- Understanding Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy from a Geocultural Perspective
Oleg Ken, Aleksandr Rupasov, and Lennart Samuelson. Shvetsiia v politike Moskvy 1930–1950e gody (Sweden in Moscow's Foreign Policy, 1930–1950s). 447 pp. Moscow: Rosspen, 2005. ISBN 5824306656.
Robert Legvold, ed., Russian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century and the Shadow of the Past. 544 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0231141222. $55.00.
V. A. Shishkin, Stanovlenie vneshnei politiki poslerevoliutsionnoi Rossii (1917–1930 gody) i kapitalisticheskii mir: Ot revoliutsionnogo "zapadnichestva" k "natsional-bol'shevizmu." Ocherk istorii (The Formation of Foreign Policy in Postrevolutionary Russia [1917–30] and the Capitalist World: From Revolutionary "Westernism" to "National-Bolshevism." Studies in History). 357 pp. St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2002. ISBN 5860073275.
In April 1961, a conference was held at Yale University on "Russian Foreign Policy: Studies in Historical Perspective." Its objective was to examine the interactions between the permanent and transient elements in Russian policy and the extent to which "1917" signaled a turning point in Russian foreign relations.1 In the volume Russian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century and the Shadow of the Past, published in 2007, the aim is similar, but the dividing line proposed by the authors is 1991 and the fall of the USSR. The authors include both historians (David MacDonald, Alfred Rieber, Ronald Suny) and political scientists (Lawrence Caldwell, Robert Legvold, Gilbert Rozman, [End Page 161] Angela Stent, Celeste Wallander), and together they pose the question: What is fundamentally new in the Russian foreign policy of Yeltsin and Putin?
Two surprises await the reader.
First surprise: the work is not centered on the Soviet period. Its key questions are generated neither by traditional Sovietology nor by the historiography of the Cold War, which emphasizes ideologization and messianism on both the Soviet and American sides.2 The Bolshevik revolution is reduced here to one state transformation among others in a long history of Russia from Ivan the Terrible to Putin. Because the Soviet period is not specifically analyzed, this work, unlike earlier collective studies, does not reflect on the transition between Soviet and post-Soviet foreign policy.3 In spite of the title's reference to "the shadow of the past," the issues of Soviet heritage and of memory are not the book's subject either; very little is said on the "Great Patriotic War" of 1941–45 and the influence that it might have on Putin's public discourse.
Second surprise: the text discusses geographical, military, economic, and political constraints and the language and practice of government in Russia more than diplomatic negotiations and Russia's foreign policy toward the rest of the world. This contrasts with a significant portion of the literature on foreign policy, which emphasizes bilateral relations and interactions with the foreign policy of other states rather than connections between domestic factors and the world outside. The contributors to the volume undertake a longue durée analysis of phenomena, and the question that unifies their work is the following: with the crumbling of despotism and the dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991, is the "Russian moment in history" over?4 This study relies heavily on the notion of a "Russian tradition" produced by the specific conditions of state building and consolidation of territory since the Muscovite period, as well as by those who have authored its history.5 [End Page 162]
The work thus attempts an internalist theorization of trends in Russia's relationship to the...