Vladimir Putin takes advice from three distinct groups of foreign policy ideologists who can be labeled warriors, merchants, and pious believers. Each of them serves a role, but they have very different views of how Russia should develop.
In Syria, as elsewhere, Russia is acting according to a system whereby it escalates a crisis so as to claim a role in the world and challenge “American leadership.” This pattern of behavior dangerously simplifies the complexities of world politics. When one intervention ends, Russia is forced to look for a new one.
Vladimir Putin is making a bid to regain global respectability by leading a fight against ISIS and evoking the anti-Hitler coalition of World War II. The West is yet to be convinced that the appeal to be “brothers-in-arms” is serious.
The Russian government provoked controversy with mass destruction of European food. The government could not allow its counter-sanctions policy to be seen to be failing and is exploiting different attitudes to banned Western products amongst the opposition and the general public.
The Russian elite and public are propagating certain myths that Western sanctions are not hurting or are even helping Russia's economy. The reality is much bleaker: sanctions are here to stay for a long time and there can be no healthy economic development while they are in place.
The MH-17 catastrophe has been a major factor in the current state of relations between Russia and the West for more than a year already. Paradoxically, the establishment of an international tribunal is unlikely to sour relations further, even though Moscow fears that protracted legal proceedings might stand in the way of a future détente with the West
Putin phoned IMF chief, asking the Europeans to support Athens in any way possible. It is likely that Obama asked to do the same thing: there is no indication that Greece was ever a point of contention between Russia and the United States—despite Greece’s position on the Ukrainian crisis, its anti-Western rhetoric, and Tsipras’ friendship with Putin
Putin’s announcement that Moscow plans to add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal is troubling mainly because of its political and psychological impact on NATO allies. But it is no cause for alarm.
The Ukraine crisis has made Europeans see Greek foreign policy as particularly threatening and divisive. In reality, Greece is simply acting in line with its long-standing political traditions. The question of European unity still lies in the hands of Brussels and Berlin.