The 1990s will be remembered as crucial years in the history of Russia and the world. They mark the first decade of peaceful coexistence between East and West after being separated by the Iron Curtain for almost one century. Following the events of 1990–91 which brought about German reunification, the opening of central European economies and, almost concomitantly, the demise of the Soviet Union and its communist regime, Russia has emerged as the central player of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Russia remains, even after the disintegration of the Soviet empire, the largest territorial power and an industrial and military heavyweight in the world. Its land mass spreads over 17 million sq km, from central Europe across northern Asia up to the Bering Strait, which separates it from Alaska. It is the only country that is geostrategically located between the main industrialized economies of Europe, Asia and North America — the Triad economies. Russia has diverse and abundant natural resources, and long scientific, industrial and cultural traditions. It is the world's largest supplier of natural gas, minerals, precious metals and forest products and a major supplier of oil, coal, fertilizers and other raw materials. It has the potential to also become a major producer of food products, consumer goods, chemicals and plastics, and machinery, if increased investment leads to renovation and innovations in its industry.
Following the introduction of a free market system, Russia offers foreign operators access to a huge market of 150 million consumers, with another 140 million in the adjacent CIS countries. For European companies faced with saturated home markets, Russia offers an excellent opportunity to expand and gain leadership. The significance of Russia's rising potential as a business destination is reflected in the growing interest of western transnational corporations (TNCs).