This is the third of three memos (posts) from an imagined Putin advisor to the Russian president on policy after he returns to office for his fourth term. This memo deals with foreign and security policy, and like the others it’s broad purpose is to show why I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see significant changes in Russia policy for at least the next several years (which is about as far as forecasters should try to forecast). As with the previous two memos, I make no fact claims in what follows that are deliberately false, although many facts are left out, and despite the fact that I disagree with some of the interpretations and conclusions.
My next post will summarize my own take on the three posts.
Strategic vision, tactical flexibility
Mr. President, our foreign and domestic critics frequently claim that you’re a masterful foreign policy tactician but lack strategic vision. That is wrong. On the contrary, you have a clearly articulated and longstanding strategic goal, which is to restore Russia to its rightful place as a great power, equal to the United States and China on the world stage. And you have been resolute, and remarkably successful, in implementing that vision.
In your early years as president, you attempted to work with the United States to realize this broad strategic goal. By around 2003 or 2004, however, you had concluded that Washington was intent on preserving its dominance and entirely unwilling to accept a balanced international system. Moreover, as the Iraq War made clear, the United States insisted that, while all other states had to abide by rules that it had largely written, it alone had the right to violate those rules, and it could and would do so at its discretion.
It was also clear that the United States, assisted by its mostly subservient Western allies, was intent on remaking the world in its own image, a utopian and revolutionary project promoting “liberalism” and “democratization” that was in fact destabilizing and immiserating large parts of the world. This is precisely what happened in Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004: Western-instigated “colored revolutions” brought down governments while producing only chaos, social disorder, and economic hardship.
Accordingly, you concluded that Washington would have to be forced to accept a new, multipolar order, one in which its imperialistic ambitions would be contained by counter-balancing power. That order would be based on three key principles: (1) non-interference in the internal affairs of at least the three dominant powers; (2) reciprocal recognition of respective spheres of influence; and (3) disproportionate weight in decision-making in international institutions – disproportionate with respect to others, but equal among Russia, China, and the United States. Continue reading