Saturday, June 15, 2013


       The aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse left an ideological vacuum in Russia. The move was at first towards the west – an unreceptive and unenthusiastic host. It did not take long for such a move to fail. The difference in important systems of thought in Russian foreign policy can be readily examined by their approach to the West. Tsygankov labels these systems as follows: the Westernists, pushing for closer relations and the adoption of values with and of the West – though their definition of “West” differs; the Civilizationists, who wish for a nationalist and Stalinist state in Russia, or a Eurasian union completely independent from the West; lastly, the Statists, who take elements from both preceding systems while pushing for a very realist balance of power and desire a multipolar world (62).
     Westernists have their roots in the “New Thinking” of Gorbachev. Gorbachev followed a pattern of liberalism blinded by idealism. His policy of reform was ultimately painted with a negative legacy – to readily gave in to withdrawals and concessions, all with the futile goal of western acceptance (50). With Gorbachev's vast efforts at decreasing military tension between the Soviet Union and the West, there was a genuine hope for turning attention towards domestic affairs – perhaps even with the assistance of the West. Gorbachev, however, found himself essentially used by Western powers; in pushing for liberalism, he essentially gave up the power that would have acted as his rock (51). Although its roots were within Gorbachev's New Thinking, Kozryev's liberal Westernists viewed Gorbachev's failure as a systemic one (56). Gorbachev was buying oats for a dead horse; no amount of concessions and reforms could save the utopian Soviet Union from extinction. Based in part on liberalist ideas such as Fukiyama's “the end of history”, the liberalist Westernists saw Russia's future as becoming entwined with the West, both economically and politically (56). For the first few years after the Soviet Union, they were the dominant force. Alternatively, the Social Democrats – also considered Westernisers – held to Gorbachev's teachings. The Social Democrats viewed pure the liberal Westernists focus as undermining Russia's potential for social democracy – there was too much of a focus on the US, rather than the European powers and perhaps the world as a whole (64). Nevertheless, in 1993, westernization as a whole was on the way out (67). Like before, the West essentially turned its attention away from Russia; the aid it did give was not up to expectations (67). In spite of liberalist Westernists pushing for closer relations with the West, rather than their own neighboring former Soviet republics, the West forgot about Russia. Despite attempts at integrating with western organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the failure on the West's part to helpfully engage a ready and willing Russia had left Russia to its fate, and a rapidly decaying moral and economic fabric offered itself as fertile breeding grounds for nationalism, much like the Weimar Republic of Germany had. Today, Westernists remain a critical voice of the other systems (205). They criticize Civilizationists and Statists of being too focused on narrow-minded balancing with the US, rather than focusing on non-western powers like China (206).
     The Civilizationists are the old guard. Much like the Westernists, Tsygankov places the Civilizationists in two groups – the National Communists, and the Hard-line Eurasianists. He uses Gennadi Zyuganov to represent the National Communist ideology, which is based in the neo-nationalism that arose in the ashes of the Soviet Union (61, 63). Coupling nationalism with communism, they wish a restoration of Soviet Russia – socialism in one country. National Communists, particularly Zyuganov who remains the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. They are dramatically opposed to westernization, going as far to accuse Westernists of being traitors, as they see the influence as merely undermining Russian influence in the world (63). The second group of Civilizationists are the Hard-line Eurasianists. The Eurasianists wish to stand opposed to the US' interests, which they view as inherently incompatible with Russia (63). The Eurasianists hold very real geopolitical ambitions – that of a “Greater Russia”, but their influence is little (63). The Eurasianists flirt with fascism, especially individuals like Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and they have been used as examples of radical bogeymen (Laparenok). The Civilizationists radically oppose integration with western organizations, as well as western influence, seeing themselves as either independent or having farm ore in common with the East.
The dominant influence in Russia, however, belongs to the Statists. The Statists are viewed by many to be the pragmatists, rather than the ideologues of the Westernists and the Civilizationists, though they take lessons from both camps (64) The Statists view Russia as unique, with its own objective national interests independent of the rest of the world. With the rejection of westernism came Kozyrev's removal, and the installation of Primakov, as foreign minister under Boris Yeltsin in 1995 (65). Under Primakov, Yeltsin's administration turned from idealism, to realism – to securing its own interests (96). While Russia did not retreat into isolationism, it simultaneously pursued a more international foreign policy rather than simply ignoring non-western powers as the Westerinizers had (97). The Statist method also incorporated certain terminology and concepts from the Civilizationists, such as Russia as a sovereign power with roots in Eurasia, without playing into imperialist dogma (97). The Statists opposed what they perceived to be encroachment by the West on their power, especially with regards to NATO expansion (Tsygnakov 94). If the Statist way of thinking could be summed up in one word, it would be realism – contrasting the different strains of idealism of both the Civilizationists and the Westernists. There is a sort of middle ground in the Statist approach to the West; instead of the anti-hedgemon, Russia simply “is” in the Statist worldview (95). It does not bend to American whims, nor does it necessarily oppose them for the sake of being contrarian. One key element of Primakov's ideas that differed from both was the reintegration of former Soviet territories, something that was incredibly draining on Russia's health (121). Primakov would soon abandon this policy of a closer-knit CIS. One may argue that Putin's continuation policies of “Great Power Pragmatism” are a direct continuation of Statism's “Great Power Balancing” – yet with pragmatic and adaptive shifts. Statism has been the dominant weltanschauung behind Russian foreign policy for more than a decade, regardless of brief Westernist-Statist hybridization post 9-11. Putin wishes for Russia to have a strong, independent, and paternalistic state, and he has readily pursued aggressive foreign policy to achieve this end. There is no settling for the status of a “middle” power in Putin's world – Russia must be a great power. The West may be engaged, but western democratization may be nothing more at times than a sham for cloaked imperialism
     While to come extent any labeling of diverse thought into neatly packaged constructs is a gross oversimplification, it does provide a useful method of making complicated ideas more understandable. The Westernists wait, seeing the impending conflict between China and Russia as their new chance as Russia retains and builds its status as a great power. One cannot help but believe that there may still be some resentment on the part of the liberals for the failure of the US to seize the moment in which it could have allied itself further with Russia. The Social Democrats had looked to Western Europe longingly, though now face the sight of watching forces ebb and flow within the financially tumultuous European Union. The Civilizationists remain the nationalistic bogeymen, with much of their talk of Russia as a Great Power readily co-opted by the Statists. They no longer hold the sway they once did as being the “anti-Westernists”, though now they present themselves as an alternative to what they claim is the corrupt Statist methodology of Putin. The Statists continue to dominate, though perhaps not in the same ways that the Primakovites had hoped. The differing approaches to the West will continue to be how the systems of thought differentiate between themselves.
Works Cited
Laparenok, Leonid. “Vladimir Zhirinovsky.” Russiapedia, by Russia Today. Web. <>. 19 Nov. 2012.
Tsygankov, Andrei P. Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity. 2nd ed. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010. Print.

No comments:

Post a Comment