Russian foreign policy: From ‘new thinking’ to multidirectional strategy

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Abstract


This article is devoted to the description and analysis of the Russian foreign policy as it has evolved from a more pro-Western line after 1991-1992 to a more balanced and nationalistic version by the mid-1990s. In addition, as a part of this article certain projections are made for the future of Russian relations with the West. The author argues that in many ways the foreign policy of the new Russia during the early 1990s was continuation of the Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking.’ Gorbachev had hoped to put the Soviet Union on the path of partnership with the Western alliance through clearing away the military and political baggage of Stalinism-Brezhnevism. This strategy enjoyed full support of the pro-western democratic movement headed by Yeltsin. The Russian democrats saw Western nations as their chief ideological and political allies, and a possible source of economic aid and a model for Russia’s economic development. However, over time, a number of internal and external factors started to influence the original Yeltsin’s strategy. Internally, the failure of ‘shock therapy’ led to the weakening of democrats and strengthening of the communists and nationalists. Furthermore, Yeltsin’s foreign policy became the target of intense criticism. Moreover, as a result of the internal and external influences and specifically the national debates, Russia’s foreign policy was gradually modified. Russia again puts an emphasis on security, and on the strength of its armed forces, and forging strategic partnerships in various parts of the world. In addition, nationalism would be expressed through the protection of the Russian diaspora, the glorification of Russia’s imperial past, and the scaling down the policy of repentance for the misdeeds of the Communist regime. Russia’s great power ambitions could be observed through Russia’s attempt to play pivotal role throughout the former Soviet Union, and a desire to show the Russian flag across the world. Moreover, ideology does not influence Kremlin’s relations with other states anymore, instead economic interests encourage Moscow to restore cooperation with many Third World nations. It can be expected that Russia will continue to compete for predominance with the West in the post-soviet republics and in the field of security and at the same time Russia will promote its partnership with China and other non-Western actors. However, despite these shifts, a multidirectional strategy will likely be preserved.


About the authors

Nadezhda P. Sidorova

Institute of Contemporary International Studies of the Diplomatic Academy. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Author for correspondence.
Email: nadsidorova@mail.ru
53/2, Ostozhenka, Building 1, Moscow, 119021, Russia

Kandidat politicheskikh nauk [Ph.D. in Political Science], leading researcher of the Institute of Contemporary International Studies, Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

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