pátek 10. prosince 2010

Headley, James: Russia and the Balkans: Foreign Policy from Yeltsin to Putin. London: Hurst & Company, 2008, 552 pages, ISBN: 978-1-85065-848-1.

Russia and the Balkans by James Headley, a lecturer in political studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand, represents one of the most valuable and instigative books on the topic of modern Russian foreign policy in the Balkans. First published by HURST Publishers Ltd. in the UK in 2008 (ISBN 978-1-85065-848-1), this volume is intended to present a critical assessment of the Russian foreign policy towards Yugoslavia and its successor states in the period from dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992 till Kosovo’s independence in 2008. For that matter, the book argues one specific course of the Russian foreign policy by examining its characteristics in the period from the demise of the joint Yugoslav state to the conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics, and from the “war on terror” to current disagreements over the status of Kosovo. In that respect, the author’s goal is to demonstrate how the Russian foreign policy in the mentioned period was formulated and applied, as well as to comment on similarities and differences between policies of two Russian presidents – Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
Moreover, Headley also aims at explaining appropriate developments and alterations in attitudes of the Russian political elite, most influential political parties, academia and media all of which shared a common idea that the Russian engagement in the Balkan affairs was national responsibility of Russia as a great world power. Thus, the Yugoslav conflicts became not only a tool in political bickering between opposition and government in Russia, but reflected genuinely divergent political and moral views within opposition itself. In that respect, the fact (1) that the Yugoslav conflict took place in an area that the Russian state considered traditionally important for its interests and security, (2) that the conflict in fact represented a ‘horror mirror’ due to a number of similarities between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and, lastly, (3) that religious element – the one vested in fellow Slavic, particularly Christian Orthodox, nations at war – had its relevant influence on the Yugoslav demise, instigated a very heated debate in the late and post-Soviet political circles in Russia. Moreover, this issue became the second most debated political problem, only to be preceded by events taking place in the Russian ‘near abroad’. Thus, the author confirms that specific continuity of approach, regardless of a policy shift in late 1993, has reflected the very continuity of outlook of the ruling political elites which, for that matter, meant that respective changes within Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidency had no significant impact on the policy implemented.
Headley has sectioned the book in three distinct parts, preceded by Introductory remarks and followed by a respective Concluding section, divided into several chapters.

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