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  • Overview
  • Background


Russia and the Western world eye one another with no shortage of suspicion. To the West, strongman Vladimir Putin seems a bit too keen to restore the Soviet glory days – and, if necessary, to run roughshod over his neighbors. Meanwhile, the Russians resent the West for not giving them more credit for peacefully winding down the Cold War or treating them as a “great power” in its aftermath. In this balanced study, Russia expert Dmitri Trenin unpacks the past quarter-century of relations between Moscow and the West. His bottom line: the rest of the world need not fear Russia unduly, but it is something like a caged bear that they would be wise not to poke. Trenin provides a readable and perceptive analysis of the West’s fears, Moscow’s present mindset and the ways today’s regime of “authoritarian kleptocracy” differs from the Soviet state of yesteryear. This slim volume is especially useful when it describes Russia’s deep longing for relevance on the world stage – insight Western leaders would do well to understand. 


Russia: A Confusing Tangle of Contradictions

Starting in 2014, Russia began aggressively reasserting itself on the world stage, flexing its military muscle, first in Ukraine and then in Syria. While everyday Russians see their nation and its actions as benevolent, elsewhere Russian resurgence seems grounds for concern. Modern Russia exists in a somewhat murky geopolitical space. It is not a true democracy, but it's open enough that it allows its citizens to travel freely. It is tied to the West in many ways, yet it rejects many liberal European social standards and values – such as the idea of gay marriage – and sees pushing back against the United States’ dominance as a key mission. Russia’s focus on building an authoritarian “multi-ethnic nation state” has only further isolated it from the rest of Europe in recent years.

On the one hand, it’s unsurprising that Moscow continues to evoke a sense of trepidation in Westerners. Russia possesses a massive nuclear arsenal, engages in secretive decision-making, and seems to pride itself...

About the Author

Dmitri Trenin is the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

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