In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Russia and the West

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals

Political Science Russia and the West
Dmitry Gorenburg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0116


The relationship between Russia and the West has always been a complicated one. Any discussion of the topic must begin with definitions. While Russia is a country and therefore can be identified fairly straightforwardly, the West is a much more elusive concept that only comes into view when viewed in relation to some other concept, such as the East or the Orient. European intellectuals have long juxtaposed Russia with the West, arguing that Russian values were not Western and therefore Russia could not be part of the West. At the same time, the majority of Russian thinkers and politicians have either sought to push Russia to develop in ways that would allow it to be incorporated into the West or declared that Russia is already part of the West. Here, the West includes Europe and the United States, as these are the relevant Western actors for Russian foreign policy. Until the recent rise of China, interactions with the West have been the main focus of Russian foreign policy. Even when dealing with Africa or the Middle East, Russian elites saw Russian interests in these regions as reflecting Russia’s more significant foreign policy goals vis-à-vis Western states. To this end, three relationships can be considered most crucial: those with the United States, NATO, and the European Union. Interactions with individual European countries largely reflect issues that arise in one or more of these three relationships, although the entry of a number of central European states into NATO and the EU have made these relationships more complicated over the last decade. The most significant issues in Russia’s relationship with the West include trade and energy exports, nuclear arms control and missile defense, and tensions over the extent to which Western human rights norms should trump the long-held international norm of sovereignty when the possibility of military intervention is considered.

General Overviews

There are a number of excellent late-20th- and 21st-century works that provide an introduction to the topic of Russian relations with Europe and the West. Trenin 2007 is the best short work that combines a thorough analysis of major themes with policy recommendations. The best introduction to the full historical range of developments in Russian foreign policy, beginning in the tsarist period and continuing through the present, may be found in Petro and Rubinstein 1997 and Donaldson and Nogee 2009. Tsygankov 2010 and Mankoff 2009 provide more detailed overviews of recent developments from a sympathetic and a critical perspective, respectively. Legvold 2007 is a selection of essays by security scholars that shows how Russian foreign policy fits into a historical context. Finally, Clunan 2009 and Lucas 2009 both focus on the importance for Russia of regaining lost status, though the former treats it as normal state behavior while the latter considers it a threat to the West.

  • Clunan, Anne L. The Social Construction of Russia’s Resurgence: Aspirations, Identity, and Security Interests. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

    An identity-based account that shows how Russian foreign policy is based on a desire to restore its past status as an international power.

  • Donaldson, Robert, and Joseph Nogee. The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Interests. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2009.

    A wide-ranging introductory text that examines Russian foreign policy from the tsarist period through the present.

  • Legvold, Robert, ed. Russian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century and the Shadow of the Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

    A collection of essays by leading experts that places Russian foreign policy in a historical context.

  • Lucas, Edward. The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West. Rev. ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    Written by the former Russian correspondent for the Economist, this book stresses the potential danger of Russia’s resurgence to the West.

  • Mankoff, Jeffrey. Russian Foreign Policy: The Return of Great Power Politics. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.

    An introductory text that focuses on diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the Putin administration to restore Russia’s greatness and the impact of these initiatives on the Western world in general (and the United States in particular).

  • Petro, Nicolai N., and Alvin Z. Rubinstein. Russian Foreign Policy: From Empire to Nation-State. New York: Longman, 1997.

    Provides an introduction to the major developments that have characterized the foreign policy of Russia during the tsarist, Soviet, and early post-Soviet periods.

  • Trenin, Dmitri V. Getting Russia Right. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2007.

    A short introduction from one of Russia’s leading foreign policy thinkers that focuses on how Russia is on a path to becoming a Western country without actually joining the West.

  • Tsygankov, Andrei P. Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity. 2d ed. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

    An excellent introductory text that covers Russian foreign policy from Gorbachev to Putin.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.