Russia and the West

Belligerent opponent or newly potent peer?

Russia may be into its second year of recession, but President Vladimir Putin is making up for it with anti-Western rhetoric and robust military action in Syria, despite the much-publicised partial withdrawal of forces.

The United States has extended its sanctions on Moscow for another year while fissures have developed among EU members about the desirability of continuing sanctions when the decision comes up this summer. The Russian government is exercising not-so-soft power on matters from the refugee crisis to energy to cajole European states into taking a more lenient stance.

The Russian military is remaking itself as a more potent force from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and NATO is taking counter-steps to build up its deterrent capacity in Eastern Europe. Russia’s frosty relations with NATO member Turkey, meanwhile, affect developments in Syria and the South Caucasus.

Is the mix of belligerence towards NATO and diplomatic and military engagement in the Middle East a sign that Russia is now a dangerous force in global affairs, or is it just an appeal to Western powers to accept Moscow and treat it as an equal?

Rhetoric aside, there are fundamental issues to unpick:

  • Does Russia present an imminent security threat to the West?
  • Does it want a workable solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine or to perpetuate a ‘frozen conflict’?
  • After Ukraine and Syria, might there be another foreign intervention – and if so, where?
  • Does the diplomatic breach with Turkey open up a new area of geopolitical risk?
  • How resilient are international arms treaties given Moscow’s increasing reluctance to adhere to them?
  • Would the lifting of sanctions benefit Western states if there were few concessions from Moscow?
  • What are the trade, energy and investment implications of a prolonged downturn in relations?

Please join us on Tuesday, 19th April 2016 at 15:00 UK time to discuss these issues among others with a panel of Oxford Analytica’s expert advisors on Russia.