|Globalization: A Russian Perspective
Andrei P. Tsygankov1
In Thinking International Relationd Differently, edited by Arlene B. Tickner and David L. Blaney. London: Routledge, 2012, pp. 205-227.
Russia’s experience with the West-initiated globalization has been peculiar. Immediately following the end of the Cold War, Boris Yeltsin’s choice was decisively pro-Western, and he sought to integrate Russia with Western institutions. Since the late-1990s, however, Russia has adopted different priorities and pursued a more selective approach to globalization. In economic and political affairs, the Kremlin insisted on preserving state sovereignty and the right to defend itself against harmful influences from the outside world, as well as promote its own vision of globalization. From an admirer of the West, Russia has emerged as its critic that is actively seeking to expand its presence in global markets and join global institutions while at the same time working to transform these institutions to its advantage.
Russia’s theoretical engagement with globalization has taken place on two inter-related levels: international and domestic. Externally, Russian scholars of international relations have sought to take issues with Western, especially American, interpretations of globalization according to which globalization benefits those who are willing to accept the rules of the game, rather than challenge them. Internally, Russians have identified at least three different responses to globalization – full acceptance, selective acceptance and radical rejection – and developed theories to justify their responses. Russia’s current intellectual mainstream with regard to globalization includes theories by realist thinkers and critical political economists. These theories correlate with and are partly shaped by the official attitude of selective acceptance of global economic and political rules. Whereas Russian realism and critical political economy are closer to the political mainstream, liberal and culturally essentialist IR advance attitudes of globalization’s full acceptance and rejection, respectively.
This essay seeks to explain these diverse reactions of academic and expert communities in Russia and place them within the context of national foreign policy discussions and intellectual debates within these groups. Following Hayward Alker and other scholars (Alker 1981; Alker and Biersteker 1984; Alker, Amin, Biersteker and Inoguchi 1998) I adopt a broad definition of international relations theory viewing it as a systematically developed and culturally grounded image of the world, and I analyze Russian IR debates in the context of the nation’s historical ideological debates regarding the nation’s political, economic and cultural institutions. The paper first identifies the political mainstream or the dominant choice by the nation’s political class which it presents as a nationalist or neo-mercantilist response to the neoliberal globalization. It then describes Russian intellectual debates and international relations discussions in academia and expert community regarding the nation’s interpretation of globalization. I conclude by reflecting on causes of Russia’s reception of globalization and its divergence from the mainstream neoliberal vision.
Globalization and Russia’s Nationalism
The end of the Cold War produced the new expectations of increasing economic and political convergence across nations. The neoliberal concept of globalization anticipated that nations would redefine their interests to fit the standards of the newly emerging and West-defined openness in the world economy (Ohmae 1991; Friedman 1999, 2005). Another school expected global political convergence based on developing Western-style democratic institutions across nations (Fukuyama 1989; Mandelbaum 2005). Many scholars have justifiably criticized these approaches as ethnocentric and unrealistic. Instead of the increased and West-defined policy convergence, new cleavages and divergences emerged in the world. The world of globalization brought new poverty and socio-economic divisions (Murphy 2001). It created new areas of violence and lawlessness. It reactivated arms races. And it enacted new and intensified some old processes of cultural reformulations and ethnic nationalism (Mansfield and Snyder 2007). Instead of relying on protection and welfare of Western hegemony, nations often seek refuge in reformulating their interests to better protect their societies and re-adjust to their regional environments (Stalling 1995; Mansfield and Millner 1997; Helleiner and Pickel 2005). In both global and regional organizations, nations re-define their interests consistently with their historical pasts and their images of national selves.
Russia’s way of adaptation to globalization has also followed national historical patterns, rather than the expected model of global policy convergence. Rather than becoming a wide-open to Western economic and political influences – something that the new Russian leadership had experimented with during the 1990s – it pursued a course of selective openness managed by an increasingly strong and nationalistic state. In economic affairs, the Kremlin insists on the need for Russia to protect its path of development and natural resources. An emphasis on sovereignty indicated the state’s determination to have an upper hand in deciding conditions on which Western companies participate in Russia’s economic development. In the world of growing energy prices, the emphasis shifted from providing macroeconomic discipline and tough fiscal policies toward desire to capitalize on Russia’s reserves of natural gas and oil. As viewed by Vladimir Putin, the role of the energy sector is to work with the state to promote these objectives. According to this perspective, relying on market forces is essential, but insufficient: “Even in developed countries, market mechanisms do not provide solutions to strategic tasks of resource use, protecting nature, and sustainable economic security.”2 The state therefore has to shape policy outcomes by actively seeking to control social resources, coordinating the activities of key social players and assisting the country in finding its niche in the global economy.
In political affairs, Russia has sought to shield itself against what it views as harmful influences of the West’s global democratization pressures. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s officials have been among the most vocal critics of military interventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Lybia that were launched by the Western nations and justified on humanitarian grounds. In response to the political instability during the 1990s and the colored revolutions during 2003-2005, the Kremlin insisted on Russia’s right to “decide for itself the pace, terms and conditions of moving towards democracy", and warned against attempts to destabilize political system by "any unlawful methods of struggle” (Putin 2005). The motive of non-interference in Russia’s domestic developments from outside only became stronger over time, and theorists sympathetic to the official agenda developed the concept of “sovereign democracy” (Tretyakov 2005; Surkov 2006; Tsipko 2006).3 The latter places sovereignty at the center of Russia’s political values, and the Kremlin’s leading ideologist Vladislav Surkov (2006) justified the concept of sovereign democracy by the need to defend an internally-determined path to political development and protect values of economic prosperity, individual freedom and social justice from potential threats, which he defined as “international terrorism, military conflict, lack of economic competitiveness, and soft takeovers by ‘orange technologies’ in a time of decreased national immunity to foreign influence.” The Kremlin has also trained its own youth organizations, restricted activities of Western NGOs and radical opposition inside the country, and warned the United States against interference with Russia’s domestic developments.
More recently, Dmitri Medvedev emphasized the importance of improving relations with the Western nations in part to facilitate investments and cooperation in the information technology sector. He has established a good rapport with the United States’ President Barak Obama and European leaders, and he cooperated with the United States on Iran and the new nuclear treaty. Medvedev has also avoided tough language and worked on improving the image of Russia in Western business circles. In his address to the Federation Council in November 2009, Medvedev (2009) insisted that the effectiveness of foreign policy must be "judged by a simple criterion: Does it improve living standards in our country?" In his meeting with Russia’s ambassadors in July 2010, Medvedev (2010) further highlighted the need to establish “modernization alliances” with the United States and other Western nations. These differences of style and emphasis between Putin and Medvedev do not undermine the established policy consensus. Both leaders are not satisfied with the currently “unipolar” structure of the international system that diminishes Russia’s global influence. Both seek to position their country for a successful competition in the world economy, including by capitalizing on Russia’s rich energy reserves. Both remain pragmatically focused on exploiting opportunities outside the West and are eager to build flexible coalitions to promote Russia’s global interests. Finally, both are on record for defending Russia’s right to “privileged interests” in the former Soviet region and are unapologetic about recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the August 2008 war with Georgia.
The larger society has been supportive of the official emphasis on protection from outside interference and gradual state-driven modernization and stability. Most polls show Russians’ strong – around 80% - support for the Kremlin’s policies. In addition, Russians are most positive about such word-symbols, as “order” (58%), “justice” (49%), and “stability” (38%), and least positive about the word “revolution” with 22% viewing it in negative light (RosBusinessConsulting 2007). Furthermore, while most Russians would like to restore the status of their country as a great power, few have illusions either about balancing the West's global power or restoring the Soviet-like empire in Eurasia. Polls indicate that the general public predominantly connects the great power status with economic development, rather than military buildup or revision of existing territorial boundaries. For instance, according to a poll by VTsIOM (All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre) taken on 14-15 August, 2010, 49% of Russians believe that main obstacle on the path to achieving the status of a great power is the lag behind leading countries in economic development versus 26% linking it to powerful Armed Forces and 7% to receiving control over the territories of the former USSR (Interfax 2010).
Dominant Approaches to Globalization
The new official discourse, or Russia’s political mainstream has greatly affected the nation’s intellectual discussions and studies of international relations. Russian IR and social science in general can be understood as a form of social action shaped by locally meaningful ideological debates. For example, Russian debates have historically been among those viewing the nation’s future as a part of the West, the independent state or a distinct civilization. Ideology in this context refers to a systematic presentation of self, other and their relationships.4 Overall, Russian IR discourse has been moving away from liberal approaches and toward those more sensitive to local conditions and state needs. Much of this development can be attributed to the country’s extremely painful economic reform during the 1990s which was carried out under the ideological banner of liberal transformation. Although the pro-Western vision shaped the reform, it was soon met with a formidable opposition, which advanced a different identity and pushed the country away from its original path.
Russian realists build on the idea of Russia as an independent state which – due to a long historical experience of a great power – remained socially popular. In response to decline of expectations associated with neoliberal globalization, Russians have revived the historically familiar ideology of a great power and a strong state. Ever since the two centuries-long conquests by the Mongols, Russia has developed a psychological complex of insecurity and a readiness to sacrifice everything for independence and sovereignty. Rather than insisting on economic globalization and political democratization, many Russian politicians emphasized the state’s ability to govern and preserve the social and political order. Not inherently anti-Western, they seek to be recognized for highlighting economic and military capabilities of Russia. The emphasis on independence finds its way to Russian realist IR theory. While borrowing some conceptual tools from the West, realists use them creatively preserving their intellectual independence. An example is their studies of world order. Although the influence of American realist scholarship on these studies is evident,5 some of the Russian approaches to world order are more dynamic and include, not unlike the British school tradition, the notions of norms and rules. Keeping their eyes on Russia, Russian realists have also differentiated between various types of unipolar and multipolar world order (Bogaturov 1998, 2003; Shakleyina and Bogaturov 2004) and security threats (Fenenko 2008).
Russian realists tend to view globalization as a project of the strongest that has little in store for the weak (Kokoshin 2006; Utkin 2006). Russia has already suffered from globalization and is now better off pursuing policies of restoring state power. This position is not isolationist and instead is similar to that of Vladimir Putin’s (2002: 4-5) eagerness to emphasize the economic nature of the contemporary world and the need for Russia to be successful in the geo-economic rather than military struggle, for “the norm of the international community and the modern world is a tough competition—for markets, investments, political, and economic influence.” At least some Russian realists appreciate potential benefits from globalization if Russia manages to preserve its power and association with the most economically developed states. A good example that illustrates their reasoning is research on the international system's structure and polarity, in which realists developed variety of concepts differentiating between various types of unipolar, bipolar and multipolar system (Shakleyina 2003). Aleksei Bogaturov (1996, 2001, 2003) proposed to view the post-cold war international system as “pluralistic unipolarity”, in which the unipolar center is a group of responsible states, rather than one state (the United States). Bogaturov saw Russia as a member of the group and argued for consolidation of its position within the global center, as well as for discouraging the formation of one state-unipolarity in the world. Such has complicated the zero sum perspective of many realist theories because Russia was expected to develop closer ties with some Western states, while resisting the tendency of others (the U.S.) to become predominant in the system.
Realists have also been critical of the liberal notion of universal democratic ideas questioning the significance of internal characteristics in international struggle for power and security. Many in Russia see attempts to globally promote Western-style democracy as little more than ideology covering a struggle for the world’s domination (Volodin 2006; Gadziyev 2008; Karaganov 2008). Rather than recommending development of this kind of democracy, realists propose that Russia concentrate on strengthening its international position by consolidating regional ties and pursuing even-handed relations with Western and non-Western nations. With regard to the regional order, realists have developed the notion of post-imperial space to be influenced by Russia and its social groups – industrialists, businessmen, intellectuals, and mass opinion leaders – without reviving the empire. The idea of empire or formal incorporation of any territory out the current Russia’s borders is typically viewed by realists as an anachronism. For instance, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (1996) report referred to the idea of the Soviet restoration as a “reactionary utopia.” At the same time, the report argued that a reasonable alternative to the post-Soviet integration was not available and that Russia should assume the role of a leader of such integration. Realists also argued for flexible alliances in all geopolitical directions (Gadziyev 2007), which resonated well with the official discourse that has sanctioned the idea of “multi-vector” foreign policy since the mid-1990s. Thus the government’s official Foreign Policy Concept of 2000 referred to the Russian Federation as “a great power … [with a] responsibility for maintaining security in the world both on a global and on a regional level” and warned of a new threat of “a unipolar structure of the world under the economic and military domination of the United States” (Shakleyina 2002: 110-111).
Critical Political Economy
Another important response to the West-centered globalization has come from traditionally well-developed critical theories of political economy. Since the Soviet era, Russian political economy has opposed Western liberal theories and their expectations of growing convergence in social and economic institutions across the globe. Although, strictly speaking, the post-Soviet political economy can hardly be called Marxist, it has important relationships with the Soviet scholars’ critique of capitalism. The post-Soviet critical approaches are increasingly popular as a sufficiently sophisticated reaction to liberal globalization. As with realism, Russian critical approaches have historically developed their own distinct mode of theorizing international relations. For example, Karl Marx and German social democrats’ influences on Vladimir Lenin did not preclude the latter from developing his own highly original theory of international capitalist order and its transformation (Lenin 1904). Various Western influences on notable Soviet theorists, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Yevgeni Varga, also did not make them overly dependent on such influences. Soviet Marxists were also well aware of dangers of intellectual dependence on non-socialist, “bourgeois” thinkers and did everything in their power to develop a theory of the exploitation of the weaker by the stronger.6 Post-Soviet critical theorists too demonstrate sensitivity to Russia’s own economic, social and political interests in the world (Volodin and Shirokov 2002; Gorbachev 2003; Volodin 2006). With realists, they remain critical of globalization. Unlike realists, however, political economy theorists concentrate in their critique on “capitalist” institutions, rather than national governments of the most advanced societies (Kagarlitski 2004).
Russian advocates of critical political economy perspective are ambivalent towards globalization. Although they disagree with liberals that Russia should follow pro-Western and pro-American policies, they see opportunities from globalization if Russia manages to find its own formula of social and political adaptation. In the absence of such a formula, critical political economists believe that Russia is doomed to become a third world country with low living standards for its population, political instability, and dependent foreign policy (Volodin and Shirokov 2002; Bogomolov and Nekipelov 2003; Ilyin 2004; Pantin and Lapkin 2006: 423-434; Ivanov 2008).
In this regard, members of this school of thinking frequently discuss the notion of cultural dialogue as a condition of Russia’s success. From the critical political economy perspective, the fact that the world is global does not mean that cultures are doomed to a conflict. Instead, they should strive to establish a “unity in diversity” regime, under which nations would be able to maintain an intense dialogue and cooperation by observing certain globally acknowledged rules, yet still following their own internally developed sets of norms. In order to sustain the culturally pluralist system, new ideas are necessary to challenge the dominance of US-centered economic and political globalization (Batalov 2005; Alekseyeva 2007; Voytolovski 2007). Some scholars proposed the strengthening of the United Nations as a prototype for future world government, with the General Assembly as parliament, the Security Council as executive body, and the Secretary General as president of the world state. For example, former Gorbachev advisor Georgi Shakhnazarov (2000) argued that such a structure was necessary in order to address urgent global problems, such as growing militarism, depletion of world resources, overpopulation, and environmental degradation, and to mitigate the selfish impulses of local civilizations. In his view, the Huntington-proposed restructuring of the Security Council in accordance with the civilizational representation would mean throwing away all the positive potential of the United Nations and returning to the times of isolation and the rule of crude force in world politics. Instead, and for the purpose of preserving and developing the central governing structure of the world, he proposed a piecemeal development of the United Nations by gradually incorporating in the Security Council those states that have acquired indisputable world influence, including Germany, Japan, and possibly even India, Brazil, and other states.
The discourse of global multiculturalism corresponds with the official promotion of a culturally-sensitive modernization. The latter, again, is a response to the reforms of the 1990s that are generally viewed as excessively pro-Western and even aimed at perpetuating and expanding cultural hegemony of the West.
In building regional orders and formulating foreign policy, critical political economists recommended transcending the known boundaries and dichotomies, such as either pro-Western or Eurasian. Unlike pro-Western liberals, who commonly see Russia as in need to “return” to Europe to become more global,7 some scholars have assumed that Russia already is in Europe/West/global world. By their historical accounts, Russia has been a West and a part of the global society longer than some other nations, including the United States. Therefore the challenge for Russia is not to be included in, but develop a deeper awareness of itself as a legitimate member of Europe and of its special ties with the world. Put differently, Russia has to intellectually absorb the world/West, rather than let itself be absorbed by it. An example of such thinking is Gleb Pavlovski’s (2004) concept of Euro-East, which conceptualizes the region as a part of Europe and distinct in its own right. The Euro-East shares with Europe values of market economy and growing middle class, yet being mainly preoccupied with economic and social modernization, the region is in a special need for maintaining political stability.
Scholars working in the critical political economy tradition also view cultural dialogue as an appropriate foreign policy. To more socialist-oriented thinkers (Tolstykh 2003), the principle of cultural dialogue remains essential as a key humanistic principle that may set the world on the path of solving the above identified global problems of militarism, poverty and environmental degradation. More conservative thinkers inspired by Orthodox Christian values (Panarin 2002) advocate a cross-religious synthesis of Western reason and Eastern myth. They see Russia as a natural place for such a synthesis and, therefore, as a model for the world. As politically distinct as these socialist and conservative schools of thought are, they share a vision of the world as an entity that remains divided along cultural and socio-economic lines.
Many in the official circles find the described perspective promising for Russia to follow. For example, in March 2008 President Putin sent a message to the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Senegal in which he said that "deeper relations of friendship and cooperation with the Islamic world are Russia's strategic course” and that "we share concerns about the danger of the world splitting along religious and civilizational lines" (RFE/RL March 14, 2008). Other officials presented Russia as a country, “which is on the junction of Europe and Asia and is a natural inter-civilization bridge" (Itar-Tass January 16, 2008) and expressed desire to have closer ties with the Islamic world (RFE/RL January 16, 2008). Overall, the Kremlin values stronger relationships with Europe or the United States but not at the expense of Russia’s ability to act independently and develop ties with non-Western countries. In Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s terms, solutions for Russia should come from “network diplomacy rather than entangling military-political alliances with their burdensome rigid commitments” (Lavrov 2009).
Opposing Approaches to Globalization
The meaning of globalization to members of Russian liberal IR community is so similar to mainstream interpretations in the United States that they can be referred to liberal essentialists. The ideology of pro-Western liberalism has inspired members of Russian liberal IR community. Historically Westernizers placed emphasis on Russia’s similarity with Western nations and viewed the West as the most viable and progressive civilization in the world. Although the early Westernizers sought to present Russia as a loyal member in the family of European monarchies, since the second half of the 19th century Russian Westernizers identified with the West of constitutional freedoms and political equality. Westernizers within the Soviet system saw Russia as not standing too far apart from European social-democratic ideas and supported Mikhail Gorbachev’s agenda of reforming the Soviet system into a democratic, or “human,” version of socialism (gumannyi sotsializm). Finally, the post-Soviet Westernizers argued the “natural” affinity of their country with the West based on such shared values as democracy, human rights, and a free market. President Boris Yelstin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev insisted that only by building Western liberal institutions and integrating with the coalition of what was frequently referred to as the community of “Western civilized nations” would Russia be able to respond to its threats and overcome its economic and political backwardness.
Given the often close relationships between knowledge and ideology,8 this liberal ideological agenda found expression in the development of international studies in Russia. Liberal IR theories in Russia are heavily dependent on intellectual currents in Western liberal academia. Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), the Highest School of Economics (Moscow) and St. Petersburg State University’s Department of International Relations are especially prominent in advancing liberal thinking. The concepts and theories that seem dominant in Russian liberal IR circles are the same concepts and theories that are familiar to Western, particularly American, academic audiences. Not only were these theories first developed in the West, but they also have not been received critically and with appropriate rethinking of how they might fit local realities. Prominent theories in Russian liberal IR – democratic peace, international institutions and norms, transnational civil society, economic globalization, and others – have been introduced in the Russian context without sufficiently broad cultural reinterpretation that is required for local adaptation (Tsygankov and Tsygankov 2007). This remains a key reason why these West-centered theories remain narrow in their appeal outside several institutions in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Although liberals might have tried to be more creative in processing Western intellectual influences, the Russia’s centuries-long liberal tradition of blaming the state for all social failures9 and the association with the negative experience of the 1990s, precluded them from critical of Western practices. Their analysis of economic globalization and its social and political impacts is case in point. During the 1990s, Russia has gone through a most devastating depression in its history and therefore was hardly a successful testing ground of the theory of economic globalization. Yet in line with arguments of such champions of liberal globalization, as Thomas Friedman (1999, 2005) – and even going farther than them – Russian liberals believe that globalization helps to narrow the gap between North and South (Shishkov 2003) and that it gradually replaces national security with that of international security (Kulagin 2007). The latter guarantees personal rights and freedoms that are still being suppressed by the state, especially in countries with authoritarian political regimes. Some Russian liberals go as far as to deny the significance of national interests and state sovereignty and to insist that “policy aimed at preserving sovereignty and territorial integrity in a long run has no future” (Pastukhov 2000, 95-96; Sheinis 2003, 33). Still others, such as Yasin (2004), posit incompatibility of Russian cultural values with economic globalization arguing that “the West possesses the most productive system of values”, associated with Protestantism, whereas “traditional Russian values are in many ways attractive, but overall not very productive” (as cited in Fedorov 2004). These arguments above-identified liberal institutions remain a prominent part of national discussions largely because of the global power distribution and Russia’s position of dependence in the international system (Tsygankov and Tsygankov 2007). Due to this position of economic dependence and availability of Western research funds, the above-identified liberal institutions and media are strategically positioned to promote the West-centered globalization discourse.
Many Russian liberals also advocate the universal notion of democracy often promoted by neoliberal and neoconservative circles in the United States without considering local conditions and potential resistance to such democratization. Russian representatives of the democratic peace theory insist that Russia too would do well to adopt standards of Western pluralistic democracy if it wants to be peaceful and “civilized” even if this means to grant the right to use force to the only superpower in the world, the United States (Kremenyuk 2004). There is little reflection among these scholars10 on the nature of democracy or Russia’s social conditions and their compatibility with those of Western liberal democracies.11 Russian scholars of global democratization rely in their research on Western ratings of democracy, such as the one produced by Freedom House justifying their choice of Freedom House as the “only one currently available instrument of quantitative measurement of political regimes’ characteristics” (Kulagin 2004: 116). Democracy is understood to be a West-centered universal phenomenon, and cultural, historic and political foundations of its emergence and consolidation stay out of analysis despite the fact that these foundations have differed considerably within12 and outside the West. The majority of Russian liberal IR scholars do not even recognize the need to theorize cultural conditions of democracy. Nor do Russian scholars of democratic peace scrutinize the notion of peace which is typically associated with the absence of war between states, not with the avoidance of social and economic violence. North and South continue to differ in defining democracy and peace, which may help to account for the theory’s frequent perception in the South as a justification of American imperialism.13
Unlike the critical political economy scholars, Russian liberal scholars of globalization offer little analysis of globalization’s historical, cultural, and political conditions. Not infrequently, liberals treat the world’s institutional development as predominantly West-centered. They describe the emerging world as “democratic unipolarity” (Kulagin 2002, 2008) implying its Western origins, and they believe that “[Francis] Fukuyama and [Robert] Heilbronner were basically correct in arguing the ‘end of history’ thesis which implied the absence of a viable alternative to Western liberalism” (Shevtsova 2001). Some within this group have no quarrels with accepting the hegemonic role given to the West, particularly the United States, to regulate and secure the contemporary world order. In words of Victor Kremenyuk (2006), an “emergence of the only superpower, which took upon itself the responsibility to maintain world order, played a positive role in the formation of world society … In many ways, it is the unipolar system that was able to control anarchical elements in international relations and made the rule of law more effective.” Other scholars envision the world in which non-state actors, movements and networks are at least as powerful as states in shaping the contemporary world order (Barabanov 2002: 45-46, 49-50; Barabanov 2008; Lebedeva 2008), which these scholars view as a challenge to the very nature of great powers-based international system. During 2004-2005, the Russia’s leading international relations journal Mezhdunarodnyye protsessy (International Trends) has organized a discussion, which sought to clarify concepts of international relations and world politics, the latter being reserved by some participants for capturing the growing diversity of non-state actors.14 Consistently with the West-centered view of the world, Russian liberals also argue that non-state ties and interactions are especially developed within the area of Western economically developed and democratic nations, and weak outside the area of Western democracies. This is why the region of the most economically developed nations “remains the center of the global civil society” (Baluyev 2007).
Benefits of the world in which Western power and institutions dominate have been widely disputed including among Western liberals. For instance, some of them (Held 1995, 2000; Linklater 1998) have been critical of the traditional West-centered world arguing the emergence of new structures and institutions of governance at the supranational and transnational level and calling for radical global democratization transcending the currently existing system of nation-states. Arguably, even this radically new vision may not be sufficiently sensitive to various local communities with their “bottom up” perspectives of the world (Dallmayr 1999; Inayatulla and Blaney 2004; Jones 2006; Shani 2008). Yet many Russian liberals rarely question benefits of the West-centered world. Instead, they tend to lay the blame on Russia’s leadership, its unwillingness to relinquish the great power ambitions and its inability to successfully “adjust” to the global world. In their mind, there exist only two fundamental paths – pro-Western and great power nationalistic one. Accustomed to viewing reality in terms of dichotomies, they followed the line of some Western analysts insisting that if Russia is not a Western-style democracy, then it must be an empire15 or if it is a great power, then it must be an anti-Western one (See, for example, Shevtsova 2003: 173-176). Or, as the above-cited author (Kremenyuk 2006) put it, Russia that is trying to resist the power of the U.S.-based unipolar order can only be viewed as located “outside the world society.”
Such non-critical adaptation of Western theories in Russia’s context is often accompanied by policy recommendations that, should they be implemented, could only perpetuate Russia’s political dependence on the outside actors. In line with their theoretical convictions, IR liberals have recommended steps that would undermine Russia’s military, economic, and political independence. Russian liberals advocated the nation’s membership in NATO, defended the alliance’s military intervention in Yugoslavia, and even advocated its expansion at the expense of Russia’s traditional sphere of geopolitical interests. They also argued in favor of state withdrawal and surrendering “state sovereignty to transnational corporations and international organizations, as do other civilized countries” (Yasin 2001) assuming that globalization and rise of transnational organizations can only mean decline of states and their role in world politics. “The content of world politics is a transition from the system of individual states (the Westphalian system) to the system that will be mostly ruled by supranational and transnational institutions that would regulate inter-state relations” (Kremenyuk 2006). Some liberal scholars went as far as to propose to transfer parts of Russian territory to foreign states – the Kuril Islands to Japan in exchange for economic credits and Kaliningrad to Germany and Scandinavian nations (Shevtsova 2001). Others suggested that Russia would be better off transferring some attributes of sovereignty to large and resource-rich regions in attempting to turn them into the “gates to the global world” (Sergeyev 2001: 230). Still others encouraged Russia to abandon independent foreign policy in favor of a “creative adjustment” to the Western dominance in the world (Trenin 2001). Although not all Russian liberals are believers in the outlined recommendations and the West-centered vision of the world, majority offers little of critical engagement with American theories viewing them as the ultimate authority, rather than a starting or an intermediate point in intellectual development.
Yet another ideology that opposes the notion of selective adjustment to new world realities is a radical rejection of globalization that favors Russia’s economic and political autarchy and self-sufficiency. Those insisting on such perspective present Russia and its values as principally different from those of the West. Viewing Russia as a civilization in its own right, Civilizationists date such status back to Ivan the Terrible’s “gathering of Russian lands” after the Mongol Yoke and to the dictum “Moscow is the Third Rome” adopted under the same ruler. Some representatives of this school advocate a firm commitment to values of Orthodox Christianity, while others viewed Russia as an organic synthesis of various religions distinctive from both European and Asian cultures.16 Scholarship inspired by this ideology is developed in military academies or conservative think tanks, often by scholars with explicitly anti-Western and/or imperialist agenda (Dugin 2002; Russkaya doktrina 2007).
The Russian ideology of independent civilization has inspired culturally essentialist scholarship. Rather than placing the emphasis on cultural syntheses and cross-civilizational dialogue, as critical political economists do, cultural essentialists promote the vision of Russia as a self-sufficient and autarchic Eurasian or Orthodox empire. The approach is distinct and predates modern IR theories as they have developed in the West. Much of Russia’s culturally essentialist writing goes back to the 19th century thinkers Nikolai Danilevski (1885) and Constantine Leontyev (1891), each developing their theories of “cultural-historical types” long before Oswald Spengler and Samuel Huntington developed similar theories in their “Decline of the West” (Spengler 1921) and “Clash of Civilizations” (Huntington 1996).
Cultural essentialists believe that globalization is nothing but a plot of the West against other civilizations, and they view the international system in terms of irreconcilable struggle of cultures, or a conflict of civilizations, not unlike the one described by Samuel Huntington (1996). Some, similarly to Huntington, identify multipolar civilizational struggle (Nartov 1999; Zyuganov 1999, 2002), while others see an essentially bipolar geocultural conflict. Alexander Dugin’s (2002) concept of a great war of continents is of the latter kind. The bipolarity Dugin perceives is the result of a struggle for values and power between the two competing rivals—the land-based Eurasianists and the sea-oriented Athlanticists. The Eurasianist orientation is expressed most distinctly by Russia, Germany, Iran, and to a lesser extent, Japan, and the Athlanticist posture is well expressed by the United States and Britain. Unlike realists, cultural essentialists are not shy to proclaim Russia as an empire, and they believe it is critical to become one in a global struggle against the U.S.-centered Athlanticist empire. Some essentialists (Dugin 2002) base their arguments strictly on geopolitical foundations, while others (Russkaya doktrina 2007) emphasize the role of religion and Russia’s Eastern Christianity in mastering political and cultural space in the region.
Rather than trying to benefit from the currently existing globalization, cultural essentialists propose to resist the “imperialistic globalization” (Zyuganov 2002) by building a self-sufficient regional order closed to influences from the West. Eurasianists, like Dugin, view such order as a Russia-centered empire that has a limited interaction with the Atlanticist civilization. Similarly, Russian religious nationalists have advanced the notion of a Russian Orthodox empire. For instance, the recent influential volume (Russkaya doktrina 2007) set out a regional order capable of resisting the West and becoming self-sufficient. Projecting the United States’ retreat from the region between 2010 and 2015 nationalists call for “a full-fledged political, economic and – ideally – military union in the manner of a Warsaw Pact” with China, India, Iran and other non-Western nations (Russkaya doktrina 2007: 297, 313). Of all other intellectual currents in Russia, the essentialists also advocate the toughest possible foreign policy as the way toward restoring Russia’s geopolitical status of the Eurasian Heartland (Bassin and Aksenov 2006) and imperial self-sufficiency, as well as offering a new attractive idea for the world (Russkaya doktrina 2007, 11; Kholmogorov 2006; Маtveychev 2007).
Explaining Russia’s Reading of Globalization: In Lie of Conclusion
Russia’s reading of globalization is therefore different from that of the United States and suggests a substantial degree of local theorizing. Such reading is also more critical and defensive than the one frequently advanced by Western scholars of economic globalization and political democratization.
At least three factors help to account for theories of globalization in Russia – historical identity of a distinct European state, the negative experience with economic reforms during the 1990s, and the country’s status of energy producer in the world of currently skyrocketing oil prices. First, as a historical great power and a culturally distinct nation, Russia is unlikely to change in accordance with expectations of another (Western) civilization. Although many in Russia see the country as European, they also recognize Russia’s uniqueness and see the nation’s foreign policy challenge as integration with the West without losing cultural distinctiveness (Tsygankov 2008, 2011).
Second, the country’s experience with globalization and economic reform during the 1990s has been devastating. After the Soviet disintegration, Russia shrank considerably in geographic size and the failure of Western-style shock therapy reform put most of the population on the verge of poverty. The country’s preoccupation with loss of prestige in the international system, poverty, crime, and corruption degraded it from the status of a country that, under Mikhail Gorbachev saw itself catching up with the world of industrialized nations, to that of a more peripheral developing country. These changes led to a much more pessimistic outlook that further complicated engagement with the Western globalization and made it more difficult to Western theories of globalization to travel in the national context. This was the time when nationalism and neo-mercantilist geoeconomic thinking arose as dominant political philosophy and a particular synthesis of liberal and culturally essentialist principles. It was geoeconomic nationalism that was increasingly shaping the political discourse and the setting of the policy agenda.
Finally, due to high oil prices and the predominant nationalist thinking, the Kremlin is now able to capitalize on its status of energy producer and put forward a vision according to which Russia too is a maker of global rules. For example, in June 2008 President Dmitry Medvedev (2008) announced before the G8 meeting that “Russia is a global player” that wants to “to take part in the rules of the game." Medvedev blamed the United States for generating the global financial crisis by trying to substitute for the global commodities and financial markets, and he proposed an overhaul of the international economic order. Russia’s intervention in Georgia in August 2008, in response to the latter’s violence against a pro-Russian autonomy (South Ossetia), too indicates the Kremlin’s determination to defend Russia’s interests as it sees fit, without assistance from or consultation with Western nations. By mobilizing its energy power, the Kremlin has also contributed to reversing the colored revolutions in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. After being seriously hit by the global financial crisis, Russia has quickly recovered as an important international player.
Overall, Russia’s case reinforces the view that academic theorizing is highly sensitive to developments in the policy world and tends to reproduce biases and expectations of the policy-making community (Tsygankov and Tsygankov 2010). Unlike their Western colleagues, Russian academics have been in business of responding to, rather than promoting the West’s global economic and political values. Realism and critical political economy are in a better position to assist Russia in finding ways to coexist with and benefit from globalization because these approaches take seriously the challenge of international adjustment under the conditions of global structural inequality. They are principally different from cultural essentialists that deny the very legitimacy of coexisting with the Western globalization, and from liberal scholars that do not recognize the structural inequality for a key obstacle to Russia’s successful adaptation to the international system. It seems clear that concepts and theories of pluralistic unipolarity, cultural dialogue and Eurasian regional order will continue to resonate with the Russian IR audiences. It remains to be seen, however, what form Russia’s distinct contributions to IR theory may take in a future and whether they will resonate with the larger international audience.
Alekseyeva, Tatyana (2007) Rossiya v prostranstve global’nogo vospriyatiya (Russia in the space of global perception). Mezhdunarodnyye protsessy 5, 2, May-August
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