I'd disagree with the widespread notion that Russia's new foreign policy doctrine (or rather proposals for changes in the current foreign policy in the document under discussion) is oriented toward the West. After reading carefully that Foreign Ministry document, I'd say that it is oriented toward West, East, South, North, and any other direction that has a potential for promoting Russia's interests.
The prefix "pro-" in the above interpretation of the proposals is clearly out of place. In realpolitik, any "pro-" subsumes that there is a balancing "anti-" somewhere, overtly or covertly. Not in this document. If anything, it is simply pro-Russian and definitely not anti-- any nation or group of nations.
The only rational interpretation of the thinking underlying this document is that Russia should strive to develop closer political, economic, social and even perhaps military ties with the Euro-Atlantic community or, to put it a bit bolder, civilization - but not at the expense of the other parts of the world.
As someone who has tirelessly promoted Russia's integration with the West since the collapse of communism I must state the obvious: this idea has now lost much of its merit. What seemed to be absolutely logical in 1990 is no longer feasible 20 years later.
In the early 1990s Russia, then in the grip of pro-Western euphoria, was making overtures to the West, including joining NATO. These were flatly rejected by the overconfident victors of the Cold War. Some of the excuses being used -- such as Russia's lack of progress in democratic development -- are highly questionable and even suspect, since NATO expansion started when Russia was run by President Boris Yeltsin, whose rule is portrayed in the West as the high point of Russia's democratic achievements, before Vladimir Putin came along and spoiled it all.
Russia was thus rejected then for some other reasons, but we need not go into them here, as this is beside the point these days. Ironically, it looks like the Western bridegroom, who once turned down the Eastern bride, is now showing more interest in the matter.
Even such a hawk as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is now singing a different tune. Albright and a group of 12 top NATO diplomats have just come up with their ideas on how the alliance should reform itself to deal with the current security threats. According to their report NATO should "pursue a policy of engagement" with Russia by "focusing on opportunities for pragmatic collaboration," such as missile defense, arms control, and the fight against terrorism, drugs and piracy.
At the same time the old "Cold Warriors" are not giving up and, as ever, the "Pravda on the Potomac" is at their disposal. David Kramer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the George W. Bush administration, is using the Washington Post to accuse the Obama administration of betraying Russia's neighbors, most importantly Georgia, by resubmitting to Congress the "123" nuclear cooperation agreement without reaffirming its strong objection to "Russia's invasion of Georgia" in August 2008.
One may wonder why Kramer is not accusing the entire NATO leadership of betrayal for their willingness to resume working with Russia in the wake of the Bush administration basically freezing all Russia-NATO contacts.
In any event, as far as Russia's foreign policy doctrine is concerned, no one disputes that the West is still the unquestionable leader in science and technological innovations that are badly needed for Russia's economic development. However, the enormous rise of China, India, and other Asian countries as well as the looming security threats from the South require a more pragmatic foreign policy approach. The gist of this policy is simple and one might say timeless: Russia need have neither ardent friends nor bitter enemies but only its own interests to look out for -- just as any self-respecting nation.
It appears that, in a drastic change from the previous U.S. administration's policy, the Obama government has recognized that Russia has certain legitimate interests of its own and is ready for compromises. This is a good beginning, and Russia should make sure that its foreign policy helps Obama to pursue this course and does not provide his enemies with ammunition of whatever sort.
Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.