Nonviolent Ways the United States Could Exploit Russian Vulnerabilities
Apr 24, 2019
Competing from Advantageous Ground
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Editor's Note, September 2022: We encourage you to explore this report and its accompanying research brief. However, because Russian entities and individuals sympathetic to Putin's decision to invade Ukraine have mischaracterized this research in recent weeks, we also encourage you to explore this helpful resource on Russia's “firehose of falsehood” approach to propaganda and our research on “Truth Decay,” which is a phenomenon that is driven in part by the spread of disinformation.
This report examines a range of possible means to extend Russia. As the 2018 National Defense Strategy recognized, the United States is currently locked in a great-power competition with Russia. This report seeks to define areas where the United States can compete to its own advantage. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from Western and Russian sources, this report examines Russia's economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties. It then analyzes potential policy options to exploit them — ideologically, economically, geopolitically, and militarily (including air and space, maritime, land, and multidomain options). After describing each measure, this report assesses the associated benefits, costs, and risks, as well as the likelihood that measure could be successfully implemented and actually extend Russia. Most of the steps covered in this report are in some sense escalatory, and most would likely prompt some Russian counter-escalation. Some of these policies, however, also might prompt adverse reactions from other U.S. adversaries — most notably, China — that could, in turn, stress the United States. Ultimately, this report concludes that the most attractive U.S. policy options to extend Russia — with the greatest benefits, highest likelihood of success, and least risk — are in the economic domain, featuring a combination of boosting U.S. energy production and sanctions, providing the latter are multilateral. In contrast, geopolitical measures to bait Russia into overextending itself and ideological measures to undermine the regime's stability carry significant risks. Finally, many military options — including force posture changes and development of new capabilities — could enhance U.S. deterrence and reassure U.S. allies, but only a few are likely to extend Russia, as Moscow is not seeking parity with the United States in most domains.
Russia's Anxieties and Vulnerabilities
Ideological and Informational Measures
Air and Space Measures
Land and Multidomain Measures
The research described in this report was sponsored by the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff G-8, Headquarters, Department of the Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.
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