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December 29, 2001
Euphoria May Kill Russia
Konstantin Zatulin: Russian Policy Must Be More Vigilant

Speaking in an interview with Russian Observer.com, director of the Institute of CIS Countries, Konstantin Zatulin, said the feeling of total bliss against the background of what is in reality huge problems may kill Russia.

Russia spent the outgoing year in expectation of what he called a real word from the Russian President, but it became clear near the year-end that the President was more preoccupied with foreign policy themes. He had a pretext for that, too: September 11 and everything connected with it. One can say that the President had a definite inspiration in connection with the change in the world situation and launched a creative drive of his own in the foreign policy field.

In fact, people in Russia saw late this year that Putin should be judged primarily by his foreign policy actions, because matters of domestic policy were as before largely in the Government's hands.

In respect of the foreign policy, the President really went far, at least rhetorically, in relations with the United States. As of today, the United States can be quite pleased, but the U.S. pleasure may cost dear to the President himself inside the country. Here Putin and a considerable mass of his voters start diverging in their attitudes to what has happened and in conclusions, which he has drawn from it. In fact, there are very few reasons for being euphoric.

We live in the epoch of President Putin and he bears definite responsibility for not understanding, while fashioning a policy of his own, that he is plunging a considerable part of society in false illusions and that a big price will have to be paid for parting with them. As is much to be regretted, the parting with the illusions may cost dear to President Putin himself as it did to President Yeltsin and President Gorbachev.

The euphoria has reached a point, where people started talking about the necessity of joining NATO. The operation in Afghanistan is practically over, there is considerably less need for Russia, and all manner of talk about NATO membership is petering out.

Moreover, there are very unpleasant points on next year's agenda, which will cause another series of losses, already in addition to the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, to President Putin's foreign policy course. First, it is a continuation of the counter-terrorist operation in some other country, for example, Iraq, which will not meet with a delighted reaction inside this country. And, finally, a second trial, a decision to expand NATO, including into the Baltic republics.

The main foreign policy failure is the fact that Russia, like in the Gorbachev epoch, has reverted to an impromptu kind of policy instead of having a calculated long-term policy. That gives cause for concern.

As far as positive concrete results of relations with the U.S.A. are concerned, they are not obvious so far. An agreement on the reduction of strategic arms has not been achieved, nor has even the abolition of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, nor has the accession to the WTO.

The results are not very optimistic. In Russia's foreign policy, there is a need for some more balanced point of view and for certain steps, which would indicate to voters that here the President sees a danger. Otherwise he will continue as a troubadour of unreserved relations with the United States.

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