Russia’s Zimbabwe Veto: No Surprises

Russia is receiving a battering in the press over its refusal to support new sanctions on Zimbabwe. An article in today’s International Herald Tribune provides a couple of possible reasons for this refusal. Despite the shift in public image, the article says, former President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy is no different to that of Dmitry Medvedev, and reminds us that “Putin’s top foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, is now Medvedev’s top foreign policy adviser, and accompanied Medvedev to the [G8] summit.” Irina Filatova, writing for the UK’s Guardian, is in agreement, listing a number of positive developments in Russia’s home policy under Medvedev which, she says, clash with foreign policy moves:

[…] while the jury is still out on Medvedev’s democratic credentials at home, his foreign policy has been a direct and straightforward continuation of his predecessor’s line: no change in relations with Georgia and practically none with Ukraine, no change in relations with Britain or the US. The latest development is the shameful veto of UN sanctions against Mugabe’s illegitimate and murderous regime.

The implication here is that Russia has not made any promises to revolutionize its foreign policy, and thus there is no reason for the West to expect any great shift. But just today, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced plans to pour new resources into shaping foreign policy and developing “readiness to meet our partners halfway”. Given the Zimbabwe veto, the increasingly heated conflict with Georgia and the news today that Russia has deployed warships in the Arctic, it is difficult to see such words as anything more than empty rhetoric.Read the full IHT article here, and the Guardian piece here.