The “2024 transit” and the way its resolution plays out will determine just how big the role of Putin himself, but also of alternative elites, institutions beyond the presidency, rank-and-file bureaucrats, political parties, Russian regions, or civil society will be.
Nothing in its recent behaviour suggests reasons to be optimistic that Russia’s foreign policy will become more accommodating, less defensive or less aggressive in the next decade or so. Nothing suggests either that any single actor, whether a state or organisation, is in a position to be regarded and heard by the Kremlin as a critical friend and so to sway Russia’s foreign policy.
Russia’s policy towards China has been one of adaptation and accommodation. Despite increasing asymmetry in power between the two states, Moscow and Beijing have reinforced cooperation and managed to overcome a number of challenges. At the same time, Russia and China have not transformed their relationship into a fully-fledged alliance.
One look at the map of the Arctic allows us to understand why the region is strategically important to Russia. In control of nearly half of the latitudinal circle, vast natural resources and militarily critical parts of the region, Moscow has both high stakes and a unique position to influence the regional developments.
Something seems to be happening in Russian society. Despite the small size of protests compared to the whole of the population, their societal and political resonance has become stronger than before. Citizens appear to be more determined to protest. And it seems that only Putinʼs interventions can calm down those regularly erupting grievances.