The best books to understand Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity
By Andrei P. Tsygankov

Who am I?

I am a Russian academic living in the West and a contributor to both Western and Russian academia. I move between the two and try to build bridges by explaining the two sides’ differences and areas of potential cooperation. I do it in my teaching and research on international politics, which I understand through the lens of culture and politics. Most of my books analyze Russian and Western patterns of thinking formed through history and interaction with each other. I love reading good books about these topics and hope you enjoy my selected list!


I wrote...

Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

By Andrei P. Tsygankov,

Book cover of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

What is my book about?

This clear and comprehensive text explores the past thirty years of Soviet/Russian international relations, comparing foreign policy formation under Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Medvedev, and Putin. Challenging conventional views of Moscow’s foreign policy, Andrei Tsygankov shows that definitions of national interest depend on visions of national identity and is rooted both in history and domestic politics. Yet the author also highlights the role of the external environment in affecting the balance of power among competing domestic groups. Drawing on both Russian and Western sources, Tsygankov shows how Moscow’s policies have shifted under different leaders’ visions of Russia’s national interests. He gives an overview of the ideas and pressures that motivated Russian foreign policy in different periods.

The books I picked & why

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Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past

By Robert Legvold,

Book cover of Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century and the Shadow of the Past

Why this book?

Russia’s foreign policy has followed different historical trajectories and relations with the outside world. This excellent collection of works by historians and social scientists focuses on the long “shadows of the past” as a lens through which to assess the country’s international behavior and moments of transformation. The explored themes include the impact of Russian foreign policy on domestic political structures, imperial identity, geographic settings, position within the global economy, and others. 


Russia and the Idea of Europe: A Study in Identity and International Relations

By Iver B. Neumann,

Book cover of Russia and the Idea of Europe: A Study in Identity and International Relations

Why this book?

Russia has historically connected to Europe as its significant other. This book describes the nature of the country’s identity development through the love-hate relations with European nations and search for recognition by Western other. Sometimes, Russia has sought to borrow Europe’s institutions and values. Other times, it has positioned itself as a great power and a superior system of internal values relative to “corrupt” Europe. 


Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order

By Kathryn E. Stoner,

Book cover of Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order

Why this book?

Russia remains a formidable power in international relations. While some in the West tend to dismiss Russia’s global capabilities, this book describes the country as a “good enough” power. It has a comprehensive review of Russia’s symmetrical and asymmetric capabilities including military, economic, geographic, and others. The author demonstrates that despite some shortcomings, Russia remains capable to challenge the West and its preferred international order and institutions. 


Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate

By M. E. Sarotte,

Book cover of Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate

Why this book?

The book is a great guide to understand Russia’s perspective on post-Cold War developments and the contemporary crisis of relations with the West. Written by a historian, the book reconstructs the role of NATO expansion in shaping Russia’s security interests since the 1990s. The author documents opportunities, errors, and (mis)perceptions by both sides in setting their relations in the course of growing geopolitical tensions.


Near Abroad: Putin, the West, and the Contest Over Ukraine and the Caucasus

By Gerard Toal,

Book cover of Near Abroad: Putin, the West, and the Contest Over Ukraine and the Caucasus

Why this book?

Russia remains intensely focused on the post-Soviet Eurasia as essential to the country’s security and relations with the outside world. The conflict in Ukraine is the culmination of Russia’s perception of geopolitical significance of the “near abroad.” The book by a political geographer analyzes Ukraine and the Caucasus as two principally important subjects of Moscow’s attention. In the author's view, Russian foreign relations reflect competing geopolitical visions, weak state institutions, and perceptions of unresolved legacies of the Soviet dissolution. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, the Soviet Union, and international relations?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, the Soviet Union, and international relations.

Russia Explore 236 books about Russia
The Soviet Union Explore 226 books about the Soviet Union
International Relations Explore 140 books about international relations

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