The most advantageous option for Russia and the United States is to sign another START agreement on more cuts in nuclear weapons. However, if that is not possible, it makes sense for the two sides to extend the current treaty signed in 2010.
In the past, business deals could be secured if Putin endorsed them personally. Now, the Russian president seems to have stopped making promises to anyone; no deal is ironclad anymore.
The strategy developed by Europe and the United States to respond to Russia’s aggression is facing challenges, and midcourse corrections are needed.
The Kremlin is using the alleged terrorist plot in Crimea as way of delivering an ultimatum to its Western partners. It’s saying: “You said yourselves that there can be no military solution to the deadlock over Crimea and Donbas, so go ahead and broker a peaceful settlement. If you can’t, Russia reserves the right to make the next move.”
Putin drew several conclusions from the mass protests of 2011-2012. They convinced him that the mandate he received from “the people,” is much more important than the views of the small and overly outspoken segment of progressive citizens.
What is the worst and dangerous for Russia is the feeling of self-assured satisfaction and perception that it is a great, powerful and invincible country with unlimited resources. It can lead to another stagnation.
The Russian political system is changing from within. As Putin continues to appoint new personnel—including a new chief of staff—the divide between insiders and outsiders is disappearing; everyone is becoming part of the system, cogs in the United Putin machine.
Even as Russia is again engaged in a confrontation with the West, it is confronted by very real threats coming from the south.
Recent protests in Armenia are the latest example of a growing gap between the Armenian government and society at large.
The Kremlin’s new development program for the Kuril Islands is as generous and extensive as its predecessors. The key difference, however, is that now the military—the one area seemingly immune to cutbacks—will be responsible for making sure the program is implemented.