Russia Direct presents its new end of the year report, which analyzes the main results of Russian foreign policy over the past year and makes forecasts for Moscow’s strategy in 2016.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, center, walks with others before a trilateral meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015 in Doha. Photo: AP

The year 2015 has not been easy for the world and Russia. After all, there’s still the unresolved conflict in Ukraine, the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East and, of course, the crisis in Syria. All of these put the stability of the international security system at risk. Will these challenges be resolved in the coming year? Is it possible for the global community to join efforts and find common ground? What will the role of Russia be in addressing these questions?

The new Russia Direct report “Russia and the World: Foreign Policy Outlook 2016” provides an opportunity to assess these questions and presents prospective scenarios for Russia’s relations with the United States, Europe, China and the countries of the Middle East. Authors of the report outline the key trends and developments to watch in 2016, the potential impact of the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S., and the risks of heightened instability in Ukraine or a geopolitical clash in Central Asia.

Starting with the results of the survey, carried out by Russia Direct among its readers, the report looks into the main results of Russian and U.S. foreign policy over the year. The respondents assessed the key geopolitical achievements and failures of policymakers in Moscow and Washington and presented their opinion on what will be the most important challenge facing the world in 2016.

Dmitry Polikanov, a board member of the PIR Center (Russian Center for Policy Studies), then offers his look at the main takeaways from the confrontation between Russia and the West over the year. According to the expert, there were four problems evident in relations between Moscow, on the one side, and Brussels and Washington, on the other.

What we are seeing now, he says, is fundamental distrust between Russia and the West, the institutionalization of confrontation, collapsing rules of the geopolitical game and a permanent exchange of blows. By analyzing each of these characteristics, Polikanov argues that there is no reason to think that the crisis between Russia and the West will be resolved any time soon.

“Russia and the West are doomed for cold relations, at least, for the next couple of years and it will be quite difficult for the new generation of politicians to take the parties out of this crisis of trust,” he says.

Sergey Utkin, head of the Department of Strategic Assessment at the Center for Situation Analysis (Russian Academy of Sciences), offers three possible scenarios for how Russia-West relations might develop in the near future. From his perspective, key topics to watch in Euro-Atlantic area will include Ukraine, U.S. presidential elections and NATO-Russia confrontation.

Speaking about Russia’s pivot to Asia, the importance of Moscow’s ties with Beijing will remain through 2016 and beyond, argues Larisa Smirnova, senior research fellow at the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences) and lecturer at Xiamen University in China. The cooperation between the two countries could follow different paths, the least desired of which is a scenario when common threats to political stability in Russia and China push them towards forming a strategic alliance. “If the trend for Russia-China strategic alliance prevails, the extent to which it will be anti-Western and confrontational will also depend on the stakes that the West puts on regime change in Russia and China,” the author writes.

The situation in the Middle East and Russia’s role in Syria is also presented in the report by Alexander Kornilov, professor of International Relations and head of the Regional Studies and Local History Department at Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod. While discussing different foreign policy pillars of Russian involvement in the region, he offers his take on what to expect from Moscow in Syria in the future and how the situation in different countries of the region might evolve in the coming year.

What are the key lessons for the Kremlin from its military intervention in the Middle East in 2015? Is an international coalition against ISIS inevitable? What are the main areas where Russia is most likely to act in 2016? Find out in our new report.