Russia attempts to make inroads to the east as tensions persist with the West.
As relations with the West remain tense throughout the rest of the decade, Moscow will attempt to make inroads to stronger economic connections with Tokyo and Seoul, playing them off each other, and off Beijing, to its benefit.
Japan and Russia have another round of talks on economic agreements planned for November, although China is Moscow’s most important partner in the region. In the meantime, near the western border of Russia, negotiations on the conflict in Ukraine will pick up as the year winds down.
Russia’s proposal to send U.N. Peacekeeping forces to Donbas will gain traction, despite discussions between Russia and Ukraine, together with its Western supporters, over the installation’s parameters. The plan likely will not come to fruition by the end of the year. Nonetheless, it may reduce the violence in eastern Ukraine, easing the pressure on Moscow and giving the Kremlin more space to maneuver with the US and the European Union in the procedure.
Two other breakaway territories from Eurasia, Transdniestria, and Nagorno Karabakh, will remain flashpoints. The joint border controls that Moldova and Ukraine will spur Russia to increase its security action there, either by making more frequent exercise or amassing more weapons in the territory, for example. And the long-simmering standoff between Armenia and Azerbaijan could flare up again. Still, the contested regions will prevent full-blown war for the rest of the year.
Russia: the aspiring—but declining–great power?
Russia’s aspires to restore its great power status through nationalism, military modernization, nuclear saber-rattling, and foreign engagements overseas. However, at home, it faces increasing constraints as its stagnant economics heads for a 3rd consecutive year of recession.
Moscow prizes stability and order, offering Russians security at the expense of personal freedoms and pluralism. Moscow’s capability to retain a role on the global stage—even through disruption—has also become a source of regime power and popularity at home.
Russian nationalism features strongly in this story, with President Putin praising Russian culture as the last bulwark of conservative Christian values against the decadence of Europe and the tide of multiculturalism. Putin is personally popular, but approval ratings of 35 percent for the ruling party reflect public impatience with deteriorating quality of life conditions and abuse of power.