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Author: Richard Sakwa

A revisionist state would seek to challenge the existing balance of power in the system and threaten the foundations of the system itself. This does not apply to contemporary Russia. It seeks to enhance its status within the existing framework of international society. Russian neo-revisionism does not attempt to create new rules or to advance an alternative model of the international system but to ensure the universal and consistent application of existing norms. Russia’s neo-revisionism represents a critique of western practices in defense of the universal proclaimed principles. It is not the principles of international law and governance that Russia condemns but the practices that accompany their implementation. This reflected Russia’s broader perception in the post-Cold War era that it was locked into a strategic stalemate, and that the country was forced into a politics of resistance. This has taken many forms, including the creation of an anti-hegemonic alignment with China and others. For Moscow, it was the West that had become revisionist, not Russia. Although the implementation of applicable norms was patchy, Russia did not repudiate them. In its relations with the European Union, Russia’s neo-revisionist stance means that it was unable to become simply the passive recipient of eu norms, and instead tried to become a co-creator of Europe’s destiny. The struggle is not only over contested norms, but also over who has the prerogative to claim their norms as universal. However, it was precisely at the level of practices that there was least room for compromise, and thus Russian neo-revisionism became another form of the impasse, and only intensified tensions between Russia and the Atlantic system.

In: Russian Politics
Author: Richard Sakwa

Left SRs to m a k e us want to know m o r e about their activities. But all in all, P e a s a n t Russia, Civil W a r remains a landmark study that marks a breakthrough in the study of the formative years o f the new Bolshevik order. L a r s T. Lih Wellesley College Samuel Farber. Before Stalinism: The Rise a n d F a l l o f Soviet Democracy. London and N e w York: Verso, 1990. xiii, 288 pp. $55/$17.95. This is a very unusual b o o

In: Russian History
Author: Richard Sakwa

Europe is once again subject to an epidemic of wall and barrier building. The war in Ukraine is accompanied by the fortification of its border with Russia, while the Baltic republics are creating the foundations for what is an embryonic new ‘iron curtain’ dividing the Atlantic community from Eurasia. Elsewhere fences are being built to halt the flow of refugees and migrants. These new barriers symbolize the failure to build a Europe ‘whole and free’ in the post-Cold War era, and the failure of the era of globalization to create the conditions for security and development in Europe’s neighborhood. The spate of ‘walling’ reflects not the strength of national sovereignty but its weakness, and not the power of the Atlantic community to spread prosperity, peace and security but the opposite. The era of globalization is accompanied by deepening disjuncture and contradictions, and European leaders have no coherent response. The roots of the crisis lie in the patterns established at the close of the original Cold War in the late perestroika years, with a power shift rather than the transcending politics espoused by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Malta summit of 1989 only partially repudiated the politics of Yalta. The asymmetrical end of the Cold War and the 25 years’ crisis represented by the subsequent cold peace contained within itself the violence and the new divisions that now predominate. The myths and mistakes of the cold peace era need to be challenged and a new transformative politics envisaged.

In: Russian Politics
Author: Richard Sakwa

It is no accident that the Euromaidan revolution from November 2013 was triggered by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to postpone signing the Association Agreement with the European Union. This paper traces the connection between a certain type of Ukrainian state building, here labelled as monist, and the larger context of European institution building based on the eu, which from the pan-European perspective is also monist. These two monist projects, which fail systemically to allow for alternatives and pluralistic diversity, feed off and mutually reinforce each other. Neither in structural terms can imagine alternatives existing outside of themselves. Both are deeply plural internally, but claim certain hegemonic privileges. By contrast, projects for the constitutional incorporation of pluralistic diversity in Ukraine offer the perspective of national reconciliation, and this would be facilitated by the advancement of some sort of greater European pluralism that would obviate the need to choose between alternative integration projects. The Ukraine syndrome is part of the broader failure in the post-Cold War years to create an inclusive European political order.

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Author: Richard Sakwa

Abstract

The Putin phenomenon represents a complex and dynamic interaction between the character of the man, his policies and leadership style. After over two decades in office, we can ask whether there is such a thing as ‘Putinism’, and if so, what are its main features? What are the criteria to be considered an ‘ism’? At the minimum, it requires some sort of ‘grand strategy’ that underpins policy in domestic and foreign policy, and which unites the two. A grand strategy is defined as some deep structure in domestic and foreign policy that transcends individual leaders and which has some overarching purpose. Putinism in this paper is considered a ‘passive revolution’, allowing a profound transformation to take place in society while the polity remains relatively static. One of the main criticisms levelled against Putin is that he is brilliant at tactics, above all in factional maneuvering, but lacks an over-arching vision of where Russia should go. This paper assesses whether Putin is ultimately an ephemeral phenomenon, or whether the era with which his name is associated will endure in history as a distinctive style of rule.

In: Russian Politics

Abstract

An introduction to the special issue on Russian foreign policy prepared by a team based at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. We begin with an overview of some of the contesting views about the dynamics and drivers of Russian foreign policy and some of the key theories. We then present the substantive arguments of the contributors, assessing how they fit into the overall pattern of understanding the key issues in Russian foreign policy and larger global concerns. The Introductions ends with some broader considerations, noting the tension between ‘declinist’ and ‘revivalist’ approaches to Russia today, and suggest that the contributions on the whole steer a cautious path between extreme representations of these two perspectives, while warning of the dangers of triumphalism. We argue that Russian and Russian-based views can make a specific and important contribution to larger debates about the dynamics of Russian foreign policy and Russia’s contribution to the resolution of some of the pressing issues facing humanity.

Free access
In: Russian Politics