Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday announced Moscow’s intention to preserve geographical spheres “of privileged interest” on or near its borders as part of a five point foreign policy statement in a television interview.
The announcement, in the wake of the recent conflict in Georgia, is likely to raise the political temperature in neighbouring states, especially those with significant Russian minorities, as they try to gauge Russia’s appetite for future conflicts in the region.
He said that Russia would defend “the life and dignity” of Russian citizens “no matter where they are located”. He was referring to Russia’s intervention in Georgia with the declared aim of defending Russian citizens in South Ossetia against Georgian forces.
Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would provide aid – including military help – to the enclaves of South Ossetian and Abkhazia.
In the announcing his five-point foreign policy, he emphasised Russia’s wish to avoid confrontation or international isolation as the result of the recent conflict, which has been widely criticised in the west. “Russia does not intend to isolate itself. We will develop, as much as possible, our friendly relations with Europe and the United States, and other nations of the world”
He also focused on a commitment to international law, and again expressed Moscow’s now familiar antipathy to a “unipolar” world dominated by Washington, saying “this type of world is unstable and threatens conflict”.
Mr Medvedev’s announcement that Russia has “regions of priviledged interest” is likely to be greeted with concern in the west, where it might be interpreted as the announcement that Moscow has imperial ambitions in the former Soviet Union. It is also likely to resonate in Crimea, the province of Ukraine that is dominated by ethnic Russians, ethnically Russian northern Kazakhstan, and Baltic states with large Russian minorities.
"Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions in which it has privileged interests” said Mr Medvedev. “In these regions are located countries which have friendly relations…Russia will work attentively in these regions" he said, adding these "privileged" regions included states bordering Russia, but not only those.