The Minsk agreements are not dead, nor is the conflict in Donbas frozen. Despite a recent diplomatic push, and given the lack of trust between Russia and the United States, and Ukraine’s resistance to the Minsk accords, the status quo is for the time being an acceptable option for all sides. Mired in the upcoming election cycle in 2019, Kiev can’t meet the political requirements of the agreements, and considers Donbas as collateral for its ongoing nation-building project. The recently approved deal to send U.S. lethal weapons to Ukraine will not change the situation in the conflict zone, but plans to increase Western aid directly to Donbas may slowly sway public opinion in eastern Ukraine.
Precisely because the conflict with Georgia now has a lower profile than Ukraine, the EU and Russia might start exploring ways to minimize the risk of confrontation and even test approaches for accommodation. Using the provisions of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement signed with Georgia EU can underscore its commitment to human rights and propose technical solutions that would improve the lives of residents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in terms of access to education, healthcare, and freedom of movement and trade.
The priority now is not only a ceasefire, but also the articulation of strong political incentives for the breakaway regions to finally begin disarmament and reintegration. This is first and foremost a task for the Ukrainian authorities, who will have to overcome the taboo and establish a legal framework for reintegration.
Putin’s goal is now neither to recreate the USSR, nor to become part of the West. Rather, the ambition is to build an economic and technological “West” inside Russia, while continuing an aggressive posture towards the West on the outside.
A consensus among the Kremlin’s supporters has become an ideology: Russia may have problems, but it is united by anti-Western, isolationist, and conservative values.
Washington has accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty. The Kremlin has threatened to withdraw. Without new agreements and measures to ensure compliance with INF amid changing technological and political realities, arms control is in trouble.
Spain is a member of both the EU and NATO, yet its stance on Russia remains surprisingly benevolent. Even rumors of Russian interference in the Catalan crisis have not changed this. Moscow’s ties with Madrid could provide a valuable foundation for future engagement with Europe.
Carnegie Moscow Center’s Director Dmitri Trenin and Rethinking Russia discussed his new book “What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East?”, Moscow’s role and place in the region, the future of Syria and the Islamic State as well as Russia’s Syria collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S.
The Russia-U.S. relationship will likely be worse tomorrow than it is today. Any resolution will require either or both of them to change long-held views.
A security community embracing all of Europe would only be possible if Russia were included. This, however, is unlikely. The new confrontation between Russia and the West, the Hybrid War, is systemic and will continue for many years.
Moscow has never pulled the strings in the Karabakh conflict, but it remains the most influential outside actor. A Karabakh peace process will remain “Project Minimum” for Russia, the United States, and France, unless its key actors, local and international, decide to rethink their strategic priorities.
Russia seeks to exploit divisions in the West. But how big is the threat?
The power vacuum caused by the Maidan protests of 2014 allowed marginal political figures in the Donbas to capitalize on longtime discontent with the omnipotent Party of Regions and its local bosses. Almost none of the former regional leaders managed to find a place in the new political reality, but their authoritarian model left a useful blueprint for the new leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
Andrei Kolesnikov, in his review of books by Shaun Walker, Masha Gessen, and historian Serhii Plokhy, analyzes the authors’ view on the phenomenon of the influence of the past on the present and future of Russia.
Those in Moscow who believe that all is not lost for Russia in Ukraine, citing the example of Georgia, which is gradually normalizing relations with Russia despite the 2008 war, are being overly optimistic. While the current animosity in Russian-Ukrainian relations will almost certainly cool down in a few years, the underlying foundation of that relationship has been fundamentally altered. Most crucially, Ukraine’s economic dependence on Russia has been decreasing—and with it, Russian leverage over its neighbor.
United Russia’s new leader, Andrei Turchak, is asserting the independence of the pro-presidential party as a distinct force in domestic politics. As the ruling regime’s power vertical begins to fragment, United Russia will now seek to take credit for its own contribution to Vladimir Putin’s victory.
Much like Europeans do not fully grasp the angst generated by prospects of Western-incited regime change in Russia, Russians dismiss far too easily how toxic in the EU is Moscow’s political and financial backing of European extreme right-wing movements. Both are viewed as direct threats to existential interests. So long as that deep-seated mistrust regarding each other’s destructive intent toward one another prevails, channels for cooperation will remain limited, and cooperation at the global level will be ad hoc and transactional.
Even under the best of circumstances, the relationship in the Balkans between Russia, on the one hand, and the EU and the United States, on the other, is bound to be contentious. However, decisionmakers on both sides can craft policies to dial tensions down and pursue common interests where they do exist.
Most Russian citizens do not express a strong desire for sweeping change and do not have in mind a specific road map for reforms. And yet most Russians understand that the country cannot move forward, or even stay in place, without reforms.
Many of the threats and missions identified in the 2018 National Defense Strategy Summary are similar to those of earlier defense strategies. But the priorities have changed dramatically. The 2018 NDS declares that “interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary national security concern,” and the United States is in a “long-term strategic competition” with its main adversaries Russia and China.