4 The New China-Russia Alignment and foreign military interventionism. The Syrian war has also confirmed the improved effectiveness of Russia’s conventional military capacity following its decay in the post-Soviet era. Additionally, the Russian national security estab- lishment has adroitly applied political-military “hybrid” tools in the gray zone between peace and war, such as internet-enhanced media and cyber instru- ments. Russia also regularly uses arms and energy exports as foundational instruments to develop more comprehensive ties. Since the Soviet era, Rus- sian diplomacy has become more flexible in pursuing short-term pragmatic partnerships, prioritizing foreign engagements, and exploiting U.S. diplo- matic setbacks.10 Moscow has been striving to establish buffers against West- ern influence by promoting international disorder through ambiguous actions that impede Western governments from reaching a consensus on an effective response against Moscow. During the 1990s, the newly created Russian Federation underwent sev- eral traumatic transformations. The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 consummated the dissolution of the previously integrated Soviet political, economic, and military structures that sustained Moscow’s status as the cap- ital of a global superpower. As Russia’s first president, Yeltsin identified his main tasks as dismantling the Communist Party’s legally enshrined political monopoly, reining in the Russian security services, ending the inherent eco- nomic inefficiencies of the country’s command economy, and ending Russia’s alienation from the West. At home, Yeltsin not only empowered a group of young free-thinking economists who introduced radical and rapid free market reforms that destroyed the vestiges of the Soviet command economy but also enriched a select group of nouveau riche oligarchs and harmed the well-being of many Russians.11 Yeltsin’s rule was marked by protracted struggles among the factions within his administration, between the president and a parlia- ment filled with influential opposition legislators, and between the central federal government in Moscow and several semiautonomous regional entities that at times appeared out of Moscow’s control. On the international stage, Yeltsin more frequently aligned Russia with the United States and the other Western democracies while curtailing the direct use of Russian military power beyond the former Soviet space. Though the Russian military retained a pres- ence in some other Soviet republics, and Moscow exploited divisions within and between these states, Moscow’s influence in many of the former Soviet republics atrophied even as innumerable Russian national security manag- ers perceived threats in the strengthening security ties of some of these newly independent states with Western countries. Since Yeltsin’s surprising resignation as president at the end of 1999, the Russian Federation has experienced a remarkable geopolitical resurgence. The previously chaotic politics of the Yeltsin years were replaced by a tightly con- trolled political process under Putin. The president and his closest allies have
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