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Book Review: The Dark Double: U.S. Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values


Academics and policymakers from the realistliberal, and constructivist schools of thought debate the motivations of Russian foreign policy.  Andrei Tsygankov in his latest book The Dark Double: US Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values makes the argument that the tension between the U.S. and Russia is the result of historical, cultural, and political differences.  The book analyzes how U.S. media presents Russia as a “dark double” and a villain in the international system.  According to Tsygankov, the U.S.-Russian relationship is an example of how negative perceptions of the other can lead to competitiveness.  He expresses concern that cooperation between the two powers is unlikely until both recognize and respect their differences.

About the Author and The Dark Double

Andrei Tsygankov is a Russian born professor at the San Francisco State University where he is a teacher of international, comparative, and Russian politics.  He has been a guest on PBS NewsHour and has written articles for Russia DirectRadio Free EuropeThe Washington TimesThe London School of Economics, and The Nation.  He is the author of six books, but to an English audience he is known for Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity and is the editor for the Routledge Handbook of Russian Foreign Policy.  Tsygankov uses a constructivist methodological approach to present how history and Russian values influence Russian foreign policymaking.
While this book is short compared to his previous works, it has a strong structure that builds a concise argument within one hundred pages. The first chapter explains values as “culturally and historically established beliefs about the appropriate organization of human institutions and foreign policy.”  National values “form international perceptions and assess interests.”
He defines the U.S. and Russian national values and how the states media present each. The second chapter discusses the U.S.’ conviction that it has a civilizing mission to save the world and Russia is a threat to that mission.  Chapter three describes how U.S. media corporations apply U.S. national values in their coverage of Russia.  The fourth chapter explains the way Russian media regard the U.S. and the polarizing environment Russia has assisted in creating.  Chapter five focuses explicitly on the Trump-Russian collusion narrative.

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