How Russia’s “humiliation” over the breakup of the Soviet Union helps explain Putin’s expansion

As the Cold War came to an end, one of the most pivotal events in Russian history was the breakup of the Soviet Union. This event led to a massive economic meltdown, which in turn gave rise to Vladimir Putin’s political career. The following article explores how Russia’s “humiliation” over the breakup of the Soviet Union helps explain Putin’s expansion. By understanding Russia’s past, we can better understand its present and future.

The Context of Russia’s Invasion of Crimea

The Russian invasion of Crimea in March 2014 was a significant event in European and international politics. The reasons for the invasion are still disputed, but it is generally understood that Putin’s goal was to reassert Russian influence in the region and to increase Russia’s political and economic power.

Putin’s motivations can be traced back to the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union began to fall apart. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first democratically elected president, refused to accept the results of the Soviet elections, which led to civil unrest. Yeltsin announced that the Soviet Union had dissolved and that Russia was now an independent country. This declaration caused enormous chaos and anger among many Russians, who felt that they had been abandoned by their government.

Putin saw this as a chance to reassert control over Russia and consolidate his power. He believed that the breakup of the Soviet Union had humiliated Russia and left it with less power than it deserved. Putin also wanted revenge against those he believed were responsible for the breakup, Western countries, particularly American President George Bush Sr. who he believed had played a major role in stirring up dissension within Moscow’s ruling elite.

Since Putin became president in 2000, he has pursued a policy of re-asserting Russian dominance in former Soviet republics. This includes efforts to build strong ties with neighboring countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, support for pro Russian groups within these countries,

Putin’s Strategy After the Breakup of the Soviet Union

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s breakup, Russian president Vladimir Putin faced a conundrum: how to rebuild Russia’s regional hegemony after more than forty years of domination by Moscow. Initially, Putin pursued a strategy of reunification and expansionism, seeking to recreate the Soviet Union through aggressive military action in neighboring countries.

However, this strategy eventually failed, as it was met with resistance from neighboring countries and even some within Russia itself. In order to maintain power after his previous strategies had failed, Putin began to pursue a new policy: Integration.

This approach entailed using Russian influence to bring neighboring countries into Moscow’s orbit politically and economically. While this has not resulted in the reunification of Russia as originally hoped, it has allowed Putin to remain in power for more than sixteen years and further consolidate his grip on Russian society.

The Results of Putin’s Expansion

Since 2003, Russia has undergone a dramatic resurgence, largely due to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions in the Kremlin. We will explore how Putin’s expansion is connected to Russia’s humiliation over the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Geographically, Russia lost more than half of its territory when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Economically, Russia was left economically crippled with anemic growth rates and rampant poverty. Society was also traumatized by years of political instability and mass emigration. All these factors contributed to Putin’s rise to power as Russia’s strongman leader.

During his first two terms as President (2000-2008), Putin made a concerted effort to rebuild Russian national pride and assert Russian authority on the world stage. He pursued aggressive military interventions in Chechnya and Georgia, convincing himself that these campaigns would prove Russia’s resurgent power and masculinity.
Putin returned to politics as Prime Minister after his second term as President ended in 2008. During his time as Prime Minister, Putin focused on restoring stability to the economy by implementing austerity measures and reforming the corrupt institution known as the Russian state bureaucracy.

The consequences for Russia

Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia has been struggling with a period of political and economic stagnation. This culminated in the 2013 elections, in which Putin’s party, United Russia, was defeated by a coalition led by the liberal Democratic Party.

Putin posed as a protector of Russian interests abroad. He began to intervene militarily in neighboring countries, most notably Ukraine and Syria, in an effort to re-establish Russian dominance over those regions. In doing so, he has violated international law and strained relationships with many of his former allies.

Putin’s foreign policy is ultimately self serving, it addresses the concerns of Russian voters who feel left behind by globalization. His aggressive tactics have had negative consequences for Russia itself. Since invading Ukraine and Syria, Putin has incurred billions of dollars worth of debt, lost key allies, and further destabilized those countries.

How Putin’s policies have benefited Russia

Since Putin took office in 2000, Russia has enjoyed strong economic growth and a return to per crisis levels of Russian military power. This has been largely due to Putin’s aggressive foreign policy.

Putin’s first goal was to rebuild Russia’s shattered economy. He liberalized the economy, introduced free market principles, and increased Russian investment abroad. This led to an increase in exports income and a decrease in imports. Inflation was brought under control, poverty decreased, and unemployment fell.

Putin also restored national pride by rebuilding the military and confronting Chechen rebels, which restored stability to the region and led to an increase in oil prices. Putin has also expanded Russian influence into former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia through economic incentives and intimidation tactics.

Putin’s policies have benefited Russia economically, diplomatically, and militarily. His aggressive foreign policy has made Russia one of the world’s leading powers again while restoring national pride and stability.


Professor Stephen Cohen of New York University offers an interesting take on the current state of Russian politics and Putin’s expansionist tendencies. According to Cohen, Russia’s “humiliation” over the breakup of the Soviet Union has left Putin feeling “vulnerable and resentful.” This sentiment, coupled with Putin’s ambitions for increased Russian influence in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, has allowed him to pursue aggressive policies in Ukraine and Syria without much resistance from the Russian people.


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