For those who like to split the world between East and West, Europe and Asia, and to identify clear dividing lines between the two, there was always a major problem. Which side of the line did Russia fall? Was it an Asian power or a European power? Was its culture basically Western or did it adhere to an alternative, and more Asian, model, with different viewpoints and different philosophies?

If anything, the puzzle is now growing greater. While China seeks more and more links, physical and economic, with “The West,” and especially with the European continent, and while Japan has long been committed to many, if not all, Western patterns, Russia seems to hang awkwardly half in and half out of Europe, governing itself on principles that fit neither the Chinese model, nor Western democratic values, and leaving those trying to deal with this huge country puzzled and uneasy.

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