Thanks are due to many people. First, this book was
written during my time at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and I am
grateful to Alex Pravda and Roy Allison for their support. It is also the
product of my work over a longer period, and it draws on and develops work
done at the NATO Defence College, Rome, and in the Russia and Eurasia
Programme at Chatham House. Particular thanks therefore go to Dieter
Löser, Grant Hammond, Rich Hooker and participants in the Roman Baths
Advisory Group for their support and friendship in Rome, and to James Nixey,
Lubica Pollakova and all my colleagues at Chatham House.
I have benefited from the support, patience and courtesy
of many librarians, and would like to thank Simon Blundell, Richard Ramage
at St Antony’s, the library team at the NDC, and David Bates and his
team at Chatham House. I am also grateful to Jan Techau at Carnegie Europe,
Caroline Soper at International Affairs and Amanda Moss at Chatham
House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, for permission to draw
on and develop material already published.
Caroline Wintersgill commissioned and encouraged the
book, and I am grateful to her and to my publishers, Manchester University
Press for their skilful support in seeing the book through to
Many individuals have also helped to shape the thinking
that lies behind this book. I have enjoyed and benefited from discussions
with many Western officials in the UK, USA, NATO and EU, and also many
Russians. I greatly appreciate the frank terms on which of these exchanges
were held. Similarly, discussions with Florence Gaub, Nazrin Mehdiyeva,
David Hamon, Patrick Porter, Beatrice Heuser, David Glantz, Wayne
Allensworth, Hew Strachan and Rob Johnson, among many others, have
stimulated my thinking. Particular thanks go to three anonymous peer
reviewers, Jake Kipp, Dov Lynch, Julian Cooper,
Silvana Malle, L.-J. O’Neill, Rob Dover, Keir Giles, Henry
Plater-Zyberk, Don Jensen and Emily Ferris for taking the time to discuss
the book’s themes and read drafts of parts or all of the text. Their
comments have been invaluable, and for the most part incorporated into the
text. Where I have failed to do so, and for any remaining errors, I have
only myself to blame.
In Russia, I have benefited from much warmth and
hospitality. I would like to thank Boris Mikhailovich, Mikhail Borisovich,
Viktor Nikolaevich and Ekaterina Vladimirovna for their kindness and
generosity in looking after me in various ways. The book would not have been
the same without the work of Arkadiy Zvezdin and Lazar Vaysbeyn.
Finally, most of all, my thanks and love go to my family,
Charles and Dorothy Monaghan and Yulia, for their patient and unfailing
support and encouragement. Without them the book could not have been
written, and so it is dedicated to them, and to Lara Andreevna whose happy
presence is eternally felt.
This chapter explores the reasons for the state of surprise, sketching them out from the starting point of the significant impact of the collapse of the USSR on Western understandings of Russia. It also explores the practical ramifications for the decline of Russia as a political priority on the wider political stage. The chapter outlines some of the problems of the current mainstream discussion of Russia, which is drowning in a discourse of speculation and rumour, 'Putinology' and historical analogies. Despite the dominance of transitological/regime question approach and the perceived eccentricity of Kremlinology, for many it has remained a truism of Russian political life that the final decisions are made behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. In fact, the collapse of the USSR has had serious ramifications for the study of Russia in the West, resulting in a major reassessment of Soviet studies, often bitter and acrimonious.
This chapter first sketches out an overview of the various understandings of the Russian political landscape, framing the considerable long-term continuity in post-Cold War Russian politics. Since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, 'Putinology' has dominated the mainstream Western discussion about Russia. The 'Solar system' or 'Planets' model depicts relationships as they relate to Putin, who is the 'sun' at the core of the system. 'Putinology' is thus entrenching an analytical context in which various assumptions are made about how 'Putin's Russia' and how it approaches its international actions. The chapter then turns to assess the vertical of power, framing it as a cascade from the core leadership team at the top, to 'federal locomotives', to those tasked with management. Finally, it looks at some of those who appear to be emerging figures, as managers and as players in the 'reset'.