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45 Russia’s Strategic Vision and the Role of Energy Robert Legvold Robert Legvold is Marshall D. Shulman Professor in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, where he specializes in the international relations of the post-Soviet states. He can be reached at . 46 Executive Summary This article assesses Russia’s strategic vision, or lack thereof, and the role that energy plays within that vision. Main Findings: Were current Russian foreign policy guided by a strategic vision, assessing the role of energy in it would be easier and more straightforward, but such is missing. Three paradoxes help to explain the absence: • Russia’s restored self-confidence and accompanying assertiveness mask very real insecurities. • Russia’s basic posture suffers from a curious antonymous pairing: no one country is Russia’s enemy, and no one country an ally. Every country is a potential partner, and every country a potential competitor. • Despite Russia’s seemingly bold and far-reaching foreign policy pronouncements, little serious thought has been given to foreign policy goals, as Russian leaders have buried themselves in the politics of Putin’s succession. Policy Implications: • In international politics, energy plays a role as a multiplier, not a cause. That is, rather than cause conflict or cooperation, it intensifies whichever trend most marks a relationship or extended set of relationships. Hence, if the underlying character of Russian relations with the United States or Europe favors rivalry, the politics of energy will take on this character and add to it. Conversely, if, in general, a more cooperative spirit prevails, energy will be a reason and means to deepen it. • If energy is not well-integrated into Russian foreign policy, then Russian behavior is likely to be more events driven than slave to preconceived purposes. Hence, to the extent that U.S., European, and Japanese policy can shape events in ways yielding constructive effects, the more these governments will have it within their control to inflect in wholesome directions the role Russians assign energy. 47 legvold H erein lies the problem: Russia does not have a strategic vision—not if, by strategic vision, one means a sense of where Russian leaders want the world to go and with what role for Russia, coupled with a reasonably clear notion of how to bring it about. Russia is not special in this respect. Countries—maybe most countries—rarely have something as grand as a strategic vision. They do have foreign policy objectives, which are integrated to a greater or lesser degree and in some order of priority. Most countries also have a strategy or strategies by which to apply means to these ends. In Russia’s case the integration is weak, and the order of priority is blurred. Hence, to look for a conscious and coherent design in Russia’s use of energy in its Asia policy is to chase a chimera. At a deep, elemental level, the reason for the void in Russia’s case stems from three paradoxes. First, and most fundamentally, Russia’s restored self-confidence and accompanying assertiveness mask very real insecurities. Second, Russia’s basic posture suffers from a curious antonymous pairing: no one is Russia’s enemy, and no one is an ally, while everyone is a potential partner, and everyone is a potential competitor. Third, for all the wind and dust stirred by the seemingly bold and far-reaching foreign policy pronouncements of Putin, Lavrov, and others, for much of the last year little serious thought has been given to foreign policy, as leaders and pundits have buried themselves in the politics of Putin’s succession. Without question, over Putin’s last four years as president, Russia recovered what earlier had been most lacking: a genuine sense of self-confidence. This stemmed partially from the liberation from vulnerability to debt provided by soaring commodity prices, partially from the swagger engendered by Russia’s position as a major energy provider, and partially from the sense that the regime’s firm political hand had checked and then reversed the chaos of the Yeltsin years. Putin and his supporters—a large number, indeed, including the bulk of the political elite—take considerable satisfaction from knowing that Russia is again seen as a player that counts, is in a position to assert its influence throughout the post-Soviet region and no longer needs give deference to U.S. policy preferences. Granted some of the puffery and threat-mongering is instrumental, designed to secure domestic political support by emphasizing that the world...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781939131256
MARC Record
OCLC
868221262
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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