idea of joint Russian-American missile defence, which was first deliberated by Putin back in 2007 and actually initially supported by George Bush Jr., but then a different philosophy took over. So Putin is really proposing a return to the point we were at a few years ago in order to find a game changer in relations with the West.