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How should the West deal with Vladimir Putin?
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Treat Vladimir Putin the same as other world leaders

Putin is not dissimilar to other world leaders. The West should appeal to mutual self-interest and engage with him on a case by case basis.
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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 2008-2010, tensions remain high, with many citing Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian style as the prime cause.

The Argument

Vladimir Putin is a rational actor and has proven in the past that he is willing to work with Western countries on a transactional basis, including engaging in recent peace talks hosted by Germany and Turkey on the current conflicts in Syria and Libya [1] , and signing the Paris Climate Change Accord. Far from cutting off trade with Western countries, Russia continues to export a significant portion of its natural gas to Western European countries helping them to meet their energy needs. While Russian scientists and astronauts work side by side with their Western counter-parts on the International Space Station and Russia continues to allow Western space agencies to use its spaceport as a launch pad for missions. French President Emmanuel Macron who is a keen advocate for re-engagement believes that Western Countries need to move away from seeing Russia as an enemy and start seeing it as a partner instead, particularly when it comes to areas of shared interest such as tackling international terrorism. Macron believes that this transactional engagement would be in Russia's self-interest as Putin ultimately would opt for a 'partnership with Europe' than risk becoming a 'vassal of China' [2] .

Counter arguments

Russia under Vladimir Putin shows no sign of wanting a new partnership with the West. Putin continues to advocate a foreign policy that is built upon undermining Western interests. There remain substantial differences between the West and Russia, including the long-term support of anti-Western regimes and the annexation of Crimea, which would make a transactional partnership difficult. Russia continues to deepen its relationship with China as an alternative to engagement with the West insert [3] . A transactional relationship would also have the added risk of undermining the West's commitment to human rights.


[P1] Vladimir Putin is a rational actor. [P2] Vladimir Putin is interested in a transactional relationship with the West. [P3] Russia under Putin will continue to work with Western partners on a case by case basis.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Vladimir Putin is not a rational actor. [Rejecting P2] Vladimir Putin has no interest in a transactional relationship with the West, favouring China instead.


This page was last edited on Thursday, 6 Feb 2020 at 12:26 UTC