The Challenge of Getting Russia Right

A diplomat for Napoleon Bonaparte once cautioned that Russia’s adversaries must avoid underestimating the country’s capabilities or overreacting. With that warning in mind, Thomas Graham, a senior fellow with the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, analyzes the US approach that underestimated Russia’s ambition and power after the fall of the Soviet Union. “The Ukraine crisis marked a shift in narrative that grew more pronounced as Russia flexed its muscles,” Graham explains. Moscow has also moved decisively to intervene on behalf of Syria in the Middle East, organize peace talks for Afghanistan and unleash cyber-propaganda targeting elections in the West. “In a few short years, Russia has been transformed in the American mind from a weak, declining power we could safely ignore into the main adversary, setting the agenda in the Middle East and determining the course of electoral politics in long-established democracies in the West.” Any assessment of Russia, Graham notes, must acknowledge that its aspirations are influenced and balanced by the status of rivals so that “a West mired in domestic turmoil and politically polarized, as it is today, tends to inflate Russian power and the threat it entails.” – YaleGlobal