The 2018 National Defense Strategy recognized that the United States is locked in a great power competition with Russia. Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on countering a resurgent Russia, and legislation has been introduced that seeks to address Moscow’s destabilizing activities. An important question for Congress is: what policies could the United States adopt to stress Russia’s military, its economy, or the regime’s political standing at home and abroad?
New research from RAND examines a variety of non-violent means by which the United States might compete to advantage against Russia. It examines Russia’s economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties and evaluates a wide range of possibilities, including economic pressures; ideological and informational initiatives; geopolitical maneuvers; and military steps on land, sea, and in air and space to exploit these.
Expanding American energy production is probably the least costly and least risky way to further stress the Russian economy. Imposing tougher sanctions is also likely to degrade the Russian economy provided the sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral.
Russian efforts to subvert Western democracies provide a powerful rationale for some sort of counter campaign to serve as retribution, reestablish a degree of deterrence in this domain, and create the basis for a mutual stand-down in such activities.
In the aerospace domain, strong contenders for a cost-imposing strategy against Russia include investments in long-range cruise missiles, long-range anti-radiation missiles, and—if they prove affordable enough—autonomous or remotely piloted aircraft.
Deploying land-based or air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles on NATO’s Black Sea coast could compel Russia to strengthen defenses of its Crimean bases, limit its navy’s ability to operate in the Black Sea, and thus diminish the utility of its Crimean conquest.