Vladimir Putin and the New World Order: Looking East, Looking West?

Article excerpt

J. L. Black. Vladimir Putin and the New World Order: Looking East, Looking West? Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. xiv, 366 pp. Appendix. Bibliography. Index.

What or who determines Russia's foreign policy? Is NATO a genuine, or merely a symbolic, threat to Russia? Does Russia really count in world affairs today? Why does Russia not just mind its own business instead of trying to play the great power that it no longer clearly is? Such questions arise only implicitly out of the book under review, and that may be its sole redeeming feature-providing grist for the mill wherever Russian foreign policy is being discussed.

Based on a graduate course taught at Carleton University by historian Larry Black, and a continuation of his earlier study of NATO expansion (Russia Faces NATO Expansion: Bearing Gifts or Bearing Arms?[Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 200O]), this book is a meticulously detailed chronology of what took place in Russia's international relations between January 2000 and May 2002. It offers a Russian perspective on all of the country's foreign policy dealings during that period gleaned from a close reading of the Russian press, augmented by official statements and press releases. Unlike unnamed other narratives it promises "a comprehensive analysis" (p. 3), but fails to deliver, unless analysis is counted in terms of verbiage. Adopting as he does a Russian prism on events. Black succeeds repeatedly in tweaking the beak of the Great American Eagle, yet is less successful in explaining much about the Russian policy itself.

The book is divided into two parts, the first of which deals mainly with the ups and downs of Russia-United States relations, referring to the two-and-a-half years under review as a period of experimentation. The second part treats Russia's relations with other specific parts of the world: the Caucasus; Ukraine and Belarus; the CIS; India and China; and the Middle East and "Rogue States" (Libya, North Korea, and Iran and Iraq). Every chapter is a carefully documented recitation of the actions of key decision makers (President Vladimir Putin and his ministers and generals) and of the statements of these key individuals as well as countless Russian journalists, commentators, and policy wonks. While the thoroughness and detail of just what was said by whom at what time and on what occasion may have some value for the historical record, the author provides no guidance or interpretation to sort out whose opinions really counted. …