Russia's Contested National Identity and Foreign Policy

Andrew C. Kuchins and Igor Zevelev

in Worldviews of Aspiring Powers

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199937479
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980727 | DOI:
Russia's Contested National Identity and Foreign Policy

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This chapter examines the Russian foreign policy discourse. For the purposes of discussion, the leading schools of thought and policy practitioners in Russia in 1992–2011 are categorized into three groups: pro-Western Liberals; Great Power balancers; and Nationalists. It is shown that the main magnetic pole in Russian debates over identity and foreign policy orientation is the status of the Western democratic market development model as well as the role of the United States and the West more broadly in international relations. The three categories of pro-Western Liberals, Great Power balancers, and Nationalists can be approximately correlated to pro-Western, neutral toward the West, and anti-Western. The main axis of debate revolves around the first two categories of liberals and Great Power balancers. The most significant factor with the potential to push the needle in one direction or the other is the world economy and how it affects the oil price. The lower price environment favors liberals who call for deeper structural reform of the Russian economic and political system to increase efficiency, while the higher price environment discourages reform and fuels greater assertiveness.

Keywords: Russian foreign policy; pro-Western liberals; great power balancers; nationalists; Russian identity; oil prices; international relations

Chapter.  10493 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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