Russia’s updated foreign policy concept: deep state changing its camouflage

Russia’s updated foreign policy concept: deep state changing its camouflage

War is peace, as per Orwell, or what the varnished image of “peace a la Russe" is about

God has mysterious ways and it seems that sometimes the weirdest events and actors are combined in time as if life reminds us of the impermanence of existence and the futility of any attempts to find logic in or explanation for certain developments. But it also encourages us at least to try to evaluate and identify the content of events and possible implications.

Photo: Office of the Ukrainian President

On the last day of March, when the Bucha summit was held in Kyiv and the democratic world honored the memory of Ukrainians who fell victim to Russian aggression and occupation, which ended exactly one year ago with the liberation of Bucha and other towns and villages in Kyiv region by units of Ukraine’s Defense Forces, the Russian dictator’s decree put into effect a new concept of foreign policy of the Russian Federation. Of course, one should not even put these two events together and mention them in the same sentence, for which the author apologizes, but life itself (it is inappropriate to talk about the course of history when it comes to events happening here and now) seemed to try t to make the image of darkness and evil even more vivid and clearly visible. Darkness and evil now have a completely material form, especially for Ukraine and Ukrainians. They are embodied and personified in the Russian Federation, the aggressor state, which is ruled by the "bunker president" charged by the ICC of committing war crimes, and which claims to be one of the centers of the multipolar world. There is no doubt that such a step, a day before the start of Russia’s rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, was deliberate and, as President Zelensky qualified it, "proves the bankruptcy of the institution."


Four hundred days into the unprovoked full-scale aggression against Ukraine, eight years into the illegal occupation of Crimea, armed invasion of Ukraine and military support for and recognition of the "LPR/DPR" with the creation of an occupation puppet regime there with the backing and constant presence of occupation Russian troops, as well as in connection with the fact that the previous such concept, approved by Putin on November 30, 2016, needed, in the opinion of Kremlin ideologues, modernization and adaptation to new geopolitical realities, Moscow published a new concept, which is claimed to form the basis for the implementation of foreign policy and decision-making.

It should be noted that no one in the world, and perhaps in the Russian Federation itself, had any special expectations and hopes, since this is exactly the case where deeds (mostly criminal, and at least illegal, such as "gray imports" and demonstrative disregard for human rights) are much more eloquent than words, even packaged into a “concept”, inherent in modern states seeking to be understood and heard in the outside world.

However, "it turned out as usual." It turned out to be a public testimony that for the dictator and top leadership of the Russian Federation, the whole world has shrunk to a level of a bunker that lives its own life, with its own ideas about the world and its place in this world. This document is larger than the speech in terms of volume, but it echoes with devastating accuracy the texts of the permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Vasiliy Nebenzia. This state no longer needs to be heard and understood in the modern world. They need justification, at least for themselves, their few friends, and their own "deep nation". And since it is impossible to justify what the whole world sees, the traditional set of tools and means comes into play – lies, distortion, silence, as well as constructions and interpretations similar to air castles or soap bubbles.

It makes no sense to compare the texts of the Russian concepts of 2023, 2016, 2013, let alone previous years. Those who take the trouble to explore them are unlikely to find any significant difference, except for the accumulation of insults and injustices, as well as the strengthening of faith in Russia’s “special purpose and mission.”

But ideology has its own tasks to fulfill, and propaganda needs updated slogans and content. Therefore, it can be assumed that the main goal of the concept is primarily self-justification, bringing the updated and polished "picture of peace in Russian" into everyday ideological use.

These messages and narratives serve Russia’s s own ideology, propaganda, and to some extent the "deep nation." In addition, the "deep state" is sure that in this way it will be possible to disguise itself, attach to its facade a plaque (rather a mask) of a peace-loving state, which in words cares about the rule of law and the principles of the UN Charter, but in fact, mocks the entire organization and purposefully destroys it. Moreover, in the Russian Federation, the belief in the irresistible power of its own documents is so great that already in the first comments by Russian propaganda it was noted that this concept "entitles" Moscow to use armed forces not only to repel but also to prevent an armed attack on Russia and its allies.

This is how law is understood in modern Russia. Therefore, it will not be surprising when, on the next occasion, Nebenzia or his colleagues at a meeting of the Security Council will appeal to this text as an indisputable truth that everyone must accept. And they will call on the world to believe that if there is no invasion of Ukraine mentioned in this concept, then there is no war going on either.

Proclaiming itself as a "unique state-civilization", Russia seems to rely primarily on common spiritual values, while the term “special socio-political organization” means a well-shaped dictatorship. But the modern Russian Federation has nothing to do with the concept of civilization, which was formed by French scholars, who understood this as a society based on the principles of reason and justice.

At the same time, such a "state-civilization" includes also other nations that make up the cultural and civilizational community of the "Russian world", and the state itself is Eurasian and Euro-Pacific (doesn’t it resemble the infamous phrase "Russia doesn’t end anywhere," which the Russian tyrant said in admiration of his self-importance and ambitions?). This is not only the usual justification for the "Russian world", but also the designation of an unlimited sphere of interests and justification of the need to protect this "world."

Appointing itself as one of the sovereign centers of global development, Russia claims to be fulfilling a unique mission of maintaining the global balance of power. Nothing personal – this is how it happened historically, the document declares. How Russia understands and fulfills its missions is well known to everyone, just as are its ambitious intentions regarding being a separate center of global development (“degrading” would be a much more accurate term).

The “peaceful, open, predictable, consistent, and pragmatic” nature of foreign policy laid down in the text of the concept is a mockery of common sense and a conscious intention at the state level to contemptuously fool everyone.

Passing off wishful thinking, creating myths, and believing in them, producing lies so massive that the Russians themselves begin to believe them, rejecting any argumentation, failing to see the reality, living in a parallel world, and trying to prove to the whole international community that their world is exactly like that – this is what could actually be a preamble for a new concept of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, which can be valid and perceived exclusively within the framework of the "Russian world."


Even the self-sacrificing and Kremlin-loyal professional ideologues failed to create a flawless product in their understanding, in which the propagandists would be able to execute the order and avoid quite appropriate questions about their vision of the global situation and international development trends. Recognizing that "the unbalanced model of world development, which for centuries ensured the economic growth of colonial states in advance, is irrevocably being left a thing of the past," they subscribe to the fact that Russia was unable to properly exploit even this "injustice," and that the USSR as one of the largest colonial states collapsed ingloriously, leaving behind in ruins, nostalgia and excessive ambitions and revanchist plans to revive “former greatness.”

And then, knowingly or not, the Russians write about themselves, exposing the Kremlin policy and refuting the anti-historical ideology of imperial neo-colonialism, which is pushing modern Russia in a direction directly opposite to the statement a few lines above. As disgusting as it is, we will have to refer to the original source: "...the changes that are taking place cause disapproval in a number of states that are used to thinking according to the logic of global domination and neo-colonialism." It is difficult to interpret this passage other than as an involuntary self-exposure.

Russia stands in the lead of a number of rogue states with directly declared intentions of renewing spheres of influence and forming a world dependent on the Kremlin pole. And the concept explains it to those who did not immediately understand what it was about: attempts are being made to restrain the natural course of history – it is about us, about Ukraine, which wants to develop among democracies, and about the Russian Federation, which by attacking its neighbor is hopelessly and desperately trying to hold back the course of history; eliminate competitors (they write about the sanctions that were introduced in response to the war waged against Ukraine); to suppress dissent  (this one is about themselves and about the attitude towards their own people in a country where anyone can be designated a foreign agent or prosecuted for calling a war a war, or for a children's drawing in which they found signs of ‘discrediting the SMO’ or the Russian army, or even the Wagner mercenaries hired from among convicts).

Photo: Svitnov

The authors of the Moscow concept state that the culture of dialogue is degrading and the effectiveness of diplomacy is decreasing. Behind their crocodile tears, they are trying to avoid realization, let alone recognition, that all this is a consequence of Russia's actions and its isolation. The facts about the expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe, UN Council on Human Rights, World Tourism Organization, etc. are hushed down. Moreover, had it not been for statutory and regulatory procedures, Russia would have certainly been thrown out of the OSCE, and its membership in the UN would have long been seriously challenged.

In the same way, there is no explanation offered on whether it is because of Russia’s aggressive policy that "the deficit of trust and predictability is acutely felt", and it is also not mentioned what caused the increase in the force factor in international relations. In the best traditions of state-level dissension, events, causes and consequences are distorted, but the very product of the Kremlin's creativity acquires an unexpected weight for future targets of the International Criminal Court as a testimony against themselves. This is how the passage about the Russian Federation having taken measures in the Ukrainian direction to protect its vital interests, and that the USA, together with "its satellites", used this to intensify its long-standing anti-Russian policy and unleash a hybrid war of a new type, and that it was not, as it turns out, Russia's choice.

At the same time, perhaps the highest manifestation of state-level cynicism, contrary to the constant absurd self-narrative that the Russian Federation is fighting against the USA and NATO in Ukraine, the deep doctrine declares that Russia does not consider itself an enemy of the West. In other words, this is Orwell’s “war is peace.”

It is noteworthy and revealing that the citizens of Russia are mentioned in the concept only twice: among the list of national interests, there is, in particular, the clause about "preservation of the people of Russia", which is not threatened by anyone except one's own state and one's own dictator together with the repressive apparatus. Protection of the rights, freedoms, and legitimate interests of Russian citizens from foreign illegal encroachments is also included in the range of national interests. So it’s not the rights and freedoms of citizens as such, but imaginary external encroachments. Obviously, it is about the truth and limiting people’s access to it. Therefore, the truth is a threat to national interests and the very existence of the Russian totalitarian state.

The mention among the concise list of national interests of "strengthening the legal foundations of foreign relations" in the conceptual document of the state, which itself destroyed the international legal system, violating its international obligations, multilateral and bilateral agreements, should probably be investigated as a separate legal phenomenon.


Looking for any links between Russia’s words and actions is futile. And this is already the principle of the foreign policy of the aggressor state, which continues to play its brutal and bloody game, raising the stakes and endangering international peace and security, vainly trying to use the war unleashed against Ukraine to satisfy its imperial ambitions and " restoration of historical greatness and role in the world."

These ambitions are not concealed as they are also laid out in a concept that convinces the world that in the Russian imagination, there is no other world for them, except for the one where Russia is the center of everything. The war in Ukraine is justified by higher goals and is being waged, in their understanding, for the formation of a just and stable world order. That’s the order that would be okay with a dictator who will rule for life before being replaced with a figure just as brutal. To this end, it is necessary, in the Russian vision, to eliminate the vestiges of the dominance of the USA and other “unfriendly” states, and to restore the role of the UN (that's right: they humiliated and destroyed it only in order to restore it).


This provision is the quintessence of modern Russian politics, but at the same time it is a clear explanation that this policy is based on the approaches and ideas of the Second World War period. Restoring the role of the UN Russia-style means that the two largest nuclear powers – the USA and Russia – must agree on a just world order. Such an agreement should be cemented by enlisting the support of other nuclear powers, and dividing spheres of interests and zones of influence. Then there would be peace and stability in the world and everyone would rule in their own empire. Utopia, elevated to the rank of state policy and a complete separation from the realities of the world of the 21st century, which has changed so much and is now developing according to laws the Russian dictator and his entourage just can’t comprehend.

They believe that then, it will again be possible to talk about the rule of law in international relations (this is defined as one of the important priorities of foreign policy!), but with its foresight understanding that war crimes do not have a statute of limitations, they immediately point out that only such rule of law will work for them, which does not contradict the Russian constitution. In their sick imagination, their constitution will replace the UN Charter, and that the rulings of the Cheryomushkinsky District Court in Moscow will become the highest instance in relation to the verdicts of the International Criminal Court or the new Nuremberg, not to mention the European Court of Human Rights, whose decisions the Russian Federation officially refused to comply with on March 15 of last year after it was expelled from the Council of Europe.

And in the same passage, the intention to activate the process of registration of its state border is declared. Yes, this is about the occupied Ukrainian territories as well (including those that were never captured), the agreement on "accession" of which to the Russian Federation was ratified by the State Duma before Putin signed the corresponding decree on September 30, 2022. These acts are null and void (as are similar steps regarding Crimea) and will never be recognized by the world. But at least on paper, in the best Soviet-Russian traditions, the work will continue, and Lavrov will continue to travel to those countries where he is still accepted to fulfill the instructions of his boss – to ensure recognition.

There is another priority task from the "mission impossible" category – to convey to foreign audiences "true information about the foreign and domestic policy pursued by Russia", as well as "to create favorable conditions for the activity of foreign mass media on the territory of Russia” (!). Apparently, exactly such conditions were created as regards WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich. No comment here.

With such conceptual principles, plans, and intentions, on April 1, the Russian Federation began its rotating presidency of the UN Security Council (will it be the last?). Unfortunately, this is not an "evil joke", as Minister Kuleba described it. The world will not only have to see Mr Nebenzia in the chairman's seat, but also to endure this indignity for a month, listening to speeches laden with narratives that are embedded in Russia’s new official foreign policy concept. Moreover, there is a possibility – which is difficult to even imagine but cannot be ruled out – that using the right of chairmanship, the Russian Federation will invite its leaders to take part in the meeting. Meanwhile, Lavrov, has not yet been faced with an arrest warrant from the ICC.

Oksana Yurchyk

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