Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire

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Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire
By Agnia Grigas
Yale University Press, 2015
352 pp.
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Scarcely any aspect of Russian foreign policy has received more attention and less serious exploration than Russia’s maneuvering in former parts of the Soviet Union. Grigas takes a sizable step toward rectifying that imbalance by carefully tracing Moscow’s approach to so-called compatriots—ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, and those who simply identify with Russia—in these now independent states. Russian foreign policy is a Rorschach test, and Grigas’ interpretation will satisfy many—but not all. Grigas details how Russia uses hard power, soft power, and something in between: for example, bestowing Russian passports on compatriots who are citizens of other countries. Her purpose is to prove that Russia is trying to reconstitute an empire, drawing its identity and motivations from a script that traces back to the sixteenth century. Russia, she argues, begins its interventions in its neighbors’ affairs by making claims on behalf of allegedly threatened compatriots and then, step by step, resorts to cruder mechanisms. Finally, if conditions permit, Russia turns to subversion and military force, as it did in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

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