Since the eastward expansion of NATO dashed Moscow's early hopes of being integrated into the West, Russia has pursued an independent foreign policy focused mainly on Central Asia and the Middle East, including "rogue" states shunned by Washington. Among Russia's advantages are tens of thousands of Arabic-speaking former Soviet experts and a growing regional anti-Americanism. At the same time, Russian Muslims are becoming more assertive. Russia's dependence on the West for economic aid, however, sharply limits its margin of maneuver.
Alain Gresh, the editor-in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique, spent three weeks in Russia in the Spring of 1998. This article was based on interviews conducted during that visit and during his visit to Washington immediately thereafter.