State consolidation and foreign policy in Russia
Introduction This chapter examines the relationship between Russian domestic politics and policy towards Northeast Asia in the context of the gradual centralization of power that has been observable over the past five years. Under Yeltsin, Russia was buoyed by the ideology of democracy and adopted particular foreign policy positions that were considered compatible with these values. This change included a close identification with the West and the repudiation or down-playing of relations with former Soviet allies. Subsequently, however, economic decline, and alarm over public disorder prompted his successor Vladimir Putin to strengthen the state and to weaken the power bases of the opposition. Putin’s centralization of power in Moscow facilitated the elevation of state interest above the ideological concerns of the Yeltsin era, and allowed foreign policy readjustments based on practical calculations of benefit. With a firm control of Russian politics Putin could make decisions relating to Asia Pacific neighbors, which would have been problematic for a weaker leader.