Russia, Ukraine and the West: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Vladimir?

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Publication Date April 2021
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In April 2021 Vladimir Putin was threatening Ukraine again. The West so far lacks a unified and effective way of dealing with this and other challenges from Russia. A more coherent Western approach to Russia must be based on limiting the damage it can do to the interests of EU and NATO countries and their Eastern European neighbours, above all Ukraine but also Belarus – still a possible target for incorporation into Russia. Putin could be in office for another decade or more; he is unlikely to shed his distrust of NATO and the EU, or to stop seeking a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space. Some European politicians, including Emmanuel Macron, continue to argue that Europe must improve its relations with Russia through dialogue. The West should indeed keep talking to the Kremlin and to Russian society more widely, but without illusions that there will be a fundamental change in relations. Putin’s zero-sum worldview, generally shared in the Russian political establishment, will guide Russia’s external behaviour for the foreseeable future. All Western countries can do is try to ensure that they and their partners do not end up on the losing side.

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