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The book presents a detailed analysis of Russia’s involvement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the turbulent period since the Arab uprisings in 2011. It examines the key policy challenges faced by Russia in the MENA region, in the context both of its own domestic politics and of a changing international system, offering a conceptually rich study that reflects the profound complexity of the evolution of Russian foreign policy over the last decade. The book incorporates chapters on Russia’s involvement in MENA politics and its engagement with other key actors external to the region; Russia’s political and military involvement in the Syrian civil war; the domestic sources of its foreign policymaking in the MENA region; its contest with the Western powers over international norms; its response to the challenge posed by Islamist extremism in the MENA region, including the return of foreign fighters to Russia’s North Caucasus; and its political-military and economic interests in the MENA region. The concluding chapter offers some key insights into Russia’s MENA strategy and analyses the implications of its involvement there for its broader foreign policy, not least its war with Ukraine. The book responds to the surge of interest in Russia’s more assertive strategy following its military campaigns in Syria and Ukraine, challenging arguments expressed in the existing literature while offering an original and vivid account of Russian thinking and decision-making since the inception of the Arab Spring.

Interpreting change
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This book focuses on the Western difficulties in interpreting Russia. It begins by reflecting on some of the problems that are set in the foundations of Russia's post-Cold War relationship with the West. The book points to problems that emerge from linguistic and historical 'interpretation'. It looks at the impact of Russia's decline as a political priority for the West since the end of the Cold War and the practical impact this has had. It then reflects on the rising influence, especially, but not only, in public policy and media circles, of 'transitionology' as the main lens through which developments in Russia were interpreted. The book then examines the evolution of the West's relationship with Russia since the end of the Cold War, focusing particularly on the NATO–Russia relationship. It focuses on the chronological development of relations and the emergence of strategic dissonance from 2003. The book also looks at Russian domestic politics, particularly the Western belief in and search for a particular kind of change in Russia, a transition to democracy. It continues the exploration of domestic politics, but turns to address the theme of 'Putinology', the focus on Putin as the central figure in Russian politics.

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This book offers a nuanced and detailed examination of Russia’s international activity. In broad terms, the book contributes to two of the most important current debates about contemporary Russian actions: whether Moscow is acting strategically or opportunistically, and whether this should be understood in regional or global terms. The book goes against the majority opinions on both questions, and introduces contributions in a number of under-researched themes. It argues that Moscow is not acting in a simply ad hoc, reactive way, but in a consistently strategic manner, and that this is best understood not by analysing Russia’s return to specific regions, but in a more holistic way with a global horizon, linking activity across different regions. This means that the Russian challenge is likely to continue rather than fade away.

The book addresses core themes of Russian activity – military, energy, and economic. But it offers an unusual multi-disciplinary analysis to these themes, incorporating both regional and thematic specialist expertise. Underpinned by detailed analyses of the revolution in Russian geospatial capabilities and the establishment of a strategic planning foundation, the book includes chapters on military and maritime strategies, energy security, and economic diversification and influence. This serves to highlight the connections between military and economic interests that shape and drive Russian strategy.

The struggle for balance in Europe
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History overshadows Germany’s relations with Russia today, greatly complicating Berlin’s efforts to design effective policies to manage the challenge posed by Russia to Europe’s stability. This book examines the impact of Germans’ intense and dramatic relationship with Russia going back centuries to explain the failure of Berlin’s Russia policy after 1991. It focused heavily on ‘soft’ power by promoting people to people contacts and encouraging trade. Grateful for Moscow’s blessing of reunification and anxious to avoid confrontation, German policymakers ignored Russia’s drift to authoritarianism, its growing confidence fuelled by high commodity prices and its gradual alienation from Europe. Confrontation was inevitable once Russia no longer felt bound by the security principles that ended the Cold War. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a deep shock to the German elites. It caused a sharp shift in Russia policy as Chancellor Merkel led a European response to stabilise Ukraine, which included imposing economic sanctions on Russia. However, true to its old instincts, Germany continued to promote energy cooperation with Russia and even supported the expansion of a gas pipeline from Germany to Russia that was damaging to Ukraine. The book discusses these policies and their outcomes and argues that the economic relationship is overstated and camouflages the true state of overall relations. The analysis also considers the issue of Russian influence in Germany and the dangers it poses. The book concludes that Germany needs to think strategically about Russia and to define policy goals based on interests not emotions.

The book examines the re-emergence of Russia as a sea power. After years of post-Soviet decline, Moscow has invested substantial resources in establishing Russia as a ‘leading seafaring nation’ of the twenty-first century. The book examines the plans, priorities, and problems in this strategy and why this is important for the West. It describes the historical underpinnings of Russia’s sea power, and then examines both contemporary naval strategy and the economic and industrial underpinnings of the “maritime turn” in Russian strategy.