States have a strategy and ideological vision when they adhere to the foreign policy implementation. One would not believe that there is a written doctrine that could explain Russian ongoing external policies narrative and strategies to spread an influence on the near abroad. Attempt of annexation of Crimea and Putin’s threats to use force against other parts of Ukraine have unfold a mainstreamed near abroad policy of the Russian Federation named as “Karaganov’s doctrine” by the name of its author Sergey Karaganov. The doctrine is an essential asset to understand Russian ideology, tools in foreign policy against neighbors and what is real soft power of influence.

The root of the doctrine comes to 1992 when yearbook “Diplomaticheskii Vestnik” issued an article of Sergey Karaganov with the title “Problems in Defending the Rights of Russian-oriented Residents of the “Near Abroad”. Mr. Karaganov’s profile is very authoritative, he was a member of the Foreign Policy Council of the Russian Foreign Ministry, member of the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation and Deputy Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy at that time. Currently, he heads the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and is the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics [7].

The core underlined idea of Karaganov’s article is that Russian-speakers, who live in non-Russian territories, can be utilized as an asset in foreign policy. The article was written in 90’s, but the ideological ground played out since then that makes the doctrine viable. The implementation of the doctrine can be observed on the Russia’s near abroad policy stretching from Georgia, Moldova to Ukraine and other near abroad states. The signature is quiet the same everywhere: territorial claims, threatening the territorial integrity of neighbors, appealing to the Russian speaking population, support of local separatists, bribing local political, military and business elite and so on.

A premise is quite obvious; the conflicts are artificially created and aggravated by Russian own near abroad policy towards its neighbors by acting as “peacekeeper” of the region [11]. So, what does Karaganov claim? The doctrine, holding his name, came out by accident, as he said. He was invited to the conference for a speech about policy makers with a little time to prepare, thereof he drafted the text with the core ideas but not a doctrine. Anyway, Karaganov argued that after the dissolution of Soviet Union millions of Russian speaking people where left outside Russia and he sees these people as “an assets – tools that could be used to retain Moscow’s influence over its former colonies” [10].

The fact is the following, everything that Karaganov outlined two decades ago in his paper have happened. The “Russian speakers” living in Ukraine have become “overriding guarantor” of Russian economic and political influence and Moscow allegedly has a “legitimate claim to use force to protect them”. The Russian President Putin has frequently consulted regarding foreign affairs with Karaganov and eventually heavily borrowed the ideas from him. Such a scenario is now unfolded in Ukraine, where “Russia and the West locked in a “clash of models” – Western-style democracy versus Moscow’s authoritarian capitalism.” [10].

In line with the Karaganov’s ideas mentioned in the article in the “Diplomaticheskii Vestnik” [6] the doctrine offers the three versions of policy: radical democratic policy, reintegration and regulation. The first one is about the strengthening of the independent states and Russia’s full abandonment from them. This option is possible but not real as this way may be to the situation when Moscow will started to lose the power in the region and give away armed forces. The history shows that the following policy has never been in use by the Russian Federation.

The second deemed as “neo-imperial way” that is a long term path that is “less bloody and more effective”. This scenario was undergoing and still ongoing under the Commonwealth of Independent States and other Russian lead international organizations. As the practice depicts, it is less bloody, but not effective for Russian dominance. The final is to reintegrate the former USSR republics into confederate frames, where Russia has “to play active post-imperial role”. Karaganov’s underlined that “Russia must go back to its traditional role – buy up local leaders, send troops to rescue someone etc.” The last version looks like the major practice of the Russian foreign policy.

Besides the policy versions there are several strategies to achieve far-reaching Russian goals under the doctrine. Doctrine points that the whole national security of the country needs to be under control; the huge part goes to the protection of the Russian speaking population in non-Russian territories and must be based on defending the human and minority rights as otherwise other minority groups will be discriminated. The “Russian speakers” are “great asset” of Russia and everything must be done to keep them in regions where they live right now, to spread the strings of influence Russian must start large expansion of investments, as this doctrine proclaims.

This doctrine points that the powerful political enclave has to be developed among controlled enterprises that eventually will serve as a foundation for Russian political influence including the protection of the Russian speakers; that it should be done by the means of supporting schools, Russian media and press etc.; that elites of the former republics have to be educated in their institutions, thus they will serve Moscow’s interests; and special emphasis goes to military elite from the near abroad that have to be educated in Russian military schools. The doctrine supports the “use of force against the enemy” to keep stability and the predominance role of the “peacekeeping” in former USSR region has to be given to Russia [6]. Some of the above mentioned strategies are effectively utilized by Russia as the protection of the Russian speaking population (so called “Russian World” and further narrative with this regard as “Malorossia”, “Big and Small Brothers”), but some of them failed as expansion of investments. Education of elites was undergoing but was never fully implemented.

Attempt of annexation of Crimea and the conflict on the east of Ukraine can be considered as a part of the Karaganov’s doctrine. The whole situation with the occupation of Crimea was built up on the premise of “Russian World” by stressing the need to protect Russian speaking population that widely oppressed in Ukraine that is not an actually true. The narrative is devised to legitimate the use of force and occupation of the Russian speaking territories. “Russian World” was defined as “the trans-ethnic and linguistic space for all ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and those, who stay loyal to Russian state” [4].

Some of the key ideas of the Russian World identity can be read at the paper “Russian World” Concept and Securitization of Collective Identity” by Gigitashvili. Putin in his speech State Duma deputies on Crimea mentioned: “Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means” [9]. The whole concept of the “Russian World” is artificially created to grip the influence and power in the region.

The whole point is to addressing the idea not only to the Russians living in Crimea, but the whole “Russian-speaking population”. Frankly, according to the last census held by Ukraine in 2001, more than 58 percent of Crimea self-identified as ethnically Russian, and 77 percent of Crimean residents said their native language was Russian [1], however speaking Russian does not make the “peninsula a territory of Russia”. Nevertheless, the alternative reality of Kremlin’s media have portrayed of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars as “essentially Russians” [5].

The Crimean crisis has demonstrated to the world the readiness of Moscow to use force beyond the borders by appropriation the lands under the alleged responsibility to protect “Russian speaking population”. In the same above mentioned speech Putin manipulated about repression of “Russian speaking population”: “Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities” [9]. Crimean case explicitly demonstrated how the “Russian speaking population”, including the “elite”, can be used as leverage of influence under the disguised identity and alleged persecution of Russian speaking population.

After the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine professional soldiers, fully equipped with weapons with no identifying insignia, began occupying key facilities and checkpoints on the Crimean peninsula. Ukrainians called them “little green man”. At first, Putin denied these were Russian soldiers, only later admitted the opposite [8].

According to the Karaganov’s doctrine the defects of Ukrainian military policy can be explained by military aggression that is undisputedly the use of force, influence of Russian military education and the identification of themselves as ethnically Russian or belonging to Russian speaking identity group. And huge work was undertaken by Russia to spread misinformation, to bribe local military, business and political elite.

Crimean business and political elite that are controlled and economically dependent on Moscow are parts of the doctrine implemented in Crimea. Russia fuels into the peninsula economy between $1 bn and $2.7 bn per annum and undertook several infrastructure projects since 2014. Furthermore, Moscow has launched an initiative “Federal Target Program on Socioeconomic Development in the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol” with RUB 669.6 bn ($ 10.06 bn) budget where 95.9 percent comes directly from federal budget [2]. Geographically, Crimean peninsula is at large continental dependence from Ukrainian mainland and in situation of the interstate conflict it cannot operate normally without extensive investments from Russia.

As it was mentioned by Kargarov, in present moment the best instrument of social and political analysis “are not the books of our writers but the research of history”. This thesis widely utilized by Moscow to underline their allegedly “legitimate claim” on Crimea through history. The Russian empire has such “historical links” back in the XVIII century only, when Southern Ukraine and Crimea were conquered. Russians built there naval base in the city of Sevastopol – the “homeport” for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Eventually, it was never “homeland to Russian”, but a military base for further expansion and Black Sea dominance. Nonetheless, we do not need to forget that thousands of Crimean Tatars was deported from the peninsula by Joseph Stalin [3]. Relevant fake “historic narrative” is widely used by Russians to allegedly build the “common identity” to spread the strains of influence and legitimize the interference.

The outcome is the following even if to believe that the written doctrine of Russian expansion does not exist as such it is not clear why the Russian Federation and Putin are inspired by ideas of Sergey Karaganov and follow the described near abroad policies and strategies against neighbors. Indeed, Putin has frequently consulted regarding foreign affairs with Karaganov and it is a visible impact on the policy making. The core underlined idea of the whole doctrine is that Russian-speakers, who live in non-Russian territories, can be utilized as an asset in foreign policy.

The whole situation with aggression against Ukraine was built up on the premise of “Russian World” and the need to protect Russian speaking population that “disguisedly oppressed” in Crimea and mainland of Ukraine. The “Russian speakers” in combination with Russian-targeted local and military elite have become a tool to spread Moscow’s interests in the region that eventually caused the attempt of annexation of Crimea. It can be contemplated that Russia will continue to use misinformation, dependent business, military and political elite and the “Russian speaking population” as the tool to spread the influence in the “near abroad”.

Konstantin L.


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