How We Got Here with Russia: The Kremlin’s Worldview
The Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, including its illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014 and its intervention in Syria in 2015, came unexpectedly to many in the West. These events were nonetheless mere extensions of the worldview held by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This worldview was built on more than two decades of compounded dissatisfaction with the West as well as Putin’s cumulative experiences in his ongoing global campaigns to achieve his core objectives: the preservation of his regime, the end of American hegemony, and the reinstatement of Russia as a global power. Some of these ambitions were tamed, and others expedited, by external events, yet their core has remained the same and often at odds with the West. The U.S. believed that a brief period of non-assertive foreign policy from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s had become the new norm for Russia. This period was not the norm but an anomaly. Putin’s foreign policy has always been assertive, similar to Russia’s historic foreign policy. The U.S. may thus find itself once again surprised by Putin. This paper examines the evolution of Russia’s foreign policy worldview since the collapse of the Soviet Union to help understand the likely next priorities of the Kremlin.