Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Russia's Many Foreign Policies

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Russia's Many Foreign Policies

Article excerpt

What are Russian foreign policy objectives? It depends on whom you ask. In making assessments of Russia's behavior in the world, it is absolutely critical that we recognize that Russia today is not a totalitarian state ruled by a Communist Party with a single and clearly articulated foreign policy of expanding world socialism and destroying world capitalism and democracy. That state disappeared in 1991. Rather, Russia is a democratizing state--a weakly institutionalized democracy with several deficiencies, but a democratizing state nonetheless. Russia's foreign policy, in turn, is a product of domestic politics in a pluralistic system.

In democracies, "states" do not have foreign policy objectives. Rather, individual political leaders, parties, and interest groups have foreign policy objectives. Under certain conditions, these various forces come together to support a united purpose in foreign affairs. At other times, these disparate groups can have conflicting views about foreign policy objectives. They can even support the same foreign policy objective for different reasons.(1)

Russia today is no different. Although Russian leaders share in supporting a few common, general foreign policy objectives, they disagree on many others. They also disagree on the means that should be deployed to achieve the same foreign policy objective. The foreign policy that eventually results is a product of debate, political struggle, electoral politics, and' lobbying by key interest groups. Because Russia is undergoing revolutionary change internally, the foreign policy that results from Russian domestic politics can change quickly.

This article makes the case for the centrality of domestic politics in the articulation and implementation of Russian foreign policy. The first section discusses briefly why realism--a theory that assumes a unitary actor--cannot account for Russia's behavior in the international system over the last decade and why the domestic level of analysis offers a better lens for explaining Russian foreign policy. The second section outlines the small set of foreign policy issues around which a consensus has emerged in Russia. The third section describes the major schools of thought in Russia about foreign policy. The fourth section then gives a brief historical overview of the evolution of Russian foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, demonstrating how the fates and fortunes of different political groups in Russia have brought changes in Russian foreign policy. The fifth section turns to the Kosovo crisis and shows how these different schools of thought have understood and influenced Russia's role in the conflict. The sixth section discusses how Russia's parliamentary election, scheduled for December 1999, and its presidential election, scheduled for June 2000, could change Russian foreign policy. The conclusion examines the implications of Russia's many foreign policies for U.S.-Russian relations.

Supplementing Realism with Domestic Politics

The mainstream of international relations theory has no place for domestic politics in explaining or predicting state behavior. Realism posits that state behavior can be explained by treating states as rational, unitary actors seeking to survive in an anarchic world.(2) To provide first for their own security, as well as pursue other objectives of national interest, states seek power.(3) As Hans Morganthau starkly stated, "International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power. Whatever the ultimate aims of international politics, power is always the immediate aim."(4) States can acquire power either by internal balancing--increasing internal power capabilities--or by external balancing--alliance building.(5)

Variables that do not relate directly to power capabilities of states are not part of the framework of analysis for realist theorists. Ideologies, domestic politics, economic activity, or international institutions are understood as either epiphenomenal, reflections of power, or components of power. …

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