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.
Berlin is ending the era launched by Gorbachev of a trusting and friendly relationship with Moscow. Russia, for its part, no longer expects anything from Germany, and therefore does not feel obliged to take into account its opinion or interests.
John Bolton suggests that Putin can play Trump like a fiddle. The truth is that under the forty-fifth U.S. president, the bilateral relationship with Russia is now as bad as at any time since the early 1980s.
The longer-term consequences of the coronavirus will include the further intensification of U.S.-Chinese rivalry, and the emerging Sino-American bipolarity. Russia’s top priority should be to carefully maintain equilibrium—though not equidistance—between the United States and China.
While broadly perceived as a blow to the EU and its values, Brexit will actually benefit a future democratic Russia. Britain’s exit will create a new model of Europeanness, in which a country can strive to achieve European standards without EU membership. That is a niche Russia can fill.