The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War

By Celeste A. Wallander | Go to book overview

preferences the result solely of nationalist manipulations and competition among elites for authority and political power. For example, NATO expansion under some circumstances and in some forms could threaten legitimate Russian security interests, although as of mid-1995 it appears likely that NATO will expand only if that event is accompanied by measures to reassure Russia and limit the threat. Russian interests in arms sales are based not on the type of political interests that Soviet programs were but on the kinds of economic interests that Western arms manufacturers commonly pursue. When Western countries try to control arms sales in a way that asymmetrically places limits on Russian customers, the perception of a hostile international environment is based on something more than ideology.

That is, although legitimacy and authority are crucial political resources in competition over Russian foreign policy and whereas ideas have been an especially important influence in that competition, the constraints and opportunities of the international environment independently and strongly influence the plausibility of ideas and the tendencies in Russian foreign policy. As Hopf shows, the degree to which Russia adopts a cooperative or coercive foreign policy--even in the near abroad, where Russian power could easily, if not costlessly, determine outcomes--is strongly related to real threats to Russian interests. The international environment and policies of foreign countries can serve as focal points for elite coalition building or for mobilizing public support in elections. Therefore, the most important focal points for Russian foreign policy are likely to be those defined by a conjunction of interests, institutions, ideas, and international influences.

Future research on Russia needs to focus on these four factors, and promising theories of Russian foreign policy will be those that develop arguments about the causal linkages among them. The research by the authors in this volume suggests a model in which the most important causal ties link weak or uneven domestic political and economic institutions to instability and uncertainty in political competition and policymaking and in which ideas and international influences serve as important focal points for policy. This situation is unlikely to persist. As the institutional context stabilizes, interests and the policies that serve them will become clearer. It will become easier for political actors to identify common interests and to pool resources for joint efforts. We need theories that will tell us about the content of those interests and about the effects of Russia's developing institutions on those political processes. If a framework based on measuring differences in the sources of Russian and Soviet conduct can contribute to such a research program, those trained as Sovietologists may yet have a lot to offer the study of international relations.


Notes

Jeff Anderson and Carol Saivetz offered very helpful comments on this chapter, for which I am grateful.

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