The Russian bear has been poked too many times
If a bear is hit with a stick too often, one day it will lash out, no matter what the consequences
"When a fight is inevitable, you hit first," said Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow's foreign policy is changing, and it is ready put everything on the line. The first turning point was Crimea, then the rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Russia's campaign in Syria has completed its foreign policy transformation.
Moscow will no longer stay in the shadows of Western powers, and is moving from criticism to direct involvement in the world's fate. Its borders are no longer the limit of its national interests. Putin has said that in Syria, Russia is pursuing "first and foremost" it national interests. First Vice-Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said: "Russia will protect its fundamental interests, even beyond its borders."
However, soft power is just as important as hard power, and Moscow is pursuing the former via the media, educational programs, and the popularization of the Russian language abroad, among other strategies. The results of a soft-power offensive are not obvious until it is too late to take counter-measures.
Enough is enough
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was trying to build stable international relations, even to the detriment of its national interests. However, its efforts were constantly rejected, NATO kept enlarging, and any attempt by Russia to express its will and defend its national interests were mostly unwelcomed and punished. Its place on the world stage was relegated to that of a regional power or a pariah.
No wonder the international community now finds itself in a situation where Russia is out of control. If a bear is hit with a stick too often, one day it will lash out, no matter what the consequences.
Current crises and Western sanctions have enabled state media to create an image of the West as an aggressor, based on the Russian habit of blaming external enemies for internal problems. This has united the people, and motivated the country to implement projects that it had been putting aside. We are witnessing the birth of a new Russia that is more difficult to negotiate with, because it now has nothing to lose except its independence.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
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