Letter From the Editors: Jan. 1 - 17, 2016

Author: Matthew Larson

Putin Seeks to Burnish Russia's Image in Foreign Media, but Will His Messaging on Ukrainian, Syrian Crises Alter International Community's Perception of Russia?

Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his recent spate of media appearances by giving an interview to the German newspaper Bild. Common to this and his other messages to primarily foreign audiences is the Russian leader's desire to clear the air with the West. In the Bild interview, he offers historical validation for annexing the Crimea and suggests that the West should change its attitude toward Russia, allowing it to pursue its own interests. However, Russia's own recently revised National Security Strategy is quite anti-Western, writes Nezavisimaya gazeta, creating the perception that Russia is unwilling to change its attitude toward the West. It remains to be seen whether Putin will attend the Munich Security conference, but if he does, he had better be prepared to bring constructive ideas to the table regarding cooperation with the West, Vladimir Frolov writes.

Commentator Yevgeny Gontmakher believes that a small window of opportunity for normalizing Russian-Western relations may be opening. He writes that many of the mistakes made during the immediate post-Soviet years concerning Russia's European integration could be rectified if Russia is offered a special approach to European integration.

However, a major sticking point in any normalization of Russian-Western relations is the status of the Donetsk Basin and the Minsk agreements for a ceasefire in the region. The contact group for Donetsk Basin settlement is meeting for the first time this year with a new Russian representative, Boris Gryzlov, who held a late-night meeting with Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenoko during a hasty visit to Kiev. The meeting raised eyebrows and hackles among some Ukrainian politicians, who complain that the president is discussing the future of the Donetsk Basin with Moscow behind their backs. Poroshenko, in an effort to put such fears to rest, reiterated ...

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