In this CFR piece, the Expert Series's guest and Russian Expert Stephen Sestanovich discusses the implication of the West's response to the Russian poisoning of a former Russian spy on UK soil. He remarks that the unity that the West has shown should worry President Putin and may make it more difficult to normalize relations going forward..
Steve spent some time with us earlier this month and said that throughout the past decade two assumptions could be made about Russia: Russian economic improvement's would contribute to political stability and that, at the margin, President Putin wanted detente with the West.
With Mr. Putin about to start his fourth term as President, these assumptions may be challenged. Under Putin, Russian disposable income has increased by 4-fold but with the recent sanctions, much of this economic improvement has stalled or even reversed. President Putin may need to re-focus on the economy if he wants the maintain the current political stability, and assure that the next leadership transition to be smooth.
Secondly, it is clear that Russian-US relations have deteriorated since Mr. Trump took office. The probability of an improvement, or detente, is currently very low and now is maybe something that Mr. Putin does not want to pursue at all.
All in all, it appears as if Mr. Putin is far more isolated and under far more pressure than just a few years ago.