Putin’s New Year

Europe Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – January 9, 2017)

So 2017 is here.

And one thing we can be pretty certain of this year is that Vladimir Putin’s regime will try to push the advantage it gained last year — and intensify its efforts to undermine the liberal world order.

And there will be plenty of targets of opportunity.

Of course, elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and possibly Italy offer an opening for Moscow to further undermine European and transatlantic unity.

The Kremlin could exploit simmering tensions in the Balkans in order to expand its reach in that region.

In the Middle East, Russia is already seeking to build on its success in Syria and is now trying to play kingmaker in Libya — and in the process is complicating UN efforts to form a unity government.

Frozen conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdniester can be reignited at any time, opening the door for intervention in Georgia and Moldova.

The specter of hybrid war continues to haunt the Baltic states, a prospect that would severely test NATO’s credibility.

And, of course, there is always Ukraine, where fighting continues in the Donbas — even though it has fallen out of the headlines.

Throughout the past year, Moscow has appeared to set the international agenda to an extent we haven’t seen since the Cold War.

And in the coming year, we should expect it to try to do more of the same.

Putin appears to believe his goal of undermining the Western order is within his sights.

Will he move closer to it in 2017? Or will he overplay his hand?

Article from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – ©2016 RFE/RL, Inc. Article also appeared at rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-transcript-putins-new-year/28221378.html