Russian foreign policy–Who’s in charge?

Once each year the Russian president meets with its foreign ambassadors who are flown in from around the world for annual Kremlin meetings.  During Tuesday’s summit President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a new foreign policy strategy that grants unprecedented rights to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. 

The foreign policy strategy, signed by Medvedev on Saturday but released Tuesday to coincide with a keynote speech to ambassadors, says the prime minister will be allowed for the first time to implement foreign policy measures, a right previously assumed to be retained by the president.

To quell speculation that presidential powers would be weakened after Putin left the Kremlin, Medvedev said immediately after his election in March that he would retain the presidential right to control foreign policy.  Foreign and domestic press reporters rushed for an explanation but Kremlin spokesmen declined to comment.

Overall the new strategy strongly resembles one approved by then-President Putin in 2000, reiterating Russia’s interest in reasserting itself as an international player in a world where UN and international law reign supreme and unilateral actions by countries like the United States are unwelcome.

Tuesday’s address by Medvedev criticized U.S. plans to deploy parts of a missile-defense shied in Eastern Europe and Western nations’ failure to ratify the revised Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. 

Dmitry Trenin, political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center said that “the vague and somewhat incomprehensible expectations that there might be some kind of liberalization in foreign policy” under Medvedev have proven unfounded.



New United States Ambassador for Russia

U.S. Ambassador John R. Beyrle arrived in Moscow July 3 to take up his post.  Ambassador Beyrle was nominated by President George W. Bush on May 13, 2008, and confirmed by the Senate on June 27, 2008. He was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation on July 2, 2008.

A career officer in the senior Foreign Service at the rank of Minister-Counselor, Ambassador Beyrle has held policy positions and foreign assignments with an emphasis on U.S. relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and the USSR since joining the State Department in 1983.

Ambassador Beyrle’s overseas service has included two tours at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, including as Deputy Chief of Mission. Most recently he served as Ambassador to Bulgaria. Previously he was Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the CFE Negotiations in Vienna. Washington assignments include Acting Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, and Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as a staff officer to Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, and as a Pearson Fellow and foreign policy adviser to the late Senator Paul Simon. Ambassador Beyrle is the recipient of numerous State Department awards.

A native of Muskegon, Michigan, Ambassador Beyrle received a B.A. degree with honors from Grand Valley State University, and an M.S. degree as a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, where he later taught as a Visiting Professor of National Security Studies. His foreign languages are Bulgarian, Czech, French, German and Russian. He is married to Jocelyn Greene, a fellow Foreign Service Officer; they have two daughters, Alison and Caroline.