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Domestic politics drives Putin's foreign policy, says new LSE book

A major new book on Russia’s foreign policy concludes that internal political objectives of regime consolidation drive Russia’s foreign policy and that this influences its behaviour in Ukraine.

Russia's Foreign Policy. Ideas, Domestic Politics and External Relations, edited by David Cadier, Fellow in International Strategy and Diplomacy at LSE, and Margot Light, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at LSE, includes analyses from 11 renowned experts coming from around the world and writing from different viewpoints (academics, former practitioners and think tank analysts). It is the first comprehensive investigation of the kind since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis.Kremlin

The book, published on July 2, opens the black box of Russia’s foreign policy to analyse, in particular, the drivers of its actions in and around Ukraine. It starts by examining the new trends that have characterised Russia’s foreign policy during Vladimir Putin’s third Presidential term. These trends include:

  • An increasingly nationalistic tone in foreign policy discourse, strongly emphasising conservative and traditional values.
  • The growing characterisation of Europe as a threat.
  • A renewed attempt to constitute the post-Soviet space as a political buffer zone.
  • A rhetorical ‘pivot’ to Asia.

The book argues that these changes are driven by objectives and imperatives linked to domestic regime consolidation. It shows how certain recent external and internal developments have gradually exacerbated regime insecurity and Putin’s personal political insecurity. These developments include: the colour revolutions movements of the mid-2000s; the deterioration of the Russian economy following the financial crisis of 2008/9 and the plunge of oil prices; and the public protests in Russia after the 2011 parliamentary elections.

Domestic measures of regime consolidation have spilled over into foreign policy. Dr Cadier and Professor Light explain: “Putin’s strategy of regime consolidation has affected foreign policy both because some internal measures and postures have ramifications for Russia’s external behaviour and because international politics constitutes an arena where Putin can score points with the domestic audience”.

“Since 2012, this strategy has consisted in insulating the regime from external influences, consolidating of the regime’s internal cohesion and renewing Putin’s support base. This has led in particular to a practical, rhetorical and ideational distancing of the West and of Europe.”

The book’s findings have implications for the prospect of a settlement of the continuing conflict in Ukraine and, more broadly, for European and Western strategies towards Russia.

cadier book

Endorsements include Professor Robert Legvold from Columbia University, who concludes: “These days understanding why Russia is as it is not easy. This book makes it easier”.

"This edited volume is the right book at the right time and by the right people” said Hiski Haukkala from the University of Tampere.

Stephen White from the University of Glasgow described the book as an “unusually timely fcollection” that “deserves the widest possible readership”.


Posted 2 July 2015

Further information

Journalists who would like to interview Dr Cadier or Professor Light, please contact:

Dr David Cadier, d.a.cadier@lse.ac.uk or 0207 955 6985

Professor Margot Light, M.M.Light@lse.ac.uk   

Joanna Bale, LSE Press Office, j.m.bale@lse.ac.uk or 07831 609679

For a review copy of the book: reviews@palgrave.com

For further details about the book: http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/russias-foreign-policy-david-cadier/?K=9781137468871

David Cadier is a Fellow in International Strategy and Diplomacy at LSE IDEAS and a teaching fellow in the International Relations Department at LSE. His research specializations lie in EU-Russia relations, Central and Eastern Europe and foreign policy analysis. He regularly provides comments for national and international media (TV, Radio and written press).

Margot Light is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at LSE’s Department of International Relations and Director of the Human Rights Programme in the Commonwealth of Independent States. She is an expert on post-Soviet politics, and is a frequent commentator and featured expert on both radio and television. Her research interests include east-west relations; Soviet, CIS and Russian defence, foreign and domestic policy; and eastern European foreign relations.