The downing of the Russian warplane by Turkey and a terrorist attack against the civilian Russian airliner flying over Egypt were the most important events of the month for Russian foreign policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) deliver a news conference after their meeting in the new presidential palace outside Ankara, Turkey, 01 December 2014. Photo: EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO
The Paris terrorist attacks and the downing of a Russian civilian airliner over Egypt have shaken the world. The attacks, both coming within the space of a month, also affected the international agenda, providing more opportunities for Russia and the West finally to build a broad anti-terrorist coalition.
While those two tragic events dominated headlines, there were other important Russian foreign policy developments in November, including new developments on the Ukrainian crisis.
Below, we’ve ranked the Top 10 Russian foreign policy moves in November.
#10: Fifth World Congress of Russian Compatriots in Moscow
On Nov. 5-6, Moscow hosted the Fifth World Congress of Russian Compatriots. The Russian Diaspora is one of the four largest in the world, numbering about 30 million people of various nationalities and faiths. The forum was attended by delegates from 97 countries.
In his speech at the congress, Russian President Vladimir Putin set the task of this organization as the protection of compatriots from discrimination and ensuring their legitimate rights. Russia is concerned that a number of countries, for political reasons, are destroying education in the Russian language, and complicating the work of Russian cultural centers, theaters, and libraries. In addition to supporting compatriots abroad, plans call for the development a program to assist voluntary resettlement of compatriots in Russia.
Recommended: Russian Diaspora: A tool of soft power?
#9: Russia cuts off gas supplies to Ukraine
On Nov. 25, Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, pending the receipt of new payments. In response, Ukrainian consumers began removing natural gas from underground storage facilities of the country, which are already at insufficient levels. One cannot exclude the development of negative events, in which energy supply to the EU this winter will once again be threatened, due to unauthorized siphoning of gas transiting through Ukraine.
The talks recently held in Vienna demonstrated Russia’s unwillingness to grant to Ukraine special prices and conditions that are different from those that apply to European countries. This position is justified, in particular, by the fact that starting on Jan. 1, 2016, the economic part of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine comes into force.
#8: Ukraine rejects Russia’s proposal to restructure its debt
Ukraine rejected Moscow’s proposal for a phased repayment over three years of its $3 billion debt to Russia. Failure to pay its debt to Russia will make it impossible for Ukraine to obtain further financing from the IMF, although there has been undertaken an accelerated procedure to develop mechanisms to preserve the lending program to Kiev, despite a possible default, and bypassing the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) own rules.
In the meantime, thanks to foreign borrowings, Ukraine has enough reserves to repay its debt to Russia. Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine has received $9.7 billion in loans, and by the end of the year, the country expects to receive an additional $4 billion.
#7: Energy blockade of Crimea
On Nov. 22, the participants in the Blockade of Crimea Movement decided to switch from a food blockade to an energy blockade. They blew up the final two towers in Kherson Oblast through which electric energy travels when passing from Ukraine to the peninsula (two other towers were damaged earlier).
Because of these problems with electricity supply, Crimea suffered from breaks in lighting, heating and water supply. In response, Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic stopped shipping coal to Ukraine (deliveries of coal were legally tied to the uninterrupted supply of electric energy to Crimea). The Donetsk embargo will last at least two weeks.
#6: The visits to Russia by leaders of the Arab countries of the Middle East
The Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, visited Russia on Nov. 10. He and President Putin discussed regional security issues and possible areas of cooperation. The leadership of Kuwait still has a positive view of Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict, noting its stabilizing function. The role of the Kuwaiti Emir is particularly significant when it comes to the organization of support for Syrian refugees.
Economic issues were also discussed. An agreement on attracting Kuwaiti investments into Russian projects was signed. Common ground can be seen also on question of pricing policy and the fight against falling prices for hydrocarbons. During the talks, the two also discussed the possibility of Russian weapons being sold to Kuwait.
Meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan: bilateral relations, fighting terrorism, Su-24 jet crash in Syria https://t.co/RwG6zfbhPh
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) November 24, 2015
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, Vladimir Putin met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The King of Jordan was the first foreign leader to express his condolences over the death of Russian pilot in the skies over Syria. It is important to note also that the Jordanian monarch referred to the importance of the Vienna Talks Format on Syria, and expressed hope for continued international cooperation in seeking resolution of this conflict.
#5: French President Francois Hollande’s trip to Moscow
On Nov. 26, French President Francois Hollande visited Russia. The current resident of Elysee Palace came to discuss with Putin the creation of a broad coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS).
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) November 26, 2015
The parties agreed on deeper coordination in their military activities aimed against ISIS – the militaries of the two countries will coordinate their attacks and indicate areas that should not be bombed.
This visit strengthened the trend towards cooperation between Russia and France, which emerged after the terrorist attacks in Paris. However, the parties continue to disagree on the form of political settlement that should take place in Syria. Paris continues to insist on the resignation of Bashar al-Assad as a pre-condition for the development of cooperation. Russia considers that demand as “unrealistic.”
#4: Russia’s participation in the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Iran
This forum demonstrated the difficulty of finding consensus among the leading extractors and exporters of natural gas. The greatest contradictions are found in the positions of Iran, Qatar and Russia, being the three most influential players in the global natural gas market.
In addition to the economic agenda, political issues also made it onto center stage. During Vladimir Putin’s meeting with the Iranian leadership, the parties reached agreement on their positions in the fight against ISIS, and cooperation within the International Syria Support Group.
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) November 23, 2015
In the energy sector, seven bilateral agreements were signed in various fields. This summit strengthened the trend of rapprochement between Russia and Iran, and the development of cooperation in the direction of a future strategic partnership.
#3: G20 Summit in Antalya
On Nov. 15-16, the G20 Summit was held in Antalya, Turkey. The main theme of this forum became the fight against international terrorism – terrorist attacks in Cairo, Beirut, Paris, and the explosion onboard the Russian airliner put this issue on center stage.
Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his call for the creation of an international coalition against ISIS, which he initially made in September at the UN General Assembly. However, no one listened to him – the U.S. and NATO are not yet ready to trust Moscow, nor abandon their practice of dividing terrorists into “good” and “bad” ones. Nevertheless, during brief talks held between Putin and Obama, they discussed practical measures for coordinating their attacks against ISIS.
— Russia Direct (@Russia_Direct) November 15, 2015
#2: Downing of a Russian Airbus 321 over Egypt
The official investigation determined that the cause of the crash of the Russian Airbus 321 was a terrorist attack. Vladimir Putin has promised that all those involved in this explosion will be found and destroyed, while Russian security services have announced a reward of $50 million for information about the organizers.
On Nov. 8, President Putin signed a decree on special measures to ensure the national security of Russia, according to which Russian airlines are temporarily prohibited from carrying passengers from the territory of the Russian Federation to Egypt. Authorities of the UK have implemented similar measures.
The leaders of Egypt understand and sympathize with this termination of tourist flow. It is hoped that Russian tourists will start returning to Egypt after the security situation improves.
#1: The shoot-down of the Russian Su-24 in the skies over Syria
On Nov. 24, the Turkish Air Force, on the orders of Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, shot down a Russian Su-24 in the skies over Syria. Thus, Turkey has finally transformed its foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbors” to “zero neighbors with whom there are no problems.”
This independent action by Ankara was not supported in either Washington or Brussels. In response to this attack, Moscow developed retaliatory measures, the implementation of which will put an end to all Russian-Turkish strategic relations.
Among these measures are an economic embargo, cancellation of infrastructure contracts, and refusal to cooperate in the tourism sphere. This unexpected blow from Turkey has led Russia to start considering this country as an unfriendly state. It is now possible that the local military conflict on the Syrian-Turkish border will escalate, with full participation of the Russian armed forces.