This study analyses Russia’s approach to the construction of a post-Cold War security architecture in Europe from 1991 to 2000. I examine what appears to be tensions, contradictions or ambiguities in Russia’s policy that contributed to making both partnership and discord ingredients to Russian–Western security relations. For instance, how can we understand Russia’s intense opposition to NATO enlargement and the alliance’s out-of-area operations in light of Russia’s own formalised cooperation with this institution (i.e., NACC/EAPC; PfP; PJC/the Founding Act)? How can we conceive of Moscow’s enduring position that OSCE should be the ‘cornerstone’ of Europe’s security architecture, considering what many observers have interpreted as Russian obstruction of, and non-compliance with, OSCE decisions and norms?
I seek to answer these questions by tracing the Russian debate on national identity and foreign policy that emerged in the wake of Soviet dissolution. The theoretical framework draws on some central ideas from the realist and liberal IR traditions, and uses the concept of ‘securitisation’ as a means to show how and under what conditions ‘expectations’ from these two camps about Russia’s behaviour and related institutional outcomes (i.e., Russian-Western security cooperation) find empirical support. I also apply a conceptual model for security thinking that incorporates three dimensions: Centre-Periphery, East-West, and Christian-Muslim. With regard to the first dimension, it is a central premise that Russia can be depicted both as periphery to a dominating Western centre and as a centre in her own right. The East-West dimension reflects Cold War overlay. The last dimension mirrors an identity component derived from (perceived) Russian-Western cultural and civilisational kinship.
Findings from this study largely confirm hypotheses derived from this model: Whereas an identity component (Western/Christian civilization) fostered shared Russian-Western security interests and a use of OSCE to promote ‘soft’ security in Europe’s peripheries, the two other dimensions produced different security logics as basis for Russia’s behaviour. These logics can be derived from different readings (in Russia) of Russia’s ‘identity’ and her place in the international power structure. A depiction by the government in 1991-92 of Russia as Europe’s periphery dictated westward integration and adaptation to the Western security arrangements. However, from 1992-93, the policy-making elite increasingly came to look upon Russia as an alternative centre. This dictated a shielding strategy and Russian policy measures aimed at balancing the institutional weight of the West. Accordingly, whereas Russia was initially not opposed to a prominent role for NATO and NATO-affiliated structures even inside the post-Soviet space and in areas of former Soviet influence, the security logic from around 1993 dictated Russian attempts to undermine the role of NATO and to increase the relative weight of OSCE, while at the same limiting the functional scope of the latter (and thereby: Western influence) in the post-Soviet space, which was regarded as Russia’s ‘exclusive’ periphery.