The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War

By Celeste A. Wallander | Go to book overview

throughout and sent sympathetic visits to Belgrade. In one incident, the nationalist paper Den' published a classified memo written by the Russian ambassador to the UN, Yurii Vorontsov, which, in reference to further sanctions against Yugoslavia, argued: "It is very important not to oppose . . . the western countries and the U.S., where public opinion is strong against [ Serb leader] Milosevic."81 This leak ignited an explosion among nationalists in the former Supreme Soviet, who questioned the legality of Russian actions in the UN. Pressure from patriots and statists eventually caused Foreign Minister Kozyrev to weaken his rhetoric on Russian solidarity with Western policy on Yugoslavia and, in April 1993, Russia abstained from a UN vote on additional sanctions against rump Yugoslavia.82 Russian officials expressed disapproval of a U.S.-led initiative to lift the arms embargo against Bosnia's Muslim government in response to the Serbs' umpteenth rejection of a multilateral peace settlement.83


Conclusion

As with most analyses of post-Soviet politics, one's conclusions on Russian nationalism can be only tentative at best. The political landscape in Russia is still shifting, and the fate of statist nationalism and its proponents is far from determined. Having issued this caveat, I propose the following conclusions. First, Russian nationalism is not a homogeneous concept. The ideas of nativists and Westernizing democrats definitely have fewer malevolent implications than those of national patriots or statists. Second, proponents of milder forms of nationalism, including nativists and Westernizing democrats, have been less effective than their extremist colleagues in sustaining nationalist propaganda for the purpose of Russian renewal or rebirth. This has narrowed the range of policy ideas and options for defining and pursuing Russia's "national interest." The "narrowing" process is closing off options for more moderate, nonchauvinistic, and non- imperialistic articulations of Russia's national interest.

Third, the current empowerment of statist nationalism does not denote the unmitigated triumph of aggression, chauvinism, and/or imperialism in Russian foreign policy. Although these ideological elements are present in state officials' rhetoric, domestic political division and an army in disarray will likely impede the pursuit of intensely aggressive behavior. Moscow is likely to engage in more saber-rattling than truly alarming behavior.84 It will continue to exploit opportunities for hegemony in the near abroad while seeking the fig leaf of international community approval. Further, the most extreme elements of the nationalist spectrum are still deeply divided and unable to maintain effective coalitions or organizations; hence, their influence in the near future will remain limited.

Finally, the choices and policies of the state will matter greatly. Nationalism can be a force for good or ill, and the state has at its disposal many instruments for strengthening one or the other version. The Yeltsin government has adopted ideas of statist nationalism to cultivate popular support and legitimacy and to anchor it-

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