I totally agree with the views in this article (link below), particularly the point that we need to learn to play rough with Russia not just in rhetoric but in action-it’s something I’ve been calling for in all my posts on this topic. I would also say that the influence Russia has in promoting authoritarian regimes in the Middle East is something that contributes to escalating conflict & religious extremism in the region-which eventually affects our own strategic/security interests. It also provides Russia with a kind of validation to support regimes that abide by similar authoritarian standards of governance while at the same time providing economic benefits to Russia in terms of trade and arms sales. This is why I believe Russia has targeted this region (using local language-Arabic) in its disinformation campaigns that are essentially geared to undermine western liberal values. It is also highly probable that Russia has provided cyber expertise to these countries to help shut down online debate and any potential opportunities for decent after the lessons learned of using online forums & social media during the Arab Spring of 2011. It is therefore critical that we make every effort to reverse this trend not by direct interference in these countries but by making clear our commitment in supporting regimes that do seek democratic transition and developing more effective methods for countering these Russian disinformation campaigns. To be clear it is in our long term strategic interest not only to isolate Russia, and promote our own liberal values but also help achieve pragmatic resolution to conflicts in the region which have suffered from continued set backs due this power play between Russia & the west.
The bottom line is that we need to be more effective in dealing with Russia moving forward and since Donald Trump presents a weak link in this direction Europe will need to play a lead role in putting forth/applying this vision.
Beyond this underlying conflict with Russia I still hope there comes a time in the no-so-distant future where there is stronger positive engagement with Russian leadership to reset relations to one that is based on close cooperation for progress/development rather than one based on confrontation aimed at conflict/destruction-and aligning this approach to strategic interests. Russia has a huge capacity/expertise to provide quite positive influence in this direction and we need rebuild trust levels to make this happen-this should be the ultimate long term objective.