Russian Policy Towards the 'Near Abroad': The Discourse of Hierarchy

Author/s (editor/s):

Wynne Russell

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1995/7 (PDF, 5.58MB)

Wynne Russell, 'Russian Policy Towards the "Near Abroad": The Discourse of Hierarchy', IR Working Paper 1995/7, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, August 1995.

This paper attempts to demonstrate that classical definitions of 'imperialism' do not in fact establish a particularly productive framework for analysis of current Russian policy toward the 'near abroad', as some Russian leaders continue to call the fourteen other former republics of the Soviet Union. It argues that developments on the territory of the former Union neither conclusively support nor conclusively refute the use of such a term. Indeed, the confusion that reigns on the territory of the former Union - confusion that stems in part from the unique circumstances accompanying the decolonisation of the former Union - obscures the key motivational factors on which at least some definitions of the term 'imperialism' depend. The paper instead suggests that the vagaries of Russian policy toward the near abroad can be better understood as stemming from a fundamental tension in the thinking of even moderate Russian leaders between assumptions about the Russian Federation's dominant position in the hierarchy of the former Union, on the one hand, and subordinate position in the hierarchy of the international community, on the other. Through an examination of the discourses of Russian moderate policy-makers in relation to conceptions of hierarchy, international law, and human rights, the paper attempts to identify the socially and linguistically constructed assumptions that underlie Russian decision-makers' approaches and shape the possible directions of Russian policy toward the near abroad. Although it starts out asking how Russian policy toward the near abroad is made possible, the paper thus ultimately addresses the question of why Russian policy toward the near abroad looks the way it does as well.

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