Putin in Kremlin

Motyl for Foreign Policy Mag: Putin May Want to Be an Emperor, but Russia Isn’t an Imperial Power

Russia’s drive to expand its sphere of influence isn’t inevitable—or even in the country’s best interest.

To an observer in 2019, it may seem like Russia has always had—and will always have—an immutable interest in maintaining authoritarian control at home and imperial control abroad. According to this line of thinking, Russian President Vladimir Putin is merely the latest in a long line of Russian rulers to pursue his country’s natural priorities vigorously. The implications for the West are obvious. If Putin is simply drawing on the same playbook as any other Russian leader, the available responses are either accommodating his authoritarianism and expansionism or war—and no one wants war.

But what if Putin is not pursuing immutable and objectively definable Russian national interests? It could be that he is captive to the same pressures as all other leaders: perceptions, ideologies, institutional legacies, and historical developments that lead to policies that are not necessarily in the best interest of his country.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy

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