Much in Russian foreign policy today is based on a consensus that crystallized in the early 1990s. Emerging from the rubble of the Soviet collapse, this consensus ranges across the political spectrum -- from pro-Western liberals to leftists and nationalists. It rests on three geostrategic imperatives: that Russia must remain a nuclear superpower, a great power in all facets of international activity, and the hegemon -- the political, military, and economic leader -- of its region. This consensus marks a line in the sand, beyond which Russia cannot retreat without losing its sense of pride or even national identity. It has proven remarkably resilient, surviving post-revolutionary turbulence and the change of political regimes from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin.
After his election as president in 2000, Putin added to this agenda an overarching goal: the recovery of economic, political, and geostrategic assets lost by the Soviet state in 1991. Although he has