State Civilisation: The Statist Core of Vladimir Putin’s Civilisational Discourse and Its Implications for Russian Foreign Policy
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The essay examines Vladimir Putin’s civilisational discourse, which arose in earnest with the publication of his presidential campaign articles in 2012. It argues that what makes Putin’s rendering of Russia’s civilisational identity distinctive is its strongly emphasized Statism, understood as a belief in the primacy of the state. This suggests that while his endorsement of a distinct civilisational identity represents an important conceptual turn as regards how national identity is articulated, there are also significant lines of continuity with previous presidential periods, given that state primacy has been at the heart of Putin’s political agenda since the very beginning of his presidential career. This detail also reveals a great deal about the political rationale behind Putin’s commitment to a Russian civilisational identity. It provides the government with a theoretical justification of an illiberal political course. There are important implications for foreign policy-making as well. In relation to the West, there is an attempt to limit its normative reach by depicting liberal values as less than universal. In regional affairs, Russia is attempting to legitimate its involvement in the near abroad on civilisational grounds. The loose definition of ‘co-patriots’ as foreign nationals experiencing some affinity with Russia gives it plenty of leeway in this regard. Lastly, Russia has petitioned for Ukraine’s neutrality based on the argument that the country is straddling a civilisational fault line.
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