VLADIMIR PUTIN AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER Looking East, Looking West? J. L. Black Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. xiv, 368pp, US$85.00 cloth (ISBN 0-7425-2965-7), US$36.95 paper (ISBN 0-7425-2966-5)
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving the Russian Federation to establish for itself an international role as the remnant of the former superpower. The temptation has been to regard the new state as an irrelevant player on the international field, an economic basket case incapable of playing a significant role in world affairs. If nothing else, this book reminds us that Russia must be taken seriously.
The US may be the singular imperialist power in the modern world, and able to act autonomously when it bombs Serbia or invades Iraq. In pursuit of a nuclear "umbrella," President George W. Bush unilaterally rejected the antiballistic missile treaty of 1972, which was regarded by the Russians as a lynchpin of peaceful coexistence. However, in spite of the immensity of American military superiority, and in response to it, Russia can be seen developing a comprehensive foreign policy grounded in a reconsideration of its own reduced role in the world. Still the second most powerful nuclear state on the planet, still a country that has boundaries with Europe, central Asia, and the far east, Russia cannot be treated lightly.
Professor Black, emeritus professor at Carleton University, gives us the Russian view of the world by examining the first years of the Putin presidency. The book is, first, a detailed history of the regime's foreign policy from December 1999 to May 2002. second, it presents an analysis of the main areas of foreign policy concern. The sources are almost entirely Russian, which provides the reader with invaluable insights into the political mind of the Russian leadership, particularly that of Putin. We are given an image of a political leadership that is still sensitive to the "threat" from the west. The "capitalist encirclement" that was the bane of the Bolsheviks prior to the second World War is now the threat of an expanding NATO which keeps Russia out but which lets in former Warsaw pact countries and former Soviet republics. Today, however, we see a sophisticated leader, promoting patriotism and military values, offering to work with NATO and the European Union, rather than building a new iron curtain. In fact, one of Putin's central arguments is that international problems can be resolved on a multilateral basis, emphasizing the United Nations, rather than through unilateral action by one or few nations (specifically, the United States). This was written well in advance of the American invasion of Iraq, but our author was sensitive to such a possibility. As early as November 2001 American comments on Iraq led "Russian analysts" to see the USA as "preparing the way for an attack on Iraq" (152).
On the other hand, we are reminded that the "two-headed eagle" has major concerns as it looks towards the east. …