Mixed signals from Medvedev

It’s ben an interesting week for Russian foreign policy watchers. First, a leaked paper out of Russia’s foreign ministry, called for the country to seek better relations with the U.S. and European Union in order to spur foreign investment: The text is simply a response to President Dmitry Medvedev‘s call to make foreign policy a ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

It's ben an interesting week for Russian foreign policy watchers. First, a leaked paper out of Russia's foreign ministry, called for the country to seek better relations with the U.S. and European Union in order to spur foreign investment:

The text is simply a response to President Dmitry Medvedev's call to make foreign policy a driving force for foreign investment, a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Moscow Times, requesting anonymity because the document has not been officially released.[...]

Russia needs to forge "modernizing alliances" with its Western European partners and the EU as a whole to attract foreign capital, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in the introduction to the 13,000-word paper, posted on Russian Newsweek's web site.

It’s ben an interesting week for Russian foreign policy watchers. First, a leaked paper out of Russia’s foreign ministry, called for the country to seek better relations with the U.S. and European Union in order to spur foreign investment:

The text is simply a response to President Dmitry Medvedev‘s call to make foreign policy a driving force for foreign investment, a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Moscow Times, requesting anonymity because the document has not been officially released.[…]

Russia needs to forge "modernizing alliances" with its Western European partners and the EU as a whole to attract foreign capital, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in the introduction to the 13,000-word paper, posted on Russian Newsweek’s web site.

"The program’s spirit is a foreign policy with neither friends nor enemies but only interests," the magazine said.

But if the document seemed to signal a Russia more cooperative with the west, Medvedev’s trip to Syria this week, the first by a Russian president since 1917. Medvedev not only signed a deal to sell Syria fighter jets, surface to air missiles, and anti-tank weapons, he held a meeting with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. 

Medvedev’s recent foreign policy moves might seem contradictory. Making Washington happy by becoming more cooperative on Iran sanctions, agreeing to Obama’s nuclear arms reduction package, and working on a civilian nuclear deal then meeting with someone the U.S. considers a terrorist leader and agreeing to an arms deal Syria two weeks after the U.S. re-upped sanctions.

But this all actually seems quite consistent with the realist "neither friends nor enemies but only interests," philosophy of the memo. Like his fellow BRIC leader Lula da Silva, Medvedev may think he can have his cake and eat it too, maintaining a solid relationship with Washington while continuing to pal around with its enemies. As Lula’s learned recently, this can be harder than it looks. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Russia

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