The Diplomatic Wisdom of Prime Minister Putin

Unlike Western politicians, Putin does not perceive the development of China as a strategic threat. He clearly states that Chinese economic growth is not a threat to Russia, but rather, that Russia perceives this as a challenge with a huge potential for mutually beneficial cooperation.

On February 27, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin published a policy article in The Moscow News newspaper. His article laid out Russia's foreign policy and the prime minister’s take on international affairs. It also clarified Putin’s main opinions of the Arab Spring, the Iranian nuclear problem, relations between Russia and China and Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The following is a distillation of Putin’s position on foreign affairs in the lead-up to presidential elections in Russia. The article is quite topical and important for those wishing to gain an insight into Putin’s opinions on foreign policy issues.

The starting point of Russia's foreign policy

Putin has noted that Russia will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy in the future. It is impossible to guarantee global security without cooperation with Russia. Russia, as a constituent part of the world, it does not wish to be and cannot be isolated. Russia must proceed from its own interests and goals, rather than decisions dictated by someone else.

Consequently, Putin underscores the main goal of Russia’s foreign policy, namely, joint security, preventing confrontation, an active response to nuclear proliferation, regional clashes and crises, terrorism, etc. Naturally, Putin also emphasized the fact that Russia must acquire the latest knowhow in science and technology, and that Russian businessmen must obtain a well-deserved place on the international market.

Putin noted that Russia’s foreign policy contains a strategic goal reflecting Russia’s unique place on the international scene and its historical role in the development of civilization. It should be noted that, on the one hand, Russia aims at maintaining a fair and equitable world order, and on the other, it opposes one-sided and unilateral approaches and a policy of force in international affairs.

Putin assessed the Arab Spring, expressing his concern over it. First, he noted the influence of modern communications systems on international politics and public opinion. He believes that this is a new factor because the Internet, social networks, cell phone communication and television have long since turned into effective instruments of domestic and international politics. In further promoting the unique freedom of communication online, Putin called for efforts to minimize the opportunity for terrorists and criminals to use the Internet.

Second, Putin criticized the involvement of Western countries in the domestic affairs of other states by using “soft power.” He believes that the so-called “soft power” is a system of instruments and methods for attaining foreign policy goals without using weapons, but rather through the use of information and other forms of leverage. Putin noted that it is essential to clearly discern between freedom of speech and normal political activity and the use of illegal instruments of soft power. This is quite correct because soft power should not become an instrument with which to interfere in other countries’ affairs. Third, Putin opposed the involvement of non-government organizations (NGOs) in the domestic affairs of other states.

Putin noted clearly that a Libya-style scenario cannot be repeated in Syria. He laid out Russia’s stance, stating that the international community’s efforts must be directed at preserving peace in Syria and ending violence as soon as possible with due respect for Syrian sovereignty. Putin wrote that the prevention of a civil war in Syria is the most important thing. Russia’s foreign policy is guided by this objective. It should be noted that Russia voices a clear, principled and fair stance on Syria.

On Chinese-Russian relations

Prime Minister Putin noted that both countries require stability and further development. Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, while China needs a powerful and successful Russia. This opinion speaks to the essence and the significance of the two countries' bilateral strategic partnership. This conclusion, which abounds in philosophical wisdom, reflects the interconnected strategic interests of China and Russia.

Prime Minister Putin believes that China is a highly important global economic center, and that it plays an important role in international affairs. As the country continues to develop, how does Prime Minister Putin feel about China as a neighbor? It can be concluded that Prime Minister Putin has a quite active and constructive opinion of China.

First, unlike Western politicians, Putin does not perceive the development of China as a strategic threat. He clearly states that Chinese economic growth is not a threat to Russia, but rather, that Russia perceives this as a challenge with a huge potential for mutually beneficial cooperation. Putin stresses that China and Russia should more actively expand their cooperation by combining the technological and production capacities of both countries. China's potential should be used prudently to facilitate the economic recovery of Siberia and Russia’s Far East. This is a promising strategic concept.

The Chinese Government is striving to revive the old industrial production facilities in northeastern China and has published a series of corresponding strategic concepts. The need for the economic development of Siberia and Russia’s Far East coincides with the strategic requirement for the economic development of northeastern China. Cooperation between these regions meets the strategic interests and requirements of both countries.

Second, Prime Minister Putin has correctly assessed the role of China in international affairs. Indeed, China does not claim the right to global domination. At the outset of the 21st century, China and Russia are continuing to expand their increasingly intensive cooperation. China and Russia jointly advocate for the formation of a just world order. Both countries have a common strategic perception on a number of international issues. China and Russia support each other on the international scene, jointly address acute local and global issues and expand their cooperation in the UN, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the G20 and other multilateral mechanisms. All this reflects the essence of strategic cooperation and partnership in Chinese-Russian relations.

Third, Prime Minister Putin noted that China and Russia have settled all political issues. Strategic mutual trust between both countries is reaching a new level. The current model of Russian-Chinese relations is quite promising.

However, all this is not to say that China and Russia lack problems in their relations. Putin pointed out that there are several problems that the governments of both countries need to address during expanded bilateral cooperation.
Russia’s accession to the WTO is a highly important issue. Not only does it create additional incentives for Russia’s subsequent economic development, it also plays an active role in expediting Russian-Chinese economic cooperation. After Russia’s joining the WTO, both countries will be able to expand their trade and economic cooperation in line with the WTO format and regulations. At the same time, China should pay serious attention to Russia’s strategic concepts regarding the development of economic diplomacy, and to underscore Russia’s highly important role as a bridge on the Eurasian economic space. China should more actively cooperate with Russia, expand strategic bilateral cooperation in regional organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, and make a contribution to the preservation of stability and to facilitate economic development in the Eurasian region.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.