6 August 2019

Russia’s Unusual Role in the Global Order

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has demonstrated that it has the capacity to destablize the international order, but not the capacity to fill the vacuum it is creating. Learn more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

Russia occupies an unusual position on the world stage. Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow has repeatedly demonstrated that it has the capacity to destabilize the international order, but not the capacity to fill the vacuum it is creating. While Russia lacks the military strength to challenge U.S. supremacy, no one—particularly not the NATO alliance—is ignoring its capabilities. Moscow’s use of arms sales and military engagements to build ties to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America has also attracted attention. And its massive, and growing, exports of fossil fuels to Europe offers Russia additional leverage.

Even as Moscow maintains an outsized influence on the global stage, discontent is brewing at home. Putin has dominated the Russian political scene for more than two decades, but his popularity is waning amid a slowing economy and a deeply unpopular pension reform effort. That may open space for his long-suffering political opponents to call attention to the corruption and violence that have marked his tenure.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reviews an honor guard during an official welcome ceremony in Belgrade, Serbia, Jan. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

With its sanctions on Russia, the United States has added to Putin’s problems. And American officials, including members of Congress, still see Russia as an enemy that meddled in U.S. elections and is continuing to work against American national security interests around the world. But for reasons that are difficult to determine, U.S. President Donald Trump has proven resistant to measures that could deter future Russian meddling, even as his efforts to undermine NATO and other international blocs plays into Putin’s hads.

For more than a decade, WPR has been covering Russia’s role in global politics, and continues to do so. That includes examining how Russia exploits far-flung conflicts, from Venezuela to Syria, to advance its interests. What steps will Putin take next to undermine the U.S.-dominated international order? And how will he simultaneously maintain his hold on Russian politics?

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