- Post-Soviet Russia's adamant resistance to NATO and EU enlargement and outreach in its claimed sphere of influence has been driven not only by zerosum thinking and 'great power' ambitions, but also by the political and economic imperatives of the Putin system.
- Under Vladimir Putin, this resistance has evolved away from open opposition to rely more on indirect efforts to shape Western perceptions and leverage common interests with Western countries and constituencies. Putin has also used indirect means to promote reintegration of the post-Soviet space and the development of a 'civilizational' buffer zone to insulate this space from Western influence.
- This indirect approach has relied on 'influence tools' that include the capture of local elites through corruption, the use of networks of economic patronage and dependency, the instrumentalization of cultural identity, and the mobilization of latent Soviet-nostalgic constituencies and post-Soviet business elites.
- If the West is to protect its interests and rebuild its influence in Eastern Europe it must invest more effort in understanding the nature and practical application of Russia's 'influence tools'. It must also adapt its own ‘soft power’ toolkit and political vision to re-establish their relevance to the region’s publics and elites.