CfP: Binds and borders

Centre d’Etudes en Civilisations, Langues et Littératures EtrangèresBinds and borders : Russo-american relations since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Deadline: November 1, 2014.

Colloque international organisé par le Centre d’études en civilisations, langues et littératures

The end of East-West confrontation and the emergence of a relatively unstable multipolar world have led the United States to redefine its priorities and relations with a Russia that is no longer its main adversary. Russia, converted to capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union, cannot supplant the United States at any level.

The shift in the geopolitical equation and the abandonment of Containment, which had dominated the U.S. foreign policy for fifty years, opened the debate for a coherent national security and military strategy in a world with globalization in the making. In September 2000, the neoconservative American think tank (PNAC) published “Rebuilding America’s Defense: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century”, a report that aimed to promote America’s global leadership in the world. In March 1992, The New York Times revealed the contents of the controversial ‘Defense Policy Guidance’ prepared by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, which declared that the United States should use its power to “prevent the reemergence of a new rival” in the territory of ex-USSR or elsewhere.

However, the arrival of Clinton in the White House deferred the application of such a radical approach to foreign relations. Furthermore, the 9/11 terrorist attack prompted the American executive to focus mainly on their fight against terrorism, all the more since Russia and the United States mutually accommodated one another. The Treaty signed between the United States and Russia on strategic offensive reductions in 2002 (SORT) underlined the desire “to establish a genuine partnership” and the “strengthen(ing) their relationship through cooperation and friendship”.

More recently, as a result of the Georgian/Russian war in 2008 and the developing Ukrainian conflict, voices have been raised expressing regret at the absence of a more restraining foreign policy to “contain” Russia. Undeniably, Putin’s Russia seems to have adopted a policy of recuperating the colossal geostrategic losses that accompanied the breakdown of the Soviet system. In Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, argues that the United States has now lost its unique opportunity to exploit and consolidate its position as the world’s only superpower.

Certain aspects of the relations between the two countries have outlived the changes, though not always in the same forms. For Russians, America continues to be a fascinating model, a constant reference, an obsession, yet also not quite acceptable. For instance, They have been quick to see the malevolent hand of the United States’ behind Ukraine’s attempt to join the European Union.

Despite the loss of its status as a superpower, Russia continues to be one of the main targets of the United States international policy. The hurried effort to bring the Baltic States to join NATO, explicitly demonstrates the American strategy. It attempts to openly influence the political landscape of Central Asian countries that Russia considers as its “near-abroad”.

Beyond conflicts of interest, mutual misunderstanding and distrust, it is possible to perceive multiple manifestations of a formal link between the two giants. The Russo-American rivalry has given rise to a relationship that cannot be reduced to a straightforward conflict. Since the end of the era of military hostilities between the two blocs, a number of bilateral forums have emerged to promote moderation if not stability, which have lasted until the present day, notably in the field of disarmament. Since the end of the East-West confrontation, a negotiating approach has endorsed the development of significant collaborations between the two countries in different fields such as geopolitics (a partnership between Russia and NATO was initiated in 2002), the conquest of space, fight against terrorism, etc. At the same time, the free movement of people, commodities and cultural products demonstrate an unprecedented improvement of interactions between the two countries. The large Chechen diaspora in the United States is a good example of this.

Although the European Union is Russia’s most important economic partner, Russians’ perception of European and Western lifestyles is manifestly American. The new liberalism of the Yelstin years inspired by the Chicago school of economics, the development of Anglophone culture and language in Russian society, Russian students and professionals’ aspiration to move to America, the attractiveness of scientific research projects launched by American institutions, all reveal Russians’ fascination with the United States. Despite all and notwithstanding Russia’s voluntary participation in globalization since joining the WTO in 2012, the Russian economic model is difficult to categorize, combining as it does both an unfettered Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism and a persistent – not to say reinforced – bureaucratic framework.

On account of their influence and interests in the world, but also owing to the bipolar world of the past, Russo-American relations must also be considered in relation to other nations with which they interact. Any initiative taken by one of the two powers in any part of the world has the potential to endanger the interests of the other; thus, they permanently need to take into consideration the actions of the other in relation to the third party. Examples that come to mind include the American presence in countries of the former Soviet bloc, Russia’s support for Iran or the ‘revolutionary’ countries of South America such as Venezuela and Bolivia, or Russia’s economic partnership with other members of the BRICS designed to serve political ends by challenging the United States.

We invite papers on the following or related topics (but not limited to):

Foreign policy
The distinctive characteristics of the Russo-American relations within the framework of international institutions. To what extent their actions are influenced by the Cold War or by inflections of geopolitical priorities?
Concerted policies put in place by both countries and their impacts on international relations (for example against terrorism).
Triangular relations with countries of South America, the Middle East or Central Asia. What approaches or tactics do Russia and the United States adopt in their relations with a third country in order to anticipate or neutralize the rival’s actions?
Soft power
Circulation of people and goods

Migration or temporary mobility (academics, students, artists, entrepreneurs)
Commercial exchange, financial operations, American products in Russian markets, American companies’ marketing strategies and how they target Russian consumers.
Representations, Organizational models
The American model and standards and how the Russians react to them, including the elaboration of Russian law (institutional mimicry).
Cultural relations: what has replaced the Cold War stereotypes and expressions of fear in cinema and literature (the spy)? How do the media in one country perceive and represent the other, their society or culture today? How do they represent organized crime, or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Submission guidelines
Abstracts of 250-300 words and an abbreviated CV to be addressed to Serge Rolet ( and Sina Vatanpour (

before November 1, 2014.

20-25 minute papers may be presented in French or English

Reply date: 15 November 2014

A selection of papers will be published.

Organization committee
Serge Rolet
Sina Vatanpour
Jean-François Delcroix
Scientific committee
Luc Beaudoin, University of Denver
Mokhtar Ben Barka (Université de Valenciennes)
Richard Davis (Université de Lille 3)
Sabine Dullin (Université de Lille 3)
Jean-Robert Raviot (Université de Paris-Ouest)
Graham Roberts (Université de Paris-Ouest)
Serge Rolet (Université de Lille 3)
Yaroslav Startsev (Institut de l’Oural de l’Académie d’Économie Nationale et d’Administration Publiqu de Russie) (Ekaterinburg)
Sina Vatanpour (Université de Lille 3)
The symposium will takes place the 19th and 20th November 2015

A participation fee of 100€ will be required.

Participants are required to meet their own travel and accommodation costs.

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