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Research Report

Russia’s Quest for Strategic Identity

Stanislav Secrieru
Jean Dufourcq
Carlo Masala
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2006
Published by: NATO Defense College
Pages: 73

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-4)
  3. (pp. 5-5)
    Stanislav Secrieru
  4. (pp. 6-6)
    Cees M. COOPS
  5. (pp. 7-9)

    Since the end of the Cold War, post-Soviet Russia has experienced a profound crisis of strategic identity. Previously a self-sufficient and autonomous international actor, post-Soviet Russia not only had to rethink its domestic political and economic organizational model in depth, but also had to “confront the most significant transformation of its surrounding strategic environment in the past five centuries – the greatest change since the rise of Muscovy.”² Russia was challenged not only by the losses of strategically pivotal terrestrial and maritime strongholds, and the rise of powerful actors in its immediate vicinity, but also faced profound changes in the...

  6. (pp. 10-21)

    In times of profound crisis, the head of the state might well provide effective solutions to numerous national challenges, as was obviously the case in the past in Russia – a country with an autocratic past, weak democratic institutions and a secular tradition of personalization of power by the tsar, the leader of the Politburo, or more recently, the national President. During the so-called “time of troubles” in Russia, the role of the leader became increasingly prominent, with almost all citizens expecting a “strong hand” that would put an end to the internal chaos and make other great powers respect...

  7. (pp. 22-35)

    At the beginning of his first term in office, President Putin faced an intricate dilemma. On the one hand, he had to see how Russia - a power in retreat - could stop the decline of its position in the international system. On the other hand, his administration had to establish how to develop and improve Russia’s economic capabilities, which would allow Moscow to play from a ‘solid power’ position. His task was thus to prevent Russia’s further international decline, and at the same time to reconstitute economic power bases via internal transformation. As a pragmatic politician, President Putin sought...

  8. (pp. 36-51)

    At the beginning of the 21st century, multi-vectorism embodies another attempt by the Russian leadership to overcome a normative crisis and shape a new strategic identity. On a broader level, multi-vectoral strategy could be viewed as a Russian way of adjusting to the new international strategic setting, whilst also pursuing its own internal transformations in accordance with a conservative change model. However, on closer examination, multi-vectorism exposes Russia’s serious preoccupation with the inclusion/exclusion dilemma in formulation of its foreign policy. Therefore, great power motivation to secure a special role in the international system determined Russian decision-makers to search for a...

  9. (pp. 52-65)

    Only five years after the 1998 financial crisis and declaration of “sovereign default”, Russian strategic elites were displaying a triumphant disposition with regard to the country’s present and future. From 2004, the predominant sentiment on the Kremlin’s corridors is that another dramatic chapter in the history of Russian statehood has drawn to a close; Russia has become stronger internally, independent and self-confident externally.110 Therefore, Moscow reached the conclusion that Russia’s decline has been stopped and everything was set to reclaim great power status.111 Two sets of factors determined such an attitude in the Russian administration.

    On the face of it,...

  10. (pp. 66-68)

    Fifteen years after the demise of the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Russia remains an unfinished political project, caught between different historical epochs. The multi-faceted fusion of various eras of Russian history is clearly reflected in the current government’s “tsarist-style intrigues and successions, elements of Soviet-type loyalty, new-age utilitarianism and pragmatism – all becoming an impetus for mutually exclusive trends and possibilities”132 in domestic as well as foreign affairs. Therefore, due to its continuing normative crisis, in the years to come Russia will be an uneasy and constantly changing factor for all the main international players.

    In such circumstances, it would be...

  11. (pp. 69-70)
  12. (pp. 72-72)