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Roger Kanet on The Russian Challenge to the European Security Environment

The most recent of a series of Palgrave publications on Russian foreign policy edited or coedited by Roger E. Kanet, The Russian Challenge to the European Security Environment, brings together a group of established scholars from Russia and the West. They trace the deterioration of East-West relations and Russia's growing challenge to the European security order in place for the past quarter century. Although the story that the authors tell of these changing relations varies somewhat, it generally departs from the dominant Western narrative in distributing the blame for the deterioration on both the West and Russia. During the 1990s, when Russia was attempting to adjust to its new and reduced post-Soviet status and seemed willing to join with the West, the Europe and the USA generally ignored Russia's interests and expanded their own involvement into what had been the Soviet sphere of domination. This expansionist approach culminated in the middle of the 2000s with the extension of both NATO and the EU into Central Europe and the Baltic region and with Western support for the 'colour revolutions' against Moscow's allies in Kyiv, Tbilisi, and Bishkek.

Although Russian policy toward the West had already begun to shift by the mid-1990s, it was not until Vladimir Putin became president and, most clearly, after the Bush Administration's largely unilateral invasion of Iraq and the challenge of the 'colour revolutions', that Moscow decided that the achievement of its objectives on the basis of cooperation with the West was impossible. The result has been a growing challenge to the dominant position of the West, both in Central and Eastern Europe and globally, as Russia has pursued the goal of reestablishing its position as the preeminent regional power and a top global actor.

The analyses that comprise the book begin with a focus on the growing Russian normative challenge to the existing Western-dominated world order and the fundamental incompatibility of emerging Russian policy objectives with those of the West. Russia has used both its dominant economic position in post-Soviet space and coercive diplomacy in its effort to thwart Western incursions into its 'sphere of influence' and to reestablish its position as the dominant regional power.

Russian interventions in both Ukraine and in Syria have been the most recent examples of the growing Russian–Western confrontation. The EU’s Eastern neighbourhood policy challenged Russia's plans for a new Eurasia centered on Moscow and the latter moved to stop it. The result was Russian support for Russophone secessionists in Ukraine and Moscow's absorption of Ukrainian territory in Crimea—both policies widely supported by an increasingly nationalistic Russian population.

To briefly summarise, Russian relations with the West since the demise of the USSR began with a period of possible collaboration, but a period when the West took advantage of Moscow's weakness. This played to the advantage of nationalistic forces in Russia, headed by Vladimir Putin, who are committed to reestablishing Russia's greatness, regardless of the negative impact on relations with the West. The result is the confrontation that we witness today.

Roger E. Kanet is Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. His most recent publications include a number of titles published by Palgrave Macmillan, including; Power, Politics and Confrontation in Eurasia: Foreign Policy in a Contested Area, 2015; Russia, Eurasian Integration and the New Geopolitics of Energy, 2015.

The Russian Challenge to the European Security Environment. Published by Palgrave Macmillan 2017.

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