When Vladimir Putin was once again elected as president of Russia while serving as its prime minister, thousands of Russian citizens clogged the streets in protest of the elections they viewed as fraudulent. Not surprisingly, the Russian media immediately blamed the West for instigating the protests, while Russian officials publicly accused the United States for funding them.
In case there are any doubts, Putin has made it clear he will use his second stint as president to restore the Russian military to its former greatness by stating: In the next five to ten years, we must take our armed forces to a qualitatively new level. Of course, this will require big spending …. But we must do this if we want to defend the dignity of our country.
Mr. Putin is determined to establish a Eurasian Union – a strong economic, and potentially political, alliance of former Soviet states – has rekindled fears among many in the West that Russia’s strategic goal is to bring back the USSR and return it to its historic rivalry with the United States. Russia has a need to do this because it is no longer the military and economic superpower it once was because of its:
- Economic decline
- Loss of vast swaths of territory following the breakup of the Soviet Union
Besides Putin’s strained relations with both Western Europe and the United States, his relationship with Brussels has never been much better than that with Washington. Brussels has often accused Russia of violating human rights and repressing political rights.
To the east, Russia has watched nervously as China gained economic influences in both Central Asia and large parts of Serbia. Putin’s regime considers itself to be surrounded by rivals and in great need of expanding its sphere of influence if it is going to increase its power both regionally and globally.
Vladimir Putin is a world leader who bears watching. He would not be the first to become extremely powerful even while the general populace of his country fails to trust him. The United States needs to be careful of its dealings with Russia under Putin’s influence.