Talk about Russian Foreign Policy, its legacy and contemporaneity
Lead Research Associate, Institute for International Studies, MGIMO University
Starting from a metaphor, Mr Markedonov said that from his point of view, the image of Russia in one sentence would be as follows: "Russia is a young state with a very long history". Next year we will be celebrating the 30th jubilee of the Russian state, but we also have a huge historical legacy. Now we address the past and this past plays a serious role in current political developments.
On one side, there is conventional wisdom not to mention differences between the Russian Empire, USSR and post-soviet Russia. Don't forget that as a country we faced 2 collapses in one century, but we never lost the status of a superpower. So, from this point, we can speak about the continuity of the Russian state.
A famous Russian historian Sergey Soloviev in a discussion of the role of a geographical factor for Russia once said that geography is a mother-in-law for Russia. Journalist James Marshall used a "curse of geography" to portrait Russia. Necessary to know that Russian foreign policy whether in Tsarist, Soviet or democratic form is an expression of certain and fixed geographical realities: pierced borders, vast territory, climate peculiarities. But other problem for 'mother-in-law of Russia' is a low density of population. A low density of population promoted a mobilization effect of power. It wasn't a kind of nonnormality. Sergey Solovyov and Vasily Klyuchevsky wrote about these mobilization trends dominated in Russian history at least until the end of 18 century.
It's interesting that Western attempts of historic Russia were not identical to democratic developments. Pro-western attempts were made by Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and even Iosif Stalin was not an anti-American ruler. He invited lots of American engineers to build DneproGES (Dnieper Hydroelectric Station); the same could be said about Lenin, who developed an ideology originally invented in the West.
At the same time the Russian Empire, USSR and modern Russia were not completely identical. Of course, Russia inherited the seat of US Security Council permanent member as well as succeeded USSR in UN membership, possession of nuclear weapons and a range of obligations of USSR with property abroad. Ideologically, can we identify current Russia with the Soviet Union? My answer is no, we do not build communism, do not pretend to elaborate on a new type of humanity, finally, do not treat ourselves as a revolutionary power, unlike USSR. Russia actually is counter-revolutionary power, Russia's foreign policy is rather pragmatic and sometimes cynical. In economic terms, Russia is a market-oriented system and oriented on individualism. So, the point is that Russian post-soviet experience doesn't resemble the USSR. Russia in the first years of post-soviet development is similar to Bolsheviks: they tried to cut traditions and impose new realities. Anyway, historically Russia has different shapes, but all of them were about the protection of our interests and borders and the development of cooperation.
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