How can the Donald J. Trump administration best conduct its relations with Russia, when each side takes a vastly different view of what went wrong?
“Russian leaders have long expressed their preference for realpolitik; they will respect a country that stays true to its principles, knows its interests, and understands power,” observe Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, and Andrew Weiss in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs.
The authors see a dangerous gap between competing narratives and argue: “It would be irresponsible for Washington to turn a blind eye to the Kremlin’s reliance on hacking, disinformation, and Cold War–style subversion in its efforts to undermine the United States’ international reputation and to meddle in democratic processes in Europe and beyond. The best course of action is for the United States to stand firm when its vital interests are threatened, to expose and counter Moscow’s penchant for irregular tactics, and to carefully manage the rivalry that lies at the heart of the bilateral relationship.”
They conclude: “The challenge facing the Trump administration is to skillfully manage, rather than permanently resolve, these tensions with Moscow. Trying to appease Putin, perhaps by making unilateral concessions, would only convince him that he is winning and encourage him to continue wrong-footing the United States and the West. But a more confrontational approach would risk generating a provocative and dangerous response from Russia. So Washington will need to chart a middle path. That means both seeking ways to cooperate with Moscow and pushing back against it without sleepwalking into a collision.”