The West has taken practical steps to punish Russia for its independent foreign policy with corresponding changes to be inserted into its strategy. The research works of London-based Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, normally reflect the general trends in evolution of thinking in Anglo-Saxon world and beyond. Two former ambassadors to Russia – Sir Roderic Lyne and Sir Andrew Wood – cooperate with the Institute as associate fellows.
The think tank has recently made public its Russian Challenge report which states that Ukraine is one of many reasons to reappraise the policy towards Russia as the gap between it and the rest of the world continues to get wider. The authors believe that until 2003, it was widely believed that a modernizing Russia might be accommodated into the international system as a constructive and benign actor.
Variations on this view have given way to the realization that Russia, on its present course, cannot be a partner or ally, and that differences outweigh any common interests. What exactly happened in 2003 to make British strategists view Russia in a different light? Back then Moscow did not support the invasion of Iraq by US-UK forces. It is widely believed nowadays, including the public opinion in America and Britain, that the operation was undertaken as a result of false evidence and led to negative results. But to be recognized by the West as «benign and constructive», one should be ready to support its actions, no matter how reckless, or even criminal, they could be.
The steps undertaken by Moscow to reach armistice in Ukraine are considered as the beginning of «improvement» process. But it’s not enough. The report emphasizes the need for power change in Russia according to the scenario tried in Ukraine. Those in Russia who advocate mending fences with the West should not expect that life in the country would become a bed of roses in case the relationship improves.
Nobody in the West wants the country to achieve progress. To the contrary, Western states strive to weaken Russia as much as possible. The authors note that to pursue its goals and achieve its objectives the West should be better prepared for any further deterioration in relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin must not be accommodated for fear that any successor would be even worse. This accommodation has already failed. Whether the present leadership endures or is prematurely replaced, the way ahead will be complex and potentially turbulent.
According to Chatham House experts, The West should deter and constrain «coercion» by Russia against its European neighbours, for as long as is needed, but not to draw fixed dividing lines. The door should be kept open for re-engagement when circumstances change. This cannot be expected with any confidence under Putin, and it cannot be predicted what the next regime will look like. But there is a reasonable possibility that the decline of the Russian economy, the costs of confrontation and the rise of China will incline a future Russian leadership to want to re-engage with the West.
The report contains the recommendation to explain Western policies consistently and regularly in discussions with China, and to all former Soviet states, most of which have reason to be concerned about Russian policies, whether or not they admit it. The effectiveness of sanctions against Russia depends on their duration as well as severity. The paper states that the issue that triggered sanctions was the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and until that issue is fully addressed sanctions should remain in place. In particular, it is self-defeating to link the lifting of sanctions solely to implementation of the poorly crafted and inherently fragile Minsk accords, the paper says.
It’s clear that such approaches to the Minsk agreements is exactly what heightens tensions in Ukraine giving Kiev a carte-blanche for breaching its obligations. For instance, the British Independent emphasizes that the report calls for strengthening NATO. The authors of report believe that the West has an even bigger interest in preserving the post-Cold War environment. «If that is dismantled, it is conceivable that Nato and the EU could collapse too», the influential think-tank has warned.
The Chatham House researchers call for resolute actions. According to their recommendations, Nato must retain its credibility as a deterrent to Russian aggression. In particular, it needs to demonstrate that limited war is impossible and that the response to ‘ambiguous’ or ‘hybrid’ war will be robust. The fears are evidently exaggerated and the conclusion is irresponsible. It’s nobody else but the regime in Kiev who sets the goal to involve as many countries as possible into the hot phase of the conflict. The government of Ukraine refuses to find a common language with the regions that oppose the government’s policies.
A question arose during the presentation of the report about the prospects of Russia-China rapprochement as a reaction to the growing pressure on the part of the West. For instance, Russia and China have recently held joint exercises in the Mediterranean. The authors admitted that this possibility was not taken seriously to be dismissed as something hardly feasible. The authors of paper believe that China would pursue its own interests, not the interests of Russia. This is a hasty conclusion. China and many other emerging world powers firmly believe that Western states claim to possess absolute truth and aspire to exercise global financial control. It hinders global progress and contradicts the reality and the fundamental interests of other countries to unite them as natural allies.
The US policy towards Russia (Russian doctrine) evolves, by and large, the same way. On June 5, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited the US Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, to hold a high-level meeting with regional defense leaders. One of the issues to hit the agenda was the scenario of deploying more tactical nuclear and other weapons systems in Europe as means of intimidation. The US National Security Council is working on the plan. Some officials believe that the new strategy to build relations with Russia is an improved version of America’s containment policy. Others refuse to admit that the United States has already launched a new war against Russia. A US official said the United States should prevent Russia from expanding its influence.
Some also believe that there should be more studies conducted to develop the policy on Russia. There may be different approaches than the ones adopted in English speaking countries. French experts called on the government to establish an institution devoted to Russia’s studies. They emphasize that Russia and Europe share the same continent. They cannot have different historic trajectories. The experts believe that the time is ripe to modernize the academic institutions studying Russia to come up with proper strategic vision.
French experts say it would be right to stop painting Russia as a cold blooded monster chomping at the bit for territorial expansion or as the only country to save Europe from liberals and transatlantic demons. It’s time for adequate perception and impartial assessment of Russia and creation of new platforms to study this country taking into consideration its rich historic traditions, the scale of economy, local specifics and pluralism of opinions that exists there. Those who take decisions should base their estimates on impartial and independent analysis free from the influence of lobbyists whose structures have expanded in the recent years along with growing influence. French researchers point out that in January 2015 Germany spent 2,5 million euros on creating a new research institute for Russian and Eurasian studies. They think France should follow their example.
Before the recent G7 summit in Bavaria the chairman of the German – Russian Forum, Matthias Platzeck (SPD), warned about dire consequences of breaking up with Russia. He said it was impossible to conceive positive development of events or stable security in case the relations with Russia were broken.
According to Platzeck, neither Europe, nor Russia will gain if the bilateral relations will further deteriorate further. He said that in the end Europe will lose influence while Russia will get weakened. The United States will strengthen its position and China will achieve economic gains.