Rival Power Russia in Southeast Europe Dimitar Bechev

Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
22 Aug 2017
ISBN:
9780300219135
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
320 pages: 210 x 140mm
Illustrations:
6 maps + 11 figs

A nuanced and comprehensive study of the political dynamics between Russia and key countries in Southeast Europe

Is Russia threatening to disrupt more than two decades’ of E.U. and U.S. efforts to promote stability in post-communist Southeast Europe? Politicians and commentators in the West say, “yes.” With rising global anxiety over Russia’s political policies and objectives, Dimitar Bechev provides the only in-depth look at this volatile region.
 
Deftly unpacking the nature and extent of Russian influence in the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey, Bechev argues that both sides are driven by pragmatism and opportunism rather than historical loyalties. Russia is seeking to assert its role in Europe’s security architecture, establish alternative routes for its gas exports—including the contested Southern Gas Corridor—and score points against the West. Yet, leaders in these areas are allowing Russia to reinsert itself to serve their own goals. This urgently needed guide analyzes the responses of regional NATO members, particularly regarding the annexation of Crimea and the Putin-Erdogan rift over Syria.

Dimitar Bechev is a research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

"It would be good to say that this book is a valuable addition to the canon. It is not. When it comes to the issue of Russia, the Balkans and the wider region of south-eastern Europe it is the canon because no one else has written about it. Dimitar Bechev is the right author of the right book at the right time."
                —Tim Judah, political analyst for the Economist

"For the new ‘Great Game’ of geopolitical competition, look above all to the Balkans, a region where the impact of Russian energy, soft power, and covert operations are all at their strongest, and which has too long been neglected by Western governments and scholars alike. This excellent book is the best primer yet to this unfolding struggle, a scholarly, sympathetic and realistic analysis of the present situation and likely future developments, which deserves to be read widely and carefully."
        -- Dr Mark Galeotti, head of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague.
 

"At the time when it is fashionable to sound alarmist on Russia's return to the Balkans, Dimitar Bechev's "Rival Power: Russia's Influence in the Southeast Europe" provides a clear-eyed assessment of the opportunities and significant limits for Russia's power in the region. While providing the rich historical context for the ambiguous relationship, Bechev correctly notes the instrumental and highly transactional nature of Moscow's engagement with the Balkan states as a tool of diplomatic leverage with the West and a source of lucrative economic deals. The book may also serve as a cautionary note to those in Moscow who may harbor illusions that the path to securing geopolitical concessions from the West lies through reigniting instability and even ethnic conflict in the Balkans. It has never worked before."
  -- Vladimir Frolov, foreign affairs columnist, Republic.ru

"This timely and insightful analysis takes the Russian challenge to the stability of Southeast Europe seriously - and shows its limitations, despite the abundant opportunities created by local miscreants."
-- Pavel Baev, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and Research Professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

"Russia is back in the Balkans and ideology has little to do with it. In this engaging book, Dimitar Bechev argues that revival of Russia’s influence in the region was made possible due to its pragmatism and tough-minded pursuit of material gains. Those viewing Russia as the new ideological warrior will be challenged in their beliefs"
 — Andrew P. Tsygankov, Professor of International Relations, San Francisco State University.

"Once written off as a fading actor in a region ever more integrated with the EU, Russia is now playing an increasingly disruptive role in South East Europe. Drawing on his innate understanding of the area, and an unmatched knowledge of the region’s languages, Dimitar Bechev looks beyond the stereotypical explanations for this Russian resurgence and investigates the hard political calculations at play. This is a truly excellent, and highly readable, account of how Moscow is trying to extend its influence across the Balkans, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey."
James Ker-Lindsay, Senior Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science
 

"Rival Power is a meticulously researched study of Russia’s centuries-long effort to exert geopolitical influence over the south east of Europe...[The] ideological foundations of this campaign may have changed from century to century, but the goal has almost invariably remained the same: advancement of Russia’s national interests."
     - Simon Saradzhyan, director of the Russia Matters project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Rival Power is a very timely and comprehensive book, written by one of the most accomplish observers of the international relations of the Russian Federation since its inception. It is written in concise and clear language, masterfully relaying the gradual reemergence of Russia as a new (old) challenge to the West in the Balkans and the Black Sea. A must read for those who wish to make sense of the recent developments in international politics.”
— Prof. Dr. Mustafa Aydin, Kadir Has University
 

‘The controversy around growing Russian activism in Southeast Europe reflects the impressive variety of relationships Moscow has cultivated in this region. This original, meticulous study charts the pattern of these relations since the early 1990s and soberly assesses Russian goals.  This nuanced analysis should be read by all those seeking clarity on the shifting contours of geopolitics, trade and energy in Southeast Europe’
— Prof. Roy Allison, Director, Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre, Oxford.

“Dimitar Bechev's book possesses the rare quality of being a work of seasoned and insightful scholar, but also of someone who appreciates the exciting twists and turns of Russia's dramatic relationship with the Balkans.  Rival Power is very well written and dispenses with several persistent myths, especially one that views countries of the region and their leaders as 'victims' of Moscow's preying…a thrilling and stark expose of Russia's masterful use of a limited political arsenal to further its goals. “
                  — Konstantin Eggert, Commentator and Host, TV Rain (Moscow)
 

“This is a commanding account of international politics in Southeast Europe. Dimitar Bechev's book is a must for anyone interested in Russia's tangled relations with the EU and NATO in the region and beyond.”
— Elaine Papoulias, Executive Director, Center for European Studies, Harvard University