http://www.nbr.org - NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Russian Power Rising and Falling Simultaneously

Andrew C. Kuchins

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This chapter assesses the foundations and trajectory of Russia’s national power, including its resources, national performance, and military capabilities.

Main Argument

Although no longer a superpower, Russia remains formidable and capable of projecting military power west to Europe, south to the greater Middle East, and, to a lesser extent, east to Asia. Russia additionally possesses many other highly developed tools of power, including its energy resources, economic links, intelligence services, and diplomacy, which the Kremlin actively deploys in ways that often challenge U.S. interests. In a highly authoritarian, centralized, and nontransparent political system, Vladimir Putin has consolidated political dominance, which assists in mobilizing human and natural resources for state purposes. In the near term, his actions have enhanced state power and increased the central government’s capacity for decisive and rapid action. Simultaneously, however, Putin has weakened the social, economic, and political institutions that are crucial for promoting economic growth and the development of new commercial technologies.

Policy Implications

  • As anti-Americanism and nationalism are central pillars of Putin’s political legitimacy strategy, Washington should expect many challenges to its interests from Moscow as long as Putin remains in power.
  • Washington should take a more active role in trying to resolve the Ukraine crisis and quietly take a more flexible approach to encouraging Russia’s rapprochement with Europe.
  • Although increased energy exports to China, Japan, and other Asian states are raising Russia’s influence, the Russian Far East remains comparatively underdeveloped, and Moscow has only tentatively engaged in emerging regional forums. The U.S. should encourage Russia to diversify its turn to the East so that it does not become overly dependent on China.