The decisive and tough position of the Kremlin on the situation around Ukraine was no surprise to the West. Throughout 2013 Russia has demonstrated independence and consistency in defending its national interests. Diplomat Alexander Panov discussed the events of last year in a conversation with the chief editor of Pravda.Ru Inna Novikova.
"I read an opinion of a well-respected expert that the success in Crimea in March of 2014 was based on the successes in Russia's foreign policy in 2013."
"Indeed, it was quite a successful year for the Russian foreign policy. This has to do primarily with the fact that we managed to reduce the risks, the crisis, in the sense that there has been no armed open clash in Syria. It was Russia that had an impact on the Syrian leadership that convinced them to choose chemical disarmament. It was Russia that has become the guarantor that would ensure that the disarmament of Syria will not make it vulnerable to a threat of external forces. Of course, this was a success."
"Was it Russia or Russia and China that played a decisive role in this outcome of the Syrian crisis?
"China was involved to a lesser extent. China is a rather clever state."
"We are clever, too."
"Unfortunately, not really. I believe that we are often too direct; if we want something, we go ahead and do what we need in a rush. The Chinese think in terms of a bigger picture, long term. When they are increasing their presence in global affairs, they are doing it gently, slowly, without sticking out too much."
"Therefore, Syria was Russia's apparent success?"
"Certainly, and it has to do with the fact that Russia timely saw the situation where both the U.S. and the EU were debating whether to fight or not. Obama, generally, was more inclined not to fight. Indeed, why would the Nobel Peace Laureate suddenly start a war?"
"They were paid by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and this is openly discussed."
"I think that the sheikhs paid France, this is why Hollande was so vocal. He was paid more, he has very close relations with Saudi Arabia, and the United States is a wealthy enough country to not depend on Saudi money. France had to work for this money to the fullest. Obama, of course, had doubts, and he hesitated for a long time. Then we realized that through the initiative to destroy chemical weapons, Russia will help to break the impasse. Obama jumped at it. "
"This, I think, was the first time when the Americans abandoned the idea of a declared military strike."
"If the U.S. wanted to fight, they would have hit regardless of Assad's actions. There was a skillful, subtle and brilliant game by the Russian diplomacy. Putin, when he met with G8, clearly and firmly made a proposal that everyone agreed with. Even the fact that when Crimea was annexed to Russia the U.S. has frozen the diplomatic relations with Syria (which, incidentally, is quite a shallow and inconsistent decision) cannot erase our success in Syria."
"Syria was the second victory, because before that there was Snowden, and I think his information was successfully used by our diplomacy ..."
"I have some doubts regarding Snowden. I believe that he was given us by China. He also came to China and likely wanted to stay there. The Chinese have worked with him, but Beijing is now building relationships with the United States, and so Snowden was told to go wherever he wanted. We were in an ambiguous situation, and I think that granting him asylum was a controversial decision."
"What were the risks for Russia?"
"This could have led and did lead to a certain deterioration of the relations. On the other hand, unfortunately, now we do not have the best relations with the United States. I believe that under Obama we could have had more constructive and productive relations because there is no guarantee that the next U.S. president will take a constructive approach towards Russia. Maybe it will be the opposite. We have seen how the Republican candidates generally speak against Russia. There are only two years left until the next election, we'll see. However, the relationship with Obama is not getting better.
"Look at a photo where Putin and Obama are sitting next to each other, their poses send a clear message that these are two people who do not even want to talk to each other. Now take the U.S. and China. The Chinese leader visited California last summer. The two leaders talked for eight hours. Of course, they talked not so much about the economy or contradictions. They talked about something else, and now it is clear that certain agreements on the delimitation of interests have been reached. We do not have any high-level dialogue with the United States."
"This is a strange situation ..."
"Perhaps this is a question for both leaders. It happens at times that there is no relationship between the leaders, no desire or willingness to talk and negotiate."
"But they have to understand that they represent their countries, regardless of personal feelings ..."
"Of course, but in this case for a number of reasons it has not happened. In politics, personal factors are very significant. Remember when Germany was under Schroeder Putin had great relationship with him, and with Merkel it is not all that smooth."
"Let's go back to the successes of our foreign policy. I think that the main success is in the fact that in the hot spots Russia has successfully resisted tough and selfish policy of the USA, this empire that no one contradicted in the last quarter of a century, with the exception of maybe China, sometimes. Everything worked for Washington."
"I agree. But we must admit that now there is one empire, the United States, albeit peculiar, soft, so to speak, but it defines the international climate policy as a whole. We should remember though that empires do not last forever. This is a topic for a separate discussion."