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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Putin's Russia Stakes Its Ground

Council on Foreign Relations

October 24, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

For U.S. and European policymakers who had consigned Kremlinology to the history shelf of research libraries, the past two years have brought cause for regret. Since December 2005, when Russian muscle flexing in a dispute with Ukraine showed the European Union how vulnerable (BBC) its energy supplies had become, President Vladimir Putin has made no bones about the fact that he deeply resents the status quo he inherited from Boris Yeltsin when he took power on the eve of the millennium. In 2005, he told (AP) Russians in a nationally televised speech that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [twentieth] century."

Time and again since he’s moved to reassert Moscow’s power. Domestically, Putin sharply curtailed the civil liberties that briefly blossomed after the Soviet Union’s collapse, as this CFR Task Force report chronicled in 2006. While significant security cooperation with Washington followed the 9/11 attacks, Russia continues to bully former Soviet states (RIA-Novosti) like Georgia and Ukraine, redefining its “rights” to intervene in their domestic politics. More recently, Putin announced his intention to abrogate the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty signed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, resumed (Telegraph) long-range bomber patrols not seen since the Cold War, and threatened to pull out of the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty if the United States goes ahead with plans to base a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. As result, those plans look increasingly tentative (LA Times).

“A stronger Russia now regrets such conciliatory policies because they have left the country feeling encircled,” writes Russia analyst Ivan Eland. As Dmitri K. Simes, head of the Nixon Center, puts it in the new issue of Foreign Affairs: “Washington's crucial error lay in its propensity to treat post-Soviet Russia as a defeated enemy.”

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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