Contrary to the popular narrative of ‘return’, the spheres of influence that have destabilized Ukraine are not a throwback to the nineteenth century. They are something new. What makes them new is explained here in a story of a failed experiment to escape geopolitics in a region between the borders of an enlarged European Union (EU) and Russia. This project created a ‘grey zone’ of overlapping authority, jurisdiction and allegiance out of which new spheres of influence emerged. Ukraine’s geopolitical misfortune was to be included into this ‘grey zone’. The logic of this new narrative of the Ukraine crisis is worked out with reference to the literature on neo-medievalism – a political theory that develops a critique of supranational projects like European integration.
This article represents an attempt to explain why Eurasianism, despite its seeming popularity, was not chosen by the Russian elites to lay conceptual foundations for Russia's new foreign policy. In order to answer this question the author develops a classification of Russian geopolitical discourse based on how the ideas of classical Eurasians are interpreted and applied in the post-Soviet context.
In March 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, relations between Moscow and the West descended into their deepest crisis since the end of the Cold War. For the rest of that year and into the next, the Ukraine crisis made headlines around the world. It emerged as the most urgent security challenge facing Western nations. The response to this crisis, from Western leaders, in particular, is key to understanding why ‘spheres of influence’ are the subject of political discourse today, and why this discourse alters our understanding of the past, present and future.
Russian external energy policy is frequently described as geopolitical (as opposed to EU energy policy, which is often characterised as market-based). This article reviews geopolitical and market approaches in existing studies and identifies paradigmatic and instrumental levels in each of them. It then proceeds to demonstrate that although the geopolitical paradigm dominates in Russia, Russia has also reacted to the EU’s third liberalisation package, using legal and technocratic instruments, which are parts of the market approach. Each set of instruments has its institutional basis in Russia: the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Gazprom work in geopolitical ways but with frequent recourse to legal instruments, the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) promotes legal instruments and the Ministry of Energy (ME) is the centre of the technocratic activities, which Gazprom also frequently applies at present. This study therefore provides a more complex picture of Russian external energy policy. Moreover, it reveals a potential opening for a degree of policy convergence between the EU and Russia. In this context it is regrettable that legal and technocratic instruments were compromised as a result of the 2014 worsening in EU-Russian relations. © 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
The paper analyzes Russia's discourse on humanitarian cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the changes it has undergone since the reintegration of the Crimean peninsular in March 2014. This is a particularly pertinent task, given that the discourse on humanitarian cooperation was initiated in 2005 to convey to the regional elites Russia's commitment to uphold the principles of sovereignty and non-interference and to ensure the stability of their regimes. Applying the concept of a layered discursive framework, the paper detects and discusses 3 different meanings of 'humanitarian cooperation' deployed by Russia in the context of its regional integration initiatives. Then, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe's discursive theory of antagonism and hegemony, the paper analyzes post-Crimea realignments in the CIS-oriented humanitarian discourse that help Russia to "domesticate" the incorporation of the Crimea and imbue it with meanings shared by the regional elites. It is argued that as Russia is becoming more invested in fostering a single region-wide WWII discourse, the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are likely to exercise greater autonomy vis-a-vis Russia than the concept of a sphere of influence typically suggests.