With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991, the Russian Federation now faced a completely new environment politically speaking. Although Boris Yeltsin tried to introduce democracy and market economy in Russia, the century long tradition for autocracy soon returned as the primary political tool in the country. Especially Vladimir Putin marked the beginning of a worrying decline in terms of basic democratic rights in Russia. From fraudulent election, nepotism and corruption to an omnipotent presence of the state, the international community have expressed concern about the overall political and democratic environment in the country. On the other hand, Russia has often and clearly stated that these concerns are both groundless and misplaced, which not surprisingly have created numerous tensions with regard to the international relations with Russia. Specifically the many eastward expansions of NATO and the EU, but also the foreign policy of the United States has been a thorn in Russia’s side. The admissions of many of Russia’s former republics was regarded as a deliberate provocation in a security- and geopolitical context, which culminated with Putin’s 2007 speech in Munich and with the Georgian conflict in 2008 and portrayed a Russian combination of realism and great power ambitions. Nevertheless, the intense relations Russia contra the international community seem to have taken a new and positive direction. This is partly due to an almost pro-western rhetoric from Medvedev and partly due to a newfound cooperation between Russia and the United States, such as a disarmament deal and a joint course towards Iran. However, the general enthusiasm concerning this new development may also seem to be a little bit to premature. The international community seem to forget that Medvedev has worked together with Putin for years and as such seem to follow the same political trails as his predecessor. Parallel to the “changed Russian style”, the country has exerted its stance in the self-proclaimed sphere of influence, distinctly Ukraine but also Georgia and the Central Asian countries. Notably, NATO’s East- and Central European member countries have expressed concern about the security political situation in their countries, which the international community should pay attention to. Nevertheless neither Obama nor NATO is looking prepared to change the political attitude towards Russia, but seem more to insist upon re-building the relationship. A rather credulous, worrying attitude and a development Russia may take full advantage of. Concerning the EU-Russian relationship, the overall development has changed from cooperation to a pure energy based marriage of convenience. On the one side the EU is heavily dependent upon Russian energy, and on the other side Russia’s economy is heavily dependent upon the EU. With the 2004 eastward expansion, Russia seems to have incorporated a kind of divide and conquer tactic with regards to its supply of oil and gas into Europe. By building two new pipelines (North and South Stream) and by focusing on its European partners Germany, France and Italy, Russia are planning to bypass the gas routes in countries like the Baltic and Poland. This means that the EU pipeline project Nabucco, which is “designed” to deliver gas from countries like the Central Asian, Iran etc. has become the heart of the energy matter. Russia is already trying to reduce the importance of Nabucco partly by buying the gas from these delivery countries and partly by convincing other EU countries like Hungary, Austria and Bulgaria to skip Nabucco and join the South Stream instead. The EU does certainly not seem to have a common energy policy, which may very well leave the Baltic and Poland worse of in the long run, and thereby possible future tensions.
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