How Vladimir Putin is bringing Russia again to its old Soviet form

An analysis of Putin's foreign policy, which has been in power for more than 20 years, seems like his main goal is to bring Russia back to its former position in the Soviet era.


President Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia for nearly two decades, the world's largest nuclear power. In Russia, constitutionally, more than twice in a row, a person did not have the opportunity to be in power. So President Putin has confirmed that he will remain in power until 2036 by amending the constitution, which has unannouncedly turned him into a dictator. After Joseph Stalin, he will be in power for the longest time.

An analysis of Putin's foreign policy, which has been in power for more than 20 years, shows that his main goal is to bring Russia back to its former position in the Soviet era.

Putin's ultimate vision is to make Russia an essential force in all areas of the world, including peace and security in the international arena, as well as increasing regional influence and authority, including stabilizing its position in domestic politics. 

Analysts say Putin has already privatized state power and is paying close attention to protecting the interests of the country's elite in order to achieve other goals. To understand more clearly President Putin's ambitions for Russia, one can discuss Russia's history.

In October 1917, the Russian Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's Bolshevik Party brought down the Russian Tsarist Empire. The following year, in 1918, when the Bolsheviks formed the government, civil war broke out, which took about four years to overcome. 

In 1922, under Lenin's leadership, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) officially began its journey with the Russian, Transcaucasian, Belarusian and Ukrainian republics.

After Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power. Under his leadership, Russia's economy and industry flourished. However, as a result of rapid industrialization, then Soviet Russia had to cope with the famine of 1932-1933. Under his leadership, Soviet Russia took part in World War II. Although the Soviets had a non-aggression pact with the German Nazi forces shortly before the war began, the Soviets became involved in the war on behalf of the Allies, including the United States. 

However, despite winning the war jointly with the Allies, the Cold War soon turned into a Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States due to ideological differences. The world then split into two poles. One is the Soviet-led socialist bloc and the other is the US-led capitalist bloc.

Since then, states have been developing and increasing their nuclear capabilities. The capitalist bloc was formed by the United States and its allies, NATO forces (1949). In response, the Soviets formed the Socialist Bloc with its allies, the Warsaw Pact (1953). 

This is how the tension in international politics grows. In the wake of nuclear capabilities, research in science and technology, space conquests, the invasion of Afghanistan by force, Soviet Russia gradually fell into economic stagnation, resulting in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of 15 independent states. 

The journey began from a bipolar or bipolar world system to a unipolar or unipolar, that is, the United States-centered capitalist world system, which is still in place today.

But the Russians did not naturally accept the fall of the Soviet Union and its fall from the "dignity" of being one of the two major world powers, the manifestations of which can only be understood by analyzing Putin's political behavior and foreign policy over the past two decades.

Russia has always wanted to spread its political influence worldwide. Russia established the "Commonwealth of Independent States" (CIS) to maintain the influence that Russia's mainland had on its territories during the Soviet era, even after it collapsed in the 1990s. The organization is made up of the independent states that were formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

The main purpose of the CIS is to provide military and economic support to the member states and to create a kind of Supernational Union through Russia and Belarus, where Russia will be the main source of power. However, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia (Baltic states) did not join the CIS, alleging illegal occupation of Russia. Georgia, on the other hand, withdrew its membership in 2008 after joining, and Ukraine has been closed since 2018 due to political tensions over Crimea.

Originally, those countries did not join the CIS or came out after Russia's monopoly. However, the other seven countries that are still members of the organization, except Russia, undoubtedly have Russian military and political influence, which can be understood by looking at Ukraine.

In 2014, Putin-led Russia illegally occupied Crimea. At least 14,000 people lost their lives in the Crimean-Russian war in Donbas. This is the largest land grab in Europe in the 21st century since World War II. Other states, including the West, have not supported Russia's authoritarianism. But President Putin did not listen to those statements.

It shows how authoritarian a state can be in occupying a disputed land for sixteen years at the cost of fourteen thousand lives even in the 21st century. Although Russia was officially forced to relinquish its claim to Eastern Europe in the 1990s, it may not have given up yet, as evidenced by its authoritarian behavior in Eastern Europe.

After the Eastern speech, let's talk about the West. The United States' relationship with Russia has always been divisive, as it is ideologically opposed to the West. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Truman Doctrine's 1947 agenda to prevent the spread of Russian communism worldwide was fulfilled. After the fall, the work of bringing internal stability to Russia continued throughout the nineties. 

Towards the end of the last century, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, came to power in 1999. He personally blames the West, especially the United States, for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, Putin was the first foreign leader to offer his condolences to George W. Bush by telephone in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Because then Russia's goal was to become a global partner with the United States. But when the global economic downturn hit in 2008, Russia again turned its back on the West and sought to improve relations with China, so that Russia would not have to become economically dependent on the West. 

This is not the first time Russia has had such opportunistic behavior. In World War I and World War II, Russia fought for the Allies on behalf of the Allies. In other words, in the field of national interest, Russia does not hesitate to cooperate with its eternal rival, the United States.

Russia ranks 11th in the world in terms of GDP. In other words, Russia is now a smaller country in the economy than Italy. But even then, Russia is acting as a much more important actor in the international world than Italy or France. Now the question may be what is the reason for this despite being so backward in the economy?

The answer to this question is not too complicated. Russia and the United States have 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Russia is also one of the world's leading arms manufacturers and exporters. Russia is thought to have the world's largest gas and oil reserves. Many European countries are largely dependent on Russia's natural resources. 

Although Russia's influence in world politics has diminished since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West has not been able to resist Russia, largely for geopolitical and strategic reasons.

China, on the other hand, is the largest buyer of Russian oil and gas. Russia's economic and trade relations with China are growing day by day, which has become one of the main concerns for the Western world. Because historically, socialist China has been one of the main rivals of the West and the United States.

In 300 BC, Kautilya, the prime minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, said in his famous book "Arthashastra" that "the enemy of the enemy is the friend". Undoubtedly, Russia and China are following this policy of cunning to keep up the pressure on the West.

Impressions of Putin's professional experience and tactics can also be seen in Russian politics. Russia is far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of cyber technology, thanks to Putin. In the current political climate, the United States and its allies are perhaps more concerned about cyber-attacks than Russia's military.


Last year, during the Trump administration, a group of hackers, backed by the Russian government, carried out cyberattacks around the world, including several US government websites. Hackers had access to websites for about seven to eight months, which enabled them to steal a lot of sensitive information. 

About two hundred organizations reported that their information had been stolen. The terror that President Putin has created around the world by carrying out cheap cyberattacks without the use of expensive weapons is truly unprecedented.

After East and West, let's look at the Middle East. The gruesome scene on the bloody Syrian battlefield is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Putin's policy in the Middle East. The biggest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century is the Syrian civil war, where Russia has been providing political and later military support to the country's dictator Bashar al-Assad from the beginning. Russia has had good relations with Syria since Soviet times. 

However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the situation in Syria deteriorated. In 2011, when President Assad's forces were on the verge of defeat in the Syrian civil war, Russia suddenly launched a bomb attack on Assad's forces in 2015 and worked with Iran to save President Assad from defeat.

Russia has also maintained warm relations with Israel in the Middle East in recent times. At the same time, there are not many examples in the political world of maintaining good relations with Iran and Israel. Here, too, the imprint of President Putin's tactical policy is noticeable.

Russia has bilateral relations with Sunni-majority countries. Although there are no Russian military bases in the region, there are air bases for the benefit of Syria. As a result, Russia's involvement in the Middle East is well established.

In addition to the East, the West, and the Middle East, Russia's trade relations with other regions of the world are quite developed. Especially big countries including India, China, Brazil are some of the trading partners of Russia. Moreover, Russia has been able to establish easy trade relations with developing countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, through which Russia's foothold in the Asia-Pacific region has become quite strong.

Undoubtedly, President Putin's efforts to bring Russia back to the forefront of the political world since the beginning of the 21st century have already overcome all obstacles to staying in power for the next 15 years. And for China's benefit, the world system is now slowly shifting from a US-based unipolar form to a bipolar one. Although Russia has not yet reached such a level of power as the multipolar system, President Putin has already been able to establish himself as a "global player." 

In the next 15 years, socialist China and Russia are going to bring about a new kind of change in the world system by colliding with the West. That's what lifelong President Xi Jinping and Russia's next 15-year-old Vladimir Putin are all about.

Jannatul Tazri Trisha
Alumni, Department of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University.

Date: 2021-05-10

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