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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Time to End Posturing on World Stage




President Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy address Tuesday held few surprises, but it did confirm the defiant trend in Russia's recent relations with the West.


Breaking with the honeymoon in U.S.-Russian relations in the early years of reform, the Kremlin has spent the last two years trying to mark out a territory for Russia outside the U.S. orbit.


While stopping well short of a return to Cold War hostility, Russia is now increasingly underlining areas where Moscow and Washington see things differently.


Yeltsin has allowed his foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, to lobby against Washington's proposals for taking action against Iraq in the UN Security Council and to oppose sanctions against Serbia for its behavior in Kosovo. Russian officials also do not miss an opportunity to complain about the decision to expand NATO into Eastern Europe.


For Yeltsin, this is all part of his doctrine of a new "multipolar" world order, in which he has invited other second-tier powers to stand up to U.S. world dominance and protect their own national interests. China, France and Germany are some of the other "poles" Yeltsin is trying to attract but so far they have shown little enthusiasm.


All this plays well at home, where Russia is nursing wounded nationalist pride at its diminished status in the world. It is also true that Russia often has its own very specific interests, which do not always coincide with those of the United States.


Parading an independent foreign policy may win Russia a few propaganda successes on the world stage and help Yeltsin prove he is no pushover. In the short term, Russia may also believe it has a lot to gain and little to lose by playing devil's advocate. For instance, its sales of sensitive technology to countries like Iran are highly lucrative. By pushing for an end to sanctions, Russia is hoping to help Iraq repay $8 billion in debts.


But this defiant mind-set, if taken too far, could also result in missed opportunities and a backlash.


Russia has been so lost in its self-righteous indignation that it has done little to develop a new relationship with the expanded NATO. The pickings may seem easy in Iraq and Iran but instability in the Islamic world will hurt Russia as badly as anyone.


And the West will eventually grow tired of a Russia that opposes simply for the sake of opposing and which is an unreliable partner.


If it is to define a new role for itself, Russia should brush the chip off its shoulder.