Following Russia’s seizure of the Crimea region from Ukraine in early 2014, tensions have risen steadily between Moscow and the West, with economic sanctions, expulsions of diplomats and the closure of legations, and an unending barrage of mutual recriminations not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.
These increasingly contentious relations have resulted in significantly higher levels of military operations on both sides; Russian forces are in very close and continuing contact with those of NATO in and around Europe and in the Middle East, especially Syria. What do these unsettling developments portend for relations between the West (especially the US) and Russia, especially with US politics and foreign policy in a state of flux and an insecure Russian state confronting serious domestic economic and social problems? Given the foregoing, are there any viable prospects for improved relations in coming years?
Ralph S. Clem is Professor Emeritus of Geography and formerly Director of the Center for Transnational and Comparative Studies at Florida International University in Miami where he was a faculty member from 1974-2009. He also taught in the graduate program in International Administration at the University of Miami (2009-2011), and since 2016 is a Research Affiliate at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2018, he was named Senior Fellow in the Stephen J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. His research, published in many books and articles, focuses primarily and most recently on the electoral geography of states transitioning from authoritarian regimes to pluralist democracies, in particular Russia and Ukraine. He has secondary interests in the study of the geopolitics of Russia and Eastern Europe. He retired in January 2004 from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of Major General, having served as an intelligence officer in a fighter squadron and at the National Security Agency and the Air Intelligence Agency, and in the Pentagon on the Air Staff. His military decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.