That was almost 30 years ago when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991. He also handed over power to newly elected President Boris Yeltsin. The hammer and sickle flag flying at the Kremlin that night was removed and the Russian tricolor (three-colored flag) was flown.
The next day, the Soviet Union formally dissolved the USSR, recognizing the independence of the Soviet republics. The Soviet Union, which had a special influence around the world, controlled various states for seventy years, and the sudden dissolution of such a huge empire was a world-changing event.
But after the emergence of a new nation called the Russian Federation, it faced a crisis of identity. Identity Crisis: “Russia has become an empire, but never a nation-state like the West,” says Mira Milosevic, an expert on Russia and Eurasia at the Elkano Royal Institute.
In such a situation, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia began trying to establish its own Russian identity. But it was a very complicated process because Russia is a country of many races and nationalities, there are great traditions connected with hundreds of imperialist histories.
In the 1990s, Russia began to define its relations with the Western world, along with its national identity. But the United States and the West have stopped seeing Russia as a superpower like the Soviet Union after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Russia’s decline in international status came as NATO expanded into Eastern Europe, Moscow’s sphere of influence.
Putin’s arrival: Russian President Vladimir Putin described the break-up of the Soviet Union as “the worst tragedy of world politics in the 20th century.” Observers in Russia’s case agree, he said.
“It was a historic dissolution of Russia in the name of the Soviet Union,” Putin said. We became a separate country. We’ve lost a lot of what we’ve made in a thousand years. ”
That is why Putin has made it clear that he is determined to make Russia a world power once again, after years of alleged insults from the United States and its NATO allies since he came to power in 2000.
Mira Milicevic believes Putin has succeeded in giving Russia a strategic role as a world power once again.
“Putin sees himself as Russia’s messiah because Russia was in a state of collapse and bankruptcy after the democratization process failed in 1990,” she said. Putin saved Russia and restored its strategic role in the international arena. ”
It is also true that after the nineties, Putin took his country to the international stage. The nineties are considered the lost decade in Russia.
From KGB spies to the President
Putin resigned in 1991 to begin his political career after 16 years as a spy for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency.
Putin was elected interim president in 1999 and was elected full-time president four months later.
Not only that, but Putin became the longest-serving president since the late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953. The controversial national referendum on constitutional reform in April this year has given him a chance to stay in power even after his fourth term ends in 2024. In that case, Putin, 69, could stay in power until 2036.
His critics claim that the way President Putin molded himself during the Soviet era shaped his worldview.
“It’s clear Russia is in the international spotlight, but not for positive reasons,” said Natasha Kuhrat, a professor of war studies at King’s College London.
“It’s very interesting to see that ten years ago they used to say that Russia should attract them,” she said. He must use soft power.
Now they have changed. No one wants to be attracted to Moscow anymore. They want to see Russia as a character on the world stage. They want the world to accept and listen to Russia. “If you think about it, from a strategic point of view, Putin has got what he wants.”
What are Putin’s priorities?
Experts say Putin’s top priority is to stem Russia’s decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union and regain its former status without allowing foreign powers to increase their influence in the area once controlled by the Soviet Union.
In 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia to prevent Western pro-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from recapturing the Georgian territory of Russian-protected Ossetia. If Saakashvili had been able to unite his divided country, he could have been closer to his goal of making Georgia a NATO member.
In 2014, pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following a Western-backed uprising. Russia then intervened militarily in Ukraine, occupying the Crimean peninsula for the first time. It has since backed anti-Ukrainian rebels in the Russian-speaking region of Eastern Europe.
Mira says the attacks were not Putin’s move to re-establish the Soviet Union, but a matter of historical principle related to Russia’s national defense.
“Efforts to protect its sphere of influence are linked to Russia’s idea of national security, which sees these measures as defending the national interest,” she said. At the moment, Russia wants to maintain a distance between itself and its potential enemies, and Russia sees NATO as the biggest threat to its national security. He does not want NATO on his borders. ”
Arsenal of weapons
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited a vast stockpile of nuclear weapons. However, Russia has significantly reduced its nuclear stockpile. But Russia also has the second-largest nuclear arsenal after the United States.
In his national address in 2018, Putin claimed a new powerful nuclear weapon. And just days before the election gave him a six-year term, he set ambitious goals for senior officials and lawmakers. Accusing Russia of trying to suppress it, he warned the West.
Russia has tested a new ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) called the Sarmat, Putin said. He blamed the United States for the test and argued that Russia was forced to build its own nuclear arsenal as needed. Because the United States withdrew from the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty in 2002.
Putin warned the West in 2004 that he was going to take such a step, but said that the West did not want to talk to Russia. “At that time no one wanted to hear from us,” Putin said in a televised address broadcast across the country. Since then, Russia has been busy modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that Russia has 50 more weapons in 2021 than last year. Russia has added 180 nuclear weapons to its total nuclear arsenal. The main reason for this is the ground-based ICBM, which has many weapons and ballistic missiles launched from the sea. Due to which the world today is not only listening to Russia, it is also afraid of it.
In the direction of making Russia a superpower, Russia also began to strengthen its ties with Latin America, which was strategically important in the Soviet era. “Russia is playing the same role that the Soviet Union used to play in the international arena and in the diplomatic arena,” she said. There is no doubt that Russia is taking advantage of the traditional Soviet relations and pushing them forward, of which Latin America is an example. ”
Experts say Russia’s presence in Latin America is part of a broader strategy to weaken US leadership in the region and compete with emerging powers China.
“Putin is a great strategist and he has proved it,” she said. He succeeded in establishing Russia in the Middle East at a lower economic, military, and political cost than the United States. Russia cannot be ignored in the Middle East right now. And this is the only strategic side that talks with the king of Saudi Arabia, from Hezbollah. ”
Russia is also a permanent member of the five-member UN Security Council. Russia also received the seat from the Soviet Union, which gave it veto power at the United Nations.