President Biden will challenge the Kremlin both domestically and geopolitically. To thwart that dual challenge, Russia needs to deal with its numerous vulnerabilities effectively before its adversary is able to exploit them.
What action the Russian authorities take largely depends on the early actions and statements of the Biden administration. If Biden’s team shows a rational approach to possible areas of cooperation, that will at the very least delay any large-scale anti-American propaganda campaign.
The relationship between Russia and the United States will remain one of fierce rivalry, and that paradigm is unlikely to change. New political crises are possible, and will bring with them more sanctions.
Sanctions are becoming a form of economic regulation in this era of new protectionism. By virtue of its unique position in the world, the United States has the most opportunities to exercise this kind of regulation in its own interests.
Biden calls Russia the biggest threat to the United States, and sees Moscow’s policies as aimed at weakening Western countries internally; undermining the unity of such institutions as NATO and the European Union; and subverting the liberal world order.
Even a partial restoration of transatlantic unity under a President Biden will be a blow to the official Kremlin narrative about the inexorable movement of the international system toward a polycentric world order.
The latest EU sanctions against Russia send a clear signal: it’s not enough for individuals to have liberal ideas and reformist intentions; those ideas and intentions must be noticeable in the actions of the Russian state.
Moscow has repeatedly rejected any responsibility for its most contentious actions. As a result, Berlin’s trust and willingness to invest in the relationship with Russia has been wearing down for years.