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Russia's Carrot-and-Stick Strategy | Stratfor


4/21/16, 7:41 AM



Russia's Carrot-and-Stick Strategy

Geopolitical Diary

APRIL 21, 2016 | 02:00 GMT

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign affairs minister, Sergei Lavrov, await a meeting with
France's foreign minister on April 19. In its negotiations with the West, Russia balances conciliatory
gestures with stern demands. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

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In the standoff between Russia and the West, Wednesday was a day of mixed signals. For the first time
in nearly two years, a NATO-Russia Council meeting was held, opening what Russian Ambassador
Alexander Grushko described as a "frank and serious" dialogue between representatives from Moscow
and the Western military bloc. The meeting reportedly went 90 minutes over its allotted time lasting
three and a half hours in all yet it failed to produce any concrete conclusions. Representatives from
both sides referenced profound differences on issues such as Syria and NATO's buildup near Ukraine
and elsewhere in Russia's periphery.


Although the meeting was unproductive, its occurrence is still notable. Russia has shown signs in
recent days, particularly when it comes to Ukraine, that it is willing to compromise. On Tuesday,

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Russia's Carrot-and-Stick Strategy | Stratfor

representatives from the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, the separatist territories that Russia
backs in eastern Ukraine, announced that they would postpone their local elections, scheduled for this
week, until July 24. Ostensibly, the delay will allow more time for negotiations. The West and the
Ukrainian government in Kiev have both maintained that elections should wait until necessary security
components of the Minsk peace agreement have been implemented. Russia undoubtedly encouraged
if not demanded the delay.

4/21/16, 7:41 AM

About Syria, Ukraine

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that he and Russian President
Vladimir Putin had agreed by phone on a possible arrangement for the release of Ukrainian military
pilot Nadia Savchenko. Imprisoned in Russia on murder charges, Savchenko has become a poster
child for anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine: A large banner reading "Free Savchenko" hangs just
outside Kiev's Boryspil airport. Under the tentative agreement, Moscow would release Savchenko in
exchange for two Russians imprisoned in Ukraine. This would be a significant political gesture to Kiev
and the West. Though the agreement has not been finalized, it could signify even greater room for
compromise on Russia's part, not only on Ukraine but perhaps on other issues as well.
But Russia's goodwill goes only so far. While it was discussing
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prisoner swaps with Kiev and delaying elections in eastern
Ukraine, Moscow was applying pressure against the West in other
areas. For instance, Russian warplanes continue to harass U.S.
vessels and aircraft transiting strategic areas such as the Baltic and Black seas. NATO has called for
the Russians to stop these tactics, which became a key topic in Wednesday's meeting.
The Russians have also continued their significant military involvement in Syria, propping up the
Bashar al Assad government against both U.S.-supported rebels and jihadist groups. Despite repeated
requests from the United States to reconsider support for Damascus, the Russians (and Iranians)
reportedly continue to support loyalist offensive operations. A U.S. official informed the Wall Street
Journal that the Russians have recently moved their artillery units to the battlefields of Aleppo. If Russia
participates in more large-scale battles in Syria, it will be complicit in sending another wave of refugees
from the country, further straining Europe.
Finally, the Russians understand that they cannot easily match the conventional military strength of the
United States or NATO, so they are investing heavily in their nuclear force, which is alarming officials in
Washington. Fears are growing in the Pentagon that the Russians may not abide by their arms control
agreements, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces and New START treaties. There is even
concern that, as tensions with the West persist, Putin may allow the testing of nuclear weapons as part
of Russia's military modernization program. This development, though relatively unlikely at this point,
would undermine two decades of arms control efforts.
In its stalemate with the West, Russia has apparently opted for a carrot-and-stick strategy, spanning the
conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and extending to conventional military buildups. Feeling out its influence
over NATO's plans, Moscow will make token conciliatory gestures as well as stern demands. And
negotiations between Russia and the West are likely to go on in this manner, with pitfalls and
opportunities for both along the way.

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