Russia needs the strength of the West and Western expertise to keep the country relatively modern and strong. But at the same time it can be strongonly with a consolidated government, economy and security service.

The first Russian weakness is that it is surrounded by great powers from which it is not insulated by geographic barriers. The second weakness is that its population is comprised of numerous ethnic groups, not all of which are happy with centralized Kremlin rule. A strong hand is the only means to consolidate the country internally while repelling outsiders.

Another major challenge is that Russia essentially lacks an economic base aside from energy. Its grossly underdeveloped transportation system hampers it from moving basic necessities between the country's widely dispersed economic centers.

These geographic, demographic and economic challenges have led Russia to shift between being aggressive to keep the country secure and being accomodating toward foreign powers in a bid to modernize Russia.

However, Russia cannot go down the two paths of accomodating and connecting with the West and a consolidated authoritarian Russia at the same time unless Russia is first strong and secure as a country, something that has only happened recently. Until then, Russia must switch between each path to build the country up.

Russia lack modern technology and an economic base. Even with Russian energy production at its height, its energy technologies need revamping, as do every other sector, especially transit and telecommunications. Such a massive modernization attempt cannot be made without foreign help.

Russia has thus launched a multiyear modernization and privatization plan to bring hundreds of billion of dollars to leapfrog the country into current technology and diversify the economy. Moscow has struck deals with selected countries: Germany, France, Finland, Norway, South Korea and even the United States- for each sector to use the economic deals for political matters.

However, this has created two large problems: First, foreign governments and firms are hesitant to do business in an authoritarian country with a record of kicking foreign firms out. At the same time, the Kremlin knows that it cannot lessen its hold inside of Russia without risking losing control over its first imperative of securing Russia.

After a decade of aggression, authoritarianism and nationalism, Russia has become strong again, both internally and regionally, such that it is confident enough to shift policies and plan for its future. The new Russian system is designed to have a dual foreign policy, to attract non-Russian groups back into the country and to look more democratic overall while all the while being carefully managed behind the scenes. It is managed pluralism underneath not a president or premier, but under a person more like the leader of the nation, not just the leader of the state. In theory,the new system is meant to allow the Kremlin to maintain control of both its grand strategies of needing to reach out abroad to keep Russia modern and strong and trying toi ensure that the country is also under firm control and secure for years to come. Whether the tandem or the leader of the nation can balance such a complex system and overcome the permanent struggle that rules Russia remains to be seen.  

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