Author: Alexander Larin
The arrival in March 2000 of a new political figure as Russian head of state did not lead to any major changes in the country's Chinese policy. The current president is following an entirely logical policy toward China that continues smoothly along the lines designated during Boris Yeltsin's presidency. However, upon a closer look, we can see that this policy is not just a continuation of the old, but also contains some elements of innovation.
These elements appear to be related to the transformation that is going on in the world arena as a whole and the evolution aroused by this transformation in Russian foreign political strategy in particular. Therefore, in order to figure out Moscow's Chinese policy, we must take a look at how the fundamental principles of Russia's strategy are developing on the world scene. The spineless and irresponsible policy of the Yeltsin period (following the naive policy of Gorbachev's perestroika) turned Russia from a superpower into a weak nation in a constant state of crisis that has lost a significant amount of its clout in the world. Under these conditions, the US with its NATO allies shifted to a policy which Moscow quite justifiably evaluated as power politics, resulting in disputes between Moscow and Washington in practically every aspect of interrelations, as well as estrangement that escalates at times into confrontation. Yeltsin's leadership, weak and isolated, took several steps in response, but could not come up with an appropriate line of conduct. This task was left to the new president.
He appears to have succeeded, be it still in the most general form, in developing such a line of conduct and, in particular, in carving out a place for China in it. Naturally enough, this line still
Alexander Larin, M. Sc. (Philology), leading research scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
needs clarification and reinforcement with specific content, which will occur during the course of its implementation. This, frankly speaking, is the innovation of Putin's foreign political activity.
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