Russia and the West: What You See Is What You Get

Russia has completed its electoral cycle, installing Vladimir Putin as president for another four years. The process has been revealing, leaving westerners with a different impression of how the country is evolving. Russia’s foreign policy is changing too, shrinking to its area of immediate concern.

The World Today Published 1 April 2004 Updated 16 October 2020 4 minute READ

Dmitri Trenin

Director, Carnegie Moscow Center

A dozen years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Russia has completed a transition within a transition. The train is still moving, but it has arrived at a station. The country has stabilised, for the time being, as a semi-authoritarian state, with a government-directed – though not government-owned – economy. There is a wide rich-poor gap, with a very weak middle.

Although communism as an ideology has been decidedly marginalised, middle-of-the-road nationalism is certainly on the rise. This may be a disappointment for those who believed in the democratic revolution and market transformation.

Yet, this Russia strikes one as essentially ‘normal’; at least organic. There is little place for wishful thinking, but equally little expectation of an apocalypse-in- waiting, either. Under President Vladimir Putin, contrary to popular view, what you see is what you get.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.