Russian Diaspora Policy and the Near Abroad in the 1990s: An Indicator and Warning for Intervention
The Russian Federation emerged from the ruins of the USSR a diminished power, attempting to reconcile its imperial past with a new post-Cold War order. However, while the Kremlin may have lost a degree of global influence, Russia maintained the mantel of regional hegemon. Moscow was able to maintain this “privileged sphere of influence” through leveraging Russian diaspora communities–a decisive strategy that Russian leaders continued to refine and direct against the expansion of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Despite being the source of much focus in the foreign policy community in the twenty-first century, research around Russian diaspora communities tend to focus on the mechanics of why Russia projects influence through a diaspora population in a given country. However, the opportunity is often missed to explore how and why the diaspora itself can be co-opted by Russia in the first place. This is due to an under appraisal of how Russia developed and executed its diaspora policy in the 1990s and what Russia learned from this experience. By examining the diaspora policy development and actions of the Russian Federation in the former Soviet space during the 1990s, the West is better placed to understand the execution of Russian policy in the twenty-first century and develop defenses to it. Through a historical assessment of 1990 diaspora policy development and a case study analysis of Russian intervention in the 1990s, this thesis will also answer the contemporary policy question of how Russia can maintain a sphere of influence when it is once again weak due to its war in Ukraine, and examine the course Russia’s future military interventions will take. There are defenses to Russian diaspora policy that can be identified from historical successes and failures, which must inform Western deterrence measures.
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