James W. Peterson
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Theoretical approaches
Models of power, systems theory, critical junctures, legacies, realism, and realism revised
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There are five models that analysts have utilized in efforts to depict accurately the evolution of the Russian-American relationship from the late Cold War through the first part of the twenty-first century. While bipolarity characterized the early days of the Cold War, it yielded to a multipolar model in the last decades of that period. Post-Cold war patterns have centered on early American-centered unipolarity, re-emergence of multipolarity, and at times complex or chaotic patterms. In addition, five theories cast light on many of the details of the relationship. While legacy theory displays how some features of the communist past carry over into the post-communist period, the concept of critical junctures pulls our attention to key transitions in the political life and relationship of both powers. Debates about individual foreign policy decisions by both often center on the dialogue between realists and post- or revised-realist theoreticians.

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