On March 17, 2016, the GMF Warsaw office, in partnership with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Warsaw office, hosted a workshop titled “Transatlantic Strategy Toward Russia.” The meeting sought to examine current relations with Russia from the perspective of the U.S.-EU-NATO partnership, as well as provide recommendations on their future outlook.
The workshop was comprised of three panels that focused on Russia’s domestic policy, foreign policy, and regional dynamics of eastern Europe, respectively. The first panel thus opened with a discussion of the so-called “sistema” that is an intricate part of the domestic political system in Russia that unites politics, business, and crime. Participants noted the unique national narrative that exists in Russia and how, in part, it will ensure that the current political system will survive the incumbent Russian president.
The second panel built on an observance of the previous discussion that Russia’s foreign policy is directly influenced by the country’s domestic situation. As such, fear is major driver in shaping Moscow’s foreign policy as, for example, the fear of social upheaval can be easily observed within it. The discussants also examined how the spreading of multilateral “frozen conflicts” plays an advantage for the Russian government and debated whether the Syrian civil war is heading in such a direction.
The third and final panel shifted the discussion to a perspective outside of Russia, focusing on how eastern and southern European countries factor into the West’s current strategy toward Russia. The discussants noted that it is crucial to protect the resilience of not only “gray zone” non-allied partners, but also that of European institutions. The conversation concluded with the observation that allies within the U.S.-EU-NATO partnership must prioritize internal cooperation and unity in order to work towards restoring stability in necessary area and pursuing better relations with Russia.