Peter Rutland writes in the Moscow Times, highlighting the disparity between intentions which have been ascribed to Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin and the language which the men themselves have used. Often their pronouncements have been misreported, or at least reinterpreted in more sinister language, in order to imply more bellicose intent than careful examination of their statements actually yields.
Neither Medvedev nor Putin have ever actually used the term ‘sphere of influence’, despite widespread reporting which suggests that both men have explicitly laid out a doctrine asserting such a sphere exists within the former Soviet Union. Even ‘near abroad’ which was common parlance to describe adjacent states throughout the 1990s, has fallen into disuse to be replaced be the more diplomatic ‘near neighbours’.
Russia has not used the language which the foreign press has ascribed to it. Rather, the Kremlin’s foreign policy has been outlined in terms of interests. Russia has legitimate foreign policy interests and the subtext behind western misrepresentation of Medvedev and Putin’s pronouncements on the subject, is that neither the US nor its allies are prepared to acknowledge that Russia has any interests at all.