Russia Perceives U.S.-Led International Order as a Threat to Its Security and Interests, but Also Seeks Cooperation
May 18, 2017
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In this report, RAND researchers analyze Russian views of the international order. They identify core Russian foreign policy interests, including defense of the regime, influence in its neighborhood, and status as a great power. The authors trace how these interests have led to growing Russian skepticism of the West and to Russia's current view that the international order is dominated by the United States and is a threat to Russian interests and security.
The report notes several areas in which U.S. and Russian interests overlap and cooperation is feasible, including the United Nations system, international economic institutions, and counterterrorism. U.S. and Russian interests are directly opposed in other areas, including U.S. support for liberal democracy and the expansion of the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The desired U.S. approach to Russia with respect to the international order critically depends on two factors: (1) the importance of enabling former Soviet republics to freely join Western institutions and (2) whether Russia will limit its aggression in Europe if its interests are recognized. Depending on how U.S. policymakers evaluate these factors, the United States could recognize Russia's sphere of influence or double down on the existing approach of promoting democracy and supporting the EU and NATO. In practice, U.S. policy toward the European political and security order will likely involve some elements of both.
Background of Russian Foreign Policy
Russian Views of the Current International Order and Its Components
Alternative Russian Views
Conclusion and Policy Implications