Main foreign policy results in 2018
In 2018, Russia’s diplomacy focused on addressing problems related to creating a safe and favourable external environment for harmonious internal development in Russia.
- The near abroad countries come as a natural priority in Russia's foreign policy. The Priority Development Areas to 2022 and the 2018–2019 Programme for Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions have been approved within the framework of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Plan of Joint Actions by Russia and Kazakhstan to 2021 was adopted, which identifies the main areas of state-to-state cooperation. In the wake of the internal political changes in Armenia, our respective countries reiterated their mutual plans to continue allied cooperation. Political as well as trade and economic ties with Kyrgyzstan have been expanding at a rapid pace. A programme for economic cooperation to 2021 was signed with Tajikistan. Work under the Action Plan on Developing Key Areas of Cooperation with Azerbaijan to 2024 has begun. A state visit by the Russian President to Uzbekistan took place in October. In August, the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan entered into force.
Several meetings between the Russian President and the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia took place as part of political dialogue with these republics. The recognition of their independence by Syria came as an important event.
2018 saw progress across the entire spectrum of the Eurasian integration agenda. Under the Russian chairmanship of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a declaration on the further development of integration processes within the EAEU was adopted, which complements the existing agreements on forming common markets with areas of interaction including education and science, healthcare, tourism, sports and region-to-region trade cooperation. A foundation was laid for launching joint digital projects. Regulations on the status of observer states in the EAEU and the decision to grant such status to Moldova were adopted. In the context of expanding its external relations, the EAEU signed a Memorandum on deepening cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the CIS Executive Committee, which opens the way to harmonising integration initiatives in the post-Soviet space. An interim agreement leading to the creation of a free trade area with Iran and the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation with China, which provides a legal basis for aligning projects under the EAEU and the Chinese One Belt, One Way initiative, were adopted. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the EEC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was an important step regarding implementing Russia’s initiative to form Greater Eurasian space. The willingness to create a broad partnership in Eurasia was confirmed in the format of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the Heads of State meeting (Qingdao, June) and Heads of Government (Dushanbe, October).
Forty-five decisions were made as part of integration cooperation within the CIS at the heads of state and government levels alone in the trade, economic, cultural and law enforcement spheres, as well as in security. The CIS Convention on Cooperation in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, agreements on implementing joint activities in this area, forming and expanding the intellectual property market, cooperation in combating crimes in information technology, and the Interstate Programme for Joint Measures to Combat Crime for 2019-2023 were all signed. Joint statements were adopted on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at the heads of state level) and on preventing the erosion of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states (at the foreign ministry level).
Twelve joint statements on the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including on support for the INF Treaty, on the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa, Syria, and the development of cooperation with regional organisations were adopted within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Joint exercises to improve the military and peacekeeping components of cooperation, and special operations to combat illegal migration and drug trafficking were conducted as planned.
- The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the Fifth Caspian Summit (Aktau, August) was a major achievement. It took over 20 years to work this out. The document gives the coastal countries exclusive rights to this unique body of water, its mineral and other resources. It also establishes a navigation system and procedures for the collective use of the Caspian basin, and guarantees the sea’s peaceful status and the non-presence of armed forces of countries other than the five littoral states. It has created conditions for accelerated development of economic cooperation between the Caspian states and enhanced predictability and stability in one of Eurasia’s most important regions.
- Cooperation with the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, where the centre of global economic growth has been moving, was substantially enhanced in 2008.
The deepening of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with China remained one of the important factors of socio-economic development of the two countries. Foreign policy coordination with Beijing, including in the UN, BRICS and the SCO, exerted stabilising influence on world politics. Trade between the two countries exceeded $100 billion for the first time. The Yamal LNG Plant launched regular energy supplies to China; the sides signed a package of inter-government and inter-corporate documents on building additional energy units at the Tianwan Nuclear Power Station and the new, Xudapu Nuclear Power Station; and the bulk of work on the Power of Siberia gas pipeline from Russia to China has been completed. Our joint projects in aviation and outer space have reached a high level of completion.
In the context of specially privileged strategic partnership with India, the contractual foundation of cooperation in the economic, military-technical, trade, space, energy, agricultural, transport and cultural areas has been expanded. The desire to continue consolidating relations was reflected in the joint declaration, “India-Russia: An Enduring Partnership in a Changing World” adopted following a bilateral summit (New Delhi, October).
An unofficial summit in the Russia-India-China format (Buenos Aires, December) was held after a 12 year interval. The three countries reaffirmed their willingness to strengthen the multilateral foundations of the world order and establish an architecture of equal and indivisible security in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Relations with Japan were intensified on a broad range of issues. Dynamics in this process were given by the talks during the official visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to Russia in May and top-level bilateral meetings on the sidelines of different international events in September, November and December. At the November summit in Singapore, the sides agreed to accelerate talks on the issue of concluding a peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Soviet-Japanese Declaration.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula developed in line with the roadmap for settlement drafted by Russia in cooperation with China. It provided for the solution of the nuclear and other issues based on respect for the legitimate interests of all states in Northeast Asia. Russia’s political dialogue with the Republic of Korea and the DPRK livened up and the discussion of large infrastructure projects was resumed in the trilateral format.
Versatile cooperation with other countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines made steady progress.
Decisions meeting Russia’s interests were adopted in the SCO. They were designed to upgrade cooperation between the SCO member countries by promoting regional economic integration and cooperation in countering terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking. A second meeting of the Moscow format of consultations was held to facilitate the peaceful process in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It was attended by representatives of the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha.
The main result of the Russia-ASEAN summit (Singapore, November) was the consolidation of the strategic partnership with the association as a key instrument of ensuring regional stability and establishing a stable system of security and development in the Asia-Pacific Region.
- Our country has pursued an active foreign policy regarding the Arab and Muslim states. Thanks to Russian Aerospace Forces, most of Syria has been liberated from terrorist groups. The processes of restoring the socio-economic infrastructure, and the returning of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes began. A landmark event, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, took place in Sochi in January. Based on the decisions made there, the guarantors of the Astana process (Russia, Turkey, and Iran), in cooperation with the UN, Damascus and Syrian opposition groups, have formed the Constitutional Committee, opening up the prospect for a political transformation and a long-term settlement in Syria.
Economic cooperation with Turkey was given a strong impetus: the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant began, and the offshore section of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline was laid. Military-technical cooperation agreements were systematically implemented. Work continued on major projects with Iran, including major energy and transport projects. An important milestone in cooperation with Egypt was the signing of an intergovernmental agreement on comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation in October. Russian-Saudi and Russian-UAE relations developed, including in the OPEC Plus format, and so did Russian-Qatari ties. Russia maintained a multi-level trust based dialogue with Israel as well as traditionally close contacts with the Palestinians. Russia made an effective contribution to reaching agreements on resolving the situation in Yemen (Stockholm, December), approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2451.
- Russia developed constructive cooperation with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The President of Russia met with the leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama, and Paraguay. The legal framework for bilateral relations with the region’s countries was expanded. Progress was achieved in the development of promising high-tech joint projects in the energy sector, metallurgy, infrastructure, transport, and biotechnology. Russia was granted observer status with the sub-regional organisation, the Central American Integration System.
- In 2018, the President of Russia met with the leaders of Angola, Gabon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, the CAR and South Africa. The range of commodities traded with the African countries has expanded. Memorandums of understanding were signed with the Southern African Development Community on the groundwork for relations and cooperation, as well as memorandums of understanding in military technical cooperation. Consultations were launched with the African Union Commission on preparations for an integrated memorandum of cooperation.
- As part of multilateral cooperation in the Arctic the parties have signed an agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas sections of the central Arctic Ocean (in addition to the five coastal states, the agreement was signed by Iceland, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the EU). The Intergovernmental Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation came in force. It was drafted under the co-chairmanship of Russia and the US in the Arctic Council and was signed a year earlier.
- In the Euro-Atlantic area the efforts of Russian diplomacy were aimed at preventing the uncontrolled degradation of relations with the US and the EU despite their mounting pressure on Russia. The year of 2018 saw the toughening of sanctions, the provocative Skripal case in Britain, the subsequent expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US and some European countries and the buildup of NATO’s military activities near Russian borders. Contrary to the statements of some European leaders about their striving for greater independence in foreign affairs, the majority of the EU countries followed a tough anti-Russia course even if it ran counter to their economic and security interests. However, the positive dynamics of political dialogue and trade and economic cooperation was maintained with Austria, Finland, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus. Versatile cooperation with Serbia saw steady progress. The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline continued on schedule.
The past year did not bring any positive changes in Russia-US relations although Russia displayed a willingness to conduct a dialogue based on the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests.
The reason for this is the ongoing domestic political struggle in the US and its current administration’s course towards eroding the interstate character of international organisations and revising its international commitments, in part, its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on settling the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme (May) and statements on its intention to “suspend” US participation in the INF Treaty. Political dialogue was limited: a bilateral summit was held (Helsinki, July); there were sporadic contacts at the foreign minister level, and cooperation on a number of international issues (arms control, Syria, Afghanistan and the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula). The military maintained smooth communication on preventing armed incidents.
- We used participation in key multilateral structures to improve the instruments of global management and a search for solutions to common problems based on international law and compromise. During the Russian Presidency of the UN Security Council (June), the UNSC passed eight resolutions and coordinated three statements by the President of the UN Security Council, including on Ukraine. The adoption by the UN General Assembly of a number of vital resolutions was ensured, including those on UN cooperation with the CIS and international information security, in part, the Russia-proposed code of conduct for states in the information space and the start in the UN General Assembly of a political discussion on ways of countering information-related crime. The Russian initiative on creating a broad anti-terrorist front received support - about 70 states signed the Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism that determines the objectives of the activities in this area.
The South Africa-chaired 10th BRICS summit (Johannesburg, July) demonstrated progress in cooperation in all key areas – political, economic and humanitarian. The members of the association confirmed the unity or closeness of positions on the majority of global issues and a striving to enhance the role of BRICS in world affairs. The New Development Bank was profitable. Twenty-six investment projects (including six in Russia) worth $6.5 billion are being carried out under its aegis. Work began on the issues of the fourth (digital) industrial revolution to facilitate the adaptation of the socio-economic development of the BRICS countries to current technology.
At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Russia proposed an initiative on expanding the opportunities and protecting the rights of consumers in the digital economy.
- Working with Russian compatriots abroad, Moscow hosted the Sixth World Congress of Russian Compatriots (October 31–November 1). A comprehensive plan for major events on implementing government policy in this area in 2018-2020 was endorsed. Special attention was paid to the further consolidation of the diaspora and the protection of the rights and lawful interests of compatriots, primarily in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Over 82,000 people moved to Russia in 2018 under the government programme for facilitating voluntary resettlement of compatriots to Russia.
- As part of the efforts to expand Russia’s cultural and humanitarian presence in the world, support was provided for a broad range of events, including cultural cross years and Days of Russia, as well as Russian Seasons. Assistance in training national personnel was rendered to foreign countries. The system of selecting foreign students for education at Russian universities was improved. The diplomatic service made a contribution to the preparation and holding of the first FIFA World Cup in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of foreign fans and tourists visited Russia during this major sporting event.