Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ivanov and Palmerston

Speaking at the Munich Conference, Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov continued the "Russia is back" theme:

"The process of Russia's revival objectively combines our ambition to occupy an appropriate place in the world politics and commitment to maintain our national interests. Right away I would like to make a point: we do not intend to meet this challenge by establishing military blocs or engaging in open confrontation with our partners. Russia’s way is different: we are consistently developing multivector cooperation with various nations both on a bilateral level and in the framework of key international and regional organizations."

I realize that the English usage is a bit clunky (multivector cooperation)--but the sentiments are quite clear. Russia is staking its claim to be seen as one of the major powers, not based on its Soviet past but on its economic future.

But Russia also seems to be moving closer to constructing its foreign policy for the 21st century along the lines Richard Haass has described, one where formal blocs give way to informal associations among states for the purposes of achieving discrete objectives, what he terms, "The Palmerstonian Moment":

"Americans will have to become comfortable with the notion of “selective cooperation.” Not too long ago I told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars that “we are entering an era of American foreign policy and indeed international relations that is almost Palmerstonian in certain ways, where countries are not clear adversaries or allies with the automaticity or predictability of either. . . .They may be active partners on one issue and largely inactive observers on another.” Or they may carry out alternative or even opposing policies.

"The post–Cold War world, in many respects, is far more dynamic and fluid than the relatively stable and predictable bipolar arrangements of the Cold War. It thus demands a much greater degree of flexibility from policymakers."

On a separate note, Mary Dejevsky of the Independent stressed a point made by Ivanov, a departure from his prepared text, where he promised that Russia would not switch off anyone’s energy supplies for political reasons: "Partners can rest assured that Russia has been strictly fulfilling and will continue to fulfil all its commitments regarding energy supplies."

All part of the Russian charm offensive ...
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