INTRODUCTIONAt environment and the world’s most influential

INTRODUCTIONAt the beginning of 2014, a situation that no one in an international environment predicted happened. The annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russian Federation. Against the backdrop of the outbreak of civil conflict and political revolution in Ukraine, Russia took advantage of the chaotic situation and, after a controversial referendum, occupied the Crimea. The territory of another sovereign state was thus annexed to the Russian Federation without any greater international response. Hence it is possible to say that Russia annexation of the Crimea was also a test of the international environment and the world’s most influential powers reactions. Around this tortious, in the 21st century, unexpected step, Russia launched a new foreign policy that is largely of concern in its neighbouring states, but also on the European continent.

This new foreign policy is more assertive, and it seems to be the Russian effort how to return to the viewpoint of the world powers, in the position of a capable competitor and not only an important regional actor. Above all, because it is a policy that is being practiced by Russia without much concern from the reactions of other actors of the international environment, it may be important to monitor the development of this policy, because Russia undoubtedly has the ambition and ability to speak intensely in the international security situation. From the point of view of the theories of international relations, this situation can be explained as a clear effort to strengthen one’s own position, security and disposable power even at the expense of another actor. Therefore, in this final essay, I will focus on the change of the Russian foreign policy, which overlaps with the Ukrainian crisis and annexation of the Crimea, towards a more confident and direct policy; while applying realism approach. The main research question is “What were the internal and external factors leading Russia to change of its foreign policy?”, however even other topics will be subject of interests, for example “How has the Russian foreign policy changed in the context of the Crimean annexation?” or “How has this change manifested in the international environment?”. In terms of the level of analysis, the case will be examined on the state level, where Russian foreign policy will be placed in the context of internal characteristics of Russian state like government, self-perception in international system and the influence of its state leader.  CRIMEA ANNEXATION2014 – The Beggining of the Change?The Crimean Peninsula is a territory in the Eastern Europe, which, in past few centuries belonged to a number of different countries – the Tsar’s Russia, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine. The population of this region is of the majority ethnically Russian and the peninsula has a strategic importance in access to the Black Sea (Larsen, 2016).

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Many of these aspects were used by the Russian Federation at the turn of February and March 2014 to justify the annexation of the peninsula, which was the territory of another, sovereign and internationally recognized state.What Russia called the connection of Russia’s historical territory was strongly associated with the Maidan revolution in Ukraine that took place at the end of 2013 and put forward a pro-European and pro-Western-oriented government that tried to distance Ukraine from Russia. At the international level, this was a geopolitical dispute between the West and the Russian Federation, when the West openly supported the revolution in Ukraine, and when Ukraine as the sphere of Russian influence was to be lost.

As a result, the relationship between the EU and Russia and the West and Russia in general, has been noticeable coldest since the end of Cold war (Larsen, 2016). According to Mearsheimer, however, the situation in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula is not the fault of Russia alone, but rather the opposite. Putin, according to him, was acting logically and as a strategist. Because there is no international government to protect states from one another, it is necessary for states to secure their own security and interests, while international law and human rights are going aside in such a situation. Thus Putin acted logically in the case of the annexation of the Crimea in the interest of preserving Russian national interests and security, while the West not only misinterpreted the stiuation but also supported the negative development of events by its actions (Mearsheimer, 2014a). The enlargement of NATO, which was seriously discussed with Ukraine and Georgia in terms of their future joint to this organization, was seen as significant security threat for Russian Federation.

Russia has indicated in the past several times that such a situation is unacceptable to them because both countries are neighbors of Russia and represent a strategic sphere of influence important for russian national security. The West only worsened the situation with its support for the pro-Western Ukrainian regime, which was openly anti-Russian and tried to push Ukraine westward. According to Mearsheimer, Washington itself misinterpreted the situation from the point of view of international law, with Russia acting according to geopolitical logic (Mearsheimer, 2014a).

What’s more, Mearsheimer even claims that the crisis in Ukraine is the longterm fault of the West, when liberal ideas provoked Putin to act. The United States and the EU then have their share of responsibility for the situation in Ukraine, despite the long-standing Putin warnings towards continuing effort to push the EU and other organizations eastward to the Russian border. Putin has annexed the Crimea for fear of a strategically valuable area and the possible installation of a NATO fleet on the peninsula. And the whole situation, according to him, only proves the fact that real politics is still relevant, even though the Western powers and the EU thinks that it has long been overcome and unusable in the 21st century (Mearsheimer, 2014b).The Ukrainian crisis, therefore, seems to be a gradation of the Russian position. Some of the reasons for Russia’s behavior during the Ukrainian Revolution quite overlap with the reasons that led Russia to an open and unrepentant introduction of its own more assertive policy. Thus, it is possible to say that the Ukraine revolution was the last straw that has convinced  Russia to embark on a new foreign-policy vision, pushing Russia as an active and significant player of the international format.RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY BEFORE 2014Russia “A good boy”?Before the Ukrainian crisis, Russian foreign policy seemed to be diametrically different from current activities.

In general, Russia has sought to operate in the former Soviet spheres of influence through economic diplomacy and available resources, what is one of the geopolitical aspects of Russian foreign policy, which, traditionally, as a world power, seeks to maintain appropriate sorroundings (Polegkiy, 2011).Russia then used its soft power and historical, cultural or linguistic proximity to its closest neighbors, while trying to influence levels of civil society, what should have been done by governamental NGOs. It created its influence with the help of web technologies and developed an NGO’s infrastructure to help transfer the Kremlin’s intentions and message to all levels of society.

The umbrella organizations then functioned to maintain influence abroad and strengthen Russian soft-power. Russia financed pro-Russian government parties in neighbourhood countries and founded organizations such as the Russian World Fundation, which was set up to promote Russian culture and language abroad India, or the Middle East should be the main objects of interest as well as the Pacific region (Polegkiy, 2011).In 2008 Russia signed a new concept of Russian foreign policy. The conceptual document also speaks about the desire to globalize Russian cultural and linguistic values, as well as the natural desire to meet the moral duty of supporting Russian all over the world. During this period, among Russia’s leadership and Russian society the Eurasian vector of foreign policy was very popular .

According to this direction, Russia should focus on Eurasia rather than on the West, because it is not, and will never be, an equal partner for the West. China, India, or the Middle East should be the main objects of interest as well as the Pacific region (Polegkiy, 2011). After Georgia’s highly active and aggressive policy, Russia under the influence of the international financial crisis, focused on solving internal problems. Medvedev’s presidency was thus characterized by a focus on restoring cooperation with countries that had the technical and investment potential that could help Russia to modernize the domestic economy (Tsygankov, 2012).Russian foreign policy is sometimes referred to as unpredictable, but as Kropatcheva points out, it is relatively consistent, only the West has trouble reading the signals sent by the Russian Federation. Russia seeks to secure long-term interests that change only according to the context of the international environment.

Those interests are primarily about security, autonomy, maximization of material utilities and also the maximization of its international prestige. And if Russian interests, especially those of the security, are not found to be enough relevant to the West, it leads to a decline in cooperation and trust in the West, often referred to as anti-Western politics (Kropatcheva, 2011).However, after the Ukrainian Revolution of 2013 and especially after the annexation of the Crimea, Russian foreign policy seems to be far more pervasive, more self-confident and much less focused on the West’s view of Russian activities or the use of soft-power. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, is not afraid of a military solution that does not necessarily comply with international conventions. So what factors contributed to the change of Russian foreign policy, apart from the Ukrainian crisis?THE CHANGE IN THE RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICYRussia Shows the other FaceEXTERNAL FACTORSThe geopolitical dispute between the West and Russia stemmed from the Russian feeling of being endangered, while as a long-term threat to its Russian security is seen the possible membership of Ukraine in NATO. Russia rejects this idea and sees it as Western efforts to encircle Russia (Larsen, 2016).And it is the security that plays a primary role in Russian foreign policy. The Russian security strategy is, among other things, geared towards preserving the Russian position in an international environment where Russia should always look like a capable player who does always win.

The loss of influence in the neighboring country, which would undoubtedly happen if Ukraine would join NATO or the European Union, would in Russian eyes mean not only defeat but also a situation where there is real threat of Western armies being installed on a once Russian peninsula, which even nowadays plays a key role in Russian military strategy, as well as access to the Black Sea and submarine base of the Russian Federation in the Crimea (Tsygankov, 2015).After all, Putin himself mentioned that, in case of further NATO expansion towards the Russian border, he would consider activities in Eastern Europe, which include even the probability of possible annexation of some neighboring territories and Russian determination to act was to be seen already in Georgia during 2008 (Bebler, 2014). NATO is perceived by the Russian side as a relic of the past, for which there is no longer any reason of existance.

From a Russian point of view, it is an organization that emerged as a counterpart to the Warsaw Pact, and it was necessarily something that defined it. Countries were joined under the common interest of maintaining their own security when the Soviet Union was the threat. Today, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, Russia believes that what is perceived as a threat is its presence (Larsen, 2016).This was particularly the case when a discussed situation would directly threaten Russian vital interests. For Mearsheimer and others, therefore, it is not surprising that Russia has decided to act and start pushing for a new direction in its foreign policy that should become more pervasive and to show the West that in these discussions it is necessary to count on Russia, has the capacities and the ability to assert its position and protect its interests in the international system (Mearsheimer, 2014a; Larsen 2016).

So it was probably a combination of feeling potentionaly threatened, publicly weakened and pushed by other powers, together with desire to defend own interests, that have triggered changes in Russian foreign policy. INTERNAL FACTORSBut it were not only external factors that played significant role. From the arrival of Putin to the third term of the presidency in 2012, government has placed great emphasis on defining Russian uniqueness and west-differencies, resulting in the rise of nationalism both in political and public life (Corbouf, 2016).

The west started to be considered as “other” and the new foreign policy, this time more assertive towards Europe and western countries, was build on this point of view. And nationalism in the country resulted in nationalistic and identity-related foreign policy too (Kuzio, 2016). Nationalism, however, is strategically used by the regime because it protects the regime itself from possible threats and also restricts the rise of alternative political flows. Nationalism functions as a bond of the population, when the united and powerful population is to prove to the other countries the power and potential of Russia. Russian society and politics work on a kind of social contract where the country’s leadership provides citizens with and prosperity, and the population then recognize regime as legitimate (Corbouf, 2016).With Putin’s re-entry into power, pragmatism began to be promoted in Russian politics, and the country slowly tended towards an authoritative form of government. Authoritarian states are far closer to using hard power and aggressive foreign policy.

Even though Russia is still showing elements of democracy, its democratic institutions are greatly weakened, even for reasons such as corruption (Corbouf, 2016).Russia is also inclining to conservatism and turning to traditional national values. Since Putin’s entry into the third term of the presidency, the regime has been greatly strengthened, and statism now shares many elements with conservatism.

This conservatism also recognizes the use of military power abroad, as the Russian National Security Strategy 2020 demonstrated in highlighting the right to use military force in the event of a conflict outbreak near the Russian border, which would jeopardize Russian national interests (Corbouf, 2016). The so-called Putinism is also characterized by the renewed recognition of military forces. Putin has built a narrow circle of trusted elite, mainly from military, business circles and secret services, and a bi-directional system works between him and the circle. Elites support his decisions and Putin rewards them. Rewards may take the form of adopting a policy that is beneficial to them (Corbouf, 2016).

The fact that Russia itself perceives itself as a great power also has an impact on foreign policy, which can be so assertive, precisely because of the effort to persuade the West definitively for its status. Similarly, A major role in Russian foreign policy is played by the president whose civic support is unusually high. If popularity declines slightly, it is time for the regime and the president to do something what will return popularity and legitimacy of the regime (Corbouf, 2016). Identifying itself as a world power brings several characteristics of foreign policy. The army plays a key role and must be able to defend the country, lead successful military operations, thereby increasing the willingness of the military to deploy abroad. The same great power status must be proven both abroad and at home (Corbouf, 2016).

The same example is the annexation of the Crimea, when Putin successfully tried to raise his popularity and divert citizens’ attention from domestic problems. How Corbouf points out, Putin’s popularity reached the lowest level in 2013 before Crimea annexation, but after the annexation it rised to nearly 90% (Corbouf, 2016).CURRENT FOREIGN POLICYThe new Russian foreign policy began to blend into an unusual scale with the concept of Russian national identity. Moscow has begun to seek its place in the international system by relying on domestic discourse and re-unloading of Russian history without putting it into the global context. As a result, politics has been widely promoted since 2012 by a mixture of the often irrational combination of Russian national identity, international security and domestic security goals, where the Kremlin perceives the West as a threat in all areas (Zevelev, 2016).

Russia’s foreign policy appears to be built on Russian national identity, with Putin operating in a specific political and intellectual circle, where traditions and history are deepened. The main goal of Putin’s third term was to re-establish Russia’s international power. From Putin’s point of view, power is based on whether “citizens of a given country consider themselves a nation, to what extent they identify themselves with their own history, values and traditions, and whether they are united by common goals and resposibilities.” (Zevelev, 2016: 8). The policy that the Kremlin currently operates is therefore a pragmatic response to ongoing domestic and foreign changes. And emphasizing the differences between Russia and the West is part of it. Starting in 2013 Putin chose a rather strong rhetoric and tried to emphasize the differences between the West and Russia. Russia is perceived as a modern international power mission.

International power, prestige and results can be achieved not only through military capabilities that are very important, but also through political influence and traditional balancing of policy and strategy (Zevelev, 2016).The West began to be perceived as a power that constantly sought to change the Russian uniqueness, as Putin had restored it in Russian politics. Country returns to the traditional values, gender roles, the Orthodox Church and politics, where the leader’s role is the most important.

The instrument of the West are not only NATO, but also the EU, which, since 2009, and the introduction of the Eastern Partnership, has also affected the neighboring countries of the Russian Federation and potentially restricted Russian influence (Zevelev, 2016). The main characteristics of Russian foreign policy-making are therefore the belief that Russia is a great power and, as such, should be treated in the international field; belief in the existence of a large Russian nation uniformly different from the West; the difference between the mental map, ie how the Russians geographicaly perceive themselves, and the real geographic extent of Russia, which is also related to the factor of need to maintain influence in neighboring countries (Zevelev, 2016).CONCLUSIONThe roots of the new Russian foreign policy are likely to be traced back to Vladimir Putin’s entry into the third presidential term. What began as a renewal of Russian identity, nationalism and the celebration of Russian history around 2012 and 2013 soon became a regime strenghtening, an increase of its authority, an emphasis on traditionalism and growing conservatism.The new foreign policy does not hesitate to use the army and foreign interventions in order to secure its own interests and security. Internal factors, such as the rise of authoritarianism, the strengthening of the regime, nationalism, traditionalism, defining the “us” and “West”, and defending the use of military force, are a kind of gradual move away from democracy, which also entails logical changes in foreign policy.

The annexes of the Crimea and geopolitical dispute with West then seem to be just a detonator that has finally convinced Russia to launch a public pragmatic policy. This policy is perceived as undesirable and potentially dangerous in the rest of Europe, as it is possible in the future to find a situation where Russia marks another state territory as its sphere of influence or national interest, and decides to annex it. This policy is also inadmissible in terms of international law and agreements. that does not look at the international system and other actors, but only follows its own interests with all available means.

From the point of view of the theory of international relations, we can say that the annexation of the Crimea has served as a rebirth of realism in world politics, where Russia defends its interests and security. The situation in Ukraine and the possible membership of Ukraine in NATO or the EU was perceived as a potential threat to the security of the country. Russia also shows that just as realists say, national interests for them will always exceed the seriousness of other affairs, and international law, or agreements go aside when it comes to threats to the security and interests of the country.


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