The Russian Federation: striving for multipolarity but missing the consequences PAveL k . BAev
Introduction Russian foreign policy in the first decade of the twenty-first century has been driven by two mutually reinforcing ambitions: to assert its status as one of the “Great Powers” in the world arena, and to ensure that global affairs are run by several powers of equal rank. Despite the often-proclaimed Russian adherence to political pragmatism, these ambitions have never been based on a rational assessment of its national interests and capabilities for advancing them. The dominant perception is that by the merits of its unique history and vast territory, Russia is entitled to “Great Power” rank and that a world order controlled by a group of major powers is a more natural and fair arrangement than a unipolar world – or, for that matter, a globalized non-polar world. The global economic crisis, which arrived in Russia in the second half of 2008 and ravaged it with greater force than it did most Western countries, or petro-states, or other “emerging markets,” has profoundly affected its selfperception and world-view. The proud feeling of being a “rising power” with every right to demand respect from declining peers has suddenly changed into a sinking feeling accentuated by reflections on the collapse of the USSR not quite 20 years ago. Foreign policy has accordingly evolved into an unstable combination of residual self-assertiveness, desperate rescue measures and hesitant steps toward re-launching cooperation with the West. As the crisis continues to unfold, there are few reasons to expect the emergence of a more coherent course at the start of the new decade. By examining Russian foreign policy in the context of its patterns of managing key external risks and challenges, this chapter aims to arrive at reasonably informed guesses about its further evolution. It starts with a general evaluation of the main traits of thinking and decision-making mechanisms in Russian foreign policy, before moving to an overview of Russia’s interactions with the central international organizations and regimes. Then, one-by-one, Russian assessments of, and defenses against, the major strategic threats are examined. The conclusion speculates about the sustainability of Russia’s current course.