Russia and US National Interests: Maintaining a Balance of Power in Europe and Asia

Nikolas K. Gvosdev

While Russia is not a superpower, it remains one of the few countries that both defines its interests in global rather than regional terms and retains limited but real global power-projection capabilities. Meanwhile, U.S. national security continues to be guided by the premise that the United States cannot allow another state to become the preponderant power in either Europe or Asia, the two continents Russia famously spans. This primer attempts to assess Russia’s impact on a vital U.S. interest: maintaining a balance of power in Europe and Asia that promotes peace and stability with a continuing U.S. leadership role. Its main conclusion: As the United States endeavors to retain favorable balances of power in both these key regions, its interests are best served by having Russia remain an independent pole within the international system rather than grow even closer with China and forge a formalized, strategic Sino-Russian entente.

For the last several years, the documents that provide strategic guidance to the U.S. national security establishment have maintained that the United States now finds itself operating within the context of “great power competition.” To borrow China’s foreign policy nomenclature, the United States may retain the rank of “superpower” (chaoji daguo), but it must contend with a series of “great powers” (daguo) that have the ability to set regional agendas and have a degree of influence—and even veto power—over its preferences, starting with China and Russia, but also including countries like Germany and India. As the 2017 National Security Strategy notes: “The United States must marshal the will and capabilities to compete and prevent unfavorable shifts in the Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.” Under such conditions, the NSS continues, the U.S. must sustain “favorable balances of power.” This stance reflects the gradual petering-out of the immediate post 9/11 assessment that the United States was threatened more by problems emanating from weak states than strong ones, but it is hardly a new position in U.S. foreign policy thinking.

The article's full-text is available here.

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