In This Review

Russia and America: The Asymmetric Rivalry
Russia and America: The Asymmetric Rivalry
By Andrei P. Tsygankov
Polity, 2019, 272 pp

Throughout his meticulously sourced and dispassionate analysis of U.S.-Russian relations, Tsygankov tries to focus on Russian interests—a rare approach in a time when so many observers commonly regard Russia as a malign actor. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States failed to understand that Russia, although dramatically weakened, would never accept being a junior partner on the international stage. Russia has grown stronger and more assertive in the last 15 years, leading Washington to increasingly treat Moscow as a rival and adversary. Despite its relative weakness, Russia has been able to remain competitive by engaging in “asymmetric rivalry” with the United States. In response to the upheaval in Ukraine in 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin opted for covert military interventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, while U.S. and European leaders failed to force Russia to conduct a restrained foreign policy. Russia has also exercised asymmetric power in the global information space, seeking to confuse and discredit its Western opponents. And as U.S. influence has been receding in Asia, Russia has strengthened its pivot to China and expanded its role in the Middle East. Tsygankov warns that further confrontation lies ahead: if the West continues to challenge Russia’s status, Putin will fight back.