IR479      Half Unit
Russia in World Politics

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Tomila Lankina


This course is available on the MSc in EU Politics, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

The course offers an analysis of key issues in the development of Russian foreign and security policies and the role that it plays in global politics. It is primarily intended for the courses listed above and is available an an outside option on the MSc in Comparative Politics students with permission from the course convenor.



There are no formal prerequisites but some knowledge of social science methods and an interest in Russian politics will be taken for granted.

Course content

The course covers the various factors shaping Russian foreign and security policy. It will explore both the traditional foreign policy and security issues, such as Russia’s recent military build-up, economic power projection, the geopolitics of oil and gas, as well as soft power and soft security aspects of Russia’s foreign policy, including the role of the media and propaganda; hybrid warfare; the role of ideas and norms; we will also explore the historical legacies influencing how Russia sees the world and its neighbours. Each of the ten topics covered will speak to the major theoretical debates on the factors shaping security and foreign policy and students will be encouraged to evaluate the merits of the various theories based on available evidence. The background seminar focuses on the domestic and international context preceding Russia’s emergence as a successor to the Soviet Union. The subsequent sessions analyse post-communist Russian foreign policy with a special focus on foreign policy under President Putin, including the military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, the securitisation of Russia’s media and Russia’s attempts to influence politics in the EU and beyond.

Some of the questions to be addressed in the course of the ten seminars are: How have domestic institutions and political regime change following the collapse of the USSR impacted on foreign policy making and thinking? How has Russia sought to use traditional security mechanisms, hard power and soft power to influence the “near abroad”? What explains the failure of “reset” policy between the US and Russia? Has Russian engagement with Europe and its main institutions, the EU and NATO, suggested that it is part of or apart from Europe? What are the key mechanisms of Western influence on Russia’s foreign policy? What kind of a relationship has Russia forged with China and what are the factors shaping this relationship? What drives the nuances of Russia’s policy in the Middle East? What role do energy politics play in Russia’s relations with its neighbours and in Russia's foreign policy globally? The final section will address the question of the other longer-term historical influences shaping the foreign policy of Russia.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

1. There will be ten two-hour student-led seminars. An outline of the seminar topics is posted separately on the Moodle site. Please confirm details of scheduling on the Sessional Timetable. The seminars are organised around topics, listed on the Seminar Program document on the Moodle site and at the end of the consolidated reading list. The allocation of topics for student presentations and book / article reviews will be agreed at the first, organisational, session. All seminars are compulsory, as is active class participation.

3. Students who are new to international politics are advised to attend the lectures for IR202, Foreign Policy Analysis.

4. Students are expected to engage in independent study, using the reading list to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 presentation, 1 other piece of coursework and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

Each student will write a review of one of the required readings in no more than 500 words.

In the course of the academic term, each student will be also expected to make one presentation on a given topic. Presenters will be expected to distribute, via email, a 1 paragraph summary of the main points of their presentations to Professor Lankina and students in advance of the seminar.

Students will also produce a 2-3 page outline of their assessed essay by Week 6 of the Lent term, in the week following the Reading Week.  This will include a research question, an overview of the argument, a draft structure and an indicative reading list.  Students will receive approval of their research question and feedback on the outline by the end of Week 7. 

Indicative reading

Stent, Angela, The Limits of Partnership: U.S-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015

Mankoff, Jeffrey, Russian Foreign Policy: The Return of Great Power Politics. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009 (or 2016, 2017 edition if available)

Allison, Roy, Russia, the West, and Military Intervention. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013

Tsygankov, Andrei, Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National

Identity. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 4th edition, 2016

Tsygankov, Andrei, Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin: Honor in International Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Cadier, David and Light, Margot, (eds.) Russia's Foreign Policy: Ideas, Domestic Politics and External Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015


Essay (80%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (20%) in the LT.

By week 2 of ST, students should submit 1 essay of 5,000 words (including notes and citations). Students will also produce a 2-3 page outline of their assessed essay by Week 6 of the Lent term, in the week following the Reading Week.  This will include a research question, an overview of the argument, a draft structure and an indicative reading list.  Students will receive approval of their research question and feedback on the outline by the end of Week 7.  The purpose of the essay is to provide experience of summarising arguments succinctly and engaging with complex material.

Criteria for assessment of essays: The extended essay will be assessed based on demonstration of ability to summarise the key arguments in the debate around particular topics covered in the class, and to present and defend evidence supporting a given perspective, in a succinct manner.

A guide to essay questions will be provided at the beginning of the term and students will chose 1 out of 4 questions. 

The essay will constitute 80% of the summative assessment mark.

Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions.  Class participation will constitute 20% of the summative assessment mark. 


Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication