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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization
Dmitri Trenin

Washington DC, Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002
354pp, PB: $24.95, ISBN 0-87003-190-2

What is in a name? According to Dmitri Trenin a great deal. Although he claims that his book is an attempt at policy research and not an academic study he wants to redefine what Russia means. George Kennan, the cold war diplomat and writer, used to refer to the USSR as Russia, arguing that the geopolitical aims of that entity had changed little despite the revolution of 1917. The key to Russia's might in geopolitical terms was its attempts to dominate Eurasia to the extent that these two concepts, Russia and Eurasia, could be seen as synonymous.

A terrifying scenario where a revisionist Russia creates a new Eastern bloc with new members such as Iran, China, and the Commonwealth of Independent States is the worst possible future. Fortunately it is also extremely unlikely. Trenin believes that all demographical factors are against such an outcome. Despite serious misgivings many of the states, such as the Ukraine have shown that they can survive. In spite of serious conflicts as that in Chechnya and major financial upheaval Russia itself has not imploded. Trenin believes that Russia will remain imperial internally. Meaning that it will continue to be a mixture of religions and ethnicities. To change Russia into a nation state with only ethnic Russian would exclude many and make the Russian map look like a Swiss cheese.

Russia's role as a major land power is gone. It faces sensitive borders in the south and issues in the Far East. The future of Russia lies with the west and primarily with Europe according to Trenin. Ironically, Trenin believes that this will turn Europe into what he brandishes a 'Greater Europe'. Supposedly Western Europe that is presently more timid than the Unites States can be bolstered and changed by the experienced Russia, which has lost an empire but still can think globally. Russia would thus be synonymous with a new Europe with global ambitions.

Whatever Trenin hopes for the future he realises that it will take considerable time before Russia matures for the 21st century. Despite this modesty Trenin underestimates the problems in Russia, where institutions has changed names but where many administrators remain in similar positions as before. The ultimate test will be to change the thinking the bureaucrats and the Russian people. To Europeanise Russia and the Russians can prove impossible. Trenin underestimates the need for a people to have an identity, weather based on ethnicity or something else. The peoples of Eurasia have suffered greatly throughout history from the assumption that the rulers assumes they can remake Russia to fit what they want it to mean.

Trenin argues his case skilfully, but his book is neither a good introduction to Russia's role in world politics today nor is his definitions altogether convincing. His book is a fine contribution to those interested in debating the future of Russia but to limited to offer enough historical, economical or political insight, but a good read for anyone with an interest in policymaking and global politics.

Niklas H. Rossbach

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