chapter  2
The role of multilateralism in Russian foreign policy
Pages 25

Russia’s great-power dreams and frustrations get all the attention, but its leaders constantly insist that the bedrock of Russian foreign policy is their attachment to multilateralism. Not that the two are inconsistent. Multilateralism, as the Russians fancy it, complements their notion of how the international setting, if rightly organized, can aid Russia’s return as a great power, and in the meantime minimize the risks and pain of standing in the shadow of others. Multilateralism, however, is not the frameworkwithinwhich analysts normally think about Russian foreign policy. Russia, of course, figures at every turn in multilateral institutions – sometimes playing a key role, such as one of the permanent five members in the UN Security Council; sometimes the role of a sceptic and even an opponent, as with NATO; sometimes the role of architect in various co-operative efforts in the post-Soviet space; sometimes as an object of concern, say, for the states that make up GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova); sometimes as a member in name only, such as with the G8; sometimes as an aspirant, as with the WTO; sometimes as a free rider, as with OPEC; and sometimes as the co-manager, as with the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO). Russia’s relations with the European Union and NATO, its newer attempts to make something of the Unified Economic Space (UES) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), aswell as its approach to theNon-ProliferationTreaty and the InternationalAtomic EnergyAgency (IAEA) are common themes, and the focus ofmuch of this volume, but not much attention has been given to the place that multilateralism as a value, a concept, a strategy, or a general phenomenon occupies in Russian foreign policy. Multilateralism examined from this other, more basic perspective is the task of this chapter.