Russian President Vladimir Putin is striving to reestablish Russia as a regional hegemony and the West has been too slow to recognize that and react to the strategy, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Wednesday, the CTK news agency reported.
"We are not going back to Stalin, we are going back to [Russian Tsar] Nicholas I," Schwarzenberg told The Cable blog of the U.S. magazine Foreign Policy.
"It was under Nicholas I that the greater part of Central Asia was conquered by the Russians and Putin is quite successfully getting them under the control of Russia again, and the West is losing."
The West must admit that Putin has installed an aggressive autocracy and it must deal with it, he said.
He said Putin was now reacting to the increasing unrest inside Russia by isolating Russia from the influence of Western society, for example by shutting down the U.S. Agency for International Development's mission in Moscow (USAID).
"By kicking it out, he indicated what he considers most dangerous for his autocracy," Schwarzenberg said.
"He is now afraid to meet the people and that indicates that he realizes the opposition exists and that it has become a force in Russian society," Schwarzenberg added.