To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and the emergence of fifteen new states in its place seemingly brought to an end the imperial tradition of Russian domination over various peoples conquered and absorbed into the Russian/Soviet empire over more than half a millennium. Yet as I demonstrate in this chapter, political leaders in Moscow have been committed to returning Russia to the status of a great power since the very creation of the new Russian state. This includes the re-establishment of much of the imperial political order that collapsed in 1991. Before continuing with an examination of the emergence of Russia’s more assertive approach to dealing with the world, it is important to note the international environment in which Russian policy developed. To a substantial degree, Western (especially US) policy since the collapse of the former USSR was based on the assumption that Russia’s demise as a great power would be permanent. Throughout the 1990s, and even after the turn of the century, Russia’s interests and concerns were largely ignored, as both the United States and the Western community more broadly moved to fulfil their own political and security objectives in post-communist Europe; objectives that included the incorporation of most of Central and East European post-Soviet space into Western security, political and economic institutions.
Initially, as the Russian state found itself in virtual political and economic free-fall under President Yeltsin, the objective of re-establishing Russia’s great power status seemed little more than rhetoric. Even though Russia did employ its greatly reduced military capabilities in the attempt to play a role in those Soviet successor states challenged by internal conflict (often facilitated by clandestine Russian military interference), the prospect of the Russian Federation rejoining the ranks of major global actors seemed remote. More recently under Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, however, Russian self-confidence has been buoyed by the rising price of oil and gas, the revitalisation of other sectors of the economy, and the reassertion of Moscow’s administrative control over the vast territory of the Russian Federation itself. As a result, more sophisticated diplomatic and economic instruments, including what amounts to economic blackmail, have become a central component of Russia’s reassertion of authority within what Moscow views as its traditional and legitimate sphere of influence.
The late twentieth century witnessed remarkable changes in Soviet domestic and foreign policy. Eastern Europe sprang free of the country that held it in its grip for over forty years. The Soviet leadership has accepted the reunification of Germany and supported the US-sponsored resolution in the UN permitting the use of force in the Gulf against one of its former allies. Moreover, the leadership's quest for stability during a time of rapid technological, economic and political change seriously weakened the position of the Soviet Union on the international scene. This volume assesses those dramatic changes. It chronicles the debate within the Soviet Union over the success and validity of perestroika and the 'new thinking' on foreign affairs, the policy alternatives supported by various groups within the elite and their likely impact on future policies.
In the spring of 1985, when Mikhail S. Gorbachev assumed the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, relations with developing countries were still at the center of Soviet foreign policy. Despite growing evidence of a reconsideration of this emphasis among Soviet analysts, the USSR remained deeply involved in regional conflicts across the entire spectrum of the Third World – from Cambodia and Afghanistan in Asia to the Horn and Angola in Africa and Nicaragua and El Salvador in Central America. Western analysts asserted that the role of the Soviet Union as a global power was based almost exclusively on its military capabilities, including both command over ever more sophisticated nuclear and conventional armaments and expanding military involvement in Third World regional conflicts. Moreover, in their view, the military stalemate in US–Soviet relations had deflected Soviet superpower aspirations toward the Third World.
After 1985 the Soviet Union underwent revolutionary changes in both its domestic and its foreign policy. In the foreign policy area the initial focus of these changes emphasized the reduction of conflict with the West, especially the United States, as an essential element of the overall reform of Soviet society. The result was a series of agreements on arms limitations and a dramatic improvement in the international political atmosphere. In addition, developments in the Soviet–East European relationship throughout 1989 and 1990 were of historic importance and resulted in the collapse of Soviet-imposed Marxist–Leninist regimes in East-Central Europe and the emergence of independent states, as well as structural changes in the entire political-security balance in Europe.