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How should the West deal with Vladimir Putin?
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Russia and the West share many goals

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Since Vladimir Putin first became President of Russia in 2000 relations between Russia and Western countries have steadily deteriorated. Despite attempts at actively resetting relations between 2008-10, tensions remain high, with many citing Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian style as the prime cause.

The Argument

Vladimir Putin is a difficult head of state to deal with and in the past has given the West valid reasons to isolate Russia. However, he shares similar motivations to other world leaders including wanting the best for his citizens through participation as an equal partner on the world stage. A careful study of Russia's history since the collapse of the Soviet Union shows that the West is not without fault, taking advantage of Russia economically and breaking its word when it came to the expansion of NATO and the European Union. The West has consistently missed opportunities to bring Russia into the fold normalising its participation in multilateral institutions and with it the behaviour of its leaders. Russia remains a powerful actor on the world stage. The largest country by landmass, its geographic position stretching across Europe and Asia means that it will continue to have shared interests on two continents. It's economy is the 11th largest in the world, it has the largest natural gas reserves, and possess the second largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world. From tackling climate change to achieving multinational disarmament, Russia's participation in tackling the great global challenges of the 21st century will be necessary and will only be achieved through the active resetting of relations. Whether the West engages with Putin's Russia or not it will continue to hold a prominent position in international institutions from the UN Security Council to the G20 where it can continue to frustrate Western interests and undermine peace and security. The resetting of relations could ease the growing number of Russian vetoes in the UN Security Council and see Putin support rather than undermine the current international rules based system. Russia under Putin has developed close ties with many regimes that the West opposes from the clerical theocracy in Iran to the Maduro regime in Venezuela. The resetting of relations with Russia could have the added impact of resolving some of the current diplomatic crises and military tensions between the West and these regimes, or at the very least it could lead to Putin electing not to actively support countries with anti-Western sentiments.

Counter arguments

The West has previously tried to reset relations with Russia to no avail. The West tried to normalise relations under Putin's successor/predecessor Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 with limited results. Medvedev signed a new START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which Putin subsequently tore up. During this period Russia also invaded neighbouring Georgia under the cover of supporting separatists to stop Georgia becoming a member of NATO. There is little evidence that the resetting of relations altered Russia's behaviour and changes to the Russian constitution ensured that Putin subsequently returned as President once more.


Russia is a powerful and influential state. Vladimir Putin has similar motivations to other world leaders. Russia has an important role to play in tackling global challenges. Russia remains obstructive in international institutions and supports rising anti-Western sentiment.

Rejecting the premises

Russia's influence and prominence on the world stage is in decline. Vladimir Putin's motivations are not similar to other world leaders. The West can solve global challenges without the help of Russia.


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 5 Feb 2020 at 10:38 UTC

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