From Anne Applebaum’s column:
(…) Russian foreign policy is, at the moment, based on a strange paradox. On one hand, the Russians have returned to the language, iconography and even historiography of imperialism. With every passing year, the anniversary of the end of World War II — and the moment of the Soviet Union’s greatest imperial triumph — is celebrated more elaborately. Soviet songs and symbols are back; threats to deploy nuclear missiles are frequent; Russian leaders refer to themselves as “global players.”
But on the other hand, the Russian political system is uniquely unattractive in the one sphere of influence that Russians have always cared about most: Europe. There are, it is true, Russian-speaking minorities across the eastern half of the continent who rely on Moscow for financing and political support. There are also extremely powerful European business lobbies, notably in Italy and Germany, that can be counted on to praise Russia’s leaders, whatever they do. But the Russian political system — based on crony capitalism, democratic rituals without democracy itself, heavy media controls, omnipresent criminality — isn’t of interest to anyone, and the Russians have trouble creating an empire around it.