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IR Working Paper 2006/1 (PDF, 167KB)
Robert F. Miller, ‘Russia and Europe: National Identity, National Interest, Pragmatism, or Delusions of Grandeur?’ IR Working Paper 2006/1, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Affairs, The Australian National University, May 2006.
Russian foreign policy has undergone a gradual, if sometimes sporadic, evolution from the late Soviet period, through the collapse of the USSR and communism, five years of unrequited accommodation with the West and its putative model of free-market capitalism and liberal democracy, to an increasing realisation that Russian national interests required a more assertive stance vis-à-vis Washington’s perceived unilateralist hegemony. If the Soviet Union and its empire were ostensibly driven by Marxist–Leninist ideology, the Russian Federation explicitly eschewed such motivation, relying instead on an emergent conception of Russian national identity which sometimes bordered on classical imperialism. Throughout the 1990s, Russia had neither the strength nor the resources to implement such a project, but it became increasingly clear under President Vladimir V. Putin and the military and security forces behind him that the revival of Russia as a major international player with its own dominant sphere of influence was the goal. US President George W. Bush’s post-11 September war on terrorism provided an opportunity for Putin to pursue this goal in concert with, rather than in opposition to, Washington. However, the sudden jump in petroleum and natural gas revenues, the war in Iraq which largely produced it, and the evident fragmentation of Western unity provided Putin with opportunities to play Washington off against the European Union and to leverage Russia’s newly found strategic position against both China and the US to pursue Russia’s great power identity and interests, with a primary focus on Europe.