Vladimir Putin at the helm of Russia
This chapter opens a new section in the book and examines, in detail, the changes introduced in the foreign policy realm with the arrival of Vladimir Putin to the Russian Presidency. It looks at the evolution of Russia’s foreign policy during the 2000s, not only globally, but also towards the CIS and the former Soviet states as a whole. The chapter shows how, under Putin, the Kremlin’s actions in the former Soviet space, received additional impetus as the region was increasingly identified as an area of ‘special interests’ to Russia. The chapter also shows how Russia’s policies in the former Soviet space changed in reaction to events in the West – 9/11, the War in Iraq, the assertive policies of President George W. Bush – and in the European continent – NATO and EU enlargement. It explains how disappointment with the United States’ actions, both globally and in Europe, led to calls by Russia for closer CIS integration. The chapter also shows how the notion that the former Soviet republics were linked together by a common history and a similar culture, which made of this space a common civilisation, increasingly gained ground among the Russian leadership. The chapter reaches the conclusion that during the 2000s, most members of the Russian political elite still found it hard to accept the end of the USSR and to view the new states as truly independent and sovereign. For many the idea of ‘Russia’ remained closely linked to the USSR and the former Russian Empire in terms of territorial dimension and population composition.