Russia’s choice of paths is not predestined

Think back to when Boris Yeltsin proclaimed that Russia wanted to be "a normal civilized country". It must have been the point at which consensus was greatest between the Western world and Russia on the notion of what was normal and accepted.

But the Russian dream has changed. Russia now wants to be one of the world’s leaders, one that shapes policy, as President Dmitry Medvedev declared in the new foreign policy statement he presented to the public on 12 July in a speech to Russia’s ambassadors. At the same time, like other Russian statements in recent years, it made it clear that Russia has its own path and own policy to pursue and that no one should think they can tell Russia how to run its affairs.

There would be nothing strange about this if one did not sense the undertone of an inferiority complex, disguised as aggressiveness. You shouldn’t think we’re worse than you are. Russia has been singing that tune for most of the 21st century. &n...

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