Saturday, October 29, 2016

Andrew Monaghan's "The New Politics of Russia"

Andrew Monaghan is a researcher and analyst in the field of international politics. He is a Russianist in the area studies style, with a preference for old-fashioned Kremlinology. His particular interests are Russian domestic politics, strategy and biography.

A Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, he is also a Visiting Fellow at the Changing Character of War Programme at Pembroke College, Oxford and an Academic Visitor at St Antony’s College, Oxford. NATO, the Defence Academy of the UK and King’s College, London have all employed him at different times over the last decade. He founded the Russia Research Network in 2006, and continues as its Director.

Monaghan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The New Politics of Russia: Interpreting Change, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The New Politics of Russia illustrates well the book’s argument and its attempt to refocus our interpretation of developments in Russia.

The book explores why Russia so often surprises the West and how developments in Russia might be better interpreted. There are three threads to the argument. The first examines Western views of Russia, noting that resources dedicated to Russia watching have been significantly reduced since the 1980s, and that the dominant theme in analysis has been Russia’s transition towards – or away from – democracy.

The second thread explores the relationship between the Euro-Atlantic community and Russia since the 1990s, providing an overview of the increasingly systemic sense of strategic dissonance between Western capitals and Moscow. Not only are there numerous policy disagreements, but each party draws different conclusions from the same body of evidence. Furthermore, Moscow defines important questions, such as how to deal with terrorism, in different ways to the Euro-Atlantic community. Taken together, this has created a sense of “differing worlds” that highlights this dissonance. The ongoing emergency in Ukraine and war in Syria are two important illustrations of this dissonance.

The third thread concerns Russian domestic politics, arguing that evidence is selected to emphasis transition to democracy – the nature of the protest demonstrations in 2011-2012 and the often hoped for “end of the Putin era”. Yet much important evidence is overlooked, both in terms of the wider political landscape and “who is who”, and, for want of a better phrase, how Russian “political culture” might be understood.

This returns us to page 99. It is an important page for the argument of the book, coming in the chapter that explores party politics and the opposition. Here is a critique of the reflexive nature of much Western analysis, the laundered imprecision in Western estimates, with an emphasis on the need for greater precision. There is also a reminder of the monetisation protests in 2005 – a significant event in Russian post-Soviet political history, but one that is often forgotten by western observers and how it has had long-lasting consequences.

We are entering a new era of relations with Russia. To better understand these changes, we need to reframe our questions about Russia towards a more nuanced interpretation of Russian state power, particularly the economic and military elements.
Visit Andrew Monaghan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue