Russia Between 2000 and 2015

A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russia presents the traits of a profound transformation together with legacy and permanence from the past. After a disorderly transition to the market, the modernization of the first decade of the century changed the face of society and the economy, creating immeasurable wealth and enormous inequalities. Integration into the international economy is a fact. The Soviet experience is now behind us. The Russia is, according to the official formula, a “sovereign democracy” with representative institutions and a formal division of powers, within the framework of a presidential constitution. In reality, the concentration and personalization of power, the preponderance of the executive over the other organs of the state, media are so many aspects of an authoritarian politics. On the international level, the Russia has lost the status of a superpower dating back to the Cold War, but this does not prevent the search for prestige based on military and economic strength.

Putin’s first two terms. – The era marked by the personality of President Vladimir Putin (v.), Inaugurated in 2000 and still ongoing, took place under the banner of a strong central power, aimed at restoring the authority of the state, compromised by the Soviet collapse and from its tail in the last decade of the last century, carrying out a top-down modernization through state control of the country’s energy resources. In his first two presidential terms (2000-04, 2004-08) the main features of a precise strategic construction both in domestic and foreign policy emerged and strengthened, destined to remain substantially intact in the following decade. Putin He quickly established himself in the majority opinion of Russian society as the restorer of order after the uncertainties of the time of Boris El′cin. He strengthened his role as head of the former KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti, State Security Committee) and presented himself as the leader of an oligarchy focused on the security apparatus.

His most significant and popular acts were the use of military repression against the independence movement in Chechnya, which sent an intimidating signal against any centrifugal tendency in the Russian Federation, and the iron fist against the so-called wealthy tycoons in the privatizations of the 1990s, prerequisites for an authoritarian management of power. Its centralizing action brought strategic industries back under state aegis and was successful in promoting economic recovery after the fall of the ruble in 1998, creating consensus among the elites. modernizing the country. After 2004, the limited and fragile pluralism of the post-Soviet era gave way to a massive pro-presidential majority in the Duma, surrounded by marginal and powerless oppositions (communists and radical right). Thus a regime of ‘controlled democracy’ was established which configured an aggregate of economic and political power in the availability of the president.

In foreign policy, Putin initially followed a pragmatic course, which was, however, a prelude to a new politics of power. After a long period of retreat, the role of the Russia was redefined through the link between centralization of power, modernization of the economy and geopolitical primacy claimed in Eurasia. This redefinition led to a growing detachment from any partnership scenario with the West. Neither the economic interdependence between the Russia and the European Union, nor the common interest in fighting Islamic terrorism, which Moscow used to justify the war in Chechnya, produced strategic agreements. Instead, Moscow perceived the link between the enlargement of the European Union and the extension of NATO to the east as a threat to the Russian Federation’s influence in the post-Soviet space and to its own security interests. Hence his hostile reaction to the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine (2004), seen as the result of a Western intrusion. It was then that Moscow began to openly use energy wealth as a tool of its influence. Putin adhered to the vision of a multipolar world as opposed to the unilateralism of the United States, which established itself with the war in ῾Irāq, with the aim of carving out a special role for the Russia, of rejecting the method of ‘humanitarian’ interventions of the international community and to legitimize ‘sovereign democracy’ as a national specificity.

Medvedev, Putin’s successor. – The main coordinates of the internal and foreign policy of the Russia did not undergo appreciable changes with the election of Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2008. Medvedev turned out to be a figure destined to constitute a parenthesis to allow Putin to return, four years later, at the highest office of the state without violating the Constitution. The speech with ‘technocratic’ tones and inspired by the rule of law adopted by Medvedev did not alter the foundations of the policy set by Putin. The overwhelming consensus that emerged around the institution of the presidency of the Federation reduced to marginality not only the role of the Duma and the regions, but any voice of opposition to the regime, when it did not lead to the persecution of independent figures and organizations. The close intertwining between political elite and economic power remained intact under the substantial control of Putin, in the transitory capacity of head of government. The regime’s television and media monopoly stabilized. The war in Georgia (see, 2008) reaffirmed the Russian presence in the Caucasus and, more generally, in the post-Soviet space, while the Chechen question was now liquidated with the massive use of force. The conclusion of a new treaty for the limitation of nuclear weapons, the START (STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty) III (2010) and the entry of the Russia into the WTO (World Trade Organization ; 2011) helped to ease tensions with the West, but they weren’t the prelude to a new season of constructive relationships.

Putin’s re-election and the Ukrainian crisis. – In such a scenario, Putin’s re-election to the post of president in 2012, with over 60% of the votes, was a foregone event that opened up the possibility for him to extend his domination of the Russian political scene for another six years. The continuity with the coordinates already established appears so strong that it is difficult to speak of a second phase of the Putinian era. It takes place, as had happened in the first decade of the century, under the banner of modernization centered on the state energy complex, but does not provide for any political reform. The main novelty in the internal context was the birth of a protest movement, led by blogger Aleksej Anatol′evič Naval′nyj, which cracked the president’s plebiscitary consensus and brought out the signs of a creeping discontent among the middle classes for the warned corruption of the political class. However, the extra-parliamentary protest has not proved robust enough to truly challenge the regime. Putin continued to rest his power on a patriotic and populist consensus, as well as on the political apathy of a large part of the population. He then used the tensions between the Russia and the West in Ukraine (see) to consolidate his internal credit. as well as on the political apathy of a large part of the population. He then used the tensions between the Russia and the West in Ukraine (see) to consolidate his internal credit. as well as on the political apathy of a large part of the population. He then used the tensions between the Russia and the West in Ukraine (see) to consolidate his internal credit.

The Ukrainian crisis (2014) contributed to very seriously strengthen the power politics of Putin’s Russia Failed the attempt to limit Ukrainian sovereignty and to prevent the conclusion of an association treaty between Kiev and the European Union, Moscow favored the annexation of Crimea (see), supporting the separatist forces in the east of the country, with the risk of a civil war. The international consequence has been an unprecedented tension with the European Union and the United States which have imposed economic sanctions in retaliation. In the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow has claimed geopolitical interests too long neglected by the West. Further important developments in foreign policy took place during Obama’s second term. First, the historic turning point in US relations with Cuba (v.) sealed by the announcement, on December 17, 2014, of a series of thaw measures and by the reopening, in July 2015, of the reciprocal embassies; then the resumption of dialogue with Irān (see), in the framework of the negotiations and subsequent agreements on Iranian nuclear power, also signed in July 2015.

Russia Between 2000 and 2015