The Kremlin is still anxious about the expansion of Chinese influence in Central Asia, which is why it has turned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, set up in order to work out widely accepted rules of the game for Eurasia, into a useless bureaucracy. Now, Beijing can develop relations with other SCO members without worrying about what Moscow thinks.
The Ukraine war that broke out in 2014 became possible due to the governmentalizing of the Russian economy during the 2008 crisis. But these actions didn’t anticipate war. The manual control of the Russian economy formed to fight the crisis became an important component in fighting sanctions, and even in equipping the Donbas. But it was initially planned for different needs.
The president’s general approach to foreign policy—two-thirds disrupter, one-third mainstreamer—is likely to continue. His domestic travails will not constrain what he chooses to do abroad.
Russians are engaging in increasingly confrontational forms of protest, choosing to voice their discontent with the regime at unauthorized rallies rather than at state-sanctioned gatherings. As arrests and restrictions on civil liberties mount in response to the rallies, the authorities will seem ever more hostile and unjust.
The State Duma has joined the presidential administration as the second source of power in Russian domestic policymaking, and the tension between the two is threatening to open up a rift in Putin’s power vertical.
The break between Russia and the West is not a passing phase, but a long-term condition that will shape the course of European security for the foreseeable future.
Geopolitical conditions in the South Caucasus have experienced a substantial shift in recent years. Washington needs to adjust assumptions in advancing U.S. interests in the region to make the most of its capabilities.
Moscow’s support for Moldovan President Igor Dodon doesn’t mean that it is trying to pull Chisinau away from the EU. The Kremlin realizes that its options in Moldova have become more limited in recent years, and it has tempered its expectations accordingly. Now, the Kremlin is trying to find a way to let Moldova enjoy free trade agreements with both the EU and the CIS.
While disruptive, the recent political protests are unlikely to immediately destabilize the regime.