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
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.
The United States’ latest round of sanctions has hit Russia hard. In the future, the Russian state will have to share the emerging risks and minimize socioeconomic consequences for the impacted regions and industries. This will lead to a new wave of property redistribution based upon state — not economic — interests.
Many more Russian oligarchs, bureaucrats, companies, and businesses can expect to appear on future U.S. sanctions lists. Russia, not seeing an immediate catastrophic effect, will respond to new sanctions by searching for more enemies within and ramping up anti-American propaganda. The United States, which loses nothing from this policy, isn’t likely to initiate change, so it will be up to the Kremlin to change its approach—before it’s too late.
The Russian authorities refrain from engaging with the West’s military and political intellectual elite at the Munich Security Conference and similar forums because they’re convinced that the Russophobe audiences there will never change their minds. This belief is more a reflection of the Russian political system, in which the government doesn’t really consider expert and public opinion when formulating its foreign policy. This approach is to a large extent responsible for the miscalculations and errors that led to the current situation in Russia’s relations with the West.
Virtually all of Italy’s political forces want to increase cooperation with Russia. But the Kremlin would be unwise to read too much into this. Rome values preserving mutual understanding with the European Union and the United States over advocating for lifting sanctions. A positive relationship with Italy is an important asset for Russian foreign policy, but it isn’t a game-changer.