Russia’s foreign policy has taken numerous unexpected turns since 2013. Developments such as the annexation of Crimea, the military intervention in Syria, the crisis in relations with Turkey and the instrumentalisation of obscure incidents such as the “Lisa F. case” to discredit the German government all took most Western experts and decision-makers by surprise. Moscow appears to be using unpredictability tactically to take the initiative vis-à-vis other actors. In the process, the Kremlin is deliberately taking risks with potentially unforeseeable consequences for European and inter-national security. The lack of transparency in decision-making processes and the absence of open public debate also make Russia’s foreign policy actions difficult to assess. Moreover, with decision making processes in Russia highly centralised and monopolised, the Kremlin is in a position to act rapidly and does not need to consult with international partners or take account of democratic procedures and domestic political reservations.
That does not mean, however, that there is no room for Germany and Europe to be better prepared. This study identifies conceivable surprises in Russian foreign policy that should expand our thinking about the activities of the political leadership in Moscow.
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