In this episode, I spoke with Jeffrey Mankoff, an adjunct fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York. Mankoff recently released a second edition of his book Russian Foreign Policy: The Return of Great Power Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).
As the book’s subtitle suggests, Mankoff’s primary focus is on explaining the origins and engine of Russia’s post-Yeltsin resurgence in geopolitics, as well as exploring possible trajectories for its future development. This book is wonderfully structured, breaking down the production and execution of Russian foreign policy into chapters on its general contours, its internal influences, and Russia’s relationship with the United States, as well as its neighbors in Europe, China, and the former Soviet regions. In this interview, Mankoff and I had particularly interesting conversation about Russian domestic interest groups and the impact of their competition on foreign policy-makers. Mankoff also applied the lessons of his book to the recent friction between Russia and the West over events in Libya and Syria. Given the byzantine nature of Russian policymaking, as well as the continuing record of disagreements and mutual confusion between Russian and Western observers about certain geopolitical hotspots, Mankoff’s book is a welcome study of the opinions and pressures that shape Russian foreign policy.