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After months of failed policy from the West, it is clear that economic sanctions and international condemnation alone are not enough to force Vladimir Putin to abandon his support of Ukrainian “separatists”. Such measures matter little to Putin in comparison to the ideological, geopolitical, and domestic political imperatives that push him to pursue a total victory in Ukraine. Unless the West can convince Putin that a belligerent policy towards Russia’s near abroad is not worth pursuing—by drastically increasing the domestic rather than international cost of his aggression—Moscow’s actions in Ukraine are likely to serve as a precedent for future confrontations with the West in the region.

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Not only did the EU summit in Riga avoid any discussion of Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, it also exposed the lack of a shared vision for engaging with the Eastern Partnership.

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The basic economic and political assumptions that justified the IMF’s lending program to Ukraine are far from being realized.This raises serious questions over whether the program is adequately financed and whether it was appropriate in the first place.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at the gala concert marking the opening of the Year of Literature in Russia at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre, January 28, 2015.  Reuters

How the regime responds, or does not respond, to underlying structural challenges will affect Russia’s stability through Putin’s probable election in 2018 and beyond.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 5, 2015.  Reuters

Obscured today by the fog of war and induced patriotic frenzy, Russia’s underlying structural problems are only likely to grow wider and deeper, potentially morphing into multiple converging crises.

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Long before the war in Ukraine and associated international sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime faced potential crises in its political and economic systems.

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From the moment John Kerry’s trip to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summer residence in Sochi on the Black Sea was announced, it was hard to see what the U.S. secretary of state hoped to achieve.

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It would be wrong to assume that the Putin regime does not need or ignores Russian civil society. The relationship is much more complicated.

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The peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and exit from economic recession will facilitate the refocusing of Russian society on the mainstream modernization agenda and will allow it to resume convergence with the advanced economies.

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Repression and propaganda account for Putin’s widespread popularity in Russia.

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After 10 days of absence from the public spotlight, Vladimir Putin finally reappeared in an interview on Russian television, referring to the rumors that his health had worsened as “gossip.” In addition to the recent decline in oil prices, however – representing a major source of Russia’s revenue – the incident may be another reflection of the instability currently facing Russia and its top leader.

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