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The West’s relationship with Russia is often described as one characterised by misconception and misunderstanding of each other.

In July 2021 President Vladimir Putin approved Russia’s latest National Security Strategy, which set out Russia’s national interests and strategic priorities for the next five years.  Acknowledging the “formation of new architecture, rules and principles of the world order”, and “growing geopolitical tensions”, the document places sovereignty, independence, the territorial integrity of Russia, the security and rights of its citizens abroad, and the protection of its spiritual and moral foundations, at the core of its foreign policy.

These themes were reiterated by President Putin at a meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry Board on 18 November 2021 and again by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in remarks to the Russian Federal Assembly on 1 December 2021. At that meeting Mr Lavrov accused the West of failing to “recognise the reality of the emerging polycentric world order” and of “purposefully demolish[ing] the UN-centric system of international law”. He suggested that US and its allies were trying to substitute it with a rules-based order “that benefits them alone” and that they were actively promoting anti-Russian rhetoric.  As such, he concluded that “there can be no reasonable alternative to Russia’s independent and open foreign policy line”.

Russia is accused by the West, however, of attempting to destabilise the international system in pursuit of its strategic interests. Among other things, the Kremlin stands accused of interfering in democratic elections, engaging in hybrid, or grey zone, warfare, politicising energy supplies, and violating international law and the respect for internationally recognised borders. Russia has also signalled its capacity and willingness to intervene abroad where it sees its interests in play, has given its military useful experience, has kept a Russian ally in place, and gives opportunities for Russia to access oil and other resources.

Referring to increasing Russian influence in its near abroad, and specifically those countries of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, the NATO Secretary General said on 1 December 2021 that Russian attempts to establish a sphere of influence were “not acceptable”, and that a world where dominant powers placed limitations on what sovereign, independent neighbouring nations can do is “the kind of world we don’t want to return to”.

On 17 December 2021 Russia presented a draft treaty of security guarantees to the United States and NATO, in which the Kremlin has called for a limit to any further expansion of the alliance. A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to discuss security concerns is scheduled for 12 January 2022.

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