Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 May 2001
Theory, politics, and the Cold War
In this review I examine academic study on Russian foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, with special emphasis on relations with the United States. It is common, when discussing the study of international politics during the Cold War, to refer to the ‘dominance’, or ‘hegemony’, of Realism, and then to argue that the unanticipated end of the ‘bipolar’ conflict demonstrates the failure of the theory for not having been able, due to its focus on structural features of material power, to foresee its peaceful conclusion. Although there is much wrong with Realism as a theory in explaining international politics at this time, it should be noted that there were other contending approaches that also got the Cold War wrong. Similarly, those specialists writing on Soviet foreign policy who shared realist assumptions, and hence constructed their analytical frameworks on the basis of geopolitics and the pursuit of the national interest, were also unable to conceive of an end to the bipolar conflict. Others, who did perceive change on the basis of alterations in the relative power capabilities between the two major powers, predicted that this would lead not to a peaceful resolution of the Cold War, but to violent conflict. This was the view of Edward Luttwak, who suggested in 1983 that the weakness of the Soviet economy would lead to declining faith in the political regime and ultimately to a greater willingness to engage in military adventures.