As Putin’s strategy evolves, the country’s weak geographic position is bound to play a part. Russia’s geography leaves its core unprotected by natural buffers, and foreign leaders such as Napoleon and Hitler regarded it as attractive prey. Russia throughout history has tried to solve its geopolitical problem through expansion, pushing outward in order to defend Moscow and its surroundings against invaders. This forces Moscow to exert control over a gigantic landmass. Such control has always required centralised, authoritarian leadership, which sometimes develops into tyranny. In that sense, Putin is simply following the same patterns established by many of his predecessors.
Despite the challenges Russia faces, there are plenty of reasons why Putin will not be pushed back now.
The first reason is force: Russia has the second strongest army in the world, and no neighboring country outside of China even approaches its military heft. The second reason is grounded in domestic politics: Putin is popular with the Russian public. His nationalist leanings in particular provide him with a solid power base. Even should Russia’s economic situation worsen, the population may be slow to sour on Putin, much less to revolt. Russians are used to setbacks and misery.
Low oil prices may harm Russia, but according to Alfa Bank, these effects are often exaggerated. The drop in the oil price deals a tough blow to Russia’s budget, its economic growth, and its trade balance, but it will be some time before this threatens Putin in any serious way. Moreover, due to a sharply depreciated ruble, Russia’s break-even point for the price of oil has dropped significantly.