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.
The Kremlin is seeking ways of de-escalating tensions with the West without making major concessions. It sees the isolationist unpredictable Trump as a partner in this endeavor.
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.
Russia has opened its doors to thousands of foreigners for the World Cup, but the realities of Putin’s Russia are bigger than the feel-good spirit provided by the football.
The decision to annul the opposition’s victory in Chi?inau’s mayoral election is among the most confrontational taken by Moldova’s self-avowedly pro-European authorities. But the convergence of internal and external factors that the anti-government protests need to succeed has not yet occurred. The defeat of anti-government forces shortly before decisive parliamentary elections will leave Moldovan society even more apathetic.
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
The events of the last four years in Russia show that its fabled stability and lack of change have stopped being the top political value. Today, the Russian regime is more ready than ever for transformation. Before, any decisions had to be approved by the president and were made at a snail’s pace because Putin had no time. Now, it’s the other way around: decisions are made quickly precisely because Putin has no time.
Opposition forces are competing for the spotlight in Russia.
Vladimir Putin learned the art of political survival in the Kremlin of the 1990s. Little wonder that he has decided to keep on his former co-conspirator from that era, Valentin Yumashev.
Belarus’s newfound role as a peacemaker has helped Minsk gain previously unimaginable freedom of maneuver with both the West and Russia. Minsk will likely continue to defend and uphold its status as a mediator, even if warring parties do not want to negotiate.
The Prague Spring was the nobler and more enduring face of 1968. The Western protests were mostly about middle-class counterculture and were subsumed by a culture of consumerism, while the Eastern European tradition of anti-totalitarian dissent has endured.
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.
To predict what the Kremlin will do, we need look no further than the ambitious but unrealized initiatives of the mid-2000s, such as enlarging the regions and tax reforms. The same is true of the Kremlin’s staffing policy: even if there are some reshuffles, the positions of power go to experienced and well-known individuals. Vladimir Putin is comfortable talking to familiar people on familiar subjects. His closest associates are well aware of this fact and have adjusted to their boss’s preferences.
There are several misperceptions about Russia that make relations with Europe worse than they need to be. Acknowledging these illusions is the first step to Russia and Europe being able to understand each other.
The regional unification of record-high presidential election results has closed the Kremlin bureaucrats’ eyes to the diversity of different parts of the country, their elites, and the preferences of their electorates. In this model, regional masters of balance and public politics are extraneous. But the expulsion of old regional barons is risky: the banner of public pushback and local patriotism could be picked up by new regional politicians who might be even less convenient for Moscow.
The summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore brought the Korean peninsula closer to peace, but it was more about symbolism than substance. Its most important outcome is to bring North Korea out of diplomatic isolation—something that is welcome to both China and Russia.
The West’s economic sanctions against Russia have divided the country’s most prominent businessmen into those who would like to remain “private” and those who never needed this.
Russia can strengthen its geopolitical positioning in Europe in some respects by seeking to cooperate more with Germany, its most important European partner.