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Title: Russia and the international struggle around Afghanistan, 2001-2012 : competition and co-operation in historical perspective
Author: Sangar, Kanshko
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 0864
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This PhD thesis makes numerous original contributions to the sphere of knowledge on the topic of Russian foreign policy in Central Asia and Afghanistan, and this is achieved by its research questions, framework, methodology and approach, structure and main findings. It is the first and only study that attempts to examine in sequence Russia’s relations on Afghanistan with a group of states in 2001-2012 in a historical and geopolitical context as well as Russia’s role and interests in Afghanistan from early 19th century until Taliban and post-Taliban periods. The thesis is guided by following research questions: (a) why, from Russia’s perspective, has Afghanistan historically been significant in Russia’s struggle against its adversaries, and why is this central when researching these issues; (b) what are Russia’s main interests in 21st century Afghanistan, a country bordering its “backyard” and “underbelly,” the strategically-important Central Asia; (c) what are the specifics of Russia’s relations with key players in Afghanistan, and to what extent has Russia succeeded in defending its national interests in Afghanistan and the wider region?; and, (d) how can Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan and its ties with all major regional powers explain Russian’s broader foreign policy approaches since 2001? The study’s main finding is that Russia’s relations with key players and other countries in their dealings with Afghanistan frequently go against the wider relationship with these countries. This is due to a number of significant motives that are explored in this thesis. Firstly, while Central Asian dominance played a crucial role in Russia’s self-perception as a “Great Power” throughout the history examined in this study the construct of Afghanistan as a buffer zone and as a region to pressure Russia’s Central Asian “soft underbelly” is deeply entrenched in Russia’s geopolitical culture and strategic-thinking. Thus, the history of Russia’s engagement with the West plays an integral role in Moscow’s foreign policy articulations vis-à-vis Afghanistan and major regional geo-political actors. In the 21st-century, in addition to becoming a source of a security threats, Afghanistan became critical for Moscow because it was of great significance to Russia’s “Great Power” identity, to Moscow’s approaches to the strategically-important “near abroad,” and to the country’s domestic socio-economic policies due to increasing use of illicit drugs emanating from Afghanistan. Furthermore, the landlocked country became a critical factor in Moscow’s relationship with all other geo-political players in Eurasia, predominantly the United States but also China, India, Pakistan, Iran and the five Central Asian states. In a detailed and in-depth empirical investigation of Russia’s bilateral and multilateral relationships not only with Afghanistan itself but also with the other active players in Afghanistan this study also demonstrates that Russia is a declining “Great Power” in terms of its influence in the region; this thesis also contends that Russia’s foreign policy did not follow a strategy between 2001 and 2012 – it was situational and tactically driven and Russia did not plan a neo-imperial expansion since Putin’s rise. Finally, this study concludes that Russia often trumpets (Pokazukha) its foreign policy, creating the illusion of a “Greatpowerness.” Indeed, on the regional level, Russian foreign policies were situational and Moscow's initiatives would focus on issues and problems that the Kremlin found beneficial at that particular moment. The Russian authorities, in other words, would be occupied with issues that were beneficial from a PR and political technology perspective, e.g. demonstrating to the Russian people that Moscow is a significant regional player and impressing Russia’s rivals and enemies - if there were no such component, Moscow would simply ignore the matter and consequently avoid involvement.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available