What’s Ahead for Russia and the West? Four Scenarios
Over a year into the ever-worsening Ukraine crisis, there is little doubt that an optimistic era in Russian-Western relations has ended. Several scenarios for the changing relationship between the West and Russia are conceivable and can indicate longer-term trajectories that can endow Western debate and policymaking on Russia with much needed strategic foresight. Conceivable scenarios are all based on different degrees of regime cohesion in Russia, and of unity among European and transatlantic partners. Ensuring stability of the political, economic, and social system created and led by Vladimir Putin in Russia is arguably the key driver behind the onfrontation imposed by the Kremlin on the West, whose ability to respond is clearly a function of the unity it can muster between the United States and EU. High or low cohesiveness between the two sides in this contest suggests four broad scenarios, or trajectories for Russian-Western relations: standoff, Western decline, Russian decline, or chaos. Each of these constellations appears possible in the mid-term. More importantly, however, they allow for a closer look at the factors shaping individual trajectories, and not least the policy options that present themselves to the West in the short run and that principally shape relationships with Russia in the long run.