Social Philosophy

What Drives Russia To Confront The West?

Keir Giles
Wednesday, 27 January 2021 - 6:30pm


The relationship between Russia and the West is once again deep in crisis.  Russia’s actions since 2014 have removed all doubt in Europe and North America as to the nature of the challenge from Moscow.  But why does Russia behave like this and what are the driving factors for its apparent enmity towards the West? 

The answer can be found in seeing the world as it looks from Moscow.  Through Western eyes, Russia appears unpredictable and irrational.  Yet Russian leaders from the czars to Vladimir Putin have followed a consistent internal logic when dealing with their own country and the world outside.

In fact, what surprises some Western observers so much about Moscow’s current behaviour is simply Russia reverting to type.  But this also gives the West pointers for how to behave — and how not to — in order to rebuild a working relationship with Russia. 

Hopes for a better relationship with Moscow must not be based on the assumption that Moscow will change in the short term.  Instead, the fundamental requirement for a stable and realistic relationship is recognition that Russia is not, and never has been, part of the West, and does not share its assumptions, goals, values or interests.



About the speaker

Keir Giles has spent his career studying and explaining Russia.  He currently works with the Conflict Studies Research Centre, a group of deep subject matter experts on Eurasian security formerly attached to the UK Ministry of Defence.

After beginning his career working with paramilitary aviation in Russia and Ukraine immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union, Keir Giles joined the BBC Monitoring Service covering political and military affairs in the former Soviet space.  While attached from BBCM to CSRC at the UK Defence Academy, he wrote and advised for UK, NATO and international government customers on human factors affecting Russian military, defence and security issues, strategy and doctrine.  In April 2010, with the closure of the MoD's Russia research programmes, Mr Giles brought key team members into the private sector.

Keir Giles’s work has appeared in a wide range of academic and military publications across Europe and in North America, and he is a regular contributor and commentator on Russian affairs for international print and broadcast media.  He is a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) as well as a contributor to research projects on Russian security issues in the UK and Europe.



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Event image: Saint Basil’s Cathedral - photo by Nikita Karimov on Unsplash