From Republic.ru, April 11, 2023, https://republic.ru/posts/107940. Complete text:
In the early 1980s, at the height of the previous cold war, a comic map of “the world according to Ronald Reagan” was making the rounds of various countries’ newspapers. Needless to say, the USSR was labeled “evil empire”; China, “good commies”; and Western Europe was the home of “socialists and pacifist wimps” and also “our missiles.” Granted, the map also depicted “Thatcher land”; the Middle East (“our oil”); [and] the Persian Gulf (“our lake”). This map mocked what seemed to be the primitive views of the US president. However, unexpectedly, some ultraconservatives liked it, since it quite accurately reflected their vision of the world around them.
Fast forward 40 years. The Russian president has just signed yet another directive – the Foreign Policy Concept. It offers anyone with the patience to read 44 boring pages a rather peculiar view of the position of various countries and continents on the planet. Needless to say, at the center of the world is Russia, which is described as a “country-civilization.” But then things become more curious. One of the main sections of the concept is titled “Regional vectors of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy,” which apparently presumes a geographical principle of description. And the Kremlin offers its own, purely innovative geography. Russia is surrounded by the “near abroad,” where the Kremlin is determined to engage in conflict management and fight against “color revolutions.”
All of this is on the “Eurasian continent,” where Europe as such is conspicuously absent. “Eurasia” is represented by China, with which Moscow has “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction,” and by India, the partnership with which is [described as] only “privileged.” In Eurasia, Russia intends to establish “a broad integration contour – the greater Eurasian partnership – by integrating the potentials of all the Eurasian states, regional organizations and associations, based on the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and dovetailing the EaEU’s development plans with China’s One Belt, One Road [infrastructure] initiative.
Translated into plain language, this means that Moscow would like to organize transcontinental transport communication [lines] and beneficial trade. The only thing is that, in theory, goods would have to be transported to Europe, which, according to the concept’s authors, is not present on the “Eurasian continent.” For an understandable reason: Goods from Russia will not reach Europe in the face of sanctions and Russia’s isolation. In keeping with [the Kremlin’s] new geography, the “Eurasian continent” is adjoined by the “Asia-Pacific region” (where the concept does not allow for the inclusion of Japan, South Korea or the US). This region is limited to the ASEAN countries, with which [Russia] intends to cultivate mutually beneficial friendship.
The concept introduces a new, hitherto unknown geographical category – the “Islamic world,” with which Russia also intends to create [joint] security systems and foster mutually beneficial cooperation. The “Islamic world” lumps together Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, whose relations are far from ideal, to put it mildly. At the same time, Malaysia, among others, was not included in the “Islamic world.” I used to think that, if anything, geography was taught decently at both the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and espionage schools. However, there are no lengths you won’t go to for the concept’s sake. It’s good that at least Africa and Antarctica were left alone.
It is understandable why the Kremlin had to draw its own globe. It became necessary to declare Russia a separate “civilization” not only because [the Kremlin] wanted to stress its own importance (after all, no one argues that China is indeed a separate civilization). Right now, the Kremlin leadership also desperately needs to decouple from Europe, which Russia has been a part of throughout its history. After all, it is necessary to somehow explain why the concept has to acknowledge that “the majority of European countries pursue an aggressive policy toward Russia, aimed at creating threats to Russia’s security and sovereignty, gaining unilateral economic advantages, undermining domestic political stability, eroding traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, and creating obstacles to Russia’s cooperation with [its] allies and partners.”
In other words, to call a spade a spade, while rigorously protecting what the Kremlin calls “traditional spiritual and moral values,” the country has become a pariah within the “civilization” to which it historically belongs.
Meanwhile, it is clear to everyone that the weak and morally bankrupt Europeans are not in a position to pursue such a hostile policy toward Russia on their own. Other powerful forces are necessary. And they materialize in the form of another hitherto unknown geographical category: “the US and other Anglo-Saxon states.” It turns out that “the US and its satellites have used Russia’s measures to protect its vital interests in Ukraine as a pretext to escalate their long-standing anti-Russian policy and unleash a new type of hybrid war.” Actually, this sums up the main conflict of the modern era. It should be noted that this is the only place in the concept where the conflict in Ukraine is mentioned in any way at all. Otherwise, the entire discourse of the foreign policy doctrine’s authors is based on the idea that the cursed Anglo-Saxons and countries under their control have turned against Russia solely out of malice and inexplicable existential hatred toward our country.
It doesn’t seem to make much sense to analyze this hodgepodge of outright manipulations and sophisms that aim to prove the unprovable. For domestic TV viewers, it is too abstruse. To the outside world, constructions for the sake of which even geography has to be modified are evidently also of no value. The only purpose [might be] an attempt to send certain signals to the West. In my opinion, the Foreign Policy Concept contains two such signals.
The first one is that despite multipage assurances about adherence to international law (naturally, when this law does not come into conflict with the Kremlin’s interests), the principal tool of Russia’s foreign policy is military force:
“The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation can be used, among other things, to repel and prevent an armed attack against Russia and (or) its allies; resolve crises; maintain (restore) peace under the mandate of the UN Security Council [and] other collective security organizations with Russia’s participation in their area of responsibility; protect their citizens abroad; [and] combat international terrorism and piracy. The Russian Federation considers it lawful to take symmetric and asymmetric measures to suppress such unfriendly acts and to prevent their recurrence in the future.”
This is a de facto declaration of [Russia’s] readiness to deliver a preventive strike at its own discretion. This is the first time that such a statement has appeared in our country’s directives.
Of course, this may be considered a retroactive justification for the invasion of Ukraine – or carte blanche for action with respect to other countries.
And this is the second signal [to the West], which concerns Russia’s intention to prevent or resolve armed conflicts [and] counter all attempts by external forces to interfere in the domestic affairs of neighboring countries. Moscow reserves this exclusive right. What we have here is a claim for a new version of the Brezhnev doctrine, which established “limited sovereignty” for countries that the Kremlin considered to be part of its sphere of influence.
The concept amounts to the de facto declaration that diplomacy is ceasing to be a foreign policy tool. The [Russian] Foreign Ministry’s transformation into a department of the Defense Ministry is only a matter of time.