The new issue of the Washington Quarterly has numerous, long articles dedicated to Russia – there is high quality information in abundance here, worthy of examination and discussion. See below for some excerpts, I’ll post a critique later on when time permits. Dmitri Trenin: Russia Redefines Itself and Its Relations with the West
Power and property are inextricably linked in Russia itself, and Russian leaders, though primarily business oriented, are not oblivious to the political influence that comes with ownership or market dominance. They reason that economic dependencies lead to political dependencies, which result in privileges. The oil and gas business, they believe, is essentially political. For decades, Western oil companies were major political players in the Third World countries in which they operated. Since the 1973 oil boycott, decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have been essentially political. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was a U.S.-driven political project, with the aim of bypassing Russia. Transit countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, have used their critical geopolitics to win concessions from their Russian suppliers. The Russians thus make no apologies for being the principal purveyor of oil and gas to the Western markets. They see it as a strength that stands out among so many Russian weaknesses. They enjoy being an energy power. … With the U.S.-Russian economic anchor being essentially absent, political relations can and probably will become substantially worse. A crisis could arise over some provocation or miscalculation in Georgia or Ukraine, should the main Ukrainian factions resume their bitter internecine fight. A resumption of hostilities in Abkhazia or South Ossetia would draw Russia in, resulting in a Russian-Georgian military confrontation, with Tbilisi appealing to the United States and Europe for protection and support. A major political split within Ukraine could also put the territorial unity of the country in question, encouraging Russian irredentists to propose holding a referendum in overwhelmingly Russian-speaking Crimea. Russia is turning nationalist, with clear anti-U.S. overtones, while the U.S. public sees Russia in an increasingly negative light. The rhetoric of both countries’ 2008 presidential elections is likely to strain relations even further. During the U.S. campaign, Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight may become an issue; and in Russia, the United States can be cast as the one country that seeks to prevent the recovery and rise of Russia. If the legitimacy of the new Russian president is questioned, the damage could be truly severe.
Celeste A. Wallander: Russian Transimperialism and Its Implications
Moscow has used its importance in global energy markets to fracture the EU’s common trade policies; to limit its neighbors’ willingness to pursue political and security relations that Russia opposes (influencing Ukraine’s new reticence on NATO membership, for example); to lay the groundwork for multifaceted cooperation with a rising China; and to create leverage for Russia’s entry into the global economy as an investor and owner. Sometimes this has been quite obvious. In November 2006, Belarus and Russia faced off in a confrontation over the state-owned gas company Gazprom’s demand that it be allowed to buy 50 percent of Beltransgas or it would triple or even quadruple the price Belarus pays for Russian natural gas.In other cases, it has been subtler. Gazprom is joint owner with a company called Centragas Holding (the ownership of which remains a mystery) of RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-registered company that serves as an intermediary for selling Russian and Central Asian gas to Europe. Instead of buying natural gas directly from Gazprom, Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz buys it at a negotiated price from RosUkrEnergo, leading corruption experts to believe that the company’s sole purpose is to generate and siphon rents in interstate energy deals. The subtlety increases the further one gets from Russia’s post-Soviet borders. In western Europe, Gazprom created a subsidiary company with minority German ownership chaired by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, conveniently not long after Schroeder as chancellor had approved the agreement to build the new Northern European Gas Pipeline. Gazprom is seeking to build a new pipeline to Germany that bypasses transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus, an objective that many in Europe viewed with concern insofar as it would increase European dependence on Russian energy exports. By creating a subsidiary in which German political and business interests have a direct stake, Gazprom succeeded in persuading key players to go ahead with the deal.
Jeffrey Mankoff: Russia and the West: Taking the Longer View
If the twenty-first-century world is destined for multipolarity, the Russian elite is largely unanimous in believing Russia must be one of the poles. For all of the talk of cooperation with the West in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, no one in Russia really believed that it would give up its identity as an autonomous actor in world affairs. The ongoing discussion of the concept of “sovereign democracy” to describe the Russian political system focuses to a great degree on this issue. A truly sovereign state, as defined in contemporary Russian political discourse, is one whose goals and methods, at home and abroad, are made solely on the basis of calculations of national interest rather than because of external pressure to conform to behavioral norms. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined the importance of foreign policy autonomy in a September 2006 address: “I think that the rapid revival of Russia’s foreign policy autonomy is one of the issues [that] is complicating relations between us, since far from everyone in the [United States] has gotten used to this. But they must get used to it.”
Alexander Rahr: Germany and Russia: A Special Relationship
The Russia factor will continue to split the EU. The countries of the old West, such as Germany and France, will continue to pursue a constructive partnership toward Russia and will be reluctant to enlarge NATO and the EU further into the post-Soviet space. New EU and NATO members in central Europe, on the other hand, will likely continue to lobby for a new policy of containment against Russia. They will be supported by U.S. conservatives who have lost any hope of Russia’s democratization. Meanwhile, Germany will have to balance all these competing pressures during the forthcoming EU presidency. In all likelihood, Berlin will refrain from proclaiming a new EU ostpolitik but will strike a compromise between the Merkel and Steinmeier camps on the issue of Russia and the post-Soviet space. Merkel will concentrate on building consensus on a common EU foreign and security policy within the EU member states and will cautiously avoid any indication of a German special relationship with Russia. She does not want to be accused of conducting a Russia policy over the heads of the central and eastern European countries. Meanwhile, Steinmeier will probably make several trips to countries of the post-Soviet space during the German EU presidency to initiate a broad dialogue with Russia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet states on a pan-European energy foreign and security policy.