excluding some lands that are commonly regarded as part of Europe. The core of this region is Russia. Other parts include the Caspian basin, Central Asia and Mongolia. For centuries, this region was strongly influenced by Russia. The fall of the Soviet Union allowed several new states to emerge. Russia still sees these states as necessary allies. Moscow’s historical concern over defending Russia’s long frontiers motivates it to try to limit the influence of other large powers in this area.
Russia’s other major problem is the decreasing population of ethnic Russians versus the increasing number of Muslims in its mainland and in neighboring Central Asia. Still another challenge lies in the need to develop its vast Siberian territories, for which Russia lacks both the demographic and financial wherewithal.
Russia is striving to regain and maintain its position as a major world power.
Problematic relations with the West are forcing Moscow increasingly to align its policy and further develop economic relations with China.
During the last decade, Russian cybercrime has become an established aspect of the Kremlin’s military strategy. Western states will not only need to develop their cyber defense capacity but also create a coordinated deterrence system to discourage further strikes. However, identifying the source of such attacks in a manner allowing timely and targeted retaliation could prove highly challenging.
For years, the only role “the people” have played in Russian politics is one in which they legitimize the regime in power. Though admittedly important, that role did not involve shaping the political agenda. Now, that seems to be changing – all because of a mismanaged election for Moscow’s city parliament. The nascent civil society movement may not bring radical political change soon, but it has certainly become a force to be reckoned with.
The Trump administration’s long-standing policy on Afghanistan has been that a lasting settlement there will require the involvement of the Taliban. In September, however, talks between the two sides broke down. National Security Advisor John Bolton resigned, and more personnel changes are rumored to be in the offing. With an election coming up, many wonder if President Trump plans to stay the course or opt for a quick exit.
With its vast expanses, its undeveloped areas and its need to connect east and west, one might think Russia would have ample incentive to develop a world-class rail system. But that has not happened, even after it agreed to work with China on an ambitious Moscow-to-Beijing rail project. Bureaucracy, corruption and political meddling have held the sector back. If Russia were to change course, it could reap huge economic benefits.