Russian foreign policy craves respect, and seeks to demonstrate that it can hold its own alongside the biggest and the best – including the military sphere
As seen from abroad over recent weeks, Russian foreign policy appears a hodgepodge of different elements that rarely slot together. From Syria to China, and back to Western Europe via Ukraine, it is hard to discern any consistent theme.
To which you could respond that this is how most countries’ foreign policies look close-up. “Events” have a habit of derailing even the best-laid plans. But the point is that we – in what we still call the West – tend to view Russia’s actions as the product of a usually malevolent grand plan and a single – Vladimir Putin’s – mind.
The reality is perhaps more complicated, and it certainly seems so from the perspective of Russia’s “heartland”. Forty years on from the 10 months I spent as a British exchange student, I was back at Voronezh State University for its centenary. And while the contrasts are stark, none is more so than the access to information. In what was then Brezhnev’s Russia, Voronezh was part of a very closed world.