Russia Direct Report: The Year in Review

By Andrey Kortunov, Paul Goble, Dmitry Polikanov, Dimitri Elkin, Vasily Kuznetsov, Anton Tsvetov, and Eugene Bai

Russia Direct Report, December 2016


  1. Russian foreign policy: The year in review.
  2. Weighing pros and cons of Russian foreign policy in 2016.
  3. The new Russian Foreign Policy Concept: same ends, new means.
  4. Russia and the EU still have more differences than commonalities.
  5. The results of Russia’s Middle East policy in 2016.
  6. A pragmatic year for Russian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific.
  7. Why Russia’s foreign policy in Latin America is outdated.
  8. Interview with Dmitri Trenin: What kind of Russia should the West fear?


What Changed in 2016 and What to Expect in 2017

Our annual year-end report about the state of Russian foreign policy includes a comprehensive look at every major region of the world where Russia has attempted to extend its foreign policy influence over the past 12 months – from Asia-Pacific to the Middle East to Europe. It also includes a comprehensive review of Russia’s new Foreign Policy Concept.

What’s clear is that the past year has been filled with a mixed record of Russia’s foreign policy. While there have been encouraging signs of a potential rapprochement with Japan and a strengthening of the political and economic relationship with China in Asia-Pacific, the future is not as clear in the Middle East. In Syria, especially, Russia’s expanding military role has risked putting it against other powers in the region – includingTurkey and Saudi Arabia – while doing little or nothing to de-escalate Moscow’s ongoing confrontation with Washington or ensure the territorial integrity of Syria.

To help make sense of how Russian foreign policy might evolve in 2017, this report gathers together in one place a number of insights, analyses and overviews from a mix of Russian and Western experts. It also includes a notable Q&A with Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center, who outlines the fundamental contours of Russia’s confrontation with the West.

Obviously, the new Trump presidency brings with it the hopes for a restoration of Russia-U.S. ties to some semblance of normalcy. This restoration may not be the same as the Obama reset, but it may mark the beginning of a new, more pragmatic, phase in U.S.-Russian relations based on alignment around certain core problems – such as the eradication of Islamist terror as a source of instability in the world.

Amidst fears of Russian tampering with the U.S. election and concerns that Trump and Putin may be preparing for a new nuclear arms race, it’s clear that it’s still too early to talk about any kind of full-fledged cooperation beyond a narrow set of challenges. If that is indeed the case, though, it may push Russia even closer to its Eurasian and Asia-Pacific partners who are more willing to treat Russia as an equal player on the world stage.

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