US Vs Russia – A More Honest Assessment of the Relationship

The broad bipartisan consensus in Washington holds Russia solely responsible for the breakdown in U.S.-Russia relations, and for its invasion of Ukraine, interference in the 2016 presidential election and the elections of democratic allies in Europe, violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in Venezuela. These are well-documented transgressions.

But a more honest assessment of the relationship reveals that many important interests of the two countries overlap and diverge. The United States needs to work out what those are, how much Moscow’s efforts to achieve them matter and what leverage the country has to balance those ends with its limited resources.

Moreover, the defense of America’s homeland and its allies against Russian military aggression is vital to the United States. It is also in the interest of both countries to ensure that regional conflicts do not escalate into broader conflict. Pushing back indiscriminately against Russian activities in these areas will lead to overextension and a waste of scarce resources.

The United States must be willing to help the post-Soviet states it values advance toward democracy, free markets and sustainable security. But pursuing those priorities will require clear communication with Russia and understanding that popular unrest in some of these countries has domestic roots, not Russian influence. That is not a moral compromise, and it is not a departure from the United States’ global role. It is simply the reality of international affairs.