ASSESSING RUSSIA’S GLOBAL REACH
Curator: Nina Khrushcheva
Over the last ten years, Russian foreign policy has been animated by defensiveness and suspicion. Russia even has uneasy relations with the congenitally non-threatening European Union. It is touchy about the independence of the near-abroad countries, especially those politically or geographically close to the West – Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. More than a decade after the fact, the Kremlin still decries NATO’s eastward enlargement as a security threat.
The reality, of course, is that NATO is as much of an offensive threat to Russia as Switzerland is. But it is not NATO’s military power that Putin’s Kremlin finds alarming; the real threat is the alliance’s potential to “swallow” Moldova or Ukraine at some point. Creating a precedent for the democratization of post-Soviet space is a nightmare scenario for Putin and his cronies.
As in Soviet times, the main task of today’s ruling elite – Putin and his former KGB associates – is to preserve their tight-knit political and economic regime, built for their personal control and material benefit. Russian foreign policy is, as it was under the Soviets, an extension of official domestic priorities.
Until Russia’s internal political situation changes, relations with the West will remain unchanged and ambiguous.