Frustrated Leadership: Russia’s Economic Alternative to the West

Thursday, July 13, 2017
JWS - Stevenson Lecture Theatre (University of Glasgow)
Juliet Johnson , Political Science, McGill University
This study explores how Russia's foreign economic strategy of multipolarity relates to financial nationalism and political illiberalism at home. We move the discussion beyond Russia's domestic economic challenges and approach the issue from a broader perspective, one that integrates the Putin government's perception of the crisis as an opportunity to challenge the Western-led international economic order with its long-term strategy of positioning Russia as an essential power broker in international politics. In doing so, we offer an overarching picture of Russia's alternative to the Western order: it has interlocking domestic and international components that together aim to advance Russia's bid for leadership in an evolving global economic and political environment. Finally, we argue that Russian leaders are doomed to frustration in their quest to assert international economic leadership. While Russia's alternative vision may be compelling to other states in the abstract, the messenger is less so. The Russian government has the ability to shake up the existing international order but lacks the credibility, stability, or economic clout to lead the creation of a new one. This has important implications for the future of international economc cooperation and reform, as Russia's frustrations have increasingly turned it in reactive and confrontational directions.