In 2015, Russian foreign policy continued to evolve in response to geopolitical events taking place in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. We saw the rise of ISIS as a destabilizing force in the Middle East and then Russian military intervention in Syria, Russia’s much-heralded pivot to Asia in response to pressure from its European partners, and changing dynamics on the European continent in response to events in both Ukraine and Turkey. So what will 2016 bring?

This report analyzes prospective scenarios for Russia’s relations with China, the U.S. and the Middle East. In each case, we outline what to expect in a best case, worst case and baseline scenario. We also highlight the key trends and developments to watch, whether it’s rivalry in Central Asia, upcoming U.S. presidential elections in 2016, or the possibility that the conflict in Ukraine will intensify after a period of relative stability.

Video by Alexey Mosko

By understanding the three most likely scenarios for each region, it’s possible to pull together a more comprehensive understanding of the key pillars of Russian foreign policy in the year ahead. While some have noted that many of Russia’s foreign policy moves in 2015 appeared to be improvisational, we are starting to see the creation of a more coherent foreign policy approach.

If 2015 was the year that Syria replaced Ukraine as the leading political and diplomatic story, 2016 may be the year that Central Asia – with its impact on both Russia’s European and Asian foreign policy – comes to the forefront. Or, it could be some other region that emerges as a geopolitical hotspot.

The report also includes the results of a Russia Direct survey which asked respondents to assess the outcomes of U.S. and Russian foreign policies in 2015.

The authors of the report are Dmitry Polikanov of the Russian Center for Policy studies (PIR Center), Sergey Utkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Larisa Smirnova of Xiamen University in China and Alexander Kornilov of Lobachevsky State University in Nizhni Novgorod.

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