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

By Gabriel Gorodetsky | Go to book overview

Japanese, north-west European, Middle Eastern and central Asian examples is therefore vital for a better understanding of the multidimensional features of Russian foreign policy.

The authors of the chapters, all leading academics or prominent practitioners, conduct a comparative study of Russia's relations with the West and the East in an attempt to establish whether the traces of the Cold War are fading from Russian military and political thinking. They seek to establish the extent to which Russian foreign policy has undergone a genuine metamorphosis. The book further attempts to detect those forces and values which have been filling the vacuum. Most contributors to the present volume share the assumption that, despite the semblance of chaos and sporadic whims, Russian foreign policy, covering a vast geographical entity, is well coordinated. The emerging consensus is that the legacy of the past-be it 'Imperial' or 'Communist'-weighs heavily on the execution of contemporary Russian foreign policy. This legacy pertains both to the Russian perception of its own position in world affairs and to the way the rest of the world views Russia. In both cases, relations continue to be coloured by lingering preconceived ideas.

The cornerstone of Russia's foreign policy remains the relations with its former adversary, the USA, though those relations may well be reflected in Moscow's attitude towards third parties. The process of redefining and re-establishing Russia's statehood mitigates first and foremost the regulation of relations with the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. Russia's immediate spheres of influence (now termed 'the near abroad') have always been the focal point of its national interests. The intriguing issues addressed by the present volume question the extent to which the new Russian entity is prepared willingly to abandon its historical irredentist ambitions. What are the chances for the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) to turn into an effective strategic alignment? Will Russia forsake vital economic and strategic interests (mostly oil), in the Caucasus, or in the Black Sea region, and condone the gradual Western encroachment into the region?

The various contributors illustrate how domestic and international issues intertwine in relations with the CIS. They emphasize how vital it is for Russia to prevent ethnic, economic and social unrest in this area from spilling over into the mainland. Confronting the unchallenged pivotal global power of the USA, Russia may well be tempted, even after 11 September, to forge new alliances, mostly in the Eurasian subcontinent, to counterbalance the Atlantic alliance in an attempt to restore its status as a major power. The Balkans and the Caucasus are indeed the arenas where Russia has already chosen to flex its muscles. Its policies in Iraq and Iran, often at variance with those of the USA,

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