Putin seeks to reestablish Moscow’s influence in eastern Europe

Thirty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed at Christmastime. Vladimir Putin has called that moment in 1991 the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

And now, after three decades of what he feels has been humiliation by the West, Russian President Putin is trying to reverse some of the consequences of the dissolution of the USSR.

Why We Wrote This

Vladimir Putin cannot restore the Soviet Union, but he is seeking to reestablish Moscow’s European sphere of influence. Can Western powers ensure their security arrangements?

At home, he has been rehabilitating the image of Josef Stalin for the dictator’s decisive role in winning World War II. oversea, he is challenging the European security arrangements that have grown up since 1991, seeking to roll back NATO’s growth and to reestablish a formal “sphere of influence” for Moscow. That is what seems to be behind the deployment of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border, threatening a possible invasion.

Western diplomats have dismissed Mr. Putin’s initial list of negotiating demands as a non-starter. But the Russian leader has succeeded in grabbing Western attention, and in provoking a sense of urgency about dealing with the Kremlin unseen since the Cold War. The question now is how much more it will take to convince him to call off his military escalation.

London

It’s the Ghost of Christmas Past: the echo of another yuletide, exactly thirty years ago, which saw the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

in addition as the new year begins, that memory is exerting an ever-stronger influence on the behavior of the president of post-Soviet Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin wishes the Soviet Union had never ended. He has said so openly, describing that Christmas in 1991 as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

Why We Wrote This

Vladimir Putin cannot restore the Soviet Union, but he is seeking to reestablish Moscow’s European sphere of influence. Can Western powers ensure their security arrangements?

He cannot realistically hope to turn back the clock. But both at home and beyond Russia’s borders, especially in the escalating standoff with the West over Ukraine, he is clearly trying to undo some of the meaningful changes brought about by the collapse of the USSR.

More broadly, he wants to expunge what he has felt to be the past three decades of national humiliation, by asserting Russia’s renewed position as a major world strength.

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