Judging by the latest tendencies, Putin’s feudal elite is going to be especially active at the forefront of foreign politics in an effort to establish a zone of direct influence and control in Eastern Europe, similar to the one Stalin had during the interwar period.
For the following reasons:
1. The general military-political weakening of the West, the “split” between USA and Europe, the phased reduction of American military presence in EU.
2. The economic rise in Asia that will be inevitably followed by a revision of the global power structures, which is already evident from the US-China economic conflict.
3. The Russian army and the military-industrial complex are currently at the peak of their post-soviet capabilities, being, in fact, the only assets in RF that don’t lose value rapidly compared to everything else: population size is plummeting (serious ethnic conflicts are taking place as well), technologies are running obsolete, scientific and technical institutes, design bureaus and schools have been practically run down. Meaning, the military machine is the “last chance weapon” that the Kremlin feudal elite will bring into play at any cost in an effort to “retain and expand” its sphere of influence. The key argument that they do and will continue to employ in diplomatic bargaining is the direct and effective WMD-related intimidation, not unlike the Korean Kim dynasty.
In essence, Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about the economy or democratic institutes in their modern western sense. Instead, they are following the “dark route of technology”, their system is feudal profiteering established via corrupt hierarchy and forced exploitation of the subservient population. In times of crises or wars such a system can be incredibly effective due to its ruthlessness and the ability to quickly concentrate gigantic resources at particular areas of the frontline. This was fully proved by Lenin’s bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War when they got rid of their enemies one by one, and even better was demonstrated by Stalin whose regime had won a world war, thus making its way into the circle of global powers and occupying half of Europe. Kremlin remembers and reveres these historic lessons, viewing its institutional system as quite effective and adequately responding to current challenges.
So, even if Kremlin is going to wage external wars, the main goal will be the increase of its subjects. For the preservation of its place in the world (as one of the key actors) it needs people and strongholds on the map. When Putin mentions “the gifts of Russian people”, he’s meaning precisely the shortage of servants as opposed to resources or territories. Not that his court “feudal lords” would refuse of the latter as well.
Therefore, having had a rich and centuries-old history of dealing with such an eastern neighbor, Baltic States, and Eastern Europe quite correctly understand all the signals coming from Moscow, which unfortunately cannot be said about Western Europe and the USA.
In lieu of epilogue I’ll bring up a quote on Russian demographics from the works of Patrick J. Buchanan, who was the chief advisor of three consecutive American presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan):
“By the year 2100 Russians will count at fewer than 80 million, which is roughly the size of the American population in the year Theodore Roosevelt resigned (1909)”
PS. The only important thing to be added to this forecast is: quite not every one of those 80 million is going to be ethnic Russians. But by this, the “Kremlin sages” are most certainly not bothered in the least. For them, the only thing that matters is that their private planes manage to take off, after all, is said and done.