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About this book

This volume seeks to explore Russia’s perceptions of the changing international system in the twenty-first century and evaluate the determinants of Russian motives, roles and strategies towards a number of contemporary regional and global issues. The chapters of the volume discuss various aspects of Russian foreign policy with regard to key actors like the U.S., EU and China; international organizations such as the BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization; and a number of regional conflicts including Ukraine and Syria. The contributors seek to understand how the discourses of “anti-Westernism” and “post-Westernism” are employed in the redefinition of Russia’s relations with the other actors of the international system and how Russia perceives the concept of “regional hegemony,” particularly in the former Soviet space and the Middle East.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Russia and the Changing International System: An Introduction

This introductory chapter argues that Russia’s role in the changing international system as well as its main motives and instruments in its regional and global engagements should be evaluated in accordance with its multiple actorness in the international system, its distinct interpretation of the international order and its mixed approach to multilateralism. Russia’s reading of the present world order differs significantly from the interpretation of its Western counterparts. In fact, the Russian vision of world politics is far from being “Western” at the normative level, since it does not act as a “norm taker” in the current international structure and rather tends to impose its own norms by challenging the norm diffusion strategies initiated by the Western powers. Against this background, it is important to grasp how Russia’s “illiberal” approach to the international order shapes its foreign policy outcomes as well as its problematic relations with the West.
Emel Parlar Dal, Emre Erşen

Chapter 2. Stasis and Change: Russia and the Emergence of an Anti-hegemonic World Order

This chapter argues that after a quarter century of stasis, the pattern of world order is changing and the inter-cold war period of the cold peace is giving way not to a thaw, but to the re-entrenchment of bipolar confrontation between the expansive liberal international order and the resistance of a group of states, including Russia. Like the First Cold War, the second is also about the conflicting views of world order as the US-led liberal international order is challenged by the emergence of a putative anti-hegemonic alignment between Russia, China and their allies in the emerging alternative architecture of world affairs—especially the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). The clash between Russia and the West, in this sense, is only an early version—and ultimately perhaps not the most significant—of the challenges against the long-term stasis in international affairs.
Richard Sakwa

Chapter 3. Russia’s European Policies in a Post-liberal World

Despite the current conflicts between Russia and the EU, the latter remains a key reference point in a plethora of Russian discourses that are Europe-centric in the sense of playing with different arguments aimed at vindicating Russia’s belonging to Europe through loosely defined history, geography and culture, but also through accentuating Russia’s military presence and ability to interfere in European domestic processes. The goal of this chapter is to trace the trajectory of Russia’s EU policies since the beginning of the 1990s until the present, compare Russian and European approaches to international relations and discuss Russia’s rhetorical manoeuvring under the conditions of drastic deterioration of relations with the West after 2014. The chapter additionally discusses Russia’s policies towards the EU from the viewpoint of broader debates on post-liberal international order and shares some critical insights on the state of communication between Russia and Europe.
Andrey Makarychev

Chapter 4. Russia as a Regional Actor: Goals and Motivations

Under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in the 1990s, Russia possessed neither the will nor the capability to assume a dominant role in its relations with its neighbours. Vladimir Putin came to office in 2000 with the goal of reversing the decline in Russia’s presence in the post-Soviet space. Putin’s new foreign policy included efforts to project Russian influence in the post-Soviet space through the establishment (or strengthening) of regional structures: Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This chapter argues that Putin’s efforts simultaneously serve as a means of redesigning the role of Russia as the hegemonic leader of a regional bloc—a role that validates Moscow’s claim to be a great power. These efforts, however, are challenged by some factors which include the implications of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russian leadership’s increasing tendency to conceive of Eurasian integration as a civilizational project.
Jeanne L. Wilson

Chapter 5. (Mis)interpreting the Eurasian Economic Union? Images of the EAEU in Russia and the West

Over the past few years, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has become a major topic for discussions about Russia’s attempts to resurge as a regional—and even a global—power. However, in the political and scholarly discourse about the EAEU, there exist multiple images of this organization. The goal of this chapter is to review the perceptions of the EAEU in Eurasia and beyond. It argues that both the Russian and international observers share an important common feature in their view of the EAEU: the focus on the geopolitical role of the organization and in particular its alleged ability to enhance Russia’s influence in the global arena. From this point of view, however, the research on the EAEU faces an important problem: the institutional design of this regional organization does not seem to be particularly suitable to promote the Russian hegemony as the subsequent discussion of this chapter will show.
Alexander Libman

Chapter 6. Russia and China in Global Governance

Scholars studying Sino-Russian relations point at the informal division of labour between Russia and China in global governance. Russia remains active in international security governance, whereas China has increased the level of its participation in areas of economic, financial and environmental governance. These differences are ascribed to the different potential of both states as well as their related varied scope of interests in a well-functioning global governance system. However, this division of labour has evolved for the past couple of years. Beijing increased its engagement with international security governance, while Moscow lost some of its (already limited) interest in such areas as environmental or economic governance. This chapter aims at exploring this shift and its implications. Rather than analysing Sino-Russian relations in distinct areas of global governance, it proposes a different approach and identifies three patterns of interactions between the two countries: direct cooperation, parallel activities and contradictory/divergent activities.
Marcin Kaczmarski

Chapter 7. Geopolitical Economy of Russia’s Foreign Policy Duality in the Eurasian Landmass

At a time of critical geopolitical economic changes, Russia has been pursuing different foreign policy lines on the two sides of the Eurasian landmass. On the one hand, it has been intensifying its economic ties with Asia-Pacific. On the other hand, it pursues an assertive policy against the interests of the West (e.g. in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria). In this light, this chapter aims to explain this foreign (economic) policy duality of Russia. Adopting a neoclassical realist approach and using the concept of geopolitical economy, it argues that at a time of profound global changes, the Russian elites’ perceptions regarding their country’s role in the Eurasian landmass have created such a duality. It concludes that Russian elites’ sense of geopolitical exposure and economic policy preferences have not only prompted this discrepancy in Russia’s foreign (economic) policy but also undermined the country’s great power prospects in the twenty-first century.
Emre İşeri, Volkan Özdemir

Chapter 8. Russia’s Strategies Towards BRICS: Theory and Practice

Russia’s policies and strategies towards BRICS represent a combination of ideational and material motives. On the one hand, the BRICS grouping is important for Moscow in terms of enhancing its status in international relations. On the other hand, the Kremlin values its economic and strategic partnership with the BRICS countries, since they are important for Russia’s well-being and sustainable development as well as its efforts for counter-balancing the West in the global geoeconomic and geopolitical game. Russia’s active participation in BRICS indicates that Moscow prefers to redesign its foreign policy in a way to support and further develop international norms, rules and institutions as well as non-coercive and soft power methods. The BRICS framework provides Moscow not only with additional authority in the world community but also with legitimacy to Russia’s international activities.
Alexander Sergunin

Chapter 9. Ukraine Between Russia and the West: Russian Challenge to Euro-Atlantic Security

This chapter aims to evaluate the regional and global impacts of the conflict in Ukraine in relation with the challenges posed by Russia to the security of the Euro-Atlantic community. Relations between Russia and the West are going through a period of a clash of principles and interests at all levels which has turned into an asymmetric conflict since 2014. Some analysts even claim that a “New Cold War” has emerged between Russia and the West. Yet, the risk of such a new Cold War directly affects the sustainability of the Trans-Atlantic security architecture especially in the light of Moscow’s efforts to preserve the post-Soviet space as an area of geopolitical turmoil. It can be argued that by punishing Ukraine for its Western aspirations, Moscow expressed its geopolitical will to become a global—although an isolated and hybrid—superpower.
Sergii V. Glebov

Chapter 10. Russia’s Power Politics Towards Ukraine: Social Status Concerns and the Role of Emotions

This chapter argues that the hard power policy of Russia towards Ukraine since 2014 is not only about projecting its regional power but also reclaiming a principal rank in the social order of the international community. This assumption is based on two observations: (a) Russia has actually been losing its influence in former Soviet space due to its coercive policies to maintain its control over Ukraine, (b) while Russia has discursively placed the Ukraine issue in the context of global power shifts and renegotiation of the world order and defended traditional international relations principles such as state sovereignty and non-intervention, it has actually neglected the same principles in Ukraine. The chapter argues that the Russian policy towards Ukraine is closely related with the efforts of Russian elites in order to deal with their unresolved anger over earlier negative experiences of status deprivation in their relations with the West.
Regina Heller

Chapter 11. Russia’s New Policy Towards Aspiring Political Movements and Unrecognized States

This chapter highlights the main dynamics shaping Russia’s policy towards aspiring political movements and unrecognized states. Moscow’s attitude towards these actors has been traditionally determined by its foreign policy paradigm which favours establishing official links only with sovereign and recognized states. This attitude was quite noticeable even during the Soviet era when Moscow supported the idea of a world revolution, and Soviet foreign policy was officially coordinated with the activities of the Communist International. Between 1991 and 2008, Russian leadership also continued this policy. Yet, Russia’s attitude started to change when Kosovo’s independence was recognized by many Western states, which has also been one of the main reasons prompting Moscow to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the Russian-Georgian war. Since 2008, Russia’s policy has gradually drifted towards a wider recognition of the de facto states and aspiring political movements around the world.
Victor Jeifets, Nikolay Dobronravin

Chapter 12. Russia’s “Modern” Foreign Policy Tools in Crimea and Syria

Many Western observers declare “a new Cold War” with Russia or point at the autocratic character of the Russian regime in order to explain Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria. In contrast, this chapter investigates Russia’s foreign policy along three key types of power that modernity has produced—sovereignty, reason of state and biopolitics. It does not simply seek to explain the reasons underlying Russia’s foreign policy conduct, but aims to analyse its formal mechanisms, which resemble those of other modern great powers. The main argument of the chapter is that Russia’s military interventions in Crimea and Syria do not represent a break with the previously professed principles of Russian foreign policy. Rather, Russia has adopted the entire repertoire of devices, means or mechanisms available to modern states: all the tools of sovereignty, reason of state and biopolitics remain present in both domestic and foreign policy.
Philipp Casula

Chapter 13. Assessing Russia’s Middle East Policy After the Arab Uprisings: Prospects and Limitations

This chapter argues that the current Russian leadership is guided by two major factors in the Middle East: (a) security concerns (terrorist threats and destabilization of fragile states), (b) economic opportunities (energy, arms sales, etc.) which accompany the improvement of political ties. Furthermore, Moscow’s more ambitious policy towards the Middle East can be explained not only by its overall strategy to increase its regional influence but also by the foreign policy opportunities created by the gradual retreat of the US from the region. Thus, it can be argued that Moscow’s Middle East policy is basically shaped by the US actions and decisions with regard to this region. As Russia lacks the resources to constantly support its presence in the Middle East and the Russian leaders are well aware of such limitations, the Kremlin pursues a policy which seeks to limit the risks and loss of investments in this region.
Alexey Khlebnikov
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