Russia Foreign Policy

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THE MAKING OF RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY:
LINES OF (DIS)CONTINUITY IN A PROCESS OF AFFIRMATION

The Making of Russian Foreign Policy: Lines of (Dis)continuity in a Process of Affirmation

The Making of Russian Foreign Policy: Lines of (Dis)continuity in a Process of Affirmation∗

Abstract: This paper looks at the dynamics underlying Russian foreign policy, with the aim of identifying drivers, strategies and goals in a process embedded in complexity. The domestic political setting and its interplay with the international context are fundamental elements in the analysis of the projection of Russian power and influence. In a constant search for balance between the national interest, international compromises and the bargaining/concessions duality, Russia has been pursuing a policy of affirmation, both in regional and international terms. However, this has been a course where lines of (dis)continuity produce fragile contours that are not always easy to grasp. Underlying this course are issues about Russian identity and how this plays a role both at the domestic level and in external policy dealings. However, an increasingly assertive tone is noticeable. Whether this is still an expression of a loss of empire not yet overcome or the result of powerful internal developments is here analyzed. This paper aims, thus, to analyze Russian foreign policy making, shedding light on lines of continuity and discontinuity in this continuous, though not linear, search for affirmation. Keywords: foreign policy; multi-vectorial; multipolar; identity; Russian Federation

Introduction Russian politics after the end of the cold war have undulated according to internal and external constraints, in an effort to adapt and respond to the new internal and international circumstances. The Russian Soviet inheritance remains strong after the breakup of the Soviet bloc, and Moscow’s dealings with its new power status, strategic perceptions and identity construction remain a wide challenge. The Russian Federation is a large country with a unified policy and well defined political, strategic and economic interests, based on a strong hand at home and tough stance towards foreign issues considered vital to Russian interests, The author acknowledges financial support from the Center for Social Studies and the International Studies Association for the presentation of this paper at the 49th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, March 2008. This is a revised version of the paper presented at this convention. ∗

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The Making of Russian Foreign Policy: Lines of (Dis)continuity in a Process of Affirmation

pursued in many instances outside the traditional contours of democratic practices. The so-called “managed democracy” intends to be the defining model for anauthoritarian style of ruling based on the holding of electoral processes. This reflects a combination of western values and the so-called “Russian way”, resulting in a mix in politics. Based on a vertical power formula described by Russian authorities as a needed assurance for order and democratization, the centralization trends in Russian politics seem to contain the weight of the country’s imperial past with which Russia has not yet fully come to terms. In fact, the Soviet imperial logic is still much present in Russian foreign policy, expressed in Russia’s current trend of affirmation and regaining of influence. This alignment has allowed some continuity in Russian post-cold war dealings, despite the upsand-downs resulting from the need to adjust to an all-adapting international context throughout the post-cold war decade (1990-2001). The terrorist attacks of September 2001 in the United States constituted, however, a turning point. The United States became prominent, putting forward an assertive agenda. Russia reacted and followed, adding a more affirmative stance to discourse and action. In a post post-cold war setting, Russian foreign policy became...
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