First of all, it has been years since the Cold War is over. The neither Soviet Union, not the Russian Empire is coming back. On the other hand, the present-day Russian Federation is crippled by sanctions. Their economy is declining. Even their population is declining as most of the educated Russians don't see the situation of their country as very promising.

So, why is Russian Federation still clinging to the hangover of its past glory?

What would be the harm for the Russian Federation to just come to compromise with the West and live like France (if not Germany)?


You are comparing Germany and Russia.

Germany has twice tried to become a global power, and failed twice. Many Germans are now convinced that they are a regional power. (How significant a power, and with how much global reach, remains a question of public debate.)

Russia was a global power and it may still be a global power -- not in commerce, but perhaps in diplomatic and military fields. At worst, it is a large regional power. So why should they make themselves smaller than they are?

Of course Russia might have more power now if it had embraced western-style democracy and the rule of law. But look at the events of the last 30 years from the Russian viewpoint. Every time they relaxed, the West took another bite out of their defensive near abroad.

  • Note for downvotes: while this might not appear to answer the question at first glance, the last paragraph does. Also, the rest of the answer is a valid frame challenge to the OP May 10 at 16:00
  • 1
    @EkadhSingh, I see all three paragraphs as a part of the answer. But questions by this poster tend to be highly controversial and both questions and answers attract a large number of downvotes.
    – o.m.
    May 10 at 16:28
  • 1
    @EkadhSingh, as of now the question is closed, it has a +0/-7 and the other answer has +0/-3, compared to that a +1/-1 is a ringing endorsement by the crowd ...
    – o.m.
    May 10 at 16:50
  • You have talked about Germany, but not France!?
    – user366312
    May 10 at 17:00
  • @user366312, I'm more prepared to make statements on German public sentiments regarding global power status than on French sentiments.
    – o.m.
    May 10 at 17:05

I think you're making some category mistakes here. "Resisting" is a somewhat weird way to phrase this. Do you expect Russia to "surrender" to NATO? On the other hand, Russia's economic system is not exactly the Soviet one. To a good extent Russia has "surrendered" to [a form of] capitalism even more so than it has "surrendered" to democracy.

But to go over all these issues in detail is a rather lengthy affair...

Russia's foreign position for the past 20 years has been inextricably linked to the views of Putin, who practically ran the country from one or other official seat. Political theorists have been somewhat split on how to best describe his regime, but they agree on a drift toward increased authorianism and nationalism, which some have compared to Bonapartism.

Putin was a KGB man, so he has his viewpoint that any expansion of NATO is a direct threat to Russia. Furthermore, he took umbrage at the West (EU included, not just NATO) having "its way" in Kosovo. If you look at any interviews with Putin on foreign matters, he seldom fails to bring up both these points in justifying Russia's increased confrontation with the West thereafter.

Furthermore, Russia saw a genuine rise in [ultra-]nationalist parties to the right of Putin's own position. Putin has wrestled with these in the domestic arena; dismantling some and incorporating others--including their leaders--in his own party/entourage. A chief example of the later would be Rodina [=Motherland] and Dmitry Rogozin.

Its rather hard to disentangle all these issues as they fed one into another, but their interplay is that in the past or so Russia has invaded Georgia, Crimea, recognized Russian-majority separatist regions as independent etc. More recently it has backed-up its client regime in Syria with some troops and especially equipment and airpower.

Since you suggest that had Russia done otherwise in terms of foreign policy it would be prosperous like France... It's hard to say. A lot of Russia's industry is focused on its military-industrial complex. So Russia is good a making weapons with a decent "bang for the buck". This doesn't easily translate into other kinds of industrial advantages, especially in the short term. And arms exports are nearly always political, in the sense that there are almost always such considerations at play both for the seller and for the buyer. (Note Turkey's problems after buying S400, for instance.)

Russia's chief exports remain its hydrocarbon-based energy reserves. And that's a well-known "Dutch disease" problem that's fairly hard for any country to solve. So it's rather hard to see how Russia could have become like France in 20 years, economically, even if it had given up its geostrategic ambitions.

Russia has definitely tried to create an Eurasian Economic Union (mostly in the former Soviet space) to compete with the EU on that angle as well. However all the [other] countries involved were rather poor, so you can't really expect miracles from that. Additionally countries that Russia desired to be in that Eurasian space have drifted towards the EU, chiefly Ukraine.

If you want to take the counterfactual thinking to the limit, Russia itself could have embarked on a EU membership path instead of trying to outcompete the EU on that angle... But given all the other political roadblocks, it's hard to see this as very plausible. The [Western] EU itself was rather tired of all the expansions.

Furthermore, Yeltsin's economic policies had a "Wild West" aspect that allowed various oligarchs to assert substantial power, sometimes bridging the economic and political. And this didn't sit well with Putin but also with a large segment of the Russian population, as they saw "Wild West" oligarchic/"piranha" capitalism as a form of thievery.

On that angle, Putin's aim was to bring these oligarch under his control. So he imprisoned some and confiscated some of their wealth (as examples to the others) and instituted a longer-term policy of "deoffshorization" in order to reduce the oligarchs' ability to export their capital, in order to increase their dependence on him/Russia. So, a side-effect of this was an (albeit limited) form of "decoupling" of Russia's economy from the West. But this shouldn't be too overstated. Even after all these and the sanctions related to Russia's foreign confrontations, Russia export to the West rebounded, ironically the most to the UK (especially after Brexit) despite all the political confrontations.

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