From Retrenchment to Revanchism … and Back Again? Russian Grand Strategy in the Eurasian ‘Heartland’

  • Matthew Sussex


Anyone studying ‘conventional’ power politics today tends to be treated with suspicion by those who view the unreconstructed realist as an academic Neanderthal in a globalized world. And yet both the gradual and more rapid return to prominence of various actors in international politics highlight the ongoing significance of traditional factors linked to material considerations, especially territoriality. The same type of sanctimonious cant — that the 21st century is somehow ‘different’ — was evident in Nick Clegg’s reference to Vladimir Putin as possessing ‘a KGB mentality rooted in the Cold War’ (Watt et al., 2014). But the trend is broader than Russia’s latest adventures in Ukraine. The rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the subsequent US ‘rebalance’ to counter it, persistent tensions over the Korean Peninsula, and contestation over energy resources in Central Asia are all symptomatic of the continued importance of power politics in states’ strategic calculations. While the language of both practitioners and scholars now revolves much more around norms, laws and ethics, states’ actual motivations — and the outcomes they seek to engender — appear to have changed little since the end of Cold War bipolarity and the supposed triumph of liberal pluralist ideas that accompanied it.


Gross Domestic Product Foreign Policy International Security Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Central Asian State 
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© Matthew Sussex 2015

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  • Matthew Sussex

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