Parallel to the shift from the idealism of the early days to the realism of nation–building in Russia after the aborted coup attempt in the summer of 1991, Russian foreign policy has undergone a process of necessary adaptation, moving away from a policy of almost unconditional alliance with the West to a more sober–minded and realistic pursuit and defense of her concrete national interests.
In the midst of turbulent change, and precisely because of such change, an attempt to formulate a new foreign policy concept for a newborn Russia was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The first concept, formed and shared with members of the Parliament around February 1992, proclaimed a very idealistic and pro–Western course of foreign policy. The first priority was to integrate Russia into the community of civilized countries, first and foremost by virtue of radical economic reforms on the model of Western democratic institutions and market economies. The Parliament was not as unconditional in its support of such a course, but a pro–Western foreign policy, or what one might call "Atlanticism," prevailed while people still had high hopes for radical reforms and the effectiveness of Western assistance. The term "Economization" of foreign policy, was coined.
The euphoria began to evaporate in the summer of 1992 when reforms met with obstinate resistance from vast number of people whose interests were threatened directly by reforms such as privatization. Also around this time, relations with the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) became strained, and the 25-million–strong Russian population in CIS countries voiced strong appeals against "unfair treatment" by the new states. Therefore, foreign policy–makers were forced to emphasize more clearly the high priority placed on the relationship with the Commonwealth. This coincided with a period when negotiations with the Baltic States over the withdrawal of troops were approaching an impasse. The second concept paper, discussed with the Parliament towards the end of 1992, reflected these changes.
The year 1993 brought a more glaring assertion of the national interests in Russian foreign policy. More people began to stress the Eurasian nature of Russia and argue for Russian to be accorded Great Power status. The Security Council concept paper, published in late April, 1993, testified to this shift. The December elections of 1993 simply reinforced the trend.
It may well be that the euphoria of the early days after the August 1991 coup was simply not tenable, and one may have to comfort oneself with the though that the emerging foreign policy, which is more consistent with domestic reality, is less harmful th an a very abstract policy that cannot be delivered. But if Russian wants to join the post–communist world, it must strike the right balance between "Atlanticism" and "Eurasianism."
Working Paper 94–03, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1994.