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Abstract: If before 2014 Russia was widely dismissed by the international community as a regional power whose global influence had died with the Soviet Union, its recent muscle flexing abroad has shown that reports of its death as a global power have been greatly exaggerated. From its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and military deployment in Syria in 2015 to cyber interventions in a number of democratic countries, most notably the alleged interference in the United States elections in 2016, Russia has reasserted itself as a major global power. This has taken many analysts and policy makers by surprise. But perhaps Russia’s status as a “phoenix state” should not have been unanticipated,
A common argument has been that Russia has a weak hand, but plays it well. The book on which this talk is based argues that Russia’s cards may not be as weak as we in the West think they are—that instead, the West might be playing bridge, while Russia plays poker. Too great an emphasis has been placed on traditional, realist means of power (like the strength of Russia's economy, its population, and its military) and this has led scholars and policy makers to discount Russia’s ability to influence international politics. In important ways, Russia has reestablished itself on the global stage, doing so as a great disrupter rather than a great power. It doesn’t have as much by way of means in realist terms as the United States or China, but it does have the ability to exercise influence, to get other countries to do what they might not otherwise do. This is because Russia today is unencumbered by a domestic political system that might exercise a brake on the ambitions of the current regime. It doesn’t have to be a great power, but it can be good enough to do a great deal to alter the post war global order. Indeed, it already has.
Kathryn Stoner is the Deputy Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, as well as the Deputy Director of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy at Stanford University. She teaches in the Department of Political Science at Stanford, and in the Program on International Relations, as well as in the Ford Dorsey Program. Prior to coming to Stanford in 2004, she was on the faculty at Princeton University for nine years, jointly appointed to the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs. At Princeton she received the Ralph O. Glendinning Preceptorship awarded to outstanding junior faculty. She also served as a Visiting Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at McGill University. She has held fellowships at Harvard University as well as the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.
In addition to many articles and book chapters on contemporary Russia, she is the author or co-editor of five books: Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective, written and edited with Michael A. McFaul (Johns Hopkins 2013); Autocracy and Democracy in the Post-Communist World, co-edited with Valerie Bunce and Michael A. McFaul (Cambridge, 2010); Resisting the State: Reform and Retrenchment in Post-Soviet Russia (Cambridge, 2006); After the Collapse of Communism: Comparative Lessons of Transitions (Cambridge, 2004), coedited with Michael McFaul; and Local Heroes: The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance (Princeton, 1997). She is currently finishing a book project entitled Resurrected? The Domestic Determinants of Russia’s Return as a Global Power that will be published in 2017.
She received a BA (1988) and MA (1989) in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Government from Harvard University (1995). In 2016 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Iliad State University, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.