Tuesday, September 02, 2008

THE 'MEDVEDEV DOCTRINE': WHAT DOES IT MEAN?



SOCHI, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - 'Russian President Dmitry Medvedev outlined on Sunday the five points upon which Moscow's future foreign policy will be based, and also said that it could if necessary introduce sanctions against other states.

Speaking near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Medvedev also said that Russia would not alter its decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He also said that Moscow's agreements with them envisaged military as well as economic support.

The five points, Medvedev said, were firstly, the superiority of the fundamental principles of international law.

The second point was that the world must be multipolar.

"A uni-polar world is unacceptable," said Medvedev, adding that Russia could "not accept a world order where all decisions are made by one side, even such a powerful one as the U.S."

"Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflicts," he added.

Thirdly, he said, Russia does not seek confrontation with any other country.

"Russia is not looking for isolation," he said. "We will develop, in as much as is possible, friendly ties with Europe, the U.S., and other countries in the world."

Fourthly, Russia will protect the lives of its citizens, "wherever they are."

The fifth point was that Moscow would seek to develop ties in regions with whom it has traditionally had friendly relations.

"Russia, just like other countries in the world, has regions where it has its privileged interests," said Medvedev.'


"MEDVEDEV OUTLINES FIVE MAIN POINTS OF FUTURE FOREIGN POLICY", 31 August 2008, IN www.en.rian.ru


One is tempted to say a great deal, without however much basis in fact as to its exact meaning, about the pronouncement by Russian Federation President Dmitri Medvedev. Some in Russia, refer to it as the 'Russian Monroe Doctrine'. Others with perhaps a better memory of more recent Russian history, may recall, Stalin's famous speech of January 1946, which was seen by some observers at the time, as the 'signal' for the beginning of the Cold War. In either case, it is difficult at this juncture to hazard a guess, whether Medvedev is merely offering a rhetorical gloss, onto (in the words of Brecht), 'measures taken', or conversely is indeed offering up, to urbi et orbi a new foundation for Russian foreign policy. Indeed, one may argue, if the latter is in fact the case, the first 'doctrine' for a purely Russian foreign policy, since before 1917. At this point, it is rather silly to offer up more than the following though: that once having let the proverbial cat out of the bag, Medvedev and Putin have to a degree, as I put it the other day: 'thrown down the gauntlet'. To Europe and the USA, if not necessarily to the world. Whether it is in fact a challenge to a joust, or merely a form of words, time alone will tell. Time and of course actions, Russian actions in such places as say Ukraine, in the Crimea, Moldova, and, perhaps Kazakhstan. All places where there are substantial Russian-speaking minorities. And, in the cases of the latter two, strategic reasons for Matushka Russia, to intervene. Will Moskva do so? In absence of the most severest provocation, my own surmise is, nyet. For the following reason: while the jeu that was played in Georgia could be strictly controlled by Moskva, any such game would be infinitely much more difficult to control in say such an area as the Crimea. Even if one leaves out the variable of possible NATO intervention, on the side of the legitimate government in Kiev. Only if the regime in Kiev were to collapse, or conversely were to invite Russia, in, would Medvedev and or Putin, take the risk of intervening militarily in Ukraine. Much the same can be said of an military intervention in say Kazakhstan, sans of course the possibility of NATO intervention. In point of fact of course, what Medvedev and Putin, would like to have, is something similar to what every Russian leader has wanted to have since the early 18th century: a system of indirect control over its neighbors. Aka, something along the lines of what was seen as the American 'sphere of influence', in say Central and South America. The problem with such a 'system' (presuming for a second that this is in fact what Moskva does want) is that it depends, upon the great power, the hegemonic one, achieving such power by something other than sheer, brute force. The latter of course only works in a system of 'direct', unadulterated control. With every 'i', doted and every 't' crossed. From the center of course. In point of fact, such a system by its very nature mandates, in something akin to the Hegelian concept of the 'Master - Slave' relationship, in that the latter recognize the former's pre-eminence, without having to beat it out of the latter. In say Gramsci's theory of Egemonia, the Hegemonic classes, establishes its rule, by virtue of not merely sheer force and fraud (`a la Machiavelli), but, more by the fact that the ascendancy, and, the leadership of the Hegemonic classes, comes to seem as 'natural', and, therefore ahistorical, id., est., outside of history, indeed outside of time, and therefore 'normal'. Similarly, it is arguable that the ascendancy of say the USA vis-`a-vis first its Latin American neighbors and later for much of the world, notwithstanding its occasional exercises in coercion, were more arguably held together by being seen, due to its more advanced economy, its more 'modern' social structure, as well as its greater degree of social cohesion, as well as perhaps it more 'Democratic', political structure.

In the case of Russia, from the 18th century to today, its main problem as a great power, is that aside from (partially) the Soviet interlude, it has never been able to exercise successfully its power, indirectly. In almost every case, it has been unable to maintain for more than a short amount of time, a system of indirect rule. The reasons for this being, primarily that in its Western Borderlands, those areas which for much of the period from Peter the Great to 1917, most heavily interested Russian diplomacy, most of the peoples in such areas were: a) richer and wealthier than their Russian counterparts; b) more 'cultured', meaning that said populations, had a higher levels of literacy and urbanization, as well as 'national', or regional self-definition. Hence, rather than Russian hegemony over say Poland (either little or great Poland), seeming to be seen as 'normal', it came to seem as both oppressive (because it was backward) and absurd (because the Poles had no reason for supposing that Russian rule was nothing other than a nullity for them). And, thus the various Polish attempts to wrench themselves free from Russian rule. In say the Baltic States as well as Finland, as well as part of Ukraine, this was also the case as well. Not to speak of independent states in the European state system, say like Serbia, Bulgaria or Romania, in the pre-1914 period. Or much of Central and Eastern Europe, between say 1945 and 1989. In the former case, where the element of coercion was not possible, all of these countries failed to be consistently good allies, notwithstanding all the sacrifices that Matushka Roissya expended on their behalf. In the case of the latter, within a few years, after the defeat of Germany, there was seen no means of ensuring Moskva's hegemony, other than by a coercive and oppressive system of rule, which once the element of coercion was removed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989, resulted in the complete downfall of the puppet regimes that Iosif Vissarionovich had installed in the 1945-1949 period. The end result being that Russian influence in almost all of Central and Eastern Europe, with the exception of Serbia (never under Russian domination in the 1989 period) is noticeably absent.

Which brings us up to the present situation. If, Putin and Medvedev wish to enforce or acquire a 'sphere of influence', in Russia's 'Near Abroad', then one can only say that such may perhaps be possible, but only if Russian diplomacy, learns to discipline itself. And, instead of utilizing coercive instruments at the least provocation, `a la Russia's tortured relationship with the deluded and dangerous Saakashvili, where it could be argued, that Russia failed to utilize more effective and more subtle weapons at its command. With the above in mind, it appears that following on that track that latest Putin's trip to Uzbekistan has yielded something along those lines, with Novosti announcing that Putin and Karimov have agreed to strengthen Russia's stranglehold on Central Asia's gas supplies in a new agreement between the two countries (see: "Russia, Uzbekistan to building gas pipe, update price formula," in www.en.rian.ru)It is only by means such as these, and, those similar to the same, that any form of Russian 'hegemony' can be enforced in Russia's Near Abroad.

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