From Ontological Insecurity to Counter-Hegemony: Russia's Post-Soviet Engagement with Geopolitics and Eurasianism
Realism- and geopolitics-inspired rhetoric was common currency in Russian foreign policy discourse throughout the 1990s. This led some commentators to adopt realism and geopolitics - realism’s more nationalist and strategic counterpart - as conceptual lenses for understanding Russian foreign policy. As a result, Russian foreign policy of the 2010s is still considered predominantly geopolitics-driven despite the fact that geopolitical vocabulary has virtually disappeared from foreign policy discourse while a desire to carve out spheres of influence have been officially pronounced utterly anachronistic and inappropriate, a “thing of the past”. Thus, a more nuanced interpretation views the rise of geopolitics in Russian post-Soviet foreign policy discourse as an attempt to tap into the symbolic and rhetorical power of geopolitics in order to reduce ontological insecurity brought about by the end of the Cold War. The chapter, therefore, advances a theoretical claim about the relevance of the constructivist and poststructuralist literature and very limited relevance of realism for understanding the twists and turns of Russian post-Soviet foreign policy. Methodologically, the chapter argues that an exploration of state identity rooted in the ontological security argument will benefit from employing discourse analysis. Empirically, the present study provides substantiation of the theoretical claim that the concept of hegemony captures well the historical trajectory of Russia’s relations with its ‘significant other’- Europe/the EU/the West – and provides important insights into the sources of Russia’s ontological insecurity in the 21st century.