Russia makes a U-turn on reciprocity policies as regards issuance of tourist visas to foreign nationals
This news item very likely will not appear in mainstream, though it represents a stunning victory of pragmatism and common sense by a government engaged in a bitter and costly war that has a heavy ideological dimension.
Today in a meeting with government administrators and stakeholders in the tourist industry, Vladimir Putin said publicly that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will break with its traditional insistence on full reciprocity in relations with other states as regards issuance of visas to citizens of “unfriendly countries.”
Putin argued that there was no reason to make a fetish of reciprocity when the result would run counter to Russia’s national interests. In this instance, he said Russia would best respond to the sanctions and restrictions being imposed on it by unfriendly countries, meaning first of all, the European Union, by issuing visas to their citizens so that they may see for themselves what the country is like. “We have nothing to hide,” he added.
The instructions to Sergei Lavrov’s team were clear: to proceed with reinstatement of electronic visas available free of charge upon demand via an internet portal. This program was barely under way in 2020 when the Covid epidemic closed down borders everywhere. As from March 2020, Russia stopped issuing visas of any kind other than so-called ‘humanitarian’ visas for close relatives of Russian citizens. There was a glimmer of hope that the e-visas would resume in late 2021 as the epidemic receded. However, the onset of the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine in February 2022 put a halt to that.
Let us imagine that the same pragmatism and enlightened self-interest may be extended to Russian policy on applicants for permanent residency and naturalization. Russian talk shows now raise the question of conceding an Israeli-like “right of return” to ethnic Russians who were left to their lot as second class citizens of the new sovereign republics formed from the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Should this come to pass, then Russian statehood will be entering a new level of maturity just as the West slips into self-debilitating obtuseness.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022