“The collapse of the Soviet Union: 20 years on”

Russian foreign policy in the "near abroad:" Has the postimperial adjustment happened?

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Dionysios Zoumpalidis

University of Cyprus

8. Russian foreign policy in the "near abroad:" Has the postimperial adjustment happened?

Recent studies of Russian foreign policy emphasize its postimperial character. However, nationalist rhetoric and unusual assertiveness characterize much of the Russian external initiatives since the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. The character of the engagement with the so-called "near abroad" provides a litmus test of the overall nature of Russia's foreign policy and diplomacy. Moscow's attempts to transform the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization into the Eurasian analogue of NATO and a new diplomatic offensive in Ukraine betray a desire to return to great power politics and expand spheres of influence. Economic interdependence, bilateral and multilateral security arrangements and the threat of ethnic separatism are all used to tie ex-Soviet states to Russia. Meanwhile, the idea of multivectorism - that is, balancing the pro-Russian and pro-Western moves in external relations - has taken root in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The paper will examine the evolution of Russia's relations with Ukraine and Kazakhstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It will touch upon the issue of postcommunist nationalism and its impact on foreign policy. It will connect political-economic considerations and security and defense policies of these countries, on the one hand, with their policies toward Russian language and Russian ethnic minorities, on the other hand. I will seek to ground my presentation on Russia's foreign policy toward the "near abroad" in a broader ethnocultural and politics of identity contexts.

Mikhail A. Molchanov

St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB, Canada

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