Russian diplomacy in 2013: some reasons to feel proud
The outgoing year has seen many Russian achievements in the diplomatic arena, primarily progress in settling Middle East issues, made possible by Russian-U.S. cooperation - a hard fact Russian President Vladimir Putin put special emphasis on at the annual press conference on Thursday. Progress in Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic cooperation and Russian $15-billion bailout aimed to pull Ukraine out of the crisis has been another important event worth mentioning. Besides, Russia is gaining a firmer foothold in the post-Soviet space and in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russian foreign policy experts have summed up the 2013 diplomatic achievements Russia takes credit for in an interview to the Itar-Tass political analysis center.
"The outgoing year may be considered the most fruitful one for the Russian Foreign Ministry," believes the head of the New York office of the Russian Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, Andranik Migranian.
"Russia has taken a firm stance on such a challenging issue as Syria and ultimately achieved a turnaround in the situation. This is an outstanding contribution to maintaining peace and security in international relations," Migranian said.
The expert believes "Russia has also played a positive role in settling the Iranian nuclear issue, in fact, promoting the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
"Progress has also been made in the post-Soviet space, primarily in integration processes. The last days of the year have seen a great event in Russian foreign policy in Ukraine. This, in musical parlance, was an unmistakable crescendo," the political scientist believes.
"In comparison to the previous years Russian diplomats have scored indisputably positive results in 2013," the head of the Centre for European Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Aleksey Kuznetsov said.
Talking about the future, the expert said Russian diplomacy would inevitably have to deal with some "sore spots." "We need to remember that the theme of post-Soviet integration will stay on the agenda. The Middle East problems will be still there. Given these two circumstances, it will not be easy at all to foster relations with the EU. A visa-free regime for short-term trips is still an open question."
The head of the Centre for German Studies of the RAS Institute of Europe, Vladislav Belov, believes Russia is taking the initiative away from Western partners in settling international issues.
The expert also doubts the prospects of Russian-EU cooperation: "Unfortunately, no progress has been made in our talks with the EU on another framework agreement."
"Another major track is the Transatlantic one, relations with the US and NATO. It seems to me certain progress has been made here, especially in the activities of the NATO-Russia Council. I see some signs relations between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama started mending toward the end of the year," Belov said. "As far as some other spheres are concerned, Syria is a definite success. Russia's results are substantial and positive, whatever the West may be saying."
"Speaking of Russia's closest neighbours, it is hard to say to what extent the year has been successful for the Customs Union, as much controversy is implicated in this issue. But we are finishing the year on a positive note in relations with Ukraine, trying to make a confident transition to a promising middlegame," the expert believes.
According to Belov, "Russia has the advantage of cooperation with China, Southeast Asian countries, and Brazil.
"I have not seen any obvious errors or failures of the Russian diplomacy. As for our shortfalls, the aims yet to be achieved under the Concept of the Foreign Policy authorized earlier this year, we have not acquired soft power so far. We have not employed this factor yet. Much remains to be done along these lines," he said.
Honorary President of the Foreign and Defence Policy Council, head of the World Economics and World Politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov, shares the colleagues' positive evaluations. In an interview to Itar-Tass he described Russian foreign policy in 2013 as "pro-active and robust."
Speaking on behalf of Russia Putin "was very articulate and emphatic in rejecting pseudo-liberal values," despite the outrage it caused in some parts of the Western world, he believes.
Karaganov noted the use of so-called soft power in relations with the Asia- Pacific region, primarily China and its neighbours. Besides, he described the U.S. decision, announced on Friday, not to expand the 'Magnitsky list' as "a good omen." As the White House explained, it wanted to avoid confrontation with Russia amid the two countries' cooperation on the Syrian and Iranian issues.
"For Russia to be successful in the international arena in the future there must be a development vector for at least the following 10-15 years that would be pretty clear to everybody. We need to become stronger, and then the global attitude to Russia and its foreign policy will change," Karaganov said in conclusion.