What is it about?

The article analyzes the impact of external factors on Russia’s foreign policy. Specifically, it identifies patterns in Russia’s foreign policy reactions to two kinds of developments: changes in US foreign policy, and fluctuating global oil prices affecting Russia’s economy. It states that US foreign policy, as it is perceived by Putin’s regime, is the key determinant of the Kremlin’s reactions, while the changes in economic trends, affected by oil price, influence the regime’s preference to choose more confrontational or more defensive ways of action.

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Why is it important?

Putin’s authoritarian rule during the last decade in fact eliminated genuine ideological competition among political groups in Russia. Nonetheless, since assuming power in 2000 Putin and his associates (including Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency in 2008–2012) tried on various ideological patterns and different foreign policy strategies. The regime is still able to utilize other versions of national identity when needed, as an adaptive response to external changes. As the analysis shows, different versions of national identity narratives can be constructed within Putin’s regime: it acts as a closed political system that can produce different foreign policy reactions and even ideological narratives without major changes in the governing elite. The main question that this article seeks to answer is how specific external factors shape Russia’s foreign policy outcomes.

Perspectives

The model presented here suggests that the most confrontational narrative and the reaction of Russia could be expected in periods of assertive US foreign policy and high oil prices. These trends were observed quite clearly in 2007–2008, peaking with the Russian–Georgian war, and in 2012–2014, after Putin’s return to the presidency and persistent blaming the US of interference in Russia’s and Ukraine’s domestic affairs. The least confrontational narrative could be expected in periods of low US’ assertiveness (or propagation of multilateralism) and low oil prices negatively affecting Russia’s economy. This kind of cooperative approach and simulation of Russia’s national identity as a ‘partner of the US’ were observed during Medvedev’s term, in 2009–2011. The article adds to a discussion what are the nearest future perspectives of Kremlin’s foreign policy arguing that Russia’s behavior is predictable to some extent, at least while it remains reactive to the US behavior and heavily dependent on the export of hydrocarbons.

Tomas Janeliunas
Vilnius university

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This page is a summary of: External forces and Russian foreign policy: Simulation of identity narratives inside Putin’s regime, International Journal Canada s Journal of Global Policy Analysis, June 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0020702019854003.
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