Russia’s assertive foreign policy

Russia's assertive foreign policy

Russia’s assertive foreign policy

Updated March 2023

The foreign policy of Russia has undergone significant changes since the Soviet era, and the country’s current foreign policy goals are challenging to define. The collapse of communism in Europe led to a new Russia that differed from the Soviet Union in several ways. For instance, the new Russia is smaller, with a population that is 85% ethnic Russian, and lacks a military-industrial complex like that of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for two decades, has pursued two main goals: to preserve Russia’s unity and restore its status as a great power in the global arena.

Putin’s achievement of these goals has come at a cost, particularly in the centralization of power and the authoritarian basis on which the power vertical has been constructed. Russia’s political regime predominantly serves the interests of a narrow elite exploiting the country’s resources for their collective aims. This regime may cause problems in the future as civil consciousness grows among Russians. Furthermore, Russia’s confirmation as a great power has resulted in a renewed confrontation with the United States, which signals a long and uneven struggle.

Russia’s assertive foreign policy: Ukraine War?

Over the past decade, particularly since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign policy has undergone dramatic changes. Putin’s imperialistic vision, complex strategic considerations, and use of global resources are aimed at cementing Russia’s influence as a superpower and critical player in global politics. His active, assertive, and defiant foreign policy is based on challenging the Western hegemony while manipulating collaboration with Western countries and the international community to promote Moscow’s interests.

Since 2012, Putin has been working towards increasing Russia’s presence and influence in the Middle East, Central Asia, East Europe, Caucasia, and Africa while stymying the US and blocking the expansion of NATO and the EU. However, the escalation of the war in Ukraine is a critical turning point on the map of Moscow’s relations and interests in the region.

Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union’s foreign minister from 1959 to 1987, once asserted that no international question of any consequence could be decided without the Soviet Union or in opposition to it. During the years when Gromyko presided over Soviet foreign policy, the thrust was an unyielding opposition to the West, and Moscow’s conflict with the West was felt in every corner of the world. While the new Russia’s foreign policy differs dramatically from the Soviet Union’s, the country’s current stance towards the West is one of challenge and opposition.

The challenge and opposition from Russia towards the West have brought about a new Cold War. The Ukraine conflict, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the West’s sanctions on Russia have led to tensions reminiscent of the Cold War era. However, unlike the Cold War, Russia is no longer a communist country, and the West is not a monolithic entity.

Despite Putin’s active foreign policy, there are limits to Russia’s influence, particularly in the face of the United States’ economic and military power. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the West, with the falling oil prices and the country’s economic decline, have weakened Russia’s position in the global arena. Nonetheless, Putin’s imperialistic vision and complex strategic considerations remain, and it is unlikely that Russia will back down in the face of opposition from the West.

The new Russian foreign policy is difficult to define, and it is challenging to predict where and how the country will seek to achieve its international goals. Putin’s pursuit of Russia’s great-power status has led to the centralization of power, an authoritarian political regime, and a new Cold War with the West. While there are limits to Russia’s influence, Putin’s imperial


  1. Putin’s Biography: From Spy to President. (2022, January 24). Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from, This article provides a detailed overview of Putin’s early life and career, including his time as a KGB agent and his rise through the ranks of the Russian government.
  2. Putin’s Path to Authoritarianism: The Role of Media and Civil Society. (2021, July 7). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved from This article examines how Putin has consolidated his power in Russia, including through restrictions on media and civil society, and the implications of this for the country’s political future.
  3. Putin’s Russia: A Geopolitical Challenge for the West. (2022, February 1). Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from This article analyzes Putin’s foreign policy goals, including his efforts to assert Russian influence in Ukraine, Syria, and other parts of the world, and the challenges this poses for the United States and its allies.
  4. Putin’s Popularity and the Politics of Personality. (2021, November 10). Brookings Institution. Retrieved from This article discusses Putin’s enduring popularity among Russians, despite concerns about his authoritarianism and corruption, and the role that his charisma and image play in shaping public opinion.
  5. Putin’s Russia and the Future of International Politics. (2021, October 22). International Affairs. Retrieved from, This article explores the challenges of Putin’s Russia to the global order, including the impact of his authoritarian rule, his efforts to disrupt Western democracies, and his ambitions for Russia’s role in world affairs.

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