Some people—the Republican nominee Donald Trump included, it seems—think the U.S. should take a more relaxed view of Russia. But the public do not seem to agree, as American people have become increasingly hostile toward Russia since the Ukraine crisis became acute in early 2014.
For half a millennium, Russian foreign policy has been characterized by soaring ambitions that have exceeded the country’s capabilities. Beginning with the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century, Russia managed to expand at an average rate of 50 square miles per day for hundreds of years, eventually covering one-sixth of the earth’s landmass. By 1900, it was the world’s fourth- or fifth-largest industrial power and the largest agricultural producer in Europe.
Between 1996 and 2011, I served as a consultant to the Kremlin, advising Russian Presidents Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev. And yet even I can hardly claim to understand the real mechanisms of power in today’s Russia.
In recent years, many discussions of the Russian economy have opened with an old joke. In the mid-1990s, John Major, the British prime minister, askedRussian President Boris Yeltsin to characterize Russia’s economy in one word. “Good,” Yeltsin said. Major, seeking more detail, asked him to elaborate in two words. Yeltsin replied: “Not good.”
In February, Moscow and Washington issued a joint statement announcing the terms of a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria—a truce agreed to by major world powers, regional players, and most of the participants in the Syrian civil war. Given the fierce mutual recriminations that have become typical of U.S.-Russian relations in recent years, the tone of the statement suggested a surprising degree of common cause.
As China asserts itself in its nearby seas and Russia wages war in Syriaand Ukraine, it is easy to assume that Eurasia’s two great land powers are showing signs of newfound strength. But the opposite is true: increasingly, China and Russia flex their muscles not because they are powerful but because they are weak.
“The underreported story of the Cold War is that the United States succeeded in achieving many of its objectives in the Middle East,” argue Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Steven Simon, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. Cutting against conventional wisdom, the authors shed new light on the makings of the modern Middle East and draw lessons for U.S. strategy today.
It’s easy to snicker at Vladimir Putin’s annual televised call-in extravaganza, known as “Direct Line.” The show’s campy, “Dear Leader” deference would hardly be greater if Kim Jong Un were its star. Still, Mr. Putin’s performance is a valuable political barometer. The questions allowed and the answers they generate tell us how the Kremlin views the country’s mind and mood.
Over the past two decades, many developing countries have turned away from free market capitalism and toward modern state capitalism, which is a combination of traditional state economic planning and elements of free market competition. In his new book, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick argues that modern state capitalism is ultimately “more protectionist, more dangerous to global security and prosperity, and more threatening to political freedom” than free market economics.
The entire world was surprised when, at the end of September 2015, Vladimir Putin suddenly started moving Russian aircraft, tanks and troops into Syria. At the time, President Obama predicted the Russian intervention would fail.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement that he is pulling Russian forces out of Syria will be greeted skeptically by many, and for good reason. Mr. Putin may be showing himself to be a canny strategist. But watch out for all the ways his plan could still go wrong.
With oil prices collapsing, Saudi Arabia is facing similar problems that the Soviet Union faced decades ago. Saudi policymakers’ economic reform strategies also echo those of Mikhail Gorbachev. However, different from Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, Saud Arabia’s foreign policy is both confrontational and interventionist. Saudi seeks change, but hopes to keep it in bounds, and may want the world to remain a dangerous place.
Speaker: Ilya Danishevsky Speaker: Anna Nemzer Speaker: Maria Stepanova Speaker: Ludmila Ulitskaya Presider: Kimberly Marten
Four Russian literary figures share their experience as creative intellectuals in modern Russia and provide their perspective on the Russian government’s use of media, literature, and other forms of creative expression to regulate the narrative of the past and the present.
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