Moscow Looks Abroad


In the aftermath of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov’s spectacular fall from grace, much attention was paid to his authoritarianism, his absenteeism, his penchant for protest quashing and forest crushing, and for the architectural eyesores and snarling traffic jams which sprouted in the city under his tenure.  However it also is worth remembering, as Paul Goble on Window on Eurasia points out, that the mayor, when not overseeing his own brand of metropolitan expansionism with sky-scraping edifices and urban sprawl, did also make the odd grandiloquent foray into foreign policy:

“Luzhkov was by turn famous and infamous, Moscow State University expert Aleksandr Karavayev says, for his foreign policy pronouncements, including his calls for Siberian river diversion to Central Asia and the restoration of Russian control of the Crimea. And the current tandem does not want to see his replacement making such declarations.”

However, Karavayev goes on to argue, the very nature of ‘managing’ Moscow, the head of Russia’s geographical body politic, where foreign cash flows and where CIS migrants crowd, means that whoever fills the position will inherently have some stake in the tone of Russia’s foreign policy, whether Putin and Medvedev like it or not.  As if it wasn’t a big enough job just running Moscow.

The new mayor will not be able to make the kind of “extravagant” foreign policy statements that characterized the Luzhkov period, although it should be remembered, Karavayev notes, that Luzhkov’s remarks were “not only” a reflection of his views but “an essential addition to the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.”

Consequently, the new mayor may very well fulfill a similar niche in Moscow’s approach, but “under the present conditions of the high capitalization of the Moscow economy,” Karavayev argues, “there are other foreign policy tasks [that need to be performed] in any case, stylistically.”

“The exotic views of the charismatic mayor will now recede, but the very theme of the support [“sheftstvo”] of Moscow over a number of regions of the Commonwealth of Independent States apparently will remain.” Moreover, the new mayor will play a major role in attracting and distributing foreign investments by virtue of its relative size and international importance.

Moreover, Karavayev continues, “the CIS capitals will follow carefully how Moscow resolves its transportation and social-economic problems and how its organizers its city economy,” and they will especially track how Moscow deals with “legal illegal migration,” given that Moscow is “the capital” of both in the CIS.

Read all here.