By 1997, it was clear Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic would enter the alliance. In 2004, NATO admitted another seven former Soviet bloc countries, three of which—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—had been part of the USSR. In 2009, Croatia and Albania joined the club. Six former Soviet republics—Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan—now link their militaries to NATO’s via the “Partnership for Peace” program. All five former Soviet republics in Central Asia—Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan—provide NATO countries with some basing, transit, refueling, or overflight rights for use in the Afghan war.
From Putin’s perspective, in other words, the United States hardly looks in retreat. To the contrary, the post-Cold War period has brought one long march by America and its allies closer and closer to the border of Russia itself.
.. On matters of foreign policy and what he would call “national greatness,” he is still unduly influenced by them, despite the fact that, more than any other actors in American life, they’ve destroyed the trust in leadership that Brooks himself values.
But Mr. Putin, whose return to the presidency was opposed by many urban liberals, now makes his most important decisions in an inner circle of men who emerged from Soviet security services.
.. reallocating the budget to support constituencies crucial to social stability, like pensioners and state employees.
But Mr Putin has emptied the law of significance, by warping reality to mean whatever he chooses. He has argued that fascists threaten the safety of Russian-speakers in Ukraine; that the elite troops surrounding Ukrainian bases are not Russian, but irregulars who bought their uniforms in the shops; that the Budapest memorandum, which Russia signed in 1994 and guarantees Ukraine’s borders, is no longer valid because the government in Kiev has been overthrown. Such preposterous claims are not meant to be taken at face value. Instead they communicate a truth that ordinary Russians understand only too well: the law is there not to restrain power, but to serve it.
Mikhail Gorbachev, was heavily influenced by Soviet economists and other academics who warned that by the turn of the century in 2000, the Soviet economy would be smaller than South Korea’s if it did not introduce major economic reforms and participate in the global economy.
.. The oligarchs “would not dare to challenge him,” a prominent Russian economist told me. (He asked not to be named for fear of retribution.) “But they would say something like they would have to lay off workers and reduce tax payments.”