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Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: the Role of the SCO in Russia’s Foreign Policy under Vladimir Putin

Student: Lukas Brash

Supervisor: Maxim Bratersky

Faculty: Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs

Educational Programme: Master

Year of Graduation: 2014

<div>Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has come to play an increasingly</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>active role in regional and global affairs, seeking to restore its international status as&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>a great power. In this endeavour, the use of multilateral organisations has emerged&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>as an important strategy to create external conditions conducive to Russian&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>interests and to create a more stable and predictable international environment.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Among these frameworks, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) stands&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>out as particularly important. Its extended membership represents almost half&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>the world&#39;s population and its leading members, Russia and China, are major&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>economic, military and political powers. Not surprisingly, then, there has been&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>growing interest in the SCO among academics and commentators alike. However,&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>relatively little has been written about the role that the SCO plays in Russia&#39;s foreign&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>policy, i.e. what interests Russia pursues with the help of the SCO and how it does&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>so. What has been written about this relationship has predominantly focussed on&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Russia&#39;s assumed security interests, reflecting the continued dominance of the&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>realist school in much International Relations scholarship, particularly in the United&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>States. As a result of the neglect of interests and the growing acceptance among&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Russian policy-makers that international politics is not necessarily a zero-sum&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>game, the existing accounts fail to appreciate the nuances of Russia&#39;s interests&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>and policies, leading to a reductionist view of Russia&#39;s view of the SCO as a&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>means to maintain regional security or to create an anti-Western military alliance.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This dissertation advances an alternative interpretation based on a constructivist&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>approach that places Russia&#39;s national interest in the dynamic interrelationship&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>between internal and external factors, both material and ideational. Contrary to what&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>much of the literature claims, Moscow views the SCO primarily as a mechanism&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>for engaging Beijing that allows Russia to reconcile its contradicting interests of&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>simultaneously wanting to balance against China while at the same time seeking to&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>cement their strategic partnership.</div>

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