Core National Interests
In preparation for the United Nations Security Council meeting, this paper will analyze the Russian Federation’s national interests that are being affected by a contemporary challenge in international politics. The Russian Federation focuses on the following three core national interests: national defense, economic growth, and the social life amongst Russian citizens. The ability to maintain Russia’s national defense in the post-Soviet era remains a key foreign policy priority. The ability to maintain control of military neighboring spaces and countries, allows Russia to protect from external instabilities that pose a threat to this great nation. If Russia as a nation cannot protect itself from the external instabilities, the country will be seen as a weak state not capable of recovering from the Crimea conflict. The national security integrates that economic growth goes hand in hand with national security for Russia, the country cannot afford to be taken advantage of by outside nation states that have more economic power. Russian financial capabilities are the upmost importance because a nation will not thrive if it has these economic sectors weakened. Larger countries such as China or the United States (U.S.) will be able manipulate and impact trade or tie-up assets if the countries see the weakness of the nation. One of the ways in which Russia can increase its economic growth and ultimately its national security is by creating a stronger middle class to promote stable social life. Russia must focus on stabilizing domestic issues if it is able to deal with foreign issues.
In March 2014, our nation made the most consequential decision in years. The Crimean operation or annexation was a response and opportunity for the nation to address the threat of NATO’s encroachment along the western border. The opportunity to seize Crimea was a strategic decision to protect national interests, such as the Black Sea Fleet in its base in Sevastopol. While the federation did not view this as an attack on a sovereign entity but rather a defense from expansion of power, the European Union (EU) and U.S. did not agree. Their response of harsh sanctions caused significant effects on our country’s economic stability and national interests.
Driven by concerns over Russian occupation of Crimea the EU and U.S. imposed sanctions targeting the nation’s growth output. The various sanctions targeted key internal interests such as Russian energy, banking, and financial services; intelligence and defense; and railroad, metals, and mining. An example, U.S. prohibited U.S. energy companies from partnering with Russian firms in the offshore and oil projects. This energy related sanction had the effect of curtailing investment and Russian access to technology, hitting economic growth negatively. Sanctions can affect our interactions with other nation states, with even the perception of economic instability, Russia can lose its position as a strong global power.
Although the country received a myriad of sanctions, the economic sanctions have proven to be the most impactful sanctions. It restricts transactions in dealings with any debt instruments with maturities longer than 14 days, requires the Secretary of Treasury to submit a report on the effect of expanding sanctions to sovereign debt. This sanction is tighter than ever before. These sanctions are unfair to our nation, but Russia will continue to persevere through these sanctions and will attempt to rebound as a country soon enough. The Russian Federation will survive the international sanctions placed upon the nation by increasing trade agreements with other countries and diversifying the economy in order to fulfill the country’s national interests.
Effect on National Interest 1
The sanctions have negatively impacted the use of our military spending and severely hampers Russian military capabilities. Restricting the ability of Russian banks and companies to do business in the West is reducing the military spending and withholding Russia’s claim to the land necessary for national defense. We are open to reclaiming the territory that rightfully belongs to this nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s. The relations with these states have deeply influenced Russia’s foreign and domestic policy, national identity and strategic orientation. The ties with the neighboring spaces are critical to the Russian national defense. It provides our nation a needed buffer zone between the heartland of country and the border of our western rivals. Without satellite states, Russian enemies are more prone to take advantage of the Russian national defense by having the ability to attack closer to the heartland. Another sanction mandates sanctioning of any individual involved in a transaction with or operating on behalf of the defense and intelligence sectors of Russia. This poses a challenge for the Russian national defense as our nation is not allowed to openly operate trade of weapons with other countries. This hurts our military capabilities of defense as the nation without the large influx of arms sales will impact new technology and future improvement of various weapon platforms. The reduction in sale of weapons ultimately reduces the federal spending toward the military defense. Chinese officials have already summoned the United States ambassador to lift the sanctions imposed on the Russian military after they bought fighter-jets from us. These sanctions are a breach of basic rules of international relations and continue to cripple and tear down the Russian national defense.
Using the balance of power theory helps us understand the motivation behind the EU and U.S. pushing for such restrictive sanctions. A balance-of-power theory states that “states are unitary actors who, at a minimum, seek their own preservation and, at a maximum, drive for universal domination.” Russia is an internal efforts state where we are moving to increase military strength, economic capability, and to develop clever strategies. The EU and the U.S are trying to take away the enhanced military defense of Russia. They fear Russia will regain its former might again and take advantage of its strength and attack weaker neighbors seeking the maximum goal of universal domination. The EU and U.S. fall under the balancing theory of political behavior. The West has placed these sanctions because they see our expansion as a threat to their power in our region.
Effect on National Interest 2
Once the economic sanctions were leveled, Russia’s economic growth fell. Experts place the direct impact of the sanctions between 8% and 10% of Russia’s GDP but compensating measures may reduce this figure significantly. The U.S. targeted specific people and companies that were significant to our nation and the economy. The U.S. didn’t look to punish Russia as a whole, rather take away powerful economic institutions that play a significant role to the financial strength of the country. An example is the sanction placed on oil industry. The U.S. knows that most of Russia revenue is tied to oil sales, so a drop in oil industry greatly impacts economic growth. In a long-term budget projections, the nation was enjoying oil prices above $100 barrel, but in 2016, prices sometimes dropped below $30. An economy cannot have economic growth if its key revenue sources are low, so by targeting the oil industry it is reducing the Russia financial capabilities. This results in spending cuts on military, education, and more.
Under the Economic Explanations for the Rise of the modern state, state rulers must have a vested interest in enhancing their economies; in fact, the more rulers that are able to recognize the link between public and private welfare the greater likelihood of economic success. Our country must continue to invest in the public and private welfare of the country. It establishes economic interdependence and a strong GDP. The EU and U.S. are threatened by Russian’s development as a modern state. This is why they decided to place the sanctions to decrease the link between public and private welfare by targeting public banks and private sectors to decrease the likelihood of economic success. The U.S. knows well that a strong growing economy can produce a powerful nation.
Effect on National Interest 3
Due to the sanctions imposed and the direct effects on the core national interests, there has been social unrest and corruption in Russia. Social unrest in Russia is perceived to be a significant problem to the nation as it impacts all aspects of society. According to Forbes, the distribution and prevalence of wage arrears because of sanctions is causing a major social unrest because workers are not getting paid in important port areas. Workers not getting paid is making the middle class uneasy and creating protest amongst the streets. The Russian Federation is not able to promote the middle class if most of the workers are not getting paid. It causes more Russians to fall into poverty. This effects the government when its goal is to provide for the people and keep society in order.
This hypotheses on the role of individuals in international relations can help support the idea of the EU and U.S. using the balance of power theory to push strict sanctions. Individuals can shape foreign policy and consequences by affecting the behavior of opposing states. President Trump appears to be trying to affect the international behavior of Russia. He wants create to social unrest and corruption in Russia to make the Russian Federation behave in a weak manner. He is trying to create domestic unrest to distract Russia from foreign affairs and foreign relationship building, so the nation doesn’t become too powerful.
In order to combat these sanctions and continue to thrive as a nation in alignment with the core national interests, the nation should follow the strategic plan subsequently provided. First, the Russian Federation must begin to seek commercial ties and increase trade production with strong global actors such as China. Political and economic rapprochement is taking place between Russia and China in a number of fields: energy, arms production, trade in national currencies, and strategic projects in transport and supporting infrastructure. Russia must continue to develop trade based on the liberal mentality of economic interdependence, where the value of trade with China decreases the likelihood of conflict. Russia having the ability to possibly become a strategic alliance with China will strengthen the national defense of the Russian Federation. Additionally, having a stable trading partner such as China, will allow the economy to retain growth, as well as keep our military updated on new weapons and technology. The Russian Federation will not have to fear the southern-eastern border and will be able to focus on westward expansion. Partnering with China is a strategically advantageous option for Russia as it also steers the nation away from the probability of war with the United States; a war that would only cause high casualties and severely hinder the economy.
Second, the Russian Federation has to diversify its economy. Russia relies on oil production to drive most of its growth. A decline in oil prices derailed an anticipated recovery and the annual real GDP contracted by a total of 3.7 percent. Even though Russia is a main producer of oil based on the vast geography, a decline such as the nation has experienced is detrimental. A country that Russia can analyze and take lessons from is Norway. Norway created jobs to support private enterprise through a conducive investment climate and de-linked economy and public finances from commodity price fluctuations. Russia needs to focus on three things to diversify its economy: increase exchange rate flexibility, fiscal policy in realistic, and reduce energy subsidies. By continuing to increase exchange rate flexibility it help absorbs external shocks from changes in commodity prices. Anchoring down on fiscal policy influences the level of economic activity and can help stabilize the economy. Other countries often use this policy to recover from a recession. The Russian Federation has already been successful at implementing the first two strategies. Third and final recommendation of reducing energy subsidies is also the most important as Russia, “uses more than twice the energy per unit of GDP as Latin American countries and previously wasted more gas than the entire country of France consumed”. The Russian Federation can continue to grow and develop as a country by implementing the three things listed above. Following this strategy, Russia will have a higher GDP and economic growth of the nation under these sanctions. Consequently, higher economic growth means more money to put to the national defense and happier citizens.
The sanctions placed on us as a country have negatively impacted our core national interests. The best way to survive these sanctions is to follow the two recommendations, trade agreements with China and diversify the economy. The U.S. and EU’s main intent is not to punish Russia, for the annex of Crimea, but rather to force the economy to struggle because of powerful the nation it could be. The U.S. and the EU will always consider the strength of Russia as a threat to their own national interests. As such, Russia must increase its national security, strengthen its economic base and improve the social life of its citizens.