December 19, 2019
At the core of the heightened tensions between Russia and the West is the contest for influence over the countries physically located between them (referred to here as the in-between states): first and foremost Ukraine, but also Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. While the relationship between Russia and the West was far from ideal before 2014, it was the Ukraine crisis that fundamentally changed that relationship, ruling out any remaining hopes for partnership and effectively institutionalizing a confrontational dynamic. The contest over the in-between states has taken a significant toll on these countries. The most extreme case is the war in Ukraine, in which over 13,000 people have died; other regional conflicts have occurred in Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and the competition has also disrupted regional trade patterns and set back the process of reform and domestic transformation in these states. In short, all of the states involved—Russia, the countries of the West, and the in-between states—are less secure and prosperous as a result.