Interpreting change

This book focuses on the Western difficulties in interpreting Russia. It begins with by reflecting on some of the problems that are set in the foundations of Russia's post-Cold War relationship with the West. The book points to problems that emerge from linguistic and historical 'interpretation'. It looks at the impact of Russia's decline as a political priority for the West since the end of the Cold War and the practical impact this has had. It then reflects on the rising influence, especially, but not only, in public policy and media circles, of 'transitionology' as the main lens through which developments in Russia were interpreted. The book then examines the evolution of the West's relationship with Russia since the end of the Cold War, focusing particularly on the NATO-Russia relationship. It focuses on the chronological development of relations and the emergence of strategic dissonance from 2003. The book also looks at Russian domestic politics, particularly the Western belief in and search for a particular kind of change in Russia, a transition to democracy. It continues the exploration of domestic politics, but turns to address the theme of 'Putinology', the focus on Putin as the central figure in Russian politics.

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Reinterpreting Russia in the twenty-first century

The war in Ukraine has served to refocus Western political attention on Russia through the lens of the potential threat it poses to the West: Breedlove is one of many senior officials who have emphasised concerns that a ‘revanchist’ and aggressive Russia poses a challenge that is ‘global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary’. 1 British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

in The new politics of Russia
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‘We’ve moved on’

conceptual gap in how Russia and the West interpret international affairs. When used by Western officials and observers, this phrase has often indicated Russia fatigue: ‘we’ve moved on’ has meant that the West has moved on from the political and security priorities of the Cold War era, and Russia, seen by many to be a declining power, is no longer among the new priorities – not least because it has not moved

in The new politics of Russia
Open Access (free)
The state of surprise

largely unanticipated, as for many was the Russian military deployment to Syria in autumn 2015. More precisely, however, it is another rude awakening. Since the ‘founding surprise’ of the collapse of the USSR – still for many the exemplary failure of expert political prediction 4 – Western officials and observers have been repeatedly surprised by developments in Russian

in The new politics of Russia
Open Access (free)
Deciphering power in Russia

the wider Russian political landscape, whether from the population or from the political elite, or both. This has evolved into a heightened focus on the personalised nature of Russian power, and it has provided a platform for much speculation about the increasing narrowness of Putin’s advisory circle, the inherent instability of ‘Putin’s’ system and consequently (again) about the Putin era coming to

in The new politics of Russia

(finally) of the urban middle class as a revitalising force in Russian political life after the ‘de-democratisation’ of Vladimir Putin’s second term as president and the disappointments of Dmitri Medvedev’s term. The almost unanimous enthusiasm the protests generated in the mainstream Western discussion led to the emergence of an expert orthodoxy that they represented the beginning of the end of the Putin

in The new politics of Russia
Russia as ‘a Europe apart’

to global politics and economics. But he also pointed to what Moscow saw as selective and politicised approaches to a common history, and added that ‘it is highly symptomatic that the current differences with Russia are interpreted by many in the West as a need simply to bring Russia’s policies closer in line with those of the West. But we do not want to be embraced in this way’. 4 If senior officials continue to stress the

in The new politics of Russia

of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests’ ( ibid ., 2018), including of the Israel–Palestine conflict, politics in North Korea and the UK’s departure from the EU. In Syria, there is a fervent propaganda war between the Americans, Russians and Iranians, and between rebel and regime groups. All are extremely active online. Pro-regime Russian content producers have created websites and attacked groups like the White Helmets

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

has been greatly exaggerated, then you will doubt that those changes are likely to pose any existential challenge to the humanitarian international, be it in terms of the efficacy of what relief groups do in the field or in terms of the political and moral legitimacy they can aspire to enjoy. But if, on the contrary, you believe that we are living in the last days of a doomed system – established in the aftermath of World War II and dominated by the US – then the humanitarian international is no more likely to survive (or to put the matter more

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction

distortions. And as liberal hopes for a pacific and technocratic utopia have taken leave of empirical reality, the assumption of progress has been sustained primarily through myth-making and cognitive gymnastics. Fake news is not the antithesis of liberal truth but its progeny. Nonetheless, the notion of liberal order is useful to the extent that it signals the role of liberal ideas and politics in the consolidation of Western hegemony and, more specifically, the expansion of American power. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, set out in 1941

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs