The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War

By Celeste A. Wallander | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Russian Identity and Foreign Policy In Estonia and Uzbekistan

Ted Hopf

There are, of course, a multitude of explanations for any state's foreign policy, and this is no less the case for Russia. In trying to explain or predict Russian foreign policy we could rely on international system structure; the international institutional environment; the nature of the state in Russia and its neighbors; domestic political, economic, institutional, and social arrangements; and the characteristics of foreign policy decisionmakers and reflectivist accounts of identity.1

I wish to suggest yet another potentially productive cut at the problem of assessing the sources of Russian foreign policy. I am not claiming that the alternatives I have already listed could not be gainfully employed for this task. However, given the nature of the foreign policy problem I have chosen to explore--Russian foreign policy toward the near abroad--a theoretical elaboration of the problem of identity construction is appropriate. Indeed, it could be argued that the issue of identity is uniquely implicated in this particular foreign policy problem for Russia. The story unfolds as follows.

Russian foreign policy makers in Moscow are aware of the 25 million Russians who are living in Central Asia, the Baltic States, the Transcaucasus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. The question is under what conditions Russia will consider the fate of these Russians to be an issue of national security necessitating a military response. I need not dwell on the horrific consequences for Russia, Russia's neighbors, and the West if a Russian leader opted for a military resolution of this question. Relations with the West would be severely tried, perhaps pushing the world back to the Cold War. Any trust accumulated between Russia and its neighbors since 1991 would evaporate without a trace, setting off a race for security guarantees from the West. In Russian domestic politics, such behavior would likely mean a dramatic turn toward a more forceful foreign policy.

What could cause such a fateful choice by Russian leaders? I hypothesize that the causal story lies in how Russians abroad adopt, and adapt to, their post-Soviet identities in their new homes. If Russians living in Uzbekistan see themselves as Russians, and not as Uzbek citizens, it is much more likely that these Russians will appeal to Moscow for help against their local government. I devote the bulk

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