Germany’s relations with Russia are suffering from a serious malaise. The fundamental reason is that many assumptions and expectations on which Germany’s approach has been based since the 1990s are no longer valid. The relationship between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin is decent, but distant.
Russia experiences a clear rise of radical nationalism and xenophobia among its ethnic majority population. The backlash against new immigrants from the North Caucasus and Central Asia is a reaction to the absence of a clear government policy on immigration and integration, and to the pervasiveness of official corruption in this sphere.
There is something so simple and obvious, which Putin and many of his associates would never truly understand: that there can be no significant pro-Russian elements within the Ukrainian elite. Lviv, Kiev, Kharkiv, and Odessa all feel that real integration with Moscow would put an end to the Ukrainian national project. By flatly rejecting Putin's offer, Yanukovych is doing a service to Russia. A Eurasian Union without Ukraine would still make perfect sense.
The ongoing controversy over the alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghoutta, near Damascus, has again highlighted the divide between Russia and China, on the one hand, and the United States and Europe, on the other. Last year, President Barack Obama declared the use of chemical weapons as a red line in Syria, crossing which would lead to unspecified consequences.
That the Kremlin’s domestic policy has moved toward traditional values is a salient feature of Putin’s current presidency. Profession of universal values or common European norms and principles has stopped. In lieu of the Council of Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate is now the principal norm-setter. Other traditional religions: Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are also welcome as partners of the State.
Tendencies will continue – a geopolitical shift towards Eurasia and the Asia Pacific Region; symbolic ‘sovereignization’ of Russia and its further distancing from the U.S. and Europe; and the erosion of a foreign policy consensus. The fourth edition of Putin’s foreign policy will most likely differ significantly from the previous three.
The CIS may not exist as an entity on the globe, but during the coming decade, we will see a continued buildup of the various separate regions in the former Soviet space. For the foreseeable future, the CIS should remain Russian Federation’s significant foreign policy priority. Relations between Russia and the independent states that emerged on the breakup of the Soviet Union will change.