Since Syria is now virtually the major stumbling block between the two states, Putin and Erdogan decided to have a separate meeting on this issue sometime in the future. Meanwhile, the respective parties in both countries will work together and separately to brainstorm on what joint initiatives may be discussed further.
The key difference is that some NATO members are militarily capable, they are security providers, and others are weak and are security consumers. Those weak countries that border Russia fear it. It is in the Russian interest for the militarily capable countries to remain pragmatists, and for the weak countries to gradually turn away from their anti-Russian phobias.
Russian experts are one in thinking that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. But there is no consensus as to how Russia should react. Some argue that the security of Russia and its allies makes it imperative for Moscow to interfere in the conflict with massive aid to the Kabul government. Other experts feel that the threat to Russia from Afghanistan is grossly exaggerated. In the eyes of many, the two extreme positions in Russian politics could be reconciled by monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and attempting to defuse humanitarian tensions.
In its worldview, Russia is a great-power chauvinist and a hard-power athlete. Modern Russia is a status quo player focused predominantly on its nearest abroad. Neither Russian security priorities nor its resources compel Moscow to project power beyond one thousand kilometers from its borders. The basics of Russia’s security strategy are simple: keep the neighboring belt stable, NATO weak, China close and the United States focused elsewhere.
According to the co-authors of “International Threats 2016,” Russia and the U.S. need to take a broader view of geopolitical decision-making in order to understand each other better. Events in Ukraine and Russia’s military campaign in Syria have greatly fueled the debate on Russia and its role in global affairs, with the West consistently pushing the narrative about the Russian threat. This might undermine attempts to understand Russian foreign policy and the rationale behind it, including Russia’s national interests and goals.
When and if the regional powers see Russia and the U.S again playing counter to each other in proxy games or something like that, then the dynamic will change negatively. But for now we are not doomed to this kind of bad dynamic and we need to be very cautious about what is exactly at stake: nobody needs a Saudi-Iranian war or a Russia-Turkey full-scale confrontation.
The current fragmentation of the EU is an ongoing slow surprise for Moscow that it was not prepared for and that was in no way a result of Russia’s doings. Actually, Russia was expecting the EU to eventually consolidate and become an independent global player free of US patronage. Besides, it is easier to trade and relate with the single body in Europe, not facing the perspective of having 28 representatives at the table discussing minor trade or visa issues.
Russia was the last to join in the destruction of the status quo and it did so only after it had realized that the other actors had violated the rules of the game. The EU and the U.S. were the first to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs when they supported one of the two political parties that sought a change of power by force. The coup in Kiev drastically changed the status quo, and the West did not try to integrate the new Ukrainian opposition into the established system or heed Russia’s interests.