scroll to top arrow or icon

Russia losing in the West

Russia losing in the West
Russia Losing In The West | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Happy Monday to you. It is summit week, particularly summit week as it involves the United States and core allies starting right now with the G7, began on Sunday in Germany, and then moving on to the Madrid Summit in Spain. Certainly the most important NATO summit that we've had in decades, but more broadly, this is the United States and advanced industrial democracies coming together in response to a major global crisis on the European continent. And in some ways to the "Western order", which is of course the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As we look at these summits, it's very clear that when you talk about individual leaders of the countries, they're looking pretty weak. I mean, given both the state of the economy, which of course makes a lot of citizens pretty angry, irrespective of whose fault it is or isn't, and also plenty of domestic challenges on top of that.

In the UK, Boris Johnson could literally get thrown out of power most any day, a scandal a minute, members of his own party turning against him, all sorts of resignations in Cabinet and the rest, key advisors. In the United States, Biden with an uphill struggle with the lowest popularity of his term so far, doing worse in terms of total popularity than President Trump had at this stage in his presidency. Quite something. No one from Team Biden would've believed that was possible if you had said it a year ago. Macron in France, winning his reelection bid, but getting thumped in the second round of his parliamentary elections for his country, now is the first prime minister in some 20 years not to have a majority in France, first president, I should say. And the question as to whether or not he's going to have to change his PM pick as a consequence of that. Super Mario, Mario Draghi, very popular, doing a very solid job towards the end of his term in Italy.

In fact, I mean, among all of them in the G7, you'd say that Kishida-san in Japan is probably in the best position. And of course, Japan tends to have the least impact of all of the G7 leaders on the global stage. Don't want to rock the boat too much. They’re very cautious and incremental in terms of the global statements and leadership they typically show. But of course it is nonetheless a very important set of summits and probably the most important set of summits we've seen certainly since the financial crisis. And again, the reason for that is not only by itself the fact that a war's on, also the fact that war is bringing the United States and its core allies much closer together.

We need to be clear on this because there are of course different nuances in position when you read carefully what the Germans, what the French, what the Americans, what the Canadians are actually saying. I mean, you saw that the "gaffe" that Biden made, "My god, how can this man stay in power?" Are we talking about regime change? The Americans of course tend to see these sorts of conflicts through a more military lens, because there's so much military leading US policy around the world, and America spends vastly more on its defense capabilities than a lot of its allies combined. The Eastern Europe, of course, also wants to do a lot more, particularly a country like Poland, the Baltic states. Why? Because this feels like a direct and immediate security concern to them and for them, while the Germans and the French have been somewhat more moderate. I wouldn't necessarily say conciliatory, but focused more on what negotiations would eventually look like.

But despite all of that, I mean the big takeaway and the takeaway that really people should be recognizing as extraordinary is just how aligned these countries have been and remain, all of them, on this issue. The desire to support the Ukrainian government, to help ensure that they can push the Russians back, the desire to punish the Russians and sever their economic relations from the West, from the United States, from Europe, from Canada, from the Asian allies too, no one would've expected anything like that level of coordination, not just on Russia, but any issue, before the invasion of February 24th. And yet not only does it exist, but it persists, and at this point, four months on, I really don't see any significant erosion of that position.

I mean, at the G7 summit tomorrow, we're going to see a gold boycott announced, which is a massive hard currency earner for the Russians, an oil price ceiling likely being put into place, coordinated among all of the allies there, which is again, quite significant in part because it will allow for just as fast the transition away from Russian energy, but without the Russians pocketing all the proceeds as they have over the course of the last several months. Should bring oil prices down well before Biden makes his trip to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia next month.

Russia just defaulted on its hard currency debt. First time since 1918. Why? Because the West has all been completely aligned on Russia policy. Now that's not to say there aren't very significant problems going forward in response to this crisis. In particular, the fact that the Ukrainians are losing territory. They've lost almost the entirety of Luhansk, that is going to fall, the remaining small bits, a few more miles over the coming weeks. The Donetsk, which is the other part of Donbas. They've lost at this point, about half, and probably going to lose more. President Zelensky called into the G7 summit. And he says he wants the war over by winter.

Well, of course he does, but why is he saying that now? Why is that the big takeaway? And it's because he knows that come winter, a lot of citizens of particularly European countries, but in the United States as well, are going to be facing a lot of anger and a lot of anxiety with continued high inflation, with continued high food crisis, with energy prices, and worries that they won't have the same level of support for Ukraine in another year as they have in the first months. I think that's a very reasonable concern. And as a consequence, he's basically trying to pressure the West as much as he possibly can, and he is doing that, to give more financial aid, more military aid, faster and more heavy weaponry. Faster so that when the war starts to turn more badly against Ukraine from an international perspective, when they no longer have as much money coming in, the frozen conflict, because the Russian troops are exhausted, the Ukrainian troops are exhausted, ends up in a better position for the Ukrainians to negotiate.

But I want to be clear, what that means is that the Russians can "win" in Ukraine. They will end up in a better position in Ukraine on the ground militarily than they were before they invaded. They'll have the land bridge, they'll have most of the Donbas, and probably they will formally annex it as part of Russia. That will not in any way make Putin in a better position internationally. He's going to be losing in the West. And I think that matters immensely for Putin, his economic position, his political position, his strategic position. This has been very clear as the war started. It's equally clear four months on. Over time the Ukrainians lose a lot of leverage because other countries don't care as much, and the Russians are right there and they care a lot, and they're overwhelming from a size perspective, from a military perspective. But over time, the Russians lose leverage vis-à-vis the West.

Why? Because once you've gotten rid of, once you've decoupled the Russian economy, they don't have the leverage over you that they used to. Once the oil, the coal, the gas is gone, you're not investing again. Once the semiconductors are gone, Russia's manufacturing capability, its military capability erodes, and its ability to export long-term erodes as well. Keep in mind, almost all of Russia's economy had been oriented towards Europe and the West. That's going to have to change, going to change under very, very challenging circumstances for Putin. So yes, I do think looking forward, Russia's position in Ukraine is increasing and improving. Russia's position towards NATO and the West is decreasing and eroding pretty dramatically. And that's likely what we're going to be seeing next year, too.

That's it from me. Hope everyone's well and talk to you all real soon.

For more of Ian Bremmer's weekly analyses, subscribe to his GZERO World newsletter at


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter