John Lough, a fellow at Chatham House, has an interesting piece published on the possibilities of change for Russia’s foreign policy with the onset of Putin’s next term.
The article shows that recent political events in Russia, while not inspired by the Arab Spring, are clearly connected for Putin and his entourage through their conspiratorial view of the world. Referring to the toppling of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, Medvedev said tellingly in February 2011: ‘They tried to prepare this scenario for us and what is more, they will try to achieve it – this scenario will not work’.
Putin’s immediate identification of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of December’s parliamentary election as a ‘signal’ to opposition forces to demonstrate is a striking example of how he tends to voice instinctively in moments of crisis a belief that external forces are seeking to destabilise Russia.
Continued hints by Putin that the US seeks undue influence in Russia and is stoking dissatisfaction with his rule could put further strain on US-Russia relations as they enter a difficult period The reset honeymoon is over following Russia’s veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria, a move Clinton described as ‘despicable’. US election politics will inevitably include a focus on policy towards Russia while the Magnitsky bill is still in the Senate waiting to be traded for the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations between the US and Russia.
Putin’s campaign rhetoric is one thing, his actions another. Russia’s handling of Syria and Iran over the coming months will provide the clearest possible indicators of the extent to which Putin is prepared to work with the US and its allies.