What drives Russia to confront the West?

Keir Giles

*This online event took place in January 2021, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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 on the nature of the challenge from Moscow. But why does Russia behave like this and what are the driving factors for its clear 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 — 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 it does not share its assumptions, goals, values or interests.

keir giles

Keir Giles

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. 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.

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our e-newsletter to receive exclusive content and all the latest Lit & Phil news

* indicates required