Atlanticism

   Sociopolitical ideology; also called Euro-Atlanticism. The Atlanticist orientation of the late Soviet and early postindependence period of Russia can be traced back to the reforms of Peter the Great (1682–1725). Often called the Westernizing tsar, Peter attempted to embed Russia in the West, and Europeanize its people and customs. Since the 18th century, a series of Westernizers (zapadniki) have sought to continue this trend, often competing with Eurasianists who argue for the “uniqueness” (samobytnost’) of Russia as neither fully Western nor Eastern.
   This political debate came to the fore as glasnost allowed greater levels of integration between Eastern and Western Europe. The origins of contemporary Atlanticism can be dated with Mikhail Gorbachev’s seminal 1987 speech in Czechoslovakia in which he declared an “All-European House” of which Soviet Russia was a part. With Gorbachev’s June 1989 joint declaration with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl supporting national self-determination, mutual reduction in nuclear and conventional forces, and a “Common European Home” in which Canada and the United States have a role, the shift toward integration in the Euro-Atlantic community began in earnest. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a definitive end to the Cold War, the door to a transatlantic partnership including Russia, Western Europe, and North America became feasible.
   Under the direction of Boris Yeltsin’s team of reformers, including Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev (1990–1996), an attempt was made to transform Russia into a model Western European–style democracy, economically linked to the West rather than the USSR’s old allies and client states. While the elites in Russia embraced the Euro-Atlantic shift, the Communist Party and nationalists rejected cooperation with the country’s erstwhile enemies, often with popular support from rural and lower-class Russians. Over the course of Boris Yeltsin’s first administration, enthusiasm for the West began to wane, especially after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion in the former Eastern Bloc, the Clinton administration’s failure to meet its economic commitments to a democratic Russia, and the Bosnian War.
   The ascension of Yevgeny Primakov as foreign minister in 1996 signaled a shift away from Atlanticism toward Eurasianism in Russia’s foreign relations. Russia’s exposure to global economic markets, the devaluation of the ruble, and the Russian financial crisis of 1998 further soured the Russian masses on the merits of Euro-Atlanticism, critically weakening those voices that encouraged greater integration with Europe. Although the September 11 attacks brought Russian and American interests into closer alignment (at least until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003), there has been little interest among Russian foreign policy elites in returning the country to a pro-Atlantic footing.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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