In terms of geopolitical tension and mutual distrust, it is crucial for the United States and Russia to maintain strong political cooperation since their coordination is pivotal to worldwide security. International security in recent years faced critical challenges, including the “menace of terrorism, environmental challenges, or proliferation of nuclear weapons.” Together with intelligence services, diplomacy and political expertise are the main objectives in the political structure to achieve the target global defense missions. This research examines the confrontational pattern of Russia-the U.S. relation model to develop sound and rigorous political contemplation to understand better the current and future threats for the country’s national security. The right and well-defined strategies are crucial to stabilizing relationships between the United States and Russia and serve as protection against future conflict.
The History of Relations between the United States and Russia
First, the diplomatic relations between the two powerful states were established in 1809; however, they were terminated following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Even though the diplomatic ties were never officially separated, the United States rejected any “formal relations” with the Soviet Union until 1933. The foreign relationships between Russia (the Soviet Union) and the United States were restored on November 16, 1933. Moreover, in 1991, the United States acknowledged Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union and initiated diplomatic relations. It is important to note that the U.S. was making an ongoing effort to build a constructive partnership with Russia. In the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States used a bipartisan strategy to increase coordination on international concerns and foreign investment and trade (Fig. 1).
America endorsed Russian integration into European and international institutions, as well as a strengthened bilateral relation in security cooperation. It was a strong forecaster of reinforced fundamentals of stability and predictability for both leading states in a global arena. Nevertheless, Russia ultimately refused to maintain such an approach in its partial interests. The two-sided political and military relations between these two powers were considerably interrupted following the Russian violate actions against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial unity in 2014. As a result, the U.S. suspended the Bilateral Presidential Commission, which was mutually founded by the United States and Russia to foster collaboration between them. Considering that Russia has positioned itself as a major competitor to the United States by impairing regulations of the current global system, it is a potential threat to the principal institutions of the West, such as NATO and the European Union.
Interests and Strategic Objectives of the United States and Russia
The main issue regarding such political relations between the countries implies that Russia attempts to undermine faith in the democratic and free-market system. Such a hostile foreign policy adopted by Russia aims to distract from vital “domestic political and economic issues.” The Russian tool of repression is used even in the current times of the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to continue to restrain the expression and assembly. The United States aims to impede Russian invasion by projecting the strength and unity with American allies and partners and establishing resilience and diminishing vulnerability among allied forces facing Russian pressure and severity.
However, it is in the United States’ best interest to transcend the current low degree of trust with Russia and stabilize the relations with the leading power. The settled partnership between the U.S. and Russia is crucial for the core U.S. national security interest. With that said, Russia must demonstrate that it strives for becoming an accountable global actor by, first and foremost, stopping the country’s attempts to intrude in democratisation. Therefore, one of the long-term objectives of the United States is to observe Russia becoming a constructive stakeholder in the international community.
The critical changes in terms of national security and the strategic environment of the United States require a rational evaluation of the current and potential threats provided by Russia. According to the National Defense Strategy, an international security environment is recognized as an increasingly complex context characterized by unconcealed challenges regarding open global order and the restoration of long-term, strategic competition between nations. More specifically, the re-emergence of a long-term, strategic competition categorized by National Security Strategy as “revisionist powers” is considered the main challenge to American prosperity and national security.
In recent years, it becomes more evident that Russia seeks to shape a global arena consistent with its authoritarian model and gain veto authority concerning economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of other nations. Based on the history of relations between Russia and the United States, and its neighboring countries, Russia is determined to achieve veto authority over nations on its periphery regarding their “governmental, economic, and diplomatic choices.” Russia also attempts to destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and intervene in European and Middle East security and economic structures to its benefit. To sum up, the main strategic plans of Russia are currently jeopardizing the international order from within the system by utilizing its benefits while simultaneously undercutting its principles and code of conduct.
It should be noted that the core goals of the United States, such as facilitating and protecting the international liberal order, come into disagreement with the main objectives of Russia’s core strategy. The current security environment of the U.S. is a rapidly changing, unstable, and unpredictable setting, which is sometimes defined with the increased threat posed by Russia. However, in more general terms, the American core interests are remarkably consistent, given that they encompass the key defense objectives. They include defending the country’s territory and one of the American allies and protecting the U.S. citizens. Moreover, the core interests address supporting central constitutional values and polities, and advancing and securing the economy and quality of life in the United States. Such core values and targets of the United States refer to every strategic dynamic and dimension. The core strategy of the United States is a fundamental approach to national security and is mainly determined by the American military forces and institutions, encompassing all forms of federal power.
The United States must primarily redirect its military approach to enable the gray area and hybrid conflicts with an increased priority. Another crucial task within the American core strategy implies reorienting the national security strategy to deal with the major global developments in national and regional contexts. Most importantly, the country should integrate its principal military strategy and operations with political and economic strategy operations. Furthermore, with regard to current events with the pandemic, it is still unclear to what extent the coronavirus will influence the competition between the United States and Russia. Following the measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 and undermined the national economy, the United States will undoubtedly face issues with maintaining its planned national security spending levels and addressing new economic needs.
The basic elements of the U.S. core strategy against Russia’s current and future threats encompass promoting powerful alliances and bilateral security agreements, as well as supporting a stable and survivable nuclear deterrence. It is also crucial for the U.S. to maintain well-balanced, powerful, and skillful military forces that are predominant in every warfighting domain and can project military power internationally and prevail in armed conflict. However, the most significant task is to develop intelligence services, which can provide international situational awareness and strategic early warning. These elements are inherent to an effective economy and industrial base, innovative technologies, and a comprehensive military reserve component. In addition, this implies a well-educated and adept population proper for military service and political order based on liberal democratic values, sustainable policy, and resource decisions.
In practical terms, the process implies that the country will engage with strategic partners and other states by regarding them as equally vital as handling Russia. Cordesman argues that the U.S. must emphasize the “combined use of military forces, economic resources, and political tools” to deal with such challenges and future threats. This core strategy will preserve the deterrence, form the United States’ strategic influence, and assist in controlling the warfare. The United States needs to alter its core strategy to address the competition between two powers to understand that it cannot draw attention to Russia solely (Fig. 3). Two significant powers already function within a volatile competitive environment, enhancing the challenges in political, economic, and national security sectors that engage other states and non-state parties. It is critical to comprehend the core of such competition, which is caused by information warfare and any type of physical action. Otherwise, it concentrates on the civil dimension, adapts multi-domain processed at the national level, and uses civil technology in hybrid and irregular ways.
The preferred environment of the United States implies that Russia stays above the x-axis, given that anything below the x-axis might serve as the cause for conflict with near-abroad nations. In addition, Putin’s playground may keep Russia too isolated for comfort. As for Russia, its strategy to make the federation great again allows the country to prioritize domestic concerns while maintaining international relations. Russia is a historically stable large nation, and there is no threat for the near-abroad but clarity on ties. To be more specific, the near-abroad countries form a buffer between Russia and other countries. The U.S. preferred environment also involves financial and economic dependencies, including international institutions. Moreover, the United States is too powerful to become a Chinese proxy. Ultimately, considering that both the U.S. and Russia aim at building a strong economy, they, therefore, require a stable basic environment for its prosperity and efficient growth.
One of the crucial strategies to resolve the basic environmental issues with Russia is to manage the relationship with the world-leading nation. It is important because the United States-Russia relations will most likely remain contentious, meaning that Washington and Moscow need to work their differences. In order to stabilize the relationships between the two influential leaders, both countries need to resume a “high-level dialogue” on particular problems that divide them. Such a solution will help create specific opportunities for the successful cooperation between Russia and the U.S. With that said, the prioritized basic strategy for the United States should be a renewed dialogue, which is based on avoiding a conflict with Russia in the Euro-Atlantic area and eliminating the risks of inadvertent escalation. Furthermore, the basic strategy for the United States includes re-equipping the strategic stability regarding the erosion of arms control and the emergence of new military technologies.
The U.S. needs to focus on collaboration to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons and maintaining peace and stable development in the Middle East. Most importantly, the United States should control the U.S.-Russian competition in cyberspace and space. As the main focus for the American nation, restoring a degree of trust with Russia is a slow process, which requires both powers to develop a coherent framework for efficient cooperation. The process should also comply with the target interests of both countries that should overlap and manage disagreements before they intensify. The U.S.’s basic strategy should be followed with the small and pragmatic actions that directly depend on the national leadership, desire, and vision of leaders in both countries. However, as the most critical step in such a strategy, both Russia and the United States must deal with the amount of mutual distrust and the resistance of the public, politicians, and legislatures.
The concept of strategic hedging is considered an effort to improve upon the concept of soft balancing, which the countries use to enhance their competitiveness and avoid confrontation with leading contenders. Russian perceptions of threat were significantly enhanced since the last 2014 doctrine, particularly concerning the United States and NATO. Russian leaders consider that specific negative trends, such as economic sanctions, or the potential for interstate conflict, are accelerating. Also, they believe that the current leading position of the United States is coming to an end, while Russia contests the established order as a rising power. Such intensified mistrust of the West posed by Russia was a salient feature of the 2015 Russian National Security Strategy and 2016 Foreign Policy Concept.
The effective strategic hedging should focus on achieving a major national security interest and improving the competitive ability of the U.S. in anticipation of a confrontation with Russia as a system leader. The United States must mainly concentrate on its military and economic competitiveness since with a high threat level, the state will unlikely apply a “positive military balancing strategy” (Fig. 3) For the long-term initiatives, a hedging strategy requires the U.S. to invest in core enablers, such as command and control (C2), communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyber. Such a strategy will enable diverse force combinations to continue to function with cohesion and effectiveness. DoD should focus on developing designs and systems integration, including Hardware as a Service for military platforms, and involve a broader set of participants in the defense industry.
The Commandments of Superforecasting
It is important to recognize the complexity of this task and the instability of human behavior concerning the world leaders’ performance to forecast future events and threats. For instance, Tetlock and Gardner argue that forecasting future political or economic events is a complicated process, including the “unpredictability of human behavior” and failure in being accurate, which is prevalent among many top experts. The authors defined ten critical commandments for the forecasters that directly describe behaviors that were experimentally showcased to promote forecasting accuracy. In a case with the current political arena and the United States’ position, some of the commandments are important to consider in developing the long-term strategies to address the threats from Russia now and in the future.
One of the commandments states for achieving the right balance between under- and overreacting to evidence and updating one’s belief system. The last is perceived as a proper approach to forecasting, which might repay in the long term. Therefore, the apt update of the United States’ beliefs regarding Russia’s strategy and key interests should be prioritized over wishful thinking. Another critical approach implies the balance between prudence and decisiveness, given that the long-term accuracy requires succeeding on both calibration and resolution. For the United States, it is not enough to avoid recent political mistakes with Russia, along with the basic assumptions about post-Soviet Russia. It is critical to emphasize that Russia’s position globally depends upon sabotage, corruption, misinformation, and even violence to control the sovereign nations to their goals. Therefore, the United States must focus on finding common ground with Russia, however, resist the prevailing aggression and do not neglect the importance of other countries, specifically, in Europe, to stabilize the relations with the Russian federation.
The long-term strategies for the United States to deal with Russia’s current and potential threats are based on the governance, organizational structures, well-developed planning, forecasting, as well as acquisition processes, and institutional cultures. The state should be governed with strong leadership to address such critical obstacles in maintaining the national security goals. Despite the specific political and economic framework, the United States must be capable of actively pursuing various military-technical strategies to support technical superiority nowadays. The forecasting process developed in this paper is based on the core, basic, and hedging strategies that should be adopted by the United States to stabilize its diplomatic relations with Russia, assess the current threats, and be prepared for future hazards.
Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs. “U.S. Relations with Russia. Bilateral relations fact sheet.” U.S. Department of State. Web.
Cordesman, Anthony H. “U.S. Competition with China and Russia: The Crisis-Driven Need to Change U.S. Strategy.” CSIS. Web.
Gouré, Daniel. A Competitive Strategy to Counter Russian Aggression Against NATO. Lexington Institute, 2018.
Hooker, Jr R. D. The Grand Strategy of the United States. INSS Strategic Monograph, National Defense University Press, 2015.
Kortunov, Andrey, and Olga Oliker. A Roadmap for U.S.-Russia Relations. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
Mattis, Jim. Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America. Department of Defense.
Salman, Mohammad, and Gustaaf Geeraerts. “Strategic Hedging and Balancing Model under the Unipolarity.” Midwest Political Science Association, 2015, 1–18.
Sushentsov, Andrei, and Maksim Suchkov. “The Nature of the Modern Crisis in U.S.-Russia Relations,” Russia in Global Affairs, no. 4 (2018): 16, 122–140.
Tetlock, Philip, and Dan Gardner. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015.