Russia is parting ways with both Ukraine and Belarus. This did not have to be a tragedy with Ukraine, and can still be handled amicably with Belarus. Moreover, an independent Ukrainian state and a Ukrainian political nation ease Russia’s transition from its post-imperial condition and facilitate the formation of a Russian political nation.
The conflict that will dominate Putin’s fourth term is not between the doves and hawks, but between two economic schools: the industrialists, who believe the economy is made up of manufacturing machines, and the liberals, who are convinced that it consists of money. No technocrat will be able to form an efficient team from people who have fundamentally different ideas of what the economy actually is.
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.
China and Russia have been cooperating closely over the past three decades. But since the Ukraine crisis, the process has become more dynamic. Moscow and Beijing are now coordinating their policies on a wider range of issues.
With US-Russian relations already confrontational and Sino-US relations becoming visibly more tense, the context for major power interaction on the North Korean nuclear issue has substantially changed from what it was only five years ago.
The Minsk agreements are not dead, nor is the conflict in Donbas frozen. Despite a recent diplomatic push, and given the lack of trust between Russia and the United States, and Ukraine’s resistance to the Minsk accords, the status quo is for the time being an acceptable option for all sides. Mired in the upcoming election cycle in 2019, Kiev can’t meet the political requirements of the agreements, and considers Donbas as collateral for its ongoing nation-building project. The recently approved deal to send U.S. lethal weapons to Ukraine will not change the situation in the conflict zone, but plans to increase Western aid directly to Donbas may slowly sway public opinion in eastern Ukraine.
Precisely because the conflict with Georgia now has a lower profile than Ukraine, the EU and Russia might start exploring ways to minimize the risk of confrontation and even test approaches for accommodation. Using the provisions of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement signed with Georgia EU can underscore its commitment to human rights and propose technical solutions that would improve the lives of residents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in terms of access to education, healthcare, and freedom of movement and trade.
The priority now is not only a ceasefire, but also the articulation of strong political incentives for the breakaway regions to finally begin disarmament and reintegration. This is first and foremost a task for the Ukrainian authorities, who will have to overcome the taboo and establish a legal framework for reintegration.
Putin’s goal is now neither to recreate the USSR, nor to become part of the West. Rather, the ambition is to build an economic and technological “West” inside Russia, while continuing an aggressive posture towards the West on the outside.
A consensus among the Kremlin’s supporters has become an ideology: Russia may have problems, but it is united by anti-Western, isolationist, and conservative values.
Washington has accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty. The Kremlin has threatened to withdraw. Without new agreements and measures to ensure compliance with INF amid changing technological and political realities, arms control is in trouble.
Spain is a member of both the EU and NATO, yet its stance on Russia remains surprisingly benevolent. Even rumors of Russian interference in the Catalan crisis have not changed this. Moscow’s ties with Madrid could provide a valuable foundation for future engagement with Europe.
Carnegie Moscow Center’s Director Dmitri Trenin and Rethinking Russia discussed his new book “What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East?”, Moscow’s role and place in the region, the future of Syria and the Islamic State as well as Russia’s Syria collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S.
The Russia-U.S. relationship will likely be worse tomorrow than it is today. Any resolution will require either or both of them to change long-held views.
A security community embracing all of Europe would only be possible if Russia were included. This, however, is unlikely. The new confrontation between Russia and the West, the Hybrid War, is systemic and will continue for many years.
Moscow has never pulled the strings in the Karabakh conflict, but it remains the most influential outside actor. A Karabakh peace process will remain “Project Minimum” for Russia, the United States, and France, unless its key actors, local and international, decide to rethink their strategic priorities.
Russia seeks to exploit divisions in the West. But how big is the threat?
The power vacuum caused by the Maidan protests of 2014 allowed marginal political figures in the Donbas to capitalize on longtime discontent with the omnipotent Party of Regions and its local bosses. Almost none of the former regional leaders managed to find a place in the new political reality, but their authoritarian model left a useful blueprint for the new leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
Andrei Kolesnikov, in his review of books by Shaun Walker, Masha Gessen, and historian Serhii Plokhy, analyzes the authors’ view on the phenomenon of the influence of the past on the present and future of Russia.
Those in Moscow who believe that all is not lost for Russia in Ukraine, citing the example of Georgia, which is gradually normalizing relations with Russia despite the 2008 war, are being overly optimistic. While the current animosity in Russian-Ukrainian relations will almost certainly cool down in a few years, the underlying foundation of that relationship has been fundamentally altered. Most crucially, Ukraine’s economic dependence on Russia has been decreasing—and with it, Russian leverage over its neighbor.