Russia, a confrontational or a cooperative power?

Vladimir Putin has attacked foreign intervention in Russia, the US missile defence plan and called for an increase in domestic oil processing in a defiant final annual address to parliament before he steps down as Russian president in 2008.

The speech shows in a certain way the escalating tension on different levels between Russia and the other major powers, especially the EU and the USA.

It is true Russia made giant economic steps after the fall of communism thanks to liberalism and the huge income from the exported oil and gas. But the problems it is facing now is more internal than external. There is widespread corruption in business circles. This benefits just the oligarchy and the foreign and national investors. Russia needs to crack down on those taking most of its assets without putting much in its treasury through tax evasion, embezzlement and gifts in return for unaccountability.

Russia seems to be keen on returning to the world stage as a force to reckon with. After the fall of communism, it was busy laying the basis for its shift to liberalism. Like the polar bear, it was in a state of hibernation. Now it is getting more and more awake after being warmed up by what it sees the approaching erosion of its icy and firm land.

Russia, as it appears, doesn’t want to be seen as a middle power with the rise of China and India as the potential superpowers in the future. Russia doesn’t want to be cornered by the EU and the USA, the major economic and political blocs. Russia needs an aggressive policy by putting its house in order through democracy and ending corruption. The current powers should deal with it without hurting its pride. As a giant country, it has the power to be both a constructive or destructive force on the world stage. So it’s better to let the sleeping bear in it lying instead of stirring it to push against anything in its way.

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