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Domestic politics

Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party remain very much in control of Russian politics. Although opposition parties won some seats in September’s local elections, there is little chance that anyone will seriously obstruct Putin’s path to another term as president in the forthcoming presidential election, scheduled for March 2018.

The Russian economy has stabilised since the oil price fall of 2014 and is scheduled to grow slowly this year and next.

International relations

On the world stage, Russian intervention in Syria seems to have succeeded in preventing the fall of the Assad government, and in doing that it has enhanced Russia’s reputation in the Middle East. As alliances shift, Moscow has received delegations from many former US allies and has sealed an alliance with Iran and Turkey over Syria.

If Russia had hoped for improved relations under a Trump presidency, that hope has largely been dashed. With the investigations into collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the President has a disincentive to make friendly moves towards Moscow.

EU and US sanctions over Russian actions in Ukraine remain in place and there is no immediate prospect of their being lifted. NATO has strengthened its presence in the Baltics and elsewhere in Central Europe.

Hybrid strategy and election interference

Stories of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian officials have focused attention on Russia’s ‘hybrid strategy’. Although Russia is modernising its armed forces, it also uses a wide range of unconventional tools to further its goals.

There have been reports of figures linked to Russia spreading divisive information in the US, Catalonia, France and the UK, among other places. Interfering in elections is nothing new, however – the US has done it many times. And the impact of Russian-linked automated Twitter accounts, for example, is probably limited.

UK relations

Russian-UK relations are traditionally difficult, partly because of high-profile Russian figures living in the UK, some having been granted asylum.

In 2017, the ‘Magnitsky amendment’ was passed into UK law, allowing the assets of individuals involved in gross human rights abuses to be frozen. Several UK politicians have appeared on the Russian state-backed broadcaster RT.

In November 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May made some hard-hitting comments about Russia’s activities abroad.


Russia and the UK have a modest trade relationship that has moved into surplus for the UK in the last few years, as the value of imports of Russian oil has declined. The UK’s biggest exports to Russia are road vehicles and financial services.

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