In This Review

Rival Power: Russia in Southeast Europe
Rival Power: Russia in Southeast Europe
By Dimitar Bechev
320 pp, Yale University Press, 2017

Bechev introduces a sophisticated and cool-headed corrective to the crude image of Russian foreign policy favored by much of the Western press. He focuses on Russia’s relations with four areas of southeastern Europe: the post-Yugoslav republics, Bulgaria and Romania, Greece and Cyprus, and Turkey. Russia’s engagement with those countries has little to do with Slavic identity or a desire to fulfill imperialist dreams. Instead, its approach is highly pragmatic and focused on dealmaking, particularly on energy. The other countries are playing the same game. Moscow is eager to increase its influence and, especially at the moment, to damage that of the West, but in the end, the Kremlin is mindful that these countries are in Europe’s backyard, not its own. The concluding portion of the book focuses on three critical dimensions of Russia’s approach to the region: security relations, particularly with NATO members; the ups and downs of energy projects; and the nature and use of its soft power.