Policy Memos

'Parallels' and 'Verticals' of Putin's Foreign Policy

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




Analysts of Russian policy often highlight the apparent lack of congruity between Putin’s domestic and foreign policy motivations. Russian domestic political development is seen as increasingly authoritarian as Putin and his allies have sought to construct and then consolidate vertical presidential power in Russia. The power vertical assumes the unchallenged dominance of the Kremlin in managing domestic and foreign policy in Russia. While seeking to secure his own power base, Putin’s domestic and foreign policies have followed divergent trends; this is the so-called parallelism in Russian politics, whereby domestic developments are characterized by autocratic measures and foreign policy follows a much more liberal line. This memo asks whether the parallels and verticals of Putin’s policies will eventually have to be reconciled and concludes that the Russian foreign policy parallel will intersect with the Russian domestic policy parallel, as foreign policy is ultimately geared toward domestic concerns, and domestic liberal concerns at that. 
The parallelism of Russian policy, that is, the seemingly incompatible trends of increasingly authoritarian domestic politics and a foreign policy decidedly more liberal in outlook, is probably one of the main reasons that so many in the West and Russia still question: “Who is Mr. Putin?” However, despite classic geometry, some parallels may cross. [...]

About the author

Senior Research Fellow
Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow