The Premature Partnership

AMERICA AND RUSSIA

For nearly 45 difficult years the United States pursued a remarkably consistent policy toward the Soviet Union. On the level of grand strategy, that policy was defined as containment of both Soviet geopolitical and ideological ambitions. The practical implementation of the policy of containment involved American geostrategic concentration on the defense of both the western and eastern peripheries of Eurasia, manifested by permanent troop deployments and defined by binding treaty commitments. The doctrine of deterrence, designed to neutralize any Soviet nuclear blackmail, reinforced this defensive posture.

Though the Cold War never escalated into direct American-Soviet warfare, on several occasions it did generate indirect military collisions. In the western extremity of Eurasia, American and Soviet forces twice confronted each other in Berlin, and in the east, U.S. troops were engaged in repelling the Soviet-supported invasion of South Korea, while the Soviet Union later provided Vietnam with the military wherewithal needed to expel the American armies. The closest the two sides ever came to a head-on collision occurred in Cuba because of the Soviet effort to leapfrog its strategic containment. Nevertheless, containment, which in turn made possible the vitally important integration into the Western camp of both Germany and Japan, relied heavily on the ingredient of power.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent end of the Cold War necessitates a new strategy, one that no longer views Russia as an adversary and in which the factor of power is no longer central. But if Russia is no longer an adversary, is it already an ally, or a client or merely a defeated foe? What should be the goal and the substance of a post-Cold War grand strategy toward a major country, destined one way or another to be a power in world affairs, irrespective of its current malaise? Is current American policy toward Russia guided by a well-considered and historically relevant successor to the grand strategy of the Cold War years?

This essay argues that the present U.S. grand strategy is flawed in its assumptions, focused on the wrong strategic goal and dangerous in its likely geopolitical consequences.

A POLICY OF IDEALISTIC OPTIMISM

Register for free to continue reading.
Registered users get access to two free articles every month.

Or subscribe now and save 55 percent.

Subscription benefits include:
  • Full access to ForeignAffairs.com
  • Six issues of the magazine
  • Foreign Affairs iPad app privileges
  • Special editorial collections

Latest Commentary & News analysis