The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War

By Celeste A. Wallander | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Russia and Europe After the Cold War. The Interaction of Domestic and Foreign Policies

Bruce D. Porter

During the Cold War, Western observers of Soviet foreign policy typically couched their analyses in terms of the strategy, objectives, intentions, calculations, and ideological tenets of Soviet leaders. A rational actor approach dominated the study of the Soviet Union's foreign policy, and with a few notable exceptions, this approach worked well. The state- and party-centralized bureaucratic apparatus, bolstered by Marxism-Leninism, produced a Soviet foreign policy marked by a degree of strategic coherence and purpose that made a rational actor approach both logical and theoretically useful.

The collapse of communism has made this approach largely obsolete, and it will remain so as long as Russian government and society remain in a state of internal turbulence and uncertainty. By every possible measure, Russian foreign policy from 1991 until at least fall 1993 was sorely lacking in coherence, design, and a sense of strategy. Nor did post-Soviet Russia have any well-defined bureaucratic or political mechanism for imposing order on the policymaking process. No single person dominated the policy process, and leaders' views were strongly influenced by changing winds of domestic opinion and pressure. Russia's foreign policy toward the West during this period was marked by ad hoc and poorly coordinated efforts to maintain good relations with the West and to attract desperately needed capital. Although such a foreign policy cannot be described as irrational, it reflected neither a sophisticated strategic plan nor a determination to defend the prestige and prerogatives of a great power in Europe.

At the same time, two other trends developed that are important for Russian foreign policy: the evolution of Russian elite thinking on the new international environment and the evolution of the post-Soviet Russian political system. The Russian political elite after 1991 gradually divided into three intellectual and informal groupings: an "Atlanticist" bloc; a "Russia First," or extreme nationalist bloc; and a "Eurasianist" grouping that sought to forge a middle course between Europe and Asia as well as between the first two tendencies. The struggle over who will govern Russia in the future--and how they will do it, in both the do-

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