Russia between East and West: Russian Foreign Policy on the Threshold of the New Millennium

Article excerpt

Gabriel Gorodetsky, ed., Russia Between East and West: Russian Foreign Policy on the Threshold of the New Millennium. Cummings Center Series 18. London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2003. xxii, 202 pp. $26.50, paper.

For the student of Russian foreign policy, an initial glance through the table of contents of Gabriel Gorodetsky's edited volume, Russia Between East and West, is cause for eager anticipation. The list of contributors to this collection of perspectives on Russian foreign policy is striking; the book serves as an impressive "who's who" of Russian foreign policy scholars, notably including Margot Light, Richard Sakwa, Alex Pravda, and Neil MacFarlane. Upon completion of the book, the reader is left with a solid, albeit general, overview of Russian policy toward various countries and regions, each of which was undoubtedly selected for its strategic importance to post-Soviet Russia.

The book's introduction pledges an elucidation of the "mechanism" of Russian foreign policy in its transition period, facilitated by a comparative study of continuity and change, both of which are themes visible in Russian foreign policy. Although the book does not fully deliver on the first half of this promise, it does offer the newcomer an excellent introduction to the study of Russian foreign policy. What becomes evident upon reviewing the compilation is that certain themes do indeed present themselves. Taken together, the contributions reveal the palpable continuity between Soviet and post-Soviet Russian foreign policy. Gorodetsky articulates this best when he writes: "Notions of space and geopolitics, applied to conflicts concerning overlapping interests or regional ethnic issues and manipulated through the instruments of balance of power politics, seem to remain the modus operandi for the execution of Russian foreign policy" (p. xxii).

At the same time, the contributions aptly convey the truly multi-dimensional foreign policy agenda in Russia and its emphasis on multilateralism. In his desire to illuminate this multi-faceted foreign policy agenda, the editor has endeavoured to go beyond the oftemphasized relationship between Russia and the United States (symbolized by the book's cover), to reflect upon the many other components of the Russian foreign policy agenda. This is a noteworthy goal; however, what each chapter reveals is that Russia's relationship with the United States inevitably and repeatedly shapes its relations with the rest of the world. This is a function of a number of factors, not least of which, according to Bobo Lo, Neil MacFarlane and Pavel Baev, is President Putin's predisposition to allow "hard" security issues to dominate the foreign policy agenda. As Richard Sakwa notes, Vladimir Putin is a realist in the sense that he is inclined to privilege military and security matters. This, in combination with a degree of lingering Cold-War thinking, precipitated in part by the encroaching presence of NATO in Eastern Europe, necessarily means that the spectre of American power, as the only remaining superpower and self-proclaimed victor of the Cold War, hangs profoundly over the Russian foreign policy community. …


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