Any agreement that results in rapprochement with the West may provide some economic growth from sanctions relief, but it may also shift balance of power within the Russian political establishment from the powerful hawks to the system’s liberals.
As Trump prepares to meet Vladimir Putin, there is no sign that he has absorbed the lessons of multiple rounds of Western sanctions against Russia since 2014.
The Kremlin is seeking ways of de-escalating tensions with the West without making major concessions. It sees the isolationist unpredictable Trump as a partner in this endeavor.
Helsinki will mark the first détente in the four-year-old Hybrid War between Russia and the United States. But there will be no major breakthrough. President Putin regards a meeting with the U.S. president not as a reward but as a resumption of normal business.
Opinion polls and focus groups show that, despite intense anti-American feelings in Russia, Russians do pin hopes on the Putin-Trump summit. They want to see a de-escalation in confrontation and a re-focus away from foreign affairs by Putin, and they want Washington to show respect for Russia.
Since 2014, Russia and the US have been engaged in a hybrid war, characterized by conflict in financial, technological, and ideological spheres. Regardless of the results of the summit, this hybrid war is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. However, the relationship can and must be stabilized through clear understanding by both parties of the other side’s behavior and motivations
The West’s economic sanctions against Russia have divided the country’s most prominent businessmen into those who would like to remain “private” and those who never needed this.
Russia can strengthen its geopolitical positioning in Europe in some respects by seeking to cooperate more with Germany, its most important European partner.
Alexei Navalny believes that Russia spends too much effort and money on foreign adventures. Yet he cleaves to many establishment ideas about Russia’s role in its neighborhood and is far from advocating the kind of rapprochement with the West for which many foreign observers hope.
In the decades I spent working with the United States, I acquired quite a large circle of contacts in Washington. Collectively, they represent the so-called American establishment. Today, I’d like to address these Washingtonians as one individual, whom I’ll name John for the sake of simplicity.