Moscow is abuzz over a very interesting piece that appeared on Friday in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The paper reported that the Kremlin does not intend to escalate the current state of confrontation with the West in general and the United States in particular. According to the article, in the near future a package of measures will be implemented with the goal of improving relations and easing tensions between Russia and its Western partners. The information is attributed to several sources within the presidential administration. Apparently, the decision to shift policy was influenced in part by Russia’s isolation in its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The West’s restraint with respect to sanctions against Russia was understood as a signal that the West ultimately does not want to raise the stakes over Georgia. Furthermore, the severity of the current financial crisis in Russia has shown that its economy cannot flourish in isolation. Nezavisimaya Gazeta tells us that an informal working group has been established, headed by Alexei Gromov, Deputy Chief of Staff of President Medvedev’s Executive Office. It is believed that Gromov was behind the establishment of the “Russia Today” TV channel, aimed at delivering Russian viewpoints to non-Russian audiences, and the “Valdai Discussion Club” annual meeting of foreign journalists and political scientists with the Russian leadership. The working group has had certain parameters set for it. For example, any climb-down on Georgia is excluded, as would be any significant concessions in “the economic sphere”, such as ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty. Nezavisimaya Gazeta says that the Kremlin may even liberate a number of Russian prisoners viewed in the West as political prisoners. However, according to the article, any such moves are unlikely to affect Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The article further states that while appreciated at home, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is perceived by some as having gone too far, for example in his heated exchanges with David Miliband. Lavrov now personifies the growing Russia-West confrontation. As a result, he may be moved from the Foreign Ministry to another position, perhaps given a vice premiership, allowing someone else to become the face and voice of Russian foreign policy. Gromov is cited as a possibility. The article concludes saying that a new era in Russian foreign policy may soon emerge, involving a constructive partnership with the West. In this new era, Russia will be a strong counterparty, not weak and timid. So a very interesting article, which is not quite consistent with the theme of the anti-Kudrin attacks that appeared in the Russian press at the height of last week’s stock market crash. Evidently, the clan wars continue.
Medvedev is against conflict with WestNezavisimaya Gazeta, Konstantin RemchukovThe Kremlin does not intend to deepen confrontation with the West as a whole and the USA in particular going forward as well. A whole package of measures aimed at improving relations and weakening the tension in the dialogue between Russia and her key western partners is going to be adopted in the nearest future. Several informed sources in the administration of the president of Russia and around it report about this at once.Several factors at once have influenced Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to switch over to a policy of a “moderate easing” in relations with the West. To them can be attributed too the extremely moderate reaction of the United States of America and especially of the European Union on the recognition by Russia of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.The absence of attempts to introduce real sanctions against our country has shown that the West, despite the hawkish rhetoric of many politicians and commentators, has no intention of quarrelling with Russia over Georgia. The financial crisis too had an impact: in consideration of the fact that our economy has become a part of the world’s economy, to deal with its consequences without the help of the West and all the more so in conditions of the isolation of Russia is practically impossible.At the present time the package of priority measures is being elaborated by an informal working group, which has been headed by deputy head of the administration of the president Alexey Gromov. This official has for several years already been engaged in questions of the image of the Russian power in the West. It is considered that to none other than Gromov belongs the idea of creating the television channel Russia Today, offering an audience beyond the border objective information on events in Russia, and regular meetings of political scientists – members of the famous “Valdai club” with the Russian leadership. At a recent session of the “Valdai club” Medvedev particularly noted the positive role of the deputy head of the AP in putting right the dialogue of official Russia with international experts and the journalistic community.Alexey Gromov successfully coordinated work with Russian and foreign mass information media during the time of the South Ossetian conflict.According to the information of our sources, the president clearly determined for the “group of Gromov” the “red lines” beyond which Russia can not and will not retreat. Thus, the Kremlin will not under any circumstances give up the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the placement of military bases on the territory of these two new states. A priori ruled out as well are radical concessions in the economic sphere, for example, ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), presupposing the free transit of Asiatic energy sources through the territory of the RF. As is known, the European Union has been insisting on ratification of the document for a long time and without success.At the same time the Kremlin could, like Byelorussian President Alexander Lukashenka, ease the lot of a series of Russian citizens, whom in the West they consider political prisoners. (By the way, our sources converge on [the opinion] that the relaxations, if they will be, will not likely touch upon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.) Completely real [is] liberalization of the conditions for the participation of large transnational corporations in strategic raw-materials projects on Russian territory. Well, and, of course, “for dessert” the Kremlin may offer the West certain personnel reshuffles: some officials, evoking excessive irritation in Washington and European capitals, perhaps, will recede into the background.Not last in the queue, being spoken of is minister of foreign affairs Sergey Lavrov, who today has almost turned into a living symbol of the growing Russian-Western confrontation, especially after the stir caused by his piquant talk with British colleague David Miliband. Many converge in the thought that our head diplomat, formally called upon to reconcile political contradictions and smooth over sharp corners, went a bit overboard with the “patriotic” rhetoric. Moreover, Lavrov, whom both Medvedev and Putin value very highly, could formally even be promoted to vice-premier, but the face and voice of Russian foreign policy he will no longer be. In replacement of him are being examined several candidates, moreover the main one for now – is that same Alexey Gromov, head of the working group “on moderate easing”. By the way, Gromov is a career diplomat and before coming to the Kremlin in the year 1996 worked in the Russian embassy in Slovakia.It appears that Dmitry Medvedev is attempting to find a solution that will allow to strategically make up with the West without any “giving up” whatsoever of the geopolitical positions of Russia. If this succeeds, one will be able to speak with confidence about the beginning of a new epoch in Russian foreign policy, when constructive partnership with the West will be a “friendship of the equal and the strong”, and not the relations of an all-powerful boss and a timid subordinate.