MOSCOW - When Vladimir Putin took office as President for the third time, he sent the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a document outlining the philosophy that would guide his approach to international relations for the next five years. Only recently released, the document is very revealing, showing that Putin’s worldview, and his idea about Russia’s role in that world, has changed substantially since he first took office as president in 2000.

One of the main thesis of the document is that Russia will have to build an international policy in an extremely unstable world, and that many of the world’s problems come from attempts by the West, and particularly the Unites States, to interfere with the internal matters of other countries.

Compared with four years ago, this document shows a President who sees a much less stable and predictable world. He cites five central causes of instability. The first is the global economic crisis, which Putin calls “ a huge catalyst for deep shifts in the geopolitical landscape.” The second factor is the West’s interference in other countries’ internal affairs. There is also the weakening of the United Nations, and the attempt of many countries to solve international problems through unilateral actions and sanctions. The fourth challenge are growing difficulties and threats that cross borders. And finally, according to Putin, instability is caused by the “tendency towards a re-ideologization of international relations.”

The document also describes Russia as the only oasis of stability in the otherwise turbulent world, and Putin says his country's foreign policy should focus on responding to each of the five factors feeding instability. Among other things, Putin wants to establish the United Nations as the only organization able to make decisions regarding international politics, which means, for example, not allowing countries to use the excuse of self-defense to interfere in another country, such as was the case in Libya.

Soft Kremlin power

According to Putin’s document, Russia will achieve these goals with soft power, including the use of social media, new technology and making use of the potential presented by the large Russian diaspora around the world. 

The priorities for Russia seem to have changed slightly as well. In terms of international politics, Putin’s plan for his third term puts the most importance on relations with Russia’s immediate neighbors and the former members of the Soviet Union. The second priority is the European Union, and the United States is only third on his list of geopolitical priorities. Although China and India are listed even lower on the list of priorities, establishing friendly relationships with both countries is one of the goals that Putin indicated was important during his third term. 

Although this new worldview does represent something of a change in priorities, experts note that is a logical response to changes in world affairs.