In 2020, Russia’s foreign policy focused on making better use of the potential for international cooperation in the interests of protecting national security, promoting the country’s socioeconomic development and encouraging approaches to current global and regional problems that meet the interests of Russia.
Russia proposed a positive unifying agenda in the name of global stability and predictability and stronger central role of the UN as the main coordinating agency of international politics. Russia urged its partners to stop playing zero sum games and to abandon double standards in favour of an open and honest dialogue. Seeking to start a serious and frank discussion on the principles of interstate interaction and ways to address acute current problems, President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forth an initiative of holding a summit meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which they supported in principle and which the international community welcomed.
A vital sphere of our efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic was the repatriation of over 300,000 Russians and the provision of assistance to those of them who found themselves in difficult circumstances abroad. Russia was one of the first countries to start assisting other states’ efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 and overcome its socioeconomic consequences, as well as launched broad-based cooperation for creating, producing and supplying anti-viral medicines and vaccines. Russia helped promote multilateral cooperation in the field of public health through its efforts at the UN and its specialised bodies, first of all the WHO, as well as at the EAEU, the CSTO, BRICS, the SCO, the G20 and other associations.
An important international event this year was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the establishment of the United Nations Organisation. Russia and a group of 43 states have co-initiated a resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which included a meeting in commemoration of all victims of the war held on December 1. The majority of the attending countries reaffirmed the importance of collective efforts to prevent the falsification of history and a revision of the causes and results of World War II. It is symbolic that in the year of the 75th anniversary of Victory our traditional UNGA resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has been supported by the overwhelming majority of UN member states: 58 countries co-authored it and 130 voted for its adoption.
On June 24, foreign leaders and guests attended festive celebrations in Moscow and a Victory Parade in which many units of foreign armies took part.
Despite the unfavourable epidemiological situation, Russia successfully performed its duties as a chairperson of several international forums and organisations. Some 140 events have been held and over 40 joint documents have been adopted as part of Russia’s BRICS Chairmanship. The Moscow Declaration adopted at the 12th BRICS summit on November 17 reaffirmed the basic principles of the group’s activities and the closeness of its participants’ views on the main issues of the international agenda. They have also coordinated their Counter-Terrorism Strategy, approved the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025 and launched the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform.
Russia’s chairmanship in the Russia-India-China group resulted in the adoption of a joint press release that emphasised the importance of the three countries’ interaction for global economic growth, peace and stability. They also initiated a new sphere of trilateral cooperation – interaction between their sanitary and epidemiological services.
Russia’s CSTO Chairmanship in 2019-2020 included the adoption of strategic documents on collective security and joint efforts against new challenges and threats. The member states have reinforced the fundamentals of multilateral cooperation in the field of regional security and the CSTO’s tactical capabilities for combating terrorism, extremism and illegal drug trafficking. The CSTO peacekeeping component was strengthened. During the December 2 meeting of the CSTO Collective Security Council, the leaders of the member states put forth the idea of developing a common agenda and promoting interaction between the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, the OCSE and NATO.
Over 70 events were held within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), including the SCO Summit on November 10. The member states coordinated their positions on a wide range of international issues and approved action plans for the implementation of the SCO Development Strategy in 2021-2025 and the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation until 2035.
Integration cooperation also developed consistently with other Eurasian formats. The CIS countries adopted a number of policy-making documents on medium-term CIS development, including the updated Concept of Economic Development of the Commonwealth of Independent States until 2030 and an Action Plan for its implementation in 2021-2025.
A set of anti-crisis measures to ensure the vital needs of the people, maintain mutual trade and free movement of goods, and create conditions for further economic growth were quickly coordinated within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Green corridors were opened for the delivery of critically important products to the EAEU countries and restrictions were adopted on the export of certain commodities. The Strategic Directions for Developing Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025 have been approved, a decision has been taken to grant Uzbekistan and Cuba observer state status, and the start of talks on a free trade agreement with Iran has been approved.
On June 19 in Minsk, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on mutual recognition of national visas and other documents related to the entry and stay of foreign nationals and stateless person in the Union State. Efforts have been redoubled to coordinate integration roadmaps.
Activities within the framework of the Russian initiative for creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership have reached a new level: the Joint Commission on implementing the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the People’s Republic of China held its first meeting, and the updated programme of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and ASEAN until 2025 has been approved. The Greater Eurasia concept was supported in the final documents of the SCO heads of state and government meetings.
Amid the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 consequences, the strategic partnership between Russia and China had a major stabilising effect on international relations. Bilateral interaction on important items on the regional and global agendas received additional boost, especially at the UN and other prominent international platforms. The two countries’ common positions on a wide range of international issues were included in the Foreign Ministers’ Joint Statement adopted in September.
Russian-Indian dialogue was very productive, including within multilateral formats. In February, India hosted a meeting of the Russian-Indian Defence Industry Conference, and in September, the Indra Navy-20 joint naval manoeuvres.
In our cooperation with ASEAN, the efforts focused on promoting practical aspects of interaction, to which end we used ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi’s visit to Russia (February), a special Russia-ASEAN ministerial video conference on fighting the coronavirus (June), a ministerial ASEAN Regional Forum session (September) and events held as part of the mechanism for the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting with dialogue partners. Our ideas for building up cooperation to combat the pandemic at the regional level were included in the statement of the leaders adopted at the 15th East Asia Summit on building up the collective capacity to prevent and respond to epidemics (November 14), as well as in the statement of the regional coordinators and chairman of the Asia-Europe Forum on fighting the coronavirus infection (September 7).
Russia’s trade and economic priorities were included in the new basic document adopted at an APEC Forum - APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 (November 20).
Constructive relations with most of the Latin American and Caribbean states have kept their positive dynamics. In cooperation with the like-minded nations, Russia energetically supported multilateral efforts aimed at protecting the rights and legitimate interests of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
As a follow-up to the agreements reached during the first Russia-Africa Summit (Sochi, October 23-24, 2019), the institutionalisation of Russian-African cooperation was strengthened when the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum became operational and an Association of Economic Cooperation with African States was formed (with the participation of a number of major Russian publicly- and privately-owned companies).
Russia's efforts to resolve regional conflicts and crises brought concrete results. Russia’s mediation helped put an end to armed clashes and restore peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. Emergency humanitarian aid was provided, proper conditions were created for the return of the refugees and displaced persons, a peacekeeping operation was launched, and the creation of a joint Russian-Turkish ceasefire compliance centre was agreed upon.
Russia’s mediation helped achieve a drastic reduction in shelling in eastern Ukraine and, in general, maintain the ceasefire between the parties to the intra- Ukrainian conflict.
We upheld international law within the framework of the settlement of the Kosovo problem and post-conflict settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In June, we signed a Russian-Serbian intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in combating terrorism.
Our cooperation with Iran and Turkey in the Astana format helped stabilise the situation in Syria. A considerable contribution to the settlement of humanitarian problems has been made by the international conference on the return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons held in Damascus (November 11-12), which was attended by delegates from over 20 countries, including Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon, as well as several international organisations. At the bilateral level, we continued providing assistance to Syria for overcoming the socioeconomic crisis.
Our active contacts with the conflicting parties in Libya have helped develop a dialogue between them and reduce military-political tension in this North African country.
Substantial efforts have been made in combating new challenges and threats. Our efforts taken during the 63rd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs ensured the adoption of a resolution on promoting the involvement of youth in drug prevention efforts. We also promoted this subject at the annual OSCE-wide Anti-Drug Conference held in October.
An important result in the field of economic diplomacy was the adjustment of double taxation agreements with Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.
Russia’s involvement in international efforts within the G20 and OPEC+ to ensure the stabilisation of prices in international oil markets amid a dramatic decline in demand, including top-level contacts with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the United States and several other countries, has helped reduce the volatility of oil prices.
Russia’s relationship with the collective West has not improved: confrontational approaches continued to prevail over constructive policies at NATO, the EU and some of their member states.
Nevertheless, we maintained dialogue with the European countries that are interested in cooperation with Russia. On February 18, a joint meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Italy was held in Rome in the 2+2 format, for the first time in five years. In October, the
17th meeting of the Russian-Italian Council on Economic, Industrial and Financial Cooperation was held in Moscow.
During the Russian-French summit meeting held via videoconference on June 26, the parties approved a list of joint working groups in the priority spheres of bilateral cooperation. Eight of them have already held their meetings.
Despite the curtailment of the positive agenda in our relations with Germany, we maintain a regular political dialogue. The agenda of the constituent meeting of the Russian-German Economic Council held in December included the opening ceremony for the Russian-German cross-year Economy and Sustainable Development 2020-2022. The year of Germany in Russia was launched in September.
Russia’s relations with the United States are based on our awareness of the two states’ special responsibility for international security and strategic stability and included our gestures of readiness for mutually beneficial cooperation based on respect for each other’s interests. A vital component of our efforts on the bilateral track was the strategic dialogue on nuclear missile arms control.
Seeking to reduce tension in relations with NATO, we took steps to ensure military-political predictability and restraint in Europe. In particular, Russia has adopted a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of intermediate- and short-range ground-launched missiles in Europe.