Putin and Russian Policy Toward the West
Since its origins, Russia has had two geographical frontiers: one in Europe, the other in Asia. With no natural topographical features demarcating its borders with other countries — or distinguishing borders between the Russian and later Soviet empires — Russia has often been portrayed as unsure about its sense of identity. Russian intellectual history is bedevilled with conflicting conceptions of where Russia belongs culturally: as part of the West, or apart from the West; either as a Slavic entity or a unique Eurasian civilization. This is commonly traced back to the construction of St Petersburg as a ‘window to the West’ in the 18th century by Tsar Peter the Great, who encouraged (and sometimes enforced) conformity to Western social, economic and cultural practices. But Russia was never really integrated into a wider West. Throughout almost the entire 20th century Soviet Russia was defined politically, ideologically and economically as being distinct in a global contestation for power and ideas. In the late Soviet period Mikhail Gorbachev again articulated a view of Russia as an integral part of a ‘common European home’. The first post-Soviet leader, Boris Yeltsin, continued on the path of integration between Russia and the West, seeking also to establish a Western-type democratic political system.
KeywordsForeign Policy Foreign Affair Domestic Politics Democracy Promotion Missile Defence
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