President Putin's policy can be divided into two periods during the two years of his presidency: the internal stage and the foreign policy stage, in which Russia entered very fast after September 11, 2001. For the time being, they both can be estimated as successful, with a little stipulation.
In terms of internal policy, President Putin managed to reduce the regional leaders’ sovereignty, to restore Russia’s image within Russia itself, to give certain hopes to the people, to pay back the salary debts to the population, and to beat the oligarchs. Russia has been living without foreign loans for two years already; the country also services its foreign debt. The president's latest decision is military reform and the introduction of contracts into the Armed Forces. It was also decided to increase the funding of the budgetary and military fields.
As far as foreign policy is concerned, Putin has managed to considerably improve relations with other countries, with the world community, and with the USA first and foremost. Like analysts have said, Russia’s minister for press was going to spend millions of dollars to raise Russia’s image abroad, but Putin was able to do it for free: with one phone call, presenting condolences, and with further political steps within the framework of the global anti-terrorist operation.
Russia is not an enemy for the USA; it is almost a friend. We do not have to talk about Europe in this respect. It is clear who plays the main role on the world arena. What is most important, Russia is running a reasonable and successive foreign policy, which can be perfectly seen in the example of Afghanistan.
This is a remarkable picture, fame and success and almost for free. Then, there was time for a thunderstorm – the statement from the General Headquarters of the Russian army: “The General Headquarters considers Russia’s membership in NATO to be inexpedient.” Yury Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the Russian Armed Forces Headquarters said: “There is no need for Russia to join NATO.” Like the general stated: “Russia is a self-sufficient state capable of solving national and military safety problems.” Baluyevsky even expressed a seditious idea: “The Russian General Headquarters believes that the USA will never agree to ratify the START-2 Treaty.” He added, Russia had never made any concessions to the USA and will not do it in terms of the ABM and START issues.
Thus, the opinion of the General Headquarters is different from Russian foreign policy. We have to mention that these statements from the leaders of the Russian Army were made during the “cloudless” time of Russian-American relations.
This was not the first auch occasion. About a week ago, Russian Navy commanders gave their opinion pertaining to the Kursk submarine in contrast to the opinion of the governmental commission, which investigated the reasons of the tragedy. They claimed that Kursk had sunken due to a collision with a foreign sub.
It is strange, but the military chiefs are being rather active right now, giving interviews to press and TV. As we have recently discovered from informed sources, senior military officials had a meeting with the president, during which they presented him an ultimatum almost. They claimed that the Russian army was dying and that the defensive capacity of the country was about to crash. As it seems, there is another conflict growing in the country between the political power and the military men.
Of course, the army generals are concerned with the new friendly relations with NATO. However, there is also the threat of the CIS breaking up. NATO troops landed in the republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, very close to Russia’s borders. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan have all supported the Northern Alliance. Ukraine opened its air space for the NATO aviation.
What did Russia get in return for the new US Army bases in Central Asia? Nothing, actually. The reduction of nuclear weapons exists only verbally. This reduction is good for the US, but bad for Russia, which has already reduced a considerable part of the nuclear weapons.
If we look at the situation not from the political point of view but from the point of view of the strategic stability, we will see that Russia got nothing. This is very alarming for the General Headquarters. No one from the Russian Armed Forces refused the notion of NATO being a “potential enemy."
Reuters photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in Moscow, November 23, 2001