reflections

Geopolitical Diary: The Medvedev Doctrine

4 MINS READSep 2, 2008 | 02:02 GMT

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave an extraordinary interview on Russian television's Channel One over the weekend. In the course of the interview, Medvedev unveiled a five-point doctrine that would govern Russia's foreign policy going forward. It came in the course of an interviewer's questions, but the statement was obviously well thought out and planned. It is to be seen as a statement of Russian national policy and is worth presenting here verbatim in translation by the Kremlin:

    "I will make five principles the foundation for my work in carrying out Russia's foreign policy. First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law. Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict. Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible. Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us. Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors. These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice."

The interviewer then asked for greater definition of the Russian areas of interest. Medvedev replied, "The countries on our borders are priorities, of course, but our priorities do not end there." The most important points to take away from this, from our point of view, are as follows. First, the events in Georgia are not to be seen as isolated, but as part of a general shift in Russian policy. Second, the Russians are claiming responsibility for Russian citizens anywhere. This is particularly important in the Baltics, where Russian citizens constitute substantial minorities, and in Ukraine. Russia is making it clear that the treatment of Russians in other regions is a fundamental interest in its foreign policy. Third, the Russians are declaring a sphere of interest in the former Soviet Union, and saying that friendly relations with these countries is essential to Russia. This also means that these countries may not have the option of pursuing policies that Russia regards as unfriendly. Finally, Russian interests are not confined to the former Soviet Union. That obviously means that they extend to Eastern Europe and, in all likelihood, the Middle East as well. We see this interview as not quite a formal doctrine, but a clear indication of Russian thinking. It is clear that the Russians have now publicly announced what is obvious: Russia has a new foreign policy, and it is ambitious and will unfold quickly rather than slowly.

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