In 2019, Russia focused its efforts on easing international tension and building up multi-sided cooperation with the countries and associations that displayed reciprocal readiness to develop relations based on mutual respect and consideration of interests. Moscow pursued a line towards ensuring the supremacy of international law, preservation of the central role of the UN in world politics, a search for peaceful settlement of conflicts and the prevention of confrontation scenarios, primarily against the DPRK, Iran and Venezuela. Russia paid special attention to enhancing CSTO collective security, promoting the EAEU economic integration and ensuring its participation in the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the Arctic Council and other advanced multilateral associations. The Russian initiative of forming Greater Eurasian Partnership has become established as a concept of long-term political and diplomatic efforts.
The CIS territory is Russia’s traditional foreign policy priority. Russia and Belarus continued their rapprochement in the framework of the Union State – they approved the programme of coordinated foreign policy actions in 2020-2021. The new leaders of Kazakhstan demonstrated the continuity of the course towards deepening allied relations and strategic partnership with Russia. The Russia plus Central Asia informal dialogue mechanism began to work at the foreign minister level. An intergovernmental agreement on ensuring international information security was signed with Turkmenistan. The Caspian Economic Forum, a new format of heads of government meetings, was launched.
The heads of state and government of the CIS countries approved 32 decisions aimed at promoting cooperation in the economic, law-enforcement, cultural and humanitarian spheres. The foreign ministers signed an action programme to intensify partnership between the foreign ministries and adopted a joint statement on supporting practical steps to prevent the armed race in outer space.
As part of the preparations for celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the heads of state of the CIS countries adopted a statement on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII that was circulated at the UN and OSCE and the appeal of the heads of state of the CIS countries to their peoples and the world public in connection with the 75th anniversary of Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
The CSTO countries enhanced their foreign policy coordination. They adopted a number of joint statements on major international issues. In May, at Russia’s initiative the CSTO foreign ministries sent an open letter to NATO countries with an appeal to deescalate military and political tension and to promote confidence building measures.
The CSTO Collective Security Council endorsed documents on anti-terrorist cooperation and consolidation of the CSTO southern borders, and on the coordination of joint actions to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
Progress in the settlement of the Ukrainian domestic conflict was made. After a three-year interval the sides conducted a summit in the Normandy format in December in Paris. Guided by humane considerations, Russia facilitated the procedure for the granting of citizenship to residents of some of the districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
The EAEU member states approved a document defining the strategic goals for developing the Eurasian integration until 2025. They also endorsed a concept for forming an EAEU financial common market with a view to launching it in 2025. In the three quarters of 2019, aggregate EAEU GDP increased 1.4 percent, while industrial and agricultural growth was 2.7 percent. The EAEU countries improved the structure of import and export transactions and increased the use of national currencies in their mutual transactions.
The EAEU expanded its range of foreign partners by signing free trade agreements with Serbia and Singapore. It is implementing a programme of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and ASEAN in 2019-2020. A decision to hold talks on drafting a preferential EAEU trade agreement with India was made. The agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and China and an interim EAEU-Iran free trade area agreement entered into force. The EAEU and China signed an agreement on exchanging information on commodities and transport vehicles involved in international shipments via their customs borders.
The deepening of Russia-China relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation has harmoniously supplemented Eurasian integration and stabilised the international situation. Bilateral energy cooperation was raised to a new level when the Power of Siberia cross-border gas pipeline became operational. Russia and China announced 2020 and 2021 to be the years of bilateral cooperation on science, technology and innovation. In cooperation with China, Russia has drafted and promoted a new plan of action on comprehensive settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Russia has been strengthening its privileged strategic partnership with India and multi-faceted ties with the ASEAN countries. An updated treaty on friendly relations and comprehensive strategic partnership was signed with Mongolia.
Russia sustained the positive dynamics of its dialogue with Japan to raise the entire range of bilateral relations and cooperation on the international arena to a new level. The sides reviewed issues of joint economic activities in the southern part of the Kuril Islands in this context and the problems of the peace treaty.
Russia continued its vigorous efforts to stabilise the situation in Syria, resolve urgent humanitarian tasks and promote the political settlement of the crisis. It maintained close cooperation with Iran and Turkey in the Astana format.
The Syrian Constitutional Committee was established and launched in Geneva on October 30 with the decisive contribution of the guarantor countries in line with the decisions by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi and UN Security Council Resolution 2254. For the first time during the crisis the Syrians received an opportunity to discuss the issues of their future directly, primarily the constitutional reform.
The signing and implementation of the October 22 Russia-Turkey memorandum on the area east of the Euphrates River made it possible to stop the bloodshed and stabilise the situation in the northeast of Syria.
Relations with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa received a fresh impetus. Russia played an important role in maintaining stable global energy prices. The presentation of Russia’s updated collective security concept for the Gulf countries was a major step.
Cooperation with Turkey included a number of strategic projects: the Turkish Stream gas pipeline was prepared for operation and the first shipment of the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems was made.
The first Russia-Africa Summit was held in Sochi in October. It laid the foundation for raising relations with the African countries to a much higher level. Over 50 commercial contracts worth a total of over one trillion rubles were signed at the economic forum that took place in parallel with the summit. The Russia-Africa Partnership Forum was established.
Russia dynamically developed relations with most Latin American and Caribbean countries. The destructive plans of the United States and its allies as regards Venezuela were prevented.
Russia established contacts with the new leaders of the European Union and maintained a dialogue with the EU on countering terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. Several rounds of expert consultations on regional conflicts were held. The difficult phase of the persisting crisis was overcome in the Council of Europe where the lawful rights of Russian MPs were restored. It is necessary to continue working to strengthen the role of the OSCE as a unique forum designed to facilitate the construction of an equal, comprehensive and indivisible security system in Eurasia and the Euro-Atlantic Region.
The domestic political struggle in the United States obstructed the development of constructive dialogue with Washington. The sides maintained contacts on counter-terrorism and a number of regional issues, including the developments in Syria, Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula.
A number of high-level consultations on UN cooperation with the SCO, the OSCE and the CIS on peace and security in Africa were held.
Russia’s resolutions in the UN General Assembly on countering the glorification of Nazism, calling to refrain from being the first to deploy weapons in space, on international information security, fighting cybercrime and consolidating and drafting agreements on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation were adopted.
In response to the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Russia made a voluntary commitment to not be the first to deploy land-based medium- or shorter-range missiles and suggested that other countries join this moratorium. Moscow tried to compel Washington to fully abide by its commitments on the strategic arms reduction treaty. Its proposal to extend the treaty as soon as possible after it expires on February 5, 2021, remains valid.
Russia hosted major international events during the year: the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Eastern Economic Forum, the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi, the Yalta International Economic Forum, Russian Energy Week, and WorldSkills 2019 (in Kazan in August).
Russia signed bilateral agreements on visa-free travel on ordinary passports for 90 day stays with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Surinam, the Maldives, Palau and the United Arab Emirates. Now there are 89 countries where Russians can travel without a visa.
The number of countries whose residents can travel to Russia on ordinary passports was increased to 57. Russia extended its pilot programme on e-visas for foreigners at checkpoints in the Far Eastern Federal District by including the Kaliningrad and Leningrad regions and the city of St Petersburg.
Representatives of the Russian diaspora from 93 countries took part in the world thematic conference on compatriots living abroad and the continuity of generations. In the first three quarters of this year, about 92,500 people moved to Russia under the programme of facilitating voluntary resettlement of compatriots. In all, over 900,000 compatriots living abroad have moved to Russia since the launch of this programme.