Pursuing an Exit From the Crisis—With Global Partners
Russia’s radical foreign policy strategy is based on the assumption that the previous world order is dead. Indeed, if collapse—rather than reshaping—is ahead, “to be the crisis” that buries the old order and sets forth the new one could seem to be a reasonable choice. To stand above the rubble of the old rather than be buried under its wreckage would be an advantageous position.
Resolving the crisis, and preventing future crises, would then depend on the willingness and ability to recognize that revolutionary and catastrophic events are still few—and local. Further, even major players who want major changes do not want upheavals. Choosing “to be the crisis” is therefore a dead end. A significant and independent role in international affairs requires being part of the exit from crisis.
The Eastern European military and political environment’s influence on Russia’s foreign policy is secondary to the international system’s—the viability, effectiveness, and relevance of which is critical, as is its ability to adapt to and affect events. The evolution of Russia’s strategy is set not in the plains of Ukraine, but on the banks of the East River in New York and in Geneva, Brussels, and other centers of international coordination.
The past two decades of world history, culminating in the COVID-19 pandemic, saw the eroding effectiveness of global governance institutions; the vulnerability of the global economic system; the declining ability of the West and, in particular, of the United States to bear the burden of unipolarity; the emergence of new power centers; and increasing disunity.
The events of 2022 brought about a new consolidation of the West. U.S. and EU leaders appear intent on rebalancing the world order in the spirit of the 1990s, the West playing a central role and the non-Western periphery remaining disparate and disunited. Yet this intent is facing pushback from world powers whose political and economic potential has advanced qualitatively and whose ambitions are growing accordingly. The new players would like to reset the outdated system to fit their needs.
Further, returning to the 1990s would mean repealing the sustainable development agenda as it has unfolded over the past few decades, based on diversity, inclusiveness, equality, justice, and the priority of the common good. To succeed, a reshaped world order needs to be grounded in these principles.
Reshaping Russia’s foreign policy strategy with a view to breaking the country’s isolation and its becoming part of the peaceful transformation of the current global governance architecture will of course depend on the country’s domestic evolution. However, the external factor—the solidity as well as flexibility of existing international institutions—is also paramount.