The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War

By Celeste A. Wallander | Go to book overview

When other perceived threats turned out to be more ambiguous, however, as in the case of NATO's extension eastward or its policies toward the Bosnian Serbs, no such nationalist consensus emerged. Yeltsin's opponents accused him of "selling out" on Bosnia, and they vehemently criticized the decision to join the Partnership for Peace. In this respect, Russian politics became more fractious. Yet Yeltsin and his Atlanticist advisers weathered the criticism politically, precisely because neither the general public nor the Russian elite continued to perceive these issues as pivotal to state security. Thus, although an environment of low threat exacerbated foreign policy divisions in the Russian polity, as we would expect, it simultaneously strengthened the Atlanticist position, the whole logic of which was based on security through cooperation. If this interpretation is correct, it suggests that an environment of low threat is critical to the political strength of the Atlanticists in Russian politics. As long as such an environment prevails, it is unlikely that internal challenges to their dominance can succeed on the basis of foreign policy issues alone.


Conclusion: The Future of Russian Foreign Policy

The dramatic changes in Russia's security environment that have occurred since 1989 are both outcomes of that internal democratization and contributing causes of its success. The history of Russia and the course of its political development since the collapse of communism both suggest that an environment of low threat is an indispensable prerequisite to Russia's further liberalization and integration into the mainstream of Western life. If Russia can develop for ten or twenty years in a benign environment, the odds of the Westernizing line prevailing will increase substantially. In that case, the second path noted earlier could conceivably transform itself into a new, unprecedented third path for Russia, as shown in Figure 6.2.

If this path were followed, it would mean that the Russian state for the first time in history would acquire its security by means of international cooperation and internal legitimacy rather than raw military and police power alone. Over the long run, democratic development would tend to facilitate economic recovery, making possible a renaissance of national strength and prestige.

This is the path that the West must help Russia traverse. The above analysis suggests that it will be possible only in an environment of minimal threat. This means in turn that Russian politics can remain on a democratic course only by accepting a high degree of internal turbulence; it can alleviate that turbulence only through reversion to authoritarian rule. Although Russia's destiny is neither controlled nor

Path III FIGURE 6.2 Potential Path for Russian Reform

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