Despite Putin's initial anti-Western political stand, Russia continues to take important steps to become a full partner in the world's principal political groupings. In December 1991, Russia assumed the permanent seat formerly held by the Soviet Union on the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Russia also is a member of the OSCE and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). It signed the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative in June 1994. Russia and the European Union (EU) have continued to honor partnership and cooperation agreements. In 1997, Russia was invited to be an annual participant in the G-7 economic club of industrialized democracies, causing the club to be dubbed the G-8. The other members of the G-8 are: the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Russia has played an important role in helping mediate international conflicts and has been particularly actively engaged in trying to promote a peace following the conflict in Kosovo. Russia is a cosponsor of the Middle East peace process and supports UN and multilateral initiatives in the Persian Gulf, Cambodia, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti. It has accepted UN and/or OSCE involvement in instances of regional conflict in neighboring countries, including the dispatch of observers to Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Security Council secretary Sergey Ivanov, Putin's appointee, stated in March 2000 that internal economic threats to Russia's security were more worrisome than external threats, and would be of most concern to Putin. Russia's need for foreign investment, however, suggests continued ties with the West, according to many observers.
Putin's early arms control announcements sent mixed messages to the West, but he clearly demonstrated his support for some strategic arms control by convincing the Duma on 14 April 2000 finally to ratify START II, which calls for a significant reduction in strategic nuclear warheads for both the United States and Russia by 2007. Putin, however, continued to question amending the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In his first major foreign policy statement as president-elect, Putin told nuclear weapons industry officials that he wanted "to make our nuclear weapons complex more safe and effective," as well as "preserve and strengthen" it. In May 2002, Putin and U.S. president George W. Bush announced a new agreement on strategic nuclear weapons reduction, which would reduce operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a level of 1,700 to 2,200 over 10 years. This "Moscow Treaty" was followed by an agreement between Russia and NATO to establish a "NATO-Russia Council" whereby Russia and the 19 NATO member states would cooperate on counterterrorism policy and other issues. U.S.-Russian relations soured, however, in June 2002, when the U.S. announced it formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and Putin pulled out of the START II Treaty.
Just before Putin's election, he and his Security Council approved a draft foreign policy concept, a traditional Soviet-type set of guidelines that are supplemented by a military doctrine and ostensibly flow from an overarching national security concept. (Putin approved the national security concept in January 2000 and a draft military doctrine in February 2000.) The national security concept highlights Russia's economic crisis and social and political instability as its main national security problems. It also threatens the use of nuclear weapons to deter conventional attacks. The draft military doctrine places some emphasis on the possibility of counterbalancing NATO expansion and operations. During Putin's premiership, the defense budget has been increased and he has called for more support for the defense and security agencies, indicating his possible future actions. The foreign policy concept highlighted Russia's foreign economic interests and concerns about the treatment of the 20 million Russians residing in the "near abroad" former Soviet republics.
Also in line with the foreign policy concept, Putin has supported ties with China to counter what Russia and China have termed U.S. "hegemony." Putin's government has conducted talks with China on arms and oil sales. Russia has supported China on the Taiwan issue, and China has supported Russia on Chechnya.
Putin faced a major foreign policy situation in 2002–03, with the crisis in Iraq. On 8 November 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, calling upon Iraq to disarm itself of any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and weapons capabilities it might possess, to allow for the immediate return of UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) weapons inspectors to the country, and to comply with all previous UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. The United States and the United Kingdom were amassing troops in the Persian Gulf region, and threatened "serious consequences" if Iraq did not comply with Resolution 1441. France, Germany, and Russia, in particular, expressed serious disagreement with this aggressive stance. France led the opposition to war, and threatened the use of its veto in the Security Council if the United States and the United Kingdom demanded a second resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but Putin strongly supported France's position. Diplomatic efforts at conflict resolution ended in March 2003, and on 19 March, the U.S.-led coalition went to war in Iraq. After the Iraqi regime was defeated in April, French president Jacques Chirac, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and Putin met to insist that a leading role be played by the UN in Iraq's reconstruction. Putin, who had previously called the war "a big political mistake," softened his stance towards the United States following the fall of Baghdad, and stressed the fact that Russia and the U.S. are the largest nuclear powers on the globe, and share a responsibility for maintaining international peace.
In April, Putin stated: "In solving any problems of a global character, including crisis situations, we have always cooperated, are cooperating and will cooperate with the United States." Iraq holds approximately US $52 billion in contracts with Russia, primarily in energy and communications, which Russia expects Iraq to honor. In addition, Iraq owes Russia more than US $8 billion, part or all of which the United States is hoping Russia will forgive, so as not to overburden a new Iraqi regime.