Vladimir Putin’s re-election for a fourth presidential term in May 2018 has enshrined his position as the dominant personality of the post-Soviet era. Over the next six years, there will be few major changes to Russian foreign policy. There is broad consensus in Moscow that this has been outstandingly successful, and that Russia has emerged as a formidable power.
But alongside an overall sense of confidence, there is also caution and even anxiety. Putin recognises the importance of tactical flexibility in an international environment that is increasingly fluid and unpredictable. He is also aware that Russia’s foreign policy gains are fragile and potentially reversible, and that the country faces considerable obstacles in its quest to become a rule-maker in a new, post-American world order.
Putin will aim to be all things to all people: strongman of a resurgent great power, committed multilateralist, and regional and global problem-solver. At times, Moscow will appear relatively accommodating. At other times, it will be assertive and even confrontational. But Putin will be unrelenting in the pursuit of core goals: the consolidation of political authority at home; and the promotion of Russia as an indispensable power, without whom there can be no real security in the world.