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What Putin Learned From the Soviet Collapse

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What Putin Learned From the Soviet Collapse

To Preserve Its Global Ambitions, Russia Is Managing Its Economic Limits

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Russia looks to the past to navigate the future. 

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  • Analytical
  • Background
  • Concrete Examples


Today’s Russia has come a long way from the Soviet Union’s hallmark inefficient economy and crippled state apparatus. In this thought-provoking essay, foreign policy experts Richard Connolly and Michael Kofman highlight the lessons in the USSR’s political and fiscal missteps that currently inform Russia’s economic management and global relationships. Students of geopolitical power shifts will find this concise text a worthwhile read.


The Soviet Union endured severe economic disruptions and critical shortages of necessities, which rendered it geopolitically weak.

Financial shocks in late-Soviet and early post-Soviet Russia inflicted tremendous damage on the country’s economy. Steep oil market declines in 1986 and 1997 crippled the federal budget of a country heavily reliant on export revenue. That period also saw a nation incapable of producing essential goods such as grain and machinery, making its economy, already vulnerable to oil price swings, import-dependent. The Soviet Union, no longer able to support the failing economies of the Warsaw Pact and its allies, relied heavily on external sources of...

About the Authors

Richard Connolly is director of the Eastern Advisory Group and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Michael Kofman is research program director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

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