Structural Constraints on Russian Diplomacy

Americans’ propensity to see politics as an extension of personality is evident in their thinking on Russia, which exalts the importance of leaders, one-to-one relationships, trust, and communication. The erosion of Soviet institutions under Gorbachev and the failure of effective governing structures to take root in Russia under Yeltsin reinforced this perspective by making leaders loom large. Yet the wiser course is to understand and anticipate the foreign policy of a state by focusing on structural conditions those strategic, economic, and demographic forces that are visible now and can, with reasonable confidence, be expected to frame the context of leaders’ decisions in the future.

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