The Transition Project: Russia at Peace with the World

Russia’s position on the world map is such that it cannot but play a key role in international politics. It is all the worse for it that this role in recent years has been exclusively negative and harmful to the existing world order. 

The liberal or idealistic thesis of this chapter is as follows: despite the current crisis, Russia has a chance to survive as a significant subject of international relations in the 21st century only if it builds a stable democracy at home, because this will make the foreign policy course of our country predictable, peaceful and relevant to the norms, rules and institutions of the liberal international order. Otherwise, Russia will face long decades of isolation from the developed world and almost inevitable disintegration into states of different levels of insolvency and backwardness at war against all.

Foreign policy issues in Russia have traditionally remained the business of a narrow circle of high-ranking diplomats and military officers. Professionals know better how to rearrange the pieces on the great chessboard. Before the First World War, this was also the case in democratic countries: political parties did not debate international relations, leaving it to their notional MGIMO graduates to decide. However, when these «professionals» brought about a monstrous war that took millions of lives across Europe, politicians and public figures in Britain and the United States of necessity became concerned about international relations and made them the subject of their active involvement. People with war-scarred faces discovered a new field of knowledge. International relations became the subject of independent academic research and public political debate.

In Russia, this practice has not yet taken root; graduates of MGIMO and intelligence schools still retain a monopoly on «professionalism» in international relations. One of the tasks of genuine democratization of our country is to make foreign policy a subject of public debate and put it at the service of citizens, not a privileged group of bureaucrats and powerbrokers. This text represents the first attempt to talk about Russian foreign policy from the perspective of civil society and humanitarian knowledge rather than state interest.

We continue to publish chapters of The Transition Project, a step-by-step expert guide to democratic transformations in Russia after the change of power.

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