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Session 4: Beyond Ideology: West-Russia Relations and Political Pragmatism

Session 4: Beyond Ideology: West-Russia Relations and Political Pragmatism

Discussion Points:

  • Is Russia the biggest opponent of the West in the international relations?
  • What are the biggest conflict points in West – Russia relations?
  • Are there any ways going forward that will lead to improvement of the West – Russia relations?
  • Who are potential allies of the Russia in the West?
  • What are potential future stepping-stones for West – Russia relations?



The Western World has been shaken in this current decade with multiple factors that are pointing toward that maybe the biggest threat to the countries of the West is coming from inside. Multiple challenges embodied in, for example, migrant crisis, rise of populism, new leaders of the countries and Brexit are putting countries of the Western World to a test and are setting the stage for the new faze of international relations.

Still one of the biggest challenges in international relations for the West remains its relation with Russia. Those relations hit the lowest level since the Cold War with the Ukrainian Crisis and couple years later are still far from good. Russia is continuing to have a strong presence on the EU and NATO borders and it is still one of the biggest economic partners of the EU countries and the EU itself, despite the sanctions pointed toward Russia. Russia continues to have strong military presence across the length of the EU border, directly or indirectly.

Stepping stone in the relations between Russia and the West has also been and still is the conflict in Syria. Intervention conducted by the UK, France and the United States and allegations of the chemical weapons usage, which Russia has denied, had made the relations even colder in the 2018.

Western countries and leaders that are arising questions of democratic values status in Russia, including freedom of media, repression of the political opposition and human rights are constant in the West – Russia relations. Still, Russia stays economic and energy giant with strong economic bonds with Europe, and has been showing that there are ways for cooperation and mutual benefit.

Relations between Russia and the USA during Trump era have had several turbulent moments. Russian interference in USA Presidential elections in 2016 have been putting the relations between two countries on the down road, and the economic sanctions that are imposed on Russia are showing the current state of relations.

Cold relations between West and the Russia are also shown in the exclusion of the Russia from the G8. This year’s G8 summit has shown that relations between some of the countries that are still part of the group are also complicated, the most complicated are still relations with the Russia.


There are many problems and differences between Western Countries and the Russia, the question is: Is there any chance for improvement of the relationship? Beyond ideological differences, geopolitical confrontation and interferences in interest zones, what are the possible ways of going forward for the Western Countries and Russia. Are the differences and interests of the West and the Russia so conflicted that there are no possible ways for the improvement of status quo, or are those countries more alike than they would like to admit? Earlier this year, the Helsinki Summit provided the stage for conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, new energy routes are planned in order to distribute Russian gas to the Europe. Will there be any improvement in the relationship or will Russia stay the biggest opponent of the West in the international relations?


Selected Readings:

Johnatan Marcus, 1 April 2018, Russia v the West: Is this a new Cold War? (Accessed August 15, 2018)

Gustav Gressel, 5 July 2016, The dangerous decade: Russia-NATO relations 2014 to 2024 (Accessed August 15, 2018)

Russia Today, 18 December 2017 Russia-EU trade recovering firmly in the teeth of sanctions (Accessed August 15, 2018)

Patrick Wintour, 17 July 2018 Helsinki summit: what did Trump and Putin agree? (Accessed August 15, 2018)

Andrew Higgins, March 26 2018 It’s No Cold War, but Relations With Russia Turn Volatile (Accessed August 15, 2018)


Previous BSF Sessions on Similar Topics:

2015Session 9: The Russian Dilemma: What Kind of International Order is Russia Seeking?

2014Session 7: Will the Outcome of the Ukrainian Crisis Determine a New Path for Europe and Beyond?

2011Session 3: Russia and Europe: Partners or Competitors?