While the West’s political and media establishments incessantly claim Russia is marginalized and isolated on the international scene, a serious and sober review of the year that is about to end tells a very different story. Russia has a forward-looking foreign policy and it is methodically achieving its objectives.
Russia’s immediate neighborhood remains its primary security imperative, what is sometimes referred to as the “former Soviet space.”
The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) witnessed Moscow consolidate membership with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Armenia discarded its EU Association Agreement. The EEU now includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan is considering membership.
The EEU aggressively sought to develop free trade zones (FTZ) with countries beyond the ‘former Soviet space.” Vietnam signed on in 2015 and India has created a working group to consider a FTZ. Up to thirty countries, including Zimbabwe, Jordan, Mongolia and Albania have applied for a EEU-FTZ relationship.
Russo-Sino relations continued to deepen on multiple levels, economically, politically, and militarily. Russia demonstrated its solidarity with China when it participated in a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS project – are attracting observer members, as well as expanding economic cooperation and deepening military ties.
In October of this year Russia and India inked a number of military-industrial and civilian economic contracts, including attack helicopter and nuclear plant deals.
Aware of the sensitive diplomatic perceptions vis-à-vis India, Russia continued to develop ties with Pakistan.
Russia and Japan have shown both sides want a resolution over the Kuril Islands issue. Both countries have agreed to joint economic activities on the islands – a breakthrough for this seven-decade long dispute.
Moving on to Europe, things are going in Russia’s favor too. Moldova and NATO/EU member Bulgaria elected pro-Russian presidents. Moldova is likely to close NATO’s office in Kishinev.
In France, Francois Fillon won the center-right primaries running a pro-Russia platform ahead of the country’s 2017 presidential election. Marine Le Pen of the National Front also favors better relations with Moscow.
Center-left politicians in Germany want the country to reject its leadership role targeting Russia. Their preferred policy is the return of “Ostpolitk” – balancing relations with the west and Russia.
Sweden declared it would not block Russia’s North Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany. This decision is a severe blow to the Kiev regime as Europe once again signals that it does not deem Ukraine to be a reliable energy partner.
The EU continues to be frustrated with its ties to Ukraine. Brussels refuses to grant Ukrainian visa free travel to the EU due to the lack of reforms at home. This has created a sense of disenchantment among many Ukrainians and enraged Kiev’s ultra-nationalists. Kiev refuses to implement the Minsk agreements regarding what is now a frozen conflict in the Donbas. Kiev tests the EU’s patience.
Russia’s relations with Turkey have been stormy recently. Though as the year ends there is solid evidence of a rapprochement. In 2015 Ankara was clearly in the Western and Gulf countries’ camp regarding Syria. At the end of 2016 there are signs of Turkey seriously agreeing to working with Russia to end that proxy conflict.
Russia can rightfully be pleased with the routing of the West’s “moderate” rebels in Syria. Russia now leads international diplomatic efforts for this war-torn country.
And then there is the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Trump ran on a platform improving ties with Russia. He has said the same since his surprise electoral victory. What this will mean in substance remains unclear. Though there is reason to believe that Washington’s very bellicose hostility to all things related to Russia is staring to change, and that would benefit both countries and the world.
All in, 2016 was a solid year for Russia’s foreign policy, though there is no doubt you were told differently by the West’s corporate mainstream media.
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.