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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drawing New Red Lines

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The resignation of Mikhail Fradkov's government was the formal beginning of the change of power in Russia. This process will be completed by summer 2008. By that time, Russia will have a new parliament, a new president and a new Cabinet, and it will become clear what role Vladimir Putin will choose for himself.

There is no sense at this point in making forecasts about the the Kremlin's future foreign policy because Putin's style makes predictions impossible. In addition, the situation in Russia and the world is changing too fast for us to keep up. Just when we think we understand the state of global affairs, it turns out that the situation has changed once again.

The last year of Putin's presidency could be described as a time of strategic breakthrough. Russia has reached a new status on the international arena. Its foreign policy line has changed dramatically, taking a much tougher and more aggressive tone.

The government is drawing its own "red lines," as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently put it, with regard to its global status, its immediate security and the basic principles that determine international order. Moreover, it is less inclined to make compromises.

A tough and persistent policy like this would be impossible if a "technical president," in the form of Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, were to become the next president.

The division of functions between the nominal head of state and the real leader will either cause Moscow to moderate its activity or lead to failures in the entire system. Such a model may require an increased role for the Foreign Ministry. Diplomats will find themselves in a difficult position, however, as they will not know whom they should be guided by or whom they should appeal to.

If things develop this way, the style -- and possibly the content -- of government's policy, which is now set by Putin, may grow more moderate.

Before that happens, however, the last few months of the current presidency could be marked by even tougher and more aggressive actions aimed at completing Putin's strategic breakthrough. Then, the next leader will be able to pose as a peacemaker and initiator of more constructive cooperation, starting the bargaining from a more advantageous position. At the same time, Putin will assume the role of an informal negotiator with the West on certain delicate issues.

Much will depend on the new leader's personality. There is no sense in trying to guess who will be the new leader, but we can safely assume that the following underlying principle of Putin's conservative policy will continue to play a dominate role: Western principles, which seemed as if they were universally correct after the end of the Cold War, have failed. Solutions proposed by the West are often erroneous and fail to produce the desired results. The West has weakened itself over the last few years by making poor and ideologically motivated decisions. Quite a number of problems that have arisen over the last 15 years were caused by the implementation of these erroneous policies. The West was driven by a feeling of indisputable moral and intellectual self-righteousness after the collapse of communism.

On the whole, the ruling elite views the United States as a factor of international instability. A few days ago, Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst close to the Kremlin, wrote: "There is a universal demand for checking the American expansionism. ... Any actions by Russia in this field, even if they are not publicly approved, will be tacitly supported by the majority of mankind." Public opinion against the United States has truly reached a critical level.

In its forecasts for the development of the global system, Moscow assumes that things have not been developing the way they were expected after the Cold War. This is seen in the larger role of national states, the universal rise of protectionist ideas and the increased significance of the military force as a factor in international affairs.

Since new rules and norms have not yet been established, Russia does not need to integrate with anyone. This freedom of action broadens possibilities. Interestingly, Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush find themselves in a somewhat similar situation as they reach the end of their terms -- both countries are experiencing serious difficulties with their allies. The only difference is that Washington considers this to be a big problem, while Moscow does not.

Russia will not be absolutely alone, even if it has no official allies. Problems keep growing, and many people in the world understand this, although not all dare to speak about it. Tactical cooperation among countries is highly welcome because "the mission defines the coalition."

The new president will have to address the following foreign-policy problems:

• The need to build reliable energy contacts with neighbors and resolve disputes with its client states. This is the key to normalizing its relations with former Soviet republics and to overcoming its deadlock with the European Union.

• Russia will have to think of building more stable relations with its allies. The absence of countries on which Moscow can rely weakens its global position.

• The security issue, including the deployment of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, NATO's enlargement and the future of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, will remain acute, and changes in the government's position on these issues are not expected.

• The Kremlin needs to be proactive in establishing its own agenda. Until now, Moscow used to reject models and solutions proposed by the West, but it was unable to formulate a viable alternative.

We can expect that the basic principles of the Putin policy will remain in force because in the next few years, both Russia and the rest of the world will remain in a dynamic state, and it will be simply impossible for them to "fix their profits."

The exact shape of Russia's long-term foreign policy and of a more stable situation in the world will, most likely, begin to show up only in the next decade.

Fyodor Lukyanov is editor of Russia in Global Affairs journal.