The problem of Russian diplomacy, especially in the Middle East, is its ability to take the lead. Russia’s foreign policy is a very interesting area where one can observe the real ideological divergence between Russia, on the one hand, and Europe and the U.S., on the other.
Having participated in the Valdai Index poll, Thomas Gomart, Director of the Russia/ Newly Independent States Centre at IFRI (French Institute of International Relations) generalized the results of the research by extending the scope of long-distance view to the decade and shared it with the valdaiclub.com .
Since December 2011 there is a real convergence between the perception of President Vladimir Putin and the perception of Russia, especially, in the Western media.
That leads to several comments. The first is the feeling that there is now a new, much more concentrated power in the Kremlin, and that to some extent leads to the question about the very difficult challenge for Russia to build balanced institutions. And there is the perception that, on this particular point, Russia has not made progress. And this is the main area of concern as seen from outside.
Second, on the Russian economy, there is the perception that Russia has made tremendous progress over the last decade, achieving dramatic growth, in terms of macroeconomic stability but this perception is very often focused on energy rents, and in this case it is related to the first point. The fact that Russian economy is so dependent on energy rents explains the inability to set up properly balanced institutions.
That leads to the third point, which is much more ideological one. Russia’s diplomacy now is much more active and assertive than it was ten years ago. The problem of Russian diplomacy, especially in the Middle East, is its ability to take the lead. Russian diplomacy is still based on reaction to the policies of other countries; it's very good at avoiding or opposing positions, but not very good at initiating or resolving problems. Still, Russia’s foreign policy is a very interesting area where one can observe the real ideological divergence between Russia, on the one hand, and Europe and the U.S., on the other. This feeling of assertiveness on the part of Russia in international affairs comes from the Russian impression that the West, and especially Europe, is seriously declining.
And the last point, which is also of real concern, as seen from outside is about the direction being taken by Russia. Obviously there was some progress during the last decade, but there are serious questions about the abilities of the current leadership -- because of the lack of institutions -- not to be deadlocked, in terms of its own developments in the coming two or three or four years.