Russia’s Geopolitical Position in Eurasia


The position of Russia in Eurasia has not changed much post-Cold War, which means that Russia remains a major player in the Eurasian geopolitics. However, it can be argued that the end of the Cold War ushered in an Era where Russia reduced its efforts in projecting its power over neighbors. The efforts did not last long as Russia’s cooperation with NATO ended in 2014. Russia’s radicalization may have begun earlier than 2014 considering that the dissolution of the Soviet Union ushered in an era of NATO’s expansion into former soviet states. The position of Russia in Eurasia remains as the most powerful country. However, the past few decades have cast doubts regarding this position not only in Eurasia but also across the Western front, especially with the eastward progression of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Such a shift has meant that NATO has occupied some of the previous members of the Soviet Union and that the West’s influence in Eurasia has also grown, causing Russia to become more radicalized. The thesis statement is that Russia’s oil and gas supports its radical agenda as evidenced in such events as Ukraine war, frozen conflicts, alliance with China and other geopolitical relations and initiatives in both Eurasia and the EU.

This paper supports the arguments that Russia has become more radicalized due to several factors infringing on its power and then presents evidence of the new radical position. I define geopolitics as the projection of power in international relations. In other words, geopolitics entail the struggle for control over geographical entities and using them for political advantage. In this case, the radical position means that Russia is using force to exert its position of power over neighbors in Eurasia and other players in the current world order, including such powerful nations as China, Europe, and the United States. The key entity used by Russia in its geopolitics is oil and gas industry, which is used as a weapon to help Russia build a strong political position in Eurasia.

Why Russia’s Position Has Changed

Russia is seen to have become radicalized due to the recent events during Putin’s presidency, with the current Ukraine conflict being an example. After the Cold War, it can be argued that Russia has had to contend with a gradual dissolution of the Soviet Union, which has led to many observers believing that the position of Russia has weakened. This observation has been made by Stoner (2021), who seeks to dispute the claim by many experts that Russia has a weak position but knows how to play it well. The eastward progression of NATO has been used as the yardstick to measure Russia’s power, but NATO’s reaction to the Ukrainian conflict depicts a different picture where the allied nations dread engaging in armed conflict with Russia. In this section, radicalization has been tracked since the end of the Cold War, where the major factors have included NATO and the growing power in energy geopolitics. The growth of China will and the strategic alliance with Russia will also be described as a key factor considering that Russia bets on China’s support in the current conflicts, at least as experts make the world believe.

Energy Geopolitics Supports Radicalization

Energy geopolitics involving Russia, Europe, and Eurasia is only starting to show how powerful Russia is as compared to other members of Europe and Asia. Oil and energy are among the most sought-after natural resources across the planet, which means that countries endowed with them tend to project more power in regional geopolitics. In this case, Russia ranks among the top countries capable of trading in oil and gas on a large scale alongside the United States and Saudi Arabia. The power that Russia has is manifested through the fact that the economic sanctions on Russia that are driving oil prices low are inadequate to offset the profitability of Russia’s oil and gas industry (Larchenko & Kolesnikov, 2017). Even though the long-term effects remain unknown, it can be argued that Russia has the power to alter global prices of energy, which gives it better bargaining power. Russia has had unprecedented control over gas prices in such a country as Ukraine, which has prompted opposition from the country.

The power position of Russia in the energy geopolitics in Eurasia is perhaps shaped by the developments taking place across the continent. Arguably, many of the large economies in Asia are dependent on Russian oil. India and China had good relations with each other before each decided to consolidate control over their populations in the late 20th century. Both countries decided to boost their economies to compete effectively in a highly industrialized global economy, which caused massive energy demand. The Russian Federation became the obvious choice of source of energy to meet this demand. Today, China and India have refused to cut ties with Russia due to this dependency on Russian oil. The European continent has also faced the same scenario, where such countries as Germany came under the spotlight for having most of their energy needs met by Russia. This situation led to some observers exploring just how deep Europe depended on Russia, a phenomenon that was undermining the implementation of sanctions on Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine (Corbeau, 2022). Overall, Russia’s power in Eurasia’s energy geopolitics is increasingly growing.

The EU is aware of the role of Russia’s energy in the country’s geopolitics, a phenomenon observable across all oil-rich countries that have authoritarian regimes. Such countries use their energy exports not only for economic gains but also as a foreign policy leverage tool to ensure the survival of their regimes (Korteweg, 2018). The West has manifested itself as a supporter of democracy and liberalism, but many authoritarian governments have persisted across the Asian continent despite being critical allies of the West. Their regimes are tolerated due to their strategic importance to the West. Such leverage can be observed in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where the United States had requested Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to help stabilize the increasing prices. Saudi Arabia had adequate power to reject this request, which has forced the EU to look to Egypt and Qatar as possible alternatives should Russia withhold oil and gas shipments (MEE, 2022). As mentioned earlier, Russia’s oil is critical for Europe, which has frustrated the implementation of sanctions against Russia. Russia’s radicle position is supported by the leverage it has in the energy geopolitics in Eurasia.

Russia’s Responses to Eastwards Expansion of NATO

The end of the Soviet Union meant that new countries were formed and that new alliances were needed. NATO did not collapse but continued to perceive Russia as a security threat in Europe. A flurry of activity ensued, which comprised of high-level negotiations and meetings between the United States and the Soviet Union with the hopes that Russia would be part of NATO. According to Glucroft (2022), Russia has been relatively unstable and disunited on many fronts, but the opposition to the Western alliance was one of the few issues that managed to unite Russia’s fractious political spectrum. Nevertheless, NATO was supposed to end its eastwards expansion, a promise that was not kept. As a result, it can be argued that Russia has to reconsider its compromised position and seek revisionist policies with the hope of forming an adequate deterrent to NATO. Russia may have maintained a powerful stance in Eurasia, but the expansion of NATO was sufficient to compromise Russia’s position, which prompted retaliatory efforts from the Russian regime.

The end of the Cold War era means that Russia was forced into politics of resistance where the country simply refused to be a passive recipient of norms imposed by the European Union (Sakwa, 2019). This resistance has often been perceived as revisionist by the West. A more neutral observation presented by Trenin (2022) hints at the fact that even though the days of the empire may never come back, Russia and its great power is working hard to promote and protect its interests. The disputes with Europe and the West leave Russia with economic problems addressed through ties with such countries as China, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Korea (Glasser & Thomann, 2021). Many of these allies in Asia have refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which is further evidence that Russia’s power projection in Asia remains high. The oil and gas industry provides Russia with the funds to finance its military and political actions against threats. However, the oil geopolitics plays an even greater role whereby countries depending on Russia’s oil cannot take military or political actions against it.

Relations with China

It is not easy to draw links between China’s growth to the increasing radicalization of Russia in the Eurasian geopolitics. However, the two countries remain strategically important to each other on several levels, and they share several similarities regarding their attitudes and responses to the Western hegemony in Eurasia. The situation between the two countries has been summarized by Lukin (2017), who explored the shared interests between Russia and China. These include breaking free from the unipolar system, preserving the principle of sovereignty of states, and pursuing similar outcomes in regional conflicts. Additionally, the two nations are keen to reform the international financial system, support each other as economic partners, and achieve similar aims in the Central Asian region. Besides the shared interests, Russia and China reach negatively to interference in their internal affairs, and they tend to support each other in the fight against separatism. In this case, if Russia is seen as revisionist due to attempts to rebuild the former Soviet Union, China’s efforts in such countries as Taiwan and Hong Kong pose similar characteristics.

Russia and China have thus become an increasingly powerful alliance in Eurasia. The joint interest is to reduce American power in the region (Rachman, 2022). The growth of China means that Russia has a powerful ally who can serve as an effective deterrence to the West’s attempts to stop Russia’s agenda both in Eurasia also elsewhere. Today, observers are left wondering how China would react if NATO was to go to war with Russia. Today, China has become an effective deterrent and has forced the US to re-strategize where the new focus is containing China’s expansion (Hu & Meng, 2020). With diminishing influence in the Pacific, China has become a key player in the region and in Eurasia, which forms a protective blanket for Russia to execute its plans. However, the relationship becomes strategically important since China’s growth means a larger market for Russia’s energy. In Ukraine, sanctions against Russia could only be effective if Russia loses its markets for oil and gas. With China ready to keep purchasing the oil, Russia stands strong in its radical actions against perceived threats.


The end of the Cold War meant that Russia’s involvement in the internal affairs of other countries was reduced and was less aggressive. Many of the major global conflicts have often seen the participation of the West and less so from Russia. However, the Ukraine war illustrates a new radical Russia that is willing to take up arms against what it considers to be a threat to its national security or interests in Eurasia and Europe. According to Stronski (2020), Eurasia is squeezed between a rapidly growing China and an aggressive and unpredictable Russia. As a result, experts believe that the US should remain engaged in the region to help it resist the advances by Russia. These observations show the new radical position in Russia’s geopolitics and support the argument that Russia’s undeclared war in Ukraine is a true manifestation of radical regional power. As will be explained later, Russia has been part of a few conflicts in the recent past, but few have been as aggressive as the Ukraine war.

The case of Ukraine helps understand why Russia has had to be radicle in its approach to maintain its interests in the region. The Soviet Union may have comprised several now independent countries, but none of them are as important to Russia as Ukraine is. For more than 300 years, Ukraine has had strategic importance to Russia, majorly since the two countries can be perceived to have been the same people (Berls, 2021). For instance, Kyiv was the birthplace of Kyivan Rus, the first East Slavic state and the center of trade, religion, and culture for the region. The relationship between Kyiv and Moscow was raptured in the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution, which has reshaped Russia’s view of the world. Additionally, Russia cannot afford to let Ukraine join NATO since this brings NATO directly along Russian borders. The war in Ukraine is a message for NATO and the West that Russia will radically defend its interests in Eurasia.

Other Frozen Conflicts in the Post-Soviet Space

Even though the term ‘frozen’ is used to describe the conflicts that emerged during the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is important to acknowledge that some of them remain active or temporarily halted. The role that Russia played or still plays in these conflicts is further evidence of Russia’s radicalized position in the Eurasian geopolitics. According to Mirovalev (2020), the post-Communist Russia can be seen as following the same ideologies of protecting Armenians from both the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan and Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally. However, it is important to acknowledge that Russia has often stepped in as a peacemaker in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but there are signs that Moscow’s primary motive is protecting Armenia, a key strategic ally to Russia. The direct involvement on the battlefield may not be apparent, but the fact remains that Russia remains aggressive in ensuring that strategic partners are protected from the other parties in these frozen conflicts.

Territorial issues remain the major cause of conflicts in the post-soviet space. In many cases, Russia has been seen to support separatist regimes, including Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Most of these regimes rely on Moscow for military and economic support, similar to how Armenia relies on Russia as a deterrent to renewed hostilities by Azerbaijan. All separatist movements willing to align themselves with Russia are offered the support they need. In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk are considered to be pro-Russian regions, and their separatist efforts are fully supported by Russia. Recent news state that Russia is planning to annex these two regions as it did to Crimea a few years earlier (Ryan et al., 2022). These cases illustrate Russia’s radical approach to the pro-Russian separatist regimes in the frozen conflicts. According to Per Concordian Staff (2020), the main aim of the separatists in these conflicts is to remain within the Soviet Union. Therefore, Russia became an interested party in the armed conflicts that ensued, mostly through military and economic support.

Such aggressive policies illustrate the radical position taken by Russia, even though this may have been forced by NATO’s expansionist practices into the formerly Soviet states. To Russia, those countries aligned with it would not join NATO, which explains the revisionist claims from the West. Overall, the argument is that Russia remains a radical power in Eurasian geopolitics, as explained by its role in the separatist movements in the post-Soviet space.


The ideology of Russkii Mir (Russian World) is increasingly becoming visible through Russia’s actions and various conflicts. The reaction of Russia to Ukraine’s political upheaval, especially in Crimea, raised the question of Russian national identity and foreign policy goals. In this case, Russkii Mir is the geopolitical vision that forces Russia to act as the protector of Russians and Russian-speaking people irrespective of whether they live (Torbakov, 2019). In Eurasia, this vision means that Russia is keen to become involved in armed conflicts to protect people who share the history and culture with Russia. In Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and conflict in the Donbas region reflect Russia’s resolve and take a partisan role in support of pro-Russian separatism.

Russkii Mir sounds radical in the sense that it promises support for Russians outside Russia, which means aggressive involvement of Russia in foreign conflicts. As mentioned earlier, the intention to annex the Donbas region is based on the fact that the region is pro-Russia and comprises mostly Russian-speaking populations. Following the Russkii Mir ideology, the region is inherently Russian and belongs with Russia. The annexation is a radical political and military action against Ukraine, a country also facing military assault due to its efforts to seek an alliance with NATO. The new Eurasian vision for Russia is evidence that Russia considers the region to be of key strategic importance since it comprises some key allies and pro-Russian regimes that need support and protection from Russia. Ruskii Mir is another political action that depends on Russia’s energy. As mentioned earlier, many operations by the Russian government depend on the ability of Russia to market its oil globally, with the largest clients being Europe and Asia. The ideology will require Russia to effectively use its energy industry as leverage and as a tool in the pursuit of its objectives.


Russia’s geopolitical position can be described by a radicalized approach to foreign affairs, which may have resulted from the West’s growing influence and compromise on Russia’s interests in the region. The case study of Russia’s energy geopolitics reveals that the country uses its power derived from oil and gas resources to push its radical political and military agenda in Eurasia and the EU. The importance of this issue is manifested through the fact that Russia’s aggressiveness spreads the country’s sphere of influence and supports autocratic regimes across Eurasia. Additionally, China’s presence and strategic alliance with Russia ensure that authoritative regimes will take control of the region, especially if there is inadequate deterrence from other key powers in Eurasia. The expanding sphere of influence negates the power and influence of the West and potentially halts NATO’s further expansion in the region. If Russia loses its control on energy geopolitics, not even such powerful allies as China would be able to support Russia’s radical agenda. Therefore, Russia’s position in the energy geopolitics is the foundation of the country radicalization.


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