A day before the G7 summit in France, in August, US President Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of returning Russia to the Western club known as the Group of Eight, from which Moscow was expelled after the annexation of Crimea. Trump received support from French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to support Russia's return to the club. The United States will host the G7 summit in 2020, and if it is accepted into the G7 (such as the G8), Russia is back in the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his readiness to host the G8 summit, as well as China, India and Turkey. The G7 is unlikely to approve his proposal. However, it opens the door to the possibility of Russia being able to return to the ranks of the developed world.
Another important development is that Macron accepted Putin's invitation to attend the 75th anniversary celebrations of the end of World War II, on May 9, 2020, in Moscow. Trump was also invited to the event and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping were also invited.
Victory Day, as this annual celebration in Russia is described, is a very important day in the history of post-Soviet Russia, so the presence of any Western leader at this event will be a great symbolic reinforcement of Putin's position with his people and the prestige of Russia, and will be seen as the end of isolation Russian.
A major obstacle
Five years ago, non-Western leaders such as Ping, Pranab Muhirji of India and Nicolas Maduro attended the ceremony. Many Western leaders chose not to attend the event in protest at Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
Finally, the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, in early September, and reporting Ukraine's agreement to hold elections in the two breakaway regions of Ukraine, are seen as important steps in the difficult and tense relations between the two countries.
Putin has long recognized that the current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations is a major obstacle to Russia's normalization of relations with the EU.These three developments do not mean that political relations between Russia and the EU will quickly return to normal, or that European sanctions will soon be lifted. However, the process of normalizing relations with Moscow is underway.
For the major Western countries, China has become a major factor in its calculation of Russia. Like Trump, or perhaps to a lesser extent, Macron has reservations about China.
He was quoted as saying that "pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic mistake because we will push it either into isolation that increases tensions, or alliances with other major powers such as China." He stressed the key role of Russia in the security of Europe, arguing that «the European continent will never be stable, and will never be safe, if not calm down and clarify our relations with Russia».
It is clear that Russia-China growing relations have become very good, with Russia's vast natural wealth and advanced military technology, as well as a large market. The deterioration of relations between the United States and China and Russia is not in the interest of the EU in general, especially in economic terms. US sanctions against Moscow and tariffs on Beijing have adversely affected the EU. These facts cannot be ignored by politicians.
The West is also aware that sustainable and long-term decisions on Syria and Iran cannot be reached without Russian support. Russia became a decisive factor in the Middle East by intervening with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The EU's main country, Germany, seems committed to ensuring that the EU's current position on relations with Russia is not weakened. The question remains open: How long can the current government maintain this position? Political forces in the country may see some change in the future, given the flourishing right, which now holds 94 seats in the 709-seat parliament.
The right, represented by the Alternative for Germany, achieved impressive electoral gains in the regional elections in September 2019 in two eastern states. Its leaders shamelessly expressed feelings that were interpreted as pro-Russian.
The current political consensus toward Russia can be expected to be presented in the coming months and years. Germany's current leadership cannot completely ignore the right's position. Britain's exit from the EU must divert London's attention, energy and resources from its current strong stance toward Russia, and this cannot have an impact on the overall European attitude towards Russia.
Finally, Putin has domestic political reasons to consider seeking normalization with the West.This will lift sanctions and help strengthen the economy, and his popularity is weakening.An opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling institution, showed that 38% of Russians do not want to continue Putin took office after his term ended in 2024, while 54% wanted to remain president unless 8% decided.
The results of the country's recent local and regional elections, including in Moscow, have not led to any expected decisive change in the political system, although demonstrations in Moscow, in the last few weeks before the Moscow City Council elections on September 8, were relatively large. . The protesters opposed the authorities' decision not to allow opposition candidates to run in the election, but the Russian president and his supporters cannot ignore these developments altogether, and given that Moscow is the largest and most developed city in the country, developments there will have socio-political repercussions and influence across the country. The normalization of relations between Russia and the West would be in the interest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and would pave the way for full engagement with Russia without having to consider the implications of its actions on its relations with the West, being a very important partner. With the current state of US-China relations and competition in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), increased Russian (and political) trade interest in ASEAN could benefit the region. Russia, whose energy and focus is less focused on its competition with the West, will be more inclined to devote part of it to building its ties with ASEAN, as part of its eastward axis.
Chris Shang is a fellow of the Rajartnam School of International Studies at Nanyang University, Singapore, a former Singaporean diplomat in Germany, Russia and the United States.
Putin has long recognized that the current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations is a major obstacle to Russia's normalization of relations with the EU.
Normalization of relations between Russia and the West will be in the interest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.