President Putin’s government’s actions over the past few years have left Russia largely isolated from majority of the rest of the world; certainly from Europe and the U.S. Annexing Crimea in 2014, starting a war in Ukraine’s East, supporting the Assad Regime in Syria, and continuously violating NATO airspace are just some of the major factors that have led to this isolation. The West has therefore distanced itself from Russia and has imposed economic and other sanctions on it, in hope of taming the aggression of Putin’s government. Russia’s 2014 ousting from the G8 was the final nail in the proverbial coffin of amicable Russia-West relations. These events have officially transformed Russia from an ally to an aggressor in the eyes of E.U. and U.S. officials.
Since that initial imposition of the sanctions, the Russia-West separation has only become colder. However, Russia is showing no signs of backing down: Crimea remains annexed, the war in Ukraine’s east continues despite multiple ceasefire agreements, and the Russian propaganda machine is creating chaos and distrust in nations across the globe, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Russia’s steady support of far-right nationalistic movements within the EU member states has helped destabilize the European consensus, boosting up the existing anti-Russia sanctions, anti-immigration, and generally xenophobic narratives in Germany, France, Holland, and elsewhere. Earlier this summer the European unity experienced another major blow as the British citizens voted in a referendum for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union (a phenomenon otherwise known as “Brexit”).
Thus against this backdrop the July 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, was a highly anticipated event, particularly after the bad news of “Brexit”. The summit was seen as an opportunity for Western leaders to show strength in unity, but in the wake of the recent turmoil in Europe, and perceived weakness of American foreign policy as the country prepares for presidential elections, the expectations of many observers were not so high.