The goal was to return to the club where the destiny of the world is being discussed, not as an ally (because given the current economic disparity, one could only be a subordinate ally) but as a “partner”—a word that is invariably spoken in Russia with phonetic quotation marks: a disobedient, sometimes blunt neighbor with whom considerations of the world order must be shared.
In the middle of a prolonged confrontation with the West, Russia cannot revive its Western-oriented or Eurasianist foreign policy concepts. In foreign relations, crisis-avoidance mechanisms must be the priority while Russia seeks a new strategic concept. That rethink must be underpinned by domestic reform; otherwise, the Russian state could share the fate of the Romanov regime in World War I.
A first strike with nuclear weapons in a conflict between the great powers is bound to be catastrophic. At a time when speculation on nuclear weapons use has increased Russia and the United States should restate their commitment to the nuclear war prevention on which they had agreed in the Cold War era.
Vladimir Putin takes advice from three distinct groups of foreign policy ideologists who can be labeled warriors, merchants, and pious believers. Each of them serves a role, but they have very different views of how Russia should develop.
In Syria, as elsewhere, Russia is acting according to a system whereby it escalates a crisis so as to claim a role in the world and challenge “American leadership.” This pattern of behavior dangerously simplifies the complexities of world politics. When one intervention ends, Russia is forced to look for a new one.
Vladimir Putin is making a bid to regain global respectability by leading a fight against ISIS and evoking the anti-Hitler coalition of World War II. The West is yet to be convinced that the appeal to be “brothers-in-arms” is serious.
The Russian government provoked controversy with mass destruction of European food. The government could not allow its counter-sanctions policy to be seen to be failing and is exploiting different attitudes to banned Western products amongst the opposition and the general public.
The Russian elite and public are propagating certain myths that Western sanctions are not hurting or are even helping Russia's economy. The reality is much bleaker: sanctions are here to stay for a long time and there can be no healthy economic development while they are in place.
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