The Russians have always been good at lower performance, low cost rockets. Higher performance, they've always struggled with (particularly upper stages), which hindered their ability to launch probes (they only ever launched to the moon, Venus, and Mars, and with a rather disappointing track record). But they've built quite a few reliable, cheap lower stages and full low-performance orbital stacks. Mind you, a few of their lower-stage engines have turned out to be lemons (most notably the NK-15/33/43), but most have been real workhorses.
As for advanced tech in general, Russia has always been great at conceiving of and doing small scale implementations of very advanced concepts, but they've struggled to bring it into mass produced products. In that regard, I think the US has more to worry about concerning China; while they've long been known for mass production of lower-tech goods, they're getting increasingly good at mass production of high tech goods. The key to the US's success has been the combination of both high tech and skill in bulk production (albeit disadvantaged in that by labour costs)
US vs. Russia, I think the AK-47 vs. M-16 is a great analogy. The M-16 is by most objective standards a much better weapon - lighter, significantly lighter magazines per bullet (yet with nearly the same impact energy due to much faster velocity), significantly greater range in most regards, greater accuracy, faster to load and change magazines, easier to work the safety, predictable trigger behavior, all sorts of other ergonomic features, less recoil, better sights, and on and on down the line. Yet the AK-47 is the one that ended up ubiquitous around the world. It was simple, easy to make, had loose-fitting parts that weren't sensitive to manufacturing defects, was tough to break or jam with dirt and grime, etc. Very much reflective of the philosophy difference in general.
Russia seems to be trying to change today, trying to move more toward the American philosophy of production, in particular with respect to arms. For example they're trying to make their jets less "disposable", designed for lower downtimes and more flight hours like the US and Europe do, in order to be able to give their pilots more flight-time training (among other things), like the west does. But the changes have been incremental, not by leaps and bounds.