In This Review

Should We Fear Russia?
Should We Fear Russia?
By Dmitri Trenin
144 pp, Polity, 2016

Rare is the foreign policy analyst who can apply cool, dispassionate, balanced, and critical analysis to the policies of his or her own country while also understanding and explaining the impulses that drive other countries, particularly adversaries. Trenin, a Russian scholar, is one such analyst. In this short, tightly argued book, his answer to the question in the book’s title is yes, but not for the oversimplified reasons most in the West would give. He first lays out the many factors that have wrongly increased Western wariness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and treats them to an astringent wash. Then he turns to the very real challenges that Russia does present to the United States in eastern Europe, the Middle East, and greater Eurasia—and to the different challenges it poses to western European countries, for whom Russia represents less a looming hegemonic rival than an alienated neighbor that is turning eastward. Trenin concludes with some smart suggestions for how the West can address what should be its real concerns about Russia. Most of the steps he recommends, however, would depend on a grand geopolitical modus vivendi that would require a level of wisdom not yet evident in either Moscow or Western capitals.