Russia: Vlad the Mighty?

Three years after his election, President Vladimir Putin is manoeuvring Russia through another international crisis – the conflict between its former client-state Iraq and new-found ‘strategic partner’ the US. He does so with more political authority and policy control than any Soviet or Russian leader since the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. The intervening years have seen such historical titans as Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, as well as the charismatic Nikita Khrushchev and the long-serving if undistinguished Leonid Brezhnev. What makes Putin so special that he should be mentioned alongside such figures, let alone considered more dominant than them?

The World Today Updated 21 October 2020 Published 1 March 2003 6 minute READ

Bobo Lo

International Relations Analyst, Independent

Over the past three years we have seen a significant evolution in Russia’s foreign policy, specifically in its approach towards the west – a transformation that has become especially evident in the wake of September 11 2001. It is less clear, however, whether this pro-western ‘strategic choice’ can be sustained in the longer term.

For many, the answer is linked to President Vladimir Putin’s political survival and ability to promote a cooperative international agenda over the misgivings of the elite. Russian and Soviet history is littered with examples of well-motivated policies falling by the wayside as first the will of the leader, and then his authority, is eroded by an array of political and institutional obstacles.

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