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Andrey Kortunov

Ph.D. in History, Academic Director of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC Member

Russian foreign policy is a kind of a reactive foreign policy which is trying to respond to challenges to the Russian national security and development priorities, Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council said in an exclusive interview with Eurasia Diary.

“I think, it is more reactive rather than proactive and more tactical than strategic,” he added.

The expert believes that first of all, Russia needs to reinvent its economic development model, because the current model is inherited.

Russia has to find a different paradigm for its economic development if it intends to stay as the main great power, according to Kortunov.

“Second, I think that Russia faces challenges in terms of building stronger political institutions,” he said.

The power in the country is still personalized, political and economic institutions as well are very fragile, according to the expert.

He pointed out that finally, Russia needs to have a favorable international environment if it intends to modernize itself.

Further, Kortunov noted that the relations between Russia and the major players are not perfect to put it mildly.

“Russia is under sanctions from the US and the European Union,” he said. “Russia has very complicated relations with its neighbors in the West and has a crisis in relations with Turkey.”
These are the top challenges which are typical for any country in the world that is vulnerable to the threat of terrorism, challenges of migration and many have to confront the challenges of climate change and environmental problems, according to Kortunov.

The expert also touched upon the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

He noted that outside forces cannot really play a decisive role in settling this conflict.

The expert believes it is important for the Russian leadership not to be biased in the conflict.

Russia should approach this conflict in the favor of a larger regional system, because if you look at the system, the situation in the Caucasus is that Nagorno-Karabakh is not the only issue that the countries of the region should have to deal with, according to Kortunov.

“There are issues of South Ossetia, and Abkhazia and definitely, you should consider the Caucasus not just south but all of the system as a kind of integrated entity,” he said.

“So I think that at least Russia should try to make sure that there is no escalation of this conflict, because we see sometimes that this conflict might become active once again,” he said. “This is something that everybody should try to avoid.”

Speaking about the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the expert said he believes that this is an issue that should be resolved primarily between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
There should be a compromise based on the balance of interests, according to the expert.

“Realistically we cannot expect that this problem will be resolved any time soon, but at least any further tensions have to be avoided,” he noted.

Talking about the Su-24 incident between Russia and Turkey, Kortunov said that even before this, the two countries had disagreements on the issues like Syria, Ukraine and Turkey had very different views in various regions.

The expert believes that the sides should stop the crisis by starting the dialogue to find some common denominators for common problems, because the Syrian problem can’t be resolved without Turkey.

“That is for sure that Turkey is the major player in the Black Sea region,” he said, adding that the regional cooperation would be very difficult without Turkey.
He also touched upon the reports about the new cold war between Russia and the US.

“I think that the cold war was very unique in the international relations,” We had two antagonistic systems, irreconcilable ideological contradiction and rigid alliances,” said the expert.
“The period of the cold war cannot be compared to what we have right now,” he added.

“Some even say that we have a more complicated system right now,” said Kortunov. “Because, during the cold war, we had some set of rules, mechanisms of confrontation and we had clarity of intentions, red lines and many ways of reducing the confrontation.”

“Right now, we don’t have any structure between the US and Russia and the level of unpredictability is more dangerous right now,” said the expert.

Further, answering the question about the current situation with the “Islamic State” (Daesh) terrorist group, he said there is no common ground how it should be challenged and the role of cooperation between the international players is not enough.

Russia is vulnerable and probably, is a target of this group, so it is in the interest of Russia to have military cooperation against it, according to the expert.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to go, according to the expert.

The question is not about of him personally, but about Syrian statehood - whether it would be as a sovereign state or it would fall apart and be partitioned by the neighboring countries, said Kortunov.


“Russian position is the preservation of the Syrian statehood and territorial integrity and if Syria is portioned we would end up with group of states or quasi states hostile with each other under foreign influences,” said the expert.

Source: Eurasia diary

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