New Russian foreign policy Concept and its impact on Republic of Moldova. Op-Ed by Anatol Țăranu



The war that is being waged by Russia on Ukraine multiplied the challenges faced by the Republic of Moldova, but offer also opportunities that couldn’t have been imagined yesterday... Chisinau’s official statement about the annulment of the membership in the CIS for the reason that Russia claims this space as belonging to the so-called Russian world would represent the first step...


Anatol Țăranu

On March 31, 2023, Vladimir Putin signed the decree “On the approval of the foreign policy concept of the Russian Federation”, with the old variant of 2016 having been invalidated by the presidential decree of February 21 this year. The new foreign policy concept is a customary strategic planning document and a system of approaches concerning the national interests of the Russian Federation in the sphere of foreign policy, which reflects the current views of the political administration from the Kremlin. The document stipulates the basic principles, strategic objectives, main tasks and key areas of the Russian foreign policy adjusted to the realities. This concept concomitantly specifies particular provisions of the national security strategy of the Russian Federation.

By the new foreign policy concept, Moscow is reconsidering the principles that were recognized so far in the international relations and comes with a reviewed view on the course of its external policy after the start of the war against Ukraine, which it perceives as a de facto war of Russia against the U.S. and NATO. The new concept also derives from the fact that Russia suspended its participation in the bilateral nuclear arms treaty signed with the U.S., New START.

Claiming of role of “civilization-state”, isolated from rest of the world

In this newly created international context, the foreign policy of Russia identifies the position of the West as the main threat against it and the country reserves the right to defend its interests before the Western “unfriendly actions” by all the available means. As a result of this confrontation with the West, Moscow, in the new conceptual document, stipulates, as a key task of its foreign policy, “the formation of an equitable and sustainable world order” correlated with its understanding of the content of this new world order.

The defining of this view starts in the preamble of the new foreign policy document in which Russia identifies itself as an “original civilization state, a vast Eurasian and Euro-pacific power that reunited the Russian nation and other nations that form the cultural and civilizational community of the Russian world”. In this regard, Russia arrogates to itself the historical mission of being a sovereign world development center and of maintaining the global balance of power by building an international multipolar system.

It is noteworthy that during the previous decades, Russia, when it defined its role on the international arena, started from the precondition that it should integrate into different communities – European, global, etc. Now, in the new foreign policy concept, Russia isolates itself in a “civilization” that does not match anywhere, being self-sufficient by definition. The description of the world stipulated in the Concept confirms that for Putin’s Russia there is indeed no international space into which the country could integrate and that Russia does not want to live by the rules that it does not set out, and that Russia is the one that will decide how and through what means it will decide the own rules.

... CIS included without being asked into so-called “Russian world”

First of all, these rules are attributed to its civilization space that becomes identifiable with the space of the so-called Russian world. The document starts from the necessity of forming, on this alleged civilizational platform, “a common humanitarian space of the Russian Federation and the CIS member countries, keeping the century-old civilizational and spiritual ties of the people of Russia with the people of these states”. So, within the foreign policy Concept, the CIS space that includes the Republic of Moldova, invariably is identified with the “Russian world”, as a zone of exclusive Russian geopolitical domination, up to the eventual territorial annexation to the Russian state.

In the Concept of 2016, the foreign policy of the Russian Federation stipulated “the finding of a solution to the Transnistrian problem, based on the observance of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the neutrality status of the Republic of Moldova in defining a special status for Transnistria”. In the new foreign policy document, there is no direct mention of the Republic of Moldova, including Transnistria. But in the document’s chapter entitled “Close neighborhood”, the Concept provides that the position of Russia as one of the major influence centers of world development and civilization will be strengthened by “joining the capacities in different areas in concert with the CIS countries and other neighboring countries tied to Russia by century-old traditions of common statehood, profound interdependence in different areas, a common language, close cultures.”

“Close neighborhood” with the role of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

This way, Russia at conceptual level continues to claim the so-called close neighborhood as a zone of its exclusive influence, intending to pay priority attention to the ensuring of “the guaranteed protection by Russia of its allies and partners under any evolution of the military-political situation in the world”. To exemplify the end result of this assistance, the Concept envisions, in particular, “comprehensive support for the Republic of Abkhazia, the Republic of South Ossetia, assistance in implementing the voluntary choice based on international law of the people of these states in favor of extended integration with Russia”. So, on this dimension, the foreign policy document of the Russian Federation does not leave any doubt about the real intentions and objectives of Moscow concerning the secessionist conflicts in the post-Soviet space, including the Transnistria one that is to be resolved by integration with Russia.

Nether as regards the civilization choice, does the foreign policy leave the right to decide by themselves the development model to the states from the close neighborhood claimed by Moscow. According to Moscow’s concept, the close neighborhood should be invariably included in the formation of “an economic and political space integrated into Eurasia”. The Republic of Moldova, pursuing the European integration course, in this regard is in full dissonance with the Russian civilization concept and can expect any hostility on the part of Moscow for the attempt to fulfill its European dream.

Compatriots, hostage to imperial policy

To achieve its objective of geopolitical control over the close neighborhood, the Russian external policy is aimed at offering “assistance in forming a common humanitarian space with the Russian Federation and the CIS member countries”. A special role in this regard is attributed by the Concept to the necessity of “developing ties with the compatriots who live abroad and of offering them comprehensive support taking into account their significant contribution to conserving and disseminating the Russian language and culture”. In this regard, the Russian foreign policy is aimed at using the potential of the Russian culture and language for imperial purposes. This causes strong repulsion to the Russian culture and language in the states covered by the hegemonic pretentions of Moscow.  

To achieve the objectives of the Russian foreign policy, it is underlined the necessity of promoting measures to unite the so-called Russian compatriots in the CIS states “who are inclined constructively towards Russia and who live in the neighborhood by offering them support..., first of all in the non-friendly states, so as to keep the Russian culture, language and identity, the Russian spiritual and moral values, the ties with the historical homeland”. For the purpose, “a common information space of the Russian Federation and the CIS member countries needs to be further built”. This way, the Russian foreign policy is designed to turn the Russian ethnics who are citizens of CIS countries into hostage to the imperial plans of Moscow, into authentic representatives of the fifth column in these societies.

In conclusion, it should be noted the radical change of the mental paradigm in the new Russian foreign policy Concept that is much more different in terms of significance, structure and objectives than the version of 2016. Under the new world order that is to be built with the contribution of the Russian foreign policy, the West, the states of liberal democracy are no longer perceived by Moscow as international dialogue partners, but are considered members of non-friendly communities. By the logic of its foreign policy, the Russian Federation reedits a new Cold War, reinventing the Western liberal democracy in the formula of the existential rival.

Without maneuvering space

In this logic of the confrontation of civilizational paradigms under the new Russian foreign policy, such small and not much internationally influential states as the Republic of Moldova, which is situated extremely dangerously at the confluence of the big geopolitical rivals, do not have maneuvering space. The Republic of Moldova is condemned only if it aims to survive as a national entity, to make a prompt choice of the side of the barricade where to position itself. The content of the new Russian conceptual document clearly shows where the Republic of Moldova is situated and how aggressive Russia aims to be with its close neighborhood that it intends to remodel, including by military methods, according to its neocolonial interests.

The war that is being waged by Russia on Ukraine multiplied the challenges faced by the Republic of Moldova, but offer also opportunities that couldn’t have been imagined yesterday. Profiting from Russia’s full involvement in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova obtains, with all the inherent risks, a pause of opportunity for detaching itself not only symbolically, but also in reality from the Russian world. Chisinau’s official statement about the annulment of the membership in the CIS for the reason that Russia claims this space as belonging to the so-called Russian world would represent the first step. This political approach should be supported by a complementary Parliament statement about the assumption of the quality of the second Romanian state for the Republic of Moldova. The signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood between the Republic of Moldova and Romania, which is brought up to the constitution of a Romanian state Union with the objective of accelerating the process of European integration of Moldova westward the Prut and of restoring the Romanian national unity, should be the next non-delayed step.  

Only a country project of such a scale can detach for good the Romanian space eastward the Prut from the Russian world. Concomitantly, it can contribute to overcoming the equivocal position that Romania has had for years on the Republic of Moldova as regards the restoration of the Romanian national unity and can determine Bucharest and Chisinau to take energetic and coordinated diplomatic actions for achieving this desideratum at international level, overcoming this way the last historical injustice generated by the Soviet-Nazi pact of August 23, 1939. It is a moment that the Romanians from both sides of the Prut should not miss and that can become the best solution for saving for good the whole Romanian space from the curse of the conquering danger posed by Russian imperialism.  

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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