Thomas Graham on how to cope with Russia today as well as tomorrow.
Winston Churchill famously said that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. After the end of the Cold War, many in the West thought the puzzle was solved. The Soviet Union had collapsed. Russians would embrace free markets and even liberal democracy. And President Obama could dismiss Russia as merely a “regional,” not a great power. Case closed; time to pivot to Asia.
But reality has a way of complicating simplistic thinking. First, President Putin consolidated his domestic control, then allied his country with China in starting to rewrite the rules of global order, and finally invaded Ukraine last year. Now Putin is a “war criminal,” his country’s financial assets seized and exports have been banned (more in theory than in practice), and sanctions imposed on Russian officials as well as on oligarchs thought to be Putin supporters.
The Great Power has become the Great Pariah—but remains a great enigma.
Getting Russia Right is both a national security imperative and the name of a recently published book by Thomas Graham, one of America’s foremost Russian analysts. Graham has spent much of the last 40 years trying to understand Russia, not as the United States wanted it to be, but as it was and now is. His book is an important contribution to thinking about how to cope with Russia today as well as tomorrow.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST
Thomas E. Graham is a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a co-founder of Yale University’s Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies program and sits on its faculty steering committee. He is also a research fellow at Yale’s MacMillan Center. He has been a lecturer in global affairs and political science since 2011, teaching courses on U.S.-Russian relations and Russian foreign policy, as well as cybersecurity and counterterrorism. Graham was special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia on the National Security Council staff from 2004 to 2007, during which he managed a White House-Kremlin strategic dialogue. He was director for Russian affairs on the staff from 2002 to 2004.