Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe: A Resurgence of Kremlin Sphere of Influence? Reviewing post-Soviet Historical Perspectives

Sesan Adeolu Odunuga




Russian influence is pervasive in Central and Eastern Europe. While Central European countries are vulnerable to Russian influence in terms of energy and political influence, the Eastern European countries are more vulnerable to Russian influence in the areas of economy, domestic politics and territorial sovereignty. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, occasioned by the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, is perceived by many Russians (elites and non-elites) as abasement to the Kremlin. In contemporary Russia, the pursuit for the re-establishment of Kremlin’s status as a great power and relevant custodian of politics and security of CEE is notable. Therefore, the study reviews Russia’s foreign policy in CEE against the backdrop of post-Soviet historical events, and the misconception surrounding Russian interest in contemporary Europe. For the purpose of the study, a historical research design was used to collect, examine, and synthesize historical data and evidences in order to answer the research questions proposed in the study. Data collected from literatures, archival documents, and historical events were analysed using a descriptive analytic method, the theory of political realism, and the concept of sphere of influence. The findings reveal that quest for relevance in the political, economic and security affairs of post-Soviet states, rather than resurgence of Kremlin’s sphere of influence, dominates contemporary Russian foreign policy in CEE. 

The study recommended further research into roles of the EU and NATO enlargement policy in Eastern Europe in increasing Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe.


Related Literature

Aron, L. (2013). The Putin Doctrine. Foreign Affairs, 8.

Binhack, P., & Tichý, L. (2012). Asymmetric interdependence in the Czech–Russian energy relations. Energy Policy, 45, 54-63.

Bohle, D., & Greskovits, B. (2007). The state, internationalization, and capitalist diversity in Eastern Europe. Competition & Change, 11(2), 89-115.

Burchill, S., Linklater, A., Devetak, R., Donnelly, J., Nardin, T., Paterson, M. & True, J. (2013). Theories of international relations. Palgrave Macmillan.

Conley, H.A., Mina, J., Stefanov, R., & Vladimirov, M. (2016). The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Center for Strategic and International Studies. A report to the CSIS Europe program & CSD Economic program.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Strategies of qualitative inquiry (Vol. 2). Sage.

Edwards, G. (2006). The New Member States and the Making of EU Foreign Policy. European Foreign Affairs Review, 11(2), 143-162.

French, J. R., Raven, B., & Cartwright, D. (1959). The bases of social power. Classics of organization theory, 7.

Grigas, A. (2012). Legacies, coercion and soft power: Russian influence in the Baltic States. London: Chatham House.


Grigas, A. (2014): Compatriot Games: Russian-speaking Minorities in the Baltic States. -minorities-in-the-baltic-states (21.03.2017)

Grigas, A. (2015): Russia’s Motives in the BalticStates. (20.03.2017).

Hudson, R. (2015). The End of the Cold War: Current Dilemmas Confronting European Security in the Wake of the Ukrainian Conflict. A conference paper published on Research Gate. “MS-Word file”.

Janeliunad, Thomas (2016): Russia’s Foreign Policy: Evaluation by Lithuanian experts. (10.04.2017)

Joesaar, A. (2015). Polarised Television Audiences. The Outcomes of the Estonian and European Audiovisual Media Policies. Journalism Research. Science Journal (Communication and Information) Nr.8.

Kothari, C. R. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and techniques. New Age International.

Larrabee, F. S. (2010). Russia, Ukraine, and Central Europe: the return of geopolitics. Journal of international affairs, 63(2), 33-52.

Legvold, R. (2001). Russia's Unformed Foreign Policy. Foreign Affairs, 80(5), 62-75. doi:10.2307/20050251

Leonard, M., Popescu, N., & European Council on Foreign Relations. (2007). A power audit of EU-Russia relations (Vol. 9). London: European Council on Foreign Relations.

Macfarlane, S. (2006). The ‘R’in BRICs: is Russia an emerging power?. International Affairs, 82(1), 41-57.

Makarychev, A. (2014). Russia, Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership: From Common Neighborhood to Spheres of Influence?. Insight Turkey, 16(3), 181.

Mearsheimer, J. J. (2014). Why the Ukraine crisis is the West's fault: the liberal delusions that provoked Putin. Foreign Aff., 93, 77.

Morozov, V. (2004). Russia in the Baltic sea region: desecuritization or deregionalization? Cooperation and Conflict, 39(3), 317-331.

Nakai, R. (2014). The Influence of Party Competition on Minority Politics: A Comparison of Latvia and Estonia. Joournal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe. Vol 13, No 1, 2014, 57-85. A “PDF file”.

Nor, N. M., Daud, N. M. & Jamaludin, N. L. (2011). Realism with the triangulation techniques: the effective methods for social science research. International Journal of Scientific Research in Education. Vol. 4(2), 57-64

Nygren, B. (2007). The Rebuilding of Greater Russia: Putin's Foreign Policy Towards the CIS Countries (Vol. 4). Routledge.

Office of the Historian, Dpt. of State, the United States of America. Kennan and Containment, 1947. (05.05.2017)

Oliker, O., Crane, K., Schwartz, L. H., & Yusupov, C. (2009). Russian foreign policy: sources and implications. Rand Corporation.

Paabo, H. & Nielsen, K. (2015). How Russian Soft Power fails in Estonia: Or, why the Russophone Minorities remain quiescent. Journal on Baltic Security, 1(2), 125-157

Palinks, L.A., Horwiz, S. M., Green, C. A., Wisdom, J. F., Duan, N., & Hoagwood, K. (2013). Purrposeful Samping for Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis in Mixed Implementation Research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. “PDF file”.

Pomerantsev, P. (2015). The Big Chill: The Battle for Central Europe. World Affairs. (30.05.2017).

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M., & Ormston, R. (Eds.). (2013).Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Sage.

Sherr, J. (2013). Hard diplomacy and soft coercion: Russia's influence abroad. Brookings Institution Press.

Shleifer, A., & Treisman, D. (2011). Why Moscow says no: A question of Russian interests, not psychology. Foreign Affairs, 122-138.

Simes, D. K. (2007). Losing Russia-the costs of renewed confrontation. Foreign Aff., 86, 36.

Stake, R. E. (1978). The Case Study Method in Social Inquiry 1. Educational researcher, 7(2), 5-8.

Tamkin, E. (2017). The Real Threat to Central Eastern Europe. (12.04.2017)

Tamkin, E. (2017). Hungary ‘Most Vulnerable’ in Central Europe to Russian Influence, Report Finds. to-russian-influence-report-finds/ (30.05.2017)

Tocci, N. (2008). Who is a normative foreign policy actor? The European Union and its global partners. CEPS Paperback Series, (3), 1-336.

Trenin, D. (2006). Russia Leaves the West. Foreign Affairs, 85(4), 87-96. doi:10.2307/20032043

Trenin, D. (2007). Russia redefines itself and its relations with the West. Washington Quarterly, 30(2), 95-105.

Trenin, D. (2009). Russia's spheres of interest, not influence. The Washington Quarterly, 32(4), 3-22.

Walt, S. (1998). International Relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign Policy, (110), 29- 46. doi:10.2307/1149275

Weber, C. (2013). International relations theory: a critical introduction. Routledge.


  • There are currently no refbacks.



Registering and Logging in

Submitting an Article