Russian Foreign Policy: Three Historical Stages and Two Future Scenarios

In: Russian Politics
Sergei Karaganov Academic Supervisor and Dean, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE University Moscow Russia
Honorary Chairman, the Presidium of The Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Moscow Russia

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There have been several stages in Russia’s foreign policy since 1991. From a naive and idealistic pro-Western course, to ‘getting up from its knees’, to asserting itself as an independent great power. Around 2018, this trajectory reached a plateau, with the potential for decline. Since then, Russia and the world began to face fresh challenges and an almost qualitatively different environment. Even before the start of the epidemic in 2020, it was clear that Russia required a new foreign policy, built on what had been achieved in previous decades, but geared towards the future. This would include a strong ideology, focus on internal growth and development, and the development a streamlined and more cost-effective approach to foreign policy to adjust to a more turbulent and chaotic external environment. Despite growing international chaos and unpredictability, two scenarios for Russian foreign policy are surfacing. An optimistic one in which Russia successfully adapts to these changing circumstances, and a less optimistic one where it continues its current course of internal development, failing to live up to its full potential, but nevertheless still retaining the ability to play an independent and significant role in world affairs.

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