On 15 January, shortly after President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the Federal Assembly, in which he announced changes to the constitution, it was reported that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and his government had resigned. The President entrusted the previous cabinet with the task of governing in the interim, but he then announced that he had nominated Mikhail Mishustin, who had hitherto been the head of the Federal Tax Service of the Russian Federation, for the post of prime minister. The new prime minister was approved by the State Duma on 16 January.
President Trump came into office with strong prior beliefs about the failure of US alliance policy and the need for allies to pay for US defense efforts on their behalf. Some feared that he presaged a rising isolationism among the American public that would support a president seeking to pull back from US commitments overseas. But Trump is failing to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the Indo-Pacific. Instead, the US is pursuing a two-track Asia policy, with Congress and the administration reading from different scripts. And the public is only on board with one of those approaches.
- There will be broad continuity in Russian foreign policy over the course of Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term. Any policy changes will be stylistic, not transformative.
- The Kremlin is committed to asserting Russia as a global power, although it will be tactically flexible in pursuing this ambition.
- Putin will present different faces to the West: sometimes accommodating, at other times assertive and even confrontational. But there will be no compromise on core principles.
In his book Fear, journalist Bob Woodward suggests that Donald Trump’s protectionist instincts may be stronger than previously thought, preventing him from making commercial peace with traditional allies or trade partners. Recent actions against China leave no doubt. Yet, this is not simply the Trump administration directing “protectionist firepower” against China, to quote James Politi of the Financial Times. A geopolitical fight is also emerging about global technological leadership and US ambitions to contain China on this crucial frontier.