Gabriela Ionita is editor at the Romanian magazine – „Cadran Politic”, and specialist on issues related to the Russian Federation and on the Community of Independent States. Was kind enough to accept an interview to discuss domestic and foreign policies of the Russian State. The first part of the interview relates on the foreign policies and the future challenges of this state.
Marius Lefter (M.L.): What is Moscow’s position regarding the Policy of Neighbourhood of UE?
Gabriela Ionita (G.I.): According to the European Commission of Economic and Financial Affairs, European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – launched in 2003 , this matter provides for the gradual development of trade relations and for traditional cooperation, thus achieving a higher degree of integration between EU and neighbourhood countries. In fact, economically ENP offers to these states preferential trade relations, participation in the EU internal market, a better relation with the EU ( for the example on transport, telecommunication and energy sector ), none the less the benefit to participate in certain EU programs and some substantial financial support and technical assistance. Although Russia does not fit in this equation, we can easily see that many of the objectives set out in the action plans of partner countries are found in the draft between Russia and EU – Strategic Partnership for Modernization of the Russian Federation and European Union. Moreover, Russia had demonstrated that it has sufficient leverage to influence other countries from its neighbourhood, and the existence in its area of influence of countries that share fundamental values and objectives of EU, countries that have a profound cooperation with member countries, assuming a high level of economic and political integration, which would be a benefit for the Russian economy. Unfortunately, the same levers of power , have demolished neighbourhood states like Belarus and Ukraine. The president of the Russian state , Medvedev recalled that Russian needs the EU technology, economic diversification and new standards to be competitive on a common market. In theory, self-regulation market based on supply and demand. When in the reality is more collared. If we’re speaking of a common economic space between Russia and Europe, we believe that the Russian state will be forced to modernize, if they are looking to be competitive. Normally this should work upon the new markets in the new area. Ukraine and Belarus are not the best references regarding foreign policies for their own interest. About Romania’s role as EU’s border country , the relation with Moldova but also with states like Ukraine or Georgia, and how we could benefit from this context is yet already another story.
ML: Because you mentioned about Moscow’s leverage on their own interests … how would be seen in this context the problematic of the missile shield and what would be the evolution in this direction ?
G.I.: Although no one officially admitted, the security strategy promoted by the President Medvedev seems to have been a failure ( and the return of Vladimir Putin’s to Kremlin, would replace the soft speech of the current president, with a tough and pragmatic discourse famous to the international opinion) The failure hasn’t come from the wrong strategy, but rather from the perpetuation of mistrust and reluctance between EU chancelleries to Russia, when it comes to security and strategic alliances. In addition,we must not overlook that so controversial, yet only on a theoretical level reformed , blamed for the U.S. influence, Nato brings together top of EU countries. Countries that are trying to get out of the economic crisis since 2008, so limited to security policy proposals that would require even more than do the facts that are already involved. On the other hand, the restart in the Rusia and U.S. relations has continued to be hunted by the ghosts of the Cold War, in spite of the officials declarations. The refusal of US officials to accept the sectoral responsibility of the anti-rocket shield as it was seen by Moscow, the official issue to put the shield in Romania ( without the discussion with the Russian partners of Nato’s Council ) . The strategic alliance between Romania and U.S. has eroded what was restart. Soon after the election that took place in the Russian Federation , Obama was invited in Kremlin. Many specialists asked themselves, what would both presidents say about the shield issue, one of them is finishing his mandate – Medvedev and another does not knows if he will obtain the second mandate – Obama. Nobody seems to know. All the more Obama, seems busy with the internal situation than the foreign policy. But we must remember that president Medvedev warn regarding the failure of the shield negotiations and the termination of the Second Start Treaty – main objective during the mandates of both presidents. One thing is sure – during the summit that will take place in 2012 in Chicago, the meeting it will be between Obama and the new installed leader of Kremlin – Vladimir Putin.
M.L. : What is the difference between Eurasiatic Union and the Community of Independent States ?
G.I.: The announcement that it will be established a Eurasiatic Union , was received by the occidental media as a headline news, is spite that Kremlin worked very much for the crystallization of it. In this case we face a difference not a vision that has subordinated medium and long-term objectives, theoretically. The reality, the case is not optimistic for the constitution of the Euroasiatic Union, being considered by the Russian economists as a subject for election campaign. Recent, in a interview realized by main television channel in Russia, Vladimir Putin said the reunion of the five economies will create a pole so strong that will be a bridge between European Union and the regional dynamics that all the spotlights of this decade are – Asia. In response, the economist Vladislav Inozemtsev asked rhetorically in a article published by Washington Post, what kind of bridge can be build with the exceeded infrastructure of Russia.
Seen the numbers, sure, even a uninitiated in economy would ask what is the impact that a pole , which has less than a quarter of the GDP of the European Union or of China. However, the supporters of the project, argue that even the results are visible in the Community of Independent States, results that be extent. According to Valery Korovin, in the first half of 2011, the turnover registered a grown, in the three countries that are in the Russiaon Union – Kazahstan – Belarus. It is forecast that by the end of the year, it will reach 100 billion dollars, that reflects a growth of 13%, comparing the situation of last year. Even the volume of commercial activities between Kazahstan and Russian, has recorded a rapid growth in the last decade – with over 40%. Of course, the skeptics could invocate the fact that the Monetary Union and the Common Security Treaty, have failed, almost none of the countries, wouldn’t be discredited. In this case a new approach of this issue is it destined to fail? No. Ideologically at least. Vladimir Putin , knows that the russians are nostalgic about the old empire. But they wish to be European. The slight development of Euroasian Union, in the vision expressed by the Lisabona Summit is a issue that Putin can have as a ideology for the next 12 years.
M.L.: As understood are we talking about the reconstruction of the old URSS? Or perhaps about a reorganization of an Eurasian Economic Community ?
G.I.: Perhaps the most, in the last instance. Eurasian Economic Community , had a vision regarding a building in contra-party of European Union , and the objectives regarding the common economic space, free circulation and the assurance of economic development and integration of the dynamic regarding the free international market were the main pillars, as so the Russian Federation which in this position assured her place as a economic and regional power. For the Community of Independent States, the legacy of the post- soviet , the exact hour always ringed from the tower of Kremlin. Explicably, since all the states concerned as partners, are lead by authoritarian regimes, agreed under the self-knows virtue of functional hypocrisy. Plus that , for Russia it is vital that she can keep the control over the great amounts of resources in the area. For the Community , on the other hand, since the heavy promotion of the Eurasian Union, Russia makes clear of hers intentions that include the status of power. And not of ordinary matter, but a Russia Christian-Orthodox with a prophetic fate that wants to mediate the building of a great super-power from Lisabona to Vladivostok, capable to counterbalance the United States, or China and her allies from the Asian Mainland or Latin America. Perhaps, no chance that Aleksandr Dugin – the most frequent fan and promoter of Eurasian ideas , will assume from early December the general secretary of Russian Union – Kazahstan – Belarus, the core of the Euroasian Union. The first pace for building in the proximity of the soviet area, would be the cooptation of Serbia and of the Republic of Montenegro, discussion on this matters exist, but is too early to talk.
And then we must remember the availability of Russia, regarding aid ( merely of 10 billions euro’s ) to the European budget. Also Christine Lagarde, the chief of International Monetary Fund is expected to arrive at Moscow for this issue.A generous opening in exchange for something, even if not official perhaps through diplomatic ways. And that something will have in mind the quick finalization of the discussion regarding the Modernization Pact and the creation of a new economic space with European Union. And not least, we can place this as the next step for the future Putin strategy on long term. In fact the first mandate of Putin has rebuild Russia from his previous owner , thus the consolidation of regional power, and the third mandate will bring Russia among world powers. In fact, in the near future it would be interesting to watch by the historians that the mandate of Medvedev meant the stagnation of Russia, in so smoothing reappearance of Putin.
M.L. : Through abstenation vote in the Security Conuncil of UN, and then strong critics to the intervention of NATO in Libya , forgetting that her veto vote right, would stopped in 1973 the intervention, apparently Russia tried to place as peace referee for Libya. At the same time, Russia tried to take advantage, through the fact that the uprisings in Middle East and North Africa lead to the decrease of oil output in the area. In this context what is the strategy of Russia, regarding the external policies of the area.
G.I: Russia had not tried to assume the role of mediator in the Libyan conflict. The consultation before the vote on the resolution for the intervention in Libya, showed clearly on which side the balance leaned with a abstention vote from China. And president Medvedev, liked to emphasize on the world view. And it was a success. But his gesture was strong criticized by the internal office, considered as a act of treason for the Russian interests in the area, but also by the traditional friends of Libya. It’s hard to assume that Kremlin didn’t knew about evolutions in the lybian space, so the subsequent invocation regarding that the terms were violated, doesn’t fit. Rather than, Dmitri Medvedev tried to save what could been saved, from his internal popularity. Fact that couldn’t be saved, thus the next step was the announcement of the future candidate – Vladimir Putin. Actually returned to her traditional policy and her well-known attitude in the Security Council of UN.In exchange, Russia intention to protect her interests in the Middle East, were seen in the intervention in Syria. With the results hard to quantify, inexistent almost. The opposition viewing the resolution of UN in benefit for Syria ( indeed, unwittingly assisted by several members by the indecision of the Security Council after the operations in Libya) confirms what I said above: Russia wants to be a major decider and even a major opponent when his interest dictates. And if you take a peek at the commercial agreements between Russia and Syria or Iran, it is easy to see that here interests dictate.
Gabriela Ionita is editor to Cadran Politic, analyst in the field of International affairs (mainly connected with the Russian Federation and Community of Independent States). Also maintains a frequently updated blog Power&Politics World. She graduated from the National School of Political and Administrative Sciences – Bucharest, specialization in Communication and Public Relations.