1. In 2015, the negative trends characteristic of international relations in recent years have worsened. Amid proliferating regional crises, growing instability in the global financial and economic system and escalating interreligious tensions, global competition has deepened against the backdrop of attempts by a number of states to reverse the objective process of the formation of a polycentric world order and to maintain their domination in international affairs.
Under these circumstances, Russia has pursued a proactive foreign policy course, one based on its commitment to international law and a collective approach in the search for ways of meeting the threats and challenges to international security, stability and sustained development.
2. A key diplomatic event of the year was the anniversary session of the UN General Assembly, which was attended by President Vladimir Putin. It reaffirmed the role of the Organisation as a unique institution that has no equivalent in terms of legitimacy, representation or universality.
During the previous seven decades, the UN has stood the test of time and proved its relevance in dealing with challenging international issues. The further development of its potential hinges on the member countries’ readiness to strengthen the central and coordinating role of the Organisation in world affairs, and their willingness to make more active use of its Charter-based potential for working together, through consensus, among the key centers of force and influence in today’s world.
3. The focus of Russian diplomacy has been on the efforts to mobilise the international community to meet the challenge of international terrorism and extremism, which have acquired unprecedented scale in the context of operations by ISIS and other terrorist groups.
In his address to the UN General Assembly in New York (in September), President Putin put forward an initiative for forming a broad international antiterrorist coalition based on a solid legal foundation and with the central role of the UN Security Council. The operation by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces, launched in response to a request from the Syrian authorities, has highlighted Russia’s resolve to stand up to modern barbarity and fight terrorists far beyond its borders.
The effort to suppress the financing of terrorism and foreign terrorist militants was an important part of the effort. The UN Security Council, with Russia’s active participation, drafted and approved an array of important documents, including Resolutions 2199 of February 12 and 2253 of December 17, designed to suppress the financing of the Islamic State and other terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq. In this context, priority was given to closing off channels of financing ISIS through the illegal sale of oil stolen from Syrian and Iraqi fields and transported across these countries’ borders with Turkey. Ankara’s line towards complicity with terrorists was evidenced by the treacherous attack by the Turkish Air Force on the Russian Su-24 bomber on an antiterrorist mission in the Syrian airspace.
In addition to the UN, other cooperation formats and assets were actively used in this fight, including the OSCE, the CIS, the CSTO, the SCO, ASEAN, APEC, the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the Financial Action Task Force.
4. There was a need to constantly monitor developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as they increasingly influenced international security and stability, including the crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Russian diplomats have been working in the MENA region to help find a solution to the crisis in Syria. The International Syria Support Group, which was created in October with Russia as the leading contributor, has a clear set of priorities, namely the uncompromising struggle against terrorist groups and the simultaneous promotion of the political process with the involvement, without exception, of all political forces and ethnic and confessional groups. A major step towards reaching this goal was the approval of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on December 18, which includes plans for a staged political settlement based on the preservation of Syria’s unity and territorial integrity and reaffirms the cardinal principle of such a solution, according to which Syrians will determine the future of their country.
Efforts have been taken through bilateral channels and at various international platforms, primarily the Middle East Quartet of international intermediaries (Russia, the United States, the EU and the UN), to prevent the deterioration of Palestinian-Israeli relations and the escalation of violence and to create conditions for re-launching the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis. These efforts focused on strengthening cooperation between the Quartet and the concerned regional parties, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
5. A positive example, proving that major achievements are possible when a collective format, based on a serious, pragmatic and creative approach, is employed, was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) coordinated in Vienna to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme(July). This document has resolved one of the thorniest international issues of memory, one that could have easily escalated into an armed confrontation. The principles of phasing and reciprocity, initially proposed by Russia, form the basis of the implementation of the JCPOA, which should become a major stabilising factor in the region.
6. The launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on January 1, 2015, which Armenia and Kyrgyzstan later joined, marked a new stage in the Eurasian integration process. The EAEU constitutes a common market with 180 million consumers.
This new integration association gradually grew stronger, and at the same time actively developed relations with external partners. The EAEU and its member countries have signed a free trade area agreement with Vietnam (May, the EAEU’s first preferential agreement), has held free trade area talks with Israel and considered signing similar agreements with India, Egypt, Iran and other states and associations.
The Russian-Chinese Joint Statement on the further development of their all-encompassing partnership, strategic interaction and mutually beneficial cooperation has sealed the intention of the sides to continue to search for points of common interest between the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt project in the interests of sustainable economic growth in the Eurasian space through the strengthening of equitable cooperation and mutual trust.
7. We continued developing multilateral cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). During the year the CIS member-countries signed 11 international treaties and made over 60 decisions aimed at promoting cooperation in the economic, humanitarian and law enforcement spheres. We continued to pay special attention to minimizing the influence of the global financial-economic crisis on the CIS national economies, countering terrorist threats and organised crime, consolidating border security and intensifying cultural and humanitarian contacts.
The celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War was the central event of the year. Celebrating the anniversary, the CIS member-countries that sacrificed tens of millions of lives of their soldiers and civilians for the sake of Victory, shared the opinion that the attempts to erode the foundations of the world arrangement laid in 1945 that rely on the UN Charter and the central role of the UN in global affairs, threaten to destroy the entire architecture of current international relations.
Belarus remained Russia’s key strategic partner. Russia developed relations with it both in the Union State framework and other formats.
To reduce the impact of phenomena related to the crisis in the global economy and the drop in world oil prices, the Russian and Belarusian governments are carrying out their plan of measures to create additional conditions for trade and economic cooperation.
The two countries were enhancing their cooperation in the military and military-technical spheres, anti-terrorist activities and in countering crime. They successfully held their joint exercises Union Shield-2015 in September.
Russia continued to steadily develop its strategic partnership with Kazakhstan. Being the leading economy in Central Asia, it remains Russia’s major ally in a number of areas of military-political and economic cooperation.
The events of the 12th Forum of Interregional Cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan held in September reaffirmed the high interest of both countries in expanding productive cooperation.
8. Russia continued facilitating the development of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as modern democratic states, promoting their international ties and ensuring their security and socio-economic progress. In this context an important role was played by industry agreements pursuant to the Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia of November 24, 2014, and Treaty on Alliance and Integration between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Ossetia of March 18, 2015.