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The first détente in the hybrid war between Russia and the West was nipped in the bud by Trump’s behavior and the vehemence of his domestic critics. So be it.
Vladimir Putin achieved his goal of embarrassing the United States. But Russians are already bracing for the backlash.
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.
Opposition forces are competing for the spotlight in Russia.
The tradition of sport acting as a kind of hybrid war has seamlessly continued in Russia into the post-Soviet period. It is victory at any cost, because victory has political significance. It’s soft power, the face of the country, the image of an invincible nation ruled by a wise leader.
Russia can strengthen its geopolitical positioning in Europe in some respects by seeking to cooperate more with Germany, its most important European partner.
The Kerch Bridge is the conclusion of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, both physically and politically. Any haggling over on what terms Russia might return Crimea to Ukraine is now definitively null and void.
While the proxy war in Syria does hold the potential for a clash between U.S. and Russian forces, it is only one of several theaters in which a larger conflict between the two countries is playing out.
The One World of Pax Americana that has existed since the end of the Cold War is already history. US global dominance is still in place, but the peace has been shattered again. The new era is not a replay of the 20th century contest. It may be equally dangerous, but in its own way.