Russia, NATO and the EU : the Yeltsin years
Russian foreign policy in the 1990s, though in many ways chaotic, demonstrated a
general move from an initial pro-Western strategy to a more 'independent' and
'pragmatic nationalist' strategy. The main feature of this move was a much more
critical stance towards the West. Yet the Russian leadership displayed very
different attitudes to two major Western organisations: while fiercely critical of
NATO it was neutral or positively disposed towards the ED.
The thesis tries to discover why this was so by means of two explanatory
frameworks. The first is an application of realist foreign policy theory. Neoclassical
realism explains state foreign policy through the study of the international
distribution of material power and the manner in which state elites attempt to alter
this in their favour. The second framework uses constructivist insights into national
culture. National identity strongly influences how policy-makers view the world
and the possibilities open to them. An understanding of how the national identity
debate develops helps to explain the policies they undertake.
The analysis demonstrates that each of the two schemes illuminates many aspects
of Russian policy-making in the 1990s and that they are complementary rather than
alternative approaches. Equally they leave much unanswered, and the details of
policy-making are sometimes not well explained. The suggestion is that further
research into Russian foreign policy (under Putin, for example) would require a
more detailed focus on bureaucratic politics and interpersonal rivalries within the
elite as a complement to the kind of analysis undertaken here.