Western Expansion on Russian Security Policy

Western Expansion on Russian Security Policy
Western Expansion on Russian Security Policy
Russia’s security policy strategic course and orientation are the most crucial of issues
involved in the interaction between Russia, the west and also neutral partners. The policies are
more influenced by Western expansion in Europe and especially the Euro Atlantic relations such
as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
In the recent years relations between Russia and the West has increasingly deteriorated
and caused tensions that have led to the speculation that a new cold war is underway. There are
several issues that have led to the deterioration of the relations. These are such as the NATO
expansion into territories that were in the former Soviet Union; this has been seen as challenging
Russia’s influence in the region. The democratisation of the countries that were former soviet has
also contributed to Russia losing influence in the region. The exclusion of Russia in the
maintenance of global order has also contributed to the friction between it and the western
powers. The Ukraine conflict and the worsening relations between the west and Russia following
the crisis has seen Russia renew its military doctrine and change the it security policies and
interaction since 2014 (Katri, 2018).
This paper will look at the effect that western expansion has on Russian’s security policy.
Russia’s role in the region and especially in the regions considered former Soviet Union is to
maintain regional order that is in line with the global order. This is one of the issues that inform
its security policy. As the security of the region is directly connected with that of Russia. The
western expansion is seen to threaten its borders; an example of such perceived threat is the
Ukraine crisis. Following the conflict in Ukraine, Russia was worried that NATO would take the
opportunity and set up base in Crimea challenging its fleet in the Black Sea. This resulted in
Russia annexing Crimea. This paper will look at how such and other events including western
expansion strategies impact Russia security policy. Russian security policy is influenced by its
soviet past, its domestic politics and its Russia – US and NATO – Russia relations.
Russian’s Security Policy Foundations
Russia’s political culture, historical context, and psychological factors are important in
understanding the current security policy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a problem of
identity had plagued Russians. According to Cimbala (2013), from the Soviet Union, Russia
inherited policies that were militaristic in nature or rich in military thought. Russia’s military and
political thinking was grounded in ideologies and experiences through which the Soviet Union
and the Communist Party saw the world. Since the term of Boris Yeltsin and now Vladmir Putin,
Moscow has been trying to construct an effective and coherent security policy that will
encompass Russia’s identity and still be in line with the Russian elite’s expectations. However,
according to Piotrowski, (2002), there are three schools of thought that have been used by
Russians to view themselves historical. These are what inform Russia’s geostrategic orientation.
The first school of thought is the Westernizers. This is the Russian ideology that
prioritises modernisation of Russia and advocates for relations that are cordial with Europe. They
advocate for a strategic partnership with members of the United Nations Security Council and
the European Union. The other school of thought is the Great Russians. They assert the main
goals and priority for Russia should be laying foundations for a Great Russia or a rebirth of a
great country. Proponents of this school of thought are nationalists who advocate for the return of
the Byzantine traditions, the Orthodox Church and other symbols of Russia’s past. They
emphasize on the Russian language and the rights of Russian speaking individuals in other
countries. The third school of thought is the Eurasianists. They believe that the United States is
the most expansionist power and is hostile to Russia. They advocate for a creation of a power
bloc between Russia and countries dissatisfied with the United States in Eurasia. They also argue
that Russia has no conflict with the Islamic world, India and China and that there is a possibility
for uniting these partners to create a strong Russian influence (Piotrowski, 2002).
Russia’s security policy cannot be separated between internal and external policies. The
policies do not follow the separation between regional, foreign and domestic agenda. This is
because of the nature of what drives the security agenda which looks at the regimes security
being linked to regional and therefore foreign issues. The security agenda has evolved through
the view of what and who is deemed to be the main threat to the nation and current regimes. This
can be seen by the domestic security policies targeting those challenging Putin’s regime and its
legitimacy. This has been implemented parallel to the deteriorating relations with the west. It
also includes concerns about such events as the Euromadian, the Arab Spring and threats that the
events would influence anti-regime dissent in Russia (Aglaya, 2015).
The regime looks at the west as the cause of its troubles domestically, accusing them of
funding non-governmental organisation to cause dissent and oppose the regime. This domestic
securitisation showed that Russia was losing its influence and that the regime was trying to cling
to Russia international glory on the backdrop of a poor economy and ant –regime sentiment
(Aglaya, 2015). However, the involvement of Russia in the two international security crises,
Syria and Ukraine, change that impression. Putin was able to galvanise support domestically as
the elite saw that Russia was gaining back its geopolitical and international influence. Russia was
now turning into a more assertive role in handling regional and international affairs.
Therefore, the security agenda is formed on the backdrop of these issues of Russian
identity and building back Russia’s assertive role internationally and regionally. Russian security
policy to be seen as effective and coherent has to include the two issues.
Relations between Russia and the West
The Ukraine crisis and the resulting deterioration in relations between the west and
Russia is just an indication of the incompatible strategic priorities that are deep rooted. The
welcomed thoughts of a partnership with Russia were only so as long as Russia was seen to be
weak, while the perceived threat of the West to Russia was only seen as hypothetical. Hence,
now that Western expansion places Russia the pressure of its influence being threatened and it
having the capability of reacting to that threat, the relations between the two have returned to
what they have always been. This means continued confrontation and conflict (Keir, 2015).
Recent events have shown that relations between Russia and the west have been
characterised by increasing hostilities. This is seen as a departure from the cooperation that had
been experienced especially in the fight against the terrorism in 2001. The increased hostilities
have been fuelled by expansion of the NATO into areas considered former Soviet, and the
growing influence of the European Union in these areas. This has led Russia to lose influence in
the region and its regional order has come under threat which in turn is seen as a threat to its
security. According to Keith (2017), the result of western expansion has seen Russia’s security
agenda become more assertive and threatening. There has been an increase in foreign military
initiatives, defensive actions, increasing expansion of nuclear arms and conventional programs
and non-compliance in the egregious arms control.
This aggressiveness has been seen through increased use of military force in Crimea, the
Ukraine and Syria in support of the Assad’s regime. This has also been recognised by NATO’s
leadership, NATO US General Curtis Scaparotti, commented that Russia has been rebuilding its
force in a plan to increase its influence global influence as a world power (Renz, 2016). Renz
(2016), further asserts that Russian conduct and security policy rhetoric towards the west and
especially NATO is increasingly becoming more aggressive than it was in the past decade.
However, Renz also argues that an aggressive security policy does not necessarily mean that
Russia is preparing for a direct confrontation with the west. Rather a powerful security policy is
essential in portraying Russia as strong global actor and regaining its regional influence. Legvold
(2016), also argues that the worsening relations between the West and Russia are not primarily
going to turn into a full blown conflict such a new cold, like policy experts have suggested. This
is because neither Russia nor the West, in this case the United States, is interested in a conflict
such as the cold war.
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