There is no country quite like Russia. Despite having a relatively small economy, it has been able to maintain global influence through a range of unconventional tactics. How has Vladimir Putin played his country’s weak hand so effectively? And what is his goal?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer
Episode Guests
  • Jill Dougherty
    Global Fellow, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center
  • Stephen Sestanovich
    George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies
  • Angela Stent
    Director, Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, Georgetown University

Show Notes

Much of the Western world assumed Russia would slowly fall in line after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Instead, it has charted its own course, and has exerted global influence despite having a relatively weak economy. 


Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has demonstrated a surprising willingness to use any tool available to maintain this influence, including cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, foreign election interference, and support for authoritarian regimes. 


In this episode, three experts break down the realities of Russian power, Putin’s motivations, and the outlook for U.S.-Russia relations under the Biden administration.


Dig Deeper

CFR Resources 

Podcast: “Transition 2021: How Will Biden Handle Russia?,” The President’s Inbox

Has Russia Ended the War Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?,” Stephen Sestanovich

Will Russia’s Constitutional Changes Allow Putin to Hold on to Power?,” Stephen Sestanovich

Putin and Belarus: Five Reasons Not to Save Lukashenko,” Stephen Sestanovich

New START: The Future of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Control,” Brian L. Sittlow

What’s at Stake With Rising Competition in the Arctic?,” Brian L. Sittlow

Part Three: Huawei’s Role in the China-Russia Technological Partnership,” Lauren Dudley

Cyber Operations Tracker,” Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Russia Is Losing the Oil War—and the Middle East,” Steven A. Cook

U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Control,” Editors

Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia,” Jonathan Masters

Let Russia Be Russia,” Thomas Graham, Foreign Affairs

Russia’s Perpetual Geopolitics,” Stephen Kotkin, Foreign Affairs


From Jill Dougherty

Audio: “Episode 12: The Putin Generation,” KennanX

Audio: “Why Study Russia?,” The Russia File

Is There Really a ‘Putin Generation?’,” Wilson Center


From Angela Stent

Why are US-Russia relations so challenging?,” Brookings Institution

Putin 5.0?,” Brookings Institution

Russia and China: Axis of revisionists? Brookings Institution

How Putin Changed Russia Forever,” Foreign Policy


Read More

Watch: “Why the World Worries About Russia’s Natural Gas Pipeline,” Washington Post

Watch: “What has Russia gained from five years of fighting in Syria?,” Al Jazeera

Watch: “Russian Hackers Broke Into Federal Agencies, U.S. Officials Suspect,” New York Times

Watch: “How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis,” New York Times

Watch: “Biden to Face a Confrontational Russia in a World Changed From His Time in Office,” New York Times


International Organizations

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.

Arms Industries and Trade

The global arms trade is big business and the United States accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s weapons exports. Aside from the profit motivation, selling arms abroad can be an effective foreign policy tool, allowing the United States to exert influence over conflict and security worldwide without having to put boots on the ground. But are the risks worth the reward?


How does a war end? In this special episode, Why It Matters speaks with CFR President Richard Haass on the conflict in Ukraine. We ask if and how this war can come to a close and discuss what compromises might have to be made.

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