By Maria Dubovikova
Russia has no allies. President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that his country’s size frightens its neighbors, and repeated the famous saying of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two allies: its army and navy.
The current international crisis started with the Ukrainian conflict, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives. It has torn off the masks of many international players, which have openly revealed their true intentions and thus pushed the international community to a broad confrontation.
Having no enemies or allies makes Russian manoeuvres difficult to calculate
NATO manoeuvres, deployment of U.S. anti-missile defense systems in Europe, and rhetoric against Russia disturbs Moscow, and indicate that they pose a threat to its national interests. Putin has accused the United States of the desire to have vassals rather than allies. Washington has become used to imposing its will on other countries via visits or telephone calls from high-level U.S. officials who believe in American exceptionalism.
Russia considers itself a great power with the right to have its own foreign policy, to protect its national interests, and to abide by international law rather than dubious rules imposed by a player with little credibility pretending to be a world arbiter.
Russia demands respect for its national interests and asks for fair cooperation. Russia has good and stable relations with Brazil, India and China, and considers those relations as models for prosperous coexistence and cooperation.
Despite great problems in Russian-Western relations, Putin said his country does not view any other as an enemy, and urged the international community not to view Russia as a foe. He considers the real enemies to be international terrorism and organized crime.
Russia feels strong and fears nothing. Putin says the worst period for the country’s economy is over, and predicts a speedy recovery assuming that it will adapt fast to new realities. Russia will not yield to external pressure or sanctions. Putin cited Iran, which has survived long-term sanctions and has not yielded to external pressure. According to him, Russia will survive the current crisis with little damage because it is stronger.
Far from good
In reality, however, the economic situation is far from good, with 45 percent of Russians cutting expenditure on essential commodities. Since the West is not eager to reach a detente, the crisis could become deeper and less predictable.
The message of Russian peaceful intentions is not convincing the Baltic states – which have historically considered Moscow a threat – and have been contradicted by hawkish and politically incorrect declarations from some high-level Russian politicians. However, in general Russia has no interest in confrontation or aggravating international or bilateral relations. Its prosperity depends on fruitful cooperation and global economic stability.
Having no enemies or allies makes Russian manoeuvres difficult to calculate. Though Moscow does not see its counterparts as enemies, it does see direct threats to its national interests in their actions. And despite not having allies, Russia enjoys good cooperation with several global players. Thus Putin’s message is reminiscent of lyrics from a famous Soviet song: “We are a peaceful people, but our armored train stands at the ready.”
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy.