Russian President Vladimir Putin has set out his foreign policy goals, after being inaugurated for a new term. In a presidential decree, he called for enhanced relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Moscow will also seek closer ties with the United States, but will not tolerate interference in its affairs.
But Mr. Putin is still a controversial figure in Russia, and commentators claim he will face stronger domestic opposition in his third term as president.
Putin Inaugurated Amid Controversy
Mr. Putin was sworn in as President yesterday. He is returning to the presidency after an absence of four years in which he served as Prime Minister. The outgoing President, Dmitry Medvedev, is widely seen as an ally of Mr. Putin.
Mr. Medvedev has been nominated by Mr. Putin as the country's new Prime Minister, and is expected to be confirmed in the post by parliament. The job swap has allowed Mr. Putin to avoid violating the constitutional ban on serving more than two consecutive terms, though the situation has infurated Russia's increasingly vocal protest movements.
Mr. Putin was voted back in as president in controversial elections in March, marred by allegations of fraud. Over the weekend, thousands of protesters opposed to the inauguration clashed with police in Moscow.
However, thousands also rallied in support of Mr. Putin, who is seen by his supporters as the only leader capable of defending Russia's interests on the world stage, and protecting the economy at home.
Analysis: Vladimir the Unstable [Foreign Policy, 7 May 2012]
Analysis: Medvedev the Phony [Foreign Policy, 7 May 2012]
Ties With Asia-Pacific, US, Eurasia
Mr. Putin set out his foreign policy priorities in a presidential decree signed hours after his inauguration. The decree varied little from an article he wrote on the subject during the election campaign.
He called for closer and "mutually beneficial relations" with Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand, saying it is necessary for further development of the Russian Far East and East Siberia regions.
Moscow will also seek closer ties with the United States, but will not tolerate interference in its affairs and wants guarantees that a US missile shield will not be used against Russia.
In a warning that encompassed both crackdowns on dissent in Russia and the situation in Syria, Mr. Putin's decree said Moscow would "counter attempts to use human rights concepts as an instrument of political pressure and interference in the internal affairs of states".
Closer to home, Mr. Putin made clear that strengthening bonds among former Soviet republics from Belarus to Central Asia are top priorities.
The decree reiterated plans for a Eurasian Economic Union, by January 2015, based on ties with Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Report: Putin seeks close U.S. ties, missile guarantee [Reuters, 7 May 2012]
Report: Putin urges closer ties with Asia-Pacific region [The Mainichi (Kyodo), 8 May 2012]