Russia is fighting a very brutal and active war in Chechnya, similar in tactics and methods to the war the USSR fought in Afghanistan.

It has several disputes with former members of the Soviet Union, especially Georgia and Ukraine. With these its methods tend to be not so much military as "commercial" - trade sanctions and boycotts. With Georgia there have been arbitrary bans on importing Georgia's main products. With Ukraine there are threats to interfere with gas supplies. In both cases it is not clear what the policy aims are but perhaps those ruling Russia regard both territories as 'natural' parts of Greater Russia, as they had been part of the Russian Empire of the Tsars.

With the EU as a whole there are veiled threats to the supply of gas, on which many states in Europe have become dependent.

There have also been unexplained deaths and assassinations of critics of Vladimir Putin the president of Russia, including deaths abroad, such as of a dissident Vladimir Litvinenko in London (November 2006) allegedly poisoned with Polonium 210. Does this amount to state terrorism?

Russia supports separatists in Georgia - Avkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops are in the breakaway republic of Trans-Dniestria in Moldova.

Russian troops are also based in parts of former Soviet Central Asia.

At the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia seemed to be a weak power that no longer exerted power outside its borders, where the government couldn't even raise enough taxes for its operations. Now (2006) the government is stronger, no longer subject to democratic control, and exerting power via its energy exports. The former KGB - a secret police and intelligence organisation that was the core of the power structure of the USSR - has recovered under the new name of FSB (Federal Security Bureau), and seems to be using some of the same methods as during the Communist period. Thus Russia seems to have some of the same political features as the former Soviet Union but without a Communist party. Could it be classified as Fascist? Probably not but the government has become more authoritarian, like that of the Tsars.

Is it a danger to its neighbours? Yes, to some of them. It would seem to be unwise of governments in the EU to become dependent on Russia's oil and gas supplies. One response to the gas dependence seems to be new plans to build nuclear power stations in Britain and other countries and to get supplies of gas from such countries as Algeria and Nigeria.

What are Putin's policy aims? It seems likely that his first aim was to restore the power of the Russian state and reduce the amount of democracy that occurred after the end of the Soviet Union. Then he is trying to restore the prestige of Russia abroad, especially in the countries of the "near abroad" - the former Soviet Republics. Does he intend to re-create the old Russian Empire as it existed before 1918? Probably he and the people who put him in power intend something like that. However, as it no longer has a world wide association of idealists in a Communist party it seems unlikely that the new Russian Empire would aim to have influence in third world countries in other continents.

The following countries may have apprehension about Russia's intentions for them:

  • Finland - formerly ruled by the Tsars
  • Estonia - formerly ruled by the Tsars and with a Russian speaking minority
  • Latvia - formerly ruled by the Tsars and with a Russian speaking minority
  • Lithuania - formerly ruled by the Tsars and with a Russian speaking minority
  • Poland - part of it was ruled by the Tsars since the 18th century
  • Ukraine - an integral part of the Russian empire for centuries
  • Belarus - an integral part of the Russian empire for centuries
  • Moldova - ruled by the Tsars and annexed by Stalin from Romania
  • Armenia - an integral part of the Russian empire for centuries
  • Georgia - an integral part of the Russian empire for centuries
  • Azerbaijan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Kazakhstan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Uzbekistan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Turkmenistan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Kyrgizstan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Tadzhikistan - conquered by the Tsars
  • Mongolia - closely associated with the USSR

Last revised 19/02/10


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