November 02, 2022

Sharper: The Future of Russia Relations

Analysis from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges for U.S. foreign policy.

By Anna Pederson

While the recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy names the People's Republic of China as the greatest pacing threat facing the United States, Russia poses the most immediate threat. These threats are multitudinous: nuclear weapons, energy resources, cyber attacks, and the destabilization of the global order. How the U.S. and allies respond to these threats will determine the next decade in national security. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around the future of relations with Russia. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their analysis, commentary, and recommendations.

Features

Assessing Russian State Capacity to Develop and Deploy Advanced Military Technology

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many analysts and policymakers viewed Russia as a declining power. The war in Ukraine has only accelerated some of these trends, further reinforcing such views. Moving forward, as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia will face new and more significant constraints on its ability to modernize its military. But it is too soon to count Russia out. Policymakers need a more nuanced assessment of the nature of the future Russian threat. A new report from authors Samuel Bendett, Richard Connolly, Jeffrey Edmonds, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, and Michael Kofman argues that regardless of how the war in Ukraine develops, Russia’s largely modernized nuclear force will remain viable for the foreseeable future and could pose strategic dilemmas for the United States, especially if nuclear arms control collapses.

The Rise of Personalist Leaders in Democracies

The rise of strongman leaders has become a defining trend in contemporary politics. Long confined to the realm of autocracies, strongmen have now come to dominate democracies too. In a variety of domains—ranging from media reporting to political campaigns—politics has become more personal, with elected leaders taking on outsized influence relative to their political parties or the institutions that surround them. A new video explainer from CNAS explores why personalist leaders are becoming more prevalent and what it portends for democracy. Critically, it emphasizes that the rise of personalism helps explain the democratic setbacks we see today.

Transatlantic Security

Assessing Russian State Capacity to Develop and Deploy Advanced Military Technology

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many analysts and policymakers viewed Russia as a declining power. This mindset, formed by the sharp juxtaposition b...

Transatlantic Security

The Rise of Personalist Leaders in Democracies

The rise of strongman leaders has become a defining trend in contemporary politics. Long confined to the realm of autocracies, strongmen have now come to dominate democracies ...

Russia in the Arctic: Gauging How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Will Alter Regional Dynamics

Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is producing ripple effects that will reverberate far beyond Ukraine for years to come, affecting issue areas and regions where the United States and Europe must manage relations with Moscow. Such effects will certainly be felt in the Arctic. In a new report, CNAS researchers identified four drivers that are most likely to shape Russia’s approach to the Arctic: Russia’s perception of the Western threat, the impact of Western sanctions, China’s role in the Arctic, and whether Putin remains in power. Using different permutations of those drivers, the authors developed three scenarios for how the future Russian approach to the Arctic could evolve looking out to 2025.

Sanctions by the Numbers: Economic Measures against Russia Following Its 2022 Invasion of Ukraine

This edition of Sanctions by the Numbers provides a snapshot of U.S. and allied economic measures against Russia following its invasion and continued aggression toward Ukraine, an overview of the most sanctioned sectors of the Russian economy, potential obstacles to enforcing joint sanctioning actions against Russia, and an outlook on potential escalation or de-escalation with Moscow. This edition seeks to provide a holistic overview of the major sanctions actions and their impacts, with a focus on U.S. actions, but does not purport to list each of the hundreds of sanctions actions in detail.

War in Ukraine: Entering an Increasingly Dangerous Phase, with Amb. Bill Taylor and Amb. John Tefft

As the war in Ukraine continues into its tenth month, it appears to have entered its most dangerous phase yet. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians have intensified, while Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons following the annexation of four Ukrainian regions in the east and south have raised alarms across the world. Finally, the Ukrainian counteroffensive continues to make significant progress in reclaiming occupied territory, though it remains unclear to what extent Russia’s partial military mobilization may be able to turn back the tide. Ambassadors Bill Taylor and John Tefft join Andrea Kendall-Taylor to discuss the most recent developments in this increasingly dangerous phase of the war, and how Putin might maneuver going forward.

Transatlantic Security

Russia in the Arctic: Gauging How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Will Alter Regional Dynamics

Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is producing ripple effects that will reverberate far beyond Ukraine for years to come, affecting issue areas and regions where...

Energy, Economics & Security

Sanctions by the Numbers: Economic Measures against Russia Following Its 2022 Invasion of Ukraine

Following the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, the United States and its allies have unleashed an impressive array of economic measures against Moscow,...

Transatlantic Security

War in Ukraine: Entering an Increasingly Dangerous Phase, with Amb. Bill Taylor and Amb. John Tefft

As the war in Ukraine continues into its tenth month, it appears to have entered its most dangerous phase yet. During the past week, Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians ha...

Commentaries

Russia’s Dangerous Decline

"Russian power and influence may be diminished, but that does not mean Russia will become dramatically less threatening. Instead, some aspects of the threat are likely to worsen," write Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Michael Kofman in Foreign Affairs. "For the West, recognizing that reality means abandoning any near-term hopes of a chastened Russia and maintaining support for Russia’s targets. That effort should begin in Ukraine: the United States and its allies must provide sustained support to Kyiv to ensure that Russia suffers a defeat. But even if Putin loses, the problem that Russia poses will not be solved. In many ways, it will grow in intensity. So, too, should the response to it."

Strange Debacle: Misadventures in Assessing Russian Military Power

"Doctrine is critical to understanding military effectiveness and predicting military performance," observes Chris Dougherty in War on the Rocks. "This helps explain why estimates of Russian performance in Ukraine have been wrong — they assumed Russian operations would follow their doctrine, and yet they mostly haven’t. Russia’s battalion tactical groups exemplify this issue. O’Brien notes the failure of these units, which comprise infantry, armored vehicles, artillery, air defense, and supporting forces into a unit of about 800 troops. There’s a problem with this observation though: Russian forces don’t appear to have been operating in these groups during their worst engagements with Ukrainian forces."

Time to Unleash Congress on Putin

"From the beginning of the campaign, the United States and its allies moved carefully in one key area: energy," writes Eddie Fishman in POLITICO. "Russia is a petro-state, dependent on oil and gas sales for two-thirds of its export revenues and half of its budget. But with global oil prices high and inflation afflicting much of the West, Washington and Brussels have been reluctant to take actions that could nudge oil prices—and inflation—still higher. Early in the war, Washington banned domestic imports of Russian oil. Still, to ensure that sanctions didn’t inadvertently curb the flow of Russian oil to other countries, the Biden administration issued a license that exempts Russia’s energy sales from the thicket of U.S. restrictions. This exemption has allowed the Kremlin to continue to rake in billions from oil exports as its armies perpetrated untold atrocities in Ukraine. In December, that license will finally expire, and the United States and its allies will begin enforcing a price cap on Russia’s oil exports."

Transatlantic Security

Russia’s Dangerous Decline

Despite Russia’s conventional losses in Ukraine, its nuclear arsenal is a logical offset to its conventional vulnerability and poses a credible threat....

Defense

Strange Debacle: Misadventures In Assessing Russian Military Power

Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine has befuddled most defense analysts and Russia experts....

Transatlantic Security

Time to Unleash Congress on Putin

Congress has played a major role in providing support to Ukraine’s war effort. But it has largely held back on Russia sanctions. For the West’s campaign against Russia’s oil s...

In the News

Featuring commentary from Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Becca Wasser, Jonathan Lord, Michael Kofman, Eddie Fishman, Jim Townsend, and Samuel Bendett.

Transatlantic Security

‘Armageddon’ Warning Reflects Biden’s Instincts about Putin

Biden suggested that the threat was reminiscent of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the United States and Soviet Union came close to nuclear confrontation during the Col...

Defense

Five Things to Know about Putin’s Increasing Reliance on Iran

Russia’s use of Iranian drones in Ukraine — first documented earlier this month — is an example of “the greatest degree of military cooperation that the two countries have had...

Transatlantic Security

Russia’s Plan to Stay in the War

After Ukraine's stunning Kharkiv counter-offensive, Vladimir Putin has doubled down on his war against Ukraine, announcing a large military mobilization, threatening nuclear u...

Energy, Economics & Security

Explainer–How the U.S. Could Tighten Sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

Experts said they expect Washington will continue to take measures enforcing its existing sanctions on Russia and target those helping Moscow to evade sanctions. The United St...

Transatlantic Security

Pipeline Sabotage Is Mystery, but Putin, Russia Are Prime Suspects

Experts say damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines is a cynical use of a “gray zone” aggression that leaves few good options for retribution. “We have war-gamed this...

Technology & National Security

Hundreds of Russia’s Top Software Developers May Have Left the Country

By the same token, the loss of so many tech workers could be a significant blow to Russia’s long-term prospects. “Their permanent departure from the Russian labour pool or fro...

About the Sharper Series

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.

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  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • November 18, 2022
    Taking on China and Russia

    Today Washington has chosen, perhaps by default, to compete with—and if necessary, confront—both Russia and China simultaneously and indefinitely....

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • November 16, 2022
    Russia’s Withdrawal from Kherson, with Mike Kofman and Mick Ryan

    Last week, Kiev reached an important milestone when Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson. This retreat has both strategic and symbolic significance, given that Khe...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Michael Kofman & Mick Ryan

  • Commentary
    • October 19, 2022
    Sharper: The State of AI

    The U.S. government's recent chip export controls are the latest salvo in the U.S.–China rivalry in artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are a key input for AI systems and ...

    By Anna Pederson

  • Podcast
    • October 14, 2022
    War in Ukraine: Entering an Increasingly Dangerous Phase, with Amb. Bill Taylor and Amb. John Tefft

    As the war in Ukraine continues into its tenth month, it appears to have entered its most dangerous phase yet. During the past week, Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians ha...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Amb. John Tefft & Bill Taylor

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