Authored by: Luke March

Routledge Handbook of Russian Foreign Policy

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138690448
eBook ISBN: 9781315536934
Adobe ISBN:


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Nationalism is one of the most poorly understood themes in the analysis of Russian foreign policy (RFP). Many accounts do not recognise the concept, arguing that RFP is rational, pragmatic and interest-based. For others, nationalism has become ever more dominant in Putin-era politics. This chapter discusses different approaches to nationalism and RFP, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the key propositions of the main theoretical ‘schools’ (realist, constructivist and liberal approaches). The chapter’s over-riding argument is that nationalism is a valuable but often misrepresented focus of RFP research. First, nationalism cannot be a parsimonious prism through which to interpret the entirety of RFP, and above all foreign policy behaviour. Second, prevalent approaches that attribute homogeneity and uniformity to nationalism as somehow a ‘driver’ of foreign policy are among the most simplistic and contentious. Third, this notwithstanding, nationalism provides a vital addition to the palette of approaches to understanding RFP. Its main virtue is its ability, when accurately defined and utilised, to identify the linkages between domestic values, regime structures and foreign policy discourses.

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