Lo is one of the most balanced and insightful Western students of Russian foreign policy, and his abilities are fully on display here. He has a special gift for recognizing the complexities of Russia’s engagement with the outside world, including its problems and defects. He begins by examining the context of contemporary policy: the role of domestic politics, the mindsets of Russia’s leaders, and the challenges posed by the international setting. Next, he assesses Russia’s performance in four key areas—global governance, the post-Soviet space, the Asia-Pacific region, and relations with the West—skillfully capturing the subtleties of the Russian leadership’s perceptions and positions when dealing with the outside world and also identifying the limitations and maladaptations of the country’s rulers. Finally, arguing that Russian foreign policy need not continue on its current course, he finishes with a thoughtful exploration of four possible alternative futures: “soft authoritarianism,” producing a foreign policy much like the current one; “hard authoritarianism,” leading to a more aggressive foreign policy but limited by constrained resources; “regime fracturing,” which would result in an erratic and highly unpredictable foreign policy; and “second-wave liberalism,” accompanied by a “Western orientation” and a more modern concept of what it means to be a great power.
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