chapter
15 Pages

Conclusion

WithDomitilla Sagramoso

This chapter summarises the main arguments of the book. It shows that there is clearly support for the ‘neo-imperialist’ hypothesis, especially during Putin’s third term in office, which began in 2012. Neo-imperialist policies also become prominent during the mid-to-late 2000s, as disappointment with the West grew and Russia engaged in an increasingly assertive behaviour in the former Soviet space. However, the evidence of such a neo-imperialist conduct is not always overwhelming, and especially not in the first decade of Russia’s life after the end of the USSR. During the 1990s, Russia went through a transitional phase, which involved both handling the legacies of the Soviet era and engaging in the process of nation- and state-building. Consequently, Russia’s policies in most fields, including relations with its former Soviet neighbours, were neither characterised by a neo-imperialist agenda, nor did they reflect a truly consistent pattern of behaviour. The chapter argues that starting in the early- to mid-2000s, however, the Kremlin increasingly engaged in attempts to create a sphere of influence around its neighbouring states, although its policies were not necessarily characterised by an extremely assertive behaviour in all spheres of policymaking. As the decade progressed, though, Moscow’s actions in the Near Abroad became clearly more forceful, were increasingly characterised by the use of hard power, and were often conducted in direct violation of international law. In the mid-2000s, and especially during Putin’s second Presidency, the Kremlin made growing use of Russia’s hegemonic power, which resulted from its renewed economic and military strength, to bring countries in the former Soviet space under its sphere of influence. While in the 1990s and early 2000s, Russia’s policies reflected the notion of post-Imperium – a prolonged exit from Russia’s imperial condition – in the 2010s, Russia’s neo-imperial tradition was revived more forcefully. Russia became, to all intents and purposes, a revisionist state, which annexed Crimea, became militarily engaged in Ukraine, and encroached on Georgia’s territorial integrity in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.