4: Between partnership and self-assertion
The last year has been marked by a historically bad relationship with the West. However, Putin began his reign with an outstretched hand . Yeltsin had been able to draw on international recognition for his role in the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Putin had to rely on Russia’s severely weakened resources. He therefore believed that Moscow would have the greatest impact by cooperating with the West. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Putin offered President George W. Bush Russia’s unreserved support in the fight against terrorism.
However, this early phase of collaboration did not last long. Russian authorities felt that they received little support for their views. Seen from Moscow, the United States continued its international monopoly without regard to international law and the interests of other countries. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a particularly serious example of this for Russia. Moscow has also seen NATO eastward expansions and plans for a US missile shield as a threat to Russia’s security. Putin therefore chose to re-prioritize and pursue a more interest-based policy. The short war with Georgia in 2008 was a strong signal that Russia was willing to use force to defend its interests and positions.
A third phase began with the US-initiated ” reboot ” ( reset ) in 2009. This attempt at a new impetus to relations between the old superpower rivals struck, however wrong, they did not succeed in resolving the dispute over how world politics should be organized. In other words, relations between the West and Russia were already very tense when the Ukraine crisis broke out in 2014.
The view of what are the main reasons for the current tense situation depends on who is asked. In the West , the negative development is often linked to the emergence of a more authoritarian government in Russia. Russian foreign policy is understood as offensive – as an attempt to restore the Soviet sphere of interest. In Russia , many believe that the conflict with the West is primarily due to the United States in particular not accepting that other states have an independent voice in international politics. In any case, relations between the West and Russia have not lived up to the expectations of both sides. It has provided a basis for mutual disappointment and lack of trust.
5: Is Putin’s Russia a Stable State?
What about the future prospects? Does Putin’s Russia represent a stable regime? The answer is both yes and no. After the election victory in 2012, Putin has embarked on a political course in which Russia and “Russian” are put in opposition to the West. This is often portrayed in the Western media as if Putin has embraced Russian nationalism. This is only partially true. Although about 80% of the population consider themselves ethnic Russians , Russia is also home to a number of ethnic minorities , including several Muslim peoples. The Kremlin can therefore not simply focus on pure Russian ethno-nationalism. Instead, Putin has fronted a ” value-based turnaround.”»: In line with growing frustration over the lack of impact on the EU and the US, according to MICROEDU, Putin has presented Russia as an alternative to Western multiculturalism and liberal values. The Russian regime is portrayed as a defender of traditional values : of the nuclear family and a religious foundation as a guideline for the development of society.
This turn has both a domestic policy and a foreign policy dimension. After the urban middle class in Moscow and St. Petersburg demonstrated against electoral fraud and abuse of power in 2011-12, Putin understood that he had to seek new supporters. With the emphasis on “Russian” core values, he extended a hand to the broad sections of the population who did not identify with the globally oriented, liberal capitalist elite. At the same time, he used several of the arguments of – and thus outmaneuvered – moderate Russian nationalists, the only political camp that seemed to have the potential to challenge the incumbent regime (cf. the support for opposition politicians such as Alexei Navalny).
At the same time, this conservative turn secures new allies in foreign policy. At a time when Russia is struggling with relations with most Western leaders, Putin is finding new supporters in right-wing populist and nationalist circles, including Marine Le Pen in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary. He also finds it in states that share the Orthodox values - including Greece, Cyprus and Serbia.
6: Economic challenges: sanctions and weak will to reform
While Putin has succeeded in overcoming the domestic political storm, the economy represents one of the regime’s biggest headaches. One thing is the direct consequences of the Ukraine conflict. As a result of Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine, the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway have introduced sanctions that are intended to affect the Russian economy in various ways. Among other things, restrictions have been introduced on exports of certain types of technology, including offshore technology, and on Russian banks’ access to loans in the West. Russia has responded with a ban on imports of food from these countries.
However, sanctions and counter-sanctions are not the main reason why the Russian economy is now struggling uphill. Even before the Ukraine crisis, it was obvious that the development did not go as the Russian authorities had hoped. As mentioned, the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008 hit Russia hard. Although Moscow again recorded GDP growth in 2010, the growth rate has since gradually declined. In 2013, it had fallen to 1.3%. In 2014, the situation was further aggravated by the combination of sanctions and declining oil prices, and the economy grew by only 0.6%. In 2015, negative growth is expected. At the same time, inflation has made a sharp jump. Economists believe that the “old growth model” has played its role: the Russian economy will no longer be able to grow based on high oil prices and the utilization of previously underutilized industrial capacity.must be diversified .