Claims in 2015-2016: Russia is internationally isolated.

Partially Correct: This is debatable. (Fact-check done in September 2016.)

Sources of the claim: former Kremlin consultant Gleb Pavlovsky in Foreign Affairs (April 2016); Defense Secretary Ash Carter (October 2015); President Barack Obama (Jan. 2015).

  • Indeed, Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis, since early 2014, has resulted in painful sanctions and plenty of international censure.
  • However, 69 UN member states, including some U.S. allies, did not support a U.S.-backed UN resolution declaring that Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula was illegal (March 2014).
  • Even while the G7 countries canceled their planned meeting in Sochi (March 2014) and then met without Russia (June 2014), Russian President Vladimir Putin was welcomed by fellow heads of state at the BRICS summit in Brazil (July 2014).
  • China has repeatedly vowed friendship with Russia and its Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said early on that “China categorically opposes the [Western] sanctions” (Sept. 2014).
  • Despite high tensions and a chilly reception, Putin attended the G20 summit in Australia (Nov. 2014).
  • At the time of the claims, Russia hosted a slew of heads of state—including Brazil’s, China’s, Germany’s, Egypt’s, India’s, Israel’s and South Africa’s—at a WWII commemoration, bilateral meetings, three summits and an aviation/military expo also attended by the King of Jordan (May-Sept. 2015).
  • By mid-2016, the intention to isolate Russia seemed to grow markedly softer, even among U.S. allies and international organizations, not to mention American businesses. “A-listers” once again attended Putin’s St. Petersburg economic forum, among them European leaders, the UN secretary general and powerful CEOs including Exxon Mobil’s (June 2016). Japan actively pursued better relations with Russia, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting twice despite U.S. requests not to (May, Sept. 2016).
  • Even Washington has had to partner with Moscow to broker a ceasefire, however fragile, in Syria’s raging war (Sept. 2016).

If this trend continues, people will certainly say that Russia is coming out of its international isolation. And that will be partly true—just as it was only partly true that Russia was internationally isolated to begin with.

Written in September 2016.