Policy Memos

Russia's Periphery in the Global Arena: Do Regions Matter in the Kremlin's Foreign Policy?

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




The conventional wisdom is that since the collapse of Communism the regions and republics of the Russian Federation have taken advantage of political and economic decentralization to articulate and conduct quasi-foreign policies of their own. Indeed, developments such as Chechnya declaring independence and insisting on its right to selfdetermination, the Republic of Tatarstan appointing its own trade representatives in 14 locations outside Russia and the governor of Primorsky krai stalling the implementation of the 1991 border demarcation agreement with China until 1999 could be cited as evidence of Russia becoming less and less of a "unitary" actor in the global arena. And yet, upon a closer look, the impact of these developments on Russia's foreign relations has been marginal: even the Islamic states other than Afghanistan have not recognized Chechnya's independence; Tatarstan's approval of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military campaign in Kosovo did not change Moscow's wholesale condemnation of NATO's action; and the border between Russia and China in Primorsky krai has been set exactly along the lines of the 1991 demarcation treaty, ceding hundreds of hectares of land to China except for a tiny piece of land with a Russian military cemetery near Lake Khasan. Moreover, while campaigning against Chinese encroachment in the Russian Far East, the governor of Primorsky krai supported former president Boris Yeltsin's and current president Vladimir Putin's strategy for a "strategic partnership" with Beijing. These developments raise some broad questions:

• How do center-periphery relations in Russia affect Russia's foreign policy;
• How does Moscow respond to the regions' international activities; and
• What types of regions are likely to have a greater impact on Moscow's foreign policy? [...]

Read full text (PDF)

About the author

Professor of Political Science
San Diego State University