Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus

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9780190253301: Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus
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Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it invaded Georgia. Both states are part of Russia's "near abroad" - newly independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union and are now Russia's neighbors. While the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 faded from the headlines in the wake of the global recession, the geopolitical contest that created it did not. Six years later, the spectre of a revanchist Russia returned when Putin's forces invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula, once part of Russia but an internationally recognized part of Ukraine since the Soviet collapse. Crimea's annexation and follow on conflict in eastern Ukraine have generated the greatest geopolitical crisis on the European continent since the end of the Cold War.

In Near Abroad, the eminent political geographer Gerard Toal moves beyond the polemical rhetoric that surrounds Russia's interventions in Georgia and Ukraine to study the underlying territorial conflicts and geopolitical struggles. Central to understanding are legacies of the Soviet Union collapse: unresolved territorial issues, weak states and a conflicted geopolitical culture in Russia over the new territorial order. The West's desire to expand NATO contributed to a growing geopolitical contest in Russia's near abroad. This found expression in a 2008 NATO proclamation that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO, a "red line" issue for Russia. The road to invasion and war in Georgia and Ukraine, thereafter, is explained in Near Abroad.

Geopolitics is often thought of as a game of chess. Near Abroad provides an account of real life geopolitics, one that emphasizes changing spatial relationships, geopolitical cultures and the power of media images. Rather than being a cold game of deliberation, geopolitics is often driven by emotions and ambitions, by desires for freedom and greatness, by clashing personalities and reckless acts. Not only a penetrating analysis of Russia's relationships with its regional neighbors, Near Abroad also offers an analysis of how US geopolitical culture frequently fails to fully understand Russia and the geopolitical archipelago of dependencies in its near abroad.

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About the Author:


Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail) is Professor of Government and International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech's Washington metro area campus.

Review:


"Near Abroad is a brilliant and indispensable contribution to our understanding of post-Soviet politics and the hidden power of geopolitical culture. Examining the conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine, Toal convincingly shows that geopolitical practice is neither inherently rational nor driven by objective external pressures, but is rather infused with deep normative assumptions about the legitimate boundaries of political spaces, shared discourses and flows among transnational political communities, and highly stylized emotional appeals."

-- Alexander Cooley, Director, Harriman Institute, Columbia University; author of Logics of Hierarchy and Great Games, Local Rules


"Gerard Toal is one of the smartest and most interesting thinkers working on post-Soviet politics today and his incisive new book, Near Abroad, does not disappoint. Toal sheds new light on how Russians think about their neighbors, with major implications for regional stability and the West more generally."

-- Henry Hale, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University; author of Patronal Politics


"Cutting through the overarching narratives that dominate discussion of Russia's engagement with its 'near abroad,' Toal offers telling insights into the underlying geopolitical conceptions and arrangements that are at the heart of the territorial struggles that have unfolded in Ukraine and Georgia. The book is not just a contribution to understanding these selected conflicts, however. It will help audiences beyond the academy appreciate the nature and value of the 'critical geopolitics' project that Toal himself has played such an important role in advancing."

-- Alexander Murphy, Professor of Geography, University of Oregon, and former President, Association of American Geographers


"In this valuable work, Gerard Toal attempts to answer the question, 'Why does Russia invade its neighbors?' Toal performs the deft and essential balancing act of recognizing both that Russia poses significant threats to its region and that events and leaders outside of Moscow have also played a role in the deteriorating relationship between Russia and the US. This book is an extremely important contribution for those of us looking for a deeper, more thoughtful and challenging analysis of the dynamic between Russia, its neighbors like Ukraine and Georgia, and the US."

-- Lincoln Mitchell, author of The Democracy Promotion Paradox


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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2017. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Vladimir Putin s intervention into the Georgia/South Ossetia conflict in summer 2008 was quickly recognized by Western critics as an attempt by Russia to increase its presence and power in the near abroad , or the independent states of the former Soviet Union that Russia still regards as its wards. Though the global economic recession that began in 2008 moved the incident to the back of the world s mind, Russia surged to the forefront again six years later when they invaded the heavily Russian Crimea in Ukraine and annexed it. In contrast to the earlier Georgia episode, this new conflict has generated a crisis of global proportions, forcing European countries to rethink their relationship with Russia and their reliance on it for energy supplies, as Russia was now squeezing natural gas from what is technically Ukraine. In Near Abroad, the eminent political geographer Gerard Toal analyzes Russia s recent offensive actions in the near abroad, focusing in particular on the ways in which both the West and Russia have relied on Cold War-era rhetorical and emotional tropes that distort as much as they clarify. In response to Russian aggression, US critics quickly turned to tried-and-true concepts like spheres of influence to condemn the Kremlin. Russia in turn has brought back its long tradition of criticizing western liberalism and degeneracy to grandly rationalize its behavior in what are essentially local border skirmishes. It is this tendency to resort to the frames of earlier eras that has led the conflicts to jump scales, moving from the regional to the global level in short order. The ambiguities and contradictions that result when nations marshal traditional geopolitical arguments-rooted in geography, territory, and old understandings of distance-further contributes to the escalation of these conflicts. Indeed, Russia s belligerence toward Georgia stemmed from concern about its possible entry into NATO, an organization of states thousands of miles away. American hawks also strained credulity by portraying Georgia as a nearby ally in need of assistance. Similarly, the threat of NATO to the Ukraine looms large in the Kremlin s thinking, and many Ukrainians themselves self-identify with the West despite their location in Eastern Europe. Seller Inventory # AAC9780190253301

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