Russia between East and West: Russian Foreign Policy on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century

By Gabriel Gorodetsky | Go to book overview

Introduction

The challenge facing Russia in establishing its new identity bears directly on its foreign policy. The forging of Russian foreign policy reflects the search for identity and an attempt to reconcile traditional national interests with the newly emerging social and political entity. This process is impeded by constraints, imposed by the exigencies of a diffuse New World Order, where contradictory forces such as globalization, regionalism and US unilateralism seem to reign.

The prevalent tendency prior to 11 September 2001 had been to dismiss Russia as a Third World nation and to write it off as a major player on the international scene. Scepticism about Russia's capabilities emanated from inherent systemic failings, exposed during the demise of the Soviet Union and the subsequent arduous transition from communism. Yet, the country is blessed with tremendous human talent and virtually unparalleled natural resources. From the geopolitical point of view, even in its reduced state, Russia still covers vast spaces bearing directly on Europe, the Near East and the Far East. Finally, it is no secret that Russia stockpiles over 20,000 nuclear warheads and maintains probably the largest arsenals of chemical and biological weapons in the world. Hence, the conclusion that Russia lacks the means of maintaining great-power status is highly premature. Paying heed to Russia's own perception of its international status is therefore as vital as exploring its immediate capabilities.

This collection of essays attempts to track the mechanism of Russian foreign policy in the transition period, through a comparative study of continuity and change in the policies executed by Russia in diverse conflict-ridden regions. Such a study unveils modes of behaviour and fixed patterns in the conduct of foreign policy, which enable the reader to extrapolate lessons applicable from one arena to the other. The spatial aspect is a striking element in the conduct of Russian foreign policy and warrants a comparative study. The vast and varied cultural and physical spaces which constitute Russia's spheres of interest dictate that different frames of mind be applied in devising a policy. Little has been done in that direction, as attention is usually drawn to a conflict region when it is already in the eye of the storm. The analysis in this volume of the

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