Foreign policy factor of Russian modernization
Since early XXI century a good tradition has emerged when the Russian president meets top diplomats of the country in the foreign ministry headquarters in Smolenskaya Square twice a year. The diplomats are looking forward to the meeting this year as, according to the Russian Constitution, it is the president who “determines the basic guidelines of home and foreign policy of the state” and “governs the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.” Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov told VIP-Premier about the significance of such meetings and preparations ongoing in Smolenskaya Square for the next one.
Andrei I. Denisov has been Russian first deputy foreign minister since April 2006. Born in 1952 he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. He has been employed by the foreign ministry since 1992 and occupied various diplomatic positions in the headquarters and abroad. In 1997-2000 he headed the economic cooperation department. In 2000-2001 he was Russian Ambassador to Egypt. In 2002-2004 he was deputy foreign minister. In 2004-2006 he was Russian Ambassador to the United Nations. Awarded with state decorations and holds the diplomatic rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary and the scientific degree of Candidate of Sciences, Economy. Speaks Chinese and English. Married with a daughter.
WORD OF THE PRESIDENT
– Mr. Denisov, when did the tradition of presidential meetings with diplomats emerge and is there such a practice abroad?
– Since early XXI century the meetings with the president of the Russian Federation are regularly held every two years in Smolenskaya Square in the format of a conference with Russian ambassadors to various countries. The meeting is timed to the arrival of our ambassadors and permanent representatives home for annual holidays although there is no direct link to that. The national president traditionally addresses the meeting, as well as heads of all Russian economic ministries, in particular, of economic development and finance. Various workshops of the meeting comprise its major part. There are workshops discussing cooperation with international organizations, relations with CIS countries, economic and public diplomacy, as well as country and regional ties.
Meetings of the ministry leadership with the head of state have taken place before in the Russian history. President Boris Yeltsin also visited the ministry to speak to the diplomats. However the meetings became regular ten years ago under President Vladimir Putin. This year we are looking forward to the second meeting with Dmitry Medvedev. We expect him to speak out on key and vital foreign policy issues and activities of our diplomatic service.
Such meetings are a common world practice. Naturally, each country has its own specifics: some hold them regularly, others when necessary. There is an interesting experience when foreign diplomats and heads of diplomatic services are invited to such meetings.
– Do you plan to borrow it?
– So far we do not have such plans, but we can think about them in future. The foreign audience is specifically interested in the speech of the president as the head of state voices interesting ideas and raises fresh foreign policy issues, as a rule..
– The first (2000) and second (2008) editions of the Russian Foreign Policy Concept were timed to the previous meetings with the president. Does your ministry draft a new conceptual document for the upcoming meeting due to major changes on the world arena and the development of a polycentric international system?
– We do not draft such a conceptual open document in the direct meaning of the word this time. The second edition of the Russian Foreign Policy Concept approved in 2008 is a long-term document that works for the future and does not depend on the political situation. The national leadership sees no necessity to radically amend it. The government adopted a series of important documents which do not directly concern foreign policy issues, but nevertheless reflect them. For example, we co-participate in the implementation of the Russian Foreign Economic Strategy up to 2020, the Transport Strategy and the Energy Strategy for the period of up to 2030, and a series of other conceptual documents. We would definitely like to make a certain “inventory” of foreign policy plans and determine the targets for further actions at the meeting.
DIPLOMATIC SERVICE SPECIFICS
– At the previous meeting in the foreign ministry President Dmitry Medvedev was specifically interested in young diplomats. What is the human resource policy of the ministry?
– We have to adjust to global development processes that become more complicated, to economic and political tasks that interweave to a greater extent, and to the growing influence of civil society on the formation of foreign policy in various countries, including the Russian Federation, in order to comply with the spirit of the age. Our diplomatic service has for long been an absolutely open system rather than caste corps. We only preserved high qualification requirements for applicants. Today we hire graduates from close to 17 Russian higher educational establishments who properly speak at least two foreign languages. The diplomatic work of the staff in the headquarters and abroad is becoming more balanced on all the levels of international communications beginning with preparations of the meetings of presidents and prime ministers and their participation in major international events up to promoting the solution of problems of ordinary citizens who travel abroad in great numbers, as well as providing legal assistance to our citizens in foreign countries.
– It seems to be difficult for our consulates to help Russians after obligatory registration abroad has been cancelled, isn’t it?
– This is the constitutional right of our citizens. However they often themselves need registration in consular offices. It is easier to help our citizens resolve their problems if we are aware of them and know who to contact in their interests. We can only recommend our citizens to refrain or suspend travel to that or another country in case of unfavorable developments. I would emphatically advise to comply with the recommendations. Our embassies, as a rule, do not have big staff and operate in a strict normative framework established both by the host country and our internal instructions based on Russian legislation. Everything is done in this framework to ensure the interests of the state and its representatives (either bodies of authority and companies or individual citizens abroad).
– In May a program leaked to mass media that was allegedly drafted by the foreign ministry and targeted “efficient and systemic use of foreign policy factors for the sake of long-term development of the Russian Federation.” Was the program timed to the upcoming meeting with the president or was it a fake?
– It is a full due of those who publish without permission documents obtained in an unclear way. I will speak about a more important thing. The main and decisive political document for our national development in the coming year is the message of the president to parliament. It contains basic political guidelines and foreign policy targets. The latest message in the autumn of 2009 contained several important tasks set by the head of state to add more pragmatism to our foreign policy and ensure more results in re-targeting our development vector to modernization and the creation of conditions for an innovative breakthrough. The foreign ministry cannot stay aside from the program tasks. We constantly work to add efficiency to foreign policy activities so that they promote the tasks of national modernization.
– The foreign ministry engaged in the work before. The notions of “diplomatic business promotion” and “economic diplomacy” have become common…
– Today we have to make the work systemic and pragmatic. We have even designed for ourselves the efficiency criteria for the growth in the trade turnover and foreign investments, for the decrease in foreign economic activity risks, removal of often political barriers and obstacles that restrict our access to various foreign markets. The criteria also promote our interests in international organizations, first and foremost, economic, trade and political ones, and the creation of a favorable image of our country, first and foremost, investment, economic and partnership. Concrete foreign policy events are held for that.
– Are there any new aspects in foreign ministry interaction with Russian regions to promote all-round modernization in Russia?
– We have been efficiently working with the regions of late. We hold presentations of their economic and investment potentials both in Moscow in the House of Receptions of the foreign ministry where we invite foreign diplomatic corps and abroad where we use the capabilities of Russian embassies. As far as we know, regional leaderships and the business community have appraised such activities.
– Back to foreign ministry efficiency criteria. How can we divide the achievements promoted by the foreign policy and economic ministries?
– Why should we divide them? We have to add and multiply them, not divide. Proper political climate in relations and progressing development of trade and investment ties are interdependent. As for political relations, we always realize that a material base in the form of business cooperation shall be provided to solidify them. Staking on business cooperation we realize the necessity of a good political climate and low foreign policy risks. In the practical field we closely interact with partners in other departments, first and foremost, in the economic development ministry. We contributed to the drafting of their program documents, while our partners have definitely contributed to the economic part of our documents. We instruct our representatives abroad, the embassies and trade missions (if any) to promote the implementation of common tasks. That also concerns the operations of intergovernmental commissions, which are an important instrument of practical implementation of foreign economic ties. Their operation is mostly the task of the economic development ministry, but foreign ministry involvement is necessary to promote commission activities in concrete countries. Ways to promote Russian economic interests abroad have been perfected for years.
– The 2009/2010 foreign policy season was rich in multilateral meetings – G8, G20, BRIC, RIC… Does the foreign ministry have any priority scale in Russian multi-polar diplomacy?
– The foreign ministry plays a great and key role in all the structures. Although the finance ministry and other economic departments play a leading role in the G20, which is a relatively new international institution created to promote recovery from the financial and economic crisis, the foreign ministry is also actively participating in the work. We do not compete in any format as foreign policy and state interests are always integral. It would be wrong and unpractical to speak about multi-polar diplomacy priorities. BRIC and RIC are the results of relatively new “network diplomacy”. The definition, which the community of political scientists has not got used to yet, envisages the creation of “groups of interest” for the implementation of a common drive in international political and economic issues. The interaction mechanisms for political state leaders were created to discuss, first and foremost, the issues of their interest. They do not have any sustainable structures, secretariats and permanently operating bodies.
If we speak about priorities, the main and unconditional one is the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It comprises the countries that closely surround us, our “relatives” with who we have lived together under one roof for a long time. Now we live in different homes, but often with contacting walls. In 2011 the CIS will mark the 20th anniversary which coincides with 20 years since Soviet disintegration. It is a holiday with a tint of grief. As it has been prudently noted, he who does not regret the USSR has no heart, and he who believes the USSR can be restored has no brains. So let us look ahead and mark the 20th CIS anniversary, which despite natural difficulties in the development of our countries and sometimes artificial politicization of various aspects of our life, continues to exist and will exist as a fruitful and necessary mechanisms for all member-states.
– It often seems the G20 and G8 have shifted the CIS to the background of Russian foreign policy…
– I would not say so. Various formats resolve various issues. The CIS deals with more practical cooperation issues close to economic life and the life of ordinary people. There are economic development and cooperation concepts and their implementation plan on the CIS space in which all CIS countries participate to that or another extent. There is a set of numerous industrial agreements (close to 70) and the industrial cooperation body – the Council. Interests always comprise the basis of economic cooperation. There are no and can be no levers to artificially drag anyone into integration processes. That is always the deliberate choice of a country. Therefore, the implementation of integration possibilities on the CIS space is the business of its member-countries.
– Russian experts intensively discuss the problems of “Russian dimensional development”. How does the foreign ministry define the political and geographic balance?
– The geographic factor has been always considered in the home and foreign policy. It is specifically important for Eurasian Russia, which is the biggest country in the world by the length of its borders. Therefore, we build relations with neighbors so that they promote balance, including geographic and in domestic development. When projects are launched in various parts of the Russian Federation the government considers them as points of growth that actively use the external factor. I will cite two of them: the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and events in the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in 2012, including the summit in Vladivostok. They seem to be specific tasks. One is related to sports and the other to foreign policy and foreign trade connected with Russian participation in the international forum. However in reality they develop into points of growth and regional development that actively engage international cooperation.
– To which extent can the foreign ministry and its missions abroad promote the development of Russian business?
– Our ministry by definition cannot interfere into commercial activities and the terms of the deals. It is a taboo for us. However state support provision is our direct office duty, as it is impossible to separate state interests from the interests of concrete economic operators. The economic interests of the state comprise the sum of interests of the economic operators on that or another market. Definitely, we cannot allow situations of artificial conflict of interests to emerge because of assistance to one company to the detriment of another. Therefore, it would be easier for us to operate efficiently if we were aware in advance of the plans of companies for the markets of the countries where they need direct state assistance to their projects. There is a generally recognized international tender practice when foreign missions contact state authorities in the framework of their possibilities to lobby the interests of their companies.
New elements appear in the practice in light of national innovation development tasks. Today we need not just bigger turnover and investment figures, but also the quality of growth. We thoroughly and exactingly consider the industries for investments and use our methods to make investments flow to the sectors that promote scientific and technical progress. First and foremost, they are information technologies, machine engineering, production of new materials, chemistry… Definitely, nobody forgets traditional industries that are the trademark of Russia. They mostly belong to the fuel and energy complex. But they also need differentiated encouragements to raise, for example, the processing level of extracted raw materials and move the processing to a new technological level. So, the quality comes first, rather than figures.
Interviewed by Katerina LABETSKAYA