This article makes the argument that 2004 was a good year both for Russia and for President Putin. Russian national power was measurably enhanced, and the Kremlin's grip on all aspects of Russian public and private life was further strengthened. Russia largely improved its strategic position in the global environment thanks to internal mobilization of economic resources and political restructuring, favorable external trade conditions, skillful alliance-making, and diplomatic bargaining. Moscow was keen to penetrate the Oriental halls of power and Asian markets in order to use them as a geopolitical and geo-economic leverage against its exposure to and pressure from the United States and Europe. In Asia, President Putin seems to have chosen to give up space in exchange for time and money needed to rebuild the Russian empire. In general, Moscow is adept at pursuing the “divide and rule” strategy and playing all against all. President Putin repositioned Russia in Asia in such a way that Moscow, with its neo-imperial ambitions, is again seen as a ruthless power-balancer and a legitimate and tough contender in its own right for political influence and economic benefits in any power vacuum situation left open by the United States. The author concludes that Putin's Russia is stronger today than ever, but he questions whether it makes the world a better and safer place.
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