1 - 1994
Sorokin K.E.

Russia and Multipolarity: "a Time to Embrace, and a Time to Refrain from Embracing"


Russia and Multipolarity: "a Time to Embrace, and a Time to Refrain from Embracing" The collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated and more importantly reshaped the process of transition from the bipolar to multipolar make-up of the world. In a new development the competing global entities of Western Europe, North America and Asia are now struggling to lay a hand on the vast resources of what used to be the Soviet state and its sphere of influence to get a crucial edge over each other. As the result of foreign economic penetration and political persuasion Eastern Europe has virtually forfeited its geopolitical autonomy. If this tendency is allowed to continue, the same fate may befall the former non-Russian Soviet republics and even Russia herself. Russia cannot be realistically expected to put up with this trend. Moscow has no compelling reason to let anyone use her resources "for free" in the mounting global competition. Moscow will also resist attempts to squeeze her out of the neighboring states which she rightfully regards as an area vital for promotion of her national interests. Finally, looking from the global perspective, in the past, redivisions of the world solved few problems, yet tended to create many new ones eventually leading to flare-ups of tension and wars on the global scale. A new Russian national strategy tailored to meet multiple challenges from the new geopolitical setting should be predicated on several premises. Though in the past Russia as part of the USSR proved that it could survive on her own, she is ill-advised to intentionally relapse into Soviet-style isolation which will not be. conducive to her resurrection as a first-class world power. But Moscow should not sacrifice its national interests and lose face domestically and internationally to receive an "encouraging slap on the back" from abroad and just be declared "a part of international community". The experience of the last several years indicates, that while Russia has no clear or immediate enemies, she also does have friends taking her problems and concerns close to heart. Hence she should rely first and foremost on her domestic resources and expertise as opposed to foreign aid and advice to solve her internal problems. In the same vein, Moscow should not declare any state or a group of states as her strategic partners or allies: hopes for close partnership have slim chances to materialize; such partnership could be conditional upon Russia assuming a submissive position detrimental to its long-term interests; while attempts to forge it may well backfire upon Russia's relations with other world leaders. In the current circumstances the most lucrative posture for Russia would be to try to keep a "balancing equidistance" from the traditional and emerging geopolitical entities. This strategy would be similar to that pursued for centuries by Britain in European politics: no continuous and intimate involvement into continental bickering plus occasional "tilting-the-balance" intervention in line with national interests. The "balancing equidistance" strategy should take greater and sometimes cynical advantage of potential foreign policy assets which Russia still disposes, and which her present leaders are not fully aware of. Ingeniously pursued, that strategy would greatly contribute to changing the current geopolitical status of Russia: from the self-created international pariah looking for alms, to a country whose cooperation would be a prize for those ready to deal with her on terms of equality.