Russia’s relations with the West are in deep turmoil. While the competitive dynamic between Russia and the West has come to a head in Ukraine, all of the “in-between” states — Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan — are objects of a contest among outside powers. This contest has become a negative-sum game, benefiting none of the parties: The West and Russia now find themselves locked into a dangerous and damaging competition, while the states in the region remain to varying degrees unstable, unreformed, and rife with conflict. Both Russian and Western policy toward these states has seemingly reached a dead end. Continuing with the status quo will likely perpetuate instability, poor governance, and a long-term Cold War-like atmosphere in West-Russia relations. However, without a credible alternative to the status quo, both the West and Russia seem doomed to continue it. The RAND Corporation convened a working group composed of experts and former policy practitioners from the United States, the European Union, Russia and the in-between states to consider proposals to foster cooperation, reduce tensions, and increase stability. The papers collected here outline these findings and recommendations. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
In 2017, Europe imported a record amount of natural gas: Russia’s exports rose by 8 percent, reaching an all-time high; Norwegian pipeline exports reached an all-time high as well, up 7 percent; pipeline imports from North Africa were slightly down, but imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose by 16 percent—but still below their 2011 peak.
Higher imports came largely from higher demand. After a decade of almost steady decline, gas demand in Europe has risen three years now—a major reversal. Europe pulled in more gas from most major suppliers since there are no longer any systematic differences in pricing among them. Invariably, the headline take-away is likely that Europe became more dependent on Russian gas, which is true but also beside the point. The real take-away is that demand rose—and that a continent that will rely more on gas needs to remove the final obstacles in the way of a fully functioning internal market. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The Western Balkans were supposed to be a solved problem. The United States has mostly watched from afar in recent years, thinking that the Europeans had these matters mostly in hand. US diplomats have played crucial roles in key moments; yet, the region continued to slide down the US political agenda. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The parallel changes in U.S.-Russian political relations and the military-technological landscape are fundamentally reshaping the ways in which a U.S.-Russian crisis and conflict likely would unfold. Neither side has yet internalized these overlapping geopolitical and technological changes. When they do, it is likely that each will take different and potentially conflicting lessons from them. As a result, risks could significantly increase the potential of a dispute leading to crisis, of a crisis leading to war, and of a war escalating rapidly.
This report addresses each of the various types of pathways, laying out the key aspects of each. Within each section, the authors first offer an assessment of the current situation, then consider relevant geopolitical and technological trends, and finally outline alternative scenarios along each pathway that can help guide the development and evaluation of policy options. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Russian-Turkish relations have experienced such sharp turns in the last couple of years that further volatility appears to be the only safe forecast. These two major European powers have a centuries-long history of competitive interactions; yet, mutual understanding and trust is hard to come by. Even though the relationship has a solid economic foundation, conflicting geopolitical ambitions clearly prevail over the economic rationale. There is furthermore a pronounced similarity in the way Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan conduct themselves: while they share mistrust of Western policies and resentment for being excluded from the European integration project, they nonetheless remain very different in their political experiences and worldviews, and only reluctantly make pledges of friendly cooperation. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
This commentary is the third in a series of essays on the geostrategic importance of the Black Sea that already includes a brief historical perspective and an assessment of NATO-Russia tensions in the region. As the White House is reflecting on the conditions for resuming dialogue with Russia, this commentary focuses on Russia’s use of territorial, cultural, and ethnic regional dynamics in the region to create a buffer zone against the West and presents options for Black Sea states and their allies and partners. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
An immediate challenge for the international community, one that dominated discussions at the G20 summit in Hamberg, is North Korea. The dogged pursuit of a nuclear weapons by the rogue nation illustrates the repercussions and security dilemma of any nation’s quest for absolute security, heightening anxiety among neighboring states along with hostile rhetoric and buildup of catastrophic weapons. Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, suggests that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization formed by China, Russia and other neighbors after the Cold War, may offer some lessons. “Although rarely openly discussed at Eurasian meetings, member states value the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a means of enhancing mutual reassurance among members to reduce regional security dilemmas,” he writes. “SCO documents and statements repeatedly renounce the logic of absolute security, and members overly commit to eschewing actions that could harm other members’ security.” A challenge for the SCO, of course, is balancing relations between Russia and China. Unequivocal pursuit of dominance in security and economic affairs, without concern for neighboring states, is a recipe for disaster. [Note: contains copyrighted material].