Alwaght- The tensions between Russia and the West are at their highest level in 30 years, namely since collapse of the Soviet Union, with the the diplomacy doors for settling the snowballing differences between the two sides are almost shut. While the West tries to isolate Russia internationally, the Kremlin is designing its counter-plans in the today's tense world to foil the Western plans. In the middle of this situation, the Russian President Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a 31-page new doctrine document. According to the new doctrine, which is based around the concept the "Russian world", Russia should support the the traditions of the Russian world and promote them. The doctrine also insists that Russia supports the rights, interests, and cultural identity of the Russian communities in other regions to enable itself to boost its international image as a democratic country striving for a multipolar world.
To discuss this new doctrine, Alwaght talked to Sayed Reza Mirtaher, an Iranian expert of intentional affairs.
Alwaght: Russian president recently signed the country's new foreign policy doctrine which seems to prioritizes the East and other parts of the world. What are its main points and goals?
Mirtaher: The Russian world is a concept that was created by the conservative Russian theorists and according to the Western claims, it aims at justifying what they call Russian offensive measures. This 31-page doctrine, which is titled 'humanitarian policy', stresses that the country should preserve the traditions and ideals of the Russian world and advance them. This document states that Russia supports its compatriots abroad to recognize their rights, ensure the protection of their interests, and preserve their Russian cultural identity. Moscow should also develop relations with breakaway regions of Georgia like Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as with the self-proclaimed separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, as the document recommends.
It seems that the drafting and signing of this document by the Russian leader is an attempt to provide a theoretical framework for Russia's foreign interventions, especially in Ukraine in late February 2022. On February 24, Putin announced in a televised speech that in response to the request of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, he ordered the start of special military operation in the neighboring country to protect the people who have been abused and massacred by the Kiev regime for eight years and cleanse Ukraine of neo-Nazis. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, while explaining the reasons for military intervention in Ukraine, pointed out that there was a real threat to the population of Donbas region and to Russia as well in the future because Kiev was not implementing the Minsk agreement, and this view of the Ukrainian government necessitated the Russian campaign.
Also, this document suggests that the relations between Moscow and Russians in other countries allows it to promote its image as a democratic country striving for a multipolar world. One of the issues in recent years stressed by the Russian leadership is a multipolar world with new realities like emergence of new powers like China and India. Indeed, this approach is adopted in opposition to the American unilateralist approach. Unilateralism has become the dominant and public approach of Washington, especially during the presidency of Donald Trump, and even at the present time, President Joe Biden, follows this approach in his foreign policy. A clear example of this is the imposition of Washington's demands on its Western allies, especially its European allies, to fully support Ukraine after Russia's operation in Ukraine, as well as the imposition of unprecedented sanctions against Russia, which, of course, caused a dire economic and social situation in the US allies due to Moscow's reactions.
Alwaght: How much is new Russian doctrine influenced by world developments, especially Ukraine crisis?
Mirtaher: It seems that the new Russian foreign policy document is written and signed by Putin by influence from the new regional and international developments, especially Ukraine war, and is part of Moscow's efforts to justify the war within the framework of foreign policy principles. Given the many issues Russia is facing in its vicinity and on the world stage, Moscow has embarked on a serious effort to present and pursue its policies to boost its international position as an influential global actor along with preserving its national identity and interests. Besides, one of the aspects of the Russian foreign policy is changes proportionate to the global developments. Actually, with the Western sanctions showing no signs of ending, Moscow is pivoting to the East and has established or is establishing massive and multilateral ties with East Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Alwaght: Having in mind that part of the document refers to supporting the Russian nationals across the world, is this aimed at winning the home public opinion favor or does Moscow really want to support all the Russians of the world, like what it did in Georgia and Ukraine?
Mirtaher: The new Russian doctrine suggests that the foreign policy of the country had undergone significant changes. In this doctrine the concept of the Russian world that is essentially advocated by the Eurasianists or nationalists, especially the prominent political theorist Alexander Dugin, is central and means that the Russian government commits to protecting the Russians in other countries, especially in the peripheral countries, and takes certain actions in their support when the need arises. We witnessed that Putin raised the abuses and attacks against the Russians in eastern Ukraine by the Ukrainian neo-Nazis as the pretext for ordering the massive military operation in Ukraine. This was one of the aspects of implementation of Russian world concept and meant that Russia is committed to launching military operations to protect the Russians in regions where they are persecuted. This strategy is adopted in Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and the eastern breakaway regions. It seems that this doctrine from now on embarks on an offensive approach to authorize its interventions to support the Russians in other regions.
Alwaght: Where will the Russian-Western relations go with the new doctrine?
Mirtaher: It seems that Russia's new foreign policy doctrine is a kind of declaration of Russia's open confrontation with the Western world. Unlike the West that sought tensions with Russia in recent decades, Moscow followed the policy of de-escalation and even at the beginning of the 2000s, for example, to reduce tensions with NATO, it created the Council of Russia and NATO, as well as the Council of Russia and Europe, and annual meetings were held between the two sides and the Russians tried to improve their relations with the United States. But since 2014, this trend was reversed and the turning point in these tensions was the developments of 2022. Since the beginning of this year, the Russians have come to the conclusion that the policy of de-escalation with the West has made the West more aggressive and encouraged NATO expansion to the East, and at the same time, the West intends to contain Russia in any way possible and execute the same iron curtain policy of the Cold War period. Therefore, Russia's new foreign policy is capable of significantly increasing the size and scope of this country's confrontation with the West, and it is predicted that within the framework of this doctrine, the Russians will have a tougher stance towards Europe and the United States than before.
Alwaght: Given the mention of West Asia as one of the strategic regions in the new doctrine, what will this region's role be in the new Russian foreign policy? Having in mind that many of the Arab countries in West Asia are allied to the United States, will the Russians succeed to bring them to compliance with their policy?
Mirtaher: In its new doctrine, Russia noted that it will focus on other parts of the world under pivot to the East policy, and there are prioritization in the Russian foreign policy in this case. Currently, the biggest focus is given to India and China, as two emerging powers that can replace the West in the Russian exports, especially energy. These two countries can import a large part of the Russia goods once sent to the West and also can indirectly help Moscow circumvent the sanctions. Another partner region mentioned is West Asia with capacities helping boost ties with Russia. Among the important countries in West Asia is Iran and recent developments showed that Moscow and Tehran are pursuing all-out relation boost. Russia looks specifically to Saudi Arabia as a major oil and gas producer with whom it can take effective measures in world oil market pricing and curb the Wesern measures against it. Last week, G7 ministers pledged to impose a price cap on Russian oil in an effective and indirect move in a bid to stem the flow of cash to Russia. Although there are many questions surrounding success of the plan, it shows that the West is determined to deprive Moscow of access to the currency earned by oil and gas exports. Therefore, Moscow's closeness to Riyadh and other important countries in West Asia can help ease the impacts of the Western pressures and facilitate Moscow's coordination with these countries.