Russian policy towards Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States depends primarily on domestic factors. Western influence is important in terms of setting well-known limits for what Russia should not do, rather than affecting decision-making on what it should. Compared with Russia's quickly evolving domestic context, Western policy seems static and relatively insignificant to the dynamics of Russian policy. Accordingly, this memo gives little attention to the role of Western policy.
Three domestic factors are examined: Russia's economic relations with individual countries, public opinion, and the approaches of economic and political elites. Only this last factor is directly impacted by the change of president in Russia. It is very difficult to analyze Vladimir Putin's personal views on any given relationship, since he has not spoken on these matters in detail and explicit statements are unlikely to follow. However, there are grounds for analysis. As Prime Minister Putin and as Acting President, Putin initiated a number of steps (listed below), which might indicate future intentions. [...]