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For much of the presidency of Boris Yeltsin Russian foreign policy suffered from an uncoordinated process of policy formulation and difficulty in developing a set of principles and priorities which could attract widespread domestic support and guide the implementation of specific policies. These handicaps and the contraction in the countrys overall capacities contributed to the decline in its international standing.

Photo: kremlin.ru

Foreign policy-making reflected fractious domestic political processes, the turnover of individual politicians and fluctuations in their roles and responsibilities as well as changes in the functions of institutions involved in the foreign and security policy process. President Yeltsins erratic exercise of executive authority left openings for policy free-lancing by different institutions and interests, which resulted in ad hoc and unpredictable foreign policy conduct and hampered efforts to develop a strategic partnership with Western states and organizations.

In contrast, the first term of Vladimir Putins presidency have been characterised by far more coherence and effectiveness in foreign policy, greater integration of Russia into the international community, and possibilities for real partnership between Russia and Western states, especially since September 2001. This transformation reflects significant changes in the process of Russian foreign and security policy formulation. It also expresses an underlying pragmatism and professionalism that emphasizes concrete priorities over abstract ideological schemes.

The focus on national revival through enhanced engagement in the international economic order and commercial gain through foreign relationships has helped provide a framework to order foreign policy priorities, notwithstanding continuing security policy preoccupations.

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