Predicting U.S.-Russia Relations

For some, it is going to get worse before it gets better.  From Ian Bremmer on RCP:

With oil prices well below what the Russians can afford, but Putin’s (& Medvedev’s) popularity still high, the initial moves have been to consolidate power. Yet despite no organized political opposition to speak of, we’re still starting to see social unrest. For the first time in years, there have been widespread demonstrations in Russia–in 30 cities, following the imposition of import duties on used cars. We’re likely to see much more turbulence in 2009, as factories providing employment for entire cities are shuttered. That’s a sort of suffering that Russians are certainly used to, but only in the context of a very different kind of political system.

Where could this go? There will be near-zero state tolerance for dissent. And the strongest level of anti-Americanism (and, in many quarters, of broader xenophobia) of any significant emerging market in the world, creates the potential to make security a serious concern–and possibly lead to unrest that disrupts supply chains. The Obama administration is unlikely to quietly tolerate a crackdown, and will put plenty of focus on human rights and democracy. So American and some European nations’ relations with Russia will continue to deteriorate over the course of 2009 (with the Germans, who are more dependent on the Russians economically and, to some extent, politically, playing the role of wild card).