Putin’s Destructive Foreign Policy Failure

In a stunning act of political courage Irina Busygina, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Regional Political Studies at Moscow State University for International Relations, joined with Mikhail Filippov, a professor of political science at Binghamton University in New York, to offer the following devastating condemnation of the foreign policy of Vladimir Putin in the Moscow Times:

Over the past decade, Russia has made repeated attempts to demonstrate its growing power to the world. There are two main objectives behind these attempts: to obtain international recognition as a superpower and to coerce other states into partnership. Both goals are based on the political elite’s belief that Russia should be included on that list a priori by virtue of its huge territory, nuclear arsenal and economic potential.

In this respect, Russia’s policy toward the West places a strong emphasis on its sovereignty and on the assertion that it deserves equal standing with the other great powers.

But Moscow’s strategy toward other former Soviet republics is another matter entirely. Here, Russia is essentially attempting to coerce its neighbors into partnerships. Moscow takes this approach because it wants to have pro-Russian coalitions in its backyard. In practice, Russian foreign policy in its near abroad looks like a series of random fits and starts. Initiatives to create multilateral alliances, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, have been unsuccessful. Russia’s attempts at strong-arm diplomacy and the use of its natural resources as a bargaining chip have also failed.

The divide between Russia’s efforts to regain its superpower status and the extremely modest results it has achieved stems from the fact that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s vertical power structure is a clumsy hybrid of authoritarianism and some elements of democracy. Clearly, liberal democratic governments — and in some ways, strangely enough, even 100 percent authoritarian regimes — are more effective than hybrid regimes.

Internal political considerations often force the leaders of hybrid regimes into reckless foreign policy pursuits in an attempt to boost approval ratings. But even if an aggressive foreign policy plays well with voters, it usually undermines the regime’s credibility in the eyes of its potential foreign partners. This results in a self-fulfilling vicious cycle: The less attractive the regime is to potential partners, the more limited its ability to build a long-term coalition strategy with other states — and the greater the temptation politicians face to opt for provocative foreign policy moves.

The hybrid nature of Russia’s political regime makes it harder for the country to project itself as a superpower. For Russia to increase its real influence in the world, it must achieve not only economic growth and technological progress, but must also modernize its decrepit and highly ineffective political institutions. Above all, it must adopt measures giving the political system greater predictability and stability, including the ability to change leadership peacefully and democratically.

Today, the United States and other leading global powers are forced to compete for potential partners for international alliances. For Russia to increase its global position, it must become a more attractive partner to its neighbors, and it must gain their trust. Treating them as “younger brothers” who should be dominated in one way or another achieves the opposite results and pushes them toward alliances with the West.

Russia is too unpredictable a country for the leaders of other former Soviet republics to be certain that its leadership will not try to use a partnership agreement to apply additional pressure on them. What’s more, they are justifiably concerned that Russia could use its growing power to exact further concessions from them. Naturally in such a situation, participants will block even effective forms of cooperation because they could end up weakening their own positions.

To become an attractive partner, Russia must formulate predictable and consistent domestic and foreign policies. It must have properly functioning democratic institutions and restrain its imperial ambitions. In the absence of such institutions, it is impossible to predict Russian policy. It is no coincidence that the European Union consists of democratic states only; democratic institutions are a necessary prerequisite for membership. Attempts to build unions after the EU model among non-democratic states in Africa and Asia have achieved only limited success.

Without a full-fledged democracy, it would be unrealistic to expect Russia’s potential allies to trust the Kremlin’s intentions. Even non-democratic and semi-democratic states — including CIS members — will continue distrusting Moscow. Using carrot-and-stick diplomacy — particularly using its enormous energy resources — Russia can compel these states from time to time to repeatedly voice support for Moscow’s position and to sign various agreements. But in the long term, such alliances are ineffective.

By maintaining a hybrid regime that combines elements of authoritarianism and electoral democracy, Russia effectively dooms itself to isolation in one form or another and loss of influence in the global arena.

9 responses to “Putin’s Destructive Foreign Policy Failure

  1. The author repeatedly asserts the Russia’s goal “to coerce other states into partnership”. To support the statement the author must try to name any fact throughout whole 400 years Russian history when they had or sought to have any partnership with anybody. I don’t mean a few alliances at wars which Russia solely had contrived and then dragged others into. I mean a real longstanding partnership with another nation, like other nations had or are having now, includig EC. It has never been in history. Russia never sought and does not seek partnerships. Everything she seeks is DOMINATION. Sheer brutal domination. She ever only destroyed and enslaved others and is doing it now. This roots in the retarded medieval mentality of majority of Russians boosted by Russian rulers throughout history as well as now. In their Nazi-like confidence in their superiority, their wessiahship and right to punish or pardon all the other inferior nations on the Earth……. It is a hypocracy to even think of Russia able to any partnership!

  2. Definitely, Russia is a weaker, poorer, and a much less significant country after 8 Putin years and 2 Medvedev years as presidents. Thank you for another brilliant masterpiece, team.

    Pity for the stunningly politically courageous teacher – she would be rotting in Siberian Gulags in no time after writing this analysis.

    Oh poor we.

  3. Never trust Moscovy ! They are not interested in democracy , their
    leaders are never interested in improving the lives of the ordinary
    citizen , they do not seek ; unions , alliances or partnerships , not now , in the past and will always strive for , complete DOMINATION and total EXPLOITATION of whoever has the misfortune
    to fall within their ” sphere of influence “. Even this ” stunningly courageous
    teacher ” is at odds with the Kremlin Krowd only as far as their methods ,
    but not in their ultimate goals . She is merely instructing them in a more
    plausible , efficient way to achieve their goal .
    If Moscovy ever did want to join the civilized , truly democratic society,
    not as a ” leader ” but simply as legitimate member , It would first have to
    admit and atone for the unspeakable crimes against humanity , that have
    set Moscovy apart as the quintessential ” empire of Evil “, be it White
    Red or whatever . The genocide of Ukraine by hunger , the ” Holodomor “,
    that took 8 to 10 million lives , the genocide of the Tatars , the genocide
    of various Siberian and Caucasian ethnicities up to and including their
    genocidal war on Chechnya . It is not enough to put all the blame on Stalin
    as the sole culprit . The cowardly germans tried this with Hitler but the
    world would not let them get away with it , why is this same world silent
    and not outraged at Moscovy ? Where is the insistance on restitution ,
    where is the condemnation for the loss of some 100 million lives or more
    just in the last century alone ?
    The germans altough unwillingly , realized that this was the only way to move forward .
    I , would have a lot more respect for this “courageous ” Irina Busygina
    if she advised her Kremlin bosses to clean up the bloody past , write their
    OWN history rather than ” borrow ” from their neighbors , and finally
    learn how to be good neighbors rather than occupiers .

    • Oh, Maksym, I can see you are new to this blog, and so you don’t know what some of these Russophiles like Dmitry will post in response to your very legitimate questions.

      First, there was never any genocide or terror in Russia, and no Holodomor has happened and no ethnic group was ever persecuted.

      Second, if any of this happened, it was on a very small scale, and due to excusable neglect and innocent errors. 20 million or more killed, no big deal. All these aggrieved peoples can procreate more actively and restore the population in not time.

      Third, even if the scale was not so small, it has nothing to do with Russians, it’s all either Stalin’s or some local Communists’ fault.

      Fourth, even if Russians were at fault, it was a long time ago, so why don’t you just forget it.

      Fifth, even if it was not that long ago, then look at evil Americans, how they mistreat their native peoples, and Blacks, and Hispanics, and Muslims. See, we better talk about that and forget about such innate Russian traits as alcoholism, cruelty, savagery, barbarity and inhumanity.

  4. USA went from shortages of Natural Gas to huge surpluses in only a few years. This because of horizontal drilling into gas bearing shale formations. Now everybody is doing horizontal drilling as rigs become available.

    This means that Russia is rapidly losing the leverage afforded by large reserves of oil and gas. What have they got left???????

  5. Also we should express appreciation for the actions of Irina Busygina. The brave people just keep coming forward.

  6. A further comment on energy. The normally accepted ratio of the price of crude oil compared to the price of natural gas is: Six to One.

    The price of natural gas in USA has been force down to less than $4.00. The price of crude oil is at present about $75.00 per barrel.

    Therefore expect the price of crude oil to decline. As it becomes apparent that the world wide quantities of natural gas available is huge, the price of crude oil should decline to parity. Parity at present would be about $24.00 per barrel [ Six times the gas price of $4.00 = $24.00].

    Trains, airplanes, trucks and ships will soon be powered by natural gas. The Chinese are already testing ships powered by gas. United Airlines is testing airliners powered by natural gas.

    The shale gas story is bigger than big.


  7. If you want to keep track of the Nat Gas price compared to Oil:


  8. Here’s a bit of history from a history book about tsar Peter, “Peter the Great: His Life and World,” by Robert K. Massie, when Peter undertook his Great Embassy to Holland and Europe in the late 1690’s. The first sentence from the excerpt is very striking (from page 189):

    Observing Holland’s immense prosperity, Peter could not escape asking himself how it was that his own people, with an endless stretch of steppe and forest at their disposition, poduced only enough to feed themselves, whereas here in Amsterdam, with its wharves and warehouses and forest of masts, more convertible wealth had been accumulated than in all the expanse of Russia. One reason, Peter knew, was trade, a mercantile economy, the possession of ships; he resolved to dedicate himself to achieving these things for Russia. Another reason was the religious toleration in Holland. Because international trade could not flourish in an atmosphere of narrow religious doctrine or prejudice, Protestant Hollnad practiced the widest religious toleration in the in the Europe of that day. It was to Holland that the dissenters fled from James I’s Calvinist England in 1606, from there to sail a decade later to Plymouth Bay. It was to Holland also that the French Protestant Huguenots swarmed by the thousands when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Throughout the seventeenth century, Holland served as Europe’s intellectual and artistic clearinghouse as well as its commercial center. It was to defend their religious liberties as much as their commercial supremacy that the Dutch resisted so fiercely the aggrandizements of Louis XIV’s Catholic France. Peter was intrigued by this atmosphere of religious toleration. He visited many Protestant churches in Holland and asked questions of the pastors.

    From page 224:

    In one important quarter in Vienna, Peter’s surprising amiability and curiousity raised high hopes. The Catholic Church, especially the Jesuit College of Vienna, was aware from the reports of the imperial ambassador in London of Peter’s lack of attachment to doctrinaire Orthodoxy and his interest in other religions. …. On St. Peter’s day, after attending an Orthodox service conducted by his own Russian priest traveling with the Embassy, Peter attended mass at the Jesuit College. There he heard Father Woolf preach “that the keys would be bestowed a second time, upon a new Peter, that he might open another door.” Soon after, Peter attended a second mass, celebrated this time by Cardinal Kollonitz, the Primate of Hungary, and then joined the Cardinal for a lunch in a college refectory. …..

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