NEAR ABROAD: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus by Gerard Toal

  • Written by  Vitali Vitaliev
  • Published in Books
NEAR ABROAD: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus by Gerard Toal
07 Aug
In a small section on the first floor of Stanfords Travel Bookshop in London, one can see on display a handful of road and railway atlases, recently published in Moscow

Significantly, most are not the atlases of just the Russian Federation, but those of ‘Russia, Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics’. To those not sure, the so-called ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) is a purely tokenistic ‘union’, formed in 1991, straight after the dissolution of the USSR, comprising ten former Soviet Republics. Taken together, the countries of the CIS plus the three Baltic republics: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – now part of the EU and fiercely independent – constitute what is known in Russia as blizhnee zarubezh’ye – the term, rather crudely rendered in English as ‘Near Abroad’, whereas ‘Russia’s sphere of influence as seen by the Kremlin’ would be a more geopolitically correct translation.

Near Abroad is an extremely important and topical book, for it explains to the Western reader the morality (or lack thereof) of Russia’s current ‘geopolitical culture’. As Toal correctly points out, the term near abroad ‘simultaneously named... an old familiarity, a long-standing spatial entanglement and a range of geopolitical emotions.’ Toal’s conclusion is that the recent annexation of the Crimea, the ongoing war with Ukraine, as well as the failed invasion of Georgia, may all be part of Putin’s attempts to recreate ‘The Great Russia’ under the less aggrandising name Novorossiya (the New Russia) and as such they require ‘the international community to make a concerted effort to address the unresolved political conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasus.’ Easier said than done...

The main attraction of Near Abroad is that it offers a fascinating and long-awaited look under the lid of Putin’s aggressive and dangerously imperialist mentality.

Click here to purchase Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus by Gerard Toal

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