Exam Essay Russian Foreign Policy

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Exam Russian Foreign Policy 25/I/2010

PART I : Write an essay

Discuss the elements of continuity and change in the foreign policy of post-Communist Russia, comparing it with the policies of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.

Globally seen, the goals of the current Russian foreign policy are completely different than the goals the Russian empire or the Soviet Union were wanting to achieve. Nowadays, the main interest of Russia is nothing but Russia itself and this is completely different than the interest of the Soviet Union or the empire. And this of course changes the ways Russia is striving towards achieving its goal. But this doesn’t mean there are still some similarities between the foreign policies of on the one hand Russia, and on the other the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.

A big continuity with the Russian Empire (at least since the time of Peter the Great) is the willingness to cooperate with the European mainland. Because America back then wasn’t the great power it is now, it wasn’t a big player on the international scene. And as now, Russia’s plans weren’t to integrate in Europe, but more a matter of security. During the time of the Russian Empire, Russia was a member of the ‘concert of powers’, a concept that was used for a sort of alliance between the big states in Europe to control the security and the balance of power in Europe. Today a lot is changed in Europe, the issue of European security is still Moscow’s most acute foreign policy concern today and Russia searches to be a great player in the European security. Just think of its strong support to European security organizations like CFSP and ESDP.

This more look to Europe is then again a big discontinuity with the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. For the Soviet Union America was the main focus of the foreign policy. In matters of the USA, there is both continuity and discontinuity in the present foreign policy in comparison with the Soviet Union (as said before, during the Russian Empire, America didn’t exist or had not that much influence to be regarded as an opponent). After World War II thefore was definitively an emphasis of the Soviet foreign policy on its relations with the USA. The Soviet Union always had some sort of fascination with America’s might and since the 1950’s, America was even the country to imitate. But at the same time, America was a country that embodied a big threat for the security for the Soviet Union which reflected itself in the Cold War. So there was at the same time a sort of love-hate relation with the United States. And in a way this is still the situation in the current foreign policy but also some things have changed. For example, in the current foreign policy, the emphasis doesn’t lie with the USA anymore. There has been a shift in the foreign policy so that Russia is now more focused on its relations towards the CIS countries and, in lesser extent, towards Europe. But Russia still considers the USA as a big treat because of its influence in Eastern Europe and the CIS countries through its embodiment in the NATO. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, America created more and more a unipolar world with America of course being that pole. But Russia, which is more or less recovered from the collapse, is completely opposed to this unipolar world and tries to break America’s status as hegemon. So the fascination with America is completely disappeared but the struggle between Russia and America still exists. Enclosed to this, the notion of ‘кто кого’ is also a remainder of the Soviet Union that still exists in current foreign policy. Although the scene has changed, Russia still isn’t keen on compromising in battle of any kind.

A big matter of change with the period of the Soviet Union, less with the Russian empire but still, is which sort of power Russia uses to keep his influence in the world but also in the present CIS counties. As well known, the Soviet Union is more a military...
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