Russia’s Illiberal “Liberal Empire”

Across the West, many people are questioning whether Russia will continue using natural gas as a means of putting economic and political pressure on Ukraine, Georgia, and other countries in what the Kremlin regards as its “near abroad.” Using the “energy weapon,” however, is not just a tactic: it is at the heart of the prevailing doctrine guiding Russian foreign policy.

Russia’s policy toward the post-Soviet countries is based on the doctrine of a “liberal empire,” according to which Russia’s major government-owned and private companies should assume control of key economic entities across the territories of the former Soviet republics by acquiring their assets. In this context, the word “liberal” should be understood to suggest that the empire of the “new Russian dream” should be built by purely economic means, excluding all forcible action against other nations.