"He who knows the enemy and himself will never lose a war;

He who does not know the enemy, but knows himself, sometimes wins and sometimes loses;

He who knows neither himself nor the enemy loses every battle."

Sun Tzu "The Art of War"

Before the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, many people, including statesmen, did not even imagine that war could return to the European continent. But, unfortunately, it happened. And the next question arises, why did this happen? If we take into account the military-strategic aspect, then it is worth referring to the so-called "Gerasimov doctrine", which was described in the article "The value of science in anticipation" in 2013, which stated that the emphasis of military operations should shift to the use of hybrid methods of combat for the most part , which was demonstrated during the annexation of Crimea, the instigation of the conflict in Donbas, and the attempt to quickly conduct a so-called "special military operation" during the initial phase of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine.

However, it must be remembered that military goals are primarily subordinated to political goals. Therefore, another question arises: what were the leading people in the highest echelons of the Russian government guided by in order to make decisions regarding the initiation of such military conflicts and, of course, regarding the international relations that arise at the moment, for example, in the presentation of the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine as a confrontation of the global West against the South and its constant statements about the essentiality of a multipolar world order. The author of this small article suggests paying attention to the analysis of the Primakov doctrine, which may have become the basis of the current foreign policy strategy of the Russian Federation and served as the basis for the above-mentioned Gerasimov doctrine.

Causes of occurrence

In order to understand how the doctrine in question was formed, it is worth at least partially diving into the maelstrom of events that took place in the first half of the 1990s in the Russian Federation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, significant economic problems were observed in a number of former republics. In Russia, it was expressed as a result of liberal reforms implemented during Yeltsin's presidency.

Due to the difficult situation (high inflation, delayed salaries, economic crisis in general), the opposition and, logically, the citizens who suffered the biggest blow, began to express doubts about the exclusively "liberal" and "pro-Western" vectors of power. In addition, one cannot forget the constitutional crisis of 1993, which was also partly related to the confrontation between the economic bloc of "liberals" and "moderates" in the Russian Federation, and which then ended with the victory of the "liberals" led by Yeltsin, but demonstrated the non-absolute inclination of some political elites to the course of the president.

Accordingly, the first hints of a change in rhetoric can be observed in the statement of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Kozyrev in 1994 in the State Duma regarding the presence of "special interests of Russia" in the belt of the former republics of the USSR. Although, to tell the truth, intensification of actions in the CIS environment did not follow, the understanding of the authorities regarding some kind of modification of the previous strategy and the vision of the course for mutual cooperation and integration with the West stood out.

Later, the situation for the apologists of the "pro-Western" course in Russia became even more difficult. In 1995, the NATO intervention in Bosnia took place under the mandate of the UN (Russia voted for resolution 743, which legitimized the operation in Bosnia), which caused dissatisfaction among the Russian population, considering the religious (common Orthodox religion with the Bosnian Serbs, who were hit by NATO) and historical (Russia's connection with Serbia (then, in the form of Yugoslavia)) factors. Considering the position of the Russian population and the political opposition, Yeltsin and Kozyrev were criticized.

As a consequence of all the above-mentioned aspects, Yeltsin's opposition, i.e. the communists and their allies, won the elections to the State Duma. The course of the First Chechen War did not add "points" to Yeltsin and his team in the domestic political situation either. Moreover, with the approach of the 1996 presidential elections and in order to satisfy electoral needs, they decided to change the overly "pro-Western" minister Kozyrev to the more moderate Primakov, who had previously been the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service [6].

The following quote can serve as an example of his position: "After the collapse of the USSR, at the stage of the establishment of the Russian Federation as an independent state, for some time the model of a "known country" took place - such a course was preached at the time by the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who declared that the world was divided into the civilized part and "Spain", and Russia, after losing the "Cold War", should enter the "Club of Civilized States" and obey the rules of this club, which is led by the United States... The "known country" model is unacceptable for Russia" [8].

Therefore, the internal situation in the Russian Federation in the mid-1990s predicted the rise of opposition forces to Yeltsin and the prevalence of negative attitudes among the population in relation to the implementation of "liberal" and "pro-Western" courses in the politics of the Russian Federation. In this regard, the authorities led by Yeltsin decided to attract as many potential voters as possible to their camp during the presidential campaign before the 1996 elections by attracting Primakov to the ministerial position (of course, this was not exclusively a campaign tool, but within the interest of this article is the appointment of Primakov). And here it is worth turning to the principles that Mr. Primakov was actually guided by in his so-called doctrine.

Provisions of the doctrine

It should be noted right away that the doctrine was not clearly formulated or documented in any of the sources, but instead it is possible to single out certain general principles that formed the foundation of Primakov's views. So, let us give the following leading provisions of the doctrine:

  • Strategic autonomy of the Russian Federation

Emphasizing that Russia should pursue its own interests and should have strategic autonomy in foreign policy. That is, the Russian Federation needs to develop partnerships and alliances without subordination to any other country or bloc (alluding to the EU, NATO and the USA) [17].

  • Multipolarity (multipolarity)

Advocating for the implementation of a multipolar world order, as opposed to a unipolar one (led by the USA). Primakov personally believed that as a result of the creation of a multipolar system, integration associations of states are formed in the fields of economic and political agreements, which leads to stabilization in various regions of the world. Based on this statement, Primakov proposed the idea of ​​a strategic triangle of Russia-India-China in order to stabilize the situation in the Eurasian region (a possible ideological basis for the creation of the BRICS organization in the future) [4].

  • Impact on the post-Soviet space

Emphasis on the fact that Russia plays a leading role in carrying out regional integration on the territory of the former Soviet Union (echoes with the previous point regarding the vision of a multipolar world). Russia's opposition to the expansion of NATO and the EU to the countries of the former USSR also follows from this [19].

  • Pragmatism ("electoral partnership")

A call for a rational foreign policy based on a realistic assessment of Russia's national interests. Regarding relations with the West, moving away from "indulgence" to "bargaining" and defending one's own positions, using unilateral actions if necessary [7] [17].

Implementation of the doctrine

The implementation of the considered doctrine into reality should be divided into two stages: a short, but demonstrative one, during Primakov's immediate tenure in leading positions in the Russian Federation (1995-1999) and, conditionally, Putin's stage of implementing the doctrine, which began in 2000 and continues until now after his departure Primakova from the proscenium. Let's analyze each stage according to the listed provisions of the doctrine described in the previous chapter.

  • The first stage (1995-1999): "the era of Primakov"

  1. As for strategic autonomy, there were few successes in demonstrating and expressing it in the Russian Federation at that time. Obviously, it is necessary to recall the reproaches of the Russian Federation against the background of the discussions in 1996-1997 regarding the expansion of NATO to the east, which, in the end, did not work. In addition, efforts to resolve the Iraqi crisis of the end of 1997-1998 regarding inspections of weapons of mass destruction on the territory of Iraq in accordance with the mandate of the UN Security Council through diplomatic methods also ultimately (although in fact provided time for the regime of Saddam Hussein) led to the curtailment of the activities of the inspectors and, in response for this, the limited military operation "Fox in the desert" in 1998. Moreover, the attempt of Russian diplomacy to peacefully resolve the situation in Yugoslavia in 1998-1999 in connection with the problem in Kosovo turned out to be a failure. As you can see, the Russian Federation failed to achieve its own goals, which were based on preventing the escalation of conflicts and satisfying its interests in these three cases. But at the same time, it is appropriate to note the positive points, for example, the role of the Russian Federation in promoting the exchange of prisoners of war as a result of the end of the First Karabakh War within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and partially successful actions regarding the settlement of the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel after the last operation "Grapes of Wrath" (partially successful actions , because the final cease-fire agreement was signed without the participation of the Russian Federation) [21].

  1. As for multipolarity and the establishment of the Moscow-Beijing-Delhi triangle, it is hardly possible to list any significant successes apart from joining APEC (Asia-Pacific Cooperation).
  2. Regarding the influence on the post-Soviet space and regional partnership, the following facts can be listed. First, it is the conclusion and/or ratification of a considerable number of agreements with international organizations in Eurasia, namely: the partnership and cooperation agreement between the Russian Federation and the EU, the already mentioned founding act of Russia and NATO, joining the London and Paris clubs, joining the APEC (Asia-Pacific Cooperation), joining the G7 (i.e. reformatting into the G8) and G20. Secondly, it is the intensification of foreign policy actions in relation to the CIS member states, and specifically: the transition to the implementation of the idea of ​​development of the Commonwealth at "different speeds" and the formation of an "integration core" with those states that are ready to reach a higher level of cooperation. The result - in 1996, the Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia was formed (which later, in 1997, was transformed into the Union, and in 1999 into the Union State) and an agreement was concluded on the deepening of integration in the economic and humanitarian spheres between the countries of the "CIS core" (it is worth mentioning , that in contrast to this, the GUAM organization was formed, which had a pro-Western vector) [8].

  1. Regarding the promotion of pragmatic principles in international relations and the manifestation of the phenomenon of "electoral partnership", it should be noted, on the one hand, the then protests by the Russian Federation regarding plans to expand the NATO bloc, and on the other hand, the signing in 1997 of the founding act of Russia and NATO, which was a program of adaptation of the Russian Federation to of the same expansion, also, on the one hand, diplomatic friction with Western countries regarding NATO's intervention in Kosovo in 1998-1999, and on the other - refusal to transfer diplomatic disagreements in the Balkans to other areas of relations between Russia and the West. In addition, on the one hand, the statement about the need to promote the establishment of multipolarity, taking into account the interests of developing countries, and at the same time - the movement of the Russian Federation to the position of a full member of the "group of seven", which was later renamed the "group of eight" until 2014 and which had a chance to turn into a single pole of governance (in fact, it remained a platform for discussing current international problems) with an obvious dominant position of the USA without the representation of the countries of the global South.
  • The second stage (2000-present time): "the era of Putin"
  1. Regarding strategic autonomy, in this dimension, Russia's position from the point of view of rhetoric was clearly demonstrated by Putin's Munich speech in 2007, during which the principles expressed by Primakov were proclaimed: Russia's own independence in decision-making, criticism of NATO expansion, rejection of the unipolar model of the world order . The Russian Federation is currently taking actions based, according to its statements, "exclusively on its vital interests" with the primacy of "Russia's sovereign rights", which emphasizes the determination of the leadership of this country to present itself as an independent actor [18]. It is also necessary to note the practical steps taken by the Russian Federation to protect the principles that were laid out in the Munich speech. The Russo-Georgian war immediately appeared, which was partly provoked by the pro-European course of the then president of Georgia Saakashvili and the results of the Bucharest summit in 2008, which confirmed the conviction of the participants of the summit about Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO in the future [2]. As already noted earlier, this was unacceptable according to Primakov's (later Putin's) postulates, so perhaps this served as one of the reasons for the outbreak of war in Georgia [20], and then in Ukraine [13]. It is also possible to write the peacekeeping actions of the Russian Federation during the attempt to settle the Second Karabakh War with the creation of a negotiating platform parallel to the European one, which expresses Russia's autonomy in this aspect. The absolute manifestation of the independent behavior of the Russian Federation was joining the aid to the Syrian dictator Assad in 2015 [20].

  1. Regarding multipolarity, it is necessary to note several points. First, it is a success in the direction of delineating the Moscow-Beijing-Delhi triangle, which is characterized by the formation of the BRICS organization in 2006 and its ambitious positioning as a platform for the representation of the countries of the global South [14]. In addition, the aforementioned triangle was strengthened by the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001, to which India joined in 2017, which in a certain way deepened the movement towards a multipolar world order through active cooperation of the countries of the global South [10]. It is also necessary to mention the turn of the Russian Federation to China after the annexation of Crimea and the resolution of the conflict in Donbass in 2014, which especially revived after the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine from 2022 due to sanctions pressure (which in fact may in the future open up questions about Russia's likely loss of strategic autonomy due to dependence on the PRC) [20].

  1. Regarding the influence on the post-Soviet space and regional partnership, the situation is as follows: firstly, it is the creation of the Eurasian Economic Community in 2001, which pursued similar goals as the EU during its formation (customs union, the prospect of a single currency, a free trade regime, freedom of movement of capital, freedom of movement of goods and services, harmonization of national legislation, common energy market, etc.) [5] and its transformation into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) from 2015 with shifting the focus of tasks to deepening regional economic integration [12]. In this regard, it should be assumed that Ukraine's announcement of its intention to integrate with the EU, and not with the EAEU, was another factor that inclined the Russian Federation to aggression in 2014; secondly, if we pay attention to the CIS, the achievement of the Russian Federation in this regional organization is the agreement on the formation of a free trade zone between the member states in 2011 [3]; Thirdly, regarding the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), it is possible to single out the non-participation of the contingent of this organization during the main phase of the riots in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 [1]. A bright moment worthy of attention is the use of CSTO forces to suppress protests in Kazakhstan in 2022 [9] and at the same time the refusal to provide assistance to Armenia in 2020-2022, which led to the freezing of Armenia's participation in the organization [11].

  1. As for pragmatic principles and "electoral partnership", the state of affairs, according to the author, has undergone changes. Preventing the expansion of NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation, which acted as one of the justifications for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, led to the opposite results, based on the recent official entry of Sweden into the alliance. Strategic autonomy in the future, as already noted, is under threat of turning into strategic dependence on partnerships with China and Iran as a result of the introduction of sanctions and a rapid turn to the East [16]. The freezing of Armenia's participation in the CSTO is another indicator that regional integration in the post-Soviet space in various spheres is not in the best condition. At the same time, one cannot fail to note the significant progress in Russia's reformatting of its vector of relations to the countries of the global South, with successes in joining the SCO and BRICS [10][15] in recent years and attempts to draw these countries to its own side through anti-Western and anti-colonial rhetoric ( however, the threat of falling into dependence on the PRC does not disappear anywhere, again). As for the "electoral partnership", which mostly concerned Western countries, there is currently a de facto conflict in Russia's relations with the EU and NATO, so there is no question of partnership.


So, the Primakov doctrine constitutes the main list of principles implemented by the leadership of the Russian Federation in foreign policy. The provisions of this doctrine are not exclusively expressed in a documentary format, but their essence can be clarified thanks to empirical data and discourse analysis. Research and analysis of the doctrine in question is the key to building an understanding of the actions of the current enemy of Ukraine. This doctrine is also of direct interest for the formation of prognostic scenarios regarding the development of international interactions of the Russian Federation in the international arena in the future, which is essential for both Ukraine and its partners.


  1. Bordyuzha: CSTO will not use force potential in Kyrgyzstan. Organization of the Collective Security Treaty . URL: .
  2. Declaration of the Bucharest Summit - adopted by the heads of states and governments participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Bucharest on April 3, 2008. NATO . URL: .
  3. AGREEMENT on a free trade zone. Executive Committee of the CIS . URL: .
  4. Gorokhov A. Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov on the multipolar world of the 21st century. Russian political science - Russian political science . 2016. No. 1. URL: .
  6. Yevhen Primakov: liberal, conservative and pragmatist - BBC News Ukraine. BBC News Ukraine . URL: .
  7. Ivanov I. New Russian diplomacy: Ten years of foreign policy. OLMA-PRESS, 2001. 381 p.
  8. Nikonova V. Politics in modern Russia: Multipolar alternative - "Primakov's doctrine". Portal Lawyer . URL: .
  9. From the Agreement to the Organization. Organization of the Collective Security Treaty . URL: .
  10. About the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Shanghai Cooperation Organization . URL: .
  11. Pashinyan announced a freeze on Armenia's participation in the CSTO and complained about Moscow's propaganda - BBC News Russian Service. BBC News Russian service . URL: .
  12. What is the Eurasian Union and why is it needed - BBC News Russian service. BBC News Russian service . URL: .
  13. Article by Vladimir Putin "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians". President of Russia . URL: .
  14. BRICS information portal. BRICS . URL: .
  15. Five nations became full members of BRICS. The Economic Times . URL: .
  16. Korostikov M. Is Russia Really Becoming China's Vassal?. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . URL: .
  17. PRIMAKOV DOCTRINE AND RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. ISSRA (Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis National University, Islamabad . URL: .
  18. Russia, Germany, Ukraine 2017/18/19/20/21/22/23. Putin's Munich speech 2007 | (ARCHIVE), 2017. YouTube . URL: .
  19. Russia's Return To The World Stage: The Primakov Doctrine – Analysis. Eurasia Review . URL: .
  20. The Primakov (Not Gerasimov) Doctrine in Action. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . URL: .
  21. Bordyugov G., Rybakov A., Andreev D. Breakthroughs to the impossible: Yevgeny Primakov. Hefter . URL: .