Here's a nice piece in the Moscow Times that discusses the likelihood that Russian geopolitics will become even more strained in the last few months of Putin's Presidency. More than that, though, it discusses Russia's general approach to world affairs, and makes some interesting points.
A few choice quotes:
A curious pattern emerges when examining Russia's politics over the last quarter century. Fundamental changes come in eight-year cycles, and the transitions from the end of one cycle to the start of the next are accompanied by flare-ups in foreign relations.
An intense struggle for power took place from 1999 to 2000 at the end of President Boris Yeltsin's term. Those years saw the start of a second war in Chechnya, the rise of former KGB officer Putin, a corruption scandal involving members of Yeltsin's family and the Bank of New York affair -- all of which brought relations with the West to a critically low level. The situation began to stabilize only in the spring of 2000, when Putin took office and Western leaders started building bridges with the Kremlin.
It turned out that the West was not prepared for Moscow to assume a new, stronger position in international affairs. Up until recently, the Kremlin had been willing to compromise on most disputes with the West. But now Russia feels its own strength and is less inclined to give in to its partners' wishes.
Russia's ambitions and self-confidence, fed by its oil and gas euphoria, have become greater than its realistic abilities, given the global changes taking place in the modern world. Moscow's eagerness to make up for what it lost after the Soviet collapse as quickly as possible has proven stronger than a calmer, more rational calculation of what it can realistically achieve.
The West is quite disappointed after discovering a distressing fact: It really is difficult to resolve many important issues without Moscow's participation. But Russia is not interested in cooperating on someone else's terms. This stems not only from obstinacy, but also from a growing sense that Western formulas for managing global affairs are simply ineffective. From Moscow's point of view, the situation in Iraq and the turmoil in the Balkans are convincing evidence of this.
Read the whole thing. Incidentally, it says a bit about the West, as well.